Sunday, December 19, 2010

Job, Chapters 16 & 17: Just curse god already and be done with it!

Oh. My. God. This book is 42 chapters long, 2 interesting ones, then a slog through 40 pages of tedious 'debate.' I find myself wishing that Job would just curse god already and be done with it.

Chapter 16
Job calls his friends out on their crappiness, and asks why they're so long-winded and refuse to let him have the last word. Takes one to know one, there, pot. He says if their positions were reversed, he would comfort them, which I find is seldom actually true.

Then he starts pissing and moaning to god again about how shitty his life is now. Apparently he's lost a lot of weight, and I wonder if I can start a new diet craze? Cursed by god, I'd call it. Also, people are making fun of his appearance. Good to know we've advanced as a civilization. But he still prays! He asks for a mediator again.

Chapter 17

Job is close to death. Not for another 25 chapters at least, buddy. He asks god to mediate for him. Then he starts insulting his 'friends', challenging them to keep the argument going. See the previous chapter.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Job, Chapter 15: Who's that windbag?

Eliphaz calls Job a windbag. True, but who in this book isn't? Then he says he's impious and a liar. Then he says Job doesn't listen to god. Dude, no one can listen to god at this point because he isn't speaking. He asks who died and made Job so smart that he knows better than god, but also what makes him so angry. He points out that god has no faith in angels and that even heaven is impure, let alone man. Which puts me even more on the side of Christopher Hitchens.

Then he starts his received wisdom, which is that wicked people suffer and wander around in fear, cursing god. They are apparently also fat, which does not bode well for the US, and resort to squatting. He claims they lose their fortunes quickly and don't have kids.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Job, Chapters 12-14: Speaking truth to god

Chapter 12

Job starts up his rebuttal, reminding us that we like to laugh at others' misfortunes. True 'nuff that. He also points out that while he's being punished, criminals are going scot-free and your fate is up to god.

Chapter 13

Job starts asking for a hearing with god again. First he challenges his friends to take god's part, then points out no one can fool the big guy and decides he needs a face-to-face chat. He challenges anyone to prove his sin, on pain of death. He only asks god for two things: to heal him and stop being scary. Then he challenges god directly. No answer.

Chapter 14

Job reminds us of the temporality of human life and asks god to leave us alone for the duration, pointing out even plants regrow, but when we kick the can, that's it. He wishes god would forgive his sins and says he'll just sit there, scratching, until his time is up, then he'll be forgotten, as we all will. If our children triumph, we won't know it. What a downer!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Job, Chapter 11, Frenemies

Zophar challenges Job's claims of innocence. He wishes god would speak but as usual, god is silent on the matter, but Zophar insists that Job must have sinned and entreats him to stop and ask for forgiveness. He rather insensitively forgets that Job just lost his 10 children and tells him that he'll forget his problems and everything will come back better than ever.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Job, Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9

Job starts lawyering all his friends' arguments, saying he can never prove himself against god's superior wit and wisdom. He points out that a pissed-off god has caused earthquakes, toppled mountains and turned the sun off. Then he points out all the miracles god has performed, including invisibility. Anyway, he can't argue with god, he can only plead for mercy. Well, it's something to do besides sit on a dung heap scratching yourself with broken pottery and arguing with your bitchy friends. He's also not sure god will even give him an appointment, and points out how badly he's been treated. Sounds like a bunch of whiny excuses to me. He complains again that he's innocent and hates his life and spits out that god destroys people's lives regardless. Then he really gets going, bitching about god sending plagues, then laughing at those who succumb, turning a blind eye when the wicked take over. He refuses to put on a happy smile because god will still think he's guilty and idly wishes for a mediator so he could stop living in fear. Strong words!

Chapter 10

Job is still complaining that god hasn't read the charges to him yet and starts addressing the deity directly, asking him why he gave him everything then took it away. He points out that if he sinned, god never punished him. It's pretty much the same as every other time he speaks.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Job, Chapter 8

Now it's Bildad's turn to speak. He points out that god is always just and fair, so therefore Job's sons must have done something to warrant death. He thinks Job needs to pray and god will make him prosperous again. They point out that godless people die forgotten but god never forgets believers.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Job, Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 6

Job replies that his life more or less sucks, and that egg whites are tasteless. Really, he does, right there in verse 6. Basically, he wants god to kill him. His only comfort is that he hasn't cursed god. He points out that his friends aren't exactly being supportive here and he hasn't asked them for anything. He challenges them to show him where he sinned.

Chapter 7

Job continues that life is nasty, brutish and short, and that he hasn't been sleeping well, what with the scabs and worms. He thinks his death is near, so he gets to complain now. You and every other old person in the history of the world, Job. He bitches that when he sleeps, god sends nightmares. He asks god what his deal is with humans, with watching and testing us every second. He wants to be left along long enough to swallow his spit. Why does he need privacy for that? He challenges god to tell him what he did and how to seek forgiveness, then says again he's going to die soon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Job, Chapters 3-5

For the whole rest of the book of Job, picture the main character sitting on a dung heap, covered in itchy boils, scratching himself with a shard of pottery while he argues with his friends. In poetry, no less.

Chapter 3

So Job curses the day he was conceived and the day he was born, poetically, and asks why god didn't just kill him then.

Chapter 4

What is it they say about a good friend will kick you when you're down? Eliphaz points out that Job has never had it hard until now. He then reminds Job that bad things don't happen to good people and gives a confusing parable about a pride of lions. He then tells a story about night terrors and an angel that asked him if anyone can be more righteous than god, and is generally unhelpful.

Chapter 5

Eliphaz challenges Job to call on the angels for help and starts babbling about fools and how they quickly lose everything. He advises Job to talk to god, then spends the rest of the chapter listing all god's good deeds.

I did not know that the expression 'sparks fly upwards' was biblical.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Job, Chapter 2

God and Satan are hanging out again, and they have the exact same conversation as last time, only god points out that even with all the things Satan has been doing, Job still hasn't cursed him. Satan points out that Job still has his health, so of course he hasn't cursed god. God gives him permission to mess with him some more, so long as he keeps him alive. So Satan gives Job boils so itchy he's reduced to sitting in the ashes scratching himself with a piece of broken pottery.

His wife points out that if he curses god, he'll be put out of his misery, but Job tells her to stop with the crazy talk.

Now Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar show up to comfort him, which they do by ripping their clothing, pouring dust on their heads, and weeping dramatically. They don't speak for seven days.

God: 2

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Job, Chapter 1: Meet Job

Job is perfect. He has ten perfect children, a big, perfect ranch out in the countryside full of perfect camels, sheep, oxen and donkeys. He's perfectly pious, sacrificing for his own sins, plus a little bit extra in case one of his kids forgot. He's ripe for the taking, in other words.

So one day, some angels plus Satan are hanging out with god and they get to talking about Job. God brags that Job is his most righteous servant, a man who fears him and rejects evil. Satan's like, of course he loves you! You give him everything. If you took it all away, he'd curse you to your face. God: challenge accepted. The only rule is, Satan can't lay a hand on him.

One day, Job is alone when a servant approaches to say that he was plowing the fields when the Sabeans attacked and ran off with all the oxen and the donkeys. Then another servant appears and says god set fire to the sheep and some of the other field hands. Then a third servant appears and says the Chaldeans have run off with the camels and killed some more of the servants. Then a fourth servant appears to say a freak tornado came along and killed all seven of his sons, who were feasting at one of their houses. The girls apparently survived, but that's no comfort

Job rends his clothing, shaves his head, and starts to pray.

God: 1

Friday, November 26, 2010

Esther, Chapters 8-10: The vengeful queen

Chapter 8
The king gives Esther all of Haman's wealth and makes Mordecai prime minister. Esther begs the king to lift the extermination order, and he does. Haman is impaled on the stake. Then things get ugly. Another order is issued, this time to kill everyone that would assault them (v. 11) and their families. How quickly the victims become the agressors! A lot of people convert to Judaism to hide.

Chapter 9

The Jews gather together to exterminate their enemies, including Haman's ten sons. But that's not enough, so Esther asks for another day of slaughter. All told, 75 810 people die in those two days.

To celebrate, the Jews get together and have a party. They decide to make the anniversary of their conquest a national holiday and call it purim, after the lots that were cast to determine Haman's would-be slaughter.

Chapter 10

The king raises taxes. There's no Tea Party revolt. Mordecai is a hero. The end.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Esther, Chapters 6 & 7: How to cure insomnia

Chapter 6

The king can't sleep, so he asks his servants to read to him from Chronicles. That certainly put me to sleep. They happen to open the book to the section where Mordecai rats out the two conspirators against the king. That reminds Ahasuerus that he hasn't rewarded his gatekeeper.

He looks into the courtyard and happens to see Haman, who has woken up bright and early for the hanging. The king asks him how he should honour a man who pleases him. Haman, thinking he's about to get a reward, he asks for the kings used robes, horse, and crown. Think big, Haman. Then, to his utter shock, the king orders him to dress up Mordecai and parade him around on his horse. Haman has no choice but to obey. Then he goes home and sulks and bitches to his wife and friends. Then the king's servants arrive to remind him about Esther's second banquet.

Chapter 7

The king and Haman arrive for the banquet. Before they even start eating, Ahasuerus is asking Esther to come out with her request, not that I blame him. She finally asks him to pardon the Israelites. Ahasuerus is so dumb he doesn't even remember granting permission to kill the Jews, nor who sought it. Esther points to Haman, who goes pale. The king goes out to the garden to cool off, while Haman makes the unwise decision to lay down on the same sofa as Esther. When Xerxes comes back, he thinks Haman is trying to rape her and orders him hoisted by his own petard.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Esther, Chapter 5: Mordecai's foolish pride

After three days of fasting, Esther puts on her prettiest frock and heads in to see the king. He holds out the sceptre to her, granting her permission to speak. He offers her anything she wants, because she's so freaking hot, even half the kingdom. No, she just wants him and Haman to come to a banquet. He agrees immediately.

