Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 10-12: When Aliens Attack

Chapter 10

Yay! The space aliens are back! God tells the cherub who just finished smiting all the unmarked Jerusalemites to take burning coals from under the flying cars and scatter them over the city. Then a cloud appears in a house and the aliens start beating their wings, which sounds remarkably like god's voice. The cherubs, and possibly some cherubim (my knowledge of the various types of angels is limited, as is my interest), line up next to their cars and a man's hand appears. Then suddenly the aliens and their cars are covered in eyes and the wheels start talking. This is exactly like a hallucinogenic drug episode. Also, if these aliens can fly, why do they need flying cars? Anyway, the episode sort of fizzles after that, because the cherubs, cherubim and god sort of stand there for awhile then take off, without doing anything besides giving an angel some coals.

Chapter 11

Zeke is airlifted over to the temple, where god shows him the 25 men who have been pissing him off most recently. Their crime? Improper chanting. God has him make a long speech about all the ways he's going to smite them.

When he's released, Zeke collapses on his face and asks god why he's so mean to everybody all the time. God insists this punishment is a temporary cleansing ritual and when he brings the Israelites back they'll be pure of heart and won't want to sin anymore. For an hour or so.

Then the cherubs and the cloud lift Zeke up, stop briefly for duty-free shopping on a mountain, then head over to Babylon so he can spread the word.

Chapter 12

God tells Zeke to pack up all his belongings as though he's moving, then dig through a wall and leave town with his face covered so he can't see the ground. In the morning, god wonders if anybody asked what he was doing. If they did, he was supposed to say that they would soon be packing up all their stuff and moving, too - to Babylon! But Zeke never says whether anybody asked, which leads me to believe that nobody did, because when the naked, shrieking cross-dresser who burns his own hair and clothing digs a hole in the wall and leaves, you don't say anything, you just hope he never comes back.

So god tries a new tactic to get people curious about Zeke. Now he's supposed to eat and drink ve-e-e-ry carefully and tremble. Then when people wonder why the naked, shrieking cross-dresser who burns his own hair and clothes and digs holes in the wall rather than walking through the gate is eating funny, he's supposed to tell them all the ways god is going to kill them.

As a final act of weirdo theatre, god changes some proverbs around.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 7-9: The truth about angels

Chapter 7

I want my whimsical story about 4-faced space aliens and their flying cars back! But no, Zeke is in full-on doomsday prophet mode, haranguing the people that the end is coming 'soon' and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth (v. 9). How? Oh, the usual, plague, famine, war. Who? Everybody, of course! And no bribing your way out with silver and gold.

Chapter 8

Okay, this is more like it. Zeke is sitting around chewing the fat with the village elders when god appears in fiery form and lifts him up by the hair and carries him to the temple. Then they go on a little sin-finding tour that is the opposite of Alice's absurd adventures. First, Zeke digs underneath a hole in the wall, where, unsurprisingly, he finds a lot of creepy crawlies, but also a door. Behind the door are 70 men worshipping false idols.

Next, god leads him to another gate where women are ritually mourning the loss of sunlight in tribute to a harvest god, a practice that makes sense for an agrarian people, especially when your own god is constantly threatening you with crop failure and famine. Behind door number three are another 25 men worshipping the sun. It's all too much for god, and he declares he's going to kill every last one of them. Again some more.

Chapter 9

God, in yet another fit of uncontrollable rage, screams at Zeke to call his 6 avenging angels to come with their swords and an inkhorn. Their task is to go through the city marking righteous men and killing everybody else. As they're doing it, Zeke throws himself down on the ground and asks god why he's so mean to everybody all the time. God sighs in the way of abusers that if the people wouldn't be so damned stubborn, he wouldn't have to smite them so much. Then the angel comes back and says he's finished with his task.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 4-6: Prophecy as performance art

Chapter 4

God must have got bored with viticulture, so now he's into model building. One wonders if that's maybe what he's been doing since his book was published. So this particular model is an intricate sculpture of Jerusalem besieged by the Babylonians. Then he tells Zeke to lie on his left side for 390 days to represent the punishment of the Israelites, then to roll over onto his right side for another 40 days for the punishment of Judah. He can't move, but he can have special bread, 20 shekels' worth of meat, and water every day. You know, I don't think anyone has eaten a piece of fruit since the apple way back in Genesis. So I have no idea how he's able to follow the baking instructions: thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight (v. 12). Yes, this strategy is definitely going to convince the Israelites to give up their sinning ways and turn back to god.

