Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 32-24

Chapter 32

A song! However, with lyrics like They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust (v. 24), Lady Gaga has nothing to worry about.

Apparently, the wine of the Israelites' enemies is poisonous to dragons. Ah, so that's why we don't have any. No word yet on why the unicorns, which god is apparently stronger than, are no longer with us. Too many cage matches with god, maybe?

God then commands Moses to go up Mount Nebo and look on Canaan before his death.

Chapter 33

A repeat of the blessings of the 12 tribes, as given by Jacob at the end of Genesis.

Reuben gets a tepid blessing that he will survive and multiply.

Judah will lead the army into battle.

The Levites will be the priests and educators and guardians of the Thummim and Urim coin that gives yes-no answers.

Benjamin will live in safety.

Joseph will enrich the other tribes. We also find out that the horns of his cattle are like the horns of unicorns, so apparently those are still around. No word on sasquatch.

Zebulin will prosper in the seas.

The Gadites will also be successful in battle, as will Dan.

Napthali will live happily to the south and west.

Asher will have a successful olive-growing operation.

Chapter 34

Moses goes up the mountain and dies. How he managed to write about that is not explained. Then he's buried in an 'unknown' grave in Moab. The people mourn for him for 30 days, then Joshua somehow inherits his wisdom and becomes the new leader and author of the next book.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 29-31

Chapter 29

Another reminder of the covenant and a reminder not to worship other gods. One bit of information is added to it: no following your own heart.

Chapter 30

Blah, blah, blah, covenant. Blah, blah, blah, blessings if you follow it. Blah, blah, blah, curses if you worship other gods. The most interesting thing about it is that Jerry Falwell thinks it's all a build-up to the book of Revelations and the second coming of Jesus, because he's deluded.

Chapter 31

Moses is 120 and has clearly been out of it for awhile. He reminds the Israelites, as he has done in umpteen chapters, that god is going to defeat their enemies. He designates Joshua as his successor.

Next he calls on the priests to read all the laws every seven years at the feast of tabernacles. Urgh, are there still sects out there who sit through a reading of all the laws supposedly placed in the Ark of the Covenant? Remember to bring a pillow that day.

God then actually appears again in cloud form and tells Joshua and Moses that the people are going to be led astray in future and he will forsake them and turn away from them. That's right! God is not a figment of your imagination, we just haven't got our theology right in 2000 years of practicing since this book was published!

Moses and Joshua then write a song about the covenant but we don't get to hear it until the next chapter.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 24-26

Chapter 24

A prayer for the festival of first fruits. It basically recounts Abraham's story, then the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt and their journey to the promised land.

Every third year, you have to tithe your crop to the Levites, the poor and widows. Oh, and no offering food to the dead.

Chapter 25

When the Israelites cross the Jordan river, they are to set up stone pilars, then cover them in plaster. When the plaster dries, they are to write the laws on them. Next, they have to build an altar out of unhewn stone, also with the laws written on it. This altar is for sacrifices.

Then Moses tells the tribes to split up and go to two different mountains. The tribes of Levi, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Joseph and Benjamin are to go to Mount Gerizim to shout blessings, the people of Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan and Naphtali are to go to Mount Ebal to shout curses. Because punishments are more fun to hear about than rewards, we don't get to hear the blessings. And oddly, even though they are on the blessing side, the Levites are going to cry out the curses. The people are to respond to each one with 'Amen!' so you can assume that's what they're doing. I do believe this is the first time the book says amen.

Anyway, here are the things that bring down curses: making graven images and hiding them, dishonouring your parents, moving your fences onto your neighbours' property, leading the blind astray, injustice to strangers, widows and orphans, having sex with your stepmothers, bestiality, sex with your sisters and half-sisters, sex with your mother-in-law, killing your neighbour in secret, contract killing, not following the laws.

Chapter 28

Oops! The blessings are laid out, crammed into 14 verses, followed by 54 verses of curses. Hey, that rhymes!

Okay, here are the carrots: favoured by god, prosperous cities and farms, children, increased herds and flocks, your stores won't rot, you'll be blessed when you go out and when you come back, god will protect you from your enemies and scatter them about, other people will fear you, riches, good rain, no need to borrow from other nations and you'll always be on top.

Then the sticks: well, the opposite of the above (what was that about not punishing kids for the sins of their parents? what?), plus pestilence, consumption, fever, inflammation, scorching heat and droughts, mildew, bronze skies, iron earth, dustbowls, your corpse will be carrion, boils, hemorrhoids, sores, incurable itch, madness, blindness, panic attacks, daytime blindness, oppression, ruination, cuckoldery of your wife, house, field and livestock, enslavement of your children, crop destruction, boils on the knees and legs, and all the way from feet to head (yes, it gets repetitive, as anyone ranting does), exile, worship of other gods, becoming a joke amongst other people (and considering they aren't mentioned in Herodotus...), locusts, worms, fruitless olive trees, foreigners will take over and control the wealth, cursed and enslaved children, enslavement, attack by barbarians, who will eat all the livestock and besiege the cities, cannibalism, women will turn on their families and eat their babies, plagues and diseases onto their descendants, scattering to the ends of the earth, hostility from neighbours, generalised anxiety disorder, a wish for night in the morning, and morning at night, return to Egypt, where they'll be enslaved, but no one will buy them.

Whew! Well, if that doesn't convince you, nothing will.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 23-25

Chapter 23

Men with injured testicles or whose penises have been cut off may not worship in the temple. Further, bastards are not allowed in, even unto the 10th generation. Is there anyone in the entire world who doesn't have at least one great-great-great-great grandparent who was illegitimate? I think not. Ammonites and Moabites can't join the congregation for 10 generations, though according to Jerry Falwell, that prohibition only applies to men. Women can marry Israelites and convert. Of course. Edomites and Egyptians can join after 3.

People who have 'nocturnal emissions' are unclean and have to leave the camp until sundown, at which point they can take a shower and come home. So boys between the ages of 12 and oh, 62, pretty much lived in the fields then.

If you get, uh, caught short away from home and have to improvise a field toilet, for god's sake, dig a hole and cover it up when you're finished. This one I happen to agree with, though not for the reason given in the book, which is that god will be walking around and doesn't want to get his shoes dirty. I'm more concerned about my own shoes.

If an escaped slave comes to your village, you should not give him back to his master, but rather should let him live where he likes.

