An oft repeated statement(s) pertaining to History states something to the effect of: “If you do not know History, you are doomed to repeat it.” This quote presumes that one of the main purposes behind studying history is to not repeat the mistakes and pitfalls of the previous generations. However, this brings up an important question: What is history? Is it a collection of mere facts or is it more of a story and narrative?
In our current school setting, which is geared towards more and more standardized tests to measure progress, it seems that history is boiled down to nothing more than facts about who the sixteenth president was or what is the state flower/bird of California? This is especially evident in popular culture with trivia shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” or “Jeopardy” and is sometimes given a funnier twist by late night hosts, as with the “Jaywalking” segment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Even though it may be funny (and even at times sad) that people do not know certain simple facts, the question then becomes, will knowing these facts help in our quest to not repeat the mistakes from the past?
In order to not repeat a mistake done by another, it is not enough to know merely who or what was done, it is important to understand the background and reasoning why an action was committed or not. This understanding will not come by simply knowing the facts, but it requires knowing the story and narrative of the given situation, so that by knowing what led to a certain outcome, it would then be possible to not go down the same path as the previous generation.
The esteemed Russian writer Solzhenitsyn had a great deal to say about not committing blunders from the past. So it is very appropriate to close with one of his quotes:
“Today, if one desires to read anything at all, one wants it to be brief, as brief as possible, and only on the subjects of the day. But every moment of our history, including today’s, is but a point on its axis. And if we wish to identify feasible and sure ways out of our menacing misfortunes, we must not lose sight of the numerous blunders in our past. Our plight today in many ways stems from these mistakes.”
Sodom and Gomorrah were some sinful cities. There was actually three more cities, which were part of a coallition called the Pentapolis. Adamah, Zeboim, and Zoar where the names of the other cities.
The book of Genesis tells us the people in these cities were extremely sinful in God's eyes. And it wasn't just a part of the population there that was sinful. The entire way of life in the cities was very vile. When God told Abram that he was going to destroy the city, Abram petitioned God to spare it. He pleaded God to not destroy the cities if there were 50 righteous people there. God said he wouldn't do it if He found 50 righteous people there. Both Abram and God knew there is no way those cities would reach the 50 righteous people mark though. So Abram kept lowering the number. He got God to promise to not destroy the cities if He could find 10 good people there. But it turns out the cities didn't even have that. The only righteous person God could find in the city of Sodom, was Abram's relative Lot, who moved out of Abram's house a few years back.
The reason Lot chose to move there, was because it was a prosperous place to live. The book of Genesis tells us the area had a good amount of percipitation. It was a land full of lush vegetation like the garden of Eden, or the land of Egypt, in the ancient days. And good percipitation leads to good economic conditions for the people.
So the residents of the Pentapolis knew little worry. And they spent a lot of time partying.
Here's what the book of Jasher has to say about Sodom and Gomorrah.
A few times a year, the cities held region-wide festivities. This was a big party spanning several days, where everybody got drunk, and slept around with everybody. Fathers and husbands looked at their daughters and wives with another man, and didn't care. They were too busy doing the same thing.
A lot of people say the Sodomites were homosexual. This is deduced from the passage in Genesis when the angels came to Lot and the inhabitants of Sodom came and wanted to "know" the men who came to his house. But homosexual is not even an accurate description for their sexual orientation. It wasn't just a few grown men who came to molest Lot's guests. It was an entire city from old to young. It was like hippies from the American 60s walking around with constant perverted thoughts, (God bless the hippies), except it didn't matter what gender they were attacking, and everybody was a hippie.
When archaelogists dig up stuff around the Sodom area, they wouldn't show it on TV, because it wouldn't be appropriate for all audiences.
Besides their perverted lifestyle, the cities were simply a physically dangerous territory for the surrounding peoples. What Lot did by inviting weary strangers into his house and providing them food and rest, was actually against the law in those cities. Anybody who was found to show any kindness to a stranger was punished by death. If a stranger tried to appeal to court, the court found the stranger guilty of traspassing, and officially ruled in favor of execution.
