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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10368/what-samuel-said-about-solomon/

What Samuel Said about Solomon

July 29, 2009 by

“In those days,” we are told in Judges 17:6, “there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”

To be able to do that which is right in one’s own eyes is to be free, and freedom was the way of life among the Israelites before the coming of the kings. Yet, they were not without government; they were not lacking in those social controls that are the essence of government. The economy of the tribesmen demanded of the individual that he adjust himself to cooperative and regularized procedures; a man who indulged his caprice when the tribe was on the march in search of grazing land would be courting disaster; it was a case of hold together or die. FULL ARTICLE

{ 52 comments }

BioTube July 29, 2009 at 9:21 am

Most people only remember Solomon for the baby-splitting and the temple, David for Goliath and being a bit better than Saul; the sad part is that this reflects Obama so well: they wanted change and now we’re all under his yoke.

David July 29, 2009 at 9:29 am

If you compare the account of Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings to the Laws for the Kings in Deuteronomy 17, you will see that 1 Kings which at first blush appears to be praising Solomon is in fact indicting him for violating all the restrictions that were placed against him: e.g. not accumulate too much gold or silver, not accumulate too many horses or chariots, not have too many wives… Generally the elements that we think of Solomon about are in fact indictments according to the standard of Deuteronomy. Solomon far from being the wise king he is often touted to be, left and fled wisdom for folly on every front after his beginning.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 9:33 am

I’m an ATHEIST and so I find those biblical references to be very distasteful.

Given that Yaweh never existed and is santa-clause for the israelites, given that the world was not created in 6 days, given that there is no talking snakes, it could very well be that the entire bible is false, faked, flawed and that all of it is fiction.

Plus, you picked passages of the old testament that fits your bill. But what about all those mass murdering, what about all those public stonings for mocking a bald man etc.

I wish I was Balaam, I would then go on and curse the HOLY GHOST !

alan July 29, 2009 at 9:44 am

^ can a moderator remove the third post please?

oma5 July 29, 2009 at 9:54 am

Alan – The third post need not be removed. You may not agree – even be offended, but it is a legitimate opinion and should not pose a threat to your own convictions. Besides, it would go against all the principles espoused by this institute if Mises.org suddenly became a censor like the government.

alan July 29, 2009 at 10:02 am

It’s a private blog – there are rules which you play by. It doesn’t add anything to the discussion and only serves to derail it.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 10:04 am

Alan,

Did I make your little Jesus cry ?

I had a pentecostal neighbor once and I was doing push-ups and workouts in my driveway, listening to hip-hop and techno music.

Then, one of his kids was outraged at the music I was listening to. He said that it was not “jesus music”.

His parents were completely brainwashing him. That kid was so brainwashed he tought I was a hell bound sinner because I was not listening to “jesus music” !!!

I’m sorry Alan but Christianity is just not my cup of tea and therefore I don’t feel compelled to respect your stupid religion.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 10:10 am

Alan,

“It doesn’t add anything to the discussion and only serves to derail it.”

Then practice what you preach and SHUT UP !

My first point was that I don’t find anything useful or worthwhile about using biblical passages to make a point on freedom.

My point is that the Bible is riddled with anti-freedom everywhere and that God is the most sadistical tyrant there could ever be and most of the people and political systems in the bible favor violent and brutal authoritarianism.

My point is to tell the writer of this article to look somewhere else than the bible to find examples of freedom because the bible is not an example of freedom.

God is NOT a libertarian, he makes hitler look like Murray Rothbard.

alan July 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

I just don’t think vituperation and insults have a deserving place in this forum.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 10:16 am

Alan,

“I just don’t think vituperation and insults have a deserving place in this forum.”

You can’t shut up can’t you. You are the first one to complain about derailing the discussion, yet you can’t shut up, you must continue on to derail the discussion yourself.

What nerves you have telling an atheist he is insulting your stupid religion. How many people were killed by your stupid religion ? How many lives were destroyed and opportunities were lost because of your stupid religion ?

If you don’t want to be insulted, then shut up and don’t shove your assholiness down our throats.

Christianity = VIOLENCE against mankind.
Christianity = CRIME against humanity.

You are the guilty party so enduring a little bit of insult should be no problem.

Thinker July 29, 2009 at 10:18 am

Being an atheist myself, I don’t really care about the relationship between God and Man or any supernatural events and powers; such things are not important if you reject them.

