Faith, a manifesto : Part 1 : Jewish prophecy as Failed mysticism
It is interesting to note just how bound up the Jewish prophets were with their environment, and the ancient view of 'environmentalism' presents us with a lesson in failed mysticism, as well as teaching some valuable lessons in the theology of 'divine intervention.'
Faith, a manifesto : Part 1 : Jewish prophecy as Failed mysticism
In order for a modern person to enter into the mind of ancient Jewish prophet, it would be necessary to forget much of what you know, and that is not an easy thing. What is a bacteria? What causes disease? Why does it rain? Where do clouds come from?
Failed Mysticism, the source of Religious DogmatismI n order for a modern person to enter into the mind of ancient Jewish prophet, it would be necessary to forget much of what you know, and that is not an easy thing. What is a bacteria? What causes disease? Why does it rain? Where do clouds come from?
According to the Bible, rain came down when the 'windows of heaven' were 'opened'. The Bible tells us that there is a kind of floating ocean in heaven, referred to as 'the waters above.' They had no understanding of the hydrological cycle, of evaporation, or of transpiration through the leaves of trees and plants, and thus they had no understanding of how a process such as deforestation could lead to droughts. If it rained, it was due to the favor of the Divine Power, and if it did not rain, it was due to sin, which caused a Rain God to close the 'windows of heaven.'
Sickness and disease were similarly viewed as divine punishments, retribution for sins. We read in the book of 2nd Samuel in the 24th chapter, that 'Once again the wrath of God burned against Israel' and so God caused David to take a census. Now as the story progresses, the census takers travel the country and outbreaks of a deadly plague follow in each place where the census was taken. Now it is obvious that the census takers were carriers of the plague while being immune themselves, but in the minds of these ancient people the plague was related to the census, so that from that time forward ancient Israelites had a powerful superstition which forbade the taking of a 'sinful census' for 'counting the people' kindled the wrath of God. In the story the 'cure' for a plague is described as sacrificing a cow on an altar to appease the wrathful deity.
Now plagues end sooner or later, but nevertheless once again a connection was made between sacrificing animals as a religious ritual and 'appeasing vengeful gods' and so the story concludes with the spot where this sacred cow sacrifice was made becoming, in legend, the very spot on which it was decided to found the sacred Temple (what is today referred to as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem).
Eventually the legend continued to grow, evolving into the famous story of Moses going up tot the top of the mountain, and then bringing down books such as Leviticus, which described the sacred animal sacrifice ritual of the Jewish Temple Cult. Now this ritual actually began during the time of the plague, and became linked to the legends surrounding the establishment of the temple. Biblical scholarship in recent times describes a system of laws and regulations, known to as the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) which evolved over a period of centuries in response to the development of this Temple Cult. This is basically in agreement with what we are told by eye witnesses writing at the time.
Jeremiah was a priest, who was once part of the animal sacrificing cult himself, who then became a dissenter who attacked even the most sacred religious rituals and holy relics. For example, he damned even the most sacred relic of all, the 'Ark of Moses' (featured in the movie 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' which picks up the Biblical theme of its supposedly magical powers). This would be like having a Catholic damning the bones of Saint Peter. Jeremiah wrote, "They shall no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD." It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made...At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of God...no longer shall they follow the stubbornness of their own evil hearts." Jeremiah 3:16
Biblical scholars are aware of how the Torah grew and changed over the centuries, and Jeremiah, being a priest himself before he turned to dissent, was also aware of this constant revision of what was then portrayed as 'the unchanging Word of God.' How little the religious impulse has changed even over thousands of years. We are told, in the 7th chapter of Jeremiah, in the 21st verse, that the legendary story of how Moses brought temple instructions from God regarding the animal sacrifice cult was a religious fraud. He wrote, "Burn your animal sacrifices, and eat the flesh yourselves, for on the day that I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, I gave them no instructions or commands concerning whole offerings and sacrifices." For those unfamiliar with the Bible, what he is saying here is that the descriptions of Moses receiving instructions to teach the people to sacrifice animals, as found in documents such as Exodus, and Leviticus, are descriptions of events that never took place. He then tells the people that the actual source of these legendary Moses tales, are in fact his fellow priests. The sermon continues, and in the 8th chapter, Jeremiah laments, 'why are these people so stubborn?" Religious dogmatism had taken hold of their minds so that they now believed that their own mythological legends, which had been born out of their own mystification of an episode of plague, were in fact The Inerrant Word of God. He then condemns the Torah as a fraud, and condemns his fellow ministers, stating "How can you say, 'We are wise, for we have the Torah, when, actually, the lying pen of the scribes has had it falsified?" (Jeremiah 8:8) Later in the manuscript we see that his fellow priests react to Jeremiah's dissent by demanding his death on charges of religious heresy.
