Here’s a question that my Sunday school teacher couldn’t answer. Why did God promise Abraham this particular land? Of all the uninhabited spots on the planet at that time, why would an all-knowing God promise His chosen people a piece of land that their kin and others already inhabited? I never became a preacher like my parents. Based on my humanitarian outlook, I couldn’t logically submit to this ideology. I found it challenging to justify God’s instructions in 1 Samuel 13: 5-14; 15: 1-35.
The story is about blind obedience.
I have often asked myself: If I were King Saul, would I have slaughtered all those Amalekite women and children and destroyed their city with all its wildlife and livestock? No way! How could the all-knowing not understand Saul wasn’t the man for that massacre? If He did and chose him, then wasn’t it a setup? The prophet Samuel crowned Saul king of a people who’d never had a king before. Sure, Samuel brought God’s message: “Go and finally destroy the Amalekites and everything they own.”
The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, Abraham’s grandson. Yes, they were a “warlike” people. I understand. The story is about blind obedience. However, considering the curses that Moses placed on the Amalekites (descendants of Abraham) and the harsh punishment that Saul received for sparing their innocent women, children, and livestock, one has to wonder how God could will such a fate. He didn’t just resend Saul’s crown. He impaired his mental health and killed his son.
Isn’t that cruel? I was affected by Jonathan’s death as if I knew him personally. What did Jonathan have to do with his father’s immorality? Meanwhile, Jacob tricked Esau (Abraham’s grandson, Isac’s eldest son, and Jacob’s brother) into giving him (the younger brother) a leadership position under an ideology proclaiming the firstborn as the rightful heir. In my opinion, asking Saul (a descendant of Jacob) to exterminate the Amalekites was like asking Jacob to kill his brother Esau after undermining him.
This means good or bad, we’re all His creation, right?
What got Cain into jeopardy when he killed Abel? Is that a benevolent deed from the most merciful God? Why is He so harsh with His followers? Who creates a place like Hell to punish their disobedient children? Double standards seem to be a common theme in our doctrine. That has made me yearn for a more agreeable and lenient deity to follow. Our faith is too HOT. The teaching states that God created all things, including us humans. This means good or bad, we’re all His creation, right?
Well, if we are His creation, then why are some people chosen and not all? In my seven-year-old brain, I saw that as racist. One example is the teaching that since Adam and Eve sinned, that automatically made their descendants sinners. The only way for God to “cleanse” us from this sin is to believe in Yeshua, God’s son. In my mind, the notion of Christ dying on the cross to save humanity sounded like human sacrifice. We had an Almighty Father who was wronged by the immorality of His creation.
The only way to right that wrong is to kill His only son so His son’s blood can be presented to Him as the sole payment for all of our “iniquities.” Damn, I’d have somewhat forgiven everyone and set up a do-over. Adam and Eve couldn’t get a do-over? Of course, I admire the adventures of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m a massive supporter of the Tribes of Israel. My heroes are Moses, Joshua, Ester, Deborah, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Daniel, and Mary. To name a few.
If I don’t get picked, that means I’m screwed!
I saw these protagonists as people who were doing what they had to do because they didn’t have a choice. At the same time, I struggled with fully accepting a deity that allows His people to suffer based on His ego. We damn near have to beg Him to answer just 10% of our prayers. As with our particular belief, we’re commanded to obey without question. Still, I fumbled in this department. I’m a non-Jew from West Africa (or the United States). If I don’t get picked, that means I’m screwed!
So as a kid, I thought, damn it, I need to buy a less harsh God. I’m afraid of this God that everyone should be afraid of. I was even angry at my parents for introducing me to this teaching. Think about it: Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Jacob emigrated to Egypt to reunite with him and escape a famine their God had the power to prevent. God could have prevented Joseph from spending thirteen years in an Egyptian prison. Not to mention, Jacob and all twelve of his sons died in Egypt.
This God allowed that famine. He let His chosen people be enslaved for 400 years! That’s not a short time. To free them, He inflicted plagues on the Egyptians, including children, only to let His freed people wander in the Arabian desert for forty years. Why did He take so long to fulfill His promises? By the time the Israelites reached the “promised land,” most of their people He had freed from Egypt (Including Moses and Aron) had grown old or died. Then, the Israelites had to kill the people they met in the promised land to take the land for themselves. Wasn’t that messy?
The story is full of bigotry, racism, and double standards, but okay, okay. It’s the will of God Almighty. He knows best! Now, the Israelites have their promised land. Right? No! God did not prevent His chosen people from losing the Promised Land to the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, and Ottoman Empires. This was way before the Holocaust even happened. Every time they made a mistake, He punished them like crazy! The people’s God punished them by letting their enemies humiliate them.
The Israelites experienced some periods of stability but lost everything, including the Ark of the Covenant. A mosque now stood on the Jewish precious Temple’s ruins for the construction and protection of which many great Israelite kings and priests suffered and gave their lives. I mean, all Abrahamic faiths, including Islam, have a way of explaining these perils away. The best one I can come up with is blind faith and obedience. Ask no questions, obey, take the retributions, and hope for the best.
As an adult, when I look at Israel, I cannot blame them for becoming secular because one can say that their God has failed them on multiple occasions. If you add up the power He’s said to have and the promises He made to them, you can say that no matter what happened, the Jews should never have lost their promised land, let alone find themselves in a situation to take it back. It seems that the United States is the best ally Israel has ever had. The only empire that didn’t come to destroy them.
Essentially, the promise of this land has probably resulted in more suffering and bloodshed than they would have experienced if God had let Abraham be. That makes no sense. When you say God has chosen a person in a context involving wars, you are saying that those He didn’t select are expendable. If that is the case, then support the chosen people. That’s why I told my parents that I would be a simple worshiper and not a preacher. In a way, I would be like Saul, sparing the lives of innocent people and animals, hoping not to anger the merciful God who often punishes his followers.*