Sunday, October 31, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 25-28

Chapter 25

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

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

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

Chapter 26

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

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

Chapter 27

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

Chapter 28

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

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 17-24

Chapter 17

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

Chapter 18

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

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

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

Chapter 19

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

Chapter 20

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

Chapter 21

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

Chapter 22

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

Chapter 23

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

Chapter 24

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 10-16

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

Chapter 10

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

Chapter 11

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

Chapter 12

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

Chapter 13

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

Chapter 14

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

Chapter 15

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

Chapter 16

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 5-9

Chapter 5

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

Chapter 6

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

Chapter 7

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

Chapter 8

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

Chapter 9

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2 Chronicles, Chapters 1-4

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

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

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

Chapter 3

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

Chapter 4

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 22-27

Chapter 22

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

Capter 23

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

Chapter 24

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

Chapter 25

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

Chapter 26

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

Chapter 27

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

1 Chronicles, Chapters 28 & 29

Chapter 28

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

Chapter 29

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


Sunday, October 17, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapter 21

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 13-20

David's reign. Now in technicolour!

Chapter 13

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

Chapter 14

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

Chapter 15

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

Chapter 16

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

Chapter 17

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

Chapter 18

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

Chapter 19

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

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

Chapter 20

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

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 10-12

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

Chapter 10

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

Chapter 11

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

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

Chapter 12

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 3-9

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

Chapter 3

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

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

Chapter 4

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

Chapter 5

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

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

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

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

Chapter 6

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

Chapter 7

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

Chapter 8

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

Chapter 9

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

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1 Chronicles, Chapters 1 & 2

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

Chapter 1

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

Chapter 2

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

Monday, October 4, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 25

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 24

The descent of the Israelites.

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

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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

2 Kings, Chapter 23

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

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

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

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

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