Arguments Against Judaism
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Beyond the simple lack of adequate evidence in favor of Judaism, there is abundant evidence showing Judaism to be a false, man-made religion, like any other. Below, we have compiled some of the more notable issues, touching on archeology, Biblical criticism, historical anachronisms and internal contradictions in the Tanach, failed prophecies in the Tanach, historical and scientific errors in the Torah and Talmud, and the moral shortcomings of the Torah and other Jewish teachings. Even beyond these more notable issues, though, there remain countless other smaller issues with Judaism.
The following smaller issues show a range of qualities that Judaism has that would not likely be expected of a true religion:
- Judaism was targeted to a small and primitive people, ostensibly with abundant miracles, yet there are no modern-day revelations or clear lines of evidence to demonstrate its truth to modern people.
- Miracles, magic, and other supernatural events were ostensibly commonplace during Biblical and Talmudic times, and yet today such magic and supernatural occurrences can never be empirically demonstrated.
- The Tanach describes major events that if they had happened should have been recorded by many other peoples, such as the ten plagues in Egypt and the exodus from Egypt or Joshua holding the sun and moon still for a full day’s time, and yet no such corroborating accounts exist.
- The Tanach makes no mention of certain centrally important ideas in Judaism, such as there being no outright statement that there will be the Third (and final) Temple with the coming of a messiah. In addition, the biblical prophecies which today are traditionally regarded as speaking of this actually describe the context of the period of the Second Temple.
- The scriptures were written in a single language and with unclear passages in a way that an omniscient god should have known would result in endless confusion and misinterpretations.
- If God created Judaism, the religion has been a failure — on account of the Jewish people constantly straying from the religion, diverging into conflicting sects, and engaging in civil wars.
- The religion is riddled with organizational flaws. For example, the rabbinic authority to create laws and interpret the Torah is based entirely on rabbinic interpretations of vague verses that do not actually give them this authority.
- The rabbis claim to trace oral law traditions reliably all the way to the alleged revelation on Mount Sinai. However, the rabbis are constantly in disagreement over Jewish law and what the scriptures meant. Moreover, there are cases where the tradition can be shown outright to be inauthentic. One example is the Talmudic teaching that the etrog (citron, C. medica) is one of the four species the Torah commands to take on Sukkot. Archeological evidence shows that the citron was actually only introduced to the region from India by the Persians, during the Second Temple period.
- The fact that the Torah is devoid of any real scientific knowledge or technology that might improve the lives of people and demonstrate its truth, and yet it is filled with scientific misunderstandings and superstitions.
- The fact that the laws in the Torah are so similar to those of other primitive cultures, yet so different from the interests a truly omniscient and wise god would be expected to give.
- The fact that other religions merely exist and that religions not dissimilar from Judaism can so easily be invented by human cultures. The sheer statistical implications of the fact that moshiach has not come in all this time. There are many such issues, all of which align with the reality that Judaism is not a true religion.
There is no archeological basis for the Tanach’s narrative of early Judaism
It is the general statement among academics and historians that the Tanach is not a reliable historical document until the book of Judges at earliest. Some scholars think that only the latter half of Kings bears historical relevance. William Dever, an esteemed scholar who is often quoted by apologists for his maximalist views on the historical validity of Judges and Samuel states unequivocally the following:
After a century of exhaustive investigation, all respectable archaeologists have given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob credible “historical figures.” Virtually the last archaeological words was written by me more than 20 years ago for a basic handbook of biblical studies, Israelite and Judean History. And as we have seen, archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus has similarly been discarded as a fruitless pursuit. Indeed, the overwhelming archaeological evidence today of largely indigenous origins for early Israel leaves no room for an exodus from Egypt or a 40-years pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness. A Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century B.C., where many scholars think the biblical traditions concerning the god Yahweh arose. But archaeology can do nothing to confirm such a figure as a historical personage, much less prove that he was the founder of later Israelite religion.
