28 November 2015

May the Aught be with you

Reflecting on some of the last points in my previous essay, “A Universal Creed”, I started trying to think of a single word concept that would encompass my description of Something Beyond, which is more or less summed up in the next two paragraphs. 

Spacetime and energy are the fundamental building blocks of the Universe.  The Universe is formed of a single matrix called spacetime.  Everything in the Universe that is not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy.

If there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current Universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, even beyond effability.

After a week or so of research, I came across a word rarely used and often misused that fit my needs exactly.

* * * * *

The English word ‘aught’, primarily means “something”, but can also anything, everything, or all.  Many mistakenly use it for “zero”, clearly confusing it with ‘naught’.

Modern English ‘aught’ descends from the Old English ‘awiht’.  Awiht is a compound of the Old English words ‘a’ (ever, always) and ‘wiht’ (something, person, creature, being, anything).  The Proto-Indo-European predecessor of ‘a’ was ‘aiw’, meaning both vitality or life-force and always or eternity.  Its modern descendant is ‘aye’ (a long time, forever).  The Proto-Indo-European predecessor of ‘wiht’ was ‘wekti’, meaning cause, essence, creature, being, person, or thing.  Its modern descendant is ‘wight’ (living creature, human, wraith).

(‘Naught’, the word with which ‘aught’ is too often confused, descends from Old English ‘nawiht’, literally “no-thing”, derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘ne’ + ‘wiht’.)

So, here we have a word that basically means “eternal something”, and it’s even one syllable, and its carries connotations of being a life-force.  Let’s plug that into some of my descriptions from that previous essay and see what it looks like.

* * * * *

The Aught has no name.  It has no need of a name, for there is nothing else Other from which to distinguish itself.

The Aught permeates and animates all that is throughout the Universe and beyond.  It is the Source of all that is, the Force driving its emanation, and the Way guiding the flow of its manifestation.

The Aught was before all Time, is now, and will remain even after the end of Time.  It is both perpetual and ever-changing, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal, everything and nothing.

The Aught is One.  It is neither male nor female.  It neither takes sides nor has sides.  From it emanate both light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction.

The Aught produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It needs no submission, obedience, penitence, worship, adoration, praise, prayer, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is. 

The Aught doesn’t need us, nor anything from us.  No one can use the Aught against any other being on Earth—or in the Universe—because the concerns of individual beings compared to a Universe that is 213 duovigintillion cubic kilometers by 13.8 billion years are rather ephemeral. 

So don’t worry.  Try to be happy.  Love each other person as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want them to do to you.  That is all you need.

23 November 2015

A Universal Creed

I originally called this “A Personal Creed” because it reflects my own thoughts.  But it belongs not to me but to everyone, because it really is universal.

Well, “creed” is a bit of a misnomer since I do not ‘credo’ anything.  Except nothing.

To believe is to define.  To define is to limit.  To limit is to control.  To control is to corrupt.

Belief is not humble; it is aggressive.  Belief is not an sign of submission; it is an assertion of domination.  Belief makes itself superior to that in which it believes by controlling it through the very act of belief, and thus is blasphemy.  Belief is vanity.  Belief is futility.  Belief is the very antithesis of faith. 

To have faith, one must surrender control.  To surrender control, one must abandon limitation.  To abandon limitation, one must give up definition.  To give up definition, one must let go of belief.  To have faith, one must neither believe nor disbelieve; one must unbelieve.

* * * * *

The following statements are not of belief but of hard fact.

I am a Terran, a citizen of the world.  The whole Earth is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins of the One Human Race.

The dominant species on Earth, Homo sapiens, has been around just 200,000 years.  The sole remaining race (subspecies) of H. sapiensH. sapiens sapiens—is only 30,000 years old.  The entire primate genus Homo has existed only 2.8 million years.

A single human is, on average, 664 billionths (0.000000000664 or 6.64x10-11) km3 in volume, with an average lifespan of 67.2 years.

Planet Earth, which provides H. sapiens sapiens and all other faunal and floral life forms their home, is 1.12 trillion km3 by 4.54 billion years.

Sol, the star that is the center and basis of Earth’s planetary system, is 1.4 quintillion km3 by 4.56 billion years.  The Solar System, including its Oort Cloud, is 1.7 duodecillion (1.7x1039) km3 by the same 4.56 billion years.

The Milky Way Galaxy, which hosts the Solar System, is ~8 sedecillion (8 x 1051) km3 by 13.2 billion years.

There are ~200 billion stars in the Milky Way.  Of these, ~40 billion are capable of supporting Class-M planets.  At least 8-10 billion of those have sapient life, meaning that there may be 61.6 quintillion (61.6 x 1018sapient beings in our galaxy alone.

There are ~500 billion such galaxies across the Universe.

The Universe is ~213 duovigintillion km3 by 13.8 billion years and expanding ever outward.  It is just one of innumerable such bodies making up the Omniverse (aka Multiverse), but is currently the only one of relevance to us H. sapiens sapiens.

The Universe is formed of a single matrix of four basic dimensions, three spatial and one temporal, called spacetime.  All four of these dimensions flow to and from and define the point in the spacetime continuum at which we are at any given moment. 

