[highlight]horizon event[/highlight] Monotheism was born in Babylon (not Jerusalem), 26 centuries ago. This was a God of Hate. A God of Retribution. A God of Punishment. & & & The polytheistic gods of Sumer and, later, of Egypt ... were temperamental. They had their good days and their bad days. But humans could approach these gods, ask favors, make promises. Even debate with them, chastise them, make deals. In the imperial courts of Mesopotamia, a king and his advisers ruled the roost. Clerks and messengers sat at the bottom of the public hierarchy. In the Mesopotamian pantheon of gods, a king-god and his advisor-gods ruled the roost of the heavens. And there were clerk-gods and messenger-gods at the bottom of the heavenly hierarchy. After a time, city-states in Mesopotamia would raise up their favorite god as superior over all others. Ur lifted up Nanna (Moon god) as its protector, Babylon raised up Marduk (Solar Calf god). When Hammurabi conquered the Tigris-Euphrates valley, Marduk became the empire's supreme god (well, eventually - it took a 1000 years). Likewise in Egypt, Akhenaton demoted all of the Egyptian pantheon, elevating the sun-god Aten far above the others (which lasted less than 100 years). This is henetheism (not monotheism) - the desire to worship one god as superior to all other gods. But this trend, in the middle east of 2nd millennium bce, did not pass Canaan by. Living there were a conglomeration of Semitic tribes, with genetic and linguistic commonalities. Trouble is, they worshipped a number of different gods. Originally the sky-god/mountain-top-god Baal, with his thunder and lightning, was supreme. The more settled tribes of the north, with their patriarch Jacob, preferred the creator-god El. The more free-ranging tribes of the south, with their patriarch Abraham, preferred their own but different mountain/sky/war god Yahweh. (Yahweh eventually, in Canaanite/Judaic mythology, eats Baal - and goes on to perform each and every powerful deed which Baal performed, except much better. "Anything you can do ... ") This situation of competing gods did not end even when David united the tribes of the north (Isra-El) and the tribes of the south (Judah) at the beginning of the 1st millennium bce. The first two writers of the Torah emerged shortly afterwards to pen the E-source (writer from the north) and J-source (writer from the south) of the ancient Bible. (Scribal editors, after the Babylonian captivity, would weave the two stories together, and add details from other sources - or invent them from their own imagination. These scribes, as the centuries wore on, would tend to find all the mythology embarrassing and edit the polytheistic tales out, almost completely, leaving only slight reference to battling deities.) Only after a major defeat of the northern tribes by outsiders, a couple centuries after David, did the southern tribes - and their god Yahweh - become preeminent. And with this, came the literary/cultural need for Yahweh to absorb El into his being (or to eat El, as he did with Baal) ... for the united Canaanite peoples of Isra-El and Judah to have one single preeminent god. Since such a henetheistic deity would appear to have made neighboring empires powerful, hopefully this would bring Canaan to its wonted destiny - to become a powerful empire too (something it glimpsed for the blink of an eye under David and Solomon). & & & But the reverse happened. In the sixth century bce, the best and brightest of the Jewish nation were carried off to Babylon. Soundly defeated in war, the Jews were bitterly chastened. This must have been deeply traumatic, living as servants to the Babylonian king. As if their god, Yahweh, has slapped them down hard. The oral-tradition poems of the prophets begin to take on new meaning. Yahweh is no longer a jealous god - "worship me and not those other gods." Yahweh is an exclusive god - "I alone exist. Do not act like children with one's dolls, and try to spin deals with idols. Talk only to me." And now Yahweh is angry, and insulted by Jewish arrogance - by their imperial ambitions, by their aimless materialism. The people cringe. A god of black emotions ... Yahweh appears (to these exiles) as vengeful, but righteous in His vengeance. Humbled, the only wish these Jews now have is to return home, to their homeland in Canaan. To accept this exile, as a punishment from Yahweh, to regain (to earn again) Yahweh's favor. To make amends. To live a righteous life under one Law, Yahweh's law. Bow down before only one master. This master who can, if He wishes, inflict the deepest hurt upon His people. But perhaps, someday, Yahweh will be forgiving too. Monotheism produced a modern, unified outlook upon the world. A brain that can see past-and-future as a single point-to-point line. A brain which is not fuzzy. The first such outlook upon this planet. A honed-down, singularity of vision. A singularity which Greek intellectualism would match ... but not for two more centuries. And this first hint of the modern world was hammered out and forged here, in Babylon. 6th century bce. Born of deep cultural trauma. & & & Babylon was the searing furnace which crafted Jewish monotheism ... Which, in turn (for better and for worse), engineered the modern world.