This does not mean that I think the Bible is to be wholly rejected. It is a decently written history of a group of people living long ago and can be analyzed as such by atheists, Christians, Buddhists or anyone else. This article does a fairly good job of that.

Of course, this is merely my opinion on the matter. I Hate God is welcome to his views and is free to expound upon them to his heart’s content; and Alan is perfectly justified in being offended and expressing his outrage. I just don’t think there is much to be gained in such a discussion (this conclusion is based on experience).

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 10:20 am

Dear Frank Chodorov,

As an atheist, I fail to see the pertinence of using biblical references in order to support freedom.

Especially that in your article, you mention Yaweh quite a lot and that Yaweh and a lot of other parts of the bible is false and flawed.

It could very well be that the entire bible is flawed and that there is no historical value to it.

Please be advised that bible God represents the ultimate tyrant and he is not a libertarian.

And using the bible to argue about freedom will make us libertarians look like bible thumpers and will certainly not be helpful in convincing anti-economic freedom liberals to our cause.

I find it completely distasteful and counterproductive to use the bible to “preach” about freedom. Given the misogynistic and violently authoritarian nature of the bible.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

Thinker,

“It is a decently written history of a group of people living long ago and can be analyzed as such by atheists,”

But the author mentions Yaweh far too much. How can freedom come from Yaweh ? I’m sorry but this is a very bad example about freedom.

I don’t want to live under the rule of God, even if it’s only “public opinion” with no constabulary.

I want to follow my reason and critical thinking. If you read the bible correctly, you will see that then came the kings and Israel became a bloody theocracy.

That same Yaweh that was bringing freedom then brang tyranny, death, misery, plagues and the eventual breakup of Israel, it’s conquest by the romans and the nazi holocaust.

I’m sorry but this is a very bad example. Please pick secular and non-religious examples of free people.

How about talking about the friendship houses where poor workers could afford quality health care because of voluntary free market capitalism.

Please talk about the “king” of government putting an end to this practice and driving health care costs sky high.

No God here and it is a great example.

