Fish Out of Land

More Flapdoodle from the Expert Doodler, Part 2
James Patrick Holding


We all know the story, of course, of the dead horse that kept trying to get up and couldn't. As of this moment, as of ever since this debate began, Skeptic X is that horse and we are the cowboy that busted him.

Think not? If you're a Skeptic X-disciple, you never will, but that's only to be expected; you'd be impressed if Skeptic X answered a question on Ancient Near Eastern culture by rubbing grape jelly on himself and running, screaming, through the hardware store and taking a swan dive into the loo. A primary goal of this exchange -- to teach Skeptic X a lesson about his absurd EVERYTHING stricture -- has been accomplished. By subjecting his bombast to detailed rhetorical analysis, his one super-weapon -- the unerring ability to say in 100,000 words what could have been said in 100 -- is defused. Skeptic X is now forced into the absurd claim that he never did demand that we quote EVERYTHING (a claim contradicted by years of correspondence with him, which sorry, unlike Skeptic X, we are not obsessed enough to have preserved) and declares that he will apply debate guidelines he prefers and get right to the point of the issues. Fine. We in turn will apply the same guidelines, "cut to the chase" even more efficiently, and hereafter omit all of his fluff, irrelevancies, distractions, changes of subject, "pre-emptions", repetitions, and diversions, which still end up amounting to a substantial portion (at least 95%) of what is given from him so far this round (even to part 16), despite his professed desire to "cut the cheese" -- er, I mean, "cut to the chase". It may make Skeptic X's disciples gooey all over to hear him repeat the summary Deut. 9 argument over and over again 167,038,453 times, but we're only going to address it as many times as it deserves: once, where he actually addresses what we say about it. Which by the way, as of the end of Part 16 to date, he still hasn't other than a few blurbs.

Beyond this we were thinking, "We're also only going to address diversions as many times as they deserve: zero." We figured at first, "Now that Skeptic X has become saddle-sore from having to sit on his own EVERYTHING cactus for a few weeks, we're sticking to the topic we threw down the gauntlet on, and that is the consistency of the Biblical records with reference to Yahweh's Land Promise. If Skeptic X has any complaints, he knows what to do. The Country Bear Jamboree still has a space open. And if he has any other complaints and wants to play games, we can always do our own diversions and insert entire 100-page essays by myself or Glenn Miller into the mix and demand that he respond to them. We know how Skeptic X runs his boo game, and we will play it just as well if he keeps up the diversionary tactics." Skeptic X's disciples of course find it impressive when he veers off topic, popping out ten-word sound bites on complex social, moral, and philosophical issues and then demanding a response. And at first we were just going to skip the diversions and stick to the issue.

Then we decided, what the heck. Skeptic X? Click here for all that gunk you put in that is off-topic. Now it's your turn to chase all the rabbits.


One of our key issues is the nature of the contractual agreement established in Deuteronomy, and the general concept of land-deity-people which also lay behind the Genesis compact. In one of the few fluff-free portions of his response, Skeptic X hands the reins like a hot potato to one Bruce Monson, who in turn is relying on Frank Moore Cross, an OT scholar of considerable erudition. After inserting "What would our opponent do without the crutch of Monson/Cross," etc comments here, we get to this: We originally offered as a question to Skeptic X, "Do you wish to deny that the promises of Genesis were made within the context of an ancient deity-subject, feudal landlord-tenant relationship?" After wasting a great deal of verbiage bragging about a past debate and doing setup, Monson cites Cross' book chapter, "Kinship and Covenant in Ancient Israel," and a subheader titled "Elements of Confusion in the Understanding of Israel's Ancient Covenant," and a footnote in that section:

There are, to be sure, some interesting parallels between two types of "dynastic promise to David" and two types of dynastic clauses of suzerainty treaties of the second millennium. Certain elements are common to both types: The suzerain secures the vassal on the throne, secures the land in his possession, and lists land boundaries. Sometimes "sonship" is granted.
But two types of promise are found in regard to the future of the dynasty. The usual is to promise that a king's heirs will remain on the throne under the protection of the suzerain so long as they are obedient to the stipulations of the covenant. The treaty makes the perpetuation of the dynasty conditional. In the second type, the promise of the land and promise of the dynastic succession are unconditional. This type is found in pure form in the Treaty of Tudkhaliyas IV and Ulmi-Teshup of Dattassa. It is said that if Ulmi-Teshup is faithful to his covenant with his suzerain, it is the obligation of the suzerain to preserve his heirs on the throne of Dattassa, and to preserve the land in the heirs' possession. If a future son sins (rebels), he may be punished or removed, but kingship and land must pass to another heir of Ulmi-Teshup, in theory thereby creating an eternal dynasty. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of dynasty and possession of land rests on the "reservoir of grace" filled by the obedience of Ulmi-Teshup alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Ulmi-Teshup's motivation to obedience. The analogy with the "high" or unconditional royal ideology of the Davidids is obvious. Thanks to the piety of David, the throne is eternally promised to the house of David; thanks to the fidelity of Abraham, the land is promised perpetually to his seed. One suspects that in this unconditional promise to heirs, archaic kinship ideology is at work: the family of the faithful covenant partner is bound forever in kinship bonds with the suzerain, and his family.

There's first of all a technical problem here, because the note that Monson cites is not from the section subheaded "Elements of Confusion in the Understanding of Israel's Ancient Covenant." It's actually the last footnote for the previous subhead, and a section which has to do with kinship relations. Monson apparently misread the note as applying to the "Confusion" subhead because the note takes up space on two pages including the one where the "Confusion" section starts. Now if I were a disciple of Skeptic X I could probably make a big deal about this and blather for pages about how this error "shows how Skeptic X doesn't do his homework," "means Skeptic X's adoring fans can't trust him when he says something," etc. But since time is limited, I'll just have one of Skeptic X's own disciples essentially write that for me. Here we'll just concern ourselves with the subject at hand.

All what Cross says is very nice, of course, but does nothing to address or refute our case, and in fact, only helps it. Cross says that the land is promised perpetually to Abraham's seed. Well, we agree with that! As we have noted, the land is always reserved for Abraham's seed, even if they are being punished in exile. But this does not mean that perpetual "residency" in or use of the land is also guaranteed, and does not in the least take away from our point that under the ancient relationship between land, people, and deity, those who lived in the land had to obey the deity's rules or suffer consequences of some sort -- and that Abraham would not have thought of the promise given to him any differently (see more on this in part 3). Cross does not say anything along the lines of, "...and this also means that they could live in the land unconditionally, behaving as they liked, thumbing their nose at the local deity and whatever rules he had." In fact, the last sentence of the section where Monson cites his note from says, "There are no 'unilateral' covenants in a kinship-based society." "Unilateral" seems to be the same as "no strings attached" as Skeptic X thinks the Genesis covenant was. Note well, Skeptic X-readers, as your master is missing this, even as he now seems to think (see part 3) it represents a change in our position (it doesn't): We have said that the land will still be theirs, even if, or as, they are exiled. They may and shall go back to it after their punishment is completed, as Deuteronomy clearly states. Skeptic X is still not answering our argument, and Monson has not helped his case at all, having only provided answers that agree with our own. In fact, we would parallel Cross' phraseology: "If a future set of Israelites sins (rebels), they may be punished or removed, but the land must pass to another set of descendants of the Israelites, in theory thereby creating an eternal possession. Put another way, it can be said that permanence of possession of land rests on the 'reservoir of grace' filled by the obedience of Abraham alone, and therefore is not dependent on the fidelity of each succeeding heir--presumably intensifying Abraham's motivation to obedience..." Cross' analysis here agrees with ours, not with Skeptic X's! Skeptic X still fails to differentiate between the land being reserved for Israelite use at all times (which is "possession", just as something you drop on the floor does not stop being yours just because you no longer have hold on it, or because someone else picks it up), and their ability to live in it at all times (just as the item is not just yours when you are using it, which in this context is what we parallel with active tenancy). He'll repeat this argument another 87,938,473 times in his response up through Part 16 now, but it didn't get any better with age.