Israelites may not become prostitutes or engage in homosexual sex. Nor shall male or female prostitutes tithe their wages to the church. Jerry is silent on this, which I find odd.

Next, usury is banned. Well, only among Israelites. Charging strangers interest is fine. If only evangelical Christians would pay attention to this one, and try to get payday loan services banned, rather than focus on the verse above it.

Keep your promises.

Finally, a note on hospitality: when in your neighbour's vineyard, you can eat enough grapes to satisfy yourself, but you can't put some in a doggie bag. Same with his corn.

Chapter 24

If you get married, then divorce your wife, then she marries another dude, then divorces him, you can't get remarried. Apparently, the governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, a committed Christian, did exactly this, to the sounds of crickets chirping from evangelicals.

Newlywed men cannot be drafted into the army for a year.

No taking the upper or lower millstone for a debt security, because that's taking a man's livelihood.

People who steal slaves and sell them on are to be put to death.

Remember the laws on leprosy, and what happened to Miriam (struck with the disease for accusing Moses of breaking god's laws on intermarriage, which he did.)

When collecting a debt, no going inside the debtor's house, it should be done in the open.

Be nice to the poor and pay your workers on time.

Now apparently fathers can't be punished for the sins of their children, nor can children be punished for the sins of their father. Never mind all those seven verses we've already read, including one in the last chapter that say the exact opposite.

Then another reminder to be nice to widows and orphans, and when you harvest, to let them scavenge the fields.

Chapter 25

Beatings: it's not quite the law of the jungle, but it isn't quite civilised, either. If two men get into a dispute they can take it to a judge. If one is deemed guilty, the judge can order up to 40 lashes, depending on the crime.

Let animals eat while they work.

If a man gets married, then dies without issue, his brother must then marry his wife. Their first son will take the father's name so it doesn't die out. If the brother refuses, the wife can report him to the priests. The priests can then call him before them, and if he admits it, the wife can then loosen his shoe and spit in his face, and his clan will then be known as the house of him that hath his shoe loosed (v. 10).

Next, brawling: if two men are brawling and one's wife interferes and grabs the other by the testicles, à la Jerry Springer, her hand will be cut off.

How can you even take any of this out of context? There is no context. Right after hand-chopping, there are a few verses about using fair weights and measures, then the chapter segues immediately into avenging themselves on the Amalekites. The end for today.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 20-22

Chapter 20

War rules. Namely, don't worry about going into battle, because god is on your side! I wonder how many foolhardy skirmishes this particular chapter has caused, and how many needless deaths.

Those exempt from the draft: those who have built houses and not yet consecrated them, those who have planted a vineyard and not harvested, those who have not yet consummated their marriages and those who are fearful and faint-hearted (v. 8). I wonder how many of those Dick Cheney used to get out of Vietnam?

On conquering a city, the inhabitants may be enslaved if they surrender. However, if they don't, the males, down to the babies, are to be killed, and the women and cattle taken as booty. These do not apply to peoples living in the promised land, all of whom are to be slaughtered.

Oddly, trees are to be spared, if they bear fruit. Otherwise, they can cut them down to reinforce the city walls.

Chapter 21

When you find a body in the field, and can't determine the cause of death, rather than call in the CSI crew, the priests from the neighbouring villages are to measure the distance between their community and the spot. The closest one is responsible for the disposal. Then the priests have to find a heifer that has never worked, break its neck, wash their hands and say Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it (v. 7).

Next, rules on treatment of female prisoners of war. If you see a hottie among your captives, you can bring her home. She then has to shave her head and trim her fingernails and give up her old clothes. She gets to mourn her family for a month, after which you can marry her. If you don't like her, you can send her away, but you can't sell her to someone else. There is no rule for what happens if she doesn't like you.

if you have two wives, and like one better, you can't favour her children over the other's. You still have to give the lion's share of your estate to your firstborn son.

What to do with rebellious sons: take them to the priests, accuse them of gluttony and drunkenness, then sit back and watch the men of your city stone him to death. Jerry Falwell is in total support of this, saying 'anarchy in the home breeds anarchy in society.' Bear in mind that he wants to rule society based on this kind of biblical family values. Also, the main justification for taking over Canaan is that the Canaanites practiced child sacrifice. And what is this, exactly, but child murder?

Finally, if you hang someone, cut his body down that day.

Chapter 22

Another bizarre list of unrelated rules. Or maybe they are. You be the judge.

First, if you find your neighbours' cattle or donkeys, give them back.

Next, never mind Joseph from Genesis, and his queenly ways, cross-dressing is now an abomination. Jerry loves this, because it supports his theory that there should be 'a proper distinction between the sexes.' Ya'll, this is his code for 'women should stay home and have babies while men should go out and work.' Because it's still 1870. He then goes on to list various items of clothing that are prohibited, proving he is way to knowledgeable about this subject to be straight.

Next, if you find a bird's nest, only take the eggs, let the mother go free.

Make your roof safe when you build a house.

No GM crops, no plowing with an ox and a donkey, no mixed fabrics, put fringes on your clothing. Jerry Falwell doesn't even bother to cite the New Testament verses that supposedly negate any of these rules. Personally, I think it was union regulations.

If you marry a girl, then decide you don't like her, you can claim she wasn't a virgin when you got married. If her family can produce bloody sheets (ugh) to prove you wrong, you have to pay a fine. If they can't, the girl will be stoned to death on her father's doorstep. Jerry Falwell is of course perfectly accepting of this 'adultery was punishable by death for both partners involved as a violation of the sacrosanct nature of the family.'

Adultery is also punishable by death. If an engaged woman is raped within the city limits, and doesn't cry out loud enough, she is an adulteress and both parties will be put to death. If it happens in the field, where no one would have heard the girl if she cried out, only the man is punishable by death. If a girl is not engaged and she gets raped, her rapist must pay for her and marry her.

Finally, no marrying your father's wife, nor looking under his robes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 17-19

Chapter 17

Sacrificial animals must be pure, in case that wasn't clear from the oh, 700 other verses where we are told that.

Non-believers who practice their religion in Israel are to be stoned to death, not unlike Saudi Arabia today, and we all know how much fun it would be to live there, don't we!

Some clarification on the death penalty: at least two witnesses are needed for a capital sentence, if only one can be found, you can only banish the person. Witnesses get to cast the first stone.