Reesie July 29, 2009 at 10:37 am

“I hate God” is wrong and so was his neighbor. You can’t base your judgement of Judeo-Christianity on people like your neighbor, because they are human and fallible. You must base it on what Jesus Christ said. and did.
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ is the greatest man who has ever lived in all of history. He changed the world forever. When He was born, He transformed the very way we measure time. He turned aside the river of the ages out of its course and lifted the centuries off their hinges. His birth and His Incarnation touched and transformed time. Now the whole world counts time as Before Christ (BC) and AD (Anno Domoni – in the year of our Lord). Jesus Christ is the central figure of history. More books have been written about Jesus Christ than any other person in history.
The world before Christ was a world without hospitals, a world without charity, a world without respect for the sanctity of life. Hospitals were an innovation of Christianity. Hence the healing symbol of a cross represents hospitals. The nursing profession was founded by Christians such as Florence Nightingale out of devotion for Christ. One of history’s greatest humanitarian movements, the International Red Cross, was founded by Christians in response to the Scriptural injunctions to care for the sick and the suffering. Christians such as Dr. Louis Pasteur have fuelled some of the greatest practical advances in medicine. Pasteur has probably saved more lives than any other individual in history through his inventions.
The whole concept of charity was a Christian innovation. Benevolence to strangers was unknown before Christ. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ have inspired the greatest acts of generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice and service for the poor, sick and needy over two thousand years.
Before the advent of Christianity every culture-practised slavery and human sacrifice – even the highly esteemed Greek and Roman civilisations. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan religions. The Aztec Empire in Mexico and Inca Empire in Peru engaged in slavery, ritual rapes and mass human sacrifice. Suttee, the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, was common practice in Hindu India before the missionary William Carey arrived.
Slavery was eradicated as a result of the tireless efforts of Christians such as William Wilberforce and David Livingstone. Respect for life and liberty is a fruit of Christianity. Those promoting abortion, euthanasia and pornography are not offering us progress, but only a return to pre-Christian paganism.
The positive impact of Jesus Christ on the world cannot be overstated. Everything from education to human rights, from public health to economic liberty – the things we cherish most and many of the blessings we take for granted – all can be traced to the spiritual and the cultural revolution begun by Jesus Christ.
The irrefutable fact is that Christianity gave birth to modern science. The scientific revolution began with the Protestant Reformation and the Bible played a vital part in the development of scientific discovery. Every major branch of science was developed by a Bible believing Christian. The Bible essentially created science. When we get into a car, start the engine, turn on the lights, drive to a hospital, receive an anaesthetic before an operation, and have an effective operation done in a germ-free environment, we need to remember that we owe it all to Jesus Christ.
“Every school you see – public or private, religious or secular – is a visible reminder of the religion of Jesus Christ. So is every college and university.” Dr. James Kennedy.
The phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in Christianity. The pursuit of the knowledge of God in a systematic, philosophical and in-depth way gave rise to the phenomenon of universities all around the world. It was the Christian faith that gave rise to the very idea of higher learning.
Most of the languages of the world were first set to writing by Christian missionaries. The first book in most languages of the world has been the Bible. Christianity has been the greatest force for promoting literacy worldwide throughout history.
The Christian missionary movement in the 19th Century pioneered tens of thousands of schools throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands – providing education for countless millions, even in the remotest jungles, giving the gift of literacy to tribes which had never before had a written language.
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ was the greatest Teacher the world has ever known. When He spoke, “They were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority…” Mark 1:22. The life, teachings and example of Jesus Christ have profoundly influenced the whole development of education worldwide. The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus was to “make disciples of all nations…teaching them…” Matthew 28:19-20.
From the very beginning Christians were establishing schools. Amongst the many innovations in Christian Education was that these Christian schools taught everybody, including girls and women. Formally educating both sexes was a Christian innovation. The Greeks and Romans before the birth of Christ did not formally educate girls. Only boys from the privileged classes obtained an education. Christianity revolutionised education by making it available to all classes and both genders.
Saint Augustine observed that Christian women were better educated than the pagan male philosophers.
Every branch and level of education was pioneered by Bible believing Christians. The concept of graded levels of education was first introduced by a German Lutheran, Johan Sturm in the 16th Century. Another Lutheran, Frederick Froebel introduced kindergartens. Education for the deaf was also pioneered by Christians.
Before Jesus Christ, human life in the Greek and Roman world was extremely cheap. Infants born with physical defects such as blindness, were commonly abandoned to die in the wilderness. In Greece, blind babies were cast into the sea. Those who survived their blind infancy, or became blind later in childhood usually became galley slaves, and blind girls were commonly assigned to a life of prostitution.
However, Jesus Christ showed particular compassion for the blind, healing many blind individuals during His ministry on earth. When the Roman persecution of the Church ended, in the 4th Century, Christians established asylums for the blind. In the 19th Century, Louis Braille, a dedicated Christian who lost his eyesight at age three, developed the world’s first alphabet that enabled blind people to read with their fingers.
Sunday schools were begun by Robert Raikes in 1780 to provide boys and girls from the poorest homes with the gift of literacy and the riches of the Scriptures. The first universities grew out of the monastic missionary centers, which had discipled Europe. The first university lecturers were the missionary monks who had collected books, accumulated libraries and copied manuscripts. They were uniquely equipped for advanced academic study. Most universities began as Christian schools, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg and Basel.
The greatest invention in the field of learning, the printing press, by Johannes Gutenberg, was also a fruit of the Christian faith. The first book to be printed was the Bible.

There’s MUCH MORE here: http://www.frontline.org.za

Heather July 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

I love alternative perspectives on the stories I was taught in sunday school because I always found the actions of biblical “heroes” anything but heroic. I don’t have any religious beliefs, but the bible is still valuable in teaching me about ancient religions and history. And “I Hate God” has probably misunderstood the articles intent, from their comments.

cavalier973 July 29, 2009 at 10:55 am

I hardly think it advisable to exclude people with deeply held religious beliefs from a discussion of freedom; as most people are to some degree religious, it would exclude most people from the discussion. However, when you meet people where they are, you have a better chance of persuading them to your side. This article is an exposition of Scriptures for the purpose of advancing liberty in society. I know from experience that when this section of the Bible is taught in church, the section that says “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is promoted as evidence that the Book of Judges describes a terrible time in the Hebrew’s history, and that the advent of monarchy alleviated the problems of not having a central government. But the book of Samuel makes it clear that God preferred the Book of Judges era to the times of the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles; saying that Israel’s demand for a king was a rejection of Himself.

I urge IHG to show this article to his acquaintances who are religious, in an effort to wean them off a government-controlled society; I believe it would be more effective than saying “you are an unintellectual believer of fairy tales” as a precursor to your argument for liberty.

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 11:31 am

Cavalier973,

“God prefers” ??? LOL !

What’s the point of weaning off a government controlled society when your entire life in all it’s details is being run by the almighty and that everything you do has to be about jesus ?

