Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Answering a Challenge to Biblical Morality

Recently I was challenged to respond to some accusations made by a lady who apparently believes that the Hebrew Bible is an immoral and despicable document.  I answered her challenge in my typical manner of exegesis which is to consider cultural context and linguistic possibilities latent within the texts in question. I decided I would share this with the readers of this blog as it represents a unique way of reading the Torah’s narrative and a more enlightened exegesis.

CHALLENGE-  Tell me this, what was Abraham taking up the mountain to sacrifice, a weasel? Did Samson not sacrifice himself to bring the temple down on the heads of the Philistines? Isn't that "Pinchas": something the Israelis are particularly extremist about? And did Lot not shag his own daughters.”

My Response:
The Hebrew Bible is based upon a collection of myths and legends crouched in the cultural context of ancient Hebrew. Each story needs to be read as a story which represents a theological or spiritual message for the reader. By examining the cultural context and the linguistics of a particular text we can decipher various shades of meaning related to the “moral of the story.”
In regards to the challenges presented let us consider the “meaning” of the stories referenced…
1.) The story of Abraham & Isaac is a message to the Hebrew people who were living in a cultural context wherein all the nations around them were accustomed to human sacrifice. The story of the binding of Isaac clearly demonstrates that the Creator does NOT want human sacrifice. The story is a shift in human consciousness from that point.

2.) The Philistines were an Indo-European sea-faring people who were consistently warring with Israel. In Hebrew the Philistines (pelishtim) mean "transitory, wandering and deviating from being on course." Samson in Hebrew is Shimshon and means to shine like the sun hence to illuminate. The story of Samson is about the power of spiritual insight to illuminate the mind and expel the pelishtim which is the carnal mind of deviating thoughts and desires. Samson demonstrates the fallacy of a man who gives up the higher consciousness of the Spirit for the pleasures of the lower sensations (represented by Dina) and the inevitable destructive outcome.

3.) Pinchas executed Zimri and his Midianite wife in what was an act of collective justice on behalf of the Israelites. The story in Hebrew is more profound as Pinchas in Hebrew means "oracle of Divine mouthpiece" which indicated spiritual revelation. Zimri in Hebrew means "self-praise, jubilation and dancing" and the Midianite woman in Hebrew has the meaning of "strife and enmity." Thus in Hebrew the story of Pinchas slaying Zimri and the Midianite is about the higher consciousness of spiritual knowledge slaying the egoistic quality of self which is in enmity and strife with spiritual consciousness.

4.) In the story of Lot we have a man who did not "shag" his daughters rather the daughters who fearing the end of humanity resorted to making their father intoxicated and imposed incestual relations with him. Lot is not viewed very highly by the author of the Torah. The name Lot in Hebrew means "hidden or clandestine." Lot represents in the Hebrew Torah the negative side of faith. In contrast to Abram who represents the expansion of faith, Lot broke away from Abram and chose to settle in the plains of Jordan towards the land of Zoar. The Jordan here signifies equilibrium of forces, and Zoar means inferior. Lot symbolizes the lower animalistic nature of man.