Each of these dimensions has two aspects, two directions along which energy may flow.  But these two directions in each dimension are only relevant to the individual.  Only from the point we occupy does height have an up and down, length have a forward and back, and width have a left and a right, time have a past and future.

Past and future have relevance only to the present, our name for when we are at this instant.  In truth, the future has already happened, and the past is yet to be, and the moment where we are now is the beginning, and the end, and every moment in between.  That now is where we exist.

Gravity provides the cohesion for the physical Universe in a relationship with the dimension of time that is correlative if not causal.  Without gravity, there would be no time; without time, there would be no gravity.

Everything in the Universe that is not of the matrix of spacetime is composed of energy.  Energy can be neither created nor destroyed but only change forms.  All matter exists as alternate forms of energy; everything that exists shares and is made up of the same energy.

Spacetime and energy, therefore, are the fundamental building blocks of the Universe and of all that is in it, the emanations from which all creation evolves.

This phase of the Universe, currently at 13.8 billion years, is finite, and will come to an end, even if the interim between beginning and end is far more vast than humans can comprehend

In ~2 billion years, the Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge into one, altering the structure of everything in them.

In ~5 billion years, Sol will enter its red giant phase, if it has not been destroyed in the above-mentioned galactic collision, destroying any remaining life on planet Earth.

The next Big Crunch facilitating the next Big Bang will be in ~60 trillion years, destroying our Universe so that another may be born anew in the same manner our own Universe was formed.

All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again, and again, and again.

There is no Divine Creator, especially not an anthropomorphic and anthropopathic God such as humans have repeatedly created in their own image with whom to have an illusory personal relationship.  Each and every one of those “gods” is nothing but a myth. 

In nearly every culture on the planet, the word translated into English as “the world”, meaning Planet Earth, also translates as “the Universe”.  To the ancients, they were one and the same. A few examples are ‘kosmos’ in Greek and ‘ha-olam’ in Hebrew, and, for that matter, ‘the world’ in English, which derives from Old English and literally means ‘age of man’ but is also used for ‘eternity’.  That is the cosmology hosting every god or ultimate reality of every human religion on Earth since religion first began.

Every form of Ultimate Reality conceived and believed by human religion or philosophy, all of which are geocentric and anthropofocal, is too small for our Universe. 

Even in the very rare instances in which humans have perceived the Ultimate Reality as something genuinely Other, they have then proceeded to append to that insight intermediary realities to connect it to our own in order to believe, define, limit, and control, sometimes reducing fairly advanced concepts to mere ideological dogma.

If there is Something that was before all Time, is now, and will be even after the end of Time, with Time here being defined as the lifespan of the current Universe, it is beyond personhood, beyond being, even beyond effability.

If there is Something, it produces yet claims no possession; it redeems yet requires no gratitude; it sustains yet exercises no authority.  It has no need of obedience, worship, prayer, praise, adoration, supplication, benediction, love, or even respect.  It just is.

If there is Something, it is both perpetual and ever-changing.  It flows through and animates all that is throughout spacetime and beyond, transcendent yet immanent, metacosmic yet omnipresent, eternal yet omnitemporal.

If there is Something, it has no name.  It has no need of a name.  Since it is the one and only Something, there is no other Something from which it needs distinguish itself.

If there is Something, it is the Source of all that is, the Force energizing the manifestation of all that is, and the Way guiding the manifestation.  From our perspective, these are different things, but in reality they are One.

If there is Something, it is One.  It is neither male nor female.  It does not take sides, nor does it have sides.  From it emanate both  light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, yin and yang, life and death, integrity and entropy, creation and destruction, everything and nothing.

Each of those antitheses is defined by its opposite.  Without their counterpoints, none of those qualities can exist.

Without death, therefore, life has no meaning.  The essence of all existence, especially on our place of existence in our Universe, of is change and evolution.  Nothing that is static is living.  In fact, nothing of the Universe is static, for of it stasis is impossible. 

Stasis is a nonexistence beyond even death.  Stasis is only possible in the void beyond.

For the individual, birth and death define the boundaries of life.  Even if there is a form of life after death for individual beings once the organic shell has been shed and existence on this plane ends, humans debating questions on life after death are like fetuses discussing questions on life after birth.

There is no payback for good deeds or ill.  The only thing for an individual to do is try to be a good person.  The way to be a good person is to love every other person as you love yourself, both on Earth and across the vast expanse of extraterrestrial space, and do not do to any other person that which you would not wish them to do to you.

No philosophical or theological view vis-à-vis themselves alone, including the hypothesis that nothing exists beyond observable reality, is any more or less valid than any other, except when those propositions state they are the only ones that are correct.

Everything you have just read could be completely wrong, except that part where no one is right.

20 November 2015

The Damned Human Race, by Mark Twain

In 1905, barely a year into the Moro War in the Philippines (1904-1914), a brutal, horrific massacre of 900 Moros on the island of Mindanao on top of Mount Badjo inspired Twain to pen this piece.  Unlike his other major anti-war, or rather anti-imperialist, piece, this was published in the same year it was written, and later became part of his Letters From Earth.