Moses then sets up various levels of court for more entrenched cases. People who refuse to accept the judgements of the supreme court will be put to death. Huh. Of course Jerry has nothing to say on how that particular verse does not apply to evangelical Christians' opposition to Roe v. Wade.

Then the line of succession is laid out: they can choose the king, and god will give his judgement. Qualifications for king: he must be an Israelite, he can't have too many horses, he can't take them to Egypt, he can't have too many wives or too much gold and silver. Take that, prosperity gospel! He also has to read his bible every day.

Chapter 18

A reminder to tithe so the priests can eat, and not to worship other gods. Then we get a reminder not to practice witchcraft of any sort.

Next, god promises to raise a prophet from among them. Of course there will be false prophets, and they'll know them because the things they predict won't come true. But hang on! A couple of chapters ago, we were told that false prophets' predictions might also come true! Jerry Falwell's crack team of biblical scholars for once notices the contradiction, but punts when it comes to explaining it, saying only that the true prophet will remain true to the word of god and not lead them astray. Of course, Jesus was killed because a council of priests decided he was indeed a false prophet, but there is no explanation of that, either.

Chapter 19

More on the cities of refuge. A typical example is given: a man is chopping wood, and the head flies off his axe and kills his neighbour. He can then run to the nearest city and if he gets there before the neighbour's relatives, he will be safe. If he killed his neighbour on purpose, however, the elders of the city must cast him out to the avengers. At least two people have to witness the crime for it to be valid. According to the Skeptics' Annotated Bible, this section is often used by Jehovah's Witnesses to justify not reporting crimes from within. False witnesses will be executed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 14-16

Chapter 14

God really dislikes unibrows, because he tells us not to shave between our eyebrows or cut ourselves for the dead, because people from other religions do that. Then we get a repeat of the "clean" and "unclean" animals. No eating animals that died in the field, although they can be given to strangers, and no boiling a kid goat in its mother's milk. Then a reminder to tithe and sacrifice.

Chapter 15

Every seven years, debts are to be forgiven. Jerry of course links this to Jesus, his forgiveness of the poor and helpless, for those of you on the fence as to the quality of his biblical scholarship. Foreigners are not forgiven.

A reminder to be nice to the poor and to free Hebrew slaves every 7 years, and to give them wine and meat on their departure. If they refuse, you can pierce their ears and keep them forever. Finally, the firstlings of the flock are not to be put to work but are to be sacrificed and eaten, even by the unclean.

Chapter 16

A reminder of what to do during feasts. During those feasts, all men have to appear before god without an offering, however humble.

Judges and priests should endeavor to be impartial and should not take bribes. No trees near altars, and no graven images.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 11-13

This book is so boring I almost want a mass killing or plague just to break up the monotony.

Chapter 11

Blah blah blah. Left slavery in Egypt. Israel is the land of milk and honey (it's not) if they obey, but god will smite it if they don't.

Chapter 12

An exhortation to destroy the places of worship of the pagans. Then a reminder about tithing and sacrifices in the promised land. They can also slaughter their own animals, and both clean and unclean people can feast on them, but no eating blood! No eating food for the tithe, either, except in the temple. This is repeated. Also, no worshipping other gods. Finally, you have to follow all the laws in the Old Testament forever. Of course Jerry doesn't touch this.

Chapter 13

The Israelites are told not to believe in false prophets, even if their prophesies come to pass. He'll be sending them along periodically as a test, and they are not to follow them, but rather to kill them. See here for an example of this.

If your kids, brothers, half-brothers or wives try to convert you to another religion, you are to kill them immediately by stoning. Jerry even feels the need to point this out in his footnotes to this chapter, which makes me think a theocracy under his direction would resemble the Spanish Inquisition.

If you hear of people worshipping another god in one of your cities, you are to destroy them and their cattle. Then you have to burn everything in the town square and you can't rebuild. This does not bode well for Salt Lake City. Also, Martin Luther, for all he seems like a happy-clappy good guy you'd want to have a beer with now, used this chapter to go after Jewish enclaves, which lowers my opinion of him considerably.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 8-10

Chapter 8

God tells the Israelites that he has been leading them around the desert for the past 40 years as a test of faith and to get them to trust him. Here's a way to get people to trust you: promise them a country, then give it to them. Here's a way to get people to obey you out of fear: send plagues, snakes, earthquakes and fire when they don't obey you. Which one is more familiar?

Apparently, god also didn't let their clothes or shoes wear out in those 40 years. This is followed by yet another promise that Canaan will be bountiful and they'll be rich if they follow his commands. If they don't: death!

Chapter 9

The first people to be defeated will be the giant Anakims. The Israelites are then informed that they are not getting Canaan because they're virtuous, but rather because the Canaanites are so bad. I wouldn't really care, as long as I got it. Moses then starts into a long list of their sins and rebellions and all the times he's had to go up into the mountain to appease god and how he didn't even have time to eat or drink for 40-day stretches because he was so busy negotiating for their sorry hides.

Chapter 10

Moses reminds them of how he got the Ten Commandments on stone tablets which he then locked into the Ark of the Covenant before anyone could read them, and how Aaron died. Then he reminds them to Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart (v. 16), which according to Jerry means an uncircumcised heart is one that is closed and impervious to god. You can also have uncircumcised ears and lips.

Finally, the chapter closes with an exhortation to be kind to strangers, especially the orphans and widows. Well, except for the ones he has commanded them to kill, like the Midianites, where, if you will recall, god specifically tells them to kill the non-virgin women (widows) and male children.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 5-7

Chapter 5

Moses is still talking. Now he's reminding them about the time he went up the mountain and talked to 'god' and reminds them what the commandments were. Even though the third commandment Thou shalt not make thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing that is in the heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the waters beneath the earth (v. 8), Jerry still insists that this only means deities, and is in no way meant to stifle artistic creativity.

Chapter 6

More reminders, namely, teach your children about god, and don't worship any other gods. On the first, Jerry instructs us that we are to teach god's principles every day in our homes. Which ones? Certainly not the ones about not eating shellfish or tying ribbons to your clothes or sacrificing an animal every time you give birth, or paying 5 shekels for your firstborn son, or not sleeping with your wife when she has her period. No, he means the ones he likes. And on the second principle, this is what he has to say: "By definition, there can be only on all-powerful, infinite, limitless god. To speak of more than one supreme absolute, perfect and almighty being is to say something contradictory. There canot be two absolutes, for then there would be no absolute." See? He hasn't even read this chapter. Of course the Israelites were worshipping other gods! If they weren't, there would be no point in telling them not to! Also, according to Jerry, this god created the entire universe, including any other gods people might be worshipping. So he's either dumb or not very powerful.