When a stranger entered the city, the Sodomites would greet them and kindly welcome them, even give them a sum of gold to spend on buying things in their city. But they would not let them leave the city. Nobody was allowed to sell anything to them, or give them food or water. So the visitor would roam around the city until they starved to death. Then the Sodomites would take their gold back and steel all valuables the visitor may have brought with them.
There's a story about Lot's other daughter, who did not leave the city with Lot. One time she saw one such stranger walking around the city and nobody would give him anything to eat or drink. She felt sorry for the fellow, and started to secretly bringing him food and water during the night time. The inhabitants of Sodom kept watching the man, and kept wondering how come he's alive for so long. Then they figured some traitor must be secretly feeding the guy. So they notified everyone to keep a watch out for that traitor. Somebody found out it was Lot's daughter doing the crime. So they caught the girl, poured honey all over her body, and unleashed a colony of bees to sting her to death. This was supposedly the cry that went up to God, after which He decided to put an end to this.
The book of Genesis says that in the valley of Siddim, there were a lot of asphalt pits. When Chedorlaomer of Elam and 3 other kings with him came to reconquer the residents of Pentapolis, they fought in this valley of Siddim. Chedorlaomer defeated them, and soldiers of Pentapolis ran. As they ran, many of them fell into these pits. A good analogy for these pits would be the areas of Yellowstone and Mount Lassen National Parks in the US with sulfuric pits and geysers. So there was some sort of underground geothermal activity going on in that region.
The book of Genesis says God destroyed the four out of five cities by reigning fire and sulfur onto them. (the 5th city was spared thanks to Lot). I don't know what exactly that was. Some people say it was a volcano. I've talked to an archeologist who visits the Jordan area every year to do digs there. They found material in the region which can only form at extreme temperatures. Temperatures beyond what a volcano can produce, or anything else on Earth for that matter. Today, such material is found in regions where nuclear bombs were tested. So it's very likely that the cause of that desctruction was extra-terrestrial. But whatever it was, it is responsible for the existance of the Dead Sea in that area. The Jordan river flows into that region. It flows in, but nothing comes out of it. So if we have an area filled with sulfur, with water flowing into it, over time, a lake full of sulfur would form in the region. And that is what we find there.
More precisely, their territory stretched along the west coast of South America from where now is Ecuador and Columbia to Chile on the other end.
Like the Romans, they unified their empire by building a network of roads to unite people from different cultures.
Incan civilization was first established around 1150 A.D. They expanded their territory through alliances and military conquests.
Divine right to rule
Incan people worshiped the sun. Their leader was called Sapa Inca. He was regarded as the son of the sun, and had absolute power. Whoever disobeyed the leader was punished by death or incarceration.
The rulers preferred to assimilate new regions to add them to their empire, over using military force to conquer them. Before taking any military action, the leaders of a land the Incas wanted where offered full rights of the empire. These included the right to govern under Incan guidance. The conquered tribe had to agree to worship the Incan sun god, and regard the Inca as the earthly representative of that god. Business and education had to be conducted in the Incan language.
Duties of citizens
All men between the ages of 25 and 50 had to serve in the army. Some men fought in wars, some worked on constructing new roads.
In return, the resources of the conquered lands were distributed throughout the empire, to support every part of the empire. Sons of defeated leaders were brought to the capital Cuzco, to learn the Incan way of life.
Commoners were not allowed to wear any clothes other than the one provided by the state. Everyone was given the same style of clothes, the style of which was determined by the leader of the empire. This clothes was to be worn until it ripped to the point the state would agree to provide a replacement.
Like most ancient religions, Incan religion deviated from the initial religion. They believed there was one supreme god, Viracocha, who created all the other gods. There were smaller gods for sun, moon, stars, thunder, rain, mountains, and many other things in nature. They worshiped their gods in some way at every point in their lives.
