Sunday, February 28, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 23-27

Chapter 23

God lays out the holiday calendar. Passover begins the fourteenth day of the first month, the feast of unleavened bread on the fifteenth. Daily sacrifices must be made. When they finally inherit Canaan, they are to make a wave offering of their first harvest. Jews out there will be happy to know that according to Jerry Falwell, the wave offering involved making the sign of the cross.

At the same time as they wave the grain in the shape of a cross, the Israelites are to sacrifice a lamb along with some bread and wine. They can't eat anything that day until they do this. This is a law unto eternity.

Fifty days later, they have to make another offering, this time of bread, lambs, bullocks and rams, followed by a kid goat and two more lambs. No work that day. This is also supposed to be eternal.

Next is the feast of trumpets, also known as Rosh Hoshannah, which happens on the first day of the seventh month. This coincides with the harvest. They are to have a memorial blowing of trumpets (v. 24) and a convocation and not do any work.

The tenth day is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which also involves sacrifices and no work. Anyone who does work is banished. This is also in perpetuity.

The fifteenth day will be Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, when they have to build a hut of boughs or palm fronds and live in them for seven days. This is also to be done forever, and is to remind them of their rescue from Egypt.

Mind you, contemporary Christians don't have to do any of these feasts, because either Jesus' death negated them (Passover, Unleavened bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost) or we won't celebrate them again until the rapture. Except for the Christians who do celebrate Pentecost or Whitsuntide, which would be most of Europe. Of course they do it because of Acts, which I haven't go to yet. I can't wait until Relevations, one because it will be the end of this project, and two because that's when Jerry will no doubt endorse the Left Behind series.

Chapter 24

God commands Aaron to keep the lamps lit inside the temple at night. Then he tells him to bake 12 loaves of bread every sabbath and put them on the table, and only he and his sons can eat it.

Then a half-Israelite curses god in the middle of a fight. This stops everyone dead in their tracks. They take him to Moses, who puts him in jail while he consults with god. Sensing an opportunity to put the fear of god into his people by example, he returns a verdict of death by stoning. So they do, and then god reminds them of the whole 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' routine. See Monty Python's take on this chapter.

Chapter 25

Every seven years, the Israelites are to let their land lie fallow. God promises good harvests in the sixth year. Yeah, that'll work.

God also turns everybody into long-term leaseholders rather than property owners. On the fiftieth year, they have to set slaves free and return property to its owner, who of course is god. What do you want to bet Moses and Aaron are his 'realtors'? You also have to return anything you bought to its rightful owner. This rule does not apply to houses in walled cities, unless it was bought from a Levite, in which case it reverts back to him in the jubilee, thus preventing agricultural land barons from cropping up and trying to take power away from the priestly ruling class. Apparently, there is only one record of this in Israelite history, in 587 BCE, and then they realized what a stupid idea it was and went back to holding permanent title to their land.

If your brother becomes poor, you should let him live with you and not charge him interest on his rent or food. You can't enslave him, you have to hire him, and he can leave at the jubilee.

No, slaves must be from the heathens around the Israelites, and you don't have to set them or their children free. They or their family members can buy their freedom, and then pay you from the year you bought him to the jubilee year. In the time you have him, you may treat him with rigour. So what about Leviticus 24:22, which says Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country. For I am the LORD your God? Is this universal brotherhood, or a tribal society that divides the world into Us and Them? If in doubt, see Exodus 12: 29-36, the death of the first born sons.

Chapter 26

Apparently, this chapter, which contains the rewards and punishments for breaking the various laws, was typical of the area and era. Of course, Jerry can't go further and draw the conclusion that this book is just like all the rest, an iron age legal text that whose proper place is as a world history document like the others.

First, no idol worship, and keep the sabbath. The rewards: timely rain, good harvests, safety from predators, peace, victory over enemies, to the point where five Israelites can beat 100 enemies, and a hundred will triumph over 10 000. Actually, according to an excellent essay in The New Yorker, this should have been possible, as long as they didn't follow the conventional rules. Other rewards: children, good food stores, the tabernacle, and god will walk among them.

But because curses are so much more fun than blessings, there are many more of them: plagues, child cannibalism by strangers, whom you will then be killed in front of, bad harvests, child-eating predators, sick livestock, no trade, raiders, hunger pangs, cannibalism of your own children, killing you and throwing your bodies on false idols, non-acceptance of sacrifices, destruction of crops and cities, people will be so fearful they'll drop dead at the sight of a fallen leaf, which will render them unable to face their enemies, death among the heathens, wasting disease.

But there is hope! Confession and humbleness, followed by punishment will lead to redemption and restoration.

Chapter 27

Finally, how to buy your stuff back from the temple, and the various fees incurred. Why end here? Why not put it before the punishments, which would lead to a nice, dramatic finish?

First, how much you have to pay to free a person who has been promised to the temple. Males of working age: 50 shekels. Women: 30. Adolescent males: 20, females: 10. Boys from 1 month to 5 years: 5, girls: 3. Men over 60: 15, women: 10. Note that babies under 1 month are not mentioned. So far, I have not seen much evidence that the bible is anti-abortion.

Beasts brought before the priests to be offered as sacrifices cannot be altered. Unclean animals cannot be sacrificed, and if you want to buy it back, you have to pay 20 per cent extra. Apparently priests could charge interest, just not you.

If you promise your house, the priest gives a price estimate. If you decide to buy it back, 20 percent. Fields are to be estimated by crop yields and the amount of time before the next jubilee. Change your mind? 20 percent 'administration fee.'

No buying back firstlings of the flock, they're god's. Unclean beasts are to be bought back at 20 percent. No holy thing can be bought back. Tithing is mandatory, and the collection fee for non-tithers is 20 percent.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 21 & 22

Priestly standards of conduct.

Chapter 21

Priests may not touch the dead bodies of anyone except close family members, otherwise they are unclean. Close family does not include in-laws.

Priests may not shave their heads, have goatees, or tattoos. Nor can they profane the name of their God (v. 6).

They cannot marry ex-prostitutes or heathens or divorced women. Ironically, I know a divorced Anglican priest who is married to a divorced Presbyterian minister. Jerry has no insight as to why this rule is no longer applicable. I may have to find a respectful way to ask them about that.

Members of the congregation must respect priests.

If a priest has a daughter who profane herself by playing the whore (v. 10) she is to be burnt to death. This is just thrown in there, in between the verse on respecting the priests and another on how they can never uncover their heads or wear torn clothes. And how many preacher's daughters rebel that way? Lots, I'm thinking.

A priest cannot go into places with dead bodies, or make himself unclean, even for his parents. In fact, he can't leave the temple at all, otherwise it will be unholy.

The list is obviously in no particular order, because the next couple of verses are back to sex, only now a priest has to marry a virgin from his own tribe.

God then instructs Aaron only to take perfect specimens as priests, so no blind or lame men, no one with a flat nose or anything superfluous (v. 18), which might mean deformities or disfigurements, no one broken-footed or broken-handed (v. 19) which I'm going to read as missing fingers or toes, no hunchbacks or dwarves, no one with eye defects, which would seem to bar priests with glasses, no? no scurvy or scabs, or people with defective testicles. Anyone with these, even if they are a son of Aaron, is disqualified from the priesthood, and some of those rules even today would make recruitment difficult.

These people can, however, be members of the congregation. Aw isn't that nice.

Chapter 22

Rules for sacrifices.

God reminds Moses that priests are subject to the same rules as everybody else, and can be banished just like the others. Then it's a long repetition of the rules for lepers, people who touch creeping things, and people who eat non-sacrificial animals.

Non-members of the priest's family are forbidden from eating the sacrificial food, though purchased slaves may. Daughters who marry heathens are no longer family members, unless they're divorcées or widows and don't have children.

Anyone who eats an offering by mistake has to pay the priest back, plus 20 percent. So much for usury being illegal.

Then a repetition of which animals should be sacrificed: perfect male specimens. You can offer imperfect ones, but only as freewill offerings, not as vows.

No castrated animals can be sacrificed, not even those bought from foreigners. We will find out apparently that eunuchs also couldn't worship. Offerings had to be at least 8 days old, and you couldn't kill a mother animal and its offspring in the same day.

