Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Early History Of Idolatry

Chapter 2: Idolatry Then & Now Part 3

Abraham lived in Sumer, the ancient civilization that some scholars estimate began around 5,000 BC.  People there lived largely an agrarian existence, and were at the mercy of forces beyond their control or understanding – floods, famine, war.  Politically, Sumer was a collection of city states, each ruled by a god/king or a god/priest.  Imagine a world with hundreds of gods, both great and minor, that existed in a complex hierarchy. At the top were major gods like Anu the god of heaven, and Enlil god of the sky. There was also a regional god for each city state, who in theory owned all of the land, and was thought to live in the ziggurat, the giant structure that sat in the middle of a Sumerian city.  There were gods of cattle, water, land.  There were household gods, plus an array of amulets and charms that people wore to ward off evil spirits.

What this meant was that values were relative.  Right and wrong depended on where you lived, and where you sat in the hierarchy.  If you sat at the top, you were one of the gods, or a god’s emissary, and had little restraints on power.  It was a might makes right world.

Abraham introduced something different, a single supreme creator of the world that offered a single set of values that applied equally to everyone.  This did in fact earn Abraham the wrath of the king, a story I will return to in Chapter 7, Secure Your Identity.  In the next post, we’ll look at the values introduced by Judaism (e.g. The Ten Commandments), as a starting point in the search for universal values.

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