It was mystification of the cause and cure of an episode of plague that led to the rise of the animal sacrifice cult, and it was the spinning and weaving of legendary tales that eventually resulted in the myth of Moses receiving instructions on ritual direct from pen holding hand of God, and then it was the process of religious dogmatism that resulted in myth becoming sacred truth and divine revelation, the Torah, which was delivered to humanity direct from God in heaven. This ancient mystification of disease and plague continues to have repercussions on the world to this very day, for as the Christian church also becoming interpreting events through the eyes of those of who lived in the first century, they mystified, the made erroneous connections, the spun myths and legends.
After the process had completed, we were left with the story of how Jesus came to die on the cross in the fulfillment of the animal sacrifice ritual, as described to Moses, by God on the mountain, and contained in such books as Leviticus. Jesus, it is said, 'was the last and only sufficient animal sacrifice' so that from now on no one could be saved from their sins by sacrificing animals at the Temple, for Christ had made the final sacrifice, and his blood was more powerful than the blood of the cow or sheep (this argument summarizing what you read in the Christian 'Letter to the Hebrews'). One must accept 'the sin sacrifice of Jesus' for this is the 'only atonement acceptable to God' or one will go straight to hell to fire forever and ever. There is a direct link between an ancient episode of plague which took place during a census, a plague supposedly halted by the sacrifice of a cow, and thus there is a direct connection between the rise of the Temple Cult and its constantly growing books of Torah myths and Torah regulations, and what we today know as Christian Theology, and what is constantly portrayed as 'divine salvation' which 'came down out of heaven from God.' The processes at work in both cases are identical, mystification followed legend followed by what Jeremiah rightly described as the mindless stubbornness of religious dogmatism. ("How can you say that you are wise for all this supposed knowledge came down from God," Jeremiah asked at the time, and he could ask the same question today...how little has changed even after thousands of years...)
Bible prophecy as an example of failed mysticismT here are still people here and there on the earth, who are very poor and have never been educated in schools whose way of thinking remains remarkably similar to that of the people who wrote the Bible. (As one example, there are very poor peasants in India who still sacrifice a chicken to the rain gods every year just before the monsoon season in the hopes that the rains won't fail).
It is interesting to note just how bound up the Jewish prophets were with their environment, and the ancient view of 'environmentalism' presents us with a lesson in failed mysticism, as well as teaching some valuable lessons in the theology of 'divine intervention.' Jewish prophets did not understand the hydrological cycle, and the connection between such practices as deforestation and other harmful practices which resulted in desertification.
It has been said that a desert is a desert because it is a desert. In recent times, scientists who have been trying to improve climate prediction software have been comparing their model predictions with results in the real world, and they have discovered that next to the ocean, the role of vegetation is the second most important influence over regional climate. Plants use a siphoning action to bring moisture and nutrients up from the soil, and in order for this siphoning action to continue, plants must exhale moisture through their leaves and into the atmosphere. This moisture in the atmosphere forms rain clouds which, in combination with other sources of evaporation, then brings rain, which waters the plants, and the hydrological cycle continues.
To the ancient Jewish prophets desertification was viewed mystically, just as certain peasants in India might view a failure of the monsoons as the result of the displeasure of the rain gods (and thus their attempt to appease the rain god with an annual chicken sacrifice). It has been said that ancient Jewish religion represented an advance in that these people were monotheistic (as their documents state, 'the Lord your God is One God.') In reality this represented a small advance, for what happened is that the ancient Jewish people merely took the attributes of many gods, such as the rain god, and rolled them altogether into one god, but the underlying theological viewpoint did not change. It was still required that they appease the wrath of the One God, who was now the rain god and god the harvest and the god of the rivers. And so their 'advance' merely meant that they performed the same rituals, but they centralized their religious practices in one location (the Jerusalem temple) and all their former rituals also became fused together, which was symbolic of their monotheistic theology.