Because the archaeological results are so conclusive, scholars who wish to claim that the books of the Torah contain some historical knowledge must reduce the scope of their argument so much that it barely conforms to the actual text. For example. James Hoffmeier, an Egyptologist and evangelical Christian writes in defense of the historical reliability of the Tanach that:
The evidence offered here, along with the thoughtful studies of the problem of the size of the Israelite exodus, leaves little doubt that the number of individuals would have been in the thousands, maybe a few tens of thousands, but certainly not hundreds of thousands, let alone millions. (“Ancient Israel in Sinai,” Oxford Univ. Press, 2005, p. 159)
Even Kenneth Kitchen writes that
…[t]he emigrants from Egypt to Canaan would then total about 20,000 to 22,000, close to Mendenhall’s result. So, in Iron IA Canaan, a population of 50,000 to 70,000 by 1150 might have included 20,000 early Israelites.(Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament,pg.265)
The Bible Unearthed is a great resource for anachronisms in the Bible.
- “Kefirah of the Week: The historicity (or lack thereof) of the Exodus”
- “Archaeology & The Exodus” - A Response to Aish HaTorah Propaganda
- “Do these people actually look things up or do they just make things up on the spot to their impressionable audience?”
- “Is there any scientific and archaeological evidence for the story of Exodus?”
- “Nothing Fails Like Bible History - Part 1, by Thomas Westbrook, aka ‘Holy Koolaid’”
Biblical criticism reveals Judaism’s non-divine origins
The archaeological record and Biblical criticism indicates that Judaism was not a divine creation given to the Jews at Mount Sinai. Rather, it developed over time and was shaped by the contemporary beliefs and events of its origins. Judaism initially developed through the middle of the 1st millenium BCE largely as an offshoot of older Canaanite religion, with belief in multiple gods being merged into a single god, mythologies from the northern kingdom of Israel merging with mythologies from the southern kingdom of Judea, and incorporating beliefs and mythology from the Babylonians. Many beliefs, practices, sacrifices, and specific civil laws can be traced to Ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Hittite, and other ancient cultures which predated Judaism. Doublets of stories, wordings indicative of late authorship, and variations of style, theological emphasis, and subject matter all help to show the time and varying motivations of its authors.
During the Second Temple period after the Babylonian exile, Judaism continued to evolve. New scriptures were being added to the Tanach, there were multiple politically competing sects with competing theologies, most notably the Pharisees and the Sadducees, with the Pharisees and their interpretations of Jewish law and scripture developing and taking hold, which paved the way for the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism, which was the first time ancient Judaism resembled the religion practiced today. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]
- “What religions influenced Judaism the most and share the same myths?”
- “Hittite laws in the Torah”
- “Kefirah of the Week: A Brief History of Ancient Circumcision”
- “Kefirah of the Week: The History of Sukkot”
- “Why do the Jews believe in the Oral Torah?”
- “Seven Defenses against Biblical Criticism - TheTorah.com (wow are they weeeak)”
- “Do any mainstream, non religious historians accept the biblical narrative?”
- “A History of God”
- “Literary problems with Mosaic authorship of the Torah: Piecing together the Pentateuch - An Overview of the Theories of Composition, by Digital Hammurabi (YouTube)”
The Tanach includes many anachronisms. Only a few will be provided here.
The “Table of Nations” in Chapter 10 of Genesis lists many nations, like the Lydians, who did not exist until the middle of the first millennium BCE, roughly 1000 years after the supposed time of Moses. See here for more.
The presence of the Philistines in the time of the Patriarchs is another anachronism. The Philistines arrived with the Sea People invasion (early 12th century BCE) which is well after the time of the claimed era of the Patriarchs.
The destruction of the walls of Jericho is another anachronism. The Amarna letters, well preserved documents detailing the correspondence between the Pharaoh Akhenaten and the various Canaanite city states, make no mention of any Israelites or Israelite tribes. Therefore the Israelites must have arrived after this time. Yet, extensive carbon dating of the Jericho site indicate that the famed walls had fallen by 1550 BCE, and the city was completely uninhabited in the 13th century. The city of Ai is even worse off, showing no signs of habitation for at least 500 years before the Israelites supposedly conquered it. Evidently, the Israelites saw these ruins and attributed the destruction to their warrior ancestors, when in actuality, the cities were destroyed long before any ancestors bearing their name ever existed.