At the banquet, the king knows something is still up so he asks her to come out with it. She waffles a bit, and only asks them to come back again tomorrow for another meal.

Haman leaves, in a great mood because he got to schmooze with the king and queen, but it sours immediately when he comes to the palace gate and meets Mordecai, who has clearly learned nothing, and refuses to bow again. He goes home to his wife and raves about the banquet and Mordecai's foolish pride, and vows to build a 50-foot gallows the next day to hang him from. Well deserved, I'd say.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Esther, Chapters 4: Mordecai the big, fat idiot

Chapter 4

Mordecai hears that the Jews are going to be killed and it's all his fault. He runs around wailing in sackcloth and ashes, as do all the other Israelites, rather than, you know, whittling spears or something intelligent. Esther hears about the sackcloth and tries to send her uncle some clothes, proving the apple didn't fall far from the stupid tree, and is surprised when they get sent back. Only then does she send her eunuch out to find out what happened. He explains it and tells the eunuch to ask Esther to intervene with the king.

Esther immediately starts whining that only people who've been summoned by the king can meet with him, and people who try to sneak in get killed. Would that had been the case for the Salahis. She, just two chapters ago the hottest virgin in the kingdom, hasn't been called for 30 days.

He gets nasty in reply, saying her status won't protect her and if she won't speak up, another force will intervene and save them, only her house will go down in flames. Esther believes him and asks him to tell the Israelites to fast for three days while she works up her courage to go to the king.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Esther, Chapter 3: Haman, the first persecutor of the Jews

Haman is appointed to some important post in Ahasuerus' court, and all the servants save Mordecai bow down to him. Because no human being has ever been able to mind his business for longer than 5 seconds, the other servants immediately start hassling him about it, especially since he told them he's an Israelite. They also snitch on him to Haman. You especially see this kind of behaviour between smokers and non-smokers in modern offices.

Of course, now that it has been pointed out to him, Haman has to get angry. At first he decides only to punish Mordecai, but there hasn't been a massacre now for like, 3 books, so of course Haman decides to wipe out the Israelites. He casts lots to figure out which day to start the massacre. Lots are called Pur, hence the festival of Purim.

He finally thinks to ask the king if he can start the first Holocaust, framing it in terms of There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them (v. 8) which is pretty much the excuse given by every government in history to deport people it doesn't like, from Jews everywhere to Protestants in France to Muslims in modern-day Europe. The king is still distracted by his new harem of virgins, and he gives his blessing.

Finally, the day of killing arrives. Letters are sent to all the towns and villages, but the city of Shushan is perplexed.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Esther, Chapter 2: Pageant Queen

Today: virgin beauty pagents!

Ahasuerus discovers that an empty bed is not as fun as it fist seems, and decides to get married again. His ministers send out minions to all the provinces to round up hot young virgins and bring them to Senor Frog's the palace. The king will then crown the one he likes the best.

Now, working in the palace is a certain Mordecai, an Israelite, who happens to be the sole guardian of his niece Esther, who happens to be very hot. So she enters the wet t-shirt contest palace with the other babes.

Here's how the contest works: All the nubile young things get a first opportunity to go in to king Ahasuerus (v. 12). She then spends 12 months developing an eating disorder purifying herself. After that year, she gets a cash prize, and the chance to go back to the king's bedchamber, or whatever. If she lost enough weight and got those breast implants he likes her, she'll get called back when he feels like it.

Esther is the Miss Congeniality of the harem, because she isn't a total bitch. Oddly enough the king also likes her, and decides to make her his queen. He throws a big party. Esther keeps her identity secret.

She endears herself even further to the king when Mordecai overhears two men plotting to assassinate the king and she tells him about the plan. They get hung for their troubles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Esther, Chapter 1: Biblical Strippers

Joe Francis Ahasuerus tries to turn his wife into a stripper! Whoo-hoo! Let's get it on!

So Joe Francis Ahasuerus is the king of everything from India to Ethiopia. In the third year of his reign, he decides to throw a giant 6-month-long party to show how rich he is, although his decorating sense white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble (v. 6) is that of a colour-blind 12 year old girl.

At some point, he goes on a 7-day bender with his closest advisors and gets the brilliant idea that they should all look at his wife, Vashti. I'm going to interpret this as a would-be 'Girls Gone Wild' moment. Some pedants will insist that this episode has nothing to do with sex, and that all Joe Ahasuerus wanted his wife to do was show her face. The point, however, is not what he wanted her to do, but that he wanted her to do it at all. She was doomed from the moment he made the decision. Poor Vashti refuses to let her husband objectify her, even for a t-shirt, thus causing his entourage to decide she's a 'frigid bitch' and decide to make an example of her before any other wives get the idea that they don't have to strip for their husbands' friends. Of course, had she done whatever he wanted, whether it was poke her head in to say 'hi' or let his friends eat sushi off her naked body, he would have decided she was a 'slut' and had to be punished to make an example for the other wives.

See, this is where I actually like the bible: when it's showing us that really, truly, nothing ever changes. Too bad it spends so much time talking about building temples and massacring enemies.

Joe Francis Ahasuerus decides that her punishment will be banishment from his sight and replacement by a younger, hotter, Stepford model. The apparent effect of this will be that all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small (v. 20) because every man should bear rule in his own house (v. 22). Or, you know, it will make marital rape legal for the next two thousand-odd years.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nehemiah, Chapters 11-13

Chapter 11

The Israelites draw lots to determine who will live in Jerusalem and who will live in the other cities. Then there are lists of all the people who go to each. It's absolutely riveting.

Chapter 12

The first 30-odd verses of this chapter detail the duties of the various families. Then Nehemiah divides his congregation in two and sends one half to pray at the eastern wall and another to pray at the western. Then they barbecue.

Chapter 13

On reading the Torah, the Israelites discover yet again that god has outlawed intermarriage with the Moabites and the Ammonites and they exile all the foreigners.

Meanwhile, someone named Tobiah moves into the temple with the blessing of his relative, Eliashib the priest. Nehemiah was in Persia at the time, so he had no idea, because this was before texting took off. He throws him out and orders 'purification' of the room. He also finds out that no one has been tithing to the priests and choir. He puts new, trustworthy clerks in charge of the store rooms.

Another day, Nehemiah observes his citizens using wine presses and transporting the wine on the Sabbath. Wine sold the day it's pressed? Yuck! So he bans the sale of food on that day.

Finally, he notices the Israelites are intermarrying again, and some of their kids don't even speak Hebrew. He has his goons beat some of them up. But this time the wives and children aren't sent away.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nehemiah, Chapters 8-10

Chapter 8

Ezra reads the Torah out loud. That must have been a thrilling morning. Then they realise it's Succor, so they set to work sacrificing animals, giving the meat away to the poor, and building shelters, which they haven't done since the days of Jeshua. A long time, in other words.

Chapter 9

A few days later, it's time for another party. A costume party. They all dress up in sackcloth, fast, confess their sins, read the Torah, and confess their sins. Your average self-criticism session, in other words. Then they recap everything that has happened since Abraham.

Chapter 10

The Israelites make a vow not to intermarry, to keep the sabbath and to tithe.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nehemiah, Chapters 5-7

Chapter 5

There's a famine and some of the rich Jews are taking advantage of the poorer residents, buying up the corn and land and even their children as slaves. Nehemiah accuses them of usury and they don't have a defense for themselves.

He orders them to return all the stuff they bought and the money and they do, ashamed. They appoint him governor, and he's so uncorrupt he doesn't take a salary. Nope, he mostly wants to finish the wall.

Chapter 6

The three governors who have been harassing Nehemiah send letters requesting a meeting with him. When that doesn't work, they start antagonizing him overtly, accusing him of rebelling against Persian. They even send a mole to try and convince him to go into the inner sanctum of the temple, thus dirtying himself in the eyes of his people. Fortunately he perceives the ruse and refuses. Instead he redoubles his efforts on the damned wall, finishing it in 52 days. No wonder nobody actually reads this book.

Chapter 7

Nehemiah puts his brother in charge of security, then sets about numbering all the people he has locked inside. What follows is a long list of their names, similar to the one in Ezra. some people are so pedantic that they'll go all the way through both lists and point out all the contradictions. Others, let's call them literalists, are so pedantic they'll try to justify the contradictions. Personally, I like what Northup Frye had to say, that the authors of the bible didn't care about accuracy, they were telling a story.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nehemiah, Chapters 1-4

Another case of the same story being told slightly different ways. Ezra tells the story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem from the point of view of the priests, Nehemiah is the same story from a political standpoint.

Chapter 1

Nehemiah finds out that the rebuilding of Jerusalem has been a disaster and the walls have been knocked down and the people enslaved. He cries and prays.

Chapter 2

The Persian king Artaxerxes notices Nehemiah's teary face and asks what's wrong. He explains about Jerusalem and the king agrees to let him go help with the rebuilding effort. He also gives him some letters to deliver, like an early pony express. He sneaks away from his escorts one night to survey the ruins, then cajoles the local leaders the next morning to rebuild the city. They laugh at him. Note that one of them is an Arab. Nehemiah's response: you have no claim on Jerusalem. Nothing new under the sun.

Chapter 3

The Israelites set to work rebuilding the walls. Even some of the women help. That's the whole chapter: a list of who repaired which section of wall. Scintillating.

Chapter 4

The governors mock the Jews and their walls, saying even a fox could break through. Ooh, nasty stuff! The Jews ignore them and join the wall up. That pisses them off and they conspire to attack. This causes the wall project to be suspended as so many workers are needed for guard duty. They never put on pajamas, even. They only take their clothes off to wash.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ezra, Chapters 8-10

Chapter 8

Ezra and his entourage of 1500 camp out and fast for three days while praying to god about whether they should accept protection from the Persians as they travel to Jerusalem. He smartly divides his gold stockpile up and gives some of it to the priests to bring to Jerusalem, then leaves himself, sans soldiers.