Thanksgiving sacrifices had to be eaten on the day. That's right, no delicious hot turkey sandwiches the next day, people!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 18-20

Jerry actually has something insightful to say about chapter 18, and the entire book of Leviticus: "The literary structure is interesting in that it resembles the basic form of the vassal or suzerainty treaties of the kings of the ancient Near East. The vassal treaties were made between a great king and a people whom he wished to bring under his rule. He usually identified himself in the preamble; thus here I am the LORD god (v. 2)." If only he could complete that thought and realize it's Moses that's making this agreement.

Chapter 18

In the agreement, god reminds them not to adopt the practices of the Egyptians or the Canaanites, which apparently includes a lot of deviant sex.

First, no sex with your relatives, which includes your father, mother sisters, half-sisters, step-sisters, nieces, granddaughters, paternal and maternal aunts, paternal uncles, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law. No marrying mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, or marrying your wife's sister to spite her. Jerry says this is because the Canaanites did all of these, but I find that hard to believe. Every society, no matter how primitive, has rules about who can and cannot have sex. Usually, it's the relatives who have names: mother, grandmother, cousin, etc. Granted, many have fewer words and tolerate uncle-niece or cousin marriage, but the point is, they do have a moral system about this.

No sex with a woman who has her period, or your neighbour's wife.

No child sacrifice. Again, supposedly a practice of the Canaanites. But even today, every country has myths about its neighbours. For example, Canadians will tell you that Americans know nothing about Canada, while we have to learn everything about the USA at school. First, ignorance about Canada is not limited to one country. The next time a Canadian makes that claim, ask him or her what the capital of New Brunswick is (unless he or she is from New Brunswick, in which case you should ask the capital of Saskatchewan) or when and where and why the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in North America. Then ask the person if Americans sacrifice babies. They will probably have an answer based on universal health care.

And the biggie for Christians, the one that is most frequently used to justify denying rights to gays: no homosexual sex.

No bestiality, for men or women.

The punishment for any of the above transgression was banishment. The laws apply to the Israelites and foreigners who live in their territory.

Jerry actually has nothing to say about homosexuality today. He only gives the historical background of the law, saying it was a practice of the Canaanites and some other tribes. He doesn't even do his usual cop-out of showing why we do or don't have to follow it today with something from the new testaments. So to those Christians who justify their views on homosexuality with this verse: why do we have to follow that one verse, but none of the others in this book? Why aren't children killed for talking back to their parents, and why aren't people banished for having sex with menstruating women? Why only that verse?

Oh, and another thing. I read a blog entry by a Christian who was twisting himself in knots trying to explain why there are two punishments for having sex with a menstruating woman, either the cleanliness ritual or banishment. If you take god out of it and just look at this as a how-to manual, it actually makes sense. Taking the example of London, Ontario, if you go into any park in the city, you'll see a sign that says the maximum fine for having your dog off the leash is $5000. Now, hardly anyone gets a fine that big. Your dog would have to say, attack a child to incur that maximum penalty. Same story here: if you're an agreeable person who makes his sacrifices regularly, you can just be unclean for the day and get on with it. But if you're kind of an asshole and you haven't been keeping up with your religious obligations, they can hold the threat of banishment over your head to keep you in line.

What's most disturbing to me is that you'd have these rulers who want to control every aspect of your life, down to when you do and don't have sex with your own wife, and then punish you when you break them.

Chapter 19

Social ethics. Of a sort.

First, respect your parents, and the sabbath.

No idols.

Sacrifices have to be voluntary, and you have to eat it that day or the next, or it will be rejected.

Leave the corners of your fields unreaped, and don't pick up the grain that falls, and don't go over the vineyards a second time or pick up the fallen grapes. Leave that to the poor.

No stealing or lying or cheating. No false swearing to god, no defrauding or robbing your neighbours. Pay your workers on time. Be nice to deaf and blind people. Be fair in your justice. Don't gossip or do anything to endanger your neighbour's life. Be kind to your brother, confront your neighbour directly so you won't share in his sin. No vengeance towards your enemy's kids (except god, he can curse you up to your grandchildren). Be nice to your neighbour.

No mixing cattle breeds, seeds or linens. Jerry of course, has to link this to abnormal sex practices of the Canaanites, it might be more realistic to think the cloth merchants has a say here.

No sex with engaged slaves whose fiancés haven't yet raised the money for their freedom. This is still a slave-owning society living in tents, after all. The punishment cannot be death for this one, because she wasn't free, it should be a ram.

No eating the fruit from your trees for three years, the fruit from the fourth year is for god, and you can finally have it in the fifth.

No eating blood, which is oddly in the same verse banning divination and sorcery.

No cutting off the hair at the temples or the edges of the beard. According to Jerry this was a practice in a Syrian cult that thought cutting the hair influenced the will of the deity. It's certainly cheaper than sacrificing a goat. Also, no cutting yourself to remember the dead, nor can you tattoo yourself for the same reason.

No prostituting your daughter, which would imply that the Israelites were doing this. The chosen people, mind.

In the next breath, we are reminded keep the sabbath and temple holy, and to avoid witches wizards and mediums.

Then we get back to the good stuff, where we are told to honour the elderly, be kind to strangers and foreigners that live amongst us (is Tom Tancredo aware of this one?), and finally, to use proper weights and measures.

Chapter 20

Primitive notions of justice.

The penalty for child sacrifice to god's main rival Molech: stoning to death, then banishment. How are you supposed to do both of these? I'm thinking there was some room for bribing Aaron here. Of course there is no explanation of why it was fine for god to order Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

The punishment for visiting a medium, witch or wizard: banishment.

Cursing your parents: death, same for adulterous husbands and wives, whether it's between neighbours or step-families or in-laws. Of course Reuben didn't suffer this fate when he had sex with his step-mother.

Homosexual? Death!

Marrying a mother-daughter pair: auto-de-fé for all of them.

Bestiality: death for man or woman and beast.

Sex with your sister, half-sister: banishment.

Again, the punishment for sex with a menstruating woman is banishment. This is so clear, and yet... Jerry has nothing to say about it today, and nor does any major religion that I know of.

Sex with your aunties or sisters-in-law: childlessness. Now seriously, how did Moses think he was going to carry out that particular punishment?

The chapter finishes with a reminder not to be like the Canaanites and a promise to give their land to them, and a final ruling on witches and wizards: death by stoning!

Oh yes, the answers: Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick, not Saint John, which is another city, or St. John's, which is the capital of Newfoundland, and which most Canadians will answer. Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan, not Saskatoon. And the first feast of Thanksgiving held in North America took place in 1578 in Newfoundland to celebrate explorer Martin Frobisher's survival after an arctic expedition.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Leviticus, Chapter 17

Just so we're clear: no eating blood! God is very emphatic on that point in this chapter.

Want to kill an animal, but feeling too hungry and impatient to bring it to the tabernacle and offer it to god? Or feel like hedging your bets a little and sacrificing something to another god? Banished! This rule was to stop the Israelites making sacrifices in the open fields, where the temple couldn't control who the offering was for. God sure wants to know what you're doing at any given moment with your property, doesn't he?

Jerry, of course, thinks this is all a reference to bestiality. He thinks the Israelites were under the thrall of a particular southern Egyptian cult whose women copulated with goats. So he glosses over the deaths of 3000 people, but makes sure to point out the goat-fuckers. And I'm the heathen.

Next are the rules for kosher. Basically, you have to drain the blood. Failure to do so: banishment. If you hunt, you have to drain the blood in the field and bury it. If you eat an animal that died of natural causes or was killed by another animal, your punishment is a bath, laundry, and you're unclean until sunset.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Leviticus, Chapter 16

God warns Moses to never let Aaron go behind the curtains that contain the ark, because that's where he's going to appear as a cloud. I don't make any of this up. Penalty: death.

Next, Aaron has to sacrifice a bullock and a ram. Then he has to get dressed, wash his hands and find two kid goats and a ram. Then he has to kill the bullock to atone for his sins. He has to throw dice down in front of the goats. One is for god, the other for the scapegoat. Hey, it was a real goat! The goat that gets god's dice is to be sacrificed, the scapegoat goes free. Then he has to fill the room with the ark in it with incense smoke so he can't see anything, then sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. Next, he has to repeat that with the goat. So wait, you can't sit on a chair that a menstruating woman has sat on, but god prefers to sit in bull and goat blood? Weird.