Another argument related to this one:

[Holding]'s argument is that the land promise was a suzerainty treaty, so all I need to say here is that readers can scroll upward and read Frank Moore Cross's discussion of ancient suzerainty treaties. The behavior of rulers was a condition in these treaties but certainly not the behavior of just one Israelite, as [Holding] has tried to argue.

Again, Cross' discussion only helped our case. Beyond that:

  1. The behavior of rulers was indeed a condition in these other treaties, but in Deuteronomy the behavior of the people is laid out time and time again as the condition. Skeptic X is trying to foist his usual "boo game" of argument by association, as though by extension the treaties that Cross refers to somehow magically apply to Deuteronomy and poof it something it isn't, a treaty where only the behavior of rulers apply. Sorry, Skeptic X, wrong number. Try forcing into Cross' mouth the idea that Deuteronomy is a suzerainty treaty about rulers only. It might help to remember that Israel, to begin, was NOT a monarchy.
  2. It is a continued misrepresentation to say that we argued that "the behavior of one Israelite" was a condition in the way this is implied. Here is what was actually said, and it is a case where I also had to correct Skeptic X's reading: "What I actually said was, with reference to Achan and the loss at Ai, 'The sin of even one of the people is enough to guarantee military non-success.' This is not the same as saying that the sin of even one of the people is sufficient to withhold the promises as a whole. Technically it may be sufficient, but most landlords (and we say that Yahweh was no exception) do not take advantage of the first offense to evict a tenant, and the contractual document (Deuteronomy) does lay out a progression of offenses and punishments beyond this, with total eviction from the land as a final resort. At any rate, it seems that our opponent will be misapplying this quote if he uses it at all, since he has not grasped out intent in stating it." And we're right yet again. Skeptic X continues to confuse the issue of military success in singular battles with the entirety of the land promise. (Later on, when I point out Skeptic X's lack of recognition of what I actually said, he ignores his own mistake and reminds the readers of his favorite dazzling placebo, Deut. 9, and claims he will return later to proving his point re Judges 18:9. We can hardly wait!)
  3. In part 8 we have this oopsie:
    And I have shown that this so-called "suzerainty treaty" with which [Holding] and other biblicists have tried to compare Deuteronomy granted land unconditionally to the people living in clearly defined land borders and imposed behavior conditions only on the kings or rulers of this land. No suzerain that I ever heard of actually took the land away from the people living there, because the land would have been of no use to the suzerain without people to tend it to make it possible for the suzerain to collect tribute.

    This is the same attempt to fallaciously argue by association we have already noted (i.e., if other suzerainty treaties never took land away for misbehavior, then in spite of the stated conditions saying so, Deuteronomy as a suzerainty treaty could never do so either!), but it might occur to Skeptic X that Yahweh as a suzerain would not need to collect any tribute and didn't need to leave any occupants (though some poor folk were left behind, and the enemies of Judah and Israel did move other people in). What's He buying with it? Yahweh's treaty would have no problem taking land away from the people if they misbehaved, and that's exactly what Deuteronomy promises.


Next Skeptic X tries to blow smoke over the word "give" -- working out his thesis that the word implied the sort of unconditional bestowal of the land upon the Israelites that would contradict their being able to be thrown out of the land as a punishment. I wrote:

"Give" is indeed nathan, and any concordance will show that this word has a great variety of applications...These and cites that follow are apparently intended by our opponent to instill some meaning of nathan congenial to a modern concept of property ownership. However, the great variety of applications, as well as the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, must be considered together; to merely focus on nathan and what meaning it may or may not have in other verses is not enough. In terms of nathan itself, like our modern word "give" it clearly denotes transfer, with no specification in terms of the method or permanence or nature of the "giving". One may "give" someone a back rub, a hard time, a house, or an apartment; the things "given" are different in terms of tangible possession and the idea of ownership, and so "give" only connotes transfer without making any statement in terms of the nature or permanence of the transfer. So likewise nathan.

Skeptic X burps back with snide comments about how the English "give" admits many shades of meaning, which works well to distract the gullible skeptical reader, but doesn't say a thing we disagreed with. Then on my sentence, "These and cites that follow are apparently intended by our opponent to instill some meaning of nathan congenial to a modern concept of property ownership," we are thrown this dodge:

I have certainly shown that the ancient Hebrews had concepts of personal ownership of property that entitled them to sell or barter their property, so all of [Holding]'s talk about nathan proves exactly nothing.

This we already answered, even in the very words above: There is nothing that contradicts our point that the land was ultimately owned by Yahweh, as clearly stated in Lev. 25:23, and that the Israelites were tenants in a "conditional" landlord-tenant relationship in which we do not doubt they would be permitted to perform exchanges of property rights on a human level. As we have noted, we agree that Israel was "given" the land for always, but this does not in any way prove that their relationship to the land will always be the same. Skeptic X does not offer anything about nathan that demonstrates otherwise. He notes back:

If someone says, "He gave me a back rub," the context tells what the word gave meant. If someone says, "He gave me a hard time," the context tells what the word meant. [Holding] doesn't even attempt to explain why the Hebrew context of a statement in which nathan was used would not have told Hebrew readers how this word, which had "several applications," was being used.

We gave all of the context that was needed: the ancient relationship between land, deity and people (which Skeptic X has not refuted, will not refute as we progress thus far, and has actually helped us prove with his appeal to Monson/Cross) combined with the clearly conditional nature of the Deuteronomic treaty (against which, Skeptic X throws Deut. 9 over and over again, pre-emptively, even as of this writing he as not gotten to our arguments about it). That context shows that nathan carried here no sense of the same condition of possession at all times, or of the same relationship to the land at all times, and that was the point we were making.

Then we regarded Skeptic X's attempts to find nathan in other passages to use for his case. We said:

Ex. 2:9 does not concern land, and especially not land "given" from a deity to a people, so it is not a parallel for any passages relevant to "Yahweh's Land Promise." But we would note that it does concern earned wages. What if the nurse later bungled or fuddled on her job? Would she still be "given" wages? If it was later discovered she was a slacker, and rather than nursing, was out playing stick hockey, would not the wages be demanded back? Rather than countering our case that the land promises were conditional, Ex. 2:9 only supports our contention that they were conditional, and shows that nathan does not offer any sense, by itself, of permanent transference that our opponent's argument requires.

Skeptic X accuses us of comparing apples to oranges, but it is he who introduced the false parallels in the first place. In reply he also has the nerve to claim that "[i]n the case of the land promise, no such conditions were attached," which we have shown over and again to be false, via the ancient relationship between land, deity and people (which again, Skeptic X has not refuted, and has actually helped us prove with his appeal to Monson/Cross) combined with the clearly conditional nature of the Deuteronomic treaty (against which, Skeptic X throws Deut. 9 over and over again, pre-emptively, along with other arguments such as the Josh. 5 circumcision issue we have also answered). Once again, it is this context which shows how nathan was to be understood, and neither here nor in cites used following does Skeptic X offer a word that actually refutes this. If he has introduced false parallel-examples that do not involve land, or a deity, that is his own problem.


Now, after a certain amounts of diversions, we get onto Ruth 1:16 (and the same arguments about this, and other persons below, are now repeated in Skeptic X's part 16). I said:

Our opponent, apparently realizing that this data befuddles his case, does no more here than throw a smokescreen. The verse demonstrates the intimate connection between land ("whither thou lodgest"), people ("my people") and deity ("my God") that we have shown to be an essential context for understanding the land promises. The three are intimately, inextricably linked. We agree that in agreeing to go with Naomi, Ruth was saying that she accepted Naomi's god. This is precisely because of the land-people-deity relationship we have described. Our opponent has not refuted this connection; he has merely waved it off as if to suggest that Ruth's travel with Naomi is entirely coincidental to the acceptance of Naomi's god. Given the relationship clearly expressed in Ruth 1:16, the corresponding data from the Ancient Near Eastern parallels, and a complete lack of evidence from our opponent that such relations were merely coincidental, and not the result of an intimate link, he has utterly failed to relieve himself of the burden placed on him by Ruth 1:16.