Chapter 9

The Israelites are still sinning! Now they've been polluting the blood with foreign wives and the priests and princes have been leading the charge! Ezra gets upset and prays to god for advice.

Chapter 10

The Israelites decide the best way to get back into god's good graces is to send their foreign wives away. So they call everybody to the temple, where they tell them to either send their wives away or be excommunicated. Would you worship a god that demanded that? But they agree to do it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ezra Chapters 5-7

Chapter 5

After a prayer the Israelites set to building the temple. Tatnai, the governor, asks for their permits and the names of the crew, but he's powerless to actually stop them until he gets a decision back from king Darius, because that's how hierarchal societies work, yo. He asks Darius to look up their claims that they have permission from Cyrus.

Chapter 6

Conveniently, Darius finds the decree by Cyrus and even the blueprints and orders Tatnai not only to let them build the temple, but to pay for it and food for the workers out of his treasury. He orders them to hang anyone who interferes.

Chapter 7

Finally we're introduced to Ezra, the supposed writer of this book. He comes to Jerusalem bearing a letter from the king asking him to scope out the situation and hand over a bunch of gold, silver and barbecue sacrificial animals for the temple. It also orders anyone who meets him to give him anything he asks for, within reason and disallowing them to tax any temple workers. Ezra is to convert the people in Jerusalem and kill or banish those who refuse.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ezra, Chapters 1-4

Oh great, another two books that tell the exact same story. In this case, the return of the Israelites to their homeland after a year of exile in modern-day Iraq.

Chapter 1

God causes Cyrus, the king of Persia, who has just conquered Babylon, to decide to free the Israelites and let them rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. He also asks their neighbours to donate their old gold, silver, household goods and livestock to the Jews.

Chapter 2

An achingly boring list of all the families that went back to Jerusalem. They bring a choir of 200 and a bunch of livestock and treasure.

Chapter 3

The Israelites go back to Jerusalem, set up the temple, and immediately start barbecuing.

Chapter 4

The Israelites' old enemies approach them and say they've been worshipping god since they left, and they want to contribute to the temple. Jeshua, the new leader, rudely rebuffs them and, unsurprisingly, they start causing trouble. First, they bribe the officials to hold up the paperwork. Then, when that fails, they start petitioning the new king of Persia and all the other local kings to put a stop work order on the project. The gist of the letter: the Israelites are wicked and seditious, and if the king permits this building, they'll stop paying taxes. Wow, I'm surprised Pamela Gellar wasn't involved.

The king, no Michael Bloomburg, bless him, writes back and says, lo and behold, the Israelites are rebellious and seditious and he's going to stop all the permits for the temple. On receiving the response, the Syrians run right over to the temple work site and halt construction.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 29-36

Chapter 29

Hezekiah orders the resumption of Passover services. They have a giant barbecue to celebrate the cleaning of the temple.

Chapter 30

Hezekiah invites the other tribes to his Passover party. They have to make lots of sacrifices to cleanse the congregation, because most of them haven't been to the temple in ages. Of course all that sacrificing just makes for a bigger, wilder barbecue.

Chapter 31

After seven days of meat, bread and wine, the Israelites need some exercise, so they go around destroying the groves, alters and icons of Baal. Then Hezekiah reinstitutes tithing to the priests, which the people take to enthusiastically, as we tend to do with new, interesting projects.

Chapter 32

The king of Assyria invades, but Hezekiah reassures his people that god is on their side, because THAT always works out so well. But this time he's right: god sends along an avenging angel who kills the raiders in their sleep. Then Hezekiah dies.

Chapter 33

Manasseh is a bad king who puts up altars to Baal, sacrifices children and practices witchcraft. But the thing that REALLY pisses god off is when he puts a graven image in the temple. Then god sends in the Assyrians. This scares the pagan right out of Manasseh and straightens him out, though not his people, who continue to make sacrifices in the hills. Then he dies and his son Amon takes over. Amon's bad and his servants kill them. Then his followers kill the servants and install his son Josiah in his stead.

Chapter 34

Josiah tears down the alters that have sprung up and kills the pagan priests. Then he orders the temple repaired. During the work the men discover a book (Deuteronomy). They read it to a priest and he realises that the Israelites haven't been following the laws. So he asks a prophetess what this lack of obedience will mean: destruction. Josiah himself is safe: it's the people who will bear the brunt of god's anger. Josiah reads the book to the people and uses it as further excuse to tear down the pagan altars.

Chapter 35

Josiah orders a Passover celebration, for the first time that I remember featuring stew as well. Then the Egyptians invade. Josiah goes out to do battle, but is wounded by an arrow and dies.

Chapter 36

A series of bad, short-lived kings takes over the throne of Israel. They're all bad, including an eight year old who somehow prefers putting up altars to Baal to playing with his Legos. Finally, the Babylonians invade and kill most of them and enslave the rest. The end.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 25-28

Chapter 25

Amaziah becomes king and immediately kills his father's killers, but not their kids, because that would be wrong. Then he raises an army of 300 000 and hires 100 000 more mercenaries, but one of his prophets comes up to him and begs him not to take the Israelites, because god doesn't want like them. So he sends them home, but they're mighty pissy about it. Then he kills 10 000 children of Seir outright and throws another 10 000 off a cliff. Why, we don't know, but they're definitely all guilty of... something.

Meanwhile the soldiers he sent back kill and pillage 3000 people in Judah.

Back to Amaziah, who has started to worship the gods of Seir. His prophets try to warn him, but in the end he refuses to repent and kindles god's wrath. He sends word to Joash that he wants to meet with him, but Joash uses a parable about thistles, cedars and wild boars that translates to: fuck off. But they fight nonetheless and Judah is roundly defeated. Joash breaks down the walls of Jerusalem and pillages the city. Amaziah flees, but is killed anyway.

Chapter 26

Uzziah is Amaziah's 16 year old son. At first, he's great: he rebuilds the walls of Jerusalem, defeats the Philistines, and invents a cunning automatic-arrow launcher/catapult that would totally land him on the Discovery Channel if he hadn't likely borrowed it from the Romans, who are definitely not credited here.

But like all the kings in Kings, he gets too big for his breeches and does something wrong. In this case, he burns incense even though he isn't a priest. The real priests try to warn him, but he ignores them so god gives him leprosy. Beware, all you incense-burning laymen!

Chapter 27

The boring story of Jotham, a good king who rebuilds the temple, helps old ladies across the street and gives candy to children.

Chapter 28

Ahaz is everything his father wasn't: false idols, child sacrifice, burning incense! So god sends the Syrians and the Israelites to defeat him and kidnap his people. One of them kills 120 000 of his people, another kills his son and closest slaves. Then they carry off 200 000 women and children. A priest warns the Syrians not to sin, so they take the captives back to Jericho.

Meanwhile, Judah is being invaded on all sides because of Ahaz' shenanigans. He asks the king of Syria for help, but doesn't get it, because he's so bad, he's started worshipping the Syrian gods as well. Then he dies and isn't buried with his ancestors. The shame!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 17-24

Chapter 17

In a nice bit of historical revisionism, Jehosephat the king suddenly removed the pagan altars. He also made an effort to teach the Torah to the people, and got lots of goodie bags from other kings.

Chapter 18

Jehosephat goes to meet his Israelite counterpart, Ahab. They have a barbecue, and as happens so often when there is too much meat, beer and testosterone in one place, they plot to overthrow the leadership of Ramothgilead. But Jehosephat is already sobering up, so he asks if maybe they should consult the prophets before going off half-cocked and starting another war. Would that George W. Bush had been so sensible.

The first 400 prophets all say the same thing: invade, because god promises a win. Also, they were all still out by the keg while the kings were discussing their invasion plans. That might not be in the text. But somehow that's still not enough to satisfy Jehosephat, he wants one more confirmation. So they seek out Micaiah, who says go, but Jehosephat keeps hounding him, asking if he's saying the whole truth, until he says he had a vision of the Israelites as sheep with no shepherd. Ahab's all 'Party foul!' But Micaiah keeps killing the buzz, saying god had all his minions lined up in front of them and one volunteered to make all the prophets lie to get Ahab to invade a country foolishly. Exactly like what happened in 2001 and 2003!

Anyway, Jehosephat is so angry at Micaiah's wrecking his party that he sends him to prison for the duration of the war. Jehosephat goes to battle in disguise but is recognized anyway. Fortunately, god remembers the groves and saves him by making his disguise even better. The evil Ahab, on the other hand, is struck between the shoulders by an arrow and dies.

Chapter 19

Jehosephat goes home and is immediately set upon by a prophet's obnoxious teenage son who tells him not to be nice to heathens because it makes god angry. He sets the court system back up and the temples.

Chapter 20

The Moabits, Ammonites and Edomites all invade, but never fear! God is here! He turns them on each other and kills them all. Then the people of Judah go and rob the corpses. Classy.

Chapter 21

Jehoram, Jehosephat's son, starts his reign off right by killing his brothers and any other potential rivals to the throne. He's evil in other ways, building temples and causing the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit fornication (v. 11) until Elijah the prophet gets fed up and threatens him with god's wrath of disease of thy bowels until thy bowels fall out (v. 15). The Philistines and the Arabians invade and carry off his wives and children, and he does indeed die of intestinal illness.

Chapter 22

The Arabians killed all his older brothers, so Ahaziah, Jehoram's youngest son, takes over. Somehow, even though we were told that Jehoram was 40 when he died, Ahaziah is 42 already. Some infallible book this. Anyway, he takes bad advice from his mother and Ahab and is killed as a result. In vengeance, his mother kills all his heirs, which doesn't seem very well thought out. However, one of his daughters manages to save her brother and hide him while her crazy grandmother reigns for 6 years.

Chapter 23

The son, Joash, is put on the throne. His grandmother rends her clothes. She's killed outside the city walls. Then they barbecue to celebrate her death.