God is worse than government.

fundamentalist July 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

“His reason for the execution was that the soldier had defied the office of kingship; it was a crime for an individual citizen to lay hands on the anointed.”

Interesting point. David had made a similar comment earlier when he had the chance to ambush Saul in a cave, but merely cut off a piece of his clothing. But David knew that God had removed his anointing from Saul years before and placed it on David. Clearly, David had been sucked into the worship of kings like a pagan.

God’s judgment on rebellious Israel was to let them have their way. We generally think of tsunamis and earthquakes as the wrath of God, but in the Bible God’s most common form of judgment was to leave people alone to do what they wanted to do. The state is literally, God’s judgment on a rebellious mankind.

Under the judges, Israel prospered when it followed God’s laws and suffered when it rebelled. Under the kings, the people suffered when they were obeyed God and when they didn’t. There was no relief.

“..it never occurs to us that rascality is imbedded in the office or that the power invested in it might make a rascal of an honest man.”

Power corrupts; so why do so many people think it purifies and makes the bureaucrat nobler, more honest and more concerned about the common good?

“The more taxes, the richer the state and the poorer the people; the more taxes, the stronger the state and the weaker the people.”

Econometric studies of taxation for the 20th century put the optimum rate at about 25% for maximum per capita gdp growth, about half the current rate in the US.

fundamentalist July 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

To paraphrase Solomon in Proverbs, the one who argues with a fool is the greater fool.

Mechanized July 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

One would think that athiests of the libertarian persuasion would consider it a positive development that the Misesians are attempting to utilize the Bible for the purposes of extending libertarian ideas to Christians. One would think that, considering the sheer statist proclivities of many Christians, reaching out to this section of the population would be encouraged by atheists.

It should also be mentioned that the ideas of Austrian Economics originated in the writings of Catholic theologians. See the below article for further elaboration:

Juan de Mariana: The Influence of the Spanish Scholastics
http://mises.org/about/3238

I Hate God July 29, 2009 at 11:37 am

Reesie,

Oh, Jesus Christ ! I really opened Pandora’s box with my complaint. Next time I will kindly shut up myself.

What do you know about me ? I was once a christian and I walked away because it was always against freedom, self-realization, self-fulfillment, science, rationality etc. Christianity was the most destructive event in my life and I am happy I left that faith.

Ever since I left christianity, I feel that I am born again. Leaving christianity led me to enjoy my life and fulfill my potential. Christianity was a big obstacle and I defeated it. I am now a man of the world and I am happy I am no longer a Christian.

Now that I don’t have to trust in Jesus, I can trust in myself and be my own boss. I can’t believe all the hate and narrow mindedness that is present in the christian faith. All a bunch of crazy lunatics in pentecostal denominations. The speak in “tongues”, LOL ! The faint, the cry. This is crazy.

Religion is people going bananas in a bunch.

Jeffrey Tucker July 29, 2009 at 11:40 am

The posts above by “I hate God” don’t strike me as particularly intelligent or civil but we’ll leave them and block further posting. He has said what he has to say.

Chodorov, by the way, is not a living author. He was a Jewish intellectual who, so far as I know, largely tended toward free thought and not theism as commonly understood, though he struggled with the issue. He writes more about his issue with faith in his writings, which you might actually be bothered to examine.

JAlanKatz July 29, 2009 at 11:41 am

While I like the thrust of the article, I think there are a couple problems here. First, there were a number of anti-freedom institutions even before the Kingship. The Torah itself prescribes the court-ordered (not Kingly) death penalty for adultery, idolatry, and Sabbath desecration, not to mention the “rebellious son.” The institution of the Kingship only slightly expanded the death penalty – however, it also lowered the standard of evidence for execution, a very serious matter.

What are we to do, though, with the removal of Saul from office? If Chodorov’s reading is correct, what sense does it make for Samuel to replace Saul with someone who will be far better at consolidating political power (David)? Further, look at the reason Samuel gives for removing Saul – failure to carry out the command to kill all members of the nation of Amalek. In my more cynical moments, I wonder if what we’re reading in Samuel is not a propaganda version of the history of an anti-war movement. Think of it – scripture commands the killing of the entire nation. Saul refuses to do it, and is told he will lose his Kingship for it. What happens next? The book of Samuel tells us that Saul “goes crazy” and tries to kill David. Could it be that he doesn’t go crazy at all, but rather is, at least in his own mind, making a last stand against the encroaching warfare state?

cavalier973 July 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

to fundementalist: Thanks for the reminder: Proverbs 9:8

billwald July 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Commentaries I have read take the bible text as criticism of the existing social structure.