Jewish prophecy is infused with a concern for the destruction of the environment that took place in the middle east in the centuries that followed the decline of tribalism and the rise of the nation state. Concern for the destruction of the environment is the major theme of Jewish prophecy in the Bible, and it could therefore be supposed that environmental destruction which followed upon the clearing of the land to make way for cities and farms was itself one of the major driving forces that resulted in the rise of the phenomenon of Jewish prophecy. Jewish prophecy was movement that briefly appeared for a couple of centuries and then vanished, and was a phenomena concurrent with environmental destruction in the middle east.
The Jewish Kings set the stage for a future environmental disasterT he Bible provides clues that describe the environmental policies of the new nation state of Israel which preceded the eventual decline of the environment which so angered Jewish prophets in the last centuries of existence of the Jewish state. For example we know that the famous old growth Cedars of Lebanon, once a vast expanse, were destroyed in the distant past (only a few patches remains today), and the Bible describes how Solomon kept 10,000 laborers working at all times in clear cutting the old growth forests of Lebanon, as well as 150,000 laborers working in quarry operations in the hills.
Before the rise of the state, the Jewish people had been nomadic and lived in tribal societies, but this all changed with the rise of centralized government and they began to 'build the economy' and this involved exploiting the landscape in ways which had never been practiced before. What was worse, is that under the state they were no longer free wandering nomads, but became forced laborers under their kings. We are told that Solomon was heavily involved in mining operations (silver, we are told, was so plentiful that it was considered practically worthless.), and he made extravagant use of middle eastern timber resources in his building programs (as the Bible points out he used as much costly old growth cedar as he did the cheaper grades of wood such as sycamore, and the Biblical writer celebrates this fact, considering it a wonderful development)..
So Hiram supplied Solomon's every need for timber of cedar and cypress ... King Solomon conscripted forced labor out of all Israel; the levy numbered thirty thousand men. He sent them to the Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts; they would be a month in the Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon also had seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country ... At the king's command, they quarried out great, costly stones. i Kings 5:10
The weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred sixty-six talents of gold. 1 kings 10:14 (Note that this is 799,200 ounces of gold, which at current prices would be worth 306 million dollars, so that Solomon would have been making the equivalent of about a billion dollars every three years from extensive gold mining operations alone.)
The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamores of the Shephelah. 1 Kings 10:27
Under Solomon the state became heavily involved in raising livestock, and this implies that great amounts of land would need to be cleared and devoted to the livestock industry. The Bible suggests that this industry became so productive that Solomon was able to be profligate in the number of animals he killed during religious rituals.
1 Kings 8:63 Solomon offered as sacrifices of well-being to the LORD twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep.
Solomon's land use policy was carried on by future kings. They continued to clear the wild lands and continued clear cutting the forests, such as the sycamore forests of the Shephelah, to open the land up for agriculture. King Uzziah, we are told,
built towers in the wilderness and hewed out many cisterns, for he had large herds, both in the Shephelah and in the plain, and he had farmers and vine dressers in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil. 2 Chronicles 26:10
During the earlier centuries of the existence of the new Jewish state, the land was forested, although as time went by these forests were cleared both to supply timber and to open up more range for pasturing livestock. One recurring feature in Biblical narratives is the celebration of ancient Jewish kings for all their building projects and their continued expansion of human settlements into what were previously wilderness areas. As just one example of this sort of propaganda, we are told that,
(King Jotham) built cities in the hill country of Judah, and forts and towers on the wooded hills. 2 Chronicles 27:4
Forest loss in Shephelah
In ancient times, the Shephelah was covered with forest, as described in the Bible, and the photo above shows the treeless, semi-arid desert which is what now remains. Similar climate change took place in what are now currently desert regions in the Middle East, with large areas of Iraq once consisting of marsh lands, punctuated by higher out crops of solid land on which ancient settlements were founded.
Environmental destruction and the rise of the phenomenon of the great Jewish ProphetsT he famous Jewish prophets appeared briefly on the historical scene during the last two centuries of the existence of the Jewish state, followed by a brief renaissance following the return from exile in Babylon (an event which spurred another short episode of prophetic activity). In the prophetic writings we find a fusion of social protest combined with horror over a rapidly advancing environmental destruction, which they then interpreted as 'the wrath of God.' Thus environmental destruction they viewed as the righteous punishment for the corruption and immorality that was pervasive in the latter days of the Jewish state.