This one really got Skeptic X hopping, and we would expect some answer which shows that the connection is indeed coincidental here, as well as some response to the ANE parallels, but instead, we are given a diversionary lecture on idolatry (!) which doesn't even address our point, though Skeptic X clearly labors under the illusion that it does. As we stated very clearly just after this:

Whether one was a "believer" in a given god was not at issue. The nations readily recognized the existence of the gods of the other nations, or even worshipped the gods of other nations (although often as a local manifestation) even within their own nations, and we have never argued that they did not do so. What is at issue is the god to whom the person owed supreme loyalty, as the god who was "owner" and landlord of the land, and it is in that context that the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity comes into play. Balaam certainly believed in Yahweh and recognized his power. However, there is no evidence that he gave supreme loyalty to Yahweh over any other deity. The Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity would suggest that Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was associated with Pethor in Mesopotamia, if indeed that was his normative place of residence. However, there is no evidence at all in terms of which deity Balaam gave most allegiance to, and thus also no evidence at all that contradicts (or supports) our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East.

Skeptic X offered several cites of persons like Balaam and Solomon's wives in which he tried to fill the silence of the texts with his own assumptions, and in response to our pinpointing of unanswered questions which make the texts of no help to him (or to us, for that matter), weakly states, "In a society in which belief that Yahweh owned all the land and reigned supreme over his realm was woven tightly into its cultural fabric, worship of Yahweh and Yahweh only would have been the norm, wouldn't it?" Yes, it would have, and that is why there are so many punishments stated and meted out for idolatry in the OT! We know that Baal, et al were worshipped in Israel, and it was in part because of this idolatry that the Jews were punished and run out of their land! Skeptic X cites many cases of Jews in the OT worshipping false gods, and supposes that this defuses the idea that someone was expected to switch religious loyalties to the god of the land they were in, but if anything, in light of consistent admonitions against idolatry and the declared punishments for it in Deuteronomy, these are only examples of people who are breaking the rules! One may as well argue that we must not have any laws in America because we have so much crime! In any event, in not one of the cites given is it shown that what happened contradicts our case. As we say of Solomon's wives, so we say of every example given by Skeptic X in reply to Ruth 1:16, and Skeptic X does not answer any of this, for he has no answer:

This does not in any sense refute our point about the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, for it does not specify whether Solomon or his wives gave any of these other gods supreme loyalty over Yahweh or any of the other gods, and if they did, why they did (i.e., did they think Yahweh was not supreme in Israel and owner of the land?). It does not give any specific information about how they ranked the deities in a hierarchy; it does not explain their relationship with Yahweh, or whether there was any to speak of. Thus this point neither contradicts nor supports our premise concerning the association of land, people, and deity in the Ancient Near East. We have nowhere stated that recognition of a god as supreme in a new land, and as the owner and "landlord" in that land, meant that other gods could not be recognized or worshipped.

Skeptic X tries to explain away Ruth's words as an example of "social influence," but this does not explain why Ruth intimately connected land, deity and people as she did. Moreover, if "social influence" was all there was to it, if it was a matter of Naomi's love for Ruth, then Ruth would have expressed primary loyalty to Yahweh long before this, under Naomi's influence. So it is that Skeptic X is still appealing to a coincidence to wiggle out from under this plainly-stated relationship: The expression of this "social influence" just happened to take place and come to fruition as Ruth and Naomi were making a decision about their new home!

I said of Ruth 1:17:

This is utterly beside the point, as it does not address the intimate link expressed between land, deity, and people in Ruth 1:16. It is also irrelevant because it is from Ruth 1:17, and is said in light of the certain knowledge that the ultimate destination is Israel, and that that Yahweh was indeed God there. Far from contradicting our point about the he context of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, Ruth 1:17 only confirms it, for it shows further that Ruth recognized that the move to Israel would mean, for her, a change in deity to whom she owed primary loyalty as the "owner" of the land in which she would now be a tenant.

Skeptic X says he'd "like to see [us] prove that Ruth had not already made her religious choice because of her marriage into a family of Yahweh worshipers for whom she obviously had a deep affection." The text as it is bespeaks what is needed:

1:15-16 And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Now this is a tough nut, isn't it? Naomi tells Ruth to go back to Moab, as her sister in law has also gone back to her people, and her gods. Ruth says, no, I will go with you, to where you lodge (land), to YOUR people, to YOUR God. Now if this was not a reflection of a religious choice, what was it? This was indeed a reflection of primary loyalty in religious choice -- Ruth may or may not have believed in Yahweh before (she probably did) but regardless of what she believed before this account, she clearly recognized in this statement that once she was in Yahweh's territory, that was the deity she owed primary loyalty to, and it was all connected: land, people, deity. (Note as well that believers in Yahweh would not necessarily follow the paradigm the same way, since they regarded Yahweh as supreme over ALL lands in spite of what the pagans said -- so that, i.e., Naomi would not necessarily have proclaimed allegiance to Chemosh while in Moab.) Against this all Skeptic X can throw out is an argument for a coincidental expression that just happens to meld with all of our other data, just as they were on their way, and his various examples of idolatry that offer no specifics, only silence on the matters stated that he tries to fill in with his own background noise. That's what happens when skeptics have their backs to the wall, especially skeptics who learned their hermeneutical dodges from Bam Bam Bible College: Skeptic X is still a fundamentalist who thinks only in terms of black and white, and he still uses the same techniques he used as a fundamentalist, only this time to make errors appear in the Bible and to save his bacon as he argues for them, rather than to explain them away. (As a side note, Skeptic X misstates our case on this in Part 16: "If Ruth changed her allegiance to Yahweh upon going into the land of Israel, then there existed at this time an 'Ancient Near Eastern' belief that keeping the use of land was conditional to one's obedience to the god who owned the land." No, that skips a step: "If Ruth changed her allegiance to Yahweh upon going into the land of Israel, then there existed at this time an 'Ancient Near Eastern' belief that land belonged ultimately to the gods, and that therefore, based on this belief, it is obvious that keeping the use of land was conditional to one's obedience to demands of the god who owned the land." Skeptic X omits the key central premise in his summation [and with an example of Namaan as well], and has some nerve charging me with a non sequitur in this context!)

We now get to the point where Skeptic X addressed our material above on Balaam. Here he tries to foist a false dilemma of excess, stating of the recognition of other gods, "Why would they have done this at a time when this 'ancient concept' of land-deity-people was so deeply ingrained? The only reasonable conclusion is that it was not nearly so ingrained as [Holding] is claiming. It was a concept that apparently took a back seat to other factors, such as social contacts..." (as given in his Ruth example). This is not an answer, it is another attempt to throw a smokescreen. My argument does not depend on the concept of land-deity-people being "deeply ingrained" to a certain level that excluded any recognition or worship of other gods. It is not a black-and-white matter as the still-fundamentalist Skeptic X puts it: "If the people of the time felt that they 'owed supreme loyalty' to the gods who were the 'owners and landlords' of the land, then why were there so many examples recorded of times when people worshiped the gods of other lands?" Excuse me? Do we need to divide this down for a person who watches a black-and-white television 24 hours a day? I doubt if Skeptic X wants to argue that some ancient person could do his greatest service to, say, Chemosh, but not still recognize a god from another land and give that deity secondary loyalty, and another tertiary loyalty, or serve otherwise as occasions demanded. In other words, if Chemosh is your number one deity, and Dagon your #2 deity, and Dagon says "jump" and Chemosh says "stay seated," who will you listen to? Pointing to places where people worshipped other gods does not in any sense counter that they would rank these gods in a hierarchy, recognizing one as supreme or as most important, either overall or to their own perceptions or on some basis, and in their own lands. That the ancients did so rank the gods is certainly beyond question and I doubt if even Skeptic X would be inane enough to question it. Is Skeptic X suggesting that these peoples regarded all gods as exactly equal and all as deserving of the same level of loyalty, and all as having the same responsibilities? Is he suggesting they could not worship other gods unless they regarded all gods as equal in rank, power, and responsibility? Whatever he is arguing, and he never says what he is actually arguing (which is a nice way to keep the gullible skeptical readers dazed and off-track), Skeptic X is not answering the argument, he is blowing smoke at it with a poorly-developed hodge-podge dodge that does not at all address the matter of certain gods being regarded as supreme in certain lands, and/or as owning the lands. This is also the sort of black-and-white thinking that is taught at higher institutions of learning like Bam Bam Bible College. This argument will be used over and over again (also against the example of Jacob, and Solomon's wives) and we will not address it again -- once is enough to put it to bed.