Russ July 29, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I’m also am atheist, but I don’t find it offensive to reference the Bible to make a point. The Bible is one of the cultural cornerstones of Western civilization, like it or not, and if you refuse to know anything about it, you are denying yourself both knowledge of our civilization and the ability to communicate with others by alluding to stories in it.

Also, mises.org is not my “house”. If Lew or whoever wants to let others hold virtual Sunday Bible classes here, it’s not for me to say they can’t do that in their own house.

oma5 wrote:

“Besides, it would go against all the principles espoused by this institute if Mises.org suddenly became a censor like the government.”

You’re wrong on two counts.

First, a private venue is not morally obliged to be a sounding board for anyone, no matter what their opinion. If it were, then others would have property rights over mises.org, not the owners.

Second, mises.org *has* censored not only posts in the past, but entire threads! (Apparently the moderators here have decided to let the left-”liberals” frame the rules of debate when it comes to racial issues, thus, of course, letting the left-”liberals” win that debate before it starts!) I think it is a little pathetic for mises.org to censor posts in most cases, because it shows that they are afraid of debate or disagreement in certain areas, and just want to shut people up instead. But, having said that, it’s a privately owned board, and the owners or their representatives can do what they want with it.

Michael J. Green July 29, 2009 at 12:25 pm

One would think that athiests of the libertarian persuasion would consider it a positive development that the Misesians are attempting to utilize the Bible for the purposes of extending libertarian ideas to Christians. One would think that, considering the sheer statist proclivities of many Christians, reaching out to this section of the population would be encouraged by atheists.

One would hope that Misesians would reject collective statements. ;)

As another atheist, I have no clue what “I Hate God” is saying. If he’s not trolling, then he’s one emotional individual. Chodorov never appeals to a supernatural force in his arguments, nor is there any indication that Chodorov believes God exists or is necessary for a functioning and free society. He uses Biblical writing to make a libertarian case. Yahweh gets mentioned quite a bit in the Bible, and whether or not Yahweh exists, we should be flattered that this god is portrayed as agreeing with our anti-state sentiments. A Jew, Christian, Hindu or atheist could write the same article. I happen to be writing a narrative that is based on the characters of the Book of Judges, and a world in which God is an active force. The horror!

Thanks very much for the article, Mises Institute. It was very interesting.

Mechanized July 29, 2009 at 12:40 pm

—-”Michael J. Green

One would hope that Misesians would reject collective statements. ;)”—-

Nothing in my previous statements attempts to suggest collectivist thinking or phrases, but rather is merely attempting to make a couple of points. Too often, many atheists have attempting to place all Christians into a collectivist pot by insisting that anything associated with Christianity is decidedly anti-libertarian. In other words, simply utilizing the Bible to make a libertarian point shouldn’t necessarily be viewed in the negative.

Also, it is important for individuals to recognize the role Christianity played in Austrian economic and libertarian ideas. Sometimes, individual athiests (not all; to suggest this was never intended) may proclaim that all Christians are collectivists or that their culture provided no contributions to the ideas of liberty. Obviously, the contrary is actually the case.

This was the point being made by my previous statements.

newson July 29, 2009 at 7:01 pm

fundamentalist says:
“Econometric studies of taxation for the 20th century put the optimum rate at about 25% for maximum per capita gdp growth, about half the current rate in the US.”

a lovely, succinct critique of econometrics.

sheridan July 29, 2009 at 7:09 pm

It’s a common irony that some people sure do spend a lot of effort railing against someone whom they regards as imaginary.

re: article – now, that also brings home the point of the “wonders” and “wisdom” of democracy, where people routinely vote for their own oppression.

Alistair July 29, 2009 at 7:29 pm

While I can understand I Hate God’s emotional response, but it’s extremely immature. If there’s one place that atheists should get along with the religious, it’s here. It honestly should not make a difference if someone worships a sock-puppet. If they believe in freedom, on this forum, we are obliged to treat them with the same respect as anyone.
Besides, its seems to me that the Natural Law studied and promoted by this institute, is a higher, more authoritative law than that of gods and men, and most of us here agree with that, so why does it matter what anyone believes on the side?

Micah Killian July 29, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I’m an Orthodox Jew and I found this a very interesting article. The quote at the beginning is taken way out of context and doesn’t support Chodorov’s position, but the context is interesting enough to expand upon.