According to their testimony, oligarchies had arisen in the land, and the rich were dispossessing everyone else, and the welfare of the poor was being cast aside. The political leadership was heavily involved in schemes which involved drafting oppressive laws intended for the protection of a privileged elite at the expense of the rest of the population. The priests and the officially sanctioned prophets had corrupted themselves since they also held a privileged position and also benefitted from the ongoing corruption of the system.
"There is blood on your robes, the lifeblood of the innocent poor...for all this I shall punish you." Jeremiah 2:34As the environment continued to deteriorate, the social protests of the Jewish prophets became fused together with horror over the devastation taking place in land, so that the latter became the divine punishment which was due the former. If you sinned, the rain god would punish the injustice in the land by creating a desert. This type of thinking permeates the message of the Jewish prophets, and in particular is a defining characteristic of the prophecy of Jeremiah.
"Jerusalem is a city ripe for punishment. Oppression is rampant within her...she keeps her wickedness fresh and violence and outrage echo in her streets." Jeremiah 6:6
"Everyone is out for ill gotten gain. Priests and prophets are all frauds. They dress my people's wound on the surface only with that saying of theirs, 'All is well.' All is well? Nothing is well. They ought to be ashamed of themselves but they don't even know how to blush. Therefore they shall be overthrown." Jeremiah 6:13 "The lives they lead are wicked, and the powerful misuse their powers. Even prophet and priest have all become godless...they encourage evildoers so that no one turns back from their sin.." Jeremiah 23:10
"The LORD opens the indictment against the leaders of the people. It is you have ravaged the land and in your houses are the spoils you have taken from the poor. Is it nothing to you that you crush my people and grind the faces of the poor?" Isaiah 4:14
"Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone one of them loves a bribe. They deny the rights of orphans and the cause of the poor is never heard." Isaiah 1:23
"Woe to those who pass unjust laws, and draft oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of justice and rob the weakest of my people of their rights, plundering the poor and despoiling the orphans." Isaiah 10:1
"Listen you rulers of Israel, is it not for you to know what is right and yet you hate good and love evil, you who rip the skin off of my people and the tear the flesh from their bones...so wicked are their deeds." Micah 3:1
"They are bent on evil, the grasping officer, the venal judge, and the powerful man who follows his own desires. Their goodness is twisted like some rotten weed." Micah 7:3
"When you entered this land, you defiled it, and you made loathsome the home that I gave you...the prophets prophesied by Baal and followed gods who were powerless to help."
Baal was an ancient rain god, and as the land turned to desert the people turned to Baal the middle eastern rain god in their desperate search for a solution to their problem. In the mind of Jeremiah, this is reversed, and it is the worship of Baal which caused the drought (rather than the drought which led to the worship of Baal, which is what would have really happened).
"From our earliest days Baal worship has devoured the fruits of our father's labors. Let us lie down in shame covered by our disgrace for we have sinned against our God." Jeremiah 3:24
I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void ... I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled ... I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger. Jeremiah 4:23
They did not say, 'Let us fear the Lord who brings the spring showers.' But your wrongdoing has upset the natural order and your sins have kept away the bounty of nature. Jeremiah 5:24
Take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste so that no one passes through, and the lowing of cattle is not heard; both the birds of the air and the animals have fled and are gone ... Who is wise enough to understand this? ... Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a desert, so that no one passes through? And the LORD says: Because they have forsaken my law ... and have gone after the Baals, as their ancestors taught them. Jeremiah 9:10
Now if we look back over all this from a modern scientific perspective it is easy to see that Jeremiah's interpretation was in error. It was environmental destruction that led to desertification. The Jewish people had rolled the rain god and every other god into one single god, and when their rituals failed to call up this one god to end the drought, they turned to the worship of the traditional middle eastern rain god, the Baal. Baal worship did not cause the desertification of the country, but rather was a logically following consequence of desertification.