- “Kefirah of the week: In which we learn that Noah fathered grandchildren representing nations that didn’t exist until over 500 years after Moses.”
Internal contradictions in the Tanach demonstrate its unreliability
The text of the Tanach contains numerous internal contradictions. This is indicative of multiple and imperfect authors and imperfect transmission of texts, and it demonstrates that the texts are unreliable. Often times, the Talmud and rabbinic commentaries address these contradictions, often by changing the text or adding details, but these resolutions are typically strained and ad-hoc, leaving flawed authors and unreliable transmission as the better explanation.
Take the Ten Commandments as an example. The text of Exodus 20:2-14 is traditionally regarded as the text of the Ten Commandments. Exodus does not say that the content of Exodus 20 was the Ten Commandments written on the tablets, but it is only in Deuteronomy 5 where this text is identified as such. And yet the content of the Ten Commandments presented in Deuteronomy 5 is different than that of Exodus 20. Several words are changed, and there are some more significant differences, for example the reason in Exodus 20 God gives for commanding the Sabbath is the 6 day creation story, while in Deuteronomy 5 the reason given is God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. These are two contradictory depictions of what God spoke at Mount Sinai. What’s more, there is a third set of Ten Commandments, known as the Ritual Decalogue described in Exodus 34:1-28 which emphasizes more heavily the worship of Yahweh, and this is the text that Exodus indicates is the Ten Commandments, yet again in contradiction to Deuteronomy 5.
Another example is the description of the journey of the Jews in the wilderness of Numbers 33 compared to Deuteronomy 10. These two sources both describe a portion of the journey through the wilderness and Aaron’s death, but the specifics contradict:
And they journeyed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan. And they journeyed from Bene-jaakan, and pitched in Hor-haggidgad. And they journeyed from Hor-haggidgad, and pitched in Jotbah. And they journeyed from Jotbah, and pitched in Abronah. And they journeyed from Abronah, and pitched in Ezion-geber. And they journeyed from Ezion-geber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin–the same is Kadesh. And they journeyed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom. And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month. And Aaron was a hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. (Numbers 33:31-39)
And the children of Israel journeyed from Beeroth-benejaakan to Moserah; there Aaron died, and there he was buried; and Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead. From thence they journeyed unto Gudgod; and from Gudgod to Jotbah, a land of brooks of water. (Deuteronomy 10:6-7)
In one account, the Jews journey from Moseroth to Bene-jaakan to Hor-haggidgad to Jotbah to Abronah to Ezion-geber to Kadesh to Mount Hor, and it has Aaron dying and being buried at Mount Hor. In the other, they travel from Beeroth-benejaakan to Moserah, with Aaron dying and being buried there, before continuing to Gudgod and then Jotbah. For another example, I Kings 16 says that King Baasa of Israel died in the 26th year of the reign of King Asa of Judea, while II Chronicles 16 has King Baasa waging an attack against Judea in the 36th year of King Asa’s reign, 10 years after I Kings 16 says he died:
And Baasa slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah; and Elah his son reigned in his stead…. In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasa to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and reigned two years. (I Kings 16:6,8)
In the six and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa, Baasa king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. (II Chronicles 16:1)
Both sources cannot be correct without changing the content of the text. And there are many more examples. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 represent two incompatible creation narratives. Genesis 10 describes the diversification of languages while Genesis 11:1 begins a narrative where all people speak a single language and are diversified through divine action. Genesis 46, Numbers 26, I Chronicles 7, and I Chronicles 8 all give different versions of who Benjamin’s children were. Numbers 4:3 and 8:24 give different ages that Levites start serving in the tent of meeting. Midian is destroyed in Numbers 31 yet thriving in Judges 6. In I Samuel 15 Amalek is wiped out, but in I Samuel 30 they’re an enemy nation. II Samuel 8:3-4 and I Chronicles 18:3-4 have David capturing a different number of horsemen. I Kings 6:1 says that only 480 years transpired between the exodus from Egypt and the building of Solomon’s Temple, while this is less than the duration indicated by the cumulative events described in the preceding books of Tanach. I Kings 7:26 says the volume of the molten sea is 2000 baths, while in II Chronicles 4:5 it is said to be 3000 baths in an otherwise nearly identical passage. According to II Kings 8 Ahaziah became king at age 22, while II Chronicles 22 says he was 42 years old. II Kings 24:8 says Jehoiachin became king at 18 while II Chronicles 36:9 says he was only 8. The chapters of II Kings 25 and Jeremiah 52 are largely identical and yet contain key differences that result in contradictions, including the day of the month Nebuchadnezzar’s chief executioner attacked Jerusalem, whether he brought five or seven advisors from Jerusalem, and the day of the month that King Jehoiachin was freed from prison. And there are many more examples.