(Let it be noted as well that I nowhere use the words "deeply ingrained," much less in a way that suggests that to be so ingrained meant that other gods could not be in the picture somehow, or that the paradigm was in any sense "instinctive," or that people could not of their own will disregard the pattern somehow, or rework the hierarchy illicitly [as in idolatry condemned in the OT]. This is not an answer to what I have said; it is an excessive straw-man of what I have said.)

And more, Skeptic X offers yet more desperate dodges. I note that there is no evidence that Balaam regarded Yahweh with supreme loyalty. We are told in reply:

When I saw this, I wondered if [Holding] had ever bothered to read Balaam's story as recorded in Numbers 22-25...In all of his dealings with Balak and the emissaries of Balak, Balaam never referred to any deity but Yahweh, and he repeatedly told Balak and his emissaries that he would speak nothing against Israel but would say only what Yahweh would tell him. Balaam spoke of Yahweh only in terms of sincere acceptance and devotion, and the way this story was recorded, Balaam's devotion to Yahweh was about as "supreme" as possible.

To this we have to say, "What the bleck is Skeptic X talking about!" Not one word of these chapters indicates that Balaam regarded Yahweh as the deity to whom he owed supreme loyalty, which is why Skeptic X has to resort to vaguely throwing three chapters in the air and telling his gullible readers to figure it out on their own, where no doubt they will see he is right even if he refers them to text that is ten stanzas of Weird Al Yankovic. Nothing is said about what other gods Balaam may or may not have believed in, how he ranked them or regarded them, or where Yahweh was in the hierarchy he held. All it tells us is that Balaam recognized Yahweh as a deity that had power -- not a word is said that suggests he thought that Yahweh was supreme over all other gods, or that he thought Yahweh was supreme in his land as well as others, or that he gave Yahweh loyalty over some other god in the local pantheon. The only reason Yahweh comes up at all is because Israel is involved in the story. Skeptic X is merely trying to cover himself from having brought up a passage that proves absolutely nothing germane to the discussion, and has a great deal of nerve demanding that we quote specific language showing Balaam gave supreme loyalty to whatever deity was in his locale (which we never claimed to prove, we only noted that that was what the case would be under the land-deity-people paradigm) when he can produce no specific text that says what he wants to prove (only a vague wave, "go read these three chapters") and we have offered a supporting social template of land-people-deity which he still has not refuted. We have no burden to fill in the gaps of silence here -- it is Skeptic X who dragged Balaam into this matter in the first place, arguing from silence, in spite of there being no information offered at all on his thinking beyond Yahweh, or about Yahweh beyond mere recognition, and dragged Solomon's wives. etc in the same way.

That Skeptic X is up his stream without a paddle is shown further in his new reactions on 2 Kings 5:17, Namaan's taking of Israelite dirt for the purpose of worshipping Yahweh back in his homeland. Skeptic X at first went along with our view, but now, scrambling to save his bacon, mumbles that "the text doesn't specifically say that Naaman took the dirt back with him so that he would have in his possession land that Yahweh owned on which Naaman could then worship him." Skeptic X apparently does not want to back out of this all the way; he's actually trying to foist back my charge that he doesn't think well inferentially, a charge we have continued to substantiate, even in the example of Abiathar that he mentions, which we have already responded to as of this writing showing his further inability to think inferentially, to say nothing of actually reading and understanding what we are arguing. 2 Kings 5:17 has Naaman asking for the earth, and then saying, "for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD." If taking the dirt wasn't specifically for worship, what was it for? A Yahweh victory garden? Skeptic X is trying to play games here because his argument is in a sling and he needs to reach for any desperate re-interpretation he can. We have provided extensive, converging lines of evidence for the land-deity-people relationship. Skeptic X has responded by foisting out alternative explanations for every scenario which are not supported by the silence in the texts, or by making up something completely anachronistic. Here, Skeptic X throws back as a suggestion that idea that "Naaman could have done this for no more reason than to have a talisman with him that he superstitiously believed would bring him good fortune. In other words, this dirt from Israel could have easily been Naaman's 'rosary' to use in assisting him to worship Yahweh back in Syria." Practically speaking this is not much different from what we have said! The difference is only very subtle; but if Skeptic X's alternative is true, the text would say, "And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant wishes to make a talisman out of this earth." Is that what Namaan said? No, he said, "for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD." He needed the earth as a place to make sacrifices upon or to make an altar out of, which was an appropriate adjustment for worshipping a deity not worshipped via idols. But then again, as for Skeptic X's talisman idea, we thank him for bringing that to point and refuting his very own next argument:

Notice that [Holding] said that to Naaman's thinking, the only way "one could worship a deity properly was to have a piece of the dirt that deity owned." Obviously, that thinking wasn't shared by everyone in biblical times, because I have cited examples of people who worshiped foreign gods while living somewhere besides on the land that the deities "owned." I doubt that they thought that they were not worshiping their gods "properly."

Time for some inferential thinking, Skeptic X: When these people worshipped their foreign gods, what was the idol that they worshipped made of? Care to guess? No, not plastic. No, not aluminum soda cans. Lego blocks? Please! What? Yes, wood or earth or stone. And where did they get these idols made of wood, earth and stone from? Hint: They didn't have MADE IN JAPAN stamped on the side. No: the idols were made of natural materials from the land that the deity came from. Bingo. They had their piece of dirt or piece of property au natural which belonged to the deity, and they worshipped properly. Of course Skeptic X may fuss back that, well, maybe the idols were made in Israel, but the likelihood is much greater that people like the foreign wives brought their idols with them -- or else, as would be par for idolatry, the people decided the Yahweh wasn't the exclusive owner of Israel after all and actually shared parcels with the other deities, as they did in other lands. Skeptic X sure has worked hard flossing all of that Desenex out of his teeth, but he keeps on keeping on wiggling his toes out of his ears, as this is now the second time he has brought something up that actually supports our case. Little wonder he spends the next few paragraphs after this on unrelated fluff.


A great deal of time is spent bombasting about why we expounded on the meaning of yarash. Our point was the same as it was for nathan: by itself, it connoted no sense of unconditional, permanent sense of transference as Skeptic X supposes. It does not, as we have said above and in agreement with Cross, mean that there could be no change in nature of relationship between the people and the land. Skeptic X cites Genesis passages of the land as an "everlasting possession," and we agree that it is. The land was Israel's possession even as they were in exile and the land was not in their possession. Unlike Skeptic X, however, we see no need to daze our audience by repeating what we have said above on this point. I will add, however, that I was not using the example of land being taken by invasion or taxation as applying to Israel, as Skeptic X seems to think -- it was used to show that yarash by itself is not a word indicating permanence of condition.