Further clues of environmental destruction emerge in the writings of the prophets, in particular their protests against the wide spread practice of driving animals to extinction, which was a consequence of land clearing policies which began early in the days of the Jewish state, a policy which was begun by Solomon, and then carried on by successive Jewish Monarchs. This practice of killing off the animals enraged the Jewish prophets, and it tells us something about the bad environmental practices that were the root cause of the decline of the environment and the resulting spread of the desert.. Animals disappear and go extinct when their habitat is destroyed, and so animal extinction is one of the key indicators of environmental destruction.
For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you; the destruction of the animals will terrify you? because of violence to the earth. Habakkuk 2:17
How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and the birds are swept away. Jeremiah 12:4
Bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing ... My quarrel is with you, O priest ... My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest. Hosea 4:2
It was typical for Jewish prophets to make use of the destruction of the environment in their sermons, and it was typical of them to use curses that employed devastation of the landscape as metaphors for punishment for all the evils they saw taking place in the land, desertification being seen as the just and righteous punishment for sin.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Jeremiah 17:6
Your mother shall be utterly shamed, and she who bore you shall be disgraced. Lo, she shall be the last of the nations, a wilderness, dry land, and a desert. Jeremiah 50:12
Her cities have become an object of horror, a land of drought and a desert, a land in which no one lives, and through which no mortal passes. Jeremiah 51:43
How the animals groan! The herds of cattle wander about because there is no pasture for them; even the flocks of sheep are dazed. Even the wild animals cry to you because the watercourses are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness. Joel 1:18
The highways are deserted, travelers have quit the road. The treaty is broken, its oaths are despised, its obligation is disregarded. The land mourns and languishes; Lebanon is confounded and withers away; Sharon is like a desert; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves. Isaiah 33:7
The Jewish prophets were also concerned with the devastation of the forests, although they never made the connection between the advancing desertification in the Middle East and the clear cutting of the forests and the destruction of native flora to make wave for pastures and farmland. Apparently, all the nations of the region were pursuing similar policies to fuel the growth of their states, and eventually the growth of the military and the wealth of rising empires. The King of Babylon (ruling from what is now modern day Iraq) was clear cutting the forests according to a prophecy found in the book of Isaiah.
The translators of the King James Bible did not have access to the knowledge uncovered by modern archeology, and they were quite frank in their introduction in that they said that there was much of the Bible they could not translate, since the ancient words were unknown in their time, and so they were forced to guess what certain passages might mean. One example of this is the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, which they guessed was a poem damning Satan the Devil. Archeological discoveries have revealed that the mysterious words actually referred to the King of Babylon, and thus the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah actually makes sense today (it never did make sense as a poem about Satan the Devil since it refers to a King going down to the world of the grave, and Christian theology always held that Satan the Devil would not die, but rather would burn in hell).
The poem invites people to taunt the King of Babylon (in the King James you are invited to taunt Satan the Devil, and this is a mistranslation), and then the poem celebrates the fact that now that the King of Babylon is dead no one will be clear cutting the forests (also something that Satan the Devil was never famous for having done...however if Christians want to insist that clear cutting forests is the task of Satan the Devil then it follows that, in keeping with a consistent theology, the same Christians must be against clear cutting the last stands of old growth forest, which is the work of the devil...).
Take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has ceased! How his insolence has ceased! God has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, that struck down the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses exult over you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, "Since you were laid low, no one comes to cut us down." Sheol (the grave) beneath is stirred up to meet you ... all who were leaders of the earth ... all who were kings of the nations... You too have become as weak. Isaiah 14:4
The failed mysticism of the Jewish prophetsI t naturally follows that if sin aroused the wrath of a rain god and this was the cause of the drought, then it must be the case that repentance would appease the rain god and the desert land would be restored to health. This conclusion logically follows from the mystification of the environmental destruction of the middle east that permeates the preaching of the Jewish prophets.
We can understand that the destruction of the environment was not the deed of an angered rain god, but rather desertification was the consequence of the reckless destruction of the environment which began early in the history of the Jewish state, and was also practiced by all the other states in the region, and inevitably resulted in both extinction of local animal populations and disappearance of the forests and the natural flora, which disrupted the hydrological cycle, which resulted in creeping desertification. Eventually, the mystification of this process by the prophets was bound to be revealed as false, and this process proceeded in logical steps.
First the prophets preached repentance as the means to reverse the process of environmental destruction.
