Saturday, July 31, 2010

1 Kings Chapter 12

The crimes of Solomon's son Rehoboam.

Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be crowned king. Jeroboam hears about it in Egypt and comes running to plead with him to ease the forced labour Solomon has imposed on the Israelites. Rehoboam asks for a few days to think. His father's advisors promise him that if he relaxes the labour, the Israelites will become his loyal followers. However his contemporaries advise him to say his little finger is thicker than their fathers', uh, thighs. Yup, that's so what a dude would compare his little finger to. Nope, not to a dick at all. They also advise him to say he's going to add to their burdens and whip them with scorpions. Scorpions are so creepy!

When Jeroboam comes back, Rehoboam repeats his lackeys' advice, which was god's plan all along. The people renounce him as their king and go home, but the ones who live in Judah are still in Rehoboam's territory. They prove quite restful: Rehoboam sends an official out to collect taxes, whom they stone to death. Rehoboam doesn't need any more prompting and flees to Jerusalem.

The stoning was the opening salvo in a civil war. Judah stays loyal to Rehoboam, but the other tribes declare Jeroboam their king.

Rehoboam raises an army of 180 000 (the same size as the modern Greece's army), but god orders Shemaiah the holy man not to attack his brethren.

Meanwhile, Jeroboam builds some cities and worries the people's loyalty will shift back to Rehoboam if they go and worship at the temple in Jerusalem. So he goes ahead and builds two golden calves. You know, those things Aaron built that caused all those deaths back in Exodus. The people worship the calves, but god is oddly silent this time, even when Jeroboam makes non-Levites priests and makes up new holidays.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 10

Ah, the Queen of Sheba! I had no idea she's a biblical character. Actually, I had never thought of it. Anyway, she hears about Solomon's wisdom and comes to ask him some hard questions. But the bible doesn't have much confidence in either their or our intelligence, because it doesn't say what those questions are, so it makes it hard to judge for oneself how wise he really is.

The queen apologises for doubting Solomon and gives him some gold bricks to make up for her lack of confidence. I'm still not convinced. Hiram, the king Solomon stiffed in the last chapter, also gives him some gold. In return, Solomon gives Sheba all her desire (v. 13).

Next we get a description of Solomon's riches. He has a lot of gold. Even his cups and plates are gold. And a throne made out of ivory. PETA would not like Solomon.

People come from all over to ask Solomon questions, though of course we don't know what they are. Funny that we get these incredibly detailed descriptions of his silverware, but no proof besides the two hookers and a baby question of how smart he's supposed to be. They all bring presents.

Solomon disdains silver. He paves the streets of Jerusalem with it, or he buys horses and chariots from Egypt.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1 Kings, Chapters 8 & 9

Chapter 8

Solomon consecrates the temple. Of course there's barbecue. Maybe heaven is Texas. God is back in cloud form and hides the temple from view. Then Solomon starts to pray. He praises his father and god for a bit, then says god doesn't have to live in the temple or anything, but could he please listen to the prayers said there? He also asks god to be a little more forgiving towards his chosen people and do things like end punishment droughts and plagues earlier. Solomon has lower expectations than Moses (thank god), saying, perhaps for the first time there is no man that sinneth not (v. 46). Remember that guy who was stoned to death for picking up sticks on the sabbath? Or the guy who went on a date with a girl from another tribe and got stabbed to death? Solomon asks god to go easier on people like that and remember that he brought them out of Egypt for a reason. Then he sacrifices a further 20 000 oxen and 120 000 sheep and feasts for a week.

Chapter 9

Solomon is understandably tired after his week of praying and eating burnt meat. When he drops of to sleep, god comes to him in a dream. I just saw Inception and now I'm picturing god as an extractor.

Anyway, god promises to live in the temple and keep him as king of Israel and so on and so forth so long as Solomon promises to obey his covenants. Someone fell asleep during the prayers! If you'll just scroll up a couple of paragraphs, Solomon specifically asked him to be a little more lenient.

If they don't of course, god will cast them out of the land and destroy the temple and make people hiss at them. Hissing! My cat used to hiss at me all the time. Bring it on!

It's also time to pay Hiram back for all the cedars and gold leaf and labour he lent to the project. Only 20 years after construction began! His payment is 20 cities in Galilee. But of course sneaky Solomon didn't get rich by giving away his good stuff and Hiram is disappointed at the quality of payment, especially after 20 years of waiting.

We also find out that Pharaoh had captured a Canaanite town, killed its inhabitants, and given it to his daughter as part of her dowry.

So Solomon taxes his people to pay Hiram. Non-Israelites are enslaved. Other tidbits: Solomon creates a navy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

1 Kings, Chapters 6 & 7

Chapter 6

Long, boring description of the architecture of Solomon's temple. For you architecture geeks: it's 90x30 feet and 45 feet high and has a porch, narrow windows, and some interior rooms. He very cleverly designs the beams so nothing is inserted into the walls. The stones are cut elsewhere, so it's an early example of pre-fab housing. God promises that if Solomon keeps the covenant, he'll come and dwell amongst his people and won't abandon them. Because he's proven so consistent on this point in the past. Then we get more description of the materials used in the walls and floors. Cedar and fir. Mmm... it must have smelled like the best closet ever! Then, of course, he has to get tacky and cover the whole thing in gold leaf. Then he has some cherubim carved, which apparently would not have looked like the winged babies we think of now, but rather like scary, armed adults. They also get the gold-leaf treatment. Everything is carved. It must have been spectacularly overdone. All told it takes him seven years.