Zeke whines that he's a vegetarian, proving they were the most irritating people on earth even then, so god says he can't bake his bread with cow dung instead of human dung, and I don't understand how that solves the problems? But god has bigger things on his mind, namely how he's going to visit famine and drought on Jerusalem for no apparent reason.

Chapter 5

In another demonstration that isn't going to convince anyone, god tells Zeke to shave off all his hair, then burn a third of it in the town square, smite another third with a knife, and scatter the last third in the wind. He's supposed to keep a few hairs back and weave them into his skirt. Then he's supposed to burn the skirt. I'm starting to wonder if all these stories about the prophets are actually a primitive DSM.

Anyway, this bald, naked, cross-dressing weirdo who just set his clothes and hair on fire then starts shrieking in the town square about how all this represents Jerusalem and how god is going to punish them with famine, cannibalism, plague and war. There's no mention of the populace's reaction, but if they've already dealt with Isaiah and Jeremiah, maybe they're inured to street crazies by now.

Chapter 6

No word of whether Zeke got himself some new clothes. Now he's screaming at the mountains about how god is going to shatter the altars and scatter them with the bones of dead children. Then he starts dancing and chanting about people dying by famine, pestilence and war so people will know it was god what done it. In other words, Jerusalem hasn't changed a bit.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 1-3: The first UFO sighting

Chapter 1

Ezekiel, man was in a cult, and that cult, was into aliens, man. So Ezekiel starts off by telling us that he saw this fiery, glowing whirlwind with an amber light at the centre. Four little green men creatures come out of the whirlwind, each with four faces and four wings, cloven feet and regular hands. The faces are a lion, a man, an ox and an eagle. They all glow.

These creatures move around like lightening, and seem to drive around in flying cars with the image of each face on a giant, glowing wheel. The cars have moonroofs which sparkle like the actual night sky. Ezekiel is hypnotized by the sound of their wings, and then hears a voice from the firmament and sees a throne with the figure of a man on it. He looks like he's on fire. Ezekiel realises it's god and throws himself to the ground as the figure speaks.

I don't know about the rest of you, but if the next 47 chapters are as fun as the first, this book will definitely make my all-time favourites list.

Chapter 2

As it must be after such an absurd, and clearly drug-addled first chapter, the second is a disappointment. God hauls Zeke to his feet and tells him his mission is to bring the Israelites to heel. Then he tells him to open his mouth and eat what he's given. He looks and sees a disembodied hand holding a scroll. Okay, that's pretty awesome.

Chapter 3

Whatever Zeke is on is still going strong because he eats the scroll and thinks it tastes like honey. If you've ever eaten paper, you know it's about the furthest thing from honey possible. God tells him to go to the temple and convince the Israelites to follow him again. Then the four creatures and their magic flying cars appear again and whisk him over to Telabib (Tel Aviv?). The people there are surprised to see him, and even more surprised when he doesn't speak for a week.

When god does finally say something, it's extremely unpleasant: If people are doing wicked things and Zeke doesn't tell them the penalty for their sins is death, they'll both die. If he warns them and they keep doing it, only the sinners will die. If an otherwise righteous man sins because god put a stumbling-block in his way and Zeke didn't warn him, they'll both die. But if Zeke does warn him, they'll both live.

God then tells him to go out to a flood plain next to a river, where he appears. Because god never appears to more than one person, you know. Zeke throws himself to the ground again. God tells him to go home and lock the doors because the mob is going to show up and tie him up. And then god will bind his tongue to the roof of his mouth so he can't rebuke his assailants.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lamentations, Chapters 1-5: God turns mothers into cannibals.

Now this is the proper length for a book!

Chapter 1

The first seven verses are a fairly pretty poem comparing Jerusalem to a sad woman. But this being the bible it can't keep it up without going misogynist and telling us the sin was in her skirts, that god crushed her like a virgin in a winepress or telling us Jerusalem is like a menstruating woman. It's like a Lars von Trier movie. The author asks god to inflict the same punishments on the Babylonians.