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man.  I find the result humiliating to me.  For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that the theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.  In proceeding toward this unpleasant conclusion I have not guessed or speculated or conjectured, but have used what is commonly called the scientific method.  That is to say, I have subjected every postulate that presented itself to the crucial test of actual experiment, and have adopted it or rejected it according to the result.  Thus I verified and established each step of my course in its turn before advancing to the next.  These experiments were made painstakingly in the London Zoological Gardens, and covered many months of painstaking and fatiguing work.
Before particularizing any of the experiments, I wish to state one or two things which seem to more properly belong in this place than further along.  This in the interest of clearness. The massed experiments established to my satisfaction certain generalizations, to wit:

1. That the human race is of one distinct species.  It exhibits slight variations–in color, stature, mental caliber, and so on–due to climate, environment, and so forth; but it is a species by itself, and not to be confounded with any other.

2. That the quadrupeds are a distinct family, also. This family exhibits variations–in color, size, food preferences and so on; but it is a family by itself.

3. That the other families–the birds, the fishes, the insects, the reptiles, etc.–are more or less distinct, also. They are in the procession. They are links in the chain which stretches down from the higher animals to man at the bottom.

Some of my experiments were quite curious.  In the course of my reading I had come across a case where, many years ago, some hunters on our Great Plains organized a buffalo hunt for the entertainment of an English earl–that, and to provide some fresh meat for his larder.  They had charming sport.  They killed seventy-two of those great animals; and ate part of one of them and left the seventy-one to rot.  In order to determine the difference between an anaconda and an earl–if any–I caused seven young calves to be turned into the anaconda’s cage.  The grateful reptile immediately crushed one of them and swallowed it, then lay back satisfied.  It showed no further interest in the calves, and no disposition to harm them. I tried this experiment with other anacondas; always with the same result.  The fact stood proven that the difference between an earl and an anaconda is that the earl is cruel and the anaconda isn’t; and that the earl wantonly destroys what he has no use for, but the anaconda doesn’t.  This seemed to suggest that the anaconda was not descended from the earl.  It also seemed to suggest that the earl was descended from the anaconda, and had lost a great deal in the translation.

I was aware that many men who have accumulated more millions of money than they can ever use have shown a rabid hunger for more, and have not scrupled to cheat the ignorant and the helpless out of their poor servings in order to partially appease that appetite.  I furnished a hundred different kinds of wild and tame animals the opportunity to accumulate vast stores of food, but none of them would do it.  The squirrels and bees and certain birds made accumulations, but stopped when they had gathered a winter’s supply, and could not be persuaded to add to it either honestly or by chicane.  In order to bolster up a tottering reputation the ant pretended to store up supplies, but I was not deceived. I know the ant.  These experiments convinced me that there is this difference between man and the higher animals: he is avaricious and miserly, they are not.

In the course of my experiments I convinced myself that among the animals man is the only one that harbors insults and injuries, broods over them, waits till a chance offers, then takes revenge.  The passion of revenge is unknown to the higher animals.

Roosters keep harems, but it is by consent of their concubines; therefore no harm is done.  Men keep harems, but it is by brute force, privileged by atrocious laws which the other sex were allowed no hand in making.  In this matter man occupies a far lower place than the rooster.   Cats are loose in their morals, but not consciously so.  Man, in his descent from the cat, has brought the cat’s looseness with him but has left the unconsciousness behind–the saving grace which excuses the cat.  The cat is innocent, man is not.

Indecency, vulgarity, obscenity–these are strictly confined to man; he invented them.  Among the higher animals there is no trace of them.  They hide nothing; they are not ashamed. Man, with his soiled mind, covers himself.  He will not even enter a drawing room with his breast and back naked, so alive are he and his mates to indecent suggestion.  Man is “The Animal that Laughs.” But so does the monkey, as Mr. Darwin pointed out; and so does the Australian bird that is called the laughing jackass.  No–Man is the only Animal that Blushes.  He is the only one that does it–or has occasion to.

At the head of this article we see how “three monks were burnt to death” a few weeks ago, and a prior “put to death with atrocious cruelty.”  Do we inquire into the details?  No; or we should find out that the prior was subjected to unprintable mutilations. Man–when he is a North American Indian–gouges out his prisoner’s eyes; when he is King John, with a nephew to render untroublesome, he uses a red-hot iron; when he is a religious zealot dealing with heretics in the Middle Ages, he skins his captive alive and scatters salt on his back; in the first Richard’s time he shuts up a multitude of Jew families in a tower and sets fire to it; in Columbus’s time he captures a family of Spanish Jews and–but that is not printable; in our day in England a man is fined ten shillings for beating his mother nearly to death with a chair, and another man is fined forty shillings for having four pheasant eggs in his possession without being able to satisfactorily explain how he got them.  Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel.  He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.  It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals.  The cat plays with the frightened mouse; but she has this excuse, that she does not know that the mouse is suffering.  The cat is moderate–unhumanly moderate: she only scares the mouse, she does not hurt it; she doesn’t dig out its eyes, or tear off its skin, or drive splinters under its nails–man-fashion; when she is done playing with it she makes a sudden meal of it and puts it out of its trouble.  Man is the Cruel Animal.  He alone is of that distinction.

The higher animals engage in individual fights, but never in organized masses.  Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War.  He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind.  He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out, as the Hessians did in our Revolution, and as the boyish Prince Napoleon did in the Zulu war, and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.