His next step is to atone for the sins of the temple and the congregation: he has to smear the blood on the altar. When all that is done, he is to bring the living goat to the front, lay his hands on it, and confess the sins, which are then transferred to the goat. The goat will then be released into the wilderness. Another bath, another sacrifice, more laundry, burn the remains, laundry, bath.

They have to do this every year on the tenth day of the seventh month, which is still the date of Yom Kippur. They also get to rest, but they have to deny themselves. And that's pretty much what happens now. For Jews. Of course, Christians don't have to because of Jesus. He certainly made life a lot less bloody, didn't he?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Leviticus Chapter 15

Sex! A little bit. But it's buried under piles and piles of disgusting verses on 'bodily discharges.'

If it's chronic, anything you touch is unclean. Anyone who touches you or anything you've touched, including your saddle, is unclean for the rest of the day, and has to take a bath. No spitting! If you spit on someone, that person is unclean and has to wash and do laundry. If you touch a pot, it has to be broken or washed.

When you're better, you have to wait seven days, then sacrifice two turtledoves. Tom was pointing out last night that there must have been a huge market in back of the temple, entirely staffed by members of Moses and Aaron's family and friends, selling all these sacrificial animals at an inflated price.

If any man's seed of copulation go out of him (v. 16), which, please not, does not mean every time you have sex, so according to this verse, masturbation is also okay, he then has to wash and do laundry, and is unclean that day.

Women are also unclean after sex. And during their periods. And any other time they bleed. They have to leave for seven days and anything they sit on or lie on is unclean. Now, according to the book 'The Year of Living Biblically', which I read last year, there are still Orthodox Jews who follow these practices and have separate rooms for their wives. The author dealt with the problem by getting his own folding stool and taking it everywhere, which came in handy when his wife got pissed off and sat on all the chairs in the house. Jerry of course has no insight as to why Christians, even those who believe in inerrancy, don't have to do this.

Men who have sex with menstruating women are unclean for seven days. At the end of her period, she has to sacrifice two turtledoves or two pigeons. So every single month, for what, 30-odd years, she's got to sacrifice some birds. Taking time out for pregnancy (which requires a sacrifice at the end, don't forget), that still adds up to hundreds of birds. And how is Aaron supposed to eat all of this? Now I see why people don't question this book.

Anyway, women on their periods can't enter the temple. I'm thinking some of them saw that week as a nice, restful vacation, but then I remember that they probably had to take the kids with them for that entire week as well, and decide the men just wanted them away while they were grumpy, and spent the time partying it up with their friends.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 13 & 14

The diagnosis, care and treatment of lepers. Well, until the development of multi-drug treatment.

Chapter 13

Various disgusting descriptions of skin disease, each of which is to be taken to Aaron for diagnosis. What an awesome job he must have had, killing animals, sprinkling blood everywhere, including on his appendages, then oil, and now looking at everyone's skin ailments and deciding, 'No, that's just a pimple, no that's athlete's foot, okay, that there is leprosy.' If it is leprosy, he has to isolate the victim for a week. If he isn't better, he gets locked up for another week. If he's better then, he can do laundry and be declared clean. If it's a really bad case, he gets exiled. There are a lot of finer shades of diagnosis, but hey, if you or someone you love develops leprosy, you're not going to follow the bible's advice even if you think it's inerrant, right?

We do find out that god is cool with baldness and male pattern baldness, as long as it isn't as a result of leprosy.

Apparently you can also tell if someone has leprosy by looking at the stains in his clothing. Of course he then has to burn it, because that is nasty.

For Jerry, of course, the worst part of leprosy is that it cuts the worshipper off from god. Not the deformation, loss of sensation or nerve damage.

Chapter 14

Should you be cured of your leprosy, you can rejoin the fold in the following way: take two birds. Kill one, then dip the other in its blood. Sprinkle the rest of the blood on the leper. Then release the bird. Next, wash your clothes, shave your entire body, take a bath, and sit in your tent for 7 days. Repeat. Then take three lambs, some bread and some oil to the priest. The priest waves the lamb and oil around, then kill the lamb. Then smear the blood on the victim's right ear, thumb and toe. Then the priest sprinkles him with oil, and smears it over the blood, as well as smearing some on his head. Then repeat with the other two lambs. If you can't afford three lambs, one lamb and two turtledoves or pigeons will also do.

Then god says he's going to plague the Canaanites with leprosy.

In addition to people and clothes being infectable with plague, it turns out houses can also be disease carriers. Infected houses are to be isolated for seven days, then seven more if the disease spreads, and if that doesn't work, to remove the diseased stones, then replace them and re-mortar and re-plaster. If that doesn't work the house has to be demolished. Anyone who goes inside is unclean for the rest of the day. If the house does recover, then you have to take two birds, kill one, dip the other in its blood, then let it go.

Or you know, you could just go down to the pub and buy everyone a round of drinks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leviticus Chapters 11 & 12

Dividing the world into things that are 'clean' and 'unclean.' Not dissimilar to the Daily Mail's attempt to classify everything in the world into things that cause or cure cancer.

Chapter 11

If you've always wondered what a LEGO octopus would look like, click here

Acceptable food animals: must have split hooves AND chew cud, fishes with fins and scales, birds that are not listed in the unacceptable list, locusts, beetles and grasshoppers. Yes, that's right, the ancient Israelites ate bugs, and you can too!

Unacceptable food animals: have split hooves OR chew cud (examples being camels, which have split hooves and don't chew cud, or coneys and rabbits, which 'chew cud' but don't have hooves, and you would think that god, creator of everything, would know which of his creations is a ruminant and which isn't), pigs, things that move in the waters but lack fins AND scales, eagles, ossifrages (bird of prey), ospreys, vultures, kites, ravens, owls, night hawks, cuckoos, hawks, little owls, cormorants, big owls, swans, pelicans, gier eagles, storks, herons, lapwings, bats, fowls that creep on the ground (and again, since god created all this, he ought to know he didn't make birds that creep, right?) 4-legged insects (no problem, god!). Even touching these animals, alive or dead, is wrong. If we do, we have to wash our bodies and clothes to get clean again.

Other unclean animals, which we are not allowed to touch: animals with paws (sorry pet owners!) things that creep, weasels, mice, tortoises, ferrets, chameleons, lizards, snails, moles. If they fall into a container or piece of cloth and die, you have to wash it, which makes sense. If they fall onto your oven or shelf, you have to throw it away, which, given how many creepy-crawlies these people would have had in their camps, must have happened at least once aweek, seems wasteful. If you've watered your seeds, and then an animal dies on them, you can't use them. If an animal that we can eat dies naturally, the person who gets rid of the carcass is unclean until the end of the day. Do all this and you can be holy like god!

Jerry does have some interesting theories as to why these rules were put in place: 1) they were an arbitrary test of obedience 2) the 'unclean' animals were associated with deities in other religions 3) the unclean animals were disease carriers and the clean ones were relatively safe 4) the clean animals demonstrated 'proper' behavior, while the unclean ones were somehow sinful. His rather weak explanation as to why we can now have pets and eat lobster is something Paul will say when we get to 1 Corinthians. But of course, that would be interpreting the inerrant word of god! Which he does not address.

Chapter 12

A fun one for the ladies: are you pure or impure right now?

If you've had a baby boy within the past 7 days, you are unclean. On the eighth day you have to circumcise him. For 33 days after that, you are in the 'purifying' phase, and you can't touch anything holy or go into the temple. If you've had a baby girl, your 'impurity' lasts twice as long. At the end of that time, you can bring a lamb, two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest and he'll sacrifice it for you, one as a burnt offering, the other as a 'sin' offering. Because child bearing is a sin, natch. Then you're clean again.

Jerry seems to be reaching for the PC crowd in his notes to this chapter, in which he actually questions the bible, saying 'Why should a woman become unclean by bearing children? Reproduction is essential to the survival of the human race.' He has some vague answers about bodily fluids being reminders of sin and death or that a body that is discharging stuff lacks wholeness and is unclean by default. Of course, he doesn't go on to say why, in his sound theological opinion, it is no longer necessary for women to follow all of this, not even with a reference to the New Testament.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 10-12

How to become a priest. Keep your incenses straight!

