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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Danger of Census Taking and the Tenach

II Samuel XXIV describes a very strange story and I suggest you read it carefully yourself.

The Lord is angry at Israel. He incites King David to take a census and this seems to be considered  a sin.  The long and short of it results in the Lord bringing a plague on Israel killing 70,000 people. When the plague threatens to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord halts the plague. Things do not seem totally safe until 25. And David built there an altar to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and offerings of well-being. The Lord responded to the plea for the land, and the plague against Israel was checked.

1) If the Lord is angry at Israel why does he need the pretense of the sin of the census to bring the plague ?

2) Why is taking a census a sin ? Is such a sin deserving of killing 70000 people ? Also remember it is David  who orders the census, yet 70000 Israelites end up dead.

3) Why are things not totally safe until David brings burnt offerings ? The Lord is angry enough to kill 70000 people and permanently halts the destruction because of some burnt offerings ? 

(THE JEWISH STUDY BIBLE Adele Berlin and Marc Brettler editors 2004,  page 665 explains:

According to ancient belief counting people exposes them to misfortune. Exod. 30.11- 16 requires each counted person to pay expiation money, so "that no plague may come upon them"(Rashi: "for the evil eye rules over counting").)

[Many cultures had superstitions that a census could result in harm. This is well documented in  Folk-lore in the Old Testament; studies in comparative religion, legend and law, Frazer, James George, Sir, 1919 beginning on page 555.]

[One possible explanation of the story (assuming it ever happened) is that a census was taken and a plague ensued soon after. The people then thought the plague was the  result of the census. Ancient people would ascribe plagues to the god(s). So we have a post-hoc fallacy reinforced by prior superstitions. ]

{ETA 12/23/2019 I would like to add the following:

In Ancient times some cultures would ascribe their laws as from the god(s). So consider the possibility the ancient Israelites objected to a census for political/sociological or for some other reason. They could then ascribe their own objection as the will of their god. That their god objected to a census. Then if a census was taken and a plague followed they could claim the god was displeased with the sin of taking a census. }

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