Man is the only animal that robs his helpless fellow of his country–takes possession of it and drives him out of it or destroys him.  Man has done this in all the ages.  There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.

Man is the only Slave.  And he is the only animal who enslaves.  He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another.  In our day he is always some man’s slave for wages, and does that man’s work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work.  The higher animals are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living. 

Man is the only Patriot.  He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man”–with his mouth.

Man is the Religious Animal.  He is the only Religious Animal.  He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them.  He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.  He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.  He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomet’s time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of centuries, he was at it in England in Mary’s day, he has been at it ever since he first saw the light, he is at it today in Crete–as per the telegrams quoted above–he will be at it somewhere else tomorrow.  The higher animals have no religion.  And we are told that they are going to be left out, in the Hereafter.  I wonder why?  It seems questionable taste.

Man is the Reasoning Animal.  Such is the claim.  I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal.  Note his history, as sketched above.  It seems plain to me that whatever he is his is not a reasoning animal.  His record is the fantastic record of a maniac.  I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one.

In truth, man is incurably foolish.  Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning.  Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends.  I put them in a cage.  In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit.  In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves.  Finally a monkey. T hey lived together in peace; even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbytarian from Aberdeen.  Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares.  Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping.  Then I stayed away two whole days.  When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh–not a specimen left alive.  These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.

One is obliged to concede that in true loftiness of character, Man cannot claim to approach even the meanest of the Higher Animals.  It is plain that he is constitutionally incapable of approaching that altitude; that he is constitutionally afflicted with a Defect which must make such approach forever impossible, for it is manifest that this defect is permanent in him, indestructible, ineradicable.  I find this Defect to be the Moral Sense.  He is the only animal that has it.  It is the secret of his degradation.  It is the quality which enables him to do wrong.  It has no other office.  It is incapable of performing any other function.  It could never have been intended to perform any other.  Without it, man could do no wrong.  He would rise at once to the level of the Higher Animals.

Since the Moral Sense has but one office, the one capacity–to enable man to do wrong–it is plainly without value to him.  It is as valueless to him as is disease.  In fact, it manifestly is a disease.  Rabies is bad, but it is not so bad as this disease.  Rabies enables a man to do a bad, but it is not so bad as this disease.  Rabies enables a man to do a thing which he could not do when in a healthy state: kill his neighbor with a poisonous bite.  No one is the better man for having rabies.  The Moral Sense enables a man to do wrong.  It enables him to do wrong in a thousand ways. Rabies is an innocent disease, compared to the Moral Sense.  No one, then, can be the better man for having the Moral Sense.  What, now, do we find the Primal Curse to have been?  Plainly what it was in the beginning: the infliction upon man of the Moral Sense; the ability to distinguish good from evil; and with it, necessarily, the ability to do evil; for there can be no evil act without the presence of consciousness of it in the doer of it.

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor–some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance–insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development–namable as the Human Being.  Below us–nothing.  Nothing but the Frenchman.

There is only one possible stage below the Moral Sense; that is the Immoral Sense.  The Frenchman has it.  Man is but a little lower than the angels.  This definitely locates him.  He is between the angels and the French.

Man seems to be a rickety poor sort of a thing, any way you take him; a kind of British Museum of infirmities and inferiorities.  He is always undergoing repairs.  A machine that was as unreliable as he is would have no market.  On top of his specialty–the Moral Sense–are piled a multitude of minor infirmities; such a multitude, indeed, that one may broadly call them countless.  The higher animals get their teeth without pain or inconvenience.  Man gets his through months and months of cruel torture; and at a time of life when he is but ill able to bear it.  As soon as he has got them they must all be pulled out again, for they were of no value in the first place, not worth the loss of a night’s rest.  The second set will answer for a while, by being reinforced occasionally with rubber or plugged up with gold; but he will never ger a set which can really be depended on till a dentist makes him one.  This set will be called “false” teeth–as if he had ever worn any other kind.

In a wild state–a natural state–the Higher Animals have a few diseases; diseases of little consequence; the main one is old age.  But man starts in as a child and lives on diseases till the end, as a regular diet.  He has mumps, measles, whooping cough, croup, tonsillitis, diptheria, scarlet fever, almost as a matter of course. Afterward, as he goes along, his life continues to be threatened at every turn: by colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, itch, cholera, cancer, consumption, yellow fever, bilious fever, typhus fevers, hay fever, ague, chilblains, piles, inflammation of the entrails, indigestion, toothache, earache, deafness, dumbness, blindness, influenza, chicken pox, cowpox, smallpox, liver compliant, constipation, bloody flux, warts, pimples, boils, carbuncles, abscesses, bunions, corns, tumors, fistulas, pneumonia, softening of the brain, melancholia and fifteen other kinds of insanity; dysentery, jaundice, diseases of the heart, the bones, the skin, the scalp, the spleen, the kidneys, the nerves, the brain, the blood; scrofula, paralysis, leprosy, neuralgia, palsy, fits, headache, thirteen kinds of rheumatism, forty-six of gout, and a formidable supply of gross and unprintable disorders of one sort and another.  Also–but why continue the list?  The mere names of the agents appointed to keep this shackly machine out of repair would hide him from sight if printed on his body in the smallest type known to the founder’s art.  He is but a basket of pestilent corruption provided for the support and entertainment of swarming armies of bacilli–armies commissioned to rot him and destroy him, and each army equipped with a special detail of the work.  The process of waylaying him, persecuting him, rotting him, killing him, begins with his first breath, and there is no mercy, no pity, no truce till he draws his last one.

