on plowshares

"…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4, KJV translation of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures)

This incomplete text is oft-cited as a peaceable basis for Judaeo-Christian culture.  Indeed, I see posts on various lists expressing disappointment that Judaeo-Christian faith leaders do not take more proactive positions for peace and against war.  This is the trouble of culture-snippeting:  when a saying is taken out of context of the whole of the writing, it engenders disappointment which is only to be expected given what is actually written.

The basis of peace in Judaeo-Christian culture is that peace will reign when all the enemies of the Judaeo-Christian deity have been, at the least, rebuked - and, more likely, killed.  Once all the enemies of that deity have been killed, the people who have accepted those scriptures and joined in the elimination of those enemies will have peace — because there's no one left to fight with.

The second chapter of Isaiah is an apocalyptic writing, similar to the New Testament book of Revelations.  To get just a little more context on the above quote, here are the first four verses of that chapter:

"The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

"And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:1-4, KJV translation of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures)

What is written here is not a call for peace, or disarmament.  What is written here is a call for total subjugation of the world by a single government, which shall "rebuke many people".  Nor does it speak of any lessening in military might by the followers of the Judaeo-Christian deity; the people who will beat their swords into plowshares are the ones that have been rebuked.

To me, some of the actions of the Bush administration seem to suggest that President Bush thinks that it has been given to him and to the United States of America to take the place of that government of the last days.  By saying that the US does not have to adhere to the UN's rules of attack, it appears to me that the US government position is that

  for out of the United States shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Washington.

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke the Iraqis, and the North Koreans: and they shall beat their missiles into modern agricultural equipment to be produced by major American manufacturers.


Much of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures are taken similarly out of context.  There is the commonly-cited "Thou shalt not kill", from the Torah; yet that phrase only refers to specific types of killing that are prohibited, while there are many others that are not only permitted but required.

"There are 613 Commandments (Mitzvot) in the Hebrew Bible, of which a normal person keeps less than the first Ten."
-J.A.H. Futterman

The 21st chapter of the book of Exodus lists several Mitzvot requiring killing: murder (of a fellow tribesman; killing a servant only entails "punishment"), assaulting or cursing one's parents, theft and resale of stolen slaves, and allowing feral stock to kill people.  The succeeding chapters give even more approved reasons to kill people.

There are those who say, however, that Christianity has shed the warlike attributes of the earlier Jewish scriptures (even while most Christian sects maintain that those scriptures are canonical, the unchangeable truth of their deity).  Although there is some repeated emphasis on loving one's neighbor — which, in fact, appears in Torah as well as in the New Testament  — there are also repeated affirmations of the validity of the Jewish scriptures, as well as statements like that in the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew:

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

"For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in law.

"And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36, KJV translation of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures)

Those who expect peace to ensue from a Judaeo-Christian culture are fooling themselves.  The entire culture is based on killing off — or, at the least, subjugating — all one's enemies so that peace will result from a state of no disagreement.  Anyone who disagrees causes the end of peace by necessitating their own elimination.  It may be nice and comforting to take little quotes here and there out of context, but the disappointment which results is only that which should have been expected.