Sunday, February 27, 2011

Psalms 126-130: How full is your quiver?

Psalm 126

During one of the Israelites' many periods in exile, the psalmist asks god to restore them to their rightful land.

Psalm 127

I'm always surprised by the verses that wacky extremists seize on. So this psalm, despite being only 5 verses long, packs a lot into a short space. First it informs us that if your house or city isn't god-approved, there's no point building it. Nor is there any point in getting up early, working hard, and going to bed late, because if god doesn't like you, you won't get to eat. Then it tells us to have kids. Like 20+. Because they're a reward from god. Career? Travel? Art? Books? Nope. Why? Because they didn't exist when this book was written.

Psalm 128

More on the theme of fearing god: if you do, your vines will be plentiful, as will your wife's womb. Yet another thing to blame the women for. Oh, and you'll live long enough to see your grandchildren.

Psalm 129

A lot of metaphors about using gardening implements on your enemies. It's very Cohen brothers.

Psalm 130

Whoops! God has stopped opening and closing wombs and is ignoring the psalmist again.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Psalms 121-125: Postcards from the edge

Thank goodness these ones are all short after Friday's epic prayer.

Psalm 121

Over hill, over dale who's that coming down the trail to help our faithful psalmist? Why god, of course, who never sleeps and provides shade from the sun. So no need for sunscreen then, right?

Psalm 122

This one is written like a tourist postcard from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I'm sure hundreds of them are still sent using almost the exact same words.

Psalm 123

Blah blah blah mercycakes.

Psalm 124

Thank goodness god was there all those times enemies attacked!

Psalm 125

Another prayer for peace and security that nonetheless ends by asking god to smite hostile tribes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Psalms 116-120: the long and short of it

Psalm 116

God finally talks to the psalmist, who uses the opportunity to bitch about how he's sooo close to dying. Rather than leave him to it, god restores him to the land of the living (v. 9), where he promises to devote his life to praise.

Psalm 117

The only notable thing about this Psalm is that it's the shortest chapter in the bible, so short it doesn't even have time to ask god to smite anybody.

Psalm 118

Mercy, mercy, mercy. God destroyed my enemies. Praise, praise, praise.

Psalm 119

Ugh. The longest chapter in this entire book and it's a love poem to god's laws.

First, people who keep god's laws are perfect. Like Gwyneth Paltrow perfect.

In the next section, the psalmist is pretending to be a young man seeking to make his way in the world. The best advice he's given? Follow god's laws. Or start your own religion and make up your own laws.

Next, the psalmist tells us how hot and bothered he gets just thinking about being judged by god and begs him to make him understand it better. If you substitute 'spanking' for 'law' it gets pretty kinky.

Then there's the inevitable request for mercy and a recap of all the times it helped him in the past and the invariable plea for more attention. And of course to punish the wicked. Never forget to curse the wicked!

Then he starts bragging about how, thanks to god's law, he's smarter than anyone. No self-awareness whatsoever, after all those verses about proud and arrogant people.

The psalmist loves law more than gold. I guess no one told him how frequently those two things go together. He also pants when he thinks about how much he loves it (v. 131). I told you it's kinky.

Then there are several verses about how god's word is so beautiful, it hurts to look at it. He also informs us that he prays seven times a day.

Psalm 120

This is the Psalm of the expat gone mad: he complains about how much he hates the locals, how they're all lying war-mongerers and asks god to please let him go home. You can never go home again, my friend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Psalms 111-115: The home stretch

Psalm 111

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (v. 10) I like my deities a little more upbeat, thanks.

Psalm 112

Some details about what good fearing god does you: you'll have children who will become mighty upon earth (v. 2), you'll be rich, gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. (v. 4). You'll use good judgement, you'll be remembered forever, you'll never have to fear, your um, horn, will be blessed, your enemies will be destroyed. It's like having a fairy godmother!

Psalm 113

God elevates the poor to royal stations and makes infertile women fecund.