Chapter 8

Moses gives Aaron and his sons a ritual bath, then dresses them in the priestly robes. They sacrifice a bunch of animals in the painstakingly detailed ways described in the preceding seven chapters, which you can see here in Lego. Moses then tells them to stay in the bloody, oily, smelly, temple for seven days to finish their investiture.

Chapter 9

On the eighth day, Moses returns and tells them to sacrifice even more animals. This time, they include a calf, the only time this sacrifice is mentioned, to atone for the golden calf episode in Exodus. God sends down some fire to consume the burnt offerings, and the people fall on their faces. In prayer, or biblical slapstick, it isn't clear.

Chapter 10

Aaron's two sons fill a censer with strange fire (v. 1). So god burns them to death. What the strange fire is not clear. Jerry, for once being helpful, has 4 theories: 1) They were the wrong coals 2) it was the wrong time of day 3) only the high priest was permitted to put the coals in the censer 4) they were intoxicated. There's a reason why all the good drugs and 3 major religions come from the same place, yo. The point, however is: make damned sure you have the right incense people, because god gets mighty pissy if you don't.

Moses, the paragon of sympathy, tells his brother it was for the glory of god, and not to mourn, lest god kill him, too. Boy, I bet those Israelites are glad they chose that one all-powerful god over the loose coalition of less-powerful Egyptian gods now! He orders some of their cousins to carry the bodies away. He also forbids Aaron from leaving the tabernacle on pain of death.

The next rule for priests is no drinking. Penalty: death. He says this is a rule forever. Jerry says it's so nothing interferes with their ministry. Hmm... loads of religions allow their priests to drink. And the leaders of every church leave sometimes. I wonder how they justify that.

Moses next tells them to keep themselves holy and clean, so they can teach the others. Finally he tells them to make a sacrifice and eat the meat. But they don't eat the meat, and Moses gets angry. Aaron points out that his sons had eaten their offerings that day, and died, so would god be pleased with him, too? This shuts Moses up.

I cannot emphasise this enough, people: make sure it's the right incense!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Leviticus, Chapters 1-7

I can summarize these chapters in a few words: get an animal, kill it, sprinkle the blood around. You can stop reading now if that's enough for you.

Chapter 1

Anyone can sacrifice an animal at the door of the temple. Anyone who wants to do so must bring the best of whatever sort he's sacrificing, and it must be male. Rich men should bring bulls, middle-income men a sheep or a goat, poorer men turtledoves or pigeons. In all cases, the ritual is the same: cut it up, scatter the blood, burn it.

Chapter 2

If you want to offer flour, mix it with oil, salt and frankincense, but NO leaven (yeast) and bring it to the temple. Aaron or another priest will burn some of it, and keep the rest. Nice. Basically, Moses is ensuring that his family doesn't have to work for food here. You can also bring green corn that's been dried over a fire and mix it with the same ingredients.

Chapter 3

In the case of peace offerings, you can use a male or female cow, sheep or goat. The fat gets burned on the altar for god, the priests get the next bits, and you get the kidneys, the kidney fat, and the caul of the liver. Mm-mmm! Of course this is all to be done in perpetuity, but Jews stopped after the destruction of the temple, and Christians don't have to because Jesus was enough. The cows, sheep and goats of the world, at least the perfect male specimens, breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Chapter 4

Should you sin, even in ignorance, you have to kill a pretty young bullock (young bull). The priest has to dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle it on the curtain in front of the ark of the covenant, then smear some on the altar, then pour the rest on the ground. Then the fat has to be burned at the altar. The rest, save the kidneys, kidney fat, and caul has to be burned outside the camp. You can eat the organs. Same punishment if the whole congregation sins. A ruler who sins must bring a perfect male kid goat. Commoners can bring female kid goats. You would think the females would be more valuable, and thus more of a sacrifice. You can also sacrifice lambs. One wonders if there were any animals left at this point who hadn't been sacrificed.

Chapter 5

If you lie in court, touch something dead, the uncleanliness of man (v.3) or make a careless oath, you have to confess and kill a female lamb or kid goat. Poorer men can bring turtledoves or pigeons. The poorest can bring flour, with no oil or frankincense. In all cases, the priest spatters the blood, then burns the fat, keeps the meat and gives you the organs.

Sinning through ignorance, or against your will, requires a ram. After any of these, you've atoned yourself.

Chapter 6

If you lie to your neighbour and say something you borrowed was stolen, or if you stole something, or if you lied about something that was lost and you found, you have to give it back, plus 20 percent. Then you have to kill a ram. the priest has to wear one set of robes to burn the ram, and another to clean up. Makes sense. Then god repeats his instructions about baking bread (NO YEAST). Aaron and his sons can eat the part they don't offer, as well as the meat left over from burnt offerings. Anything that gets bloody has to be washed, no doubt by another brother of Moses. If they cook it in an earthenware pot, they have to break it, thus creating more work for Moses' uncle the potter, but bronze pots can just be washed, so clearly the bronze shaper wasn't a relative.

Chapter 7

Guilt offerings are the most holy, so you have to eat the remains in the temple. The priests get the skins, lucky devils, as well as the meat in the frying pans. If the sacrifice is for thanksgiving, it has to be an unleavened cake or wafer, made with oil, and the priest gets to eat it, but you have to do so that day. If it's a voluntary sacrifice, you can eat the leftovers on the morning, then burn them on the third day. If you do, it's 'an abomination.' So, homosexuality is on par with eating three-day-old leftovers as far as god is concerned. If your sacrifice touches something unclean, or if you are unclean, and you eat it, you'll be exiled. Same punishment for eating fat or blood. You can wave breast fat and meat around as a 'wave offering' which does indeed mean waving it in the air, and then you have to give the fat to god and the breast to the priests. Same for heave offerings. It's funny, because god keeps saying all of this has to be done in perpetuity, but Jerry has somehow decided differently. Could it be he's... interpreting the inerrant word of god?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Exodus Chapters 35-40

Chapter 35

The rules for the sabbath. First of all working on the sabbath, even to kindle a fire, is punishable by death. Then he starts asking for donations. Strangely, they are the same things he's supposed to build the temple with: gold, silver, brass, purple, blue and red linen, ram and badger skin, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil, and stones for the ephod (breastplate for the priests). He also asks for volunteer builders, carpenters and seamstresses, which is odd since god specified who was to build everything a couple of chapters ago. So they go and bring back all the required goods, including the gold they 'borrowed' from their Egyptian neighbours that was left over from the golden calf. Moses calls on Bezaleel, who is from the tribe of Judah (and probably married to one of his daughters) and Aholiab, from the tribe of Dan (and probably one of his nephews) and tells them to build the temple.

Chapter 36

The workers set to building, and the people start bringing stuff. They actually bring too much, and Moses has to call them off. The rest of the chapter painstakingly details every step of the work. This book is a snore compared to Genesis.

Chapter 37

Another long description of how Bezaleel made all the furnishings for inside the temple, including the ark of the covenant. Jerry goes gaga for the candlestick, estimating its worth at 34 000 dollars (no, he doesn't say where he got that figure) and praising it as a sign of the pre-incarnate Christ, because Jesus is the True Light. Somehow, I think Jerry is one of those people who sees the face of Jesus burned onto his toast in the morning. Just a hunch.

Chapter 38

Bezaleel builds the alter and the court. Ithamar, Aaron's son, writes it all down, including the value. Jerry very helpfully calculates the cost at 27 million dollars, which is probably pretty cheap for a church.

Chapter 39

They make the robes and accessories for the priests. Finally, the tabernacle is done, so they take it to Moses who is happy.