Chapter 7

God promises to cast out the seven nations that currently occupy Canaan. Of course, this will never happen. He instructs them to slaughter them completely, and not to make treaties or show mercy or intermarry with their offspring. Then they have to destroy their property. Jerry does not say if these are the kinds of values we should be teaching to our children. And of course Moses has two foreign wives.

In return for worshipping god, the Israelites are promised that they will never be infertile, nor will their cows, and they will never get sick, but those afflictions will be laid on their enemies instead. Of course, this doesn't come with fertility clinics or vaccines or anything, but it does give the convenient reasoning that if you're sick, it's because you did something to piss god off.

There are some more threats and promises, including that god will send hornets out against their enemies. It's all very turgid.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1

Moses recounts the Israelites' 40-year journey again. He promises that god will multiply them a thousandfold in Canaan. That certainly didn't happen. He reminds them how he set up the government, and how he was going to lead them into the promised land, but they wouldn't go, how they were faithless except for Caleb, and how they lost the right for one generation. He blames them for the fact that he won't make it: Also the LORD was angry with me for your sakes, saying Thou also shalt not go in tither (v. 37). No, Moses, it's your own damned fault. Yes, your god was being petty and spiteful, but if you're going to believe in him and accept his commandments and punishments, you're the one who got it wrong. Finally, he reminds them of their failed invasion of the Amorites.

Moses really sounds like a bitter old man, here, blaming everybody else for what has gone wrong in his life.

Chapter 2

Moses continues to wax on, and I can just picture the Israelites wishing watches had been invented, so they could make a big show out of looking at them impatiently.

He reminds them of passing through Edomite territory, the descendants of Esau, whom god instructed them to leave alone. Then they passed through the territory of the Moabites, the descendants of Lot's daughters' drunken father-raping. Same with the Ammonites, who are the other tribe that descended from those nights. Then he reminds them of the Amorites, whose hearts god hardened, so they massacred them when they refused to grant them safe passage. Same with the people of Shihon, whom they also massacred.

Chapter 3

More nostalgia: how they defeated Og the king of Bashan and his people and took over their cities. Apparently Og was the last of the giants, with a 13-foot bed. The left the tribes of Reuben and Manasseh there. He reminds them that the lord promised Joshua he would kill for him, too. He reminds them again that he won't get to the promised land because of them, and urges them to take it.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 4

Moses is still talking, but he has at least changed topics. Now he's on to why the Israelites should obey god. As if snakes, earthquakes or plagues aren't enough.

First, he tells them that whatever is in this hot mess of a book has to stay in it. No editing! Hence we're stuck with chapters like the first 3 for all time. Of course Jerry Falwell does not point to anything in the New Testament that negates this verse.

Next, he reminds them of how god destroyed the people who changed their loyalties to Baal-peor.

He reminds them of the laws laid down, how they're the sign of a wise and just god (?) and must be kept for all time. Nope, nothing from Jerry as to why this isn't so.

He reminds them of the commandments, especially not to make graven images, and Jerry fails to explain why photo albums and sculpture are now allowed. Anyone who does so will cause the entire nation to be wiped out. Jerry is mum. And says again that it's their fault he isn't going to the holy land.

He makes a final case for monotheism, then designates the 'cities for refuge' discussed earlier.

It's even more rambling and incoherent than his speeches in the first 3 chapters.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 34-36

Chapter 34

God lays out the borders of the Israelites' future territory and tells them to divide it up by lots. This is still causing controversy today, as the West Bank and Gaza are not accounted for.

Chapter 35

The Levites get the cities and suburbs. Six of them are to be cities for refuge (v. 6) for people who have committed manslaughter. Hey, they had their own version of Australia! The other tribes are instructed to give their tithes to the cities. So the way the refuge thing works is, if you kill someone by accident, his or her closest male relative then becomes the avenger (v. 9) and has to try and kill you. If you can get to the city for refuge before he catchs you, you're home free. Otherwise, you lose. Murderers cannot appeal to the cities for refuge.

The congregation tries manslaughterers, and if they are found to be murderers, they go to the avenger. Otherwise, they can stay in the city. When the high priest dies, they are absolved. Of course Jerry sees this as a sign of Jesus. If the manslaughterer leaves the city, he becomes fair game.

At least two witnesses are needed to substantiate a charge of murder.

The New Yorker wrote about a similar system of tribal justice in Papua New Guinea in 2008. It sounded every bit as gruesome as this, with vengeance killings going on several generations later. I'd link to the article, but it only the abstract is available. Just remember that this is the kind of bible-based 'family values' that Jerry Falwell would have loved to have seen implemented.

Chapter 36

Some of the tribal leaders come to Moses and point out that if daughters are allowed to inherit their fathers' land, then get married, that land will pass out of the tribe and into another. So god then says that women who inherit property have to marry within their own tribe from now on. Of course this doesn't bother Jerry, because he can't imagine a woman from his church marrying anyone else anyway. It has, however, posed a problem for the children of Fred Phelps.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 32 & 33

Chapter 32

Two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, see the land of Gilead, and decide it would be a good place for them, because their herders and it looks like fine grazing land, rather than going on to Canaan. Moses asks why their brethren should go to war and not them (because they don't want to?) and accuses them of causing the others to lose heart, just like their fathers did. He reminds them how god cursed them for that, and how no one who was over 20 at the time is going to see the holy land because they've been wandering in the desert for 40 years. He says god will do it again if they leave.

They propose to build houses and sheep pens where they are, fight the battle, and come back. Moses agrees to those terms. The sons of Reuben and Gad set about building their cities and fields.

Chapter 33

This chapter consists of a list of all the places the Israelites have camped over the past 40 years. It's about as interesting as looking at other people's vacation photos: 'Oh look! Here's Elim! Remember, dear, how there were 12 fountains there and 70 palm trees! That was a good camp! Oh, no! Rephidim! That one was awful! No water! No dear, the worst was Edom. Remember how Aaron died there? Oh, yes, dear, you're absolutely right. That was terrible.'

After 50 verses, Moses comes back with some new instructions: conquer the Canaanites, destroy their property, drive them out. Failure to do so will result in prickly eyes and thorns in their sides, in addition to whatever he was planning for the Canaanites.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 32

Today in bible bedtime stories guaranteed to give your kids nightmares for years to come: the wholesale slaughter of mothers and children! But don't worry! The virgins are spared so they can become concubines!

