Israelite perspective on God

This week’s readings provided me with better insight into the Israelite perspective on God (Yahweh) in contrast to the perspectives of other societies of their era. It is very easy to assume that the Israelites are “special” in all aspects. In this week’s readings, it became clear that while there were important differences, there also were important similarities.

One of the interesting similarities between the Israelites and the other ancient cultures was in their perceptions of the temple as a place for priests instead of for the people. Walton & Hill describe the different circles within the sanctuary from those that are outside the campfires of the Israelis to the innermost, most holy sanctuary. This is very different from contemporary Christian perspectives of the church. In addition, the whole concept of purification and blessing was quite different than contemporary concepts of purification. The Israelites, along with their contemporaries, were more concerned with keeping a sacred space within the temple that had been desecrated by a sinner than with purifying an individual of his sins. The analogy Walton & Hill used of comparing Israelite concern over sacred space to modern concern over keeping an operating room free of contagion was really enlightening.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this week’s reading, however was the comparison of the entire concept of God between the Israelite perception of God as an ultimate power in the universe, independent of people and the contemporaneous cultures’ views of their gods as being far more human-like in terms of restricted powers and dominions and also dependent on people for food, shelter, and other necessities.

The discussion of the contemporary significance of the Pentateuch raised some issues and some of the arguments presented miss the point of the problem, particularly those with respect to creation and evolution. While the facts of evolution—at least in the small scale of speciation—seem proven, on the large scale, there are issues that current theory glosses over as “mere details.” What is most disturbing about contemporary science to me is that it is as much a “religious dogma” as any religion in history. Science insists on ignoring evidence that supports a more creationist or God-centric view, and, in many cases, taking an explicitly and aggressively atheistic perspective. In particular, it is disturbing that science throws out all evidence based on revelation.

Finally, I particularly liked the cultural translation of the ten commandments. I think the table presents a valid and clear understanding of how the laws of the Israelites translate into valid and useful life guides for contemporary society.

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