Psalm 114

A reminder to nature that it should also fear god.

Psalm 115

My god is better than your god! Why? Because my god is in the sky and your god is just some stinky idol made out of precious metal! Yours may have sensory organs, but he has no senses, just like you! Na-na-na boo-boo!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Psalms 106-110: 1 drink when it says mercy, 2 when it says destroy

Psalm 106

A continued summation of Exodus and Numbers. And if you were drinking along to this chapter, you'd have to take 5 shots (3 mercies, 1 destroy).

Psalm 107

Yet more lamenting the events of Exodus, in this case the wandering around in the desert for 40 years. Only 1 mercy in this one.

Psalm 108

This is a repeat of Psalm... something I cannot be bothered to look up, in which god delineates which nations are in favour and which ones aren't. It's exactly the same list as last time. 1 mercy.

Psalm 109

David's back, venting his spleen on his enemies: he wants them to be ruled by Satan, overthrown, his children turned into beggars, extorted by the mafia, his workers to strike, for his name to be forgotten and for all his curses to bounce of me and stick to you. Oddly, there are 3 mercies in this verse.

Psalm 110

When god decides to start speaking to us again, he'll kill so many heathens their bodies will pile up all over the place and he'll wound their leaders in the heads. It just tugs at my heartstrings.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Psalms 101-105: Is god a patient father or a toddler having a tantrum?

Psalm 101

Like many a kid hoping for a puppy for Christmas, Asaph promises to be reallysupergood if god will only talk to him. He won't look at wicked things, talk to wicked people, slanderers or the proud. He'll kick anyone who isn't righteous out of his house and slay all the evil-doers in the land. Sounds awfully boring and gory.

Psalm 102

Asaph compares his loneliness to that of pelicans, owls and sparrows and admits to eating ashes and drinking his own tears. Methinks we know why he's so lonely. Anyway, his life sucks because god is ignoring him.

Psalm 103

Asaph thanks god for curing diseases, being so slow to anger and so merciful. Um, I'm not sure he's read the rest of this book. Like the time God makes the entire nation of Israel walk around in the desert for 40 years because Moses hit a rock wrong, or when he sends them poison birds after they complain about not having enough meat. That god? Was pretty quick to anger and unmerciful. Of course all of this is only true for people who fear god, so maybe he has picked up on some of it.

Psalm 104

This one is a biggie in the whole scientists vs. the willfully ignorant permanent state of culture war we seem to have going on these days. It tells us about how god hung the heavens like a curtain, fixed the earth in place and once flooded the whole thing in a tantrum, but then got over it and put the water back in it's place. God also takes care of animals, providing food and drink for livestock and homes for birds, goats and rock badgers. To humans he gives wine, oil and bread. He made night so forest creatures could hunt, like lions, which to the best of my knowledge are diurnal, but whatevs (and which would seem to contradict the claims of literalists that, before the flood, all animals were vegetarians, since night existed then, too.)
Anyway, god made the seas and the whales and make sure everybody has something to eat.

But when god turns his face away from all the creatures great and small, they die. He also tells them when to reproduce.

Of course this almost-sweet nature prayer has to end with a request to kill all the sinners in an earthquake.

Psalm 105

This Psalm is a retelling of the events of Genesis and Exodus.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pslams 96-100

Psalm 96

Sing! Sing out loud! Sing out proud! Sing out free! About how afraid you are of god. Because he's coming to judge us all.

Psalm 97

Today, god is surrounded by dark clouds that send out fire to burn up his enemies.


Blah blah blah. Sing and be judged.

Psalm 99

Worship god because he's holy. Or is he holy because we worship him?

Psalm 100

Seriously. There are 50 more of these. Worship god because he made you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Psalms 91-95: This is the psalm that never ends

Psalm 91

God protects us from snares, arrows, plagues, lions, adders and dragons. Even though the people all around you may be dying, god will protect you. Somehow this psalm reminds me of Kipling's If even though they aren't very similar.