Look at the workmanship of him, in certain of its particulars.  What are his tonsils for?  They perform no useful function; they have no value.  They have no business there.  They are but a trap.  They have but the one office, the one industry: to provide tonsillitis and quinsy and such things for the possessor of them.  And what is the vermiform appendix for?  It has no value; it cannot perform any useful service.  It is but an ambuscaded enemy whose sole interest in life is to lie in wait for stray grapeseeds and employ them to breed strangulated hernia.  And what are the male’s mammals for?  For business, they are out of the question; as an ornament, they are a mistake.  What is his beard for?  It performs no useful function; it is a nuisance and a discomfort; all nations hate it; all nations persecute it with a razor.  And because it is a nuisance and a discomfort, Nature never allows the supply of it to fall short, in any man’s case, between puberty and the grave.  You never see a man baldheaded on his chin.  But his hair!  It is a graceful ornament, it is a comfort, it is the best of all protections against certain perilous ailments, man prizes it above emeralds and rubies.  And because of these things Nature puts it on, half the time, so that it won’t stay.  Man’s sight, smell, hearing, sense of locality–how inferior they are.  The condor sees a corpse at five miles; man has no telescope that can do it.  The bloodhound follows a scent that is two days old.  The robin hears the earthworm burrowing his course under the ground.  The cat, deported in a closed basket, finds its way home again through twenty miles of country which it has never seen.

Certain functions lodged in the other sex perform in a lamentably inferior way as compared with the performance of the same functions in the Higher Animals.  In the human being, menstruation, gestation and parturition are terms which stand for horrors.  In the Higher Animals these things are hardly even inconveniences.

For style, look at the Bengal tiger–that ideal of grace, beauty, physical perfection, majesty.  And then look at Man–that poor thing.  He is the Animal of the Wig, the Trepanned Skull, the Ear Trumpet, the Glass Eye, the Pasteboard Nose, the Porcelain Teeth, the Silver Windpipe, the Wooden Leg–a creature that is mended and patched all over, from top to bottom.  If he can’t get renewals of his bric-a-brac in the next world, what will he look like?

He has just one stupendous superiority.  In his intellect he is supreme.  The Higher Animals cannot touch him there.  It is curious, it is noteworthy, that no heaven has ever been offered him wherein his one sole superiority was provided with a chance to enjoy itself.  Even when he himself has imagined a heaven, he has never made provision in it for intellectual joys.  It is a striking omission.  It seems a tacit confession that heavens are provided for the Higher Animals alone.  This is matter for thought; and for serious thought.  And it is full of a grim suggestion: that we are not as important, perhaps, as we had all along supposed we were.

The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

Published posthumously in 1923, Twain wrote this piece in answer to the jingoistic hysteria over the Spanish-American War, the Filipino-American War, and the Moro War, the latter two both in the Philippines.  At the request of his believing family, Twain held this piece back because they thought it might be sacrilegious.

It was a time of great and exalting excitement.  The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths.  The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest,
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the “long” prayer.  None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language.  The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness.  With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting.  With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place.  During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!”  The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import.  For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think. “God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought?  Is it one prayer?  No, it is two — one uttered, and the other not.  Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken.  Ponder this — keep it in mind.  If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time.  If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it.  I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently.  And ignorantly and unthinkingly?  God grant that it was so!  You heard the words ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’  That is sufficient.  The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words.  Elaborations were not necessary.  When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it.  Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words.  Listen!

“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them!  With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.  O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”


It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

18 November 2015

The Levite, the concubine, and the Benjamites

The final five chapters of the Tanakh book of Judges are almost always ignored by Christians and Jews alike because the picture of early Israelite society in Palestine contrasts with popular conception fomented by centuries of propaganda to the contrary, including the innumerable retcons to the material which was the foundation for the current canonical Torah.

The passages here, Judges chapters 19-21, are taken from the World English Bible©, which is in the Public Domain.

Chapter 19 is the original story later reconned into the account of Lot and Sodom, with an unnamed Levite in the role of Lot, the Benjamites in the role of the Sodomites, and the Levite’s apparently unwilling concubine as the ultimate victim, thrown out by the unnamed host as a consolation to the Benjamite townsmen who want to ravish the Levite and spend the night raping the poor girl to death.

Chapter 20 recounts the genocide of the Benjamites by the rest of the Israelites at the behest of the Levite upset over the loss of his property (i.e., the raped-to-death girl).

Chapter 21 tells of the genocide of the Israelites against the humans of Jabesh Gilead whose men did not come out to participate in the genocide of the Benjamites.  According to Judges, everyone is killed but pubescent and adolescent female virgins, who are then presented to the surviving Benjamite men.

19  In those days, when there was no king in Israel, there was a certain Levite living on the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim, who took for himself a concubine out of Bethlehem Judah.  His concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him to her father’s house to Bethlehem Judah, and was there for four months.  Her husband arose, and went after her, to speak kindly to her, to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of donkeys.  She brought him into her father’s house; and when the father of the young lady saw him, he rejoiced to meet him.  His father-in-law, the young lady’s father, kept him there; and he stayed with him three days. So they ate and drank, and stayed there.