Judges 17:6 is sandwiched in a section talking about a guy named Micah who made a house of idol-worship in ancient Israel (a big no no). An unnamed Levite from the house of Judah (which means he was both a priest AND from descended from the same guy as David and Solomon) just happens to come across this guy’s place and ends up being hired to ‘anoint’ this place. At the end of the chapter, it says, “12 And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.
13 Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.”

This guy hired an intellectual to drum-up approval for his misdeeds! An ancient Krugman of sorts.

The quote from 2 Chronicles is quite interesting. I haven’t ever seen literature from Jews that was critical of Solomon except for some ‘victimless crimes’ like having a lot of wives, but 2 Chron. hints to a lot more.

Chodorov is an interesting guy. Thanks for posting this up!

Ostralion July 30, 2009 at 12:31 am

By the way, to any atheist who has half a brain, you might want to check up on spelling. YHVH, without vowels, can be pronounced with vowels in many patterns (Yahwah, Yehovah, Yehowah, etc.), but it should always have two ‘h’s.
How can a non-existent being tyrannize anyone? Only lunatics hate or love things that don’t exist.
And as for killing and murdering, that pagan called Hitler, and those atheists Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, murdered many millions, quite recently. Did that escape your notice? It was their atheism that freed them from moral constraints.
As for religion constraining people, yes, it does. So does any moral code. So what? Moral codes should mean that it is personal, not legal. Some Christians did behave badly in the past, but that was because they weren’t being true to their religion. Christians should always treat other people as they would like to be treated- and a good definition of an evil person is one who would not like to be treated as badly as he/she treats others!

Paul D. July 30, 2009 at 2:18 am

Mr. Chodorov,

I agree overall with your piece, but having read that same story several times recently, I have a different political theory about how the kingdom (that would lead to Israel’s demise) came into being.

Samuel was not a particularly good priest. His sons were wicked, and the priesthood in general had lost the respect and confidence of the Israelite people. In the absence of a state, they had wielded a great deal of influence and power (albeit non-coercive power).

Israelite culture was going through an identity crisis and an authority crisis. When the tribal leaders came to Samuel asking for a king, he saw an opportunity to strengthen and consolidate his power by appointing a king who was weak in character and could be easily manipulated by Samuel, but at the same was an impressive figure whom the Israelites would respect — or fear.

Re-read all of those passages, including ones regarding the slaughter of the Amalekites and Samuel’s fall-out with Saul, and whenever Samuel says “the Lord has commanded”, consider that Samuel was simply putting words in the Lord’s mouth and using divine inspiration as an excuse for his political machinations. The situation where a nearby city-state and its people are blamed for the persecution of Israel centuries earlier and “must be destroyed” is remarkably similar to the rhetoric politicians use today to deflect attention away from their own acts and get the people riled up against a foreign enemy instead.

Mushindo July 30, 2009 at 5:15 am

To ‘I hate God’.

Speaking as an atheist, I find your comment quite as distasteful as you seem to find the biblical flavour of the article, except much less useful. It’s people like you who give us a bad name.

Besides, the non-existence of god does not mean that the bible has any less value as a ( granted, heavily mythologised) history of an ancient society, and hence has much anthropological value. We do not dismiss the classics of Greece and Rome because their naieve pantheons of gods are no longer taken seriously, why should the bible be any different?

Besides, the bible remains probably the most significant cultural, ethical, and literary reference source in western culture, and it behooves all of us to at least be familiar with its contents ( You might even find therein a more soundly rational basis for your atheism).

Dismissing it out of hand, and with such belligerence, is both ignorant and primitively savage.

I dont see much point in evangelising for atheism (there’s no sense in building a belief system on what isn’t), but if you wish to do so, you would do well to consider that you would catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Gil July 30, 2009 at 6:04 am

What of reesie’s guff? He pretends that everything started with Christianity! Puh-leeassseee! Maybe he should find out to whom the Hippocratic Oath was sworn to by ancient physicians.

danny July 30, 2009 at 7:41 am

I have always found the story if the Israelites desire for a king, and God’s response to this quite interesting.

God, who knows all before it happens, knew that David (described as a man after God’s heart) and Solomon (described as the most intelligent man) would one day take this role. Yet, God had Samuel try to dissuade the Israelites from this request. With these two extremely qualified candidates (in God’s eyes), God still knew this was a bad idea.

