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The real story of Genesis
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9/5/2016 3:59:29 AM
Posted: 6 months ago
This is in response to the "Did God create Adam & Eve to fail ?". Let me suggest theological speculations belong there and here we can discuss it historical terms - fat chance!
Around 740 BCE a series of conquets northern Israel began which resulted in the deportation and relocation of thousands of Hebrew from the region. As a consequence the 10 tribes that occupied the nothern region were heard of no more, becoming the 'lost tribes of Israel'. The almost unaffected southern region belonged to the tribe of Judah (along with the much smaller tribe of Benjamin). It is that event which demarcates when it is more correct to speak of Jews (ie Judahites) rather then 'Israelites' or Hebrew (ie the full 12 tribe federation).
Note that we know of the Assyrian deportation from Assyria records as well as the bible - so we are talking history here, not legend.
Around 200 years later around 580 BCE a similar fate befell the southern kingom of Judah this time at the hands of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. But it is self-evident that the Jews, despite being relocated far from Judah did not disappear from history - they, unlike the lost tribes, are very much still with us.
It seems the Babylonians destroyed the power of the Jewish royalty, but allowed jews to keep their god, YHWH. Being polytheistic the Babylonians were accustomed to 'patron gods' for each city, or each tribe. For example the Babylonians had vast nuber of gods, but Marduk was the patron god of the city of Babylon.
Mindful of the fate of the 10 lost tribes the the YHWHist priesthood took steps to prevent the Jews (ie Judahites)from being assimilated and losing their identity (and with it the priests' own cushy jobs!). Hence it was important for the Jews to remember - and be reminded - of their identity, Hence the definition of that identity had to written down so it could would be fixed and avoid getting dilulted.
A large part of that project was the constructino of an elaborate myth purporting to be the history of the Hebrew/Jewish people. It emphaised two things: 1) the divine right of the Jewish people to the land from which they had been expelled and 2) that YHWH was their god (initially thought of as a patronic, one of many gods, only later as the only god).
The myth begins with the creation of the world. The writers of Genesis 1 weren't particularlt interested in scientific accuracy or consistency - their object was to make it crystal clear that the official line was that the creator was YHWH, not Marduk or any other foreign god. We cannot know what steps the priesthood took to enforce compiance, but first place in the 10 commadmensts is 'Thou shalt have no god before me', so we can be sure they did have some means of discipling anyone who strayed from the party line.
One can be a 'minimalist' or a 'maximalist' about the history of the Hebrew as told in the OT. Minimalsists believe there is hardly any historical truth, maximalists reject te theogical nonsense of miracles and so on but believe that behind the theogical clap-trap there is large historical core. My view has moved from maximalist toward minimalist. I never took the 'magical stuff' seriously (that isn't what maximalist means), but I now take the view there is almost nothing of historical value in the Bible.
For example, I do not believe that the Hebrew were enslaved in Egypt. I think that eposide was written as an allegory for of the Babylonian exile they were then undergoing, offering the hope of similar fate to befall their present captors, complete with gory details. Nor was the land of Canaan taken by the Hebrew by means of a military invasion as described in Joshua. That is entirely fiction.
The history described in the Bible is not true, but it was never intended as an objective reporting of fact. It was written to be believed by a beleagured people far from home. It purpose was to preserve Jewish national and relgious pride. It is still believed by many today, so the success of its writers cannot be doubted. That success has to be born in mind by those how dismiss the writers of the bible as ignorant goat herders. In fact it wasn't - it was written by very clever and able propagandists. The bible tells us next to nothing about the events it reports but it speaks volumes about the mind-set of its writers.