Ancient Jerusalem, continued

The idea of ordered liberty is something that people take for granted. We think it always was thus. But the world outside of the Jewish covenant was one of capriciousness and injustice. When we read of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, we recoil in horror. However, since human sacrifice was a common occurrance in the region it was not that sacrifice that caused his conflicted feelings, it was that the sacrifice contradicted the covenant between God and Abraham. This event forever excluded human sacrifice from . This set the apart from all other tribes in the area.

We look also at the commandments of God passed down to the Hebrews through Moses. (There are more than ten by the way, there are over 600 commandments in the Old Testament.) Reading them they seem unbelievably harsh to our modern sensibilities. But the laws were actually far more just than what went on around them. From Kirk:

before the people of Israel experienced thier “leap in being”, by which they learned of the just God and His laws, no confidence prevailed anywhere that an abiding order governed the universe. Everything that happened might be chance, accident; the gods were ferocious or whimsical; those gods laid down no clear principles for the conduct of human life.

In Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews, we find the same concept:

But if we make use of what hints remain in the prehistorical and protohistorical “record,” we must come to the unexpected conclusion that their inventions and discoveries, made in aid of their survival and prosperity—tools and fire, then agriculture and beasts of burden, then irrigation and the wheel—did not seem to them innovations. These were gifts from beyond the world, somehow part of the Eternal. All evidence points to there having been, in the earliest religious thought, a vision of the cosmos that was profoundly cyclical. The assumptions that early man made about the world were, in all their essentials, little different from the assumptions that later and more sophisticated societies, like Greece and India, would make in a more elaborate manner. As Henri-Charles Puech says of Greek thought in his seminal Man and Time: “No event is unique, nothing is enacted but once …; every event has been enacted, is enacted, and will be enacted perpetually; the same individuals have appeared, appear, and will appear at every turn of the circle.” The Jews were the first people to break out of this circle, to find a new way of thinking and experiencing, a new way of understanding and feeling the world, so much so that it may be said with some justice that theirs is the only new idea that human beings have ever had. But their worldview has become so much a part of us that at this point it might as well have been written into our cells as a genetic code. We find it so impossible to shed—even for a brief experiment—that it is now the cosmic vision of all other peoples that appears to us exotic and strange.

Cahill, Thomas (2010). The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Hinges of History) (Kindle Locations 94-106). Anchor. Kindle Edition.

Without the idea of a world of reason, order, and justice, there would be no liberty.


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