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Ignite the Pulpit

Throw down the high places!



Gideon chooses 300 men to fight for liberty.

In ancient times, the people of Israel often burned incense on places of pagan worship. The Tanakh, or Old Testament, calls these high places. Modern Jews, both in Israel and especially in the Diaspora, also burn (figurative) incense on (figurative) high places. This will do them about as much good as it did the peoples in the days of the Judges and the Kings. Namely, no good at all.

The modern high places

Last week the voters of Israel gave thirty “mandates” to Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party. They also gave more than thirty other mandates to other parties likely to sympathize with Netanyahu. For that reason, President Reuben Rivlin, against his wishes and desires, invited Netanyahu to form a new government.

This did not come without a struggle, before and after the election. In Israel, an outfit calling itself “V15” (in the Roman alphabet) took money from the United States Department of State, among others, to try to unseat Netanyahu. No joy, of course. Then the leftist newspaper Haaretz intentionally misquoted something Netanyahu said at a rally before the election. Netanyahu said one cannot expect Israel to agree to a “Palestinian” state today. Under the circumstances, the State of Israel would kill itself by so acting. Haaretz mis-edited his words to mean, “I will never see a Palestinian state, so long as my name is Benjamin Netanyahu!” Or words to that effect.

Haaretz and V15, along with Yitzhak Herzog, Tzipi Livni, and their followers, all burn incense at that most common of leftist high places: the “Palestinian peace process.” They believe, and would have their fellow citizens believe, a “peace process” will suddenly bring good results. It has brought nothing but rockets raining down on Sderot, and murders of Israelis in public restaurants, buses, and so on, since the Six-day War! Yair Lapid made that clear in 2002, in his essay, What Does It Mean to Be an Israeli. He published that in the French Jewish site Terre Promise (The Promised Land) In 2001 that site ran the essay again. CNAV translated it into English.

Jews in Israel, burning incense on leftist high places, do harm enough. Diaspora Jews, burning orders of magnitude more incense on even larger high places, bring greater harm.

Mark Levin mentioned this to Sean Hannity. “I don’t care how many donors the Obama campaign has,” he thundered, “who happen to be Jewish!” He went on to say: Obama does not do Israel any favors. Time and events vindicated Levin this week. Obama:

  • Showed the world the full particulars of the Israeli nuclear program.
  • Said he would let Iran enrich uranium in an underground bunker.
  • Sent his aides to repeat Arabist talking points. They spoke of “Israeli occupation.” They want us to think they speak of possession of Judea and Samaria (“The West Bank”). In fact, to an Arab, the presence of a Jew on one square foot of land anywhere in the former British Mandatory Palestine makes up an occupation! Withdrawal to a 1949 armistice line would  pose enough of a threat by itself. But the Arabs want all the land. And when those same aides try to convince us otherwise, they commit taquiyya. Strategic lying to advance the cause of Islam.

In that light, why do Jews living in America support such a policy? Why do they decry their fellow Jews in Israel who re-elected the closest thing to an ancient Hebrew Judge Israel has had since the 1949 War for Independence? Dennis Prager put it this way:

Left-wing Jews live, work and socialize with left-wing non-Jews, and they believe that they are — to their great regret — identified with the Jewish state in the eyes of fellow leftists.

Lessons, ancient and modern

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Does that look familiar? It should. It reads like the description of Lot, nephew of Abraham, sitting in the town gate of Sodom. Two young and attractive men sought refuge in Lot’s house. Lot’s fellow city residents demanded he turn those men over to them as sex slaves. What did he do? He offered them his daughters instead. That did not satisfy them either.

You know how that turned out. Those two men happened to be Messengers of the Living God. And not only that but two of the roughest, toughest warriors God ever made for His Guard Force. They struck the Sodomites blind. Then they turned to Lot, grabbed him by the cloak, hustled him out of the city, and said, “Run for your life!” He finally did. Just in time. His wife didn’t. She became a pillar of salt.

Will the Jews of the Diaspora, and especially in America, need that kind of lesson? Sadly, they might. Their fathers and grandfathers burned incense at another high place in the middle of the twentieth century: a begrudging economic acceptance. Then an obscure civil servant died by an act of murder. And his son rose to power and withdrew that acceptance, especially in central Europe. Must CNAV mention his name? Hint: his waxen effigy guards the entrance to the Chamber of Horrors in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London.

The ancient high places

A High Place at Tel Dan, northern Israel. A metaphor for Obama vis-a-vis Israel? Maybe Netanyahu should throw down some high places of his own.

A “High Place” (Hebrew: Bama, pl. Bamot) at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Photo: CNAV.

The Jews entered their Promised Land on or about 1451 BC. (CNAV uses the Ussher dates for the Hebrew Kings.) Their second Judge, Joshua, led them in. Even he, in his farewell address, gave them stern warning: “Choose this day whom you will serve! I and my household will serve the LORD.”

Ever since, they often fell away from the One True God. They built literal high places all over the land. These high places, or bamot, let them worship gods who don’t demand much. These “gods” certainly don’t demand they change their behavior.

Nor did it start with the time after Joshua died. Nor even before the Israelites walked into Egypt. Rachel, second bride of Jacob, stole some household idols from her father Laban. Thus she broke several rules of hospitality. And for what? Those little images “can neither hear nor see nor walk.” Jacob, years later, told his family to put that kind of stuff away. He never did a smarter thing than that.

Likewise, worship at the high places never did the Israelites, or their descendants the Jews, any good. In fact it brought them harm. A vicious cycle began: the people disobey, God lets their enemies win, they cry out. Then comes a real leader. What does he do first? He throws down the high places! We see Judge Gideon do this while still a boy. Judge Jephthah does this three hundred years after the Israelites enter the land.

That’s what Netanyahu should do. That’s what real leaders among the Jews should do. Throw down the high places! Dissolve your alliances with the political left. They gladly played up to you so long as your first pioneers in “Palestine” (now Israel) formed farming communes (kibbutzim) and practiced the essence of communism (another high place!). Now that Israel prospers, they don’t play so nice any more. Neither did the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Midianites, the Philistines, or the Edomites. Nor the Assyrians nor the Babylonians. Nor the Seleucids. Nor the Romans. And neither do those modern Philistines we call “Palestinians.” (“Palestine” is “Philistia” with a Latin speaker’s post-nasal drip problem. Did you know that?)

At least some among the Jews see the signs. Jodi Rudoren, writing in The New York Times, might not “get it.” But she writes about other people who “get it.” The more Barack Obama rails against the Israeli electorate and the leader they chose, the more they support that new leader. They might not understand all Obama’s reasons or intentions. But they understand the effects.

To that degree, they have walked back toward a good, straight path. But they must still throw down all their “high places.” Especially of acceptance that always has a condition, and can always revoke itself at any time. As it did, and nastily, in the last century. And in ancient times.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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