These contradictions indicate unreliable scriptures, and they would not be expected if Judaism were true. Instead, they are consistent with ideas such as the Documentary Hypothesis which describe the authorship of the Torah as a product of multiple, later authors. The contradictions also help academic Bible critics discern differences between the various sources going into the Hebrew Bible.
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- “CONTRADICTIONS IN THE TORAH”
Failed prophecies in the Tanach reveal the prophets to be inauthentic
The Tanach is full of prophetic predictions. Some appear true, but these were often written after the fact. (For example, Deuteronomy speaks of the Jews being exiled and returning to Israel, but this was likely already written after the Babylonian exile.) But there are many prophecies that clearly did not come true. (Often, apologists then argue that it didn’t mean what it seems to mean or it doesn’t have to come true for one reason or another, essentially making them unfalsifiable. But an honest analysis demonstrates that the prophets of Judaism were not true prophets.) For example, Genesis 15:18 says Israel’s borders would be bigger than they were. Exodus 23:26-31 says that when Israel goes to Canaan they wouldn’t even have to fight and there would be no more child mortality. Joshua 4:7 says the stones of the Torah would be a testimony forever. II Samuel 7:8-16 says David’s kingdom would endure forever and they wouldn’t be attacked by enemies anymore. Isaiah 19 has many failed prophecies about Egypt. Jeremiah, Haggai, and Zechariah all indicate that with the return of the Jews from Babylonia and the building of the Second Temple that the Jews and the kingdom would be safe forever, there would be a big military showdown, all the nations would worship at the Jewish temple, Tyre would be destroyed, and other things that failed to come true. Many more prophetic statements in the Tanach were wrong. See also RationalWiki on Biblical prophecies and the Skeptics Annotated Bible. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]
- “Debunked prophecies”
- “Apparent prophesies in the Torah…what are your thoughts?”
- “False predictions”
The Torah errs in describing natural history
For example, in Genesis 1-11, Torah’s description of the origins of Earth, life on earth, and humanity are wrong. Historical claims on Noah’s flood and the origin of languages is incompatible with scientific knowledge. This natural history is highly derivative of the cosmology and mythology of Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Babylonian, which indicates that it was written by man and not divinely authored. Apologists defend the Torah by saying it is meant to teach a lesson, not history, however this is ad-hoc and inconsistent with traditional rabbinic interpretations which do understand this as historical fact. Further, it is not written with any indication of being metaphorical, whatever metaphorical meaning it ostensibly has is unclear, and large elements of the text such as genealogies are not conducive to allegorizing. This is not what would be expected if Judaism were true. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]
- “Light from stars, distance in the universe, age of earth” (original post deleted by user; comments still exist)
- “2-Part video debunking Noah’s Flood”
- “Had a conversation with my friend about the age of the earth … you’ll never guess what I learned”
- “Atheist Comedy - The Great Flood (of Torah)” (YouTube video)
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Scientific and historical errors in the Talmud undermine the credibility of the Talmudic sages
Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Talmud contains the Oral Law originally given by God to Moses, and Talmudic sages are regarded as close to infallible. But the rabbis regularly show themselves to be mistaken. The Talmud describes a flat earth cosmology (Pesachim 94), it believes in spontaneous generation of animals (Shabbos 107b, Sanhedrin 91a), it says humans and fish can mate to form mermaids (Bechoros 8a), that bats lay eggs (Bechoros 7b), that Pi is exactly 3 (Eruvin 14a), among many other mistakes. It does not know the correct length of the Torah (Kidushin 30a). It also makes significant historical errors, such as treating Noah’s flood story as literal history. This demonstrates that the rabbis are not reliable. [Placeholder text. More detailed explanation with sources to come…]
The Missing Years
One error of the sages that is particularly noteworthy is that of the Missing Years, where the sages in the Talmud and in Seder Olam make large errors regarding their relatively recent history by believing that the Second Temple period was approximately 166 years shorter than it actually was and that multiple Persian kings were the same person (see Erchin 12b, Avoda Zara 9a, and Rosh Hashanah 3b). Most of the Missing Years is from the Persian period, where Seder Olam considers there to have been fewer Persian kings than there actually were, as derived from the Book of Daniel. See here for a list of rulers of the region.
