Starvation… as punishment…



Deuteronomy 28:53 In the desperate straits to which the enemy siege reduces you, you will eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your own sons and daughters whom the LORD your God has given you. 54 Even the most refined and gentle of men among you will begrudge food to his own brother, to the wife whom he embraces, and to the last of his remaining children, 55 giving to none of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because nothing else remains to him, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in all your towns. 56 She who is the most refined and gentle among you, so gentle and refined that she does not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground, will begrudge food to the husband whom she embraces, to her own son, and to her own daughter, 57 begrudging even the afterbirth that comes out from between her thighs, and the children that she bears, because she is eating them in secret for lack of anything else, in the desperate straits to which the enemy siege will reduce you in your towns. 58 If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God, 59 then the LORD will overwhelm both you and your offspring with severe and lasting afflictions and grievous and lasting maladies.

Wow. Just, wow. This is a warning God is giving to the Israelites before they set foot into the promised land. God has given them commandments and statutes to follow. The passage above is only a small portion of the lengthy list of consequences should the people fail to obey the Lord. If you just glanced over the passage, read it again. More slowly. Take in what is written here. It is horrific.

I may sound like a broken record to those of you who read this blog consistently, but the God I’m reading about here just doesn’t square with the God I read about in the New Testament, in the teachings of Jesus in particular as he instructs his disciples to refer to God as “Abba” – which means “Daddy”. Jesus reveals a God who is merciful and gracious to his people when they fall short of righteousness. The passage above reveals none of this. The graphic imagery of cannibalism as a result of siege, which is the result of unfaithfulness to God, is unimaginable. Yet much of what is written actually did come to pass, which you can read for yourself later in the Old Testament.

What are we to take from this passage? That’s hard to say. Mostly it just confuses me.

Lord, have mercy upon us sinners. For Jesus’ sake, withhold your wrath and accept us as your own beloved children. Amen.

5 thoughts on “Starvation… as punishment…

  1. joshua

    It’s not simply the responsibility of a father and mother to love there children but also to teach them virtues. The results of the siege are not the actions of the father but the consequence. The father has been driven away by the child and absent his rod and his staff the wolves have come to devour them. Not because G-d in the old testament is different from G-d in the new testament, as Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”, but because G-d has given us the task of growing up to become good people in truth. What then does it mean to live in truth as the ancients would describe it? Here in the Gorgias we can read the difference between dialectic “pursuing truth” and rhetoric “pursuing victory”.

    G-d warns us of the consequence of our actions and gives us the choice to obey or rebel. Don’t stare at the tv so close or you’ll go blind, turn down your music or you’ll go deaf, study hard while you’re young so your life will be easier when you’re old. We all are given freedom to choose, obey or rebel, listen or ignore. In the parable of the prodigal son we have a boy that has chosen to rebel. In his rebellion he has faced the violence and chaos of a world without his father. What is the fathers response when the son returns? Does he cast him upon the rocks and dismiss him for his rebellion? What is the reaction of the master of the the unjust steward? How does G-d respond to Job in his rebellion?

    G-d is the father of creation and as a father he doe not seek to bring harm to his children. No good parent puts there child in time out for masochistic reasons. We punish our children from love, concern and greater knowledge of cause and effect. Likewise, G-d with infinite knowledge and existence outside time and space sees the consequences of our actions before we have committed our acts. Like all parents, it is my belief, that G-d suffers alongside us as we cause injury to ourselves.

  2. Joshua thanks for your comment. You are correct that our Father disciplines his children out of love for them, just as I do for my children and so on. I guess what I’m responding to is the actual narrative of the passage. The language of the passage describes, not correction or punishment or even death – but slow, agonizing, horrific death. Unimaginable suffering, including cannibalism of one’s own children. No mercy. No love. You use the word “masochistic” in your comment. That is an apt word in relationship to the passage. If there is a sense of the love of a Father somewhere by all means point it out. The picture painted of God couldn’t be more different than the picture of the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son. I am not suggesting it’s a different God, but the contrast is striking in my reading.

    • joshua

      I guess the distinction I’m making is that I don’t believe G-d is causing these horrible things. Rather the absence of G-d is the cause. The suffering is the effect but the cause was Israel turning away from G-d and the laws.

      In the prodigal son the young son asks for his inheritance which is akin to asking the father to die before his time. When the father gives it to him he sentences his son to live in a city of famine and sink to the point of eating the food of pigs but the father doesn’t inflict this punishment. The son has turned away from the father. Only when the son realizes the fathers mercy and abundance is the son spared from famine. In Deuteronomy it’s describing a consequence but no where does it negate the mercy that G-d prescribes else where. That a consequence is foretold doesn’t prevent G-d from intervening. All that is required is that we turn back to G-d. In the prodigal son, the son prepares to tell his father how he’ll be a servant if only allowed to come home but the father never allows the son to prostrate himself. The moment the father sees the son has turned back to him the father runs to him, embraces him and slaughters his fattest calf. Here I’m reminded of the red heifer that, maybe I’m stretching but negates one of all sin.

      A great example, in my mind, of G-d being more culpable is Job where he allows the tempter to go so far as to kill Jobs family but here also G-d is not the one taking Jobs family rather the devil is. But was not G-d also testing the devil just as he tested Abraham with Isaac? For me this all goes back to the question, what is G-d intention in creation?

    • joshua

      PS thank you pastor Ernie for all your hard work. I thought this would be interesting to share as it arrived in my inbox yesterday.

      “I believe the answer is this. Throughout Devarim Moses is relentless in his criticism of the people: “From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord… You have been rebellious against the Lord ever since I have known you.” (Deut. 9:7, 24). His critique extends to the future: “If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die!” (Deut. 31:27). Even the curses in Deuteronomy, delivered by Moses himself,[4] are bleaker than those in Leviticus 26 and lack any note of consolation.”

  3. Joshua thank you. Know that your perspective of God’s heart, as reflected in the story of the Prodigal Son, is the way I understand God as well. God disciplines us, not out of joy, but out of care, love, and concern. Most of the time scripture reflects this heart of the Father – but not all the time. That’s what I’m pointing at. Sometimes care, love, and concern seem to be absent, as in this verse from Deuteronomy 28:

    63 And just as the LORD took delight in making you prosperous and numerous, so the LORD will take delight in bringing you to ruin and destruction; you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to possess.

    That’s the kind of voice, spoken by God through Moses, that is disturbing to me. It doesn’t square with the understanding of God you are advocating, nor mine. It’s a challenging text – and I’m okay with that. In some ways God refuses to be domesticated, locked-down, buttoned up. God is beyond what I can understand as a flawed, finite human.

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