So, god is still upset about those Moabite hussies who lured the Israelites into worshipping their false gods with sex. He's done punishing the Israelites, which you will recall involved cutting off their heads and hanging them in the sun. Now he's ready to punish... the Midianites. Wha...? All that happened with the Midianites is one of their women went on a date with an Israelite and got speared by Phineas for it. Never let it be said that god isn't just.

So Moses raises an army of 12 000 and kills all the Midianite men. The Israelites bring back the women and children and livestock as war spoils. But Moses isn't happy with this. He orders them to kill all the non-virgin women and the boys. Go Moses. He also sends them away for a 7-day ritual cleansing and burns everything that wasn't valuable from the spoils.

We then get a listing of the livestock, and note that women are at the bottom of this list: 670 500 sheep, 72 000 cattle, 61 000 asses, 32 000 virgins. The spoils are to be divided between the tribes, with a percentage going to god. There is an implication that some of the women were also sacrificed, but the KJV isn't explicit and of course neither is Jerry, who is too busy telling us how the punishment for adultery was death, and this was spiritual adultery and well-deserved. Wouldn't you love one of his minions as president? I sure would.

Somehow, I don't think this chapter makes it into very many Sunday School classes or Bible Study discussions. Also, if god is so against abortion, how come he's for killing children and non-virgin women, some of whom are presumably pregnant?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 28-30

Chapter 28

A recap of daily sacrifices: one lamb in the morning, with bread and wine, and another in the evening. Monthly sacrifices, to be offered at the new moon: two bullocks, a ram, seven lambs. Passover and First Fruits sacrifices are a repeat of monthly sacrifices. No working on the sabbath or on holidays, except sacrificing. Yes, this is a boring repeat of several other chapters. Great news for carnivorous priests!

Chapter 29

The Feast of Trumpets, or the harvest festival, requires the same sacrifices as the monthly ones, except that a kid goat is also on the menu. Yom Kippur: same sacrifices. Sukkot: 13 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 kid goat the first day, plus bread and wine, 12 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs. 1 kid goat on day 2, 11 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 kid goat on day 3, 10 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat on day 4, 9 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 goat on day 5, 8 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs, 1 kid goat on day 6, 7 bullocks, 2 rams, 14 lambs 1 goat on day 7. No work on the 8th day, except to sacrifice 1 bullock, 1 ram and 7 lambs. So in 8 days, that's a total of 71 bullocks, 15 rams, 105 lambs and 8 goats. Vegetarians are SOL. Oh, and this is besides all the other kinds of sacrifice, like for menstruating women and lepers.

Chapter 30

What it means when various people make oaths. A man must do what he promises. If an unmarried woman makes a vow, her father can overrule it and she isn't responsible. Otherwise, she has to keep it, but ultimately daddy's responsible. Husbands can also override their wives' vows. Divorced or widowed women are responsible for their own promises. Jerry Falwell loves this of course, because it confirms his world view that women should submit to their husbands. I've read about women who take this so seriously that they'll consult their husbands on what to wear that day and how to do their hair. Of course he has no advice for women who submit to their husbands for 15 years, cleaning house and home-schooling their 9 kids, only to have hubby drop dead at age 43 or leave them for a woman who can decide how to wear her hair for her own damned self. He'd just tell you it's your fault, you sinned and now you have to deal with the consequences.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Numbers Chapters 26 & 27

Chapter 26

God is just about ready to finally let the Israelites into the holy land. He orders a census so as to decide how to divide the spoils between the tribes. One man, Zelophehad, doesn't have any sons. This will be important later. Somehow, despite the plagues, fires, food poisoning, snakes and earthquakes sent by god, there are still 601 730 men over the age of 20. Odd then that Herodotus doesn't mention them at all. Even odder is that only two of the men who were alive in the last census, Caleb and Joshua, are still around for this one.

Chapter 27

Zelophehad's five daughters come to Moses to petition for property rights, because they have no brother to claim their share of the land. Moses takes the case to god, who says that from now on, if a man dies and has no sons, his daughters can inherit his property. Yay, a little, for the girls. Of course this particular statute very seldom found its way into legal codes for the next several thousand years, and there is still the problem that if you had a brother, he'd get everything. Jerry of course, falls on the side of the patriarchy, pointing out the problems tht would arise in this situation, because the daughters would take the property away under a new name when they got married, destroying the father's estate? Why, exactly? He's dead. Is it better for a nephew or cousin to inherit it so it 'stays in the family?'

Next, god tells Moses to go up Mount Abarim so he can look at Canaan before he dies. Moses asks who will be in charge, and god makes the first crude separation of church and state: Joshua will be the military leader, Eleazar the spiritual. Jerry Falwell's crack team of biblical scholars fails to pick up on this, probably because they're still hoping for a theocracy based on the wonderful, just laws contained in books such as this one. Eleazar will not be able to communicate with god face-to-face, instead he is to use the Urim and Thummim coin, to which he can ask yes-no questions. Nope, not corrupt at all!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 25

The Israelites have started having sex with the women of Moab, and worshipping their gods. Jerry Falwell tells us that the Canaanites practiced prostitution in their religion, conveniently forgetting Judah's little dalliance with his daughter-in-law Tamar.

God gets pissy and tells Moses to hang the men who started worshipping the other gods in the sun. That must have been a lovely, and pungent reminder of god's mercy.

Next, an Israelite man marries a Midianite woman. Now, you may remember from Exodus chapters 2-4 that Moses' wife Zipporah is a Midianite. So no problem, right? No, god now unleashes a plague upon the people. Fortunately, Phineas the zealot takes a javelin and stabs the couple to death. 24 000 people still die. This settles god down, and he makes Phineas the new priestly line. He then instructs Moses to beat the Midianites.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Numbers Chapters 22-24

The story of Balaam, who Jerry Falwell absolutely hates. He devotes three-quarters of a page to denigrating him, so he's probably a stand-up guy in most people's books. Prefer to watch? See here.