Chapter 2

Verses I really need to keep in mind when speaking to stupid Christians The LORD was as an enemy (v. 5). The rest of the chapter is a description of the destruction of Jerusalem, including the fact that women ate their children.

Chapter 3

Crikey. 68 verses.

God has been torturing the lamenter with broken bones and teeth, chains, wild animals and arrows to the kidneys. But the author has developed Stockholm Syndrome and thinks all these things are signs of mercy and love. He even thinks that he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. (v. 33) He urges us to accept punishment for our sins and god to inflict it on his enemies.

Chapter 4

Apparently sea monsters nurse their young. Thank you, bible, for clearing that up! Also, if you'll remember from Job, ostriches are really bad parents. And speaking of bad parents, god is refusing to feed the Israelite children, which evangelicals always insist is because of their sins. But they're kids, so that's dumb.

All this is worse than what happened in Sodom, and I agree, because at least the Sodomites didn't have to watch their kids starve to death, then cannibalize them as this chapter graphically points out. I don't think I've read anything so horrible since Judges.

The prophets are no help except to say that the women of Edom are going to get drunk and naked soon.

Chapter 5

A long, depressing list of ways the Israelites have become abject. Highlights: they're tanned from labouring in the field, princes have been hung by the hands, young men can no longer play music, foxes are walking on Mount Zion! The book ends on perhaps the most depressing note ever: But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us. (v. 22) But who knows? We still have like, 12 major and minor prophets left to go.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 50-52: Out with a whimper

Chapter 50

God vows to send an invading army from the north to defeat the Babylonians. Verse 12 is a proto-Yo Mama joke: Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert. After he finishes punishing the Babylonians for something he did, he'll let the Israelites go home. And he'll turn all the Babylonian men into women. I think more than a few politicians need to see that particular verse. Of course no commentary has anything to say about this clear endorsement of sex changes.

Chapter 51

Apparently Babylon was quite the party town and people got so drunk there they all went crazy. And in the spirit of Carrie Nation, the best way to destroy it is with axes. Then let dragons in. Then turn the men into women again. And possibly rape the women. And holy shit! I did not know that I will bring them down like lambs to the slaughter (v. 40) was from the bible. I seriously thought it came from The Silence of the Lambs.

Then there's a curious incident where Jeremiah gives a copy of his book to an apprentice and tells him to read it aloud to the Babylonians, then tie a stone to it and throw it into the Euphrates River.

Chapter 52

Another fucking retelling of the sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This was already in 2 Kings, one of the Chronicles, Isaiah, and probably a dozen other places I don't recall. If you aren't familiar with it by now, reading another summary won't help, so I'm not going to re-write it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 46-49: Sing it now: Joy to the world

Chapter 46

There will be a war in the future between the Egyptians and the Babylonians. The Ethiopians, Libyans and Lydians will be involved. The swords will get drunk on the blood they spill. In the end, the Babylonians will win.

Chapter 47

God is coming for the Philistines' and the Ashkelonites' hair.

Chapter 48

God is going to make the Moabites vomit to death while the other nations laugh. He's going to do a lot of other stuff as well, but I think we're all familiar with the diatribe by now. However, he'll restore them in the end.

Chapter 49

God still isn't done. He has more death and destruction in store for the Ammonites and the Edomites and a bunch more cities and nations. And even though he's been dead for a long time and even though Ecclesiastes just told us the dead don't know anything, god is going to uncover his secret places and kill off all his children. He also brings up Sodom and Gomorrah. It's almost like these books were written independently at different times and only brought together later.

On the upside, the next entry will be the end of Jeremiah. But then it's only the 4 chapters of Lamentations before we get to Ezekiel.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 43-45: I'd throw away the cars and the bars in the world and I'd make sweet love to you

Chapter 43

The remaining Israelites accuse Jeremiah of lying to them so the Babylonians can enslave them as well. A fair point that is probably true. So they go to Egypt against prophetic advice.

When they get there, god tells Jeremiah to bury some stones and tell the Israelites they'll be the Babylonian king's pavilion when he arrives, an occasion which will be marked by smiting and burning.