What does this teach? 1) Even the most qualified candidates (is there a better endorsement than that from God?) are not suitable for such a position of power, 2) God may have had a higher and better use for David and Solomon than king…this would be a stunning idea to most — a higher and better use than a king???

Abhilash Nambiar July 30, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I knew this would be a hot article. I thought I would wait for a day to see what kind of comments will be put up. Lots of atheists blogging here. Myself Included. ‘I Hate God’ seemed very juvenile and brash. Maybe he is worried that Christians will co-opt libertarian philosophy with its is essentially secular character. If I had such a concern as a child, I would throw a fit, especially because I lack the words to articulate such a concern.

I think people have moved on to other blogs by now. So I do not expect many to read this. I must admit, I am impressed by the versatility of the Bible and its capacity for being applied in various contexts and across various circumstances.

That makes it kind of useless in my view. There is no consistent philosophy to it. The result? There where Christians who fought on the side of Hitler, and Christians who fought against him. There where Christians who fought on the side of the Confederates and Christians that fought on the side of the Union. The are Christians for Libertarianism and for Statism. Oh boy!!

Micah Killian July 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm

“I think people have moved on to other blogs by now. So I do not expect many to read this. I must admit, I am impressed by the versatility of the Bible and its capacity for being applied in various contexts and across various circumstances.

That makes it kind of useless in my view. There is no consistent philosophy to it.”

I wouldn’t say that. Is a knife considered useless because of its versatility? It can both create and destroy, save life or take it away. I think there is a consistent philosophy, but it is hidden by a lack of creativity and education. There is a hint to it, though.

Deuteronomy 30:19 I [God] call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.

So the Bible is a profoundly versatile tool. It is like knowledge of the sciences, both physical and social. A profound knowledge of these sciences is an incredibly powerful tool, either for good or evil. It can help us create medicines or design weapons for war. It can help us understand how humans act, therefore giving us the ability to further the cause of justice and mercy, or tyranny and thievery.

But, it is up to the individual to choose his path, how he will use the tools he is given and acquires. I’d say those that champion liberty have chosen the way of life and prosperity, but perhaps others have a different interpretation? :)

Abhilash Nambiar July 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm

‘I wouldn’t say that. Is a knife considered useless because of its versatility? ‘

It is more like not knowing whether what you have is a knife or a spanner or a hammer or a pair of pliers or a feather. All of which have versatility in their uses.

You are right versatility does not make it useless, whatever it is. That is why I said ‘kind of’. And choice does play a big role. The moral choices that lead the individual in question to use it one way rather than the other. In your case, the moral choices that lead you to pick the verse you did.

‘I think there is a consistent philosophy, but it is hidden by a lack of creativity and education. There is a hint to it, though.’

I think there is a mostly consistent philosophy by which you base your life. They form the basis of your morality and it is within those categories you try to interpret the Bible. Your claim and the subsequent verse you chose tells me more about you than it does about the Bible.

Micah Killian July 30, 2009 at 4:07 pm

You’re right, a person is moral and can be moral without any knowledge of the Bible. Jews see the Bible as law and believe it defines acceptable and unacceptable behavior as law. The philosophy is, “Law is good, lawlessness is bad, and here are the laws.” You can twist the law to support individual liberty or statism, whatever philosophy you prefer, but it doesn’t change the intent of the law.

Unfortunately, Jews have largely adopted the statist view of history and of the law. The modern state of Israel was founded in communism (Zionism). The Israel lobby is one of the most, if not the most, powerful lobby in the US and is supported heavily by the Jews, as if supporting the state is part of the law of the Bible.

Frank Chodorov’s essay is a much needed critical look at the Bible from an anti-statist perspective.

fundamentalist July 30, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Abhilash: “I am impressed by the versatility of the Bible and its capacity for being applied in various contexts and across various circumstances.”

I can understand your feeling that way. Most people think they can read anything they want into the Bible. But there is a science called hermeneutics that should guide people into interpreting the Bible. Hermeneutics is logic applied to interpreting the Bible, but it applies to communications of any kind. Once you read some of the principles you realize that they’re basically rules for being honest and not putting words into another person’s mouth.

Hermeneutics has been around for centuries, but most preachers don’t follow them because they are very limiting. I would say the Bible is so versatile as much as that many preachers are very dishonest in their interpretations.

For example, many southern Christians found support for slavery in the Bible. But an honest look at the Bible’s idea of slavery shows it to be more like the old idea of an indentured servant with a lot of rights. The South created slavery that was more brutal and inhumane than anyone in history. As bad the Romans and Turks treated their slaves, they were Florence Nightingale by comparison to American Slavery.