Chapter 24

Joash grows up, marries two women, and starts a collection to 'repair the temple.' Then they have a barbecue. Then it all goes wrong. First, Jehoida dies and Joash kills his son. Then some princes come along and tempt Joash to sin. Zechariah the priest tries to tell them it's wrong, but they stone him to death. He curses them, which causes the Syrians to invade and enslave Joash's sons. Finally his servants kill him and don't even bury him in the temple of the kings. The humanity! Amaziah takes over.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 10-16

A repeat of the whole Jeroboam-Rehoboam soap opera from Kings.

Chapter 10

Rehoboam asks the old and young men for advice. He takes the advice of the young men: go to war. The civil war starts with a stoning.

Chapter 11

Rehoboam builds up his defenses, and has a lot of kids, though not proportional to the number of wives. He has 18 official wives and 60 concubines, yet somehow between the seventy-eight of them, they only have twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. They must have gone through Midol like it was candy.

Chapter 12

The king of Egypt attacks and Shemiah the prophet says it's because they disobeyed god. So they humble themselves and god decides not to destroy them, but to enslave them instead.

Chapter 13

The next king, Abijah, gets into a spat with the enemy Israelites and kills 500 000 of them. He has 14 wives and 38 children, which is better than his father, but not great.

Chapter 14

Asa, the next king, cuts down the pagan groves and kills a million Africans.

Chapter 15

Asa decides to kill all the non-believers, talk about your conversion by sword! But not his mother. She had a grove to Baal, but he only dethrones her, he doesn't kill her.

Chapter 16

Asa has some more battles. More interestingly, he gets some kind of foot disease. He gets doctors to look at it, but god gets angry. Somehow, I doubt many Christians are still following this advice, despite their great love of the verses on homosexuality.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 5-9

Chapter 5

The temple is done. It's barbecue time! They put the ark of the covenant inside and god comes down in cloud form while they dance around. Snore.

Chapter 6

Solomon blesses the people, then starts bragging about how god didn't want his father to build the temple because only he, Solomon was pure enough. I guess this is before he marries those 700 pagan wives and starts building shrines to their gods all over the place, which then cause all those problems throughout Kings. Then he prays. For a long time. During his prayer, he instructs his people to pray toward this place (v. 26) which Mohammed clearly took seriously, but not the Jews.

Chapter 7

Solomon finishes praying. God comes down as a ball of fire and consumes his sacrifices. Apparently he likes his barbecue extra crispy. Then he goes into the temple. Solomon sacrifices even more sheep and oxen and there's even more singing and dancing. In a bit of revisionism worthy of Glen Beck, we are told that Solomon is a righteous king who maintains the holy days and keeps the temple clean. Again, no mention of those wives or the pagan groves he sets up for them. God promises to forgive the people and conquer their enemies if they just obey him.

Chapter 8

Solomon builds some cities. He enacts an amnesty of sorts on the children of foreigners left behind when the Israelites kicked them out: they won't eat them, they'll just tax them. What a guy! The Israelites will, of course, be army captains and priests. Solomon does finally marry an Egyptian woman, and tells her she can't go into the temple. Other than that, everything is hunky dory and the sacrificing continues apace.

Chapter 9

The Queen of Sheba comes to town and asks Solomon some questions. Again, we don't hear what they are, so we can't exactly judge the soundness of his wisdom. She does give him a lot of gold, though. In fact, everybody gives Solomon gold. So much that he makes targets and shields out of it. Now, given how soft gold is, it seems pretty dumb to make a shield out of it, certainly not a defensive tactic worthy of the smartest guy on earth. He then makes himself an ivory throne and puts a bunch of gold lions alongside it. I'm thinking gold lions were like Solomon's garden gnomes. He also has a lot of horses. Then he dies.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 1-4

Just 2 more books to slog through before I get back to books people have actually heard of. Of course, then there are like, 10 that most Christians probably haven't read. Habakkuk, anyone? Nahum?

Chapter 1

Solomon marches all the Israelites out into the wilderness so they can get high on 'shrooms make sacrifices to god. God likes the smell of barbecue and asks Solomon what reward he would like. He humbly asks to be a wise ruler. God gives him that, as well as riches, which he uses to go on an Egyptian shopping spree.

Chapter 2

Solomon builds the temple, using 150 000 or so workers for the task. Where does he get the labourers? He takes a census of the foreigners, then drafts them. That's right. The temple was made with forced labour. He asks his neighbours for help, offering food and oil in exchange. They willingly offer their services.

Chapter 3

A detailed, boring description of the temple, which we've already had on several occasions. It's all covered in gold. It's tacky. Moving on.

Chapter 4

A description of the furnishings of the temple. In a word: tat.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 22-27

Chapter 22

David gathers all the materials to build a temple, but doesn't build it on god's orders, because he's shed too much blood. Rather, Solomon is to build it. Snore.

Capter 23

David does a census and isn't punished. Then he divvies up the priestly jobs amongst the Levites. Then there's a long genealogy. Snore.

Chapter 24

Another genealogy, this time of Aaron's descendants. Snore.

Chapter 25

Another genealogy. Someone named his son Romamtiezer.Too bad there was no child protective services.

Chapter 26

One family is given the honour of guarding the various gates to the city. To decide who gets what gate, they cast lots. This is seriously the most interesting thing that has happened in like, 5 chapters. Other families get other duties involving the treasury and military commissions.

Chapter 27

Every month, a new family gets to provide 24 000 clerks and administrators. Imagine the bureaucratic nightmares that must have caused. Farming jobs are handed out. Snore.

1 Chronicles, Chapters 28 & 29

Chapter 28

David announces that god has promised to make his descendants the kings of Israel forever. In return, his son Solomon will build a temple. He then hands Solomon the blueprints and the gold and silver to make all the tacky knick-knacks.

Chapter 29

David keeps babbling about all the stuff he has gathered for the temple. The people donate more. Then he prays for Solomon to be a good king. They have a barbecue and they all live happily ever after.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapter 21

So, way back in, uh, either Samuel or Kings, David had a census and god killed a bunch of people. Turns out it wasn't so much god as Satan. Joab tries to cajole him into not holding it, but he's adamant. Turns out he has 1 million battle-ready men at his disposal, putting him right up there with modern-day Russia or North Korea, and not even including the Benjaminites or the Levites.

This pisses god off to no end, even after David apologises. God offers him a choice of three punishments: 1) a three-year famine 2) three months of being defeated by their enemies 3) three days of pestilence. David asks god to just kill him instead, so god sends the pestilence. He's up to 70 000 dead when he changes his mind and tells the angel to stop. David looks up at that point and sees the angel in the sky with a sword drawn. David points out that he's the one who sinned and asks why god killed all those innocent people.

Rather than answer, god tells him to build an alter on a threshing-floor. David goes to the owner, Ornan, and explains the situation and offers to buy it at fair market price. Ornan demurs, but David insists on paying in full. Then he sacrifices. I bet a lot of the payment went to cleaning that mess up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 13-20

David's reign. Now in technicolour!

Chapter 13

David brings the ark to Jerusalem. On the way, the oxen pulling the cart stumble and Uzza reaches out to keep it from falling. God smites him. This is not new information. David is afraid to keep going and sends the ark to Obededum, no doubt a bebop singer, for safekeeping.

Chapter 14

David builds a house, then marries some more wives to fill it with. He has lots of kids. The Philistines invade. With god's help, communicated through mulberry trees, David defeats them. This causes his fame to spread. The chapters really are this short.

Chapter 15

David gathers the Levites to move the ark of the covenant. We get a list of their names which is too boring to list here. They carry it, singing and dancing. Saul's daughter Michal looks out and hates David for some reason.

Chapter 16

The ark arrives. David gives everybody a bottle of wine. David makes a speech, and it's entirely possible he's drunk, because he says the earth won't move. Then they pray and barbecue and go home.

Chapter 17

God, speaking through Nathan, decides to remain a renter rather than an owner and asks David not to build him a permanent temple. He also promises that the Israelites won't have to move anymore and that David's line will rule forever. David hears about it all and prays.

Chapter 18

David fights, and defeats, the Philistines, the Moabites and the army of Habath. The latter is particularly gruesome as he disables their chariot horses as well. The Syrians try to help and are enslaved for their troubles. He raids the treasury at Hamath and turns the loot into bling. Then, just for good measure, David kills some Edomites to close the chapter.

Chapter 19

The king of Ammon dies, and David tries to send condolence messages because they had a good relationship (read: the Ammonites sent him lots of gold and didn't invade). The princes convince the new king that David is up to no good, and rather than just continue to do what his father did, he shaves the messengers bald and cuts the bums out of their trousers.

They go back and David sends them to Jericho to grow their beards again. Meanwhile, the Ammonites decide that, having pissed David off, their only solution is to invade with the help of the Syrians. David's army prevails and slays 47 000 of their enemies.

Chapter 20

The defeat of the Ammonites. David sees the king's crown and steals it. Then he kills everybody in the city with saws and axes. Another war, this time with the Philistines, in which he defeats a giant. Then there's another war in which Goliath's brother is killed. Then finally he kills a third giant who also has 6 fingers and toes on each appendage.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 10-12

The second draft of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings begins in earnest.

Chapter 10

First, a retelling of Saul's death. As you will recall, he let the Amalekite king live after god expressly told him to kill all the Amalekites, so god sent the Philistines in. Saul didn't want to be taken captive by the uncircumcised, so he asked his armourbearer to kill him. In this version, the armourbearer refuses and Saul kills himself. The sight causes the armourbearer to die, along with the rest of Saul's family. Terrified, the Israelites flee and Saul's head and armour become Philistine temple d├ęcor until a group of Jabeshgileadites comes back and buries his body. David's son Jesse takes over.