Chapter 40

God tells them to set the temple up on the first day of the second month. They do, and Aaron, his sons and Moses wash their feet. Bet you thought they'd fuck it up and get killed didn't you? I was on the edge of my seat. God comes down and promises to live in the tent with them, though I suspect he will continue to only speak to Moses. He comes in the form of a cloud, so the people know that if it's foggy in the morning, they can stay put, but if it's clear, they have to move again. That must have been annoying.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 32-34

Chapter 32

Moses is taking too long behind the curtain up on the mountain, and the people get restless. They ask Aaron to make them gods, and in the tradition of feckless younger brothers everywhere, he tells them to bring him their golden earrings and he turns them into a golden calf. Jerry has something useful to say here by informing us it's a representation of the Egyptian god of nature, Apis. He also tells us that they're breaking the second commandment about graven images, which apparently is fine if it's on the ark of the covenant, but not here. Aaron builds an altar before it and declares the next day a feast. They get up the next day and have a barbecue, then take off all their clothes and have an orgy. Jerry quickly outlives his usefulness by condemning this activity as 'abominable.' So somehow sacrificing animals and throwing the blood around is fine, but a little healthy recreational sex is sinful. Movie night at Jerry's must be insane.

God notices all this and tells Moses to go back down and watch while he kills them all so Moses can make a great nation. Moses, knowing his power base relies on his being both god's messenger and pork provider, manages to talk him out of it, pointing out that the Egyptians will laugh at him for bringing his people all the way there only to kill them. He reminds him of his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people (v. 14) Of course Jerry is too busy pointing out all the nudity in this chapter to notice that his infallible, perfect, unchanging god changes his mind here and admits that his plan was pretty evil.

Moses then leaves with the tablets. He sees the party and like the straight-laced firstborn son that he is, he punishes the people for having fun. He breaks the tablets then the calf. He burns the calf and grinds it into a powder (somehow, I don't think the writers of this book were chemists), mixes it with water, and makes them drink it. He turns to Aaron, who says he was just doing what the people asked, because they didn't know where Moses was. So he told them to bring him their gold, which he cast into the fire, and presto! Out came a calf. Moses gives up on this line of questioning and asks all the people who is still on his side. The Levites raise their hands. Now we see why Moses convinced god not to kill the people: he prefers to do it himself. He tells them god wants them to gather their swords and slay all the others, whether their brothers, friends or neighbours. So of course they do, because history has proven that humans will do what tyrants tell them, and 3000 people die. So much for 'thou shalt not kill.' It's a wonder anyone managed to live longer than a few days.

The next day, Moses tells the survivors that they have sinned, but he'll go back up and try to atone for their sins. He goes up and confesses that the people have sinned and asks for forgiveness, offering to let himself be blotted out of the book. Jerry has a few theories on what the contents of this book might have been, including that it was a list of believers, or a register of the living, or a list of people who are going to heaven, never mind that there is no afterlife yet. The point is, he's too busy to talk about the 3000 people who just died at the hands of their friends and neighbours for the sake of ideology. God says he'll strike all the sinners' names out of the book and tells him to lead the people to a new place. As punishment, he sends a plague.

Chapter 33

God tells Moses it's time to go to Canaan. He can't come though, because he's still pissed off about the golden calf, and will kill them if he gets too close. The people hear this and put on simple clothes rather than finery. Moses then moves the tabernacle outside the camp. The people watch from their tent doors. As they watch, god descends as a pillar and talks to Moses. They all pray in their tent doors. Moses pleads with god not to abandon them here. He asks to see god's face, and even though we're told in verse 11 that the LORD spake unto moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend, god says no, because no one can see his face and live. He does promise that Moses can go to a certain rock, and he'll pass by, and Moses can see his back parts (v. 23), which is possibly his family jewels.

Chapter 34

God tells Moses to make two stone tablets to replace the ones he broke, and to bring them up the mountain again tomorrow so he can write the commandments again. God comes down on a cloud to meet him and proclaims himselfThe LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth / Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin (v. 6-7) indicating that self-insight is not among his many character traits. Moses sees his chance and bows down to ask god to go among the Israelites and forgive them. He promises to deliver Canaan to them, by driving out the pagans already living there, and warns him not to make any agreements with them, but to break their altars and destroy their crops. What was that he was just saying about being merciful?

He also warns about intermarriage, saying if their sons marry the heathen girls, the girls will make them worship the other gods. He has so much confidence in his people, doesn't he?

God goes on to remind him not to make any more golden calves, to keep the feast of leavened bread, and to kill the firstborn males of their flocks, but not firstborn asses, which are to be replaced by lambs or otherwise strangled. They also have to keep the sabbath and the other feasts, and not boil baby goats in their mothers' milk. He tells Moses to write all this down. Moses somehow goes without water or food for 40 days while writing all this down.

Moses then puts on a veil, supposedly because his face will now frighten the Israelites, but ya'll know he's just an early Michael Jackson. He keeps in on for the rest of his life except when talking to god.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 30 & 31

Chapter 30

Instructions for a new altar: this one for burning incense on. There's the usual blah blah about making it out of wood, then overlaying it with gold. Aaron is to burn incense every morning when he lights the lamps. It has to be one particular sort of incense, and the altar cannot be used for burnt sacrifices, meat or drink offerings. Picky, picky. He does have to make yearly atonement offerings.

Then, because building this temple out of expensive linens and wood and gold and precious stones is bloody expensive, god imposes a tax on all healthy men over 20. Everyone, rich or poor, has to give half a shekel. Hey! God's a flat-tax advocate! The money will also serve as an atonement. Buying your way out of sin, love it!

Next is a basin, for ritual washing by priests to wash their hands and feet. The penalty for forgetting to do so: death. Well, that will get the kids to wash their hands before dinner. Of course Jerry says that we no longer have to do this because of the New Testament. My father-in-law explained this to me over the weekend: biblical literalists deal with contradictions by deciding that if something is different between the Old and New Testaments, the New Testament shall be taken as correct. Never mind that this is interpreting, and they don't interpret because every word is literally true.

Anyway, Moses is then told to gather herbs and make them into anointing oil, which they have to pour over everything. Ordinary men cannot be anointed, lest they become holy, and anyone who pours it on a stranger will be exiled. Finally, they have to make perfume and leave it in the sanctuary, but if they wear it, they'll be banished.

The temple must have been a disgusting, stinky place what with the blood and the burnt offerings and the oil and the perfume everywhere.

Chapter 31

God names the craftspeople to make everything he just listed. It doesn't say, but I'm thinking they were Moses' brothers and sons-in-law.

Then we are told to keep the Sabbath. The penalty for insulting it (presumably by working): death. I wonder what happened to members of Jerry's congregation who broke this particular rule?

All of this is written on stone tablets and given to Moses.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Exodus Chapter 29

First, they have to bring a bullock (young bull) and two perfect rams.

Then they have to ritually dress Aaron and his sons in the garments from the last chapter.

Then they have to bring the bullock in front of the congregation and kill it ritually. First, they have to bleed it. Then take the fat and the internal organs and burn them. They have to burn the meat, skin and dung away from the camp to absolve their sins. Then they have to kill the first ram and cut it up and burn it.

When they kill the second ram they have to put blood on their ears, thumbs and big toes, then sprinkle it around. Then they have to mix it with oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and co. Then they have to cut it up and take some bread and oil and wafers and wave it around and burn it. Then they have to wave the breast around. Then they have to heave the shoulder.

Aaron's robe will be passed on to his sons.

Finally, they get to eat the burnt offerings, but they can't share it with strangers. Rather, they have to burn leftovers. They have to repeat this for seven days, and make sure to clean the altar every time. Is this not wasteful? They also have to kill two lambs a day. One in the morning, along with flour, oil and wine, then again in the evening. They have to do this in perpetuity to remind themselves of the glory of god.

Now, of course Jerry and his followers don't think they have to do any of this, because if something in the New Testament contradicts something in the Old Testament, the New Testament shall be taken as the correct version, even though this entire thing is the word of god. But do bear in mind as this book gets more and more gory that these same people who accept a book that advocates carving up animals and throwing the blood at each other want to ban kissing in films.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 28

God turns from interior decoration to fashion design, with every bit of his good taste intact. Now he describes the priestly robes Aaron and his sons are to wear, and again, everything has to be blue and purple and red and gold, and has to be dripping in jewels and intricate designs. God is a conspicuous consumer here.

Next are the instructions for the ephod and the precious stones that are supposed to go in it and how they are supposed to be carved. The breastplate is also supposed to include an urim and thummim, which is a set of mystical dice used in divination. Of course, Jerry is careful to point out that the results were not determined by chance, but by god and that after the Holy Spirit came to power on the Day of Pentecost, which happens in Acts, which isn't until the New Testament, so I don't know about it yet, but the point is, now we don't need to do it. I hope I don't need to point out that Jerry, the biblical literalist, is interpreting here and dismissing the parts he doesn't think are relevant. Of course, he doesn't do that when the passage is about homosexuality or witchcraft.