Chapter 22

Balak, king of Moab, is worried about the Israelites. He sends messengers to his soothsayer, Balaam, to ask him to curse them. God notices his houseguests and asks Balaam what's going on. Balaam explains and god tells him not to attack the Israelites. Balaam breaks the bad news to the messengers, but Balak won't take no for an answer and keeps sending more and more envoys. They keep promising him rewards, and finally they wear him down and he agrees to talk to god again. Jerry condemns him here for trying to get an ever-bigger reward out of the king, as if those in the messianic line have all taken vows of poverty. Anyway, god finally tells him to go with them, but to do as he says.

The next day, Balaam sets out on his ass, which pisses god off, even though he told him to go the day before. So god sends an angel down (Jerry, of course, thinks all angels are Jesus) to block the path. Balaam can't see it, but the donkey does and balks. Balaam beats her, but she refuses to go forward. Then god makes her speak and gives me the first genuine laugh of this book, in verse 30 Am I not thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. I love puns, even unintentional ones. God then appears, and Balaam apologizes, and goes on his way, with a promise to obey god. He arrives at Balak's court. Balak asks why he's late and he non-answers that he can only say what god tells him to say. Then they go look at the Israelite camp.

Chapter 23

Balaam sends Balak all over his kingdom building altars and making animal sacrifices. Each time, he tells him to wait, and he'll talk to god. Instead of cursing them, though, he returns each time with a blessing. We are also informed that god is as strong as a unicorn. What about a leprechaun? He also tells Balak that the Israelites are going to win. At his wit's end, Balak just asks him to neither curse nor bless the Israelites, but Balaam says sorry, he's just repeating what god said.

Chapter 24

Balaam falls into a trance and reveals the coming victories of Israel over its enemies. Of course Jerry sees the predictions of Revelations, the End of Days and the Rapture in his predictions. You and Maryann the Maenad, Jerry. Balak gets angry and sends him home, but he points out that he said all along he was only saying what God told him. Point Balaam. They separate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 21

King Arad the Canaanite attacks the Israelites, who pray to god, who then lets them destroy the Canaanite army and cities. So what happens when two countries with the same religion go to war?

After winning, they travel a bit, but immediately start complaining about the food again. God's punishment this time is poisonous snakes. So Moses prays, and god tells him to make a snake, thus violating the second commandment yet again, and put it on a pole. People who looked at the fake snake would then be cured. Yes, Moses is the first snake oil salesman.

They wander a bit more, and at one point stop to dig a well and sing a well-digging song.

Eventually, they get into another spat, this time with Sihon, king of the Amorites, who doesn't want to let them pass through, and sends his army to attack them. They defeat them, and get their cities.

They get in one final tussle with Og, king of Bashan, and god again helps them out. In the end, they massacre everyone and take more cities. So that's 3 wars and one poisoning by snakes in one chapter. This book is like a Paul Verhoeven film.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Numbers Chapters 19 & 20

Chapter 19

Unless you're a fundamentalist whatever, you've probably never heard of this particular chapter. God tells Moses and Aaron to bring forth a red heifer (young female cow) with no spots or blemishes and sacrifice her. Whoever burns her must then take a bath and do laundry. Someone else is to gather up the ashes and keep them for purification water. I read about it in a book called The Year of Living Biblically, in which the author travels to Israel, where some Jews were trying to breed this unblemished heifer in the effort to bring forth the messiah. Some fundamentalist Christians take this even further, thinking that messiah will then bring about the end of days and the rapture. Apparently one was born in 2002 that met with provisional approval, but it was rejected in the end. But they'll keep trying! Kinda like Maryann the Maenad from True Blood last season, who has spent 3000 years trying to get her theology right so Dionysis will return to earth. Yes, that's right. I just compared Christian fundamentalists who believe in the Rapture to a character on a cheesy vampire show who believes in her own rapture.

People who handle the dead are unclean. They have this in Japan and India as well. There are villages that are shunned because they do this work. I've never understood it, though. I mean, someone has to get rid of dead bodies, right? And then we shun them. There's some morality for you. To get clean, they have to purify themselves with heifer-water on the third day, and then they can come back on the seventh.

If someone dies in a tent, the tent and any open pots inside are unclean for seven days. The tent can be made clean by sprinkling the water on the person.

Chapter 20

Miriam dies unloved and forgotten.

Next verse, there is no water and the people are angry. Moses and Aaron prostrate themselves before god. God tells Moses to take his staff and order a rock to bring forth water. They gather the people and Moses speaks to them in anger, then hits the rock twice with his staff. God accuses them of not believing them, and punishes them by saying they won't make it into the holy land, either. Well, to be fair, they are about 123 and 127 by now, since we know they were 83 and 87 when they left Egypt and that was 40 years ago. But this just goes to show, you can be pious and holy your entire life and god will still turn on you in a second if you piss him off.

Next the Israelits send messengers to the king of Edom requesting safe passage through his lands. Edom, a descendant of Esau, refuses, probably still smarting from the time Jacob bought his great-great-whatever grandfather's birth right for a bowl of porridge. He in fact threatens to send his army after them, even after they offer to pay. That's some grudge.

Finally, they come to Mount Hor and god says it's time for Aaron to die. He orders him to go up the mountain, strip off his clothing, give it to his son, and lay down there. Jerry compares this to the 'eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ.' Have you heard from him there lately, Jerry? What's that? Not directly? Just some burnt toast and oil slicks? No text messages, even?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17

More magic tricks! This time, god tells Moses to tell the heads of all the households to make a walking stick and write their names on them. On the Levites' stick, he's to put Aaron's name. He puts them all on the altar, and in the morning, almond flowers are blossoming out of Aaron's rod! Wow! If killing thousands of people by burning them, opening up the earth to swallow them, or plaguing them doesn't work, say it with flowers! Of course it doesn't shut the Israelites up.

Chapter 18

God puts the Levites in charge of the tabernacle, but only Aaron can touch the holy things without dying. He also gets the choice offerings from every sacrifice: meat, bread, wine, the 5 shekels to redeem a firstborn son. They aren't allowed to own land, but instead the other tribes have to give the Levites 10 percent of their wealth. Nope, this system isn't corrupt and self-serving at all, not one bit! Good thing god killed all those people who complained about Moses and Aaron elevating themselves above the rest a couple of chapters ago!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 16

More rebellion. This time, 4 men are basically arguing for protestantism, wondering why they have to follow Moses and Aaron if the whole congregation is holy? Why can't they have a direct line to god? Jerry, who you think would be all over this, is oddly restrained in his commentary here.

