Therefore the Lord hath made good his word, which he pronounced against us, and against our judges that judged Israel, and against our kings, and against our princes, and against the men of Israel and Juda, To bring upon us great plagues, such as never happened under the whole heaven, as it came to pass in Jerusalem, according to the things that were written in the law of Moses; That a man should eat the flesh of his own son, and the flesh of his own daughter. Moreover he hath delivered them to be in subjection to all the kingdoms that are round about us, to be as a reproach and desolation among all the people round about, where the Lord hath scattered them.
Thus we were cast down, and not exalted, because we have sinned against the Lord our God, and have not been obedient unto his voice.
God created a lengthy contract in Leviticus with the Israelites. In chapter 26:14-46, God tells Israel the horrors they can expect if they go against him. Amongst these horrors is that God will force them into a situation where they eat the flesh of their sons and daughters (Leviticus 26:29). Towards the end of the chapter God tells them that the only reason they will not be eradicated from the face of the Earth is because He made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is echoed again in Deuteronomy 28:53
And you shall eat the offspring of your own stomach, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom Adonai your God has given you; in the siege and the distress by which your enemies will oppress you.
And Jeremiah warns Israel they are about to be brought under this curse in Jeremiah 19:9
I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh in the siege and distress inflicted on them by their enemies who seek their lives.’
Ezekiel also issues the statement this curse will be upon them in Ezekiel 5:9.
It may seem strange to think that Israel would have been laid so low as to become cannibals, but the Bible does confirm at least one case of it of in 2 Kings 6:24-30. This, of course, is during Elisha’s ministry, and not at the time of Jeremiah. Telling us that the Book of Baruch’s account is not the first time this curse was brought upon Israel. Lamentations echoes Baruch in the telling of what happened due to the Siege of Jerusalem.
‘The hands of the compassionate women Have cooked their own children; They became food for them In the destruction of the daughter of my people.’
If you’re up for the read, this article takes a more in-depth look at the curse and even links it to a practice in Near East punishments.
To the Lord our God appertaineth righteousness: but unto us and to our fathers open shame, as appeareth this day. For all these plagues are come upon us, which the Lord hath pronounced against us Yet have we not prayed before the Lord, that we might turn every one from the imaginations of his wicked heart. Wherefore the Lord watched over us for evil, and the Lord hath brought it upon us: for the Lord is righteous in all his works which he hath commanded us. Yet we have not hearkened unto his voice, to walk in the commandments of the Lord, that he hath set before us.
Let thy wrath turn from us: for we are but a few left among the heathen, where thou hast scattered us.
In basic training mass punishment was par for the course. I sometimes wonder if that idea came from some general reading the Bible and thinking “God’s model of mass punishment seems to have worked, maybe we can replicate it in our training!”.
It does tend to work in Basic, actually. It’s a good visual aide for the impact that one person has on the capability of the rest of the team. With a national prayer like this, it stands as an eye-opener for the people to see how their own actions impact the rest of the whole.
I know quite a few people (non-Christians) that look at God with disgust because He doesn’t have to choose to do these things, but He does anyway. Admittedly, God’s version of mass punishment upsets me. I don’t rejoice in it at all. But I don’t ignore it either. Nor do I believe that the way to turn people to God is to tell them of the unspeakable evils He’s willing to cast down upon us for our depravity.
I’ve come to accept God’s Mass Punishment Strategy as something very similar to the way the Military uses it. When I think of “Without God, the world has no reason to be morally upstanding” I don’t think of it the same way that most Christians I know of think of it. But more in the same thought process of an American standing on the side of the Second Amendment.
An Atheist will point out to you that if you need God to be morally upright, then you aren’t morally upright. I don’t disagree. But what are the moral values you need to hold? The first commandment Christ tells us is that we should love God completely, because God outlines how to best follow the second of Christ’s commandments to Love your neighbor. While you can choose to follow those same morals without loving God, and be morally upright (not to be confused with spiritually upright, which is founded upon the first commandment to love God in conjunction with the second), you contribute to the trap that brings immorality into the world. Or another way to put it:
If a bad apple is not removed in a timely manner, it can contaminate the rest.
That’s the crux of God’s Mass Punishment Strategy. He’s in a completely different league of His own. In order to bring His people back into line, the only real option available to Him is to take extreme measures or give up and leave us to our own devices.
We don’t have to like it. That’s something I think is very important to know- we don’t have to like it. Moses didn’t, and because he loved both God and his people, he fought against God for them more than once. But I do have to accept that these things are within God’s nature, and all I can do is pray for God to take away such evils from amongst us. Even if He won’t hear me, I should try anyway. Just as this book attempts to.
I’m going to skip the next few verses, as they are more of the same “we messed up, please turn back to us”. Most of the chapter is, but there are some interesting points along the way.
I’ve actually written a great deal more than I expected to for this chapter and will need to break it up a bit over time. So I’ll stop here for today, and leave you with the following meditation topic:
How do you cope with the things you believe are absolutely abhorrent in the Old Testament? If you haven’t really thought about those things, I recommend you do- because you can’t really love someone if you ignore the things you find faults. Joshua told Israel to make a decision in Joshua 24:15 –
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”
God doesn’t want you to believe He is the evil one. But it is clear that God also doesn’t want us to be ignorant of His nature. For Joshua continues in verse 24:19-20 –
‘But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord , for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”’
So take this time to really consider your answer to this question: How do I reconcile the decisions of God I find abhorrent?