We can be confident in the secular chronology, as its basis is quite robust. There are multiple copies of king lists from near when they would have ruled, numerous archeological finds such as letters identifying this larger set of Persian kings, we can compare when they ruled with when other kings lived such as Egyptian rulers by correspondences and references to them, and by checking astronomical records. For example, the astronomically tabulated dates in the Canon of Kings, which can be confirmed by other material. (See https://merrimackvalleyhavurah.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/missing-years-in-the-hebrew-calendar/ for a discussion of it.) For relevant Achamenid inscriptions see here and for Babylonian texts see here.
The case for the Jewish calendar is far weaker. For one thing, it is not based on contemporary sources. Seder Olam and the Talmud were composed several centuries after all these kings would have ruled, and before then the Jewish people did not keep a calendar with the Hebrew years. Instead, the years in Seder Olam and the Talmud are based primarily on the vague prophecy of “seventy weeks” in Daniel 9:24 which, by rabbinic tradition, means there would be 490 years between the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple:
Seventy weeks have been decreed upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to achieve atonement, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place.
The reduced number of Persian kings is found in Daniel 11, where four kings are indicated instead of the full count of ten. The Book of Daniel was not a contemporary record, either: The traditional Jewish understanding would place it as a prophecy from before these kings ruled, whereas the mainstream academic understanding puts it at the 2nd century CE, long after the end of the Persian period, where the author could have easily been unfamiliar with the accurate history from the Persian period. But with the Book of Daniel, and the interpretation of the 490 year period, the details of how long different kings ruled and how long the different periods were is fitted into that span. Interestingly, however, the Persian kings actually identified in the relatively more contemporary books of Ezra and Nehemiah (specifically Ezra 4:4-7 names Cyrus, Darius I, Ahasuerus (likely referring to Xerxes I), and Artaxerxes I, which is in accordance with the secular chronology and could allow for additional Persian kings after Cyrus and after Artaxerxes I) do themselves fit better with the secular chronology than with the Seder Olam’s version. Seder Olam indicates Darius the Mede-Cyrus-Ahasuerus-Darius the Persian as the totality of the Persian period, and the Talmud actually negates some of those mentioned in Ezra, by merging the identities of multiple Persian kings. But with this weak foundation to the Seder Olam chronology, versus to the comparatively vast evidence behind the secular chronology, we can conclude that the Talmudic sages were in error.
Beyond eroding trust in the sages, the Missing Years causes a variety of theological issues including throwing off the Shmita and Yovel count and overturning the traditional rabbinic interpretation of the “seventy weeks” prophecy in Daniel 9. One significant theological issue is that the Missing Years cause a severe strain in the chain of rabbis for the transmission of the Oral Law which, as tenuous as such a claim is inherently, is nevertheless often used to justify the basis for relying on the rabbis of the Talmud. As part of the chain of transmission, when listing who the tradition passed through, the Rambam in his introduction to Mishneh Torah says, “Simon the Just [received the tradition] from Ezra; Ezra [received the tradition] from Baruch.”