Chapter 44

The Israelites, having cleared their sins with god, are now committing new ones. Specifically the wives appear to be worshipping someone called the Queen of Heaven and the husbands aren't stopping them. The punishment? Death, famine, cursing. And so begins a new cycle.

Chapter 45

Jeremiah tells Baruch, who wrote his words down a few chapters ago, to seek an ascetic life.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 40-42: God apologises

Chapter 40

In a bit of revisionism, Jeremiah is suddenly in chains. An army captain notices this and sets him free. He gives him the choice to go back to Israel or come to Babylon with them. Jeremiah chooses Israel and is sent on his way with victuals and a reward (v. 5). He goes to live with the Babylonian-appointed governor in Mizpah.

The Jewish diaspora hears about the Mizpah colony and starts returning, including two by the names of Johnanan and Jonathan, who immediately start a rumour that the Ammonite king's representative, Ishmael, is really an assassin in disguise! The king dismisses them, because this isn't a bad movie-of-the-week, right?

Chapter 41

Wrong. Ishmael and his men kill the governor and all his attendants in a scene worthy of inclusion on the 10 goriest of all time list. Nobody notices for 2 days. And then it gets even more like a bad horror film, as Ishmael and his men lure some innocent pilgrims back to the governor's mansion, only to kill them and throw their bodies into the toilet pit. 10 of the pilgrims manage to bribe him with food and escape.

Oddly, they do not warn the others, nor does Jeremiah, who has up until now been ever so eager to inform everybody about the consequences of god's wrath. So is this not divine punishment? Is it the work of a group of madmen? The commentaries are silent here. Jerry Falwell's only note on this chapter is about the construction of the cistern and even the slightly more serious scholars at don't have much to say except that Ishmael hated worshippers of god. Clearly.

Anyway, Ishmael rounds up the rest of the people and takes them off to Ammon. Johanan, as crack a general as Jerry Falwell is a bible scholar, finally hears about the massacres and kidnapping and goes after Ishmael. Like many a bully, when confronted he turns tail without a fight. Johanan and the survivors take refuge in Egypt.

Chapter 42

Jeremiah shows back up among Johanan's followers. They beg him to talk to god, like that has ever accomplished anything. God settles that whole problem of evil by saying If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. (v. 10). As is typical whenever difficult questions about the bible arise, like whether god could be wrong and then admit ig, the commentators (or at least the evangelical ones) are pretty useless here. The best they can come up with is that god is now satisfied with the amount of punishment he has inflicted on his people and will now look for new sins.

Jeremiah has some more advice, namely to stay in Israel and accept the rule of the Babylonians. People who insist on going to Egypt will be punished with all those things god just apologised for.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 37-39: And if I were the king of the world, I tell you what I'd do

Chapter 37

Jeremiah gets out of prison. Then the Egyptians invade and the Babylonians run scared. God tells Jeremiah to go and tell the king that he has only allowed this series of events to lull him into a false sense of security: he's totally still going to have the Chaldeans invade and enslave them. Then he goes of to the land of Benjamin to sulk.

In Benjamin, an army captain recognises him and accuses him of acting traitorously for the Babylonians. He denies it, but is re-imprisoned nonetheless. The king orders him sent back to Jerusalem where, like a psychic phone line addict he secretly asks what god is saying now. As if there was ever going to be a change. Jeremiah repeats himself and adds a question of his own: why has he been imprisoned? He begs not to be sent back there, but the king shuts him up. He does show some mercy, ordering that Jeremiah get some bread every day.

Chapter 38

Jeremiah is still carrying on and finally one of the princes snaps and begs the king to put the prophet to death, because he's bad for morale. The king, not wanting to give away his secret obsession, hands him right over. They lower Jeremiah into a 'cistern' which I'm going to interpret as a toilet, because it's been 38 chapters of doom and gloom and he deserves at this point. Jeremiah is sinking into the uh, contents, but unfortunately a passing Ethiopian eunuch takes mercy on him and drags him out so he can prattle on for another 14 boring chapters.