Psalm 92

This psalm, like most of them, starts off sweetly, telling us we should praise god by singing and dancing. But then, like most of them, it goes off the rails around verse 10 as the psalmist starts cursing non-believers and wishing death on them in unspecified ways. Then he turns it back to all the ways he'll be exalted: god will make his, um, horn straight, he'll have children even in old age and he'll get to see his enemies suffer.

Psalm 93

God fixed the world in place and is mightier than the sea. Whoo-hoo?

Psalm 94

Rather than start off nicely, this one gets right into the vengeance from the first verse. Among the things his enemies do: boast, kill widows, orphans and foreigners and claim that god can't see or hear it. But the joke is on them! God made eyes and ears, so of course he knows what people do! And he'll punish them.

Psalm 95

Asaph manages to stay positive for the entire 11 verses of this psalm, urging us all to go out in the fields and sing and dance our praise to god.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Psalms 86-90: The silent treatment continues

Psalm 86

Praise praise praise. Also, Asaph wants to change his Facebook status to 'in a relationship' so his enemies will believe him.

Psalm 87

Praise for Zion and people who were born there. What happens if you immigrated?

Psalm 88

Asaph gets more dramatic in his pleas to god to stop ignoring him, comparing the feeling to being in a grave. Also, his friends aren't returning his calls. He asks if god performs miracles to impress the dead (I sincerely hope not) and reminds god that he prays every morning. Then to end things, he circles back to the beginning, whining about how sick god's silence makes him.

Psalm 89

A reminder that god promised to make David's line kings, followed by praise of all his other works, namely beating up his enemies and/or inflicting them with plague. However, if any of his descendants don't keep the covenant, he'll also beat them.

Then Asaph starts reproaching god for breaking the covenant himself, but it's all a tactic to get god to respond, which doesn't work.

Psalm 90

Ooh, this is the Psalm where that whole The days of our years are threescore years and ten (v. 10) comes from! Although the same verse promises that we can have an extra ten years if we're particularly healthy. I intend to live to be at least 120, though reading this book makes me want to quit. Anyway all the rest is asking when exactly god plans to start talking to his followers again.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Psalms 81-85: Stalking god through the Psalms

Psalm 81

It's a feast day, so everybody should eat, drink and be merry whilst remembering the awful, awful consequences of not loving god enough.

Psalm 82

God reminds us that he won't let us into heaven until we've helped orphans and poor people. But why are they poor god? Huh?

Psalm 83

The enemies are at the gate, so Asaph prays to god to do unto them as he has done to many of Israel's past enemies.

Psalm 84

Asaph loves church/synagogue/temple, whatever it is that they're calling it these days. He'd take any job there, including doorman, just so he could spend more time with god.

Psalm 85

Asaph wonders, not for the first time, how long god is going to keep giving him the silent treatment. And not for the first time, he fails to get an answer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Psalms 76-80

Yes! I've officially passed the halfway mark!

Psalm 76

God is awesome because he kills horses and smashes chariots. 10 to 14 year old girls everywhere vow to take up Buddhism instead.

Psalm 77

Asaph can't sleep because he keeps replaying past events in his mind. I can so identify. What specifically is he remembering? The times when god used to communicate. He hasn't been around for awhile and Asaph sits up at night hoping he'll come back, like a wife waiting for her philandering husband.

Psalm 78

Some things never change. Asaph says of the youth of his day a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God (v. 8), They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law; and forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them (v. 10 & 11).

Then he rehashes the events of Exodus through Numbers and the Samuels.

Psalm 79

Asaph is sick and tired of being punished and asks god to pour his wrath out on some heathens or something. Also, he asks for clemency for death-row inmates, though at the same time he asks for seven-fold revenge on his enemies.