On the fourth day, they got up early in the morning, and he rose up to depart.  The young lady’s father said to his son-in-law, “Strengthen your heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward you shall go your way.”  So they sat down, ate, and drank, both of them together. Then the young lady’s father said to the man, “Please be pleased to stay all night, and let your heart be merry.”  The man rose up to depart; but his father-in-law urged him, and he stayed there again.  He arose early in the morning on the fifth day to depart; and the young lady’s father said, “Please strengthen your heart and stay until the day declines”; and they both ate.

When the man rose up to depart, he, and his concubine, and his servant, his father-in-law, the young lady’s father, said to him, “Behold, now the day draws toward evening, please stay all night.  Behold, the day is ending.  Stay here, that your heart may be merry; and tomorrow go on your way early, that you may go home.”  10 But the man wouldn’t stay that night, but he rose up and departed, and toward Jebus (also called Jerusalem).  With him were a couple of saddled donkeys.  His concubine also was with him.

11 When they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said to his master, “Please come and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites, and stay in it.”

12 His master said to him, “We won’t turn aside into the city of a foreigner that is not of the children of Israel; but we will pass over to Gibeah.”  13 He said to his servant, “Come and let us draw near to one of these places; and we will lodge in Gibeah, or in Ramah.”  14 So they passed on and went their way; and the sun went down on them near Gibeah, which belongs to Benjamin.  15 They turned aside there, to go in to stay in Gibeah. He went in, and sat down in the street of the city; for there was no one who took them into his house to stay.

16 Behold, an old man came from his work out of the field at evening.  Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he lived in Gibeah; but the men of the place were Benjamites.  17 He lifted up his eyes, and saw the wayfaring man in the street of the city; and the old man said, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem Judah to the farther side of the hill country of Ephraim.  I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem Judah.  I am going to Yahweh’s house; and there is no one who has taken me into his house.  19 Yet there is both straw and feed for our donkeys; and there is bread and wine also for me, and for your servant, and for the young man who is with your servants. There is no lack of anything.”

20 The old man said, “Peace be to you; how ever let me supply all your needs.  Just don’t sleep in the street.”  21 So he brought him into his house, and gave the donkeys fodder. Then they washed their feet, and ate and drank.  22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain base fellows, surrounded the house, beating at the door; and they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we can have sex with him!”

23 The man, the master of the house, went out to them, and said to them, “No, my brothers, please don’t act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, don’t do this folly.  24 Behold, here is my virgin daughter and his concubine.  I will bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them what seems good to you; but to this man don’t do any such folly.”

25 But the men wouldn’t listen to him: so the man laid hold of his concubine, and brought her out to them; and they had sex with her, and abused her all night until the morning. When the day began to dawn, they let her go.  26 Then the woman came in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, until it was light.  27 Her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way; and behold, the woman his concubine had fallen down at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  28 He said to her, “Get up, and let us be going!” but no one answered.  Then he took her up on the donkey; and the man rose up, and went to his place.

29 When he had come into his house, he took a knife, and cut up his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel.  30 It was so, that all who saw it said, “Such a deed has not been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt to this day!  Consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

20  Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was assembled as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, to Yahweh at Mizpah.  The chiefs of all the people, even of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, four hundred thousand footmen who drew sword.  (Now the children of Benjamin heard that the children of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.)  The children of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this wickedness happen?”

The Levite, the husband of the woman who was murdered, answered, “I came into Gibeah that belongs to Benjamin, I and my concubine, to spend the night.  The men of Gibeah rose against me, and surrounded the house by night. They intended to kill me, and they raped my concubine, and she is dead.  I took my concubine, and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country of the inheritance of Israel; for they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel.  Behold, you children of Israel, all of you, give here your advice and counsel.”

All the people arose as one man, saying, “None of us will go to his tent, neither will any of us turn to his house.  But now this is the thing which we will do to Gibeah: we will go up against it by lot; 10 and we will take ten men of one hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and one hundred of one thousand, and a thousand out of ten thousand, to get food for the people, that they may do, when they come to Gibeah of Benjamin, according to all the folly that they have worked in Israel.”  11 So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, knit together as one man.
12 The tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What wickedness is this that is happen among you? 13 Now therefore deliver up the men, the base fellows, who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel.”

But Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brothers the children of Israel.  14 The children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities to Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel.  15 The children of Benjamin were numbered on that day out of the cities twenty-six thousand men who drew the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah, who were numbered seven hundred chosen men.  16 Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred chosen men who were left-handed.  Every one of them could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.  17 The men of Israel, besides Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men who drew sword. All these were men of war.

18 The children of Israel arose, went up to Bethel, and asked counsel of God.  They asked, “Who shall go up for us first to battle against the children of Benjamin?”

Yahweh said, “Judah first.”

19 The children of Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah.  20 The men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel set the battle in array against them at Gibeah.  21 The children of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and on that day destroyed twenty-two thousand of the Israelite men down to the ground.  22 The people, the men of Israel, encouraged themselves, and set the battle again in array in the place where they set themselves in array the first day.  23 The children of Israel went up and wept before Yahweh until evening; and they asked of Yahweh, saying, “Shall I again draw near to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?”