Zedekiah is secretly relieved and meets Jeremiah for another illicit rendez-vous in the temple. Jeremiah is wising up and won't agree to talk until the king agrees not to execute him or give him back to the princes. And it only took immersion in a shithole to do it. Jeremiah's advice is to surrender and in exchange he and his children will live and the city will not be burnt down. Which makes me wonder if he really is in league with the Babylonians.

The king expresses some doubt about the public ridicule he'd face, but Jeremiah points out that seeing his former wives and daughters given to other men and bearing foreign children will be even more humiliating. Yup, he's in cahoots with the enemy, all right. A biblical Benedict Arnold.

The king wants to keep this little chit-chats on the downlow, because it's more exciting that way, and orders Jeremiah to lie and tell the princes he was supplicating for his release, so he does.

Chapter 39

The Babylonians invade. Zedekiah, the king, tries to flee, but is captured. All his sons are killed in front of him. He's carried off in chains and his palace is burnt to the ground before the whole city is bulldozed. The poor people are left behind and rewarded with vineyards. Jeremiah is treated well and set free.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 34-36: Sing joy to you and me

Chapter 34

Jeremiah goes to the king and tells him he's going to die in peace. Then he tells him to set the Jewish slaves free. So they do, for a bit, but then they enslave them again. Which pisses god off, because the subtitle to this book might as well be '1001 ways to piss off god.' And so he threatens them with the usual: plague, famine, war and enslavement.

Chapter 35

Jeremiah invites the Rechabites over to the temple for a drink. It's the cheapest date ever, since the Rechabites are the descendants of Jonadab, who, you will of course recall, ordered his followers not to touch alcohol or live in houses or grow gardens back in 2 Kings:10. And what has all that got them? Refugee status in Jerusalem.

God sends Jeremiah out to make an announcement: Rechabites rule, Israelites drool. And what is their reward? Children. Lots of children. In tents. Yay?

Chapter 36

God orders Jeremiah to write down all the hateful things he's said about the Israelites. Then for some odd reason, because normally he loves this stuff, Jeremiah sends his follower Baruch to read the scroll.

They trick everybody into coming to Jerusalem with a fast, and then when all the commoners are assembled, Baruch reads off the screed to them. The princes are off in another part of the temple playing poker or something, but they get word of what's going on and send for Baruch. Then they make him read the whole thing out again. They get scared and tell Baruch and Jeremiah to go and hide, then take the scroll to the king.

The king burns the scroll, but have no fear! God just tells Jeremiah to write a new one. Kind of makes you appreciate thumb drives, no? And then god informs the king that he's going to punish him and his children and his slaves for that.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 31-33: Joy to the fishies in the deep blue sea

Chapter 31

Blah blah blah covenant. Blah blah blah land of milk and honey. For some reason this chapter causes Jerry Falwell's crack team of bible "scholars" to cream their pants and devote an entire page of commentary to it. The only interesting thing to come out of it is that he tells us the covenant is written in the same style as a Grand Royal Treaty. In other words, the religious powers are imitating the secular powers in the effort to usurp their authority.

There's a reference to Rachel, which the new testament will apparently try to say refers to the massacre of baby boys around the time of Jesus' birth. If you'll remember, Rachel was the prize in Jacob's labours for Laban, she stole her father's idols and pretended she was on the rag so he wouldn't look for them in the cushion she was sitting on, and is the mother of Joseph of Technicolour Dreamcoat fame, and Benjamin. What this has to do with weeping about the sack of Jerusalem, I don't know. Ephraim, Joseph's son, is there as well, causing god bowel trouble, but the New Testament ignores him.

Did we all know that 'sour grapes' is biblical? Because verse 29 says The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.

Chapter 32

Since padded cells don't exist yet, king Zedekiah shuts Jeremiah up in the only place he has: prison. Alas, he neglects to sew Jeremiah's lips shut, so he keeps babbling, first about how the king is going to be kidnapped and taken to Babylon along with the rest of them, and then about a bizarre real-estate transaction he got involved with.

So the story is that one of his uncles wants Jeremiah to buy a field. God supports this purchase, so he tells him to accept the deal when one of his cousins comes to the prison to negotiate. Then he goes along to the notary with the deed, which ought to be impossible since he's supposedly locked up in prison and all, but narrative consistency is not this books strong suit, so whatever. Anyway, after the papers have been notarised, he announces his intention to put them into clay jars so he can claim it back after the exile. He urges the others to do the same.

