Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapter 1: The talking fetus

Apparently, Jeremiah is the origin of the word 'jeremiad.' For the vocabulary-challenged, according to Merriam-Webster a jeremiad is: a prolonged lamentation or complaint; also : a cautionary or angry harangue. So that's what we have to look forward to for the next 52 chapters.

Jeremiah kicks off by telling us that god knew him in the womb, which is apparently often cited by Christians to justify anti-abortion sentiment. Never mind the verses in Hosea, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Samuel that seem to imply that children under one year don't count for much. And what did god talk to Jeremiah about in the womb? Well, he told him he would be a prophet. When Jeremiah tried to argue that fetuses can't talk, god told him not to worry about it because he'll put the words in his mouth. I did not know that expression was biblical. He's also supposed to destroy and build things as the lord instructs.

Then, since Jeremiah is just a baby, god starts playing 'I Spy' with him. First, Jeremiah sees an almond branch. According to whatever commentary you like better, this branch is either something god is going to use to beat the Babylonian king, or means that Jeremiah is going on a long hike. Second, Jeremiah spots a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. (v. 13) God explains that he's going to judge everyone in Israel starting in the north, and then the northern clans will attack, but god will hold firm. Isn't this going to traumatise the poor kid?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 64-66: Going out with a massacre

Chapter 64

The Israelites beg god to show his face and apologise for all those times they ignored his good deeds and sinned and promise to never, ever do it again. Do you believe them? I don't.

Chapter 65

God replies that I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name (v. 1). That just seems dumb. He complains about how his people don't respect him and insist on barbecuing pork in the garden. Nonetheless, he has decided not to destroy ALL of them, just the worshippers of other gods.

And what lurid tortures does he have planned for the apostates? Starvation, death from thirst, humiliation, depression, anxiety, names forgotten. Then he'll destroy the earth and create a new one with a shiny new Jerusalem. No one will die before the age of 100 unless they sin, which is a handy way to explain the lack of centenarians back then, and they'll all build houses and eat dinner with lambs and lions, and the lions and snakes will eat straw and dirt.

Chapter 66

God thinks of earth as his footstool, just so y'know. Then he starts cursing the sinners. Again there's a childbirth metaphor about cities and whether god would ever fail to give birth to one. Then Jerusalem is compared favourably to breastfeeding. This is just getting weird, because apparently god thinks breastfeeding is as comforting as seeing your enemies killed by flaming swords. And who are your enemies? The backyard barbecuers of pork flesh. This will cause people from other nations, even distant islands, to become Jews then flock to Jerusalem for some disaster tourism, namely gawking at the still-flaming bodies of the pig eaters.

Well, that was fun. Jeremiah is up next, all 52 chapters of him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 62 & 63: Jerusalem electrified

Chapter 62

God, or Isaiah or whoever is speaking at this point, vows not to rest until all of Jerusalem is hooked up to the electrical grid of righteousness. Then he's going to give the city a new name, which, trust me, is never a good idea. Change your address, phone number, email address, anything about yourself, and it is a massive headache that requires years of correcting people. I lived in Japan for a couple of years at the beginning of this century and people still ask me how Tokyo is. Not to mention that the new name: Hepzibah (v. 4) sucks. He also promises never to let Israel be occupied again.

Chapter 63

God's manic episode has come to an end and he's feeling smitey again, this time towards the Edomites. He taunts them that their garments are stained red because he's been stomping on them like they're in a wine press.

Then he tells us AGAIN about how god was super-nice to the Israelites and they pissed all over it and he went to war against him, but they reminded him about all that fun stuff with Moses and ask for some mercy and compassion. They would also like to know why god hardens their hearts and makes them so rebellious, which is a good question. They do not ask why they are responsible for their actions of god is in control, nor to they ask what exactly 'free will' is supposed to mean if this is true.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 60 & 61: Would you want a king building your wall?

Chapter 60

God, in one of his manic phases, informs Jerusalem that rather than destroy the city, he's now going to reward it, mostly by turning the lights down in other places so that people will flock to it in hopes of finishing their books. Immigrants will return home with remittances and foreign kings will be enslaved as everyday bricklayers. Personally, I would not want a wall built by a former king, thank you very much. Those nations which refuse service will be destroyed.

God will then make himself so radiant that we won't need the sun or moon anymore, and then he will end sun- and moonsets. Like that form of torture where you're placed in a windowless room and they never turn the lights off! Fun! And of course everybody will be righteous and they'll have lots and lots of babies. So not so fun for the women, as cults so seldom are.