Around the hem they have to make little pomegranate pom-poms and alternated them with golden bells. If Aaron fails to ring the bell on entering the temple, he'll be killed.

Next is the mitre, which has to have a gigantic gold plate with HOLINESS TO THE LORD (v. 36) engraved on it in capital letters, because heaven forbid we should fail to be ostentatious for even one second here. Then he gives instructions on priestly underwear, which has to reach to the thighs, which settles the question of whether god prefers boxers or briefs. Failure to wear them will also result in death.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 27

First, god gives instructions for the altar. Not a normal altar like you or I might see if we went into a church, where the priest stands and gives his sermons. No, an alter for making sacrifices. Here's what Jerry has to say about that: The position of this altar near the entrance of the main court indicates very clearly the absolute necessity for blood atonement before real fellowship can be initiated with an infinitely holy God. The slaughter of animals was a vivid reminder to Israel that sin indeed requires a high price.

Fortunately, unlike the ancient Israelites, Jerry means 'blood atonement' in the sense of 'Jesus' blood', the wine (or in stricter churches, grape juice) you drink that supposedly absolves you of sin. Whew. Unfortunately, he is still refusing to believe that they had a different world view than him, and that the idea of a 'fellowship with god' wasn't going to come along until around about the sixteenth century for some, and still doesn't exist for say, Catholics.

Then there are some instructions for the court yard of the temple, pillars and hangings. Still lots of garish colours and precious metals. Finally, a lamp, which Aaron and his sons are to keep burning at all times. That's why his descendants, the kohanim, or Cohens, still have a special role in Judaism.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Exodus Chapter 26

God spends twelve verses describing the curtains he wants for the walls of the tent. Because they still weren't living in permanent structures. He's exactly like me at twelve, because he wants them made with blue and purple and scarlet (v.1). They have to make the roof out of dyed badger skins.

Then there are 18 verses about the tent poles, which can be made out of wood, but then have to be painted gold. God has the decorating sense of Rainbow Brite. Finally, there are instructions to make a separate room for the ark, plus all the other stuff he told them about in the preceding chapter, the candlestick, table and bread.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Exodus Chapter 25

This is the beginning of 7 mind-numbingly dull chapters giving detailed instructions on how to build the temple. First he tells them what offerings to bring, including gold, dyed wool, and stones for the priest's girdle, which he will wear on the outside of his clothes, because girdles then were more like bathrobe belts.

He tells them to make an ark to hold the covenant. I know, I know, Noah's ark was a boat, but now ark means 'chest big enough to hold stone tablets.' I'm getting all of this from Wikipedia, by the way, because Jerry is too busy having multiple orgasms about how every word of this chapter shows us that Jesus is on his way. Anyway, this is the ark of the covenant. On top it's to have a 'mercy seat' which, to the best of my understanding, which is to say Wikipedia, means lid. Jerry is still babbling about how it's going to cover sin until Jesus can redeem us. One-track mind much, Jerry? At either end of the mercy seat, there is to be a cherub, never mind that commandment about graven images. God even says what posture the cherubim should take. The cherubim are going to be heavenly microphones, god will talk from between them.

They have to make a table, and dishes and spoons and bowls, all to hold the showbread, or holy bread. Then he has 10 verses about candlestick holders, bowls and snuffdishes.

Oh, and all of this has to be made of gold. God is an over-the-top interior decorator. I wonder if Sartre had this section in mind when he gave the stage directions for Huis Clos? It certainly sounds garish enough.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Exodus Chapter 24

Moses is invited up the mountain for some more self-serving instructions. He goes back down and builds an altar, on which he sacrifices some cattle. He sprinkles blood on the altar, then reads the text of the covenant to the people, who are happy with what it says. Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people (v.8) what must have resembled a scene from the movie Carrie. I wonder if there are churches that still do this? Actually, no I don't. This seals the covenant.

Moses, Aaron and some of the other leaders go back up the hill. God now has sapphire stones under his feet. Cool. I wonder what happens if he clicks his heels together. They have a meal, and god invites Moses to come back up later and get the stone tablets with all the laws written on them. Moses leaves Aaron and someone called Hur in charge and goes up. The mountain is immediately covered by clouds and anyone who looks up is blinded. He stays for 40 days.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Exodus Chapter 23

Some good stuff about being a witness in court: no lying, no following the crowd blindly, be fair to the poor in lawsuits. Then about being fair to your enemies: bring back stray animals, help him if he's overburdened. Keep out of false charges, don't kill the innocent (take that, Texas). Don't accept bribes, because they blind the wise and pervert the just. No being mean to strangers, because they were also strangers in Egypt. Wouldn't life be lovely if we all just followed these rules? Too bad there's so much other stupid stuff.

The next bit is about charity, and although Jerry has been careful to point out all the anti-gay and anti-abortion bits to notice this. Also, he goes on about an angel in verse 20 that he thinks is Jesus, so he can't possible spare a footnote to talk about verses 11 and 12, which say that you can harvest your fields for six years but on the seventh you should let the poor tend them, as well as vineyards and olive groves. Everyone gets to rest on the seventh day. And don't talk about other gods!

He then gives instructions about feasting: three times a year, unleavened bread, the harvest and at the end of the year. All the men have to go, but women aren't important enough. They have to bring the first of the harvest to him. Oh, and no boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk.

Then it gets weird again. An angel is promised to keep them out of trouble. Jerry of course sees Jesus in this. If they keep their noses clean, this angel will help them in war, as long as they don't worship their enemies' gods and destroy all their religious artifacts. He'll bless their bread and water and take sickness away (note: Jerry died of heart disease! Oops!) and promises there will be no miscarriages and everyone will live a full life span. Too bad he didn't give them sanitation and vaccination and antibiotics and foreceps right then and there to fulfill that promise, eh?

He promises to terrorize anyone who attacks them and send them fleeing with his armies of hornets. Yes, it seriously says that in verse 28. God uses hornets. The original biological warfare device. He won't send them away all at once, because then the land would go fallow, but instead he'll send them away gradually so they can breed and inhabit the land. He promises them everything from the Red Sea to the Philistine sea, from desert to river. They can drive the people there out. I guess that's one explanation of the past 60 years of Israeli-Palestinian history. He reminds them not to make bargains with them, or to worship their gods. They also can't stay, because they might be a bad influence.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 21 & 22

Basically, these chapters are a recitation of god's laws. The practical application of those 10 (or 11, or 15) Commandments given in the previous chapter.

Chapter 21

Just so you know how relevant this book is to our modern society, how it's a living document, an instruction manual, the very first chapter tells you how to treat your slaves! Because slavery was so central to the Israelites' way of life, it was first and foremost in their book of laws. So, how are you supposed to treat a slave?

Well, if he's a Hebrew, you can only keep him six years, then you have to let him go. If you also bought his wife, you have to let her go, too. But if you gave him a wife, you can keep her, as well as any of her kids. If he says, no I love you, Master, my wife and kids, I won't go, you can drill a hole in his ear and keep him forever. Because 'thou shalt not mutilate thy servants' was not a commandment, see.

Next is how to sell your daughter into slavery. As Penn and Teller point out, if you believe your god is infallible, you have to follow the rules. If her new master takes her as a concubine and doesn't like her, there is no expiration date on the return policy, but he's not allowed to sell her to anyone else. If he gives her to his son, he has to treat her like his own daughter. If he marries again, he can't deprive her of clothes and food. If he fails to follow these rules, she's free. Jerry has nothing whatsoever to say about this section, presumably because he doesn't keep slaves, so these rules don't apply.

On to capital crimes, which you will note are less important than slavery.

Okay, premeditated murder is punishable by death, but manslaughterers can just leave the colony. Killing your parents, or even hitting or cursing them is also a capital crime. Well, that would cut down on toddler temper tantrums and teenage rebellion, wouldn't it? Kidnapping a man and selling him into slavery, or even intent to do so, is a no-no.