And now Skeptic X brings in Cross again. Insert comments to the effect, "Where would Skeptic X be without his crutch of Cross to quote," etc., and proceed. From Cross' Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic p. 249, Skeptic X cites:

In the introduction of the Deuteronomist to the Book of Deuteronomy and to the entire Deuteronomistic history (Deuteronomy 1:6-3:29) the speech of Moses focuses attention on a new departure (Dt. 1:8,39; 3:18-22, 28]. Moses and his generation had violated the covenant and were appointed to death in the desert before Israel could enter "the good land" promised in Yahweh's oath to the fathers. The oath was unconditional, however, and Yahweh would give the land sworn to the fathers to the new generation of Israel led by Joshua. In speeches in Joshua 1:10-15 and 23:2-10, 14, the commission of Joshua was begun and ended fulfilling the oath to the fathers, establishing Israel in the land (emphasis added).

Not one word of this disagrees with anything we have said. As noted above, the oath was unconditional, and the land was Israel's even when they were being punished, even if they were in exile, and even if they never finished conquering all of it. And now Skeptic X quotes Cross further with reference to how he explains passages that attach obedience:

The pattern of covenant violation followed by punishment (the curses of the covenant) and then by the emergence of new hope, a new departure initiated by Yahweh's call of a new leader, was repeated after Joshua's death. This pattern or movement became the very dialectic of history in the Deuteronomistic work. The gift of the land was qualified by Israel's apostasy according to Judges 2. Remnants of the nations were left in the land: Yahweh refused to drive them out. They were to be snares or stumbling blocks trying Israel's fidelity. Yet Yahweh (or his angel) states flatly in 2:1 "I have brought you into the land which I swore to your fathers and I said, "Never will I break my covenant with you..."(pp. 249-250, emphasis added).

Is this a big deal? No, it isn't. In essence Skeptic X is using Cross to support his own explanation, of later redaction to explain the alleged inconsistency. But Skeptic X is once again solving a problem with a non-answer, washing his socks to take care of a budget crisis. First of all, while Cross apparently does believe that these passages are later insertions, there is nothing in this quote that says that he considers these insertions to be contradictory to the Genesis land promise, as opposed to being complimentary as we argue, and there is nothing else I could find in this book that said so, either, though Cross may have thought so anyway. Second, even if he did believe that they were contradictory, Cross' words do not address any argument we have presented. They are not a response to what we have said any more than Skeptic X's theoretical explanation of why the alleged discrepancy exists is an actual argument that the discrepancy exists in the first place. Cross may well argue that Josh. 23:11-16 is a redactive expansion (though what this has to do with anything in this debate, we do not know; Josh. 23 has yet to be brought up) but none of this, nor anything else Skeptic X quotes from Cross here, is an actual reply to any argument we have made. Cross is an erudite scholar, but Skeptic X is using him like a "john" uses a prostitute. It is merely Skeptic X trying to support his own "solution" by repeating the words of someone who offers what looks to him to be the same solution, with no regard for whether they agree that there is the same problem in the first place.


"If a feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent tenancy on property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D, but later the feudal lord gave them tenancy on just a fraction of that land, the feudal lord would have reneged on his promise, wouldn't he? If not, why not?" Skeptic X bleats that I evaded this question, but the reality is he doesn't get the answer. Let's put it in simple language for him. Here is what we actually have:

"A feudal lord told a family that they would be given permanent possession of property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D. It was the rule of the land that when a lord gave such possession, he had certain rules, and if they did not follow his rules, they would be punished, and if they were bad enough, kicked out of the land entirely, though he would allow their descendants to return to the same land, because he did give it to them permanently. But the tenants didn't even finish building houses on the property from sea A to river B and from mountain C to valley D before they started acting up. The feudal lord immediately kept his promise to punish the tenants for not adhering to his rules and kept them from building houses on the rest of the land. But they still acted up, and he ended up kicking them out altogether. Later, when the descendants on the people had been away for a while, in accord with his promise he let those descendants move back into the land which was theirs."

Evasion? It's more like Skeptic X playing games with his gullible skeptical readers. Or maybe he is, after all, less bright than I thought. He must be less bright, because we offered this similar analogy:

By analogy, a rentor who steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord.

Skeptic X barks back, "What if the landlord signed an agreement with the "rentor that simply said, 'I give John Doe and his descendants after him permanent tenancy forever to Apartment 102 at 430 East Elm Street, Canton, IL'? The owner of the apartment would be in a spot to remove him later, wouldn't he?" If he used the word "tenancy," yes -- if he used the word "possession," as God did with Abraham, no. That's Skeptic X once again not keeping in mind the difference between legal possession and active tenancy. I'll put it a way maybe he and his readers can grasp:

If momma buys you a widdle firetwuck for you for being a good widdle boy, and then you don't pway nice with the other kiddies, and she takes your firetwuck from you until you behave yourself, is it still your firetwuck at all times or not?

In Part 16 Skeptic X tries to shovel the dirt a little more by objecting that the promise was based only on Abraham's conduct, and that we "would have to hypothesize a landlord who issued a contract granting permanent possession of an apartment to the descendants of a specific person in which the contract stipulated that the permanent use of the apartment was being granted because of their ancestor's faithful service." Actually we never said the analogy stretched that far, but if Skeptic X wants to play, here's how it would shape up, though such circumstances in the real world of apartment leasing would be unlikely:

By analogy, if a man does a landlord a favor, the landlord may promise that one of the man's descendants can have an apartment to rent anytime he wants one. At a later time, the man's great-greatgrandson needs a place to live, and he gets the apartment. He steps into his apartment and immediately, at the front door, rips wallpaper off the wall and starts a fire, has already technically violated his lease (if it prohibits such acts, which may not be prohibited in certain collegiate rentals) and could readily be evicted by the landlord. However, because of his promise to the first man, the landlord would be obliged to give the grandson back his residency if he shaped up; or, to one of the grandson's descendants.

Funny thing. It sounds a lot like the passage from Cross that Skeptic X thinks supports HIS position.

In Part 2 I offered a comment more or less like the above, in which I asked whether Skeptic X thought that the land contract would have allowed the Israelites to leave even one square inch of land "unpossessed" and do as they please, violating laws willy-nilly, having orgies, food fests, and idolatry as they pleased, always leaving that one square inch or yard or mile of land untouched and technically unconquered, and Yahweh (or any landlord) would just say, "No problem, they still have that bitty parcel left; I can't touch 'em until then." I asked whether there is any such agreement in real life. Skeptic X preps the Skeptics for a shazam with the diversion that it doesn't matter, since the gods don't exist, so we're just begging the question anyway (this, in spite of a later concession in a moment of logical and contextual clarity, that "belief, of course, would have affected the way that documents of the time were written,"), and then barfs that we "are talking about the entire coastal region of the land of Canaan, which Yahweh had promised to Abraham's descendants." Yes, we are, and Skeptic X is still dodging the issue. By his reckoning of the Land Promise, we would have an absurd situation in which Yahweh could not deliver penalties until the Israelites had conquered and occupied every square inch of land. I realize that Skeptic X thinks the Bible is piled with absurdities, but it is beyond absurdity to suppose that even a promise to Abraham which Skeptic X supposes to have been "condition-less" meant that the Israelites could just go and do as they please -- even if we don't add in the ancient concepts of acts of grace meaning debts of gratitude, and the gods owning the land and regulating the people therein.

As a CoC preacher, if Skeptic X promised his youth group a hayride, and they all went and fornicated in his front yard, we can be sure that it wouldn't buy ten seconds from the parents of those youths if he said, "No, I have to give them the hayride on schedule. I promised. I didn't make exceptions." If he caught them fornicating in the hay before the ride was over, I don't think it would play in Peoria for him to say, "We had to finish the hayride, because I promised it." It WOULD play if he said, "We can have/finish the hayride later if your kids shape up." Skeptic X posits the most absurd scenario with his premise that, by golly, the promise to Abe just had to be free and clear, because no conditions were mentioned." Not even a low-context Skeptic X would abide by that excuse at hayride time. If anything, it is he who has been anachronizing a false concept of "grace" on the texts.


2 Kings 18:33-35 Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine hand? Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of mine hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of mine hand?