Psalm 80

Asaph compares the Israelites to a tree and god to a clumsy gardner who trims the hedges so low that passing vagabonds can pick the fruit. But rather than advertising for a new gardner, Asaph foolishly wants god to come back and fix his shoddy work.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Psalms 71-75: Introducing Asaph the angry ant

Psalm 71

It's still David talking for now, whining about how he hit the 'Like' button on God's Facebook page the minute he came out of the womb, so it's not fair of god to forget him now that he's old. Huh. I always thought it was only modern Western societies that ignored the decrepit. Who knew it had biblical roots?

Anyway, David talks a lot about how much he talks about god, which must be even more irritating than people who won't shut up about their preferred deity.

Psalm 72

Another Psalm asking god to bless the king so he can strongarm them into belief praise him to the people. Also, that way the king will get more land and tributes from other kings and stuff, which I suspect is what David really wants out of this relationship.

Psalm 73

The beginning of Asaph's section. He starts off by admitting that he used to envy the wicked, because they die strong and firm, untroubled, healthy, proud, fat (in the days when being fat was a good thing) and rich. Um, what is so awesome about being righteous, again?

Anyway, Asaph is now questioning why he's spent all this time being Charlie Church and getting sick, until one day he saw that the wicked are actually in torment and the error of his ways.

Psalm 74

Now god is turning a blind eye to the fact that people are cutting up his temples with axes and setting them on fire. That's a pretty serious throw down, there. But no one has heard from him for awhile. Not since Exodus, really, when he was bashing dragons' and leviathans' heads together. But now Asaph calls on him to return and make his people unashamed of believing in him. Good luck with that.

Psalm 75

Asaph taunts the wicked, saying god will wring them out like the dregs in a glass of wine and cut off their horns.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Psalms 66-70: Is god bald?

Psalm 66

We're all supposed to sing unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee (v. 3). To each his own, I guess. We're reminded of the events of Exodus, which apparently was a test, along with a time when he let people ride over their heads. Once again, why does a supposedly omniscient god need to test us, exactly?

Psalm 67

Praise be to god for judging us!

Psalm 68

Finally, a few of the good things god does: adopts orphans, protects widows, frees slaves and brings rain. He also let his people win a war so they could take home the spoils, even the shepherds.

Next, a paean to hills: god makes hills because he wants to live in one, apparently. Then we get an accounting of god's 20 000 chariots and angels and how he used them to capture people so they'd give him prezzies.

Then more threats: god will give his enemies head wounds, especially if they have hair. Then the righteous will have to dip their feet in the blood and their dogs will eat it. Yum! What's the point of all this? Silver (v. 30). That's right. God wants silver from his enemies.

Psalm 69

David's family has rejected him because of his religious beliefs. In the next few verses, we get a better idea of why: he's consumed by zealotry, he's been fasting and he wears sackcloth. I have to say that if any member of my family was acting like that, I'd get him or her into cult deprogramming right away, but that probably didn't exist back then so the next best thing was to reject your crazy son and go back to worshipping your pantheon of nature gods.

The rest of society has also noticed David's peculiarity: he's even a drinking song. I'd read 50 more Psalms just to know what the lyrics are but alas the bible disappoints once again. People won't even give him proper meat and wine, just gall and vinegar.

And what does he get for all this? Nothing! God won't answer him. He's reduced again to cursing his enemies, this time wishing blindness, Parkinson's disease, homelessness and death.

Next, David cheaps out on sacrifices, saying prayers are better than beef. I would kick him out of my barbecue if he pulled that one.

Psalm 70

David wants god to hurry up and curse his enemies. Fortunately, the chapter is only 5 verses.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Psalms 61-65

Psalm 61

God save the king!

Psalm 62

More threats to enemies, all of which will be carried out by god. I'm quaking in my boots. Also, don't extort money or steal and if you are rich, don't get too attached.

Psalm 63

David wants god to feed his enemies to the foxes.

Psalm 64

If you don't praise god, he'll shoot you with an arrow. Is that clear? It's not conversion by the sword, dammit, it's by the arrow.

Psalm 65

Everyone is afraid of god, even sailors out at sea and people living on remote mountaintops.