Chapter 11

David becomes king, but the inhabitants of Jerusalem reject him, so he says that anyone who conquers them can rule them. Joab takes up the challenge. We get some other stories about his various generals; one who killed 300 Philistines with a spear, another who single-handedly held off an attack in a barley field. Another time, David is thirsty, but only wants water from the Bethelhem well, currently behind enemy lines. Three of his generals go and get the water, which he pours on the ground like an ingrate.

Benaiah killed two lionlike men (v. 22) and then a real lion, then a tall Egyptian. Then we get 21 verses praising the brave men of David's army, but no details of this supposed bravery.

Chapter 12

We hear a little about the Gadites, a race of men with the faces of lions who run through the mountains like gazelles. They make a peace treaty with David and join his army. In fact, people are coming from all over to join his forces. They have a giant picnic.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 3-9

More genealogies. Are they this boring in real life? Why do so many people take it up as a hobby?

Chapter 3

We're already up to David's myriad children. The only daughter mentioned is Tamar, the one raped by her brother, who then had to go into purday. Solomon, for all his supposed 900 wives, only seems to have produced 15 sons. Finally, David's great-great-grandson Pedidah, a name nearly as stupid, but, crucially, not quite produces another daughter.

Heh. Someone named his kid Ohel. Very apt. Someone else must have had a premonition about hip-hop, because he calls his son Shaphat. Awesome.

Chapter 4

Poor little Hazelelponi. A stupid name like that and she probably didn't even have a pony. Neither did poor little Zobebah, but at least his name sounds like a jazz riff. Apparently verse 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. has something to do with the Da Vinci books, but given I couldn't even finish the first paragraph, I have no idea what.

Chapter 5

The children of Reuben, who win a lot of wars, livestock and slaves.

Huh. Someone had a kid named Baal. Wonder who he worshipped? We also find out what happened to many of these families: scattered around, conquering territory, but not enough, of course, to be mentioned in Herodotus' Histories.

Oh god. Even then there were rednecks, and they named their kids Buz.

Manasseh's kids got the rest of the Israelites carried off to Babylon with their idol-worshipping.

Chapter 6

Verse 5: Bukki begat Uzzi. Couldn't have picked a better mafia name myself. We are reminded of how Moses and Aaron managed to get all the cities under their control. 81 verses, that chapter.

Chapter 7

Only a few people chapter are mentioned as having any daughters. Where were they getting their wives? Mostly Egypt and other surrounding nations, it would seem.

Chapter 8

Another Baal, another 40 dull-as-dishwater verses.

Chapter 9

All the people in all the villages around Jerusalem are mentioned. Then their various temple duties are spelled out. And we're done for today. Riveting, no?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 1 & 2

No wonder nobody actually slogs through this entire book anymore. The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles are an endless series of genealogies linking Adam to king David, and, as Jerry Falwell helpfully points out, to Jesus.

Chapter 1

The one highlight comes in verse 19: And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg; because in his days the earth was divided: and his brother's name was Joktan. is often cited by creationists as evidence of continental drift. Unfortunately, Jerry, for all that he was so anti-evolution in Genesis, does not seem to adhere to that argument, because he doesn't even mention it.

Chapter 2

Achar, grandson of Judah, transgressed in the thing accursed (v. 7), which apparantly means he plundered the temple. Not that we ever heard that story. In verse 33, someone names a child Zaza. Better than Dazzling, I suppose. In verses 34 and 35, a man with no sons mates his daughter to one of his slaves, then takes the resulting boy. Father of the year, that one.

Monday, October 4, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 25

Yes! An end to this endless series of regicides and invasions. On to Chronicles, which is... the second draft of the same book. Pooh.

Anyway, the king of Babylon finally conquers Israel by besieging Jerusalem for almost two years and starving the people out. The army flees out one gate, the king another. The Chaldees catch the king in Jericho and bring him to Babylon, kill his sons in front of him, then put out his own eyes.

Then the king of Babylon implements a scorched-earth policy for Jerusalem. He then rounds up the remnants of the army and brings them back. Only the poorest are left to tend to the fields. The Chaldees then pillage whatever's left. All the priests and scribes are executed.

One of the king's captains is left to govern the pathetic ruins. He tries to ingratiate himself with the remaining rulers, but they assassinate him anyway. This causes people to flee to Egypt, so afraid are they of the Babylonians' wrath.

Some time later, a new king ascends the Babylonian throne. He frees the Israelite king, but only so he can humiliate him further, giving him a seat at the table and an allowance, like a pet with a credit card.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 24

The descent of the Israelites.

The puppet king installed by the Egyptian pharaoh rebels and is invaded by the Chaldees, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites with god's blessing, all because of Manasseh, whom, you will recall, is dead. So these would be his descendents being punished here. Despite all those verses that say you shouldn't do that. Then he dies and his son takes over.

The Egyptians leave Israel, but only because they've been losing one part of a 2-front war against the Babylonians. The king lasts 3 months before the Babylonians invade. He tries to stave them off with shiny gifts, but the king takes them all off to Babylon, except for the very poorest, who stay behind to tend the fields. The Babylonian king installs his uncle as ruler of Israel, until god makes him rebel and the Babylonians return.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 23

Josiah attempts to save the Isrealites from god's predicted punishment of enslavement by the Babylonians. He fails.

Josiah gathers up all the elders and priests and important people and reads to them from Deuteronomy. They all promise to do what the book says. He has the temples and shrines to Baal torn down, then has the whole thing burned near a creek and then throws the ashes on the graves of the children of the worshippers. Then he destroys the houses of homosexuals. Wouldn't you love to live in a theocracy?

He rounds up the priests and defrocks them, only allowing them to eat unleavened bread together in a sort of priestly rubber room. Finally, someone destroys the place of child sacrifice. He removes horses and chariots from the temple that had been consecrated to the sun. He has the altars that Manasseh built beaten into sheet metal and destroyed. Then he turns all the Baal sites into graveyards.

The defrocked priests are now killed. He reinstitutes Passover, which had not been celebrated since Judges. Then he removes all the familiar animals, the wizards and their idols. It isn't enough for god, who still plans to send the Israelites to Babylon.

The Egyptians now invade, and Josiah is killed, thus negating the promise god made that he would die a peaceful death. His son Jehoahaz takes over, and goes right back to being bad, which, given that god didn't even keep his one promise to his father, I don't blame him for. The Egyptian pharaoh arrests him and taxes the Israelites heavily. He installs a puppet king and takes Jehoahaz back to Egypt, where he dies. The puppet pays the tribute and reigns for 11 idolatrous years.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 22

Josiah makes a last-ditch effort to save the Israelites and fails.

Josiah is 8 when he ascends the throne of Israel. When he's 18, he sends one of his scribes to the temple to see how the treasury is doing so he can have it repaired. When the scribe talks to Hilkiah the priest, he reveals a book he found, which is Deuteronomy, Moses dying rant to the Israelites. As his scribe reads it to him, Josiah gets so upset he rends his clothes. As anyone would, if forced to sit and listen to the entire book of Deuteronomy in one go. He also orders him to find out what exactly the book means for the future of Israel.

The scribe and the priest go to Huldah the prophetess, who lives in a college. Huh. I didn't know they had colleges then. She tells them god is angry and planning to destroy Israel, because they've been worshipping other gods. Well, they've been doing that since the beginning of 1 King's, so I don't know why it's happening now, except for narrative convenience. The only comfort she can offer Josiah is that god will let him die peacefully and he won't see the fall.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 21

Manasseh is 12 when he takes over from his father, and reigns for the next 55 years. He's bad, because he rebuilds the temples to Baal, sacrifices his son, and practices sorcery. I wonder what this book would be like if Baal was the protagonist.

What really pisses god off, though, is not the child sacrifice, it's the fact that he puts one of his Baal thotchkes in the temple. In response, god vows to do something so horrible to the Israelites that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle (v. 12). More specifically, he says I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down (v. 13) proving that Israelite men did dishes. For all you women out there having trouble convincing your significant others to do housework, this is one more argument.

We get some other vague examples of how Manasseh is evil, including that he had a lot of people killed, but not who or why or how, so I think we can just chalk that up to exaggeration. Then he dies. 55 years summed up in 17 bible verses. If only the whole book were so tautly plotted.

His son Amon, clearly not the one sacrificed to Baal, although that would be cool, takes over. Amon is also bad. God it's like a broken record, this book. And the next two are the exact same thing with some of the details shifted around. Urgh. Anyway, Amon is killed by his servants, and then his servants are killed by the people, and his son Josiah takes over. Amon was only 22 when he took over the throne, though it's not clear how much time has passed or how old he is at this point.

2 Kings, Chapter 20

Hezekiah is sick. They tell him he's dying, but he doesn't want to be. So he begs Isaiah to ask god for a few more years. He gets 15. I've read 700 pages of this book so far. I should get those 15 years.

Isaiah puts a lump of boiled figs on the boil that was killing him. Oh, I see. Hezekiah had a man cold. That he's feeling better isn't enough for Hezekiah, he wants proof that he's really cured. Gift horses, Hezekiah. You can practically hear Isaiah sighing as he asks Hezekiah if he wants god to set the sun forwards or backwards by 10 degrees. Hezekiah chooses backwards. Riveting. It's like watching an episode of Jersey Shore that only features Sammi, Ronnie and Angelina.

The king of Babylon sends Hezekiah a get well soon present. Hezekiah in turn invites him over for a house tour. Isaiah notices them leaving and asks Hezekiah who they were and what he showed them. Hezekiah showed them everything, of course. Isaiah says god says they were just casing the place and now they're going to carry everything back to Babylon with them, including his sons, who will be eunuchs.

But it isn't going to happen right away, so Hezekiah isn't worried. He builds up the city's waterworks then dies and his son Manasseh takes over.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 19

Hezekiah, on hearing the news of the Assyrians' threats, tears his clothes. Then he sends a delegation, in sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah, to ask him to pray to god. Isaiah tells them not to be afraid, because the Assyrians blasphemed god and god is going to take his revenge by killing the general after he goes home.