If two people are fighting and one hits the other, with a fist or a rock, but he doesn't die, there is no punishment but compensation for lost work. Nothing about malingering. If you beat your slaves with a stick and kill them right there: death. But if they die slowly, say from internal bleeding, nothing, because it's your own money you're wasting here. If two men are fighting and a pregnant woman somehow gets hurt and loses the baby, her husband can only sue for damages. Not, you will note here, put the man to death for taking a life. So clearly god himself doesn't see life beginning at conception here, because it isn't murder until the baby's outside the mother of its own accord. If the woman herself is injured, the punishment will be the same: if she dies, the assailant dies, if she loses an eye, he does, too.

Back to servants. So a couple of verses ago you could slowly beat them to death, but now if you hit them and they lose an eye or a tooth, you have to let them go.

Animals are subject to capital punishment as well, it would seem. If an ox gores someone, it must be stoned to death, and its meat can't be eaten, but the owner gets no other punishment. If this wasn't the first time the ox in question injured someone, and the owner knew but didn't do anything, then both owner and ox are to be stoned to death. Not that all that many cows kill people these days, but I'm pretty sure Jerry wouldn't advocate for punishing them that way. If the owner has money, he can buy his life back. Much like the legal system today, actually.

The ox-goring law only applies to freedmen. If it's a slave, the owner of the ox has to pay the slave owner 30 shekels and the ox gets stoned.

It gets really detailed, actually. A man who digs a pit and fails to cover it, so that an animal falls in has to pay restitution but gets to keep the meat. If an ox hurts another man's ox, the owner of the first one has to pay compensation by selling the live ox and dividing the money, and by splitting the meat from the dead one. If the ox was a troublemaker, they have to trade cows.

Chapter 22

Lots of very detailed rules on what to do for all kinds of property crimes, such as cattle rustling, when your livestock eats your neighbours' crops, petty theft, arson, borrowing a cow that then dies or is stolen. You basically get fined for all of that.

If you seduce a virgin, you have to marry her, but if her father refuses, you have to pay a dowry. Not pretend you're going to accept him as your brother-in-law, provided all the men of his tribe get circumcised, then slaughter them all? Really? That was just Simeon and Levi?

Witches and practitioners of bestiality are to be punished by death. Jerry says the Canaanites were animal lovers and the Hittites banned sheep, goat or cow sex, but were horse and mule fuckers. I think we have to take this information with a grain of salt, since this book was written by the Israelites, who won that particular battle, and may have employed some negative propaganda against their enemies. He also says this is why we shouldn't have gay marriage. That old trope again, Jerry?

People who make sacrifices to other gods are to be put to death. Another nod to polytheism, which is ignored by Jerry, who is too busy equating homosexuality with bestiality.

We do get a nice couple of verses reminding us to be kind to strangers, widows and fatherless children, which of course is ruined in verse 24, which says the punishment for failing to do so is death. Is it really free will if the choice is 'do this or I'll come after you with a sword?'

Usury is banned next, which combined with the feudal system kept our economy from developing until about oh, the seventeenth century. Thanks, god! I wanted to be a drunk, stupid, cold, midget for thousands of years because money was concentrated into the hands of a few who didn't want to lend it because there was no incentive! Of course, Jerry has nothing to say about this. In fact you can't even keep your neighbours' clothing as a loan guarantee for longer than one day.

Verses 28 and 29 are quite confusing: Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people (v. 28). So apparently there are still many gods, and slandering the rulers is a no-no. Well, Jerry's ilk ought to shut up about Obama, oughtn't they, if we have to respect our leaders? Then 29 says Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits and of they liquors: the first-born of thy sons shalt thy give unto me. So, god is a drinking man. Excellent. But giving him the first-born son? As a burnt offering? Because verse 30 says Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep. So he spared them when he attacked the Egyptians, only so they could sacrifice them? I can't help but notice that Jerry Falwell had two sons, the oldest of whom was neither offered as a sacrifice, nor even offered into the church as a pastor. Nope, he's a lawyer and chancellor of Liberty University. So much for the infallible word of god in your own family there, Jerry.

Finally, the Israelites are to be holy (v. 31) which seems to consist of not eating meat from animals that have been killed by other animals. You have to give that to the dogs. Curious.

Anyway, you can see from this that the Israelites were not all that different from modern Anglo-Saxon cultures: obsessed with property rights, fining each other, and restitution for various petty violations. The story-telling is less than thrilling, but as a window into a culture, it's interesting.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 20

Here we go, the 10 Commandments or 16 as the cast may be, the rules Christians feel are so important, they put them up in court rooms and take their arguments all the way to the Supreme Court in the effort to keep them there. In fact, some have gone so far as to say that we could do away with all other laws, and just keep these ones.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (v.3)
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (v.4)
So, does this mean no Christians have drawings, sculptures, or photographs of anything, much like observant Muslims are expected to do? No? Hmm...
3. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them for I the LORD they God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (v.5)
4. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain, for the lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (v.7)
So all of you that have said 'Oh my god!' in surprise, pain or ecstasy, you were all breaking a commandment, which, if you will recall, is one of the most important laws handed down by god.
5. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. (v. 8) So again, if you've ever baked cookies, worked a shift, or gardened on a Sunday, you're a Phoney Christian
6. Honour they father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee (v. 12)
7. Thou shalt not kill.
Unless you're Moses, who if you will recall has still not been punished for that whole incident with the Egyptian. And as you will see, there are many, many other heavenly proclamations in this book that will contradict this.
8. Thou shalt not commit adultery (v. 14) Unless you're Judah and she's your daughter-in-law, and she's pretending to be a prostitute and you're horny. We'll see if there are other instances.
9. Thou shalt not steal. (v. 15) So I guess the Israelites sent all their Egyptian neighbours' silver and jewellery back to them by parcel post, then? Remember it was god himself that told them to ask for it.
10. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (v. 16)
11. Thou shalt not covet they neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, or his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is they neighbour's. (v. 17)

The people of course don't hear any of this, because of course god is only saying it to Moses. They ask Moses what god said, because if god speaks to them, they'll die. Nope, no possibilities for corruption in this system! Moses tells them not wo be afraid, because god has come to test them for sin. They stay back but Moses goes back towards the cloud of god. God tells him to tell them that they talked, and adds a couple more commandments: no offerings of silver, and no making god out of gold and keeping it (12). He then has to make an altar out of earth (13), on which he will sacrifice animals (14). If they make stone altars, they can't cut the stone, because then it will be impure (15). Finally, they can't go up the steps to the altar, because apparently god can see up their robes that way (16).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Exodus Chapter 19

The build-up to the ten commandments.

The Israelites make camp at the foot of Mount Sinai. God calls to Moses from inside the mountain, because in this chapter he's Sauron, and Moses goes up to talk to him. God reminds Moses about how he saved them from the Egyptians, and promises that if they keep their covenant with him, he'll reward the Israelites. Jerry says 'This covenant was given to Israel in order to reveal sin and death. The Law reflected the holiness of a personal God, instructed the people in God's discipline, reminded them through its priests and sacrifices of God's salvation, and acted as a pedagogue to lead them to Christ.' Lets deconstruct every sentence of this, shall we? First off, if the covenant reveals sin and death, why does Jerry get to pick and choose which parts of it to follow? It will tell us eventually that we should kill homosexuals and witches, which Jerry agrees with, but also people who wear mixed fabrics and eat shellfish, which he doesn't seem to mind as much. Next, a personal god. Not till about 2200 years after this book was written, Jerry, or 3000 years according to your biblical timeline, when Luther nailed his theses to the church wall. Up until then, you went to church to find out what god was thinking, which you acknowledge in the second part of that sentence. Also, what sacrifices do you make? And that last bit, about Christ. Any time the KJV mentions an angel, Jerry sees a manifestation of Jesus, even though the Old Testament and the New were written hundreds of years apart. He'll in fact spend so much time looking for signs of the Messiah that he'll miss really important stuff, like polygamy, polytheism and anti-death penalty verses to point them out.

Anyway, god tells Moses to go back to the priests and pass the message along. They promise, and Moses brings their promise back to god. God says he's going to come back in three days in the form of a cloud, and he'll speak loud enough that the people will hear their conversation and believe Moses. Why can't he appear and speak to them directly, exactly? He tells Moses to tell them to get ready and wash their clothes and they'll see him on Sinai. He's to set up barriers around the mountain, and anyone who crosses them, man or beast shall be surely put to death (v. 12) by stoned, or shot through (v. 13), but when the trumpet sounds, they can approach the base, but only Moses can come up. Hmm... god is... the Wizard of Oz? Whatever you do, don't go behind the screen come up the mountain!