For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. Fields shall be bought in this land of which you are saying, It is a desert. Jeremiah 32:42
I am going to bring recovery and healing ... and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me ... Thus says the LORD: In this place of which you say, "It is a desert without human beings or animals," ... there shall again be pasture for shepherds resting their flocks ... The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel. Jeremiah 33:6
From there I will give her vineyards ... For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth ... I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground ... I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil. Hosea 2:15
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain ... if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:13
In addition to making promises of the restoration of the environment, the prophets also made extravagant promises regarding how the Jewish throne and the Jewish temple priests would last forever till the end of time. Zedekiah was the last king of David's line to sit on the throne, and the sacrificial system was brought to an end when the Roman's destroyed the temple around 70 C.E. Both of these prophecies turned out to be false. As well, the Babylonians conquered the nation and the prophets interpreted this event as a divine punishment, and they also predicted that Babylon would be destroyed in a war as a form of vengeance, and never inhabited again, and this did not happen either, rather Babylon became one of the most important cities in the following age of the Persian empire after surrounding peacefully without a fight to the armies of Cyrus..
For thus says the LORD: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to make grain offerings, and to make sacrifices for all time. Jeremiah 33:17
For out of the north a nation has come up against her; it shall make her land a desolation, and no one shall live in it; both human beings and animals shall flee away. Therefore wild animals shall live with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall inhabit her; she shall never again be peopled, or inhabited for all generations. 'O LORD, you yourself threatened to destroy Babylon so that neither human beings nor animals shall live in it, and it shall be desolate forever.' Jeremiah 50:3, 39, 62
Prophecies of this type would over the course of time prove to be examples of a failed mysticism, which was itself an example of failed theological perspective. Prophecies concerning the ending of desertification would become a more immediate problem for Jewish prophets, and they dealt with this struggle with an erroneous theology in several steps.
When the Babylonian empire surrendered (peacefully) to Cyrus the Persian, the Jewish people were set free from Babylonian bondage. They were free to return to Israel, but the place had been destroyed before the Babylonian invasion, and was a desert, so very few Jewish people were interested in returning home. To encourage the return to Israel a later group of prophets from the school of Isaiah, following the precepts of an erroneous theology which taught that the desert was a punishment for sin, began preaching that now that the nation had been punished by Babylonian conquest, they would be the recipients of divine forgiveness and a divine miracle if they returned to Israel. The land of Israel would be blessed with a reversal of the desert and this would prove to the whole world that the God of Israel was in fact the One God. The deforestation would be reversed and the clear cut trees would come back again, rivers would once again flow, the marshy swamps of reeds and grasses once found in the Middle East would return and push out the sandy desert, and everything would go back to being what it was before 'Israel sinned against the rain god' and the land was turned into a desert as a form of punishment.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing ... They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Isaiah 35:1
I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:18
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, Isaiah 43:19
For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her desert like the garden of the LORD. Isaiah 51:3
Now those who are familiar with the Middle East will know that the place remained a harsh desert, and in modern times, Israel is highly dependant on irrigation to maintain crops and vines. Israel remains to this day an arid or semi-arid region, and Iraq is no longer full of marshy swamps to this very day. It did not take long for those who followed the vision of the Jewish prophets and returned to the Israeli desert to realize that the promise was false, and the reason for this is that the understanding of the Jewish prophets was false, in that the environment was not destroyed by a rain god as a punishment for the sins they saw in Israel, but rather was a naturally occurring phenomenon. If it was true that a rain god had destroyed the land for its sinful ways, then it must also have been true that if they turned from their sinful ways the rain god would send rain and the land would be restored, but this did not happen, and thus we see here a failed mysticism, based as it was upon ignorance.
The prophet Haggai was one of those who returned to Israel from the Babylonian captivity, and he dealt with the disappoint the people felt when confronted with false prophecy, by blaming them for the fact that it didn't rain. Time then passed and we see that during the time of Malachi, the last of the prophets, the people are once again being blamed for the fact that the land is desertified (these desert conditions being caused by the fact that they weren't paying their tithes and were sacrificing sickly animals at the temple). Both of these prophets are good examples of how people can wind up struggling with a failed mysticism and find ways to avoid facing the failure of an erroneous theology by assigning blame.