Yahweh said, “Go up against him.”

24 The children of Israel came near against the children of Benjamin the second day.  25 Benjamin went out against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed down to the ground of the children of Israel again eighteen thousand men.  All these drew the sword.

26 Then all the children of Israel, and all the people, went up, and came to Bethel, and wept, and sat there before Yahweh, and fasted that day until evening; then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before Yahweh.  27 The children of Israel asked Yahweh (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, 28 and Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days), saying, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?”

Yahweh said, “Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver him into your hand.”

29 Israel set ambushes all around Gibeah.  30 The children of Israel went up against the children of Benjamin on the third day, and set themselves in array against Gibeah, as at other times.  31 The children of Benjamin went out against the people, and were drawn away from the city; and they began to strike and kill of the people, as at other times, in the highways, of which one goes up to Bethel, and the other to Gibeah, in the field, about thirty men of Israel.

32 The children of Benjamin said, “They are struck down before us, as at the first.”  But the children of Israel said, “Let us flee, and draw them away from the city to the highways.”  33 All the men of Israel rose up out of their place, and set themselves in array at Baal Tamar.  Then the ambushers of Israel broke out of their place, even out of Maareh Geba.  34 Ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel came over against Gibeah, and the battle was severe; but they didn’t know that disaster was close to them.  35 Yahweh struck Benjamin before Israel; and the children of Israel destroyed of Benjamin that day twenty-five thousand one hundred men.  All these drew the sword.  36 So the children of Benjamin saw that they were struck; for the men of Israel yielded to Benjamin, because they trusted the ambushers whom they had set against Gibeah.  37 The ambushers hurried, and rushed on Gibeah; then the ambushers spread out, and struck all the city with the edge of the sword.  38 Now the appointed sign between the men of Israel and the ambushers was that they should make a great cloud of smoke rise up out of the city.  39 The men of Israel turned in the battle, and Benjamin began to strike and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons; for they said, “Surely they are struck down before us, as in the first battle.”  40 But when the cloud began to arise up out of the city in a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them; and behold, the whole city went up in smoke to the sky.  41 The men of Israel turned, and the men of Benjamin were dismayed; for they saw that disaster had come on them.  42 Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel to the way of the wilderness; but the battle followed hard after them; and those who came out of the cities destroyed them in the middle of it.  43 They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them, and trod them down at their resting place, as far as near Gibeah toward the sunrise.  44 Eighteen thousand men of Benjamin fell; all these were men of valor.  45 They turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon; and they gleaned five thousand men of them in the highways, and followed hard after them to Gidom, and struck two thousand men of them.  46 So that all who fell that day of Benjamin were twenty-five thousand men who drew the sword.  All these were men of valor.  47 But six hundred men turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, and stayed in the rock of Rimmon four months.  48 The men of Israel turned again on the children of Benjamin, and struck them with the edge of the sword, both the entire city, and the livestock, and all that they found. Moreover all the cities which they found they set on fire.

21  Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us will give his daughter to Benjamin as a wife.”  The people came to Bethel, and sat there until evening before God, and lifted up their voices, and wept severely.  They said, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, why has this happened in Israel, that there should be one tribe lacking in Israel today?”

On the next day, the people rose early, and built an altar there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.  The children of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who didn’t come up in the assembly to Yahweh?”  For they had made a great oath concerning him who didn’t come up to Yahweh to Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.”  The children of Israel grieved for Benjamin their brother, and said, “There is one tribe cut off from Israel today.  How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since we have sworn by Yahweh that we will not give them of our daughters to wives?”  They said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel who didn’t come up to Yahweh to Mizpah?”  Behold, no one came from Jabesh Gilead to the camp to the assembly.  For when the people were numbered, behold, there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead there.  10 The congregation sent twelve thousand of the most valiant men there, and commanded them, saying, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones.  11 This is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has lain with a man.”  12 They found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins, who had not known man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

13 The whole congregation sent and spoke to the children of Benjamin who were in the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them.  14 Benjamin returned at that time; and they gave them the women whom they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh Gilead.  There still weren’t enough for them.  15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because Yahweh had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.  16 Then the elders of the congregation said, “How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?”  17 They said, “There must be an inheritance for those who are escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel.   18 However we may not give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel had sworn, saying, ‘Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.’”   19 They said, “Behold, there is a feast of Yahweh from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.”  20 They commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards, and each man catch his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.  22 It shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we will say to them, ‘Grant them graciously to us, because we didn’t take for each man his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them, otherwise you would now be guilty.’”

23 The children of Benjamin did so, and took wives for themselves, according to their number, of those who danced, whom they carried off.  They went and returned to their inheritance, built the cities, and lived in them.  24 The children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they each went out from there to his own inheritance.  25 In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

Micah the Ephraimite and the Danites

The final five chapters of the Tanakh book of Judges are almost always ignored by Christians and Jews alike because the picture of early Israelite society in Palestine contrasts with popular conception fomented by centuries of propaganda to the contrary, including the innumerable retcons to the material which was the foundation for the current canonical Torah.

The passages here, Judges chapters 17-18, are taken from the World English Bible©, which is in the Public Domain.

This blog entry is the story of Micah the Ephraimite, which strikes down a number of Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian claims in the rest of the heavily retconned Tanakh. 