We noted in service to the paradigm of the land-people-deity relationship that the comments of the Assyrian official reflect an expectation that at such time as a nation is attacked, it is expected that their god will come to their defense. Otherwise, as the territory of the land extends, so does the territory of the deity whose side wins, as was indicated in a boast of the Assyrian king Sargon. Beyond a diversion about people believing irrational things about the gods (a very nice diversion for the cheer of skeptics, which has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand re the consistency of the Biblical record, and which Skeptic X cannot deny, and does not try to, merely dodging the charge of irrelevancy), Skeptic X asks if we "bothered to check the passage he quoted in its full context." We darn well did. Skeptic X bombasts the reader by quoting verses 28-37, and follows, "Rather than teaching that gods owned certain territories and gave these lands to the people they chose to live therein, the Syrian official was actually saying that gods, including even Yahweh, were powerless to deliver their people from the great Assyrian king [Sennacherib]." Well, hey howdy again, but how does this change or contradict a thing we have said? The Assyrian is boasting that the gods failed their people in their appointed defense. It isn't teaching that the gods owned the territories? "Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?" This doesn't mean ownership by the gods of their land? If not, then what was the relationship of these gods to their physical lands? Does Skeptic X now want to say the gods laid no claim on the land at all? He doesn't tell us what, under his response, the relationship would be; he offers no alternative to the ownership paradigm, which is funny because he seemed to agree before that the ancients believed that the gods owned the land. Maybe getting Skeptic X to say what he actually believes will be like getting him to tell us what a "house" consisted of in the 2 Kings-Hosea debate. Note well, though, that I brought up this example to show not that the gods owned the land -- that was shown via other cites -- but to demonstrate one aspect of the deity-land-people relationship showing an example of the sort of obligations the "owner" deity had: to defend his people and the land from invasion. If this is not an "owner" role, what role is it, and how is that contention supported? Skeptic X is still playing games, trying to disassociate the converging lines of evidence into any other explanation or non-explanation he can find without paying attention to whether his own "answers" are internally consistent or supported by evidence.


Now watch Skeptic X dodge another support in the "gods owned the land" paradigm. I noted: "The Moabite inscription speaks of the Moabite deity Chemosh being angry with 'his land' and delivering judgment, though the cause of the anger is not specified." Skeptic X warbles back:

But the Moabite inscription did not say that because Chemosh was angry with his land he was taking the land from its inhabitants. This statement was made to "explain" why Omri, the king of Israel, had been able to "oppress" the land of Moab, so Mesha's reference to the anger of Chemosh was an expression of superstitious belief that when calamity befell a nation, the gods were angry.

Well, hey howdy, Skeptic X. So what if the Moabite inscription doesn't say this? The point is: The god owned the land; the god exacted penalties when ticked. Now if the Moabites were driven from their land, you think they would have thought Chemosh was in a good mood towards them? It's not unreasonable to suppose that like Deuteronomy, the Moabites figured there may have been stages of punishment: getting oppressed first, later getting kicked out, you know the routine. Or maybe Chemosh was a bit more unpredictable and they figured they could be kicked out anytime without warning. If an invading army took them into exile, do you think Mesha would have thought Chemosh was happy-slappy with the Moabites? We don't have a version of Deuteronomy from Moab, but that's hardly an unreasonable supposition and I doubt if Skeptic X would have the nerve to dispute it (and he sure won't get any documentary evidence proving otherwise). The point remains: We brought this up to show that it was believed (whether it is a "superstition" merely believed by the people, or a reality, makes no difference here, since the reactions of the people are the same regardless -- Skeptic X repeats this canard in Part 16 as well, as though it offers us a rational hermeneutic for understanding what the text would mean to those who read it!) that the land belonged to the gods, so that the people could only be tenants and rentors, not owners in the full sense that we believe. By the same token, Skeptic X notes that "Mesha went on to describe victories that his god Chemosh had given him over Israel..." (And you suppose this means Chemosh was thought to be a little happier now? -- adding in the diversion, "a section of the Moabite inscription that would read much like a page from the Bible if the name Yahweh were substituted for Chemosh," which begs the question of why Yahweh needed to pioneer an original genre just to make McFundamentalist Skeptic X happy.) Skeptic X can hoist the buzzword of "superstition" till his trousers fall down, but he's dodging the argument in the center ring so far and using that dirty debate tactic of post-shifting (see here, tactic #2) to cover his posterior.


Skeptic X stops here, promising to get back to this matter after dealing with our material on the Olivet Discourse, which he did, and with a laugh track attached (see here. We'd like to close this section by addressing a series of ten questions Skeptic X poses several times in his response in order to daze the audience.

1. Even if we accept, his "Ancient Near Eastern concept," he must explain why the land promise did not succeed even in the "context" of that ancient understanding. The words "give" and "possess" had meaning, so in the different versions of the promise in Genesis where Yahweh said that he would "give" the land to Abraham's descendants as an "everlasting possession," the terms "give" and "everlasting possession" were intended to convey some kind of meaning. [Holding] says that they were used in a "feudal-landlord" sense in which the Israelites were to be "rentors [sic]," so I have asked him to explain to us when all the land within the defined borders of the promise was ever given to the Israelites even in this "feudal-landlord" sense of "tenancy."

It did succeed, for the meanings of "give" and "possess" carried no inherent meaning with respect to any permanence in terms of the nature of the relationship between the land and the people. The land was, is, and would always be theirs -- whether they lived it, were in exile, or went to outer space. As we also showed, and which Skeptic X answered only by continuing to confuse possession with active tenancy, the penalties kicked in even before Israel could finish the conquest job. We have more on this later, including on what exactly a "feudal" relationship entails.

2. [Holding] claims that the "Ancient Near Eastern" concept of land, people, and deity meant that conditions were attached to the promise and that the behavior of Abraham's descendants was a condition. In reply to this, I have noted that (1) no conditions were stated or implied anywhere in any of the versions of the promise recorded in Genesis, (2) the restatement of the promise in Deuteronomy 9:3ff declared that [a] Yahweh was giving the land to the Israelites even though they had been rebellious and unrighteous from the day they had come out of Egypt, and that [b] Yahweh was going to give them the land despite their unrighteousness so that he could keep a promise made to Abraham.

(1) The land-deity-people concept provides all the context showing conditions that is needed, and Skeptic X has not offered any reply other than confusing possession with active tenancy and accusing us of "mind-reading" (which is to come in order).

(2) And now -- drum roll! Skeptic X has finally gotten to some sort of Deut. 9 reply after several stalled reaches. It involves more of dirty debate tactic #2 noted above, so let's recall what the points were we had. Our comments on 9:4, which is where the action really started:


Our opponent says of this verse, "Notice that the verse above did not say if Yahweh thrusts out these nations; it said when Yahweh thrusts them out." The use of "when" as opposed to "if" does not affect in any way the fact that Deuteronomy is an ancient legal contract spelling out obligations of landlord and tenant, and that to extract any passage from Deuteronomy without respect to this fact is illicit. Our opponent also would need to explain why, in light of this overwhelming context surrounding 9:4, this is not best understood (even under the "when" implication) as a conditional based on assumption of success in adhering to the covenant, as is clearly spelled out throughout the OT and particularly Deuteronomy. Note as well that Yahweh is speaking to these people of a time after they cast the others out, warning them of what not to say after they have cast them out:

9:5 Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is not for righteouness that they go to possess the land. GO to. They GO. They are not there yet. They will GO. Not STAY, or CONTINUE, but GO. Our opponent fails to recognize this distinction.

9:6-7 Understand therefore, that the LORD thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiffnecked people. Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the LORD thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.