Moses goes down and tells them to get ready, by doing laundry and abstaining from sex. And on the third day, a dark cloud covers the top of the mountain and the people tremble. Moses leads them to the foot of the mountain. God comes down in fire, but no one can see him for the smoke. Moses calls up to him and is allowed up. God sends him back down to tell people not to look directly at god, otherwise they'll die. He's like a solar eclipse! He says the priests should purify themselves before they come up. Moses points out that he already said no one can come up, and god is too busy and important to remember little things like who he threatened with death and why. He tells Moses to go back down and get Aaron, but no priests and no people, or he'll kill them. Moses goes and relays the message.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Exodus Chapters 17 & 18

The continuing crises of faith of the Israelites.

Chapter 17

The people are whining again, this time because they have not water. They complain to Moses, who asks why they're bitching to him and 'tempting' (questioning) the lord. Because the heavenly customer service department only responds to negative feedback? They grumble amongst themselves that they shouldn't have left Egypt, proving for the umpteenth time that gratitude really is the shortest-lived human emotion.

Moses goes to god and says the people are just about ready to stone him. God tells him to take the elders of Israel and his rod to a rock in Horeb where he'll hit the rock with the rod and water will come out. He does, and names the place Massah and Meribah, or temptation and contention.

The next crises is war, specifically with the Amaleks, descendants of Esau. Moses tells Joshua to go fight them while he goes up a hill with his rod. He holds his hands out, and if they drop, the Amaleks prevail, but if he keeps them up, the Israelites do. So he weasels out of fighting, then can't even do his bit by keeping his damned hands in the air. Aaron and Hur have to give him a stone to sit on, then hold his hands up for him, which you would think would be cheating. Joshua wins. God tells him to write a book about this, and promises he's going to wipe out the Amalek people. Another mass killing!

Moses builds and alter, and promises there will be more wars with the Amaleks.

Chapter 18

Jethro, or Reuel, as the case may be, whom you may remember is Moses' father-in-law, comes, along with Moses' wife and two sons. We know that Moses sent them back, but not why. Moses greets Jethro, though there is no mention of his reaction to seeing his spouse and kids, despite the fact that she saved his life a few chapters ago. Moses tells him everything that has happened, and Jethro praises the lord and says he's the greatest god ever, and makes a sacrifices to him and they all eat.

In the morning, Moses sits down outside and the people come to him to ask him to judge their disputes. Jethro asks what he's doing, and Moses explains that he makes his judgements bases on what god's laws and statutes say. Jethro, like many a meddling in-law, says he's not doing the right thing. This guy who just converted last night. He says he's wearing himself thin, and needs some helpers. He suggests training some assistants in god's rules, and finding some god-fearing, honest, uncorruptable men to act as officials. Moses himself will only handle the biggest issues, but they'll do the everyday stuff. Basically, he's setting up a judicial system of local, appellate and superior courts here. Moses takes this sensible advice and appoints various magistrates. Jethro goes home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 16

The people are bitching again, this time that they have no food. God promises to rain down bread from heaven (v. 4) every day, as a test of their faith. I wouldn't say this is the best loyalty test, giving food to starving people and asking if they like you. He says that on the sixth day, he'll give them twice as much. Moses and Aaron repeat this to the people, adding that when they complain about them, they complain about god, which is a nifty little way of keeping people in check, don't you think? God himself then appears, but still only speaks to Moses. Another aside: have you ever noticed that gods very seldom appear to everyone? They only talk to one 'prophet' who then passes the message on? Has it ever occurred to you how self-serving that could be for the prophet?

Anyway, god promises to send meat in the evenings and bread in the mornings. And he's as good as his word: the next day there are quails, then bread. They've never seen bread like it, and now I know that manna is a biblical expression. For those of you more familiar with Tolkien than the bible, this is like elvish bread, and apparently it tastes like wafers and honey.

He tells them to gather it daily according to need. Moses tells them to eat it all before morning, but some of them try to save it and it goes off and he gets angry. So they just gather what they need and eat it. On the sixth day, twice as much arrives and Moses tells them to bake it today and save some for tomorrow. Never mind that just five days ago, people who tried to save some had stinky wormy bread the next day. But this particular lot doesn't go off and Moses says to eat it today because the lord is resting and won't send them any. Some people, not trusting him, still go and look and don't find any. God peevishly asks Moses why people are refusing to obey him? Maybe you haven't killed enough people, god. Have you ever thought of that? So Moses explains again that on the sixth day, they'll get twice as much, but on the seventh day they have to stay home. And they do. For forty years, until they come to Canaan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 14 & 15

The parting of the Red Sea, which is both a miracle and a mass killing.

Chapter 14

God comes to Moses and tells him to go along the red sea, so that Pharaoh will think they have no escape route. Then he's going to harden Pharaoh's heart again, so that Pharaoh and the other Egyptians will know that he is god. Does anyone think god might be trying just a little too hard, here?

So Pharaoh gathers up all his chariots and chases after them, and catches up to them on the shores of the sea. The Israelites see them and are afraid, and ask Moses why he's taken them out to die in the wilderness, and whine that they'd rather be Egyptian slaves. Moses promises that god is going to help them see the last of the Egyptians.

God tells Moses to stretch his rod out over the sea and divide it, then cross over. He'll send the Egyptians after them, and he will kill them all to increase his honor (v.17) and convince them he is god. He then moves the pilar of clouds from the last chapter so it's behind them. Now the Egyptians can't see in front of them, but the Israelites can.

Moses does as he's told and a wind comes up and parts the sea. The Israelites cross over. The Egyptians pursue them. God confuses their general, then causes the wheels to fall off. The Egyptians realise this is the hand of god and try to flee. God tells Moses to stretch his hand out over the sea and close it over the Egyptians. Moses does so and they all drown. The Israelites walk through the sea and see the Egyptians washed up on the shore, and they become believers in god and Moses.

Jerry is too busy giving a lecture on chariot construction to give us any indication of why this story is somehow a moral lesson. He only acknowledges that the parting of the sea is 'supernatural', his word for 'magic when the good guys do it.'

So here are my thoughts: this is a god who turns his people into believers through controlling others and causing fear in the hearts of his followers by killing non-believers in mass numbers. It's certainly a twist. Most leaders who rule by fear do so by killing from within. I'm also troubled by Moses. Sure, he isn't the actual murderer, but his actions lead directly to suffering and death over and over again, and he has no qualms about any of it.

Chapter 15

The Israelites, in an early display of mass games (yes, I am feeling extremely caustic today), sing the praises of god for freeing them from the Egyptians and drowning them all. We get a promise of more fear and dread (v. 16) when they finally get to Canaan.

Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister, leads the women in an answering dance.

After the party, the Israelites go into the wilderness until they come to Marah, where they can't find anything to drink. They immediately start to grumble about Moses. Moses takes it up with god, who plants a tree in the waters that turns them sweet. God promises that if they listen to him and do what he says and follow all his commandments and laws, he won't do to them what he did to the Egyptians. Oh, man, if I had a nickel for every person who's fallen for that ruse!

Finally, they arrive at the oasis of Elim.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 13

God is a little nicer to the firstborn sons of the Israelites and their livestock: they're just his. Moses instructs them all not to eat leavened bread for the next week, or even to keep it in their houses. Was there something against yeast with these people? I suppose so, but Jerry is mum.

He has a bizarre little instruction for them in verse 9: and it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in thy mouth which is apparently why some Orthodox Jews wear tefillin when praying.

He then instructs them to kill a lamb for every first born son and first-born ass, by breaking its neck. It's pretty weird and confusing. And when their sons ask, they're to say it's because god freed them from bondage, and god slew all their first-born sons in revenge.

God then sends them home, not the short way past the Philistines, because he thinks they might go back to Egypt, but along the Red Sea. Moses takes Joseph's bones along. They camp and during the day, god marks the path with a pillar of cloud, and at night a pillar of fire. Is this the beginning of the 40 years in the wilderness?