Chapter 61

God still hasn't swung back to depression, so now Isaiah informs us that he's here on earth as a saviour to the poor, brokenhearted or enslaved. Apparently Jesus will later use the first two verses in a speech and will not be accused of plagiarism. There will be goodies: the anointing oil of happiness for the widows, as well as new clothes, infrastructure repair, slaves to do the heavy farm labour, while the Israelites will get to do the easy stuff like being priests and getting rich from plundering their neighbours and stealing their lands.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 58 & 59: The end is in sight

Chapter 58

God bitches about how his people are always asking him for things and fasting and making sacrifices to try and get his attention, but then at the end of their fasts, they're right back to their old ways of beating each other up and arguing. Sounds like a delightful society. He tells them that what he really wants them to do is free the oppressed (v. 6) and give their servants lighter tasks, then feed the hungry and give clothes to homeless people. Then he'll reward them. There are some beautiful lines that conservatives conveniently ignore in favour of those seven verses about homosexuality, like verse 10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. Oh, and keep the Sabbath.

Chapter 59

The reason why god never answers your prayers is that you're bad. That's not in danger of becoming tautological at all. You're so bad that you hatch cockatrice (picture a mini dragon with the head of a rooster) eggs whilst spinning spider webs. If you eat the eggs, you'll die, but if you break them, vipers will hatch. There are no instructions about what to actually do with these scary, dangerous eggs. These people are not only bad, they're useless, you can't even use the spider webs for weaving.

Anyway, we don't get good things because of these bad people because god had to go out and defend the oppressed himself.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 56 & 57: The first mass hysteria

Chapter 56

Sabbath keepers rule. Suddenly, second-generation Jewish converts are totally kosher. Note it says nothing about converts themselves. Eunuchs should not complain about their shortcomings, because if they keep sabbath, they'll get a memorial plaque in the temple and an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off (v. 5) Ooh, that's a low blow. Please please please tell me that was on purpose.

Chapter 57

Apparently the bible's reason for why bad things happen to good people is that god is protecting them from future evil. One starts to see why Republicans love this book so much, with their fear of the future and nostalgia for a past that never existed.

Then the insults against the Molechites start. You remember them, right? Way back in Numbers, or was it Joshua? Somewhere back at the beginning of the bible, when reading it and creating a blog seemed like a lark, they were the child-sacrificing squatters the Israelites had to evict. Well, it must not have gone very well because here we are listening to him rant on about how their gods are only smooth stones in river valleys and how stupid it is to build altars in the mountains, as if Joshua didn't do that. They also cover themselves in ointments and have sex with the king à la Esther and at this point it starts to seem more like 'do as I say, not as my people do.'

Anyway, they seem to have betrayed god and now he's fixing to punish them. He tried to fix them, but it didn't work, so smiting is in order.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 54 & 55: God is a 13 year old boy who thinks girls are yucky

Chapter 54

God compares Jerusalem to a woman heretofore barren who suddenly gives birth to lots and lots of babies and who suddenly has to stretch her tent seams to the limits to accomodate them all. And what, pray tell, will all those millions of babies do? Try to take over the world.

Now, god is sorry for that little snit he had before, the one where he let either the Babylonians or the Egyptians enslave them, and now he's ready to make nice and make all kinds of promises, like to not flood the earth anymore or ever get angry with them again and to rebuild the city with sapphires and rubies, and to let their kids grow up in peace and to give them stable, prosperous lives. We'll see how long that lasts.

Chapter 55

Here's a bible verse that too many Americans would seem to take deadly seriously: Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (v. 2)

God instructs the Israelites to follow David and promises mercy to anyone who returns to the fold. Then he informs us that he's so extra-super-special that we can never hope to understand him: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (v. 8-9) that's religious leader for, 'Lots of evil shit happens that no one understands, so we might as well attribuite it to god because we want your votes, so we'll twist ourselves in knots trying to justify it for the next 2000 years using these two cherry-picked verses.'

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 52 & 53: The uncircumcised are not allowed in Jerusalem

Chapter 52

Yup, that's right. No uncircumcised people in Jerusalem, tourist dollars be damned. God is going to free it and kick all the unclean people out, a task that he is still working on to this day.