Then the psalm changes abruptly to the voice of a farmer praising god for all the bountifulness of the earth: irrigation, fertile soil, rain, corn and sheep.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Psalms 56-60: God and playground politics

Psalm 56

David vows to put his trust in god to destroy his enemies. Are there no other reasons to pray to god?

Psalm 57

Blah, blah, blah. Save David from his enemies whose teeth are like arrows and whose tongues are like swords. Sounds like David is on the outs in the 7th grade playground.

Psalm 58

If you thought David had said all there is to be said about the wicked, you would be wrong. Nope, now we find out that they're wicked from the get-go, telling lies straight out of the womb. They're poisonous and can't be won over by the righteous. The only thing that can be done is for god to break their teeth, cut them into pieces and melt them as a snail (v. 8). Then the righteous can have a party and bathe their feet in blood. Sounds like an awesome kegger!

Psalm 59

More on David's enemies: god should kill them for barking like dogs and burping, and he should laugh while he's doing it. I'd laugh if they can burp the alphabet, because I'm five. In the same verse (10) David asks the god of mercy...[to] let me see my desire upon mine enemies, which doesn't seem very merciful to me. Oh, except in the next verse he asks god not to kill them, just to strip them of their power and scatter them and turn them into beggars.

Psalm 60

David asks god to stop the earthquakes and the wine of astonishment (v. 3) because of that time Joab killed 12 000 people. God actually replies, listing the countries he likes and doesn't like. Good: Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim, Judah, Philistea. On the outs: Moab (a washpot), Edom (he threw a shoe). David asks god to give him the strength to conquer Edom

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Psalms 51-55

Psalm 51

David feels guilty, though not enough to confess his sins to us. The only thing he'll admit to is that his mother conceived him in sin (v. 5). She had sex ya'll. Anyway, David wants to be washed with hyssop and made whiter than snow (v. 8) and have all his broken bones mended.

Suddenly, David tells us that god doesn't want sacrifices anymore. I rub my eyes, thinking by some miracle I've reached the New Testament without noticing, but no, this verse may have been written later on, but it's still in the Old. Damn.

Psalm 52

David, going all the way back to one of the many massacres in 1 Samuel, reproaches Deog, who killed a bunch of priests on Saul's orders in chapter 22. David accuses him of lying, which is pretty rich, considering, and says god's going to kill him for that and good people will laugh at him.

Psalm 53

David laments the sinning sinners and tells us god looked down and didn't see a single good person among us. Cheering! And not at all an impossible standard to live up to!

Psalm 54

David asks god to smite his enemies. Again. Seriously, like Proust this book would be much better if it were, say, 1500 pages shorter.

Psalm 55

David wants to go camping and get away from his enemies. Oh, and while he's gone, could god please destroy the cities, which are full of wickedness, deceit, sorrow and mischief? Especially this one guy who pretended to be his friend and even went to pray with him, but then somehow turned out to be false? Could he just kill all those people and send them to hell? Kthanksbye.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Psalms 46-50: Men in labour

Psalm 46

God helps us in times of natural disaster. Right. I don't know if anybody noticed that even good Christian houses get knocked flat during the disasters mentioned just in this chapter: earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions.

Next, David talks about a utopic place where he plans to build a temple. Then finally he claims god is peaceful and breaks weapons and burns chariots, which just seems like a wasteful way to increase your military budget.

Psalm 47

Aw, David feels like singing and wants us to be his back-ups.

Psalm 48

David talks more about his holy city. When a group of kings passed by it, they saw how perfect it was, but also felt fear and the same pains as women in labour feel. That's right there in verse 6. They were so afraid they had to leave. David then invites god to come and inspect the city.

Psalm 49

David reminds us that the winner of the rat race is still a rat who can't even bribe god to let his brother into heaven. I'm sure the worlds billionaires cry all the way to their gigayachts over that one.

Psalm 50

Yay! One third finished!