According to Jeremiah 36, Baruch worked with Jeremiah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, which is 604 BCE (438 BCE by Seder Olam), 18 years before Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. According to Ezra 7:7, Ezra’s mission was in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I, which by secular chronology is 459 BCE. If you identify the Artaxerxes mentioned with Artaxerxes II as some do then Ezra’s mission would be in 398 BCE. (Although, by later rabbinic tradition, Artaxerxes did not exist, and he is identified instead as Darius, which would place it at 346 BCE by Seder Olam.) Simon the Just (Shimon HaTzadik) is identified with Simon I (Cf. Josephus, Antiquities book XII.2.5), who was High Priest circa 300 BCE. (The reader should note this is the earliest identification for Simon the Just,others like George Foot Moore identify him as either Simon II,Simon Thassi (Löw) or even as late as Simeon Ben Gamliel by Weiss) According to the Talmud (Yoma 69a), Simon the Just was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, as the two figures met as Alexander the Great marched through the Land of Israel in 332 BCE though Seder Olam places Alexander the Great slightly more recently so according to Seder Olam Simon I was high priest then which he was not according to the secular chronology. As per the Secular chronology Jaddua was then.(Cf. Josephus, Antiquities, book XI.8)
So with rabbinic dating, approximately 90 years separate Baruch from Ezra and approximately 30 years separate Ezra and Simon the Just, which make it conceivable that these people had consecutively overlapping lifetimes and one could have taught the next. However, the secular chronology would put 145 years between Baruch and Ezra (206 if the Artaxerxes who sent Ezra is identified with Artaxerxes II), and 127 years between Ezra and Simon the Just (not to mention his later career as High Priest).(If you identify the Artaxerxes with Artaxerxes II then there’d be about 90 years between Ezra’s 398 mission and Simon I’s rise to the high priesthood in either 310 or 300) With this, it becomes much harder to argue that the tradition of the Oral Law passed through this line without all three of these people living ridiculously long lifespans which there is no attestation to anywhere.
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Morally repugnant elements of the Tanach and Talmud
There are many stories and laws in the Tanach and the Talmud which appear cruel, barbaric, and totally unnecessary, and they don’t make sense in context of Judaism’s claims of God being all knowing, wise, and good. From God influencing leaders to actions and later punishing whole populations (see below), to inflicting unimaginably savage punishments like cannibalism, making people eat their family members, among the curses for failing to properly follow the Torah (Deuteronomy 28:53, Jeremiah 19:9, Lamentations 4:10), to instituting death penalties for arbitrary and victimless crimes like gathering sticks on the Sabbath (see below), such immoral dictates would in any other context be easily recognized as obviously horrendous. This immorality could and would only possibly be defended out of the cognitive dissonance that develops from being taught that the god of the Torah is a morally perfect being.
One of the most obvious issues here are the genocides in the Tanach. In the narratives of the conquest of Canaan appearing principally in the books of Numbers through Judges, God commands for the Israelites to completely wipe out several Canaanite nations and many dozens of Canaanite towns, frequently not sparing man, woman, child, nor animal. For example, Deuteronomy 20 states:
Howbeit of the cities of these peoples, that the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth, but thou shalt utterly destroy them: the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. (Deuteronomy 20:16-17)
Another example is in Deuteronomy 2, where God hardens the heart of Sihon, king of the Amorites, to inspire him to war against the Jews in order to justify the Jews wiping out the Amorites:
But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day. And the LORD said unto me: ‘Behold, I have begun to deliver up Sihon and his land before thee; begin to possess his land.’ Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, unto battle at Jahaz. And the LORD our God delivered him up before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed every city, the men, and the women, and the little ones; we left none remaining. (Deuteronomy 2:30-34)
From there, Deuteronomy and the following books goes on to describe dozens of cities that the Jewish people fully wiped out and similar atrocities. But the immorality also extends to God engaging in such atrocities first hand. Many times in the Torah God uses genocides as remedies to social problems such as with the generation of Noah’s flood (Genesis 7), the cities of Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 19), or on smaller scales with several severe plagues in the wilderness when the Jewish people were stubborn, unfaithful, or ungrateful (Exodus through Numbers). This is not only cruel and excessive, but an omnipotent and omniscient god would know of a better alternative and would not need to resort to such measures. Or, in a similar fashion to King Sihon, God hardens Pharoah’s heart to not free the Jewish people and then punishes the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews by killing all Egyptian firstborn, including babies and animals, as described in Exodus 11-12.