Chapter 53

Yet again we are promised that the servant shall inherit the earth. Of course, the only people who are ever actually given names in this book are nobles. Anyway, this 'servant' excites Jerry Falwell so much that he dedicates nearly an entire page of footnotes to 12 measly verses. Why? Because they include lines like, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (v. 5) and he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (v. 7). Signs of a brutal society in which justice was swift and savage? No, silly! CLEARLY this chapter is a giant neon sign pointing in the direction of JESUS!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 50 & 51

Chapter 50

Apparently at the time this book was written, you could get a certificate of divorce. Who knew? Also, the fact that you are enslaved dear reader? Totally your own fault. Oh, and god is so mad he's drying up the rivers so no one can have any fish.

Isaiah tells us he was the only person willing to listen to god, and also that he's this relaxed, hippy dude who is all about peace who turns the other cheek when you spit on it.

Chapter 51

Isaiah tells the faithful to gather 'round so he can tell them a story about how god is going to lift them up into heaven then destroy the earth while they watch. Then he'll make a whole new earth where everything will be hunky dory and no one will ever be sad or hungry or enslaved again. And if they are, well, we'll just start the whole experiment over again.

Jerusalem is apparently leaderless, and Isaiah urges them to look to god for help.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 48 & 49

Chapter 48

God, speaking through Isaiah, continues to hector the Israelites about how all the bad shit that has happened to them is punishment for not worshipping him sufficiently. He doesn't reward them with money for good deeds, but rather punishes them for the bad then acts all hurt when they go and worship other, more enriching, gods.

For at least the millionth time, he reminds us how he created the earth. Then he moves on to threats against the Babylonians. Again. This book really drags after 35 chapters or so.

Chapter 49

Isaiah informs us that he knew he would be a prophet in the womb, and now he's god's attack dog and his purpose is to bring the Israelites back to god. Oddly, he also reaches out to Gentiles here. He promises to restore them to Zion and to defeat all their enemies and so on and so forth. It gets pretty repetitive after 49 chapters. He does manage to finish this one off with a cannibalistic bang: And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine (v. 26)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 46 & 47: God the pyromaniac

Chapter 46

Ever insecure, god insults the Chaldean and Babylonian gods, saying they're an insult to the cows that have to carry them, and can't protect their worshippers from being sold into slavery. Unlike this god, who just let it happen as a punishment, of course! He reminds the Israelites that he made them and rules them even into old age. He also informs them that he decides what the future holds and does what he wants. What he feels like doing now is calling a military leader in from the east to do his bidding.

Chapter 47

Yay! More misogyny dressed up as an insult to Babylon! This time, Isaiah compares Babylon to a defrocked princess sitting in the dust, forced to grind flour and lift up her skirts to cross rivers, so terrible will be god's justice.

He's also not going to tell them about his plan, except in this book, so when they turn to astrologers and prognosticators to figure out what's going on, they won't be of any use. And then he's going to burn them to death.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 44 & 45

Chapter 44

God reminds the Israelites yet again that he created the world so they should be grateful. It's like when your mother tells you, 'I brought you into this world and this is the thanks I get?'

Then he assures us he's the only god. People who carve statues to other gods are time-wasting idiots. Then he explains how idols are made, and it's very clear he hasn't been observing the process very carefully: the smith works his fingers to the bone, the carpenter lays out his design, the woodchopper cuts down a tree then plants it, the customer buys the wood, burns some of it, and carves the rest into his idol. He never stops to question why he's worshipping a block of wood. I have to say, it seems every bit as plausible as worshipping a book written between 5000 and 2000 years ago by sand people.

Then he whines more about how he's so awesome and still nobody wants to sit with him in the cafeteria. Except Cyrus, who is suddenly awesome.

Chapter 45

God suddenly loves Cyrus, the Persian king, and tells him how he's going to pick a lot of fights so he can win them. Then he admits I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (v. 7) Try reading THAT particular verse to a Christian the next time he insists god is all good.

Then he makes some threats against people who don't worship him, so they'll worship him.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 42 & 43: God gives birth

Chapter 42

Isaiah points out how many of his past predictions have come true, and starts listing some new ones. Guess what he's going to do? Can you guess? Okay, I'll tell you: he's going to destroy his enemies! And yes, he will wail like a woman in labour while doing so. Stop the presses! Then he's going to dry up rivers and refuse to water the plants. And then! He's going to reward the blind and deaf.

Chapter 43

God is going to drown and set fire to Israel, which is going to survive both tests. I wonder if this kind of chapter is where witch hunters got their ideas from? Then he informs the Israelites that all that punishment he gave to Egypt, Seba and Ethiopia? That was for Israelites' sins, because he likes them best. And now that all the sin has been washed away, he's going to make Israel a paradise on earth by restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and building a giant fence around them.