From here through verse 26 we are given a catalog if Israel's past sins in the wilderness. Now if there were no conditions attached to keeping occupation of the land, then what on earth is the purpose of cataloging all these sins? One obvious purpose is to show that the Israelites indeed had no righteousness and that they needed this act of grace merely to enter the land. But more than that, and in light of the fact that it is clearly said that the other nations are being driven out because of their wickedness, how on earth can it be denied that they serve as reminders that any future wickedness by the Israelites would result in the same penalty of expulsion? Note that this is so even if every part of the OT were to vanish other than Deut. 9, and we did not have boucoups of conditional statements, to say nothing of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, offering is support. It does not take an inference the size of a trash pile of Skeptical Review copies to suppose that if the other nations got thrown out for bad behavior, and if it is specifically said that it is not because of righteousness that they GO (not STAY or CONTINUE) into the land, then the Israelites will be just as subject to the conditions of continued occupation, beyond the act of entry grace, as anyone else.


And I'll add that I also said:

But for what it is worth, since our opponent seems to appreciate the JPS series of commentaries (in spite of comments made elsewhere about using such sources as a "crutch") we would have him know that the Deuteronomy commentary by Jeffrey Tigay completely agrees with our assessment, and disagrees with his assessment, of Deut. 9. Now that I have referred to a scholar who has recognized that Deut. 9 does not make the land promise unconditional, will he then concede that Deut. 9 offers no discrepancy?


Skeptic X hasn't quite gotten to where we say all of this yet, but here is what he says about Deut. 8:18-20. I noted that the conditional "if" is found throughout Deuteronomy. They are alluded to in Deut. 8:18-20, which says:

But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.

I noted that Deut. was "shot through with 'ifs' and conditions [like these] that cannot simply and arbitrarily be rudely jerked from the larger context of Deuteronomy as a contractual document." Skeptic X realizes he's in trouble here, for he pulls a Church of Christ undershirt grab on this one, noting the highlighted phrases and saying, "...notice that Yahweh was saying only that the people would perish if they forgot 'the LORD' and worshiped other gods. He did not say that he would keep the land from them if they worshiped other gods. The fact is that the passages in Deuteronomy that [Holding] thinks stipulated conditions for receiving the land actually taught that longevity of life and prosperity in the land were conditional to their behavior. I have reviewed the relevant passages and don't find that they threatened to keep the land from the Israelites if they didn't toe the line. Perhaps this is an issue that [Holding] would care to discuss." Oh? What's this? Let's lay this out, and as of 10/10/02, we have a new factor to add: We would think longevity, etc was conditional, too, yes. But so was use and tenancy of the land. That's most clear from Deut. 28-30 where the "utmost" curses for disobedience are laid out, namely, exile, and exactly where we expect the full range of blessings in curses in a treaty form. General threats to longevity and prosperity (if that is all that is in mind, which we will now dispute) come before that, and are interspersed throughout the text as Skeptic X obviously knows and shows us (4:1, 4:25-6, 4:40, on through Chs. 5-7, 11, etc. -- all of these repeat a general threat that the people will "perish" if they misbehave or a promise that they will have "long life" if they do behave) but if Skeptic X expects every warning to come with a complete recounting of curses as is found in the latter of chapters in Deuteronomy, we'd like to know where he gets this expectation and why the summary warnings/promises don't point forward to the delineation of the more complete set of punishments/blessings at the end of the contract, which were against the nation of Israel as a whole rather than to individuals as the "perish" warnings were. Is there anything obtuse about the idea that the specific outworkings of the general promises/threats were made in a specific section of the total document, or one sort of warning being made to individuals, and another sort being made to the nation as a whole and through time?

As a new side note, though, we would also recommend that Skeptic X very carefully look at the word "perish" as it is used in the OT. I have noted that the "perish" warnings tend to be a certain Hebrew word, 'abad, which Strong's tells us means, "to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by impl. to perish (caus. destroy):--break, destroy (-uction), + not escape, fail, lose, (cause to, make) perish, spend, X and surely, take, be undone, X utterly, be void of, have no way to flee." Here is one verse where the same word is used, and Skeptic X and his friends are even mentioned in it: "And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father's house?" (1 Sam. 9:20) Even if these are warnings to collective Israel as the blessings and curses are, the definitions "wander away" and "lose oneself" match rather nicely with the premise of an exile in which the people lose their identity-association with the land, in line with the land-people-deity relationship which Skeptic X is pretending to be so ignorant about. The "perish" warnings fit my paradigm just fine, thank you, so knock it off.

Skeptic X tries to fudge out of this by burping out that chapters 28-30 were "rather obviously exilic or postexilic in composition," and that's just evading by putting the cart before the red herring. We're dealing with the text as it stands -- he can fly that fish in some other venue, because that's not an answer to whether the text is consistent as a whole. It's only by playing Veg-o-matic with the text that Skeptic X can sustain his argument. So what's to discuss, Skeptic X? Get to that Deut. 9 thing, and we'll see what you have left to discuss. Note as well again that I do not need to find "a passage where Moses said to the Israelites, 'If you don't keep Yahweh's commandments, he will not give you the land,'" -- I need to find passages that say that if they fail to keep the commandments, they will not keep tenancy of the land (the giving of the land was promised on oath; the keeping of tenancy, sorry, was not!); the land is already "given" and blowing off Deut. 28ff as "postexilic" is nothing but a smokescreen that amounts to an admission by Skeptic X that if these passages stay in the text, he's lost the battle. I suppose I could win this one easier if I said something like, "All of this flapdoodle about redaction and postexilic editors doesn't change what the text says."

Then we have this. We said:

We note however that it is specifically stated that it is not for righteousness that the Israelites are going in to occupy the land, which is not the same thing as saying that it is not for righteousness (rather, lack thereof) that the Israelites will be able to keep occupying the land.

Skeptic X raises his hand and quotes Deut. 9:6:

Know, then, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.

At this Skeptic X politely burbles, "Yahweh was giving these Israelites the land to occupy, yet they were a stubborn, rebellious, unrighteous people at this time." Yes they were -- folks, when Skeptic X gets polite on us, there's shenanigans afoot. He knows he's over a barrel, but we'll play nice, too. Yes, Yahweh "gives" (nathan) the land to "possess" (yarash). Why? Because of Abraham. That is not the word "keep" by any stretch. Skeptic X is led back to saying:

If [Holding] wants to quibble about occupying the land as opposed to 'keeping' the land, let him answer a question that he has now evaded more times than I can remember. If the moral behavior of the Israelites at this time, just before they entered Canaan, was not a condition for receiving the land promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, why did it suddenly become a condition right after they had entered the land?

Quibble? The word "keep" just isn't there, Skeptic X. There's no word here that denotes permanent occupation/tenancy. Not a word in Deut. 9 says so. Tigay agrees with me. The answer to your question, which we have answered several times but you haven't noticed because you're too busy hauling up old arguments, is that the grace extended to Abraham meant Israel had their "shot" at occupying the land -- and the chance to keep tenancy in it. And the second question: "If not giving the land to these reprobate Israelites would have caused Yahweh to break his promise to Abraham, why wouldn't withholding the land from them later have also caused him to break the promise to Abraham?" Because, Skeptic X, the land was still theirs even if they never occupied it. It was still theirs, and was their eternal possession, even if they misbehaved and were kicked out and did not possess (verb sense) their possession (noun sense). They could come back later after they straightened up, just like the kid with the firetwuck -- er, truck. Do we have a 10-4, good buddy? If not, why not?

There's a bit more. We gave a hint with the words:

...but would add now that this only confirms our thesis that the promises were conditional, for otherwise, what is the point of reminding the Israelites of their rebellious behavior in the past? If there were no conditions, what difference did behavior make and why is this a relevant example?

Skeptic X pops back:

Oh, that one is too easy to answer. How about the possibility that the cataloging of the Israelite sins in a context in which Yahweh was saying he was going to give them the land despite their complete unworthiness was a way of emphasizing the faithfulness of Yahweh to the promise he had made to Abraham?
Any more questions?

Yes, Skeptic X. Why don't YOU read ahead and find my answer to this?

