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Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God - Paul Copan This book is very helpful in understanding God's more mysterious commands and actions in the Old Testament, but much of the initial information is what Christians should probably already know (affirmation of God's loving character); and because this author is an academic (he teaches philosophy and ethics, the back cover says) consciously trying to address a popular audience (he explicitly says so, and implies he's inexperienced in this), the first two chapters read like an extended introduction and are (probably unintentionally) patronizing. It's only after the first two chapters that I began learning things I didn't know.

At the end, the discussion of the Old Testament segues into a rather unexpected general defense of God and belief in God against the New Atheists' attacks that hardly refers to the Old Testament. It's relevant only because that's author Paul Copan's motivation for writing the book. He makes very frequent references to New Atheist leaders such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett, especially in the beginning and end.

Some specific information in the book that particularly interested me (my raw notes, from when I felt like taking any)
P. 77 (paperback): The seemingly odd laws against mixing certain things (e.g. different clothing fibers, different crops, different species of breeding stock) are all meant by God to be symbolic reminders that He did not want His people the Israelites to mingle with the Canaanites or other nearby pagan tribes. The point of this was to keep the Israelites from absorbing the idolatry and sinful practices of the pagan tribes. It's not as though God actually objected to making clothing out of different fibers or letting related animal species cross-breed. Page 81 is key.

83 - explanation of God's prohibitions on eating predatory animals and eating (drinking) blood.

86 - "Living by faith, even without the law, enabled one to keep the heart of it."

91 - explains God's prohibition on tattoos/cuttings and on cutting the corners of beards. Basically, tattoos and body cutting in the ancient world were pagan mourning rituals designed to help the pagans communicate with the spirits of the dead, which God forbids. Beard cutting was another Canaanite ritual, designed to appease the spirits of the dead by offering them the hair cuttings.

[more to come]