Moses prostrates himself before them and asks them to come back the next day so god can decide who's the holiest, a test that will involve censers and incense. It's a twist on drawing guns at dawn I suppose. Two of the rebels, Dathan and Abiram, have a beef with the political leadership, which seems to them to be leading them around in the wilderness in order to enrich itself, and refuse. Moses is enraged that anyone would think this system, where he controls access to god and dictates all the rules and punishments, could be corrupt and orders them to be there with their censers drawn.

So they come back to the tabernacle the next day with their censers, and god tells Moses and Aaron to leave, because he's going to kill them all. Moses and Aaron try to plead with him, asking him if he'd punish the whole congregation for one man's sin. Um, yes. It's like his favourite sport.

Moses calls Korah, Dathan and Abiram, three of the leaders, and asks them to step to the side with their families. He turns to the rest of the rebels and says if they die natural deaths, he's not god's messenger. Way to diffuse tension there, Moses. Let's say they live another 20 years. Will anyone remember this particular bargain? Prolly not. BUT. If the ground opens in front of them right now, he, Moses, is indeed god's messenger. Of course the ground opens up and swallows them all. The others scatter, but god burns them all to death.

Now, here's another hole Jerry Falwell can't talk his way out of. He says they were right that they were all holy, but they got burned to death for defying priestly authority. By this logic, Martin Luther and every Protestant that followed him, should suffer the same fate.

Anyway, god turns casually to Moses after this 19th and 20th mass murder, and tells him to make sure the censers are gathered as a reminder to others that only Aaron's sons can peddle incense. Nope, not corrupt at all, this regime!

The next day, the brave, or foolish, depending how you look at it, people are still complaining, saying god killed holy men. God tells Moses and Aaron to stand aside yet again, because he wants to kill everybody yet again. Moses tells Aaron to get some incense to stop the plague that is already infecting people. Aaron does, and makes an atonement, which stops the plague, but not before 14 700 people have died. Jerry actually calls them brazenly blasphemous for this, apparently ignoring the fact that his own religion is one that has come down on the rebels' side and decided that the masses should have access to god, not an elite. Nice theology there, Jerry.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 15

God starts off with some further instructions about offerings: now they have to offer wine along with the bread and meat. I guess Aaron was getting thirsty. Also, the bigger the animal sacrificed, the greater the portion of bread that must be given. That also makes sense: if you're going to make sandwiches from an entire ox, you need more bread than if it was, say, a lamb. God also tells Moses to go easy on those who commit crimes out of ignorance.

Then... bam! A man is caught gathering sticks on the sabbath. Can you believe it? He was cold or wanted to warm up some soup, and he couldn't wait until sundown! They bring him to Moses and Aaron, who ask god what to do. In all his merciful wisdom, god's advice is: stone him to death. So they do. Of course, Jerry has nothing to say about this, because he knows that many of his followers work at Wal-Mart or other places that are open on Sundays, and it's pretty hard to get the day off, and if he did say something, he'd be interpreting.

But that bit only took 4 verses, and apparently god wasn't happy with the length of this chapter yet, so he tacks on some instructions about putting fringes on the edges of your garments. The Dutch take this instruction very, very seriously. They will put fringes on literally anything, including other fringes. You're to hold it in place with blue ribbon.

This chapter definitely shows us something about god's thought process, eh? First off, some clarifications about sacrifices, namely Aaron is thirsty and wants you to bring wine, mmmkay? Hey wait! Stone that guy to death! Now, what was I saying? Oh, yes. Put fringes on your garments...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Numbers, Chapter 14

The Israelites are whining again some more and decide to return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron prostrate themselves before them, and Joshua and Caleb try to argue for taking the land that was promised them, saying the Canaanites will be defenseless in the face of god. The people decide to stone Joshua and Caleb. Heh.

God, despite having promised Noah that he wouldn't kill everybody anymore, offers to kill them and let Moses start over with a new people. Moses convinces him not to with the old argument that the Egyptians and Canaanites will say he wasn't able to lead his people so he killed them instead. He flatters god, saying The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation (v. 18). Nobody, not god, not Moses, not Jerry Falwell, takes note of the irony of that verse, a 'merciful' god that punishes you for stuff your great-grandfather did.

God is convinced not to kill everybody, just the people over 20. He also decides to save Caleb's and Joshua's clans. His method will be to send them into the wilderness for 40 years, because the spies stayed 40 days. Yup, that's showing them mercy, all right.

As for the spies themselves? Well, they die of plague. The people hear about this and decide to go get Canaan right now. They attack over Moses' protests that god isn't with them, and get their stupid asses killed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Numbers Chapters 12 & 13

Chapter 12

Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses' new Ethiopian wife. She's black, ya'll. They want equal pay for equal work. Verse 3 says Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.There are a lot of words I would use to describe Moses, and meek is not among them. Authoritarian, dictator, tyrant, despot. I might use those words. But certainly not meek. Also, he's the author, mind, and clearly not a reliable narrator.

God humours them a bit and tells them to come to the temple. He tells them if they have a prophet, he'll speak to him in a vision. He says he speaks face to face with Moses, and asks why they weren't afraid to criticize him. God gets angry and leaves, but not before cursing Miriam with a disease that turns her skin white. Aaron diagnoses leprosy. He begs Moses' forgiveness and asks him to heal her. Moses in turn asks god, who tells him to exile her for seven days, delaying the trip to Paran.

Now, why doesn't Aaron get punished? He also escaped scot-free from the golden calf incident. And also, in Exodus 34, god forbids intermarriage, so why is Moses allowed to do it?

Chapter 13

God tells Moses to send someone from each tribe to spy on Canaan. They're to report on the people, arable land and natural resources. He also tells them to steal grapes if possible. They go and find the children of Anak, or the Nephilim, the children of angels and earthly women, who are giants. This was mentioned in Genesis, and was part of the reason for the flood, which nothing but what Noah had on the ark is supposed to have survived, but of course Jerry glosses over that fact. They also bring back a grape vine so big it takes two of them to carry it, as well as some other fruit.

They come back 40 days later and report that it is indeed a land of milk and honey, but the people are strong and live in fortified cities. Caleb wants to attack right away. The others are reluctant, and report that the land is full of giants and there have been many wars over the bountiful soil. You're telling me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Numbers 10 & 11

Chapter 10

Moses is instructed to make silver trumpets to call people together. He's given instructions on how to use them: when both are blown, it's worship time, if only one is blown, the tribal leaders are to gather, one alarm: the eastern army, two alarms: southern army is to gather. Aaron and his sons are the chief trumpeters. If they are attacked, they can trumpet for god. Other occasions for trumpeting: feasts, funerals, the first day of the month, over burnt and peace offerings.