Haggai begins by scolding the people because 'they looked for much', and the reason why they expected so much was due to the preaching of Jewish prophets who promised them that if they returned to Israel the desert would be healed in a demonstration of divine miraculous power. Now this could have been a problem with Jewish prophecy, but in the struggle with failed mysticism the last handful of Jewish prophets choose to blame the victim. Haggai blames the problem on the people because they have not finished rebuilding the temple, and then continues to promote the failed mysticism, by promising them that since they began work on the temple, the prophecy of the restoration of the desert would now begin coming true. This did not happen.
You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and on all their labors. Haggai 1:9
Consider from this day on, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider: Is there any seed left in the barn? Do the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still yield nothing? From this day on I will bless you. Haggai 2:18
In a later century the people are still complaining about the harsh desert conditions, and once again the prophet Malachi blames the problem on the people, which shows how persistent religious mystification can become, in particular when people have only a primitive understanding and thus no real sense of what is actually occurring.
When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? And now implore the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. The fault is yours. Will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1:8W hat we see here is a process of decline in the school of Jewish prophecy. As well the doctrine of 'sin' was to become embedded in both Jewish and Christian theology. The latter Jewish prophets continued to hammer away at the doctrine of sin which was being used to prop up a failed mysticism. Jewish prophecy had not failed, the mysticism was not false, but rather the people were persistent sinners. No wonder they lived perpetually in a desert.
You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me?the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. Malachi 3:9
Jewish prophecy blossomed for a few brief centuries, spurred on for the most part by climate change and desertification, which the prophets interpreted as a divine punishment from God for the corrupt social practices they condemned. This mystification was to prove the downfall of Jewish prophecy in the end. We see Haggai telling the people that the promise of the rejuvenation of the desert made by the latter school of Isaiah prophets had not come true because 'you have not built God a temple.' The people built a temple, and then we find the last of the Jewish prophets telling the people that they were still living in a desert because they were not observing the proper temple rituals. And then, the process of mystification reached its end, and so did the schools of Jewish prophecy. The process of mystification had finally failed, and the prophetic schools collapsed, leaving behind as a legacy the doctrine of blaming all sorts of social problems on sinfulness, leading eventually to the mystification known as Christian theology which throughout history also interpreted such things as sick cattle or crop failures to be the results of sin.
Failed mysticism in the modern ageJ ewish prophecy arose in response to environmental catastrophes and then collapsed under the weight of unfilled prophetic promises that failed because they were based on a superstitious understanding of the process of climate change. This is a classic example of failed mysticism and an object lesson from history. This lesson still has not be learned and we see today that many churches are still mired and bogged down in the failed mysticism of the ancient past. For example, the religious right in the United States is responding to climate change by mystifying the process in much the same way as it was mystified by ancient Jewish prophets.
For example we are told that climate related disasters such as the increasing tornadoes in the United States are the result of the wrath of God inspired by the 'Road Map for Peace' in the Middle East. Any thing less than unqualified support for Israel results in climate disasters in the United States.
One of the most frequently repeated passages of scriptures in recent times states that 'if I should strike the people with drought, then if my people, who are called by my name, will seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and heal their land.' Now one can consider drought and tornadoes that are caused by human induced climate change to understand how once again these churches are being taken captive by a process of mystification that will eventually lead to the collapse of those churches.
We know that green house gases have increased in the atmosphere by one third. Greenhouse gases are transparent to radiation from the sun, which strikes the earth and then is transformed into infrared radiation (heat). Green house gases are not transparent to infrared radiation, and this heat is then reflected back to earth rather than escaping out into space (the green house effect). Venus has an atmosphere almost entirely composed of green house gases and the temperature at the surface is about 900 degrees Fahrenheit, which indicates the remarkable heat trapping power of green houses gases. Now it only stands to reason that an increase of one third in the amount of green house gases in the Earth's atmosphere will result in global warming, and global warming is what is taking place today, with the temperature curve rising sharply in particular since the mid 1970s. One of the result of this increasing warming is the ten percent increase in global humidity levels due to more evaporation of water into the atmosphere, and water vapor is another potent green house gas, leading to even more warming, and the more humidity in the atmosphere the more severe and frequent tornado events become, which is the real reason for the increasing severity of tornadoes in the United States (not lack of one hundred per cent support for Israel, which is nothing more than superstitious mystification of climate change, modeled on the type of superstitious lack of understanding we find on the pages of the Bible).