So they return and find the Assyrians fighting in Libnah. The Ethiopian (or possibly Egyptian) king arrives to help the Israelites. The Assyrian king sends a taunting message to Hezekiah telling him not to expect Jerusalem back, because he's destroyed plenty of other countries whose gods didn't help them.

Hezekiah goes to the temple and prays. God sends word back via Isaiah that he got the message, and he's happy to help. He insults the Assyrian king for awhile then threatens him. He also promises to restore Judah in 3 years' time.

Then the angel of the lord goes and kills 185 000 Assyrians in their sleep, like, they didn't have watchmen? The general escapes to Assyria, only to be killed by his sons while praying. The sons then go to Armenia.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 18

Hezekiah finally gets around to melting the brass serpent god made all the way back in Numbers to remind the people about how he drove off the snakes. Unfortunately, they had been worshipping it. Idiots. He also cuts down the groves to Baal and destroys his images. He does pretty well for awhile, rebelling against Assyria and all that, but when the Assyrians carry away the other Israelite tribes, he sues for peace and has to pay 350 talents of gold and silver as a tribute. He even has to cut the gold out of the temple doors to pay him.

But eventually, of course, he can't pay, so the Assyrian king sends some delegates to intimidate him in a field. They ask him where he got the cojones to rebel against them (hint: Sarah Palin!) and warn him not to trust the Pharaoh of Egypt. They say if he's relying on god, well, he also removed all the temples and told people to worship in Jerusalem. He promises him 2000 more horses if he'll pay up. He also says he's acting on god's orders.

One of Hezekiah's generals speaks up at this point and we learn the whole conversation has been in Hebrew, and that there's a whole peanut gallery sitting on a wall observing the proceedings. The general asks them to please speak in Aramaic, since they understand and the observers don't. The Assyrian general then gets off a zinger, asking the Israelites: Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you? (v. 27). I'm sure it's funnier in Hebrew. Or Aramaic. He then turns to the assembled men and tells them loudly that they have no hope of winning against them and promises that if they surrender, they'll get to keep their land and crops, but that eventually he'll take them to Assyria like the other 10 tribes.

The Israelite negotiators go back to Hezekiah in tears to explain the situation.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 17


Hoshea is a bad king. Snore. When I've woken up, the Assyrians invade. He pays tribute to them, but one time he fucks up and sends a present to the Egyptian king but not the Assyrian king, so he gets locked up in prison. Yup, I like democracy better.

Assyria beseiges Israel for 3 years, then kidnaps all the Israelites and scatters them to the four winds. All of this, we are told, is punishment for worshipping Baal, and was explained back in Exodus, or Numbers or something, so they can't complain they weren't warned. Only Judah is left, even though they are no better at keeping the commandments.

As for the Assyrians, they take over Samaria, but when they don't respect god, he sends lions along to kill them. So they send for an old Israelite priest to come back and teach them god's ways. That satisfies him, even though they keep worshipping their own gods. The end.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 16

Finally, a righteous king! Hahahahaha, just kidding. That would make this book interesting.

Nope, Ahaz is a Baal worshipper and practitioner of child sacrifice, at least, if Jerry Falwell's crack team of bible interpreters is to be believed. The forces of Syria and Israel team up to oust him, but are unsuccessful. The Syrians do manage to add to their territory and drive the Israelites out.

Ahaz sends gold and silver as a tribute to the king of Assyria, and asks him for help. He takes over Damascus and kills the king. Ahaz visits Damascus, sees an altar to the Damascene god, and commissions one just like it at home. He sets it up next to his altar to god, and uses the Assyrian one for sacrificing and the Israelite one for guidance. He further desecrates his altar to god by removing some of the tacky do-dads and the cover.

But he dies peacefully and his son Hezekiah takes over.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 15

A case of leprosy, followed by umpteen assassinations. No wonder nobody reads this book in its entirety.

Jeroboam (the same one? The third? Who knows). Is a good king, except he doesn't dismantle the altars to Baal. Is anybody surprised at this point? So god strikes him with leprosy. He has to go to a leper colony and his son takes over.

His son is worse than him, and is assassinated. Then his assassin takes over the throne. He lasts a full month before he's assassinated and his assassin takes over. Finally, someone named Menahem assassinates that king and also massacres a coastal town that refuses to let him have sea access.

Menahem is a Baal worshipper and not only that, when the Assyrian king, Pul, invades, he pays him tribute, so much that he taxes all the wealthy men fifty shekels to pay it, but at least he leaves. He dies a natural death after 10 years and his son takes over, only to be quickly dispatched by the captain of his guards, who takes over as king. Then the Assyrians attack again and captures him. During the chaos, someone assassinates him and takes over the throne.

Meanwhile, Jotham takes over in Israel. He's a sinner, but he dies a natural death. God, though, is getting tired of all this disobedience and sends the king of Syria in to invade.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 14

Snore. Another king, he worships Baal, he's assassinated, blah, blah, blah.

Amaziah is now king, for the next 29 years. He leaves the temples to Baal standing, and he kills all his servants in revenge for killing his father. He does not kill their children, because suddenly it's wrong again to punish people for the sins of their fathers. It also leaves them alive to kill you in revenge. He also kills 10 000 Edomites just because.

Then he sends a challenge letter to Jehoash. Jehoash writes a parable about a thistle and a cedar whose children get married to settle a feud, but then the thistle's daughter gets trampled by a beast. In other words: it's good you beat Edom, but you should really just stay home and savour that. But Amaziah, drunk with victory, invades anyway and gets his ass handed to him. Jehoash tears down the walls of one of his cities and raids the treasury. When Jehoash dies, his son Jeroboam takes over.

Amaziah is the victim of a palace conspiracy and is assassinated. His sixteen year old son Azariah is installed on the throne. He does some good stuff, like winning back the coast and appoints Jonah as his prophet, but he's also evil and Israel is in a bad way.

Meanwhile. Jeroboam dies and his son Zachariah rules in his stead.

Monday, September 13, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 13

At the same time as Jehoash is ruling one part of Israel, another king, Jehoahaz rises up in Samaria. Jehoahaz is a Baal-worshipper and eventually god lets the Syrians invade as punishment. He finally begs the lord for mercy, so god sets them free again, but they STILL don't reform. God also takes away Jehoahaz's army.

When he dies his son, confusingly named Jehoash, takes over. This Jehoash is evil and the civil war between the two Israels continues.

Elisha is dying. One of the Jehoashes comes to him and asks him to end the civil war and get rid of the Syrians. Elisha tells him to get a bow and arrow, then shoot out the window. Apparently, that will cause the Syrians to go away. Or at least think you're bat-shit crazy. Then he tells him to hit an arrow on the ground. He does, three times. Elisha calls him an idiot and says if he'd hit the arrow on the ground 5 or 6 times, he'd have defeated the Syrians entirely, but now some of them are going to be left over. What are the chances that no matter how many times he hit the arrow, there'd still be Syrians at the end of the day? Then Elisha dies, and doesn't go to heaven on a whirlwind.

The Moabites invade. Oh, goody. I don't think we've seen them for awhile. At one point, they stop to bury a man. It just so happens that Elisha's bones are also in that spot. When his body hits Elisha's, he gets back up, right as rain. Would that make him a zombie?

Syria continues to cause trouble, but god hasn't given up on his chosen people. He lets Jehoash win three times against them. Scene!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 12

The story of Jehoash's reign.

Jehoash is a good, righteous king, but those temples to Baal, they still haven't been shut down, despite the massacres, famines, plagues, fires and wars. Jehoash's solution is to throw money at god: he instructs his priests use all the taxes and tithing money to repair the temple. Of course they don't do it though it takes him until year 23 of his 40-year reign to notice. He asks them why. Duh, the construction industry is full of graft, even how ever long ago this is supposed to be.

So Jeohash invents the collection box. He instructs his priests to drill a hole in the lid of the chest and place it by the altar. The priests have cleaned up their act, and they give the money to the builders. Not one cent of it goes towards increasing the temple treasury. They do, however, continue to keep the sin money.

Then, in a typically biblical transition, that is to say, one verse is about how the temple repair fund is directly followed, apropos of nothing, by a chapter about the king of Syria invading again. He takes over the town of Gath. Jehoash stupidly takes all of his treasury and sends it to Hazael as a tribute. For that, his servants kill him and install his son Amaziah in his place.

Monday, September 6, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 11

Incredibly, the women in these books are worse than the men.

Take Athaliah, Ahaziah's mother, who, on hearing her son is dead, sets about killing all his remaining family members and declares herself queen. Her sister, Jehosheba, manages to spirit Ahaziah's son Joash into a bedchamber and hide him from his murderous grandmother for six years.

In the seventh year of Athaliah's reign, the priest Jehoiada brings together all the spiritual and military leaders in the temple and makes a covenant with them, then shows them Joash. He instructs the soldiers to divide into three groups and watch all the entrances to the house. Anyone who approaches with weapons is to be killed. Then they crown the boy. Their clapping attracts Athaliah's attention. She comes into the temple, sees the boy in a crown, and cries out Treason, Treason (v. 14) Jehoaida orders her taken out by the horses' entrance and run through with a sword.

Then they go again to the temple of Baal and tear it down again and kill the priest again. Then they take the boy to the palace and kill his grandmother again for good measure.

2 Kings, Chapter 10

It's a wonder people were still competing for the throne.

Jehu sends letters to the elders and caretakers of Ahab's 70 sons, announcing his plan to come and fight them one by one. The caretakers are afraid because he's already killed two kings. They decide to surrender and write back to that effect. Jehu writes back that the condition of surrender is that they have to bring him the heads of Ahab's sons. So they do, and send their heads in baskets.

When his presents arrive, Jehu instructs his servant to make two piles of heads. In the morning, he shows his people the heads and points out that you can't trust anybody. Then he announces that from now on, they're going to live a righteous life now that they've fulfilled god's instructions to Elisha. Then he kills all the rest of Ahab's family, friends, priests, dogwalkers and ice-cream truck delivery drivers. Then he goes home to Samaria.

