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.