Then god says he acts alone, and there never were nor will there ever be, another god, and beside me there is no saviour (v. 11) which would seem to directly contradict the whole second volume of this book. Then he informs us that he has destroyed the Babylonians, so there is no need for chariots, horses or weapons now. If only that one had come true.

God next tells us to forget the old and look to the future, where he is going to perform another miracle. Specifically, he's going to make owls and dragons worship him by giving them water.

Now, a couple of books ago, god said he was tired of sacrifices. But now he's complaining that the Israelites don't make sacrifices to him any more. But he's not a deity to hold grudges! Not our god! Nope, he just wants to have a long conversation with the Israelites about whether they really did sin or not. And this god, who doesn't remember past sins, reminds them that every leader he's made since Adam has failed to do right and so now he's going to destry them. Serving him must have been more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 40 & 41: Isaiah chills the fuck out

Chapter 40

Isaiah mellows out for a few verses at least, no doubt still nursing his sunburn from that time he walked around in the desert naked for 3 years. He assures us that the warring is over and now god is on his way and we'll finally be able to look directly at him. But not the grass or flowers. Apparently if god breathes on them they die.

Anyway, seeing god will be amazing, but we won't know how to describe him. He's not like an idol, crafted and overlaid with gold and silver. So our indescribable god will then sit down and rule us from heaven, having removed all the princes and judges. And immediately the insecurities will start: To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. (v. 25) And the meek shall inherit the earth.

Chapter 41

Now that peace has been established, the judging can start. He'll reward the good people who helped their neighbours and built houses, and punish his enemies. He's going to give them plows so good they'll be able to thresh the mountains right down to flat earth and dig wells and irrigation so anyone who's thirsty will have water. In the interests of preventing desertification, and just to prove he can, he'll plant trees in the desert.

Then he challenges non-believers to bring their gods and idols over and prove who's got the best deity, by doing one of the following: telling us how a past prophecy turned out, making a prediction about the future, or doing something scary or amazing. What has god himself done? Well, he's going to give them a leader who will come from the north but will have a name from the east. Supposedly the leader is Cyrus, but honestly, this prophecy is so vague it could be practically anyone. Since no one said this before, god wins and the idols are false.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 35-39: Retconning Isaiah

Chapter 35

Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon, most of whom, you will remember, were supposed to be annihilated in the last chapter, are now going to blossom. God is going to come along and make deaf people hear, blind people see, lame people walk and dumb people speak which, since he invented all those things, seems only fair.

He's going to do some city beautification as well, making pools in dry areas and parks in areas currently inhabited by dragons. Then he'll build a highway that the unclean shall not pass over (v. 8) nor will lions and ravenous beasts be allowed to use it, only righteous people will use it to come home to Zion. Which is why libertarians have always been ridiculous to me.

Chapter 36-39

Now we're back in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles because this book is not so much divinely inspired as badly copied. Specifically, we're reliving 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 32, neither of which was what you might call scintillating, so I'm not going to summarise them again a third time. Jerry Falwell of course, claims that these chapters are clear evidence of the fulfillment of the prophet's predictions about the Assyrian takeover of Israel.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 33 & 34: Why there are no more dragons, unicorns or satyrs

Chapter 33

A prayer to god to be merciful whilst destroying enemies, specifically Lebanon, Sharon, Carmel and Bashan. Isaiah has so many enemies he's not even giving them their own chapters anymore, he's quadrupling up!

Their punishments: their schemes will go awry, bad breath, people consumed by fire. The last of course will terrify the people of Zion into submission. You know what really terrifies people into submission? Seeing this kind of punishment meted out to their own kind, not to the Assyrians.

Rewards for good people: going to heaven, free bread, a chance to look at the king every day. At first he'll miss his old life, but eventually he'll get used to the parties, peace and free love of Jerusalem, where people never get sick.

Chapter 34

More threats! This time it's against pretty much everybody. The slaughter will be so bad the blood will run down from the mountains. At first god is just pissed in general, but eventually he settles on Edom as the target of his wrath.

To massacre the Edomites, he's going to use his sword, yes, but also unicorns, because god is a particularly vicious 12 year old girl. Then he's going to burn everything forever and ever. Global warming is not man-made, ya'll! It will be so bad that only owls and dragons and satyrs will live there.