On his way, he stops in a shearing house, where some of Ahazia's relatives are working. He asks who they are and they introduce themselves. Then he instructs his servants to kill all 42 of them. For those of you keeping count, that's 70 severed heads and 42 slain sheep shearers in just 14 verses.

As he's leaving, he meets someone called Jehonadab and asks him Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? (v. 15) Jehonadab says it is and Jehu invites him into the chariot so he can see his zeal for the LORD (v. 16) What does that zeal consist of? Killing more members of the house of Ahab.

Then he goes to his people and says he's now a Baal worshipper. He tells them to gather all the other followers together so they can be pagans together, but really his intent is to kill some more. He gathers them all together in a temple, then instructs his servants to give them all clothes. He then pretends to make a burnt sacrifice, and orders his guards to slaughter all the people in the temple, on pain of death should any escape. Then they tear down the temple and turn it into a toilet. For some reason, he keeps the golden calves which turned people away in the first place.

For all his effort, god promises four generations of rule by his sons. However, Jehu is no better than his predecessors at keeping to god's commandments, so god starts taking away their territory, allowing Hazeal to attack them from all sides. Jehu rules for 28 years.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 9

More soap-opera tactics by the kings and Elisha.

Elisha tells one of his servants to find Jehu, son of Jehosephat, in Ramothgilead and annoint him king of Israel, then run away. So he goes, and annoints him, and instructs him to kill Ahab's entire family, especially Jezebel. Jehu leaves the room and his guards ask what the mad man wanted, proving that Punk'd is not as original as we all think. Eventually he convinces them and they run upstairs to blow trumpets announcing Jehu is king.

His first act as king is to conspire to overthrow Joram, who is in Jezreel recovering from his injuries suffered in battle with the king of Syria. He goes to Jezreel by chariot, where Ahaziah, king of Judah, is visiting Joram. A watchman spots Jehu's approach and Joram tells him to ask if Jehu's coming in peace. Jehu says he isn't an instructs him to fall in behind him. The watchman reports the messenger didn't come back. So Joram sends another, who also fails to return. We also find out that Jehu is the original crazy driver for he driveth furiously (v. 20)

Joram rather stupidly decides to go out and meet Jehu himself, so he and Ahaziah approach in their own chariots to ask if it's peace. Clearly not, you fool. Jehu responds with the ultimate yo' mama insult What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? (v. 22) Joram, not swift with the comeback, doesn't know what to do, and whines to Ahaziah. Fortunately, Jehu kills him with an arrow to the chest. Jehu instructs his followers to cast the body into the fields.

Ahahziah, also slow on the uptake, finally flees. Jehu sends his mionions after him, and they manage to injure him severely enough that he dies later at Megiddo. He at least gets a state funeral in Jerusalem.

Jehu next turns his sights on Jezebel, who puts her make-up on - war paint, see - does her hair, and waits in the window. Jehu arrives and calls out from below Who is on my side? who? (v. 32) Two of her eunuchs throw her out the window. He tramples her with his horses, then goes inside for lunch. He then tells his servants to bury her, but when they go outside, they only find her skull, hands and feet, the dogs having eaten the rest, which, you will recall, god promised to do, in a heartening example of the biblical treatment of women.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 8

Elisha goes back to the woman whose son he restored to life a few chapters ago and tells her to move, because there's going to be a seven year famine. So she goes to the land of the Philistines. She returns seven years later and asks for her land back. The king turns to Elisha's servant and asks him for an exact accounting of Elisha's miracles. When he gets to the part about restoring the son, the woman cries out, like one-track mind much, lady? And Gehazi says it's her, like no one could tell. The king orders his officers to restore the woman's possessions.

Elisah, meanwhile, goes to the Syrian king, Benhadad, who is sick. Benhadad asks someone called Hazeal to ask Elisha if he'll recover. Elisha says he will recover, but he'll also die. Then he starts to cry. Hazeal asks why, and he says it's because he knows all the evil Hazeal is going to do to the Israelites. Hazeal asks if he has free will, and Elisha says he's going to be king one day. Hazeal goes back to his father and promises him he'll recover, then the next day waterboards him until he suffocates. Yes, the actual words are: he took a thick cloth and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died (v. 15).

We get a quick update on the kings of Israel, in which we are told that Jeroham, of the tribe of Judah, is evil, but god keeps him around out of lingering affection for David. Edom revolts during his reign and there's a third Israelite king. Jeroham goes and smites them for their rebellion. Somehow, they keep waging civil war despite all being dead. Then another fire starts up when the people of Libnah start acting up. Then Jeroham dies.

He's replaced by Ahaziah, who is also evil. I'm pretty sure 'evil' is a synonym for 'human' here. Anyway, he teams up with the other Israelite king, Joram to fight the Syrians. They manage to injure Joram, who retreats to recover. Ahaziah visits him, a story I'm sure will pick back up in the next chapter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 7

More miraculous deeds by Elisha.

First, he predicts the commodities markets and commits a little insider trading, telling his disciples how much flour and barley are going to cost the next day. One of them questions him and he threatens to have god smote him.

Next, four lepers enter the city and try to decide whether to just sit there until they die, or to throw themselves on the mercy of the Syrians. I'm pretty sure I know what Newt Gingrich would advise. They decide in the end to beg the Syrians for some food and wander over to their camp, which has been abandoned so quickly the horses are still tied up, because god made some trumpet noises and they thought the Hitites and the Egyptians had joined the Israelites against them, which should make it obvious how easy it actually was to defeat the Syrians in those days. The lepers set to plundering the Syrian tents.

Eventually they decide that hanging out in a deserted camp is a bit creepy, so they go to the king's palace, where they tell the porter what they've just seen. The porter is sufficiently impressed to go and wake the king, who is skeptical, thinking the Syrians are trying to lure his people out of the city. He is convinced by another servant to survey the camp in a chariot. He goes out and isn't attacked so the people come and raid the camp, causing the price of flour and barley to go up (or down, it isn't clear) as Elisha predicted.

The man who questioned Elisha is trampled to death by the returning scavengers. Lovely.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 6

More miraculous works of Elisha the super-prophet.

Some of the sons of the prophets want to build a new city over by the Jordan river. Elisha agrees to go with them. As one of them is chopping down trees, his shoddy, Wal-mart-bought axe head flies off and lands in the river. The man dispairs because apparently axes are in short supply, but Elisha is there with his magic staff and he touches the water with it and behold! the axe head floats to the surface and starts swimming around. Freaky.

Next, the Syrians invade. No, the transition sequences in this book are not well done. Anyway, they invade and set up camp somewhere. Elisha warns the Israelite king not to go where the camp is. And he doesn't! Apparently that counts as a miracle. The Syrian king is frustrated at his inability to capture the Israelite king and asks his servants which of them is the mole, but it's none of them, because Elisha can hear what he says in his chambers. Spooky! He sends some of his chariots to capture Elisha.

Elisha is in the town of Dothan when the chariots arrive. His servants are afraid, but he's relaxed. He prays and suddenly a bunch of chariots and horses appears out of a mountain and surrounds him. Then he asks god to make the Syrians blind. He also makes them stupid, because Elisha then asks them to follow him, and takes them all the way to Samaria, where he asks god to restore their vision.

The king of Israel isn't quite sure what to do with the Syrians, and asks Elisha if he should smite them or what. Elisha is an early follower of the Geneva convention and orders him not to smite them but instead to give them food and water, then send them home. They don't come back for awhile.

When they do come back, they besiege Samaria for so long that an ass' head becomes worth 80 shekels and people are eating dove dung. One day, the king is taking a tour around the walls when a woman cries out to him that her neighbour proposed eating her son for dinner that day, and the neighbour's son the following day. So they did, only now the neighbour has hidden her son. Bet you never heard this story in Sunday school. He rends his clothes and sends for Elisha, but the people are getting mighty skeptical about god.

To be continued in the next chapter...

2 Kings, Chapter 5

Naaman is the captain of the Syrian army and a leper. His Israelite slave girl tells his wife that Elisha can probably cure his affliction. She tells Naaman, who convinces the Syrian king to write a letter on his behalf begging the services of the prophet. He also sends some money and cloth, which I think were more convincing.

The king, of course, has no idea how to cure leprosy, as no one did then, and has a fit. Elisha hears about it and offers to heal Naaman. His cure: bathe seven times in the Jordan river. Somehow I think even the most devout believer in biblical inerrancy would still opt for drugs in this situation.

Naaman is equally dissatisfied, because he was expecting Elisha to ask for god's help, and he's more than a little put out at traveling all this way to bathe in a river when there are perfectly good rivers at home. His servants remind him that he was prepared to do something difficult for this cure, so he shouldn't balk at doing something so easy. He gives in to the incontrovertible logic and takes his bath, which clears his skin right up. I think we need to chalk this incident up to looser definitions of 'cure.'

Nevertheless, the improvement is enough that he offers a gift to Elisha, who refuses. So Naaman asks if he can take home some earth from Elisha's garden, and vows never to worship another god. He does add a clause to his contract that when the king of Syria goes to worship and he has to help him into the temple, he shouldn't be punished. Then he leaves.

One of Elisha's servants still wants a present, so he chases after him. He catches up to Naaman and says two sons of the prophet have just arrived and want a tribute. The servant takes the loot home and sends his servants away before dumping it on the floor. He goes back to Elisha, who asks where he's been. He lies and says nowhere, but Elisha says he saw him receiving the present and punishes him and his children with leprosy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 4

A woman comes up to Elisha and complains that her husband has died and her two sons are about to be put into slavery to pay off his debts. He tells her to go and get all the pots she can find. Then he repeats Elijah's trick with the olive oil, filling all the pots to the brim. Then he tells her to sell the bread and free her sons.