The immorality extends well beyond this though. For example, in the Torah, God institutes many egregious laws, such as death penalties for innocent crimes like witchcraft (Exodus 22:17), Sabbath violations (Exodus 31:14), homosexual activity (Leviticus 20:13), and cursing a parent (Exodus 21:17). The Torah endorses slavery, including perpetual enslavement of Canaanites from birth and through generations (Leviticus 25:45-46), as well as laws allowing a father to sell his daughter as a slave and also creating a traumatic system where if an indentured servant is given a slave woman by his master as a wife, his children become the perpetual property of the master, and he must then choose between being a life-long slave or losing his children (Exodus 21). The Torah makes blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-16, 24:23) and worship of other gods (Deuteronomy 17:1-7) capital offenses, including an imperative to kill close family members and friends who promote worship of other gods as well as the threat of wiping out an entire village if it strays towards idolatry (Deuteronomy 13), all to effectively control free thought and worship. On top of this, the Torah presents a disgusting array of threats to scare the Jews into following its commands (Leviticus 26).
The Tanach also tells stories where the lesson is to obey god unquestioningly even if it means doing something you recognize is immoral such as when God was angry at Saul for taking pity on Amalek’s animals (I Samuel 15) or when Moses was angry with the Jewish people for not killing all of the Midianite males and non-virgin females (Numbers 31). In the Tanach, God also carries out many unjustifiable actions. God inspires King David to carry out a census which results in God punishing David through a plague which kill seventy thousand Jews (II Samuel 24). God punishes innocent people for the crimes of their ancestors, such as causing David and Baathsheba’s newborn son to get sick and die (II Samuel 12), to God causing a famine under King David ended only by executing seven of Saul’s sons since King Saul had in the past wrongly attacked the Gibeonites (II Samuel 21), to causing Gehazi and all of his offspring forever to have leprosy since Gehazi had improperly accepted a payment from an Aramean who had his leprosy cured (II Kings 5), to the implied execution of Achan’s sons and daughters as part of a punishment for him stealing consecrated property during the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 7). The Tanach’s portrait of God’s excessive punishments also can be seen in the extreme devastation of the Jewish people from Babylonia’s invasion of Judea which the prophets characterize as a punishment for idol worship.
In the Talmud, immoral teachings continue with various sexist laws, treating apostasy as a capital offense and worthy of excessive punishment, and reinforcing slavery laws, among other things. There is also the fact that if God is omniscient, then it knowingly designed a world where man would be incapable of living up to its standards and consequently worthy of excessive punishments, and yet God still expects praise, essentially representing the ultimate abusive relationship.
All this is in line with the relatively primitive and barbaric moral framework of ancient cultures in the Near East, and a religion given by a perfect and good god would not be expected to have such an inferior morality. While much of this may have been considered typical in the ancient world, God creating a holy book promoting a morality in line with ancient cultures but out of line with what humanity would come to agree is better and more fair is something that would be more expected of a false religion, and not expected from a good and wise god.
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- “Judaism is not actually wholesome: Women & the Mitzvot”
- “Some thoughts I had”
- “What was common in your previous life that you did not realize was odd, wrong, or potentially dangerous before you left?”
- “‘Hashem will provide’”
- “What are things from the Talmud that you find outrageous or just plain wrong?”
- “Which one is the Bible OK with?”
- “What do you think is the worst thing about judaism? Could you choose one thing that would be the most serious of all? Thanks!”
- W. Dever, “What did the Biblical Writers Know” Eerdmans Pub. Co. 2001 p. 98. Emphasis ours.
- Redford, “Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times” Princeton Uni Press 1992 p. 250
- I. Finkelstein, “The Bible Unearthed”, Touchstone 2001 p. 81