From here through verse 26 we are given a catalog if Israel's past sins in the wilderness. Now if there were no conditions attached to keeping occupation of the land, then what on earth is the purpose of cataloging all these sins? One obvious purpose is to show that the Israelites indeed had no righteousness and that they needed this act of grace merely to enter the land. But more than that, and in light of the fact that it is clearly said that the other nations are being driven out because of their wickedness, how on earth can it be denied that they serve as reminders that any future wickedness by the Israelites would result in the same penalty of expulsion? Note that this is so even if every part of the OT were to vanish other than Deut. 9, and we did not have boucoups of conditional statements, to say nothing of the Ancient Near Eastern context of the relationship between a land, its people, and their deity, offering is support. It does not take an inference the size of a trash pile of Skeptical Review copies to suppose that if the other nations got thrown out for bad behavior, and if it is specifically said that it is not because of righteousness that they GO (not STAY or CONTINUE) into the land, then the Israelites will be just as subject to the conditions of continued occupation, beyond the act of entry grace, as anyone else.

I guess Skeptic X was too busy holding back HIS arguments to look ahead at our own. He adds this balloo:

[Holding] may as well have asked why "Moses" constantly raved about the rebellious behavior of the Israelites even when the land issue was not the subject.

Gosh, well, Moses didn't OWN the land, did he, now? He wasn't the one being sinned against, was he? That's another red herring from Skeptic X's tackle box.

One more relevant piece, as Skeptic X tries to pump his idea of Deut. 28ff being "postexilic". Quoted is Deut. 30:1-6:

Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where Yahweh your God drives you, and you return to Yahweh your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that Yahweh your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where Yahweh your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there Yahweh your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then Yahweh your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. and Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live."

We are told, "Notice that verse 5 said that the 'fathers' of the dispersed Israelites had possessed the land and that the repatriates would also possess it as the 'fathers' had done, so even these after-the-fact references to dispersion and captivity were claiming that Yahweh would not be unfaithful to his promise to Abraham." Yeah, and, the point is? Apparently Skeptic X wants to argue that the "fathers" refs make it post-exilic, under the assumption that only a post-exilic writer could speak of past generations so retrospectively. Well, sorry, wrong number for the one-dimensional skeptic. Deut. 30 comes after a long list of curses (28-29) that, excuse me, would take a little while to implement in order. It's fairly obvious that a few generations would have to pass -- all of them offering enough bad behavior -- before "exile stage" of the punishment kicked in, and then exile usually takes a little while to get over until you get a nicer king in charge who will let you go home. That means that the reference to the "fathers" is 100% apporpos in the mouth of someone addressing the "entering" generation. The Israelites could be bad boys, but they had plenty of warnings laid out and they couldn't possibly happen all in a few generations. Skeptic X needs to think a little more dimensionally here and not follow nose to tail to liberal scholars who haven't gotten out of their ivory tower in a while.

Skeptic X says he's going to "defy" us "to produce a passage that says anything about a 'grace period' that expired when the Israelites entered the land." If he wants the words "grace period" he ain't gettin' it, and sorry Mr. Fundy, it isn't needed -- it's manifest in that the Israelites rode into the land on Abe's coattails, and the idea, "the moment you enter the land, the grace accorded you through Abraham's fidelity will end," is manifest in the very "signing" of the Deuteronomic contract. No, not quite -- we wouldn't put it that way, because the grace accorded to Abraham DID continue in that Israel always had the land to go back to. The contract was for occupation and use of the land (as we've only said 76,498,384 times in response to Skeptic X's 76,498,384 times saying, "Huh?"); it was always theirs, an everlasting possession, just no everlasting usage guaranteed -- that, again, was contingent on behavior. "What [Holding] can't seem to realize is that Abraham's coattails were substantially longer than he thinks. Those coattails would not just entitle the Israelites to enter the promised land, but they would entitle them to keep the land forever." What Skeptic X doesn't get yet is that the Israelites kept the land even when they were in Exile. Pack the firetruck.


3. At the time that Yahweh renewed this promise to the Israelites, they had not even kept the rite of circumcision that [Holding] said was the "entry ritual" into the covenant.

Skeptic X has not YET gotten to our reply on Josh. 5 and is just dazzling his gullible skeptical readers by trying to pre-empt the scheduled program.

4. The renewal of the promise to these Israelites, despite their unrighteousness and failure at that time to be in covenant relationship with Yahweh, would necessarily show that Yahweh did not consider the promise made to Abraham to have been conditional to the behavior of his descendants. It is completely illogical to argue that the behavior of the Israelites was not a condition at the time that Yahweh renewed this promise but then immediately upon crossing the Jordan River, their obedience did become a condition that justified withholding from them the land that he had promised to Abraham.

This is an extension of #3 above and gets the same answer.

5. Despite [Holding]'s claim that the book of Deuteronomy was a "suzerainty treaty," which made the land promise conditional, very reputable scholars like Frank Moore Cross, as I have previously noted, have cited examples from ancient treaties that show the suzerain aspect of the covenant meant only that the behavior of rulers was a factor but that the land promise was unconditional as far as the people in general were concerned.

Actually the material cited from Cross (and only Cross so far, no others cited yet) provided data that either totally agreed with us, or else did not address our points, and one cannot simply wave the other treaties at Deuteronomy and claim that the "behavior of rulers only" stricture also applies to it as well.

6. Signs of retrospective editing in the book of Deuteronomy will explain why some version of the promise attached conditions, but regardless of what those conditional versions of the promise may have said, they are incompatible with Deuteronomy 9:3ff, which clearly excluded the righteousness of the Israelite people as a condition for receiving the land.

This is merely Skeptic X's explanation for what he thinks is the problem, which is not itself a positive evidence that a problem exists. If text A allegedly contradicts point B, hypothesizing that aliens changed the text does not support or relate to the case that the texts allegedly contradict in the first place. This question is also essentially a repeat and rewording of what is in #2 and #5 and will therefore henceforth be ignored. Skeptic X is trying to impress gullible readers by restating the same questions in different words.

7. Even if I should concede to [Holding] that he is absolutely right and that the land promise was conditional to the behavior of Israelites--which is a concession that would not be supported by the evidence--that concession would not explain the second major problem identified in my article "Yahweh's Failed Land Promise." That problem is that Deuteronomy and/or the book of Joshua said that [a] no man of the Canaanite nations would be able to stand against the Israelites, [b] the Israelites would drive out and utterly destroy all of the Amorites, Hittites, Hivites, etc., [c] the Israelites possessed all of the land that Yahweh had promised them, and [d] not one of the promises that Yahweh made to Israel through Moses had failed, but later Joshua and subsequent books said that [a] the Israelites had not been able to drive out and utterly destroy some of the Canaanites and Jebusites, [b] the Israelites had not possessed all of the land that Yahweh had promised them, and [c] Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, Perizzites, and Amorites remained in the land as late as the reign of Solomon.

Skeptic X has not YET gotten to our reply on Joshua and Judges passages referenced and is just dazzling his gullible skeptical readers by trying to pre-empt the scheduled program.

8. Number 7 is a clear case of the Bible's saying P in some places but ~P in other places, and it is not possible for P and ~P both to be true.

Skeptic X has not YET gotten to our reply on Joshua and Judges passages referenced and is just dazzling his gullible skeptical readers by trying to pre-empt the scheduled program.

The remaining two are part of another set:

1. Yahweh unconditionally promised all the land within defined boundaries to the descendants of Abraham, renewed that promise to a generation of morally depraved Israelites, but then did not give them feudallike "tenancy" over all of the land promised.
2. The book of Joshua first said that the Israelites possessed all the land that Yahweh had promised them but then said later that the Israelites did not possess all the land that Yahweh had promised them.

Skeptic X has not YET gotten to our reply on the issues referenced and is just dazzling his gullible skeptical readers by trying to pre-empt the scheduled program.

And that's it for now. Ride 'em, cowpoke! (See the next round here.)