Now Global Warming is a fact, and those who wish to debunk climate change should get with the times and not waste their breath spreading misinformation about global warming. Even Exxon-Mobile, a giant oil multinational, has now become a 'partner in the fight against Climate Change' (to quote the propaganda line) and those who are still stuck in the past and attempting to debunk global warming are becoming as obsolete as dinosaurs. The correct way to debunk is to raise questions for which science has not yet compiled definitive answers. For example, you could suggest that climate change is due to 'natural variability' or 'changes in the output of the sun' and that human induced climate change could be as little as ten per cent. Now in science criticism is real cheap, and since no one can yet definitely disprove what you have just said, you have cleverly thrown a monkey wrench into the gears of progress on the issue of climate change. Debunking global warming is obsolete, and all sophisticated debunkers know that the time has come to move on to something new, such as the above example. In science, the burden of proof is on the defense, not the prosecutor, and thus criticism is real cheap, while the defense is stuck with the problem of coming up with definitive proof, making being a climate change skeptic an easy task.
Now simple common sense would indicate that a one third increase in green house gases is going to result in global warming, which is what is taking place. So then those who wish to debunk global warming are left to suggest that one can increase green houses gases without increasing the green house effect, which is ridiculous and contradictory.
Now churches are being led astray into a false mysticism, and in the future will fighting climate change by strongly supporting Israeli attacks on Palestinians. They will be turning the nation away from its wicked ways by bashing gays, perhaps getting a no gay marriage amendment put into the constitution. They will be bashing liberals, and fighting to get right wing judges put onto the bench, who will no longer recognize the constitutional balance of powers but will instead just do what politicians tell them to do. And the list goes on. At the end of it all, after bashing gays and bashing Palestinians and judges, and 'turning from the country's wicked ways', climate change will continue, since climate change is caused by such things as having those churches driving to the bash the gays meeting each in their own SUV. At the end of it all, after a lot of victim blaming and irrational non-action, those churches will eventually collapse and fall into ruins as their religion collapses under the weight of a false mysticism, since they were unable to learn the lessons of history, but instead mystified the Bible, which ironically is a way to learn nothing at all, at least not the kind of lessons those churches needed to learn. It turned out that the Bible was indeed relevant, but due to their superstitious reverence for the ignorance of our ancestors they did not learn the most important lessons the Bible had to teach, but rather instead headed straight down the road to irrelevance and eventual collapse.
The failures of intervention theologyT he example of the two prophets just quoted above illustrate one of the dangers of the process of religious mystification, and in particular of intervention theology. It was inevitable that ancient Jewish theology would slip into the practice of blaming the victim.
If we suggest that bad things are the result of the wrath of a rain god, as just one example, then it follows that good should result if the rain god is appeased. If good does not result, and it did not result, as the process of desertification still has not been reversed to this very day, then it must follow that either theology is incorrect, or, if we discount this possibility, then something must be wrong with the people.
The negative aspects of such simplistic theology is encapsulated in the saying, 'good things only happen to good people, while bad things only happen to bad people.' And it is into exactly this pit that Jewish theology fell, and it was inevitable that this would happen.
The simple doctrine that teaches that bad things happen due to the divine intervention of a god like being, permeates the error ridden theology of such books as that of the Book of Proverbs. For example we are told that tornadoes only knock down the houses of wicked people. Only wicked people have their house burn down in a fire, while good people have their houses protected by the house fire god forever. Poverty is divine punishment while being rich is proof that the wealth god really favors you. The rich are righteous and the poor are wicked. All these obnoxious concepts and more began to creep into Jewish theology, and because there are people even to this day who are steeped in reverential deference to ancient Bible documents, such concepts are still held to be true by far to many people today, and this is a clear indication of the dangers of holding to an interventionist theology. Not only does it lead to gross victim blaming, by assigning causes and effects to a rain god or a finances god, it mystifies the root causes of such things as poverty, and thus prevents real understanding which prevents genuine action which would result in real solutions. It blames environmental destruction on an angered 'environment god' and thus people would waste their time 'turning from their sinful ways' while the environment is destroyed by their own bad practices, and that is a particularly worthless superstition, which, while it might be understandable that our ancient ancestors saw the world in such a way, modern people have no such excuse, in particular when our ancestors left us such a clear record of failed mysticism (as it was said, those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it...)
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