David thinks his people are ready to be judged, because they've been sacrificing a lot lately. He then promises that if the barbecuing continues apace, god will help them out in times of trouble. The wicked, however, will be rebuked sharply and possibly ripped to pieces. So much for that peaceful god from a couple of verses ago.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Psalms 41-45: The king is Hugh Hefner!

Psalm 41

The first three verses offer up a paean to the charitable. Then, of course, it's ten verses of David feeling sorry for himself and whining about how mean and awful his enemies have been: spreading rumours, eating him out of house and home, trying to overthrow him, in other words, typical teenage stuff. So he asks god to make them sick and kill them whilst elevating David. What was that about charity?

Psalm 42

David is so lonely he's been eating his tears. I'm not making this up. He tries a new tactic to get god to pay attention to him: his enemies are taunting him, saying his god doesn't exist, so he challenges god to show up and prove them wrong!

Psalm 43

Blah, blah, David's feeling ignored. Seriously, people talk about how inspiring and uplifting they find these things. Methinks they haven't actually read most of them.

Psalm 44

Yay war poetry! David reminds us of all the legends where god saved his people from their enemies and promises to put his faith there in future wars as well. Then he remembers all the times god has let him down and his enemies have won. So confusing! But he vows to keep believing, like people who decide to keep having kids 'until we have a boy' and end up with 8 girls.

Psalm 45

Suddenly, incongruously, we have a love song to the king. The work of Jonathan? The king is good looking, especially when he's on a horse (though I suspect not as good-looking as this guy) and powerful but just. Oh, awesome! I hadn't read this entire thing when I posted the link to the Old Spice Guy, but verse 8 tells us how good the king's clothing smells. Am I psychic or what?

The king's daughters are honourable (v. 9), which I think is a tactful way of saying 'got hit with the ugly stick' and his wife looks hot in gold.

The psalmist then encourages all the nubile young virgins out there to forget also thine own people, and thy father's house (v. 10) and offer themselves to the king. If they do, the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; even the rich among the people shall intreat thy favour (v. 12). But that's not all! If they can convince their friends to come along, they'll all get new clothes and their sons will be princes and they'll be immortalized forever. In Playboy. Okay, that last part was only implied.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Psalms 36-40: Paging Doctor God

Psalm 36

The wicked are evil lying liars. They even plot bad deeds in their beds, which they don't lie in properly. But god is good and makes the beds of the righteous soft and comfortable.

Psalm 37

Don't worry about evil-doers because god will cut them down like grass. I had no idea they were so concerned about lawn maintenance back then.

Blah, blah, prosperity doctrine, just believe in god and you won't go hungry. There's a good line about renouncing anger in verse 8, but then verse 11 informs us that the meek shall inherit the earth which, if you've ever seen a genuine emergency situation like Haiti or Pakistan recently, you'll know is patently untrue. The people fighting to get stuff off the trucks might get pummeled, but the ones queuing up calmly in the back are assured of getting nothing.

In the next couple of verses, we are informed that the wicked plot against the good, like, no shit Sherlock, they're evil, but that god laughs at them because he's going to punish them. Someday. In the future. Why not swift, immediate justice? David doesn't say.

A few things the wicked do: fail to repay loans and kill the righteous. Their punishment: god makes them stab themselves in the heart, breaks their arms and makes them infertile.

Rewards for the good: inheritance of the earth, food, children, wisdom, salvation.

Psalm 38

Uh-oh, god's mad! And he made David sick as punishment. David's symptoms: arrows stuck in his body, a crushing sensation, generalised weakness, tired bones, seeping wounds, especially on his uh, penis, feebleness, a panting heart, blindness. He thinks the cure is god's attention. I think the attention of a naked Shunamite virgin would probably also help.

Psalm 39

David once made a vow to stop talking. Would that he had kept it. Now he wants to know when he's going to die. Don't we all. Also, he wants to talk and for god to listen.

Psalm 40

Now that he has started talking again, David can't seem to shut up. Here he brags about how much he loves god and evangelizes to everyone he meets.