Using hermeneutics won’t solve every debate, but it would certainly get rid of the nut cases.

Abhilash Nambiar July 30, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Micah Killian,

Read more carefully what I wrote. I did not claim that a person can be moral without the knowledge of the Bible. Although of course I agree with it.

What I said was a bit different, what I said was that a person’s innate (though perhaps not immutable) sense of morality; that which they where born into nature and which evolves during their life in is in itself a precursor to how they interpret this big book that you call the good book.

Even if they prefer hermeneutics, to more cruder techniques, the preference for that choice must ultimately have a basis in his/her nature. And one’s sense of morality is intimate to ones own nature.

I suppose I am applying methodological individualism to Bible readers and Bible believers.

Ostralion July 30, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Danny, an alternative idea, put forward by Edgar Cayce, is that God intended the Israelites to have a King, but that they were impatient, and wanted one before He wanted to anoint one.
And how do you interpret Deuteronomy Chapter 5, verses 1 to 5? If you put them in context, who does Moses suppose he is talking to? He acts as though these adults are the same souls who made the covenant 40 years previously! (Not our fathers, but with us who are here today) Yet the whole point of the Exodus trek was so that the covenant generation would die out!
Some thoughtful Jews realised that the best interpretation was that these were the same souls in new bodies- their memories of Egypt had been pushed into the background, and they could concentrate on what God wanted, now.
This idea of reincarnation was personalised by Jesus, who told us that Elijah had been reborn as John the Baptist. (Therefore Christians should accept reincarnation)
This means that the Jews had agreed to all the commandments before they incarnated as Jews! Therefore Israel was a special project for monotheistic souls to practice monotheism here on Earth.

Carlos July 31, 2009 at 6:03 am

Have you forgotten the cost of opportunity?
Some Christians (among thousands) were the first to explain economics… because they didn’t have to work!
In a thousand years some members of a state-like organization would end discovering something! They had all the time in the world!
There is world outside religion.
Moral exists without religion, you don’t need religion to have a good moral code.

Carlos July 31, 2009 at 6:21 am

I can’t understand the criticism against the user ‘I hate God’.
Hasn’t God been the reason for so many wars?
Why does it hurt to remember the Spanish Inquisition and the millions of deaths it left?
The world would have been a much better place without religion.
It’s against nature! You believe only what you see! You try to learn! But trusting a sacred book from two thousands years ago? Only if it says something useful, which it doesn’t, even the less worse parts, like do not kill forbid self-defense, obey your parents? Only if they deserve it! The Bible make servile and docent servants.
And with the history it has, nobody should have any respect for this crazy evil fundamentalists ‘you will burn in fire if you do not bow before me’.
Today we live in the worship of the state, but only because we moved from worshipping religion to worshipping the state, without religion, it could never have gotten so bad.

Paul D. July 31, 2009 at 10:51 am

Carlos: the state has been the reason for practically every war in history. “God” is rarely anything more than an excuse. Politicians are very good at manipulating the religion card, but it’s only one of the tricks in their repertoires.

Carlos August 1, 2009 at 1:24 am

Paul D, then take that card away from them!
And religion has also been the reason of existence for empires and new states, an excuse to control the moral and the private life of individuals.

Ostralion August 2, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Carlos, humans have always looked for patterns and reasons in nature- it is how we advance. Therefore, we will always look for deeper causes than the ones already known. Karen Armstrong, the writer on religion, thinks we have two competing ideas, which she calls Logos and Mythos. Logos is concerned with the individual trees in the forest, and Mythos with the forest itself, as it were.
If you were able to impose an atheist belief system on all humans around the world, and then left them alone, people would develop different beliefs and kill others for their beliefs, because of these competing needs. Scientists would uncover some new facet of the universe, and other scientists, and philosophers, would try to integrate it into their ideas.
For instance, when fossils were uncovered, the bones were facts, but Darwinian evolution was just one way to explain them. Lysenko, in Stalin’s Russia, had a different evolutionary belief, and imposed it on all Russian science.
And Hitler used Evolution to justify his attempts to preserve the superior German Genes, and wipe out the inferior ones.
These were both atheist regimes, so how come humanity regressed under them?

Gil August 3, 2009 at 1:07 am

“But an honest look at the Bible’s idea of slavery shows it to be more like the old idea of an indentured servant with a lot of rights.” – fundamentalist.

Bwahahahaa!

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