Chapter 33

Jeremiah is back in prison, still spouting off a laundry list of punishments for the Israelites and promises of good things for people who follow him, namely that the king of Israel will always be a descendent of David.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 28-30: All the boys and girls

Chapter 28

Another prophet, Hananiah, shows up. He has a much sunnier message than Jeremiah, namely that god loves the Israelites again and is going to set them free and punish the Babylonians a full 68 years earlier than expected. Jeremiah is sarcastic in response.

Hananiah gets even more dramatic, breaking the yoke off Jeremiah and saying god is going to do the same to the people. God also escalates and says he'll replace the wooden yoke with an iron yoke. Before this can get into full-on Mutually Assured Destruction, though, god kills Hananiah.

Chapter 29

Jeremiah writes a letter to the enslaved Israelites, who have been enslaved entirely on a whim from god for something a king did a long time ago, to suck it up, get married, have kids and grandkids, don't listen to false prophets, and in 70 years he'll give them back their country. He'll also repeat all that vile shit he did to them, only the Babylonians will be on the receiving end this time. The false prophets and their children will be burned, exiled or relegated to the stocks.

Chapter 30

The men are all walking around with their hands on their thighs like women in labour. Apparently Jeremiah has never seen a woman in labour. Also, if men had to give birth it would be awesome. The entire rest of the chapter is a riff on the theme of 'god will restore his covenant with you and punish his enemies.'

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 25-27: Singin' Joy to the World

Chapter 25

First, god is going to make the king of Babylon invade Israel and bring the people home as slaves. Then, 70 years later, he's going to punish the Babylonians, most of whom won't even have been born yet, for something he (god) did. You just can't win!

But at least they'll get to drink. Part of his cunning, nonsensical plan is to gather all the world's leaders together, including the king of the amusingly-named Buz in a primitive UN and get them all drunk to the point of puking and passing out. Maybe I'm misreading 'kings' for 'fraternities' here. Then when they're good and sloshed, he'll start stabbing them with a sword. Worse, he'll start shouting at their hungover asses and sending tornadoes around. There will be so many dead bodies, or people who look dead at least, that there won't be enough people left to bury them.

Chapter 26

Jeremiah is in the temple, ranting away as usual about destruction and Babylon and dragon donkeys and so forth, and finally the city elders get tired of it and decide to hang him for being irritating. Jeremiah rebuts that they can do what they like to him, but if they kill him, they'll have innocent blood on their hands. This, plus other stories about prophets who interceded with god and got them off the hook, spooks them and they decide not to kill him in case he turns out useful in the future. Of course he won't, though, because he already reported that god told him not to plea for mercy when he finally gets tired of talking about his wrath and gets around to executing it.

Chapter 27

Another 'miracle.' Jeremiah has to make a yoke, then go around to all the neighbourhood kings and tell them that it represents Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon, and they're like the oxen, his slaves. Anyone who refuses to submit will be punished with famine and plague, but those who submit will be allowed to stay on their own land. No appeals from prophets, diviners or sorcerers will be heard.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 22-24: He always had some mighty fine wine

Chapter 22

God tells Jeremiah to go to the palace and spend TWO verses exhorting him to do what's right (be nice to the poor) and promising his reward (horsies! And continued reign) and then TEN on the consequences of disobedience, which I think we're all familiar with by now, so there's no point listing them.

God instructs us to pay fair wages to servants. And how. Then he spends some time insulting the king's taste in McMansions, which feature a lot of vermillion and cedar, and sounds a lot better than what's currently on offer. He praises this guy's father, saying he was a just and righteous ruler, whom he promises to bury like an ass after rendering him childless and killing his whole family.

Chapter 23

God's copious anger turns itself on the false prophets. His anger is making Jeremiah twitch like a drunk man. We're told that the reason for the drought is adultery. Adulterous prophets. Anyway, don't listen to them because they're lying liars and god is going to kill them in a tornado.

Chapter 24

Apparently there are good figs, and there are very naughty figs(v. 2) and even evil, very evil figs (v. 3) and that's where this metaphor breaks down. But let's see what god has in mind, shall we?