Next, as he's walking, a woman asks him to come inside and 'eat bread.' He starts going there a lot to 'eat bread.' He 'eats' so much 'bread' that the woman turns to her husband and says, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. (v 9-10). Finally, it occurs to Elisha to thank the woman for all her 'bread.' He asks her what she wants: an introduction to the king? to the general? Nah, she's happy at home. What she doesn't have is a child, and her husband is old. Elisha promises her a son in one year. It shouldn't take long with all that 'bread eating' he's been doing.

One day a few years later, the kid goes outside to where his father is threshing, complaining of a headache. They carry him into the house, where he promptly dies. His mother lays him on the bed then rides off to find Elisha. She collapses at his feet and tells him the story. He sends his servant home with her with instructions to tap the boy on the face with his staff. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work. Elisha then repeats the trick of lying on the boy, along with a little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which has better success, as the boy awakes with seven sneezes.

Later on, Elisha comes to Gilgal, where there is a famine. He instructs his servant to put a pot on the fire and cook up some soup. The men, clearly not the sharpest spoons in the drawer, go around gathering up herbs and spices without any knowledge of which ones might be poisonous, and lo and behold, the resulting stew is tainted. Elisha nonchalantly orders them to bring him some meal, which he throws into the pot, curing them all.

For his final party trick Elisha turns a man's few ears of corn and barley into a feast for the whole village.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 3

Sacrificing your children to prove what a crazy mofo you are and scare off your enemies. The bible, ya'll!

Jeroham becomes king of Israel. He's bad, but not in the Baal-worshiping sense, he worships that second set of golden calves that Jeroboam made. The king of Moab sends him 100 000 lambs, 100 000 sheep, and some wool. Then he rebels.

Jeroham goes to Jehosephat, king of Judah, and asks him to support him against the Moabites. Jehosephat agrees. They raise an army and march seven days towards the Moabites. Along the way, they run out of water. Jeroham is ready to give up and go home, but Jehosephat remembers Elisha and sends for him. Elisha tells Jeroham to fuck off and ask the gods his parents worshipped. He also says god did this to deliver them into the hands of the Moabites. However, because he has some respect for Jehosephat, he agrees to help them and asks for a minstrel. Apparently prophesying goes better with music.

Once he has some accompaniment, Elisha tells them to dig some ditches and in the morning they'll be filled with water. Then they'll be able to beat the Moabites. He instructs them to go all General Sherman on them and burn down everything, including the trees, which lots of people point out is forbidden in Deuteronomy. Big book, lots of verses, who can be expected to keep track of every single one? Only people who really, really care about denying gay rights. Not tree-huggers.

In the morning, as predicted, there is water in the ditches (miraculous dew!). The Moabites see it at sunrise and it's red, so they assume the Israelites slaughtered each other and go to grab the spoils. The Israelites pick them off like fish in a barrel, then tear down their city walls, cover the fields with stones, block the wells, hack down the trees and generally wage total war. The Moabite king tries to escape into Edom, but can't. In desperation, he sacrifices his oldest son, which convinces the Israelites that they are dealing with a proto-Kaiser Soze and gets them to leave. Hm...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 2

Is this what Sarah Palin means when she talks about 'momma grizzlies'? Seriously read to the end and tell me.

Elijah is getting old and god has promised to carry him to heaven on a whirlwind. As David Plotz points out, this is the first mention of heaven and the only person who goes there on a whirlwind. I think this book was written at different times by different people and so yeah, it's inconsistent. There's some back and forth with Elisha, his apprentice, who knows Elijah's dying, even though he's not supposed to know. Elijah keeps running around the country trying to die in peace, but Elisha insists on going with him each time.

Finally, they come to the Jordan river, which Elijah smacks with his mantle so it parts, just like Moses did! Elijah tells Elisha to make a wish. Elisha asks for a double portion of his spirit, not that he's greedy or anything. Elijah says if he sees him after his death, he'll get it, but otherwise he won't. Then Elijah dies, and not only does a whirlwind appear, a horse and chariot comes, too! Ya'll, I think this might be a metaphor. I think Elijah got an elaborate funeral, possibly featuring show ponies. Elisha cries for a bit, then picks the mantle up and hits the river with it. It parts! I guess this is where the expression 'passing the mantle' comes from.

The other prophets acknowledge him as their new leader, then go looking for Elijah's body. They look for 3 days but don't find it. Then they start getting him to do tricks. First, they say the city's water sucks, so he throws some water in the river and 'heals' it. Then, as he's leaving the city, some kids start making fun of his bald head. He curses them, and two she-bears come out of the forest and kill 42 of them. Awesome! Go team god!

Now, Christian apologists will bend themselves into knots trying to say that the 'small boys' were really men up to age 40 and they deserved it and so on. Here's the thing: this didn't happen. It's a fairy tale written by a bitter bald guy to scare his mouthy kids into shutting up about his follicle issues. Or something like that. My explanation is just as good as the book's.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2 Kings Chapter 1

Well, you know what they say about sequels.

The Moabites take advantage of the chaos caused by Ahab's death and invade. This somehow causes Ahaziah to fall out a window. He asks his advisors to consult with Baalzebub, god of Ekron (a synonym of Beezlebub? who knows). Not that I blame him. God only seems to want to scold and smite these days. Of course, an angel notices and tattles to Elijah. The angel instructs him to go tell Ahaziah's messengers that he's never going to get better and he's going to die in bed. Nyah! The messengers go back with that cheerful information. Ahaziah asks who told them, and they describe Elijah as an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins (v. 8). Ahaziah immediately recognizes Elijah.

In response, Ahaziah sends 51 men to find Elijah, who is sitting on a hilltop. They command him to come with them, and Elijah responds f I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty (v. 10. So god sends fire down to consume the 51 men. Ahaziah sends another 51 men who are likewise burnt to death. The third captain has leanred his lesson and throws himself at Elijah's feet and begs him to come down. God likes this guy and tells Elijah to go with him.

Elijah arrives and tells the king exactly what he told his messengers. Then Ahab dies, and because he has no sons, Jehosephat's son Jeroham rules all of Israel.

Monday, August 16, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 22

Finally, the end of 1 Kings. Although, as the book's title suggests, we aren't done with these bloody civil wars, as there is another book of them coming up afterwards.

There has been peace between Israel and Syria for three years, a record that probably still stands in that region. The king of Syria, Jehosephat (of Jumping Jehosephat fame? I sincerely hope we find out), comes down to make a treaty with Ahab to fight the king of Gilead, Ramoth. He also suggests that Ahab check with his prophets as to god's feeling about this. They tell him god is all for it. Jehosephat still isn't satisfied, and asks if there's another prophet around. He's like those people who check their horoscopes out in 4 different papers and decide which one they like best. Ahab then remembers Micaiah, but says he hates him because he always prophesies evil. Who wouldn't hate someone who always tells you god's going to kill you?

Micaiah is sent for and the two kings just sort of hang out on their thrones, in their royal robes, with the prophets prophesying in front of them. One of them gets bored and fashions a pair of horns out of iron, saying they'll use them to defeat Ramoth. Finally, Macaiah is located and he advises the same as the others. Ahab reminds him how many times he's predicted doom and gloom and Macaiah dishes out a little more, saying he had a vision of the Israelites like sheep without a shepherd.

This unleashes a torrent of bad tidings: Macaiah saw god hanging out wherever he lives with his minions, and he asked one of them to volunteer to persuade Ahab to attack Ramoth. Finally one of them agreed to go and put lies in the mouths of the prophets.

Zedekiah, the prophet who made the horns, is justifiably offended and slaps Macaiah and asks him where the spirit of the lord went when it left. Macaiah babbles some nonsense about hiding in a room. Ahab tires of the bickering and orders Macaiah arrested. Then he and Jehosephat attack Ramoth.

Ahab is fighting in disguise but Ramoth cottons on and tells his soldier to ignore all the fighters and only go for the king, which strikes me as a spectacularly stupid battle strategy but hey, consider the source. There is some confusion as to whether that means Ahab or Jehosephat but eventually an archer manages to get between the chinks of Ahab's armour. He dies and is buried in Samariah. Just as predicted, dogs lick the blood off the chariot he bled to death in. His son Ahaziah takes over the throne and makes peace with Jehosephat. Jehosephat is pretty good as a king, even kicking out those dirty sodomites.

Jehosephat later tries to send some ships to find gold, and Ahaziah offers to go with him, but is rebuffed. The ships perish at sea. Then Jehosephat dies. His son Jeroham takes over and is also a good king. Ahaziah, on the other hand, worships Baal and is therefore doomed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 21

Ahab's neighbour Naboth has a vinyard. Ahab wants it, but Naboth refuses to trade or sell it, because he inherited it and he's a twit. Anyway, rather than seize his land like any good Israelite, Ahab goes home and gets into bed and refuses to eat. What is he, a 16 year old girl? Jezebel comes in and asks him what's wrong. Jezebel promises to get the vinyard.

The first thing she does is write a letter to the elders of Naboth's tribe commanding them to have a fast and put him in a prominent place. Then two other men are to accuse him of blasphemy and stone him to death. They do as they're told and Naboth is summarily stoned to death. What an extraordinarily complicated and gruesome way to get hold of a vinyard. Has no one ever heard of expropriation?

Ahab goes to view his new vinyard and Elijah shows up like the little black raincloud he is to tell him he's going to be punished for killing Naboth, even though Jezebel set the whole thing up. He issues a bunch of threats about killing off his entire male line and taking his property and blah blah blah because every king hears this at some point in his reign and it just illustrates the adage of 'shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.' Jezebel is going to be eaten by dogs.

We are told that Ahab is the worst person ever, an insult that loses some of its strength when it's the fifth king in a row to earn the title, who worships false idols. When Ahab hears that he really is the worst, worse than every other contestant, he cries and puts on a sackcloth and prays. God sees it and softens his stance, deciding to only punish his children instead of him.