Included in this campaign of course are pathetic attempts to discredit any and all attributes of Judeo-Christian teachings, thought, and accomplishments. Much of what the Left attacks is difficult to be seen as anything but blatant anti-Semitism. The topic in this post is about an attempt to discredit one major achievement of the Hebrew/Jewish people- the rejection of human sacrifice. This is an especially honorable feature of this religion as human sacrifice was an integral part of the religions/peoples of the region referred to as
It is was fairly well-known historical fact that who practiced the fertility religions of that portion of the world considered human sacrifice to be a perfectly normal, albeit unpleasant, part of their religion. These cultures had a long-established economy based on intense irrigation of crops. These societies were able to achieve population densities far greater than that which would be seen in most of the rest of the world. The storm-god Baal and his sister-wife Asherah, and with some peoples, Moloch or Chemosh, were the primary deities. To please them and to ensure plentiful, but no too plentiful, rains, the Syro-Phoenecian, Ammonites, and Moabites, who were very closely ethnically and linguistically related to the Hebrews, and others who also lived in that general area, often made sacrifices of their infant children. Common methods were to throw the infants into a fire or to slit the victim's throats.
The example of Abraham being ordered to and then stopped from sacrificing his son Isaac (Who was to become the father of Jacob, the direct patriarch of the Hebrew peoples) has been taken by untold numbers of generations-worth of Jewish and Christian scholars, historians, and others to have been a factor by which the Hebrews were to come to believe that human sacrifice was not to be a part of their religion/culture. No Patriarch or Hebrew would have seen human sacrifice as something completely foreign - it was literally all around them. The difference is and was the understanding that their God did not desire such acts of worship. Christians later took this and expanded upon it to apply to the idea was that the one sacrifice of an individual desired by God was to be one in which both God the Son and man existed in one person.
Those who desire to speak well of Judaism will often cite this fact when the attributes of the Jewish religion/society/culture are the topic.
Now, and predictably, I will start the main story with an anecdote:
During a break from the routine at a National Guard training weekend a few years back. This exact subject came up in discussion (Yes, we talked about lots of things and not just guns, war, women, etc.).
After his point was brought up, a junior ranking Guardsman/soldier, who was every bit of the professional student and who was likely to remain in that protected-from-the-world status for some time, elected to interrupt with a truncated version of an event followed by a false conclusion brought up by a professor of his. He couldn’t recall the name of the individual involved in the story, just the book, so he needed help with that part. It turned out to be the account of Jephthah and the sacrifice of his daughter. He did though; seem quite gleeful at believing that this enabled him to discredit the entire point of our conversation.
His version went something like this:
Well that’s not true. We went over the book of Judges in class, and there was a point where one guy sacrificed his daughter and nothing happened to him as far as punishment goes; so that shows that human sacrifice was not considered a problem for the Hebrews.
That was very close to the exact wording of his statement and was pretty much the farthest that he could take it.
I still am not certain if the professor was truly looking to discredit a significant part of Judeo-Christian belief or if he simply had trouble as a grammar school student on the reading comprehension portion of his school's standardized testing (I tend to be cynical and lean towards the former). Nevertheless, either way a tremendous amount of information that would provide an accurate picture of the story was entirely lacking.
I will try my best to summarize the historical time period and the accounts of and in the Book of Judges:
Judges begins at the point where the Hebrews, still lead by Joshua, are in their new homeland after the exodus and years in the desert. Joshua dies and the Hebrews, without any appreciable leadership, fail to follow their orders (From God) to completely drive out all of the native peoples and start to repeatedly engage in religious practices of those dwelling around them. Chapters 1 through 10 are replete with references to them worshiping the "Baals and Asherahs". God punishes them for these transgressions and the punishments are followed by pleas for mercy from the Hebrews. God then raises up from among them one who is to lead them against their enemies. These are the Judges. Not that three times in this book, it is noted that
Judges 17:6, 21:25, and slightly different wording in 19:1.
Shortly before the event brought up by our professional, educated student is an event just prior to the account of Jephthah that was neglected by his professor. God has had it up to here with the Hebrews worshipping the other gods, so he says in Chapter 10:13-14... "Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of distress. So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and he became indignant about the misery of
Well, this is just when the Ammonites show up itching for a fight and Jephthah comes into the picture. (Chapter 11) He is the son of
Nothing here can be taken to mean that the Lord in fact approved of this as no comment to that effect follows. It must, though, be understood in light of the verses in 10:13-14, where God clearly indicates that he will turn away from them and became indignant. It is as if the Lord was going to let the Israelites screw things up and make themselves miserable if that is what they wanted. Note also that the entire context of the book of Judges is about the Israelites doing whatever they pleased. It notes three times that there was no King is
Our learned professor no doubt took as much glee as did his student in "finding" an account in which the subject does an horribly awful thing and being able to note that Jephthah apparently walks away from this event unpunished. When he comes home victorious, his only child, a daughter, comes out to meet him.
Jephthah, being unable or unwilling to go back on his word, sacrifices her.We of course cannot rule out the possibility that the Lord could certainly have released Jephthah from his vow if only he tried. The account is also abundantly and painfully clear that Jephthah was filled with anxiety and wracked with guilt over this. So he was effectively punished for his rash vow.
The professor also must have missed the ending of the account. Just a few verses later, (39b-40) "And it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went year by year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year"
The people of
Our professor leaves out yet another account where individuals clearly did wrong and no punishment occurred. In Chapter 17, we read that not only did one on their own create a graven image, but that image was taken by a group of Da'nites (A Hebrew Tribe) and kept for themselves. Among those who served the idol was the grandson of Moses, Jonathan. He and his sons functioned as priests for this image "until the day of their captivity", which means that this continued until the Babylonian exile. None of those mentioned in this account were punished either, but it does not prove that the Hebrews did not still hold to the concept and belief in one God who was not to be represented in a tangible form.
Like those who served as priest for the idol, Jephthah's action can in no way be construed as to indicate that either a refusal to engage in human sacrifice or a general avoidance of idolatry (For obviously not every single Israelite worshiped Baal and Asherah) were not critical features of Israeli society. Similarity, the fact that many in our society commit abominable crimes cannot be taken to mean that we cannot claim to have a society based on respect for life, property, and other examples of moral and civic virtue.
The greatest travesty in the anecdote that I cited was not that the professor did what he did - colleges are chock full of these boneheads. The sad part is that a student was perfectly ready to buy into this line of garbage hook, line, and sinker. Any individual aspiring to be a student must be willing to do his or her best to see right through the efforts of dishonest or idiotic professors.