New story: One day, the cloud lifts from the temple and goes to Paran. They leave in tribal order, taking the tabernacle. Only Hobab, Moses' brother-in-law, doesn't want to go, preferring to return to Midian. Moses tries to convince him to stay, flattering his knowledge of desert camping, and promises him divine rewards. Moses also asks god to scatter their enemies in their wake.

Chapter 11

If you don't want to read, you can watch a summary of this chapter here. Note the Christian responders, who can only say 'You're taking this story out of context!' as he describes the entire chapter. Also note they don't provide any context themselves.

Some people start complaining and god burns them to death. Jerry insists it was only the shrubs or possibly the tents, but the text says the fire of the LORD burn among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp (v. 1) and this is the definitive version, as far as many of his ilk are concerned. They complain to Moses, who asks god to stop.

Next, they bitch about not having any meat or fresh vegetables, only elven bread manna. Moses is also frustrated, and asks god for meat for the people. God tells him to gather 70 tribal elders for a chat. He also promises meat the next day, and every day for the next month, until they're sick of it. Moses makes sure to get a promise that god won't slaughter all their animals or overfish.

Moses gathers the leaders, but two of them, Eldad and Medad stay behind and start prophesying. A snitch tells Moses what's happening. Joshua asks Moses to forbid it, but Moses says he wishes more people were prophets, because he's tired of it. They go back to camp.

The next day, quails fly in from the sea in great numbers and start dropping dead around the camp. The people gather them, and as they're eating them, god unleashes a plague on the worst of them. The Israelites call the place Kibroth-hattaavah and then leave for a place called Hazeroth. For those of you keeping track, that would be two mass killings in one chapter.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Numbers, Chapters 6-9

Chapter 6

The Nazarites were the Israelite equivalent of Buddhist monks and nuns, apparently. It was normally temporary, and the vows were taken in expectation of wish fulfillment. They had to stay away from all grape products, and couldn't cut their hair. They also had to stay away from all dead bodies, even close family members. If someone does die nearby, they have to shave their heads and make sacrifices. Likewise when they finish their sojourn, they have to make a sacrifice and shave. The reward is, they can drink again.

Chapter 7
After Moses sets up the tabernacle, the princes of Israel show up with money and sacrificial animals. Each one sacrifices a bullock, a ram, a lamb and a kid goat, then 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 lambs, goats and rams. That is a lot of meat. Must have been one hell of a barbecue. At the end, Moses hears a voice coming from the Mercy Seat but it is not identified.

Chapter 8

God tells Moses to tell Aaron to light the candles. Then the Levites have to take a bath, shave all their body hair, and do laundry. Oh yeah, we're back on laundry. Then they have to sacrifice two bullocks. He says they are now his, because of the whole firstborn thing in Egypt and how he gave back the first-born Israelites so he could have all the Levites instead. So all Levites have to do temple service from ages 25 to 50.

Chapter 9

God reminds the Israelites to celebrate Passover. The cemetery workers' union demands to be let in, and it is decided that they, along with the Teamsters (or, if you prefer, men who are on a journey) can celebrate too, but a month later. Strangers can also celebrate the holiday.

Then, in a total non-sequitur, god appears as a cloud again, and starts playing keep-away with them. If the cloud left, they had to move. If it was there in the morning, they could stay. The first and last time in history that people prayed for foggy days.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Numbers 4 & 5

Chapter 4

Is a packing list. Aaron and his sons have to wrap all the sacred objects up, then the Kohathites have to carry it. If they look at anything, they die. Other tribes have to carry the poles and the curtains. It's that exciting.

Chapter 5

Off the census and onto rules. Lepers and other people with running sores have to be exiled. Nice compassionate god there, eh? Jerry says it's because god was in the camp, so things had to be clean. People who have sinned have to confess and give back anything they stole, plus 20 percent and a ram.

Women who commit adultery are impure, even if they don't get caught. If a man suspects his wife of adultery, he can take her to the priest and make a jealousy offering of barley meal. Then the priest brings the woman in front of god, mixes some holy water (possibly a euphemism for sperm!) with floor dirt, and then she has to drink it. If she's innocent, it won't hurt her, and she'll have children, but if she's guilty, she'll be infertile. There is no punishment for the jealous husband, whether he's a cuckold or not. Nor are there repercussions for unfaithful men.

Okay, first of all, this sounds a lot like magic to me, making a woman drink muddy jism and seeing if it hurts her. Jerry's down with it because it's god, but I'm not. At least it probably won't kill her, unlike say witch dunking. Second, why does an omniscient god need to go through this elaborate ritual to find out if she cheated or not?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Numbers 1-3

I'm guessing that Michele Bachmann has never read this book, for all that she claims to be a bible-reading Christian, because it deals with the first census.

Chapter 1

It's a year after they left Egypt, and God suddenly feels a war coming on. He tells Moses and Aaron to take some tribal leaders and find out how many men over the age of 20 there are. In total there are 603 550 adult males. How many armies today are that size? Up from a total population of 70 just 400 years ago. So in those 400 years, every woman would have had to give birth to 51 children with no deaths in order to produce these figures. Jerry, of course, pronounces them accurate and attributes it to god's bountifulness.

The Levites don't have to join the army, because they're needed in the tabernacle, and also to kill any foreigners that try to enter the temple. So much for that 'brotherhood of man' stuff from Leviticus.

Chapter 2

The tribes are enumerated again, told to make a standard for themselves, and where to camp.

Chapter 3

The census of the Levites. We are reminded that two of Aaron's sons died for using the wrong incense and he has two surviving. The rest of them are to become temple employees, especially security guards. Moses is ordered to count all the Levite males over 1 month old. We then get a list of how many Levites there were in each family, and what their specific tasks were to be in tabernacle care and upkeep. Altogether, there are 22 000 of them. Now, a while ago, god said all the firstborns were his. Now he changes his mind and decides the Levites are his instead. Problem: there are 22 273 first-borns, and only 22 000 Levites. Never one to turn down a money-making opportunity, god decides that the other 273 first-borns can 'redeem' themselves for 5 shekels, which will be given to Aaron. Apparently non-Levite Jews still give this money to the temple for their first-born sons.