Those of you who have not been following along on the last 1200 or so pages of this twaddle will be surprised to find out that the good figs are the good people in Israel, currently residing in Babylon, and they'll be rewarded for their faithfulness. The bad figs are the king and the people who went to Egypt, and they'll be driven out with swords and stuff.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 19-21: But I helped him drink his wine

Chapter 19

The continuation of the clay pot miracle. Jeremiah has to go and get bottle, then he has to stand in front of the citizens of Jerusalem and tell them that as punishment for worshipping Baal, god is going to make them eat their children and their friends, then feed whatever's left to the birds. People who pass by will hiss at the city, probably because that was some sort of superstition, much like walking under ladders today only less sensible. Then he's to smash the pot, as if his words aren't quite convincing enough.

Chapter 20

Jeremiah's reward for his trouble is being put in the stocks by the high priest, Pashur. The next day, when Jeremiah is brought in front of him, he's unrepentant, saying his name is not Pashur, but Magormissabib (v. 3). The KJV doesn't translate this, but for what it's worth the New Living Translation says that means 'He Who Lives in Terror.' Why? Well, cleverly, god is going to terrorise him and all his friends, then send the people into captivity, then kill Pashur & co.

Next Jeremiah starts whining about how he has no friends, as people who run around telling everybody to repent before god plagues them and burns them and turns them into cannibals are wont to do. He says he tried to shut the voices up, but it didn't work. He curses the day he was born, and his parents, and wishes god had either killed him in the womb or killed both him and his mother. Of course anti-abortionists ignore this part of the chapter, because it isn't very convenient in their whole 'god is totally TOTALLY anti-abortion' narrative and focus on the part where god speaks to him in there instead.

Chapter 21

The king, Zedekiah, pleas with Jeremiah to help him out of a war with the Chaldeans, aka the Babylonians. Jeremiah replies that god has promised to kill all the Israelites by sword, then famine, then finally plague and so his hands are tied.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 16-18: Never understood a single word he said

Chapter 16

Jeremiah is gay. informs us that god told him never to get married or have kids because he's just going to kill everybody. He doesn't explain why it would be better to be single and the only person alive than to have gotten married, had kids, and then died surrounded by his loving family because he's gay. God also commands him not to hang out in gay bars.

When people ask why god is so pissed, Jeremiah is to explain it's because of some of the craaazy shit their forefathers started and they've kept up. Then he details how he's going to do it, but after 16 chapters I'm feeling symptoms of PTSD, so I'm not going to detail them.

Chapter 17

Cursing. Threats of violence. God tells Jeremiah to go to the city gates on the Sabbath to remind people not to do any work that day. I wonder why oh why 'minding your own business' was not included on the list of 'things that count as work.' The punishment for working will be death by fire.

Chapter 18

God finally figures out the first rule of TV: Show. Don't tell. So he tells Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house, where he'll have further instructions. The potter makes a vessel, but messes it up, so he makes another, which Jeremiah buys. On the way home, god laments that he can't do to the Israelites what the potter did to that first vase. Then he instructs Jeremiah to go down to the men of Judah and threaten them. I'm sure they hear this every damned day, so I'm surprised they even show up in the square or the gay bar or wherever Jeremiah shows up to lecture them. Maybe he's really entertaining in person.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 13-15: Was a good friend of mine

Chapter 13

The curious laundry incident: God tells Jeremiah to put on, depending on your translation: a linen belt, girdle, waist cloth or loin cloth. Then he tells him to go to the banks of the Euphrates and hide it under a rock. A few days later, he tells him to go and retrieve the garment and, quelle surprise! It's filthy. I cannot tell you how shocked I am that a piece of cloth worn for several days by a person who doesn't know about toilet paper, then left under a rock next to a river for a week would get dirty. Apparently this miracle is a metaphor for what god is planning to do to the Israelites.

How his exact plan is related to the dirty laundry is mysterious: what he's going to do is get them all drunk, then start a fight between fathers and sons. Again, I'm not seeing what's divine about this. I mean, I've seen drunk people come to blows about who was next in line for a bank machine, and although god's name was invoked, I'm pretty sure he didn't have much of a role in it.

All this punishment is coming because the