First is the idea of Israel’s perpetual monotheism having existed since its beginning; the stories clearly show a polytheistic society.  The shrine referred to as a “house of gods” is a clear giveway on that regard.

Second is the idea that Israelites have always been idoloclastic, with both graven and molten images, presumably of Yahweh, playing a prominent role, as well as the “teraphim” cult figurines thought to have been used well into the Hellenistic era.

Third is the idea of a hereditary Aaronic priesthood existing from Israel’s earliest days, given that Micah consecrates first his own son then the itinerate Levite as his own priest.  He even made an ephod for them to use.

Fourth is the idea that Levites came from a separate tribe.  The Levite in the story is specifically identified as being of the tribe of Judah, from Bethlehem, in fact.

Fifth is the ideas of Israelite unity and righteousness, the antagonists of Judges 18 being from the tribes of Dan attacking Micah and robbing him of both his Levite priest and religious artifacts, though they leave him the molten image.  Afterwards, they are portrayed as carrying out a genocide against the humans of Laish, not because of the wickedness of the latter or an order from Yahweh, but merely because they want their land.

17  There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.  He said to his mother, “The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears, behold, the silver is with me. I took it.”

His mother said, “May Yahweh bless my son!”

He restored the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, then his mother said, “I most certainly dedicate the silver to Yahweh from my hand for my son, to make an engraved image and a molten image. Now therefore I will restore it to you.”

When he restored the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave them to a silversmith, who made an engraved image and a molten image out of it.  It was in the house of Micah.

The man Micah had a house of gods, and he made an ephod, and teraphim,[a]and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priestIn those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. 

There was a young man out of Bethlehem Judah, of the family of Judah, who was a Levite; and he lived there.  The man departed out of the city, out of Bethlehem Judah, to live where he could find a place, and he came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, as he traveled.  Micah said to him, “Where did you come from?”

He said to him, “I am a Levite of Bethlehem Judah, and I am looking for a place to live.”  10 Micah said to him, “Dwell with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver per year, a suit of clothing, and your food.”   So the Levite went in.  11 The Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was to him as one of his sons. 12 Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah.  13 Then Micah said, “Now know I that Yahweh will do good to me, since I have a Levite as my priest.”

18  In those days there was no king in Israel.  In those days the tribe of the Danites sought an inheritance to dwell in; for to that day, their inheritance had not fallen to them among the tribes of Israel.  The children of Dan sent five men of their family from their whole number, men of valor, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it.  They said to them, “Go, explore the land!”

They came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there.  When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite; so they turned aside there, and said to him, “Who brought you here? What do you do in this place? What do you have here?”

He said to them, “Thus and thus has Micah dealt with me, and he has hired me, and I am become his priest.”

They said to him, “Please ask counsel of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous.”

The priest said to them, “Go in peace. Your way in which you go is before Yahweh.”

Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people who were there, how they lived in safety, in the way of the Sidonians, quiet and secure; for there was no one in the land, possessing authority, that might put them to shame in anything, and they were far from the Sidonians, and had no dealings with anyone else.  They came to their brothers at Zorah and Eshtaol; and their brothers asked them, “What do you say?”

They said, “Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good.  Do you stand still?  Don’t be slothful to go and to enter in to possess the land.  10 When you go, you will come to an unsuspecting people, and the land is large; for God has given it into your hand, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”

11 The family of the Danites set out from Zorah and Eshtaol, with six hundred men armed with weapons of war.  12 They went up and encamped in Kiriath Jearim, in Judah.   Therefore they called that place Mahaneh Dan, to this day. Behold, it is behind Kiriath Jearim.  13 They passed from there to the hill country of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.

14 Then the five men who went to spy out the country of Laish answered, and said to their brothers, “Do you know that there is in these houses an ephod, and teraphim,[a] and an engraved image, and a molten image?  Now therefore consider what you have to do.”  15 They turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man, even to the house of Micah, and asked him how he was doing.  16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the children of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate.  17 The five men who went to spy out the land went up, and came in there, and took the engraved image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image; and the priest stood by the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men armed with weapons of war.

18 When these went into Micah’s house, and took the engraved image, the ephod, the teraphim, and the molten image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”

19 They said to him, “Hold your peace, put your hand on your mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest.  Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?”

20 The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, the teraphim, and the engraved image, and went with the people.  21 So they turned and departed, and put the little ones, the livestock, and the goods before them.  22 When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan.  23 As they cried to the children of Dan, they turned their faces, and said to Micah, “What ails you, that you come with such a company?”

24 He said, “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and have gone away! What more do I have? How can you ask me, ‘What ails you?’”

25 The children of Dan said to him, “Don’t let your voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows fall on you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household.”

26 The children of Dan went their way; and when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.  27 They took that which Micah had made, and the priest whom he had, and came to Laish, to a people quiet and unsuspecting, and struck them with the edge of the sword; then they burned the city with fire.  28 There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no dealings with anyone else; and it was in the valley that lies by Beth Rehob.  They built the city, and lived in it.  29 They called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel; however the name of the city used to be Laish.  30 The children of Dan set up for themselves the engraved image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.  31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s engraved image which he made, and it remained all the time that God’s house was in Shiloh.