Jehovah and Jesus

I got this question in my email: “I have been in Hawaii for three years and I can see too many similarities between Jehovah of our scriptures and Pele the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Pele and Jehovah speak from fiery and smokey and loud volcanoes. But Pele is kinder and less vicious than Jehovah. The Torah Jehovah is like a Netflix horror movie monster killing and burning whole families and sadistically loving to smell their burning flesh. How can Jehovah be Jesus?

It is an interesting question. But it focuses exclusively on Jehovah/Jesus. It fails to acknowledge the state of the people Jehovah chose to reveal Himself to in His effort to morally advance them.

There was a law of retaliation given by Jehovah. It was the lex talionis. It is the one that imposed “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” RE Leviticus 12:3 states in part, “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. And he that kills a beast, he shall restore it. And he that kills a man, he shall be put to death.”

We look at that from our perspective and find that kind of retribution abhorrent. Just because someone was blinded in a fight we would not tolerate blinding the other participant. It seems disproportionate to us. But in the circumstance of the time when this law was given by Jehovah it was intended to limit the retaliation. The culture of the time tolerated killing someone for the loss of an eye, or maiming them for the loss of a tooth. The law of retaliation made it unlawful to exact a greater price than one that equaled the loss suffered by the victim.

Jehovah was dialing back the violence. Limiting the injuries. Setting a tone for civilization that advanced peace from an uncontrolled, violent response to a limited and controlled response.

We do not even think like ancient man. Our language and theirs are so different that the concern raised in the question would be hard to express in a way to make the concern understood by ancient mankind. Their minds viewed everything in concrete, personified ways that were controlled and directed continually by the will of God (or more correctly by gods). They expressed events primarily in verbs describing actions.

We think in abstract and impersonal ideas. We think events everywhere occur according to universal laws, and we look to determine how events take place based on consistencies and rules. We use adjectives to express most of what happens.

Jehovah was dealing with so different a group of people from those Jesus dealt with that there can be no comparison. Civilization changed. Minds and thinking altered over time. You cannot go backward and redefine things in a moral construct that uses later ideas and values to weigh earlier civilizations. When you make that step you reach perverse conclusions because you impose a viewpoint that was never even considered at the time.

When dealing with an infant a parent behaves far differently that that same parent behaves when their child is a teenager. And then again the same parent and same child relate very differently when the child is middle aged and a parent herself. Some of what the child understands when she becomes a parent is beyond the ability of that same person to understand when she was a teen. Civilization has been like a developing child, and Jehovah has dealt with mankind differently in different stages, as the circumstances require.

Today we are losing some of the more important ideas and patterns of thought that were present a generation ago. Society is becoming less tolerant and more violent year by year. Unfortunately, we appear to be headed to a point in which we will need the law of retribution to be imposed again so that ideas do not become the target of punishment and imposing suffering.