Their worship involved ritual prayers that could only be recited by trained priests. They also involved dancing and drinking. And they involved sacrifices. Depending on the occasion, different sacrifices were offered. Sometimes it could be handmade objects, made of textiles, gold, or silver. Other times it could be portions of the harvest or animals. During critical times, such as during famines, earthquakes, eclipses, or death and ascension of rulers, they believed gods were demanding child sacrifices.
During child sacrifices, a beautiful child would be taken, dressed nicely, well fed, and blessed by the people. Then they would take the child to the mountain top and kill them. It's likely the the children were given some drugs to chew to lessen their fear and pain.
So was the Jewish religion in the Old Testament that harsh? It depends on what you compare it to.
Like other ancient civilizations before them, Incas construction techniques were very sophisticated, and more advanced than ours in some respects.
Huge boulders of rock were used to construct structures. But these boulders were so refined to fit one another, that you couldn't put a thin knife's blade between the cracks. When the Incan structures in Machu PIcchu were discovered hundreds of years after they were built, the city was covered with vegetation, but no plant could find their way through the cracks between the rocks. These structures also withstood earthquakes for hundreds of years.
Roads built by Incas were found in remarkably good condition, withstanding the stresses of rain, wind, ice, and drought over hundreds of years.
These roads were used only for official government purposes, for trade merchants, army troops, and mail couriers.
Every mile or so, along the roads, was a mail post with two couriers. While one rested, the other was waiting for the call to deliver the next message or package. Sleeping through the call was punishable by death.
Mail service worked swiftly, delivering messages and packages up to 185 miles per day. And here's an example of how fast the mail service was working. When the emperor was living in the palace in the Cuzco capital, he had fresh fish delivered every day from a coast 155 miles away.
Emergency news were passed on through smoke signals.
When a region was too steep, instead of roads, the builders cut the steps up and over the mountains. Llamas and people could walk these steps to transport packages.
Incas lived in small families. Each family was allocated land and animals. Some food they produced was used for themselves. Some was given to the state. Redistribution of food across the empire fed millions of people with products of different climate regions.
The commoners were given grains, fruits, and vegetables to eat. Meat and fish were usually reserved for the higher class.
The local tribes were skilled at crafting different objects. When a tribe was conquered by the Incas, they were encouraged to share their skills and techniques with the rest of the empire.
Incas had no writing system. They used knotted cords to record information. Cords of different colors hung from the main thicker cord. Their position indicated the subject matter of the record. Different colors were used for 10s, 100s, 1000s, and 10000s. Census data, harvest results, storage capacities, were recorded in this manner.
The Incas had no monetary system. They considered textiles to be more valuable than precious stones delivered by conquered peoples. Their weapons and tools were made from ordinary copper and tin. Gold and sliver was reserved for the rulers, and sacrifices.
One of the most significant things Genesis does is it demystifies creation and historical narratives.
Religious texts of other ancient religions have an account of creation, the fall, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. But they tell them in terms of interactions between gods, rather than natural events.
Genesis doesn't even give a name to the Sun and the Moon. It just calls it the bigger light and the lesser light. It's like saying there's a bigger lamp in the house and the smaller lamp, no need to worship the bulb. Other ancient religious texts go crazy over stars. Genesis barely mentions them. And it does that to safeguard people from worshipping them.
Here are some other differences between Genesis and the other texts:
In other texts, men are created to do dirty work for gods.
In Genesis, men are created as friends of God, to rule over the Earth.
In Genesis, God sends the flood because of sin.
In other texts, gods get tired of overpopulation and noise.
In other texts, gods are afraid of people trying to build the Tower of Babel.
In Genesis, God says, "Let us come down, and see what those ants are trying to do."
In Genesis, God wants to spare Noah.
In other texts, gods accidentally miss one and are mad about not destroying him.
And on the final note, ancient Egyptian writings had the concept of evolution. And since Moses, grew up with the best Egyptian education, he could've easily used evolutionary terminology to describe creation. Yet, he doesn't mention evolution.
Genesis does not copy from ancient myths. Rather, it takes the events all ancient civilizations knew about, and tells them in a completely different way.