Chapter 7

Solomon's own house takes 13 years to build and is four times bigger than god's. He builds another house of the same size for his wife. He kind of reminds me of Al Gore. All the pilars are topped by brass crowns and have chain and net drapings. It must have looked like a tacky seafood restaurant with the drapes. He makes an indoor swimming pool, which is somehow balanced on carved oxen and is the size of 2000 baths. See, I don't think any of this existed, because those statues would have collapsed under the weight. He also has sculptures of lions, oxen and cherubim all over the place. There's a lot more junk, as well as some smaller pools, and everything is covered in gold. Tack-a-rama.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A who's who of Solomon's cabinet. People who know far more than I about this inform me that many of them are governors of a territory that stretches from Iraq to Egypt. His household goes through 30 oxen, 100 sheep, and unnumbered deer and fowl a day.

Somehow, he keeps 40 000 horses in his stables, which, if you consider that an average horse produces between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day, is a load of horseshit.

We also find out that he's smarter than all of Egypt combined, and that he wrote a lot of poems and songs.

Chapter 5

Hiram, the king of Tyre, sends some of his servants to Solomon to pay tribute. Solomon sends back a letter expressing his desire to build a temple, which his father never had time to do what with all those wars he was always fighting. We don't find out why there are no longer any wars, although I'm sure it's not because they finally killed off all those pesky Ammonites for the 54th time. He asks Hiram for help cutting down the cedars he wants for the temple. Hiram quickly agrees, and Solomon sends oil and wheat in exchange.

Solomon drafts thousands of woodcutters to send to Lebanon for the trees, and others to prepare the stones for the foundations.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

1 Kings, Chapter 3

Solomon marries Pharaoh's daughter. If you'll remember, god spent a lot of time in the book of Exodus making Pharaoh refuse to let the Israelites leave, then punishing him for it. Then he expressly forbid the Israelites from marrying people of other races, lest they tempt them into worshiping false idols. Living biblically must be so darned confusing! Or rather, Solomon's the king, so he can do whatever the hell he wants. Rules are for little people.

Anyway, at some point that temple god spent all those chapters designing with the taste of a 12 year old girl has been destroyed and the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days. (v.2) Solomon is a loyal sacrificer, too, going so far as to sacrifice a thousand freaking animals one day in Gibeon. God loves this of course, so when Solomon goes to sleep that night, he appears to him in a dream and asks him what he wants. Three more wishes!

Solomon, of course is full of false modesty, saying how his father was so great and he's just a dumb fuck. Well, he proved that in chapter 2, didn't he. So he asks for wisdom, which god instantly grants, along with wealth and power and a long life. It would appear our little Solomon has wised up some even without god's help.

Solomon wakes up and has another barbecue. Then he has a chance to make his first judgement: the two women fighting over a baby. What they didn't tell you in Sunday school: they're hookers. And people wonder why there are no good film roles for women. Even in the bible, you could only be a virgin or a whore.

So anyway, the two woman both make the same claim: we each had a baby at the same time, then hers died and she stole mine while I was asleep. Solomon listens to their back and forth for a bit, then orders his minions to bring him a sword. He instructs them to cut the baby in two and give a piece to each of them. Of course then the 'real' mother says no, give it to her, and the king tells the minions to give it to her. The Israelites are easily impressed and decide Solomon has some divine wisdom going on, though it seems more like parlour tricks to my cynical eye.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 2

David is still dying, but can't just shut up and get it over with. No, first he has to give Solomon some advice: follow the lord and you'll be fruitful and multiply, blah, blah, blah. Because the main purpose of his speech is to tell his son who to exact revenge on: first Joab the general for his disloyalty. Then Shimei, the relative of Saul who yelled curses on him, because even though David promised not to hurt him, Solomon made no such vow. Then David dies rather undramatically, though I'm sure this isn't the last we'll hear from him.

So, Solomon establishes himself as king. One day, his brother Adonijah, who you'll remember tried to usurp the thrown in the last chapter, comes to Bathsheba's house. He reminds her that the throne was rightfully his, and asks her one favour, which is to get Solomon to grant him Abishag, David's uh, naked virgin 'nurse.' For some incredibly stupid reason that isn't given, Bathsheba agrees.

She goes to Solomon and says she has a request and gets him to promise to grant it before she tells him what it is, proving the apple hit every branch of the stupid tree on its way down. He wonders why she would betray him like this, and suggests she also promise Abithar the kingdom, then vows to kill Abiathar as well. That's a lot of murders for one chapter.

Solomon sends his assassin Benaiah along to kill Adonijah, who dispatches him handily. He also banishes Abiathar the priest. Joab senses the danger in the air and flees to the temple, where he, too, grabs onto the horns of the altar. Solomon is clearly less concerned with the sacredness of holy objects than David, because he sends Benaiah after him. Benaiah demands that Joab come out, but Joab refuses. So Benaiah goes back to Solomon and tells him he won't come out. So Solomon tells him to kill him in the temple. After all, there's so much blood in there, nobody would know if it was just sacrifices from all the people who had sex that day or from a human who sought sanctuary for his life.

Benaiah is rewarded with a cushy room in Solomon's palace, and a new priest is installed as well.

Solomon is finally ready for his third revenge killing. He summons Shimei and orders him to move to Jerusalem. He then tells him that if he leaves, he'll be killed. Shimei manages to remember not to leave for three years, but he's no smarter than any of the others, so when his servants run away, he goes to Gath to retrieve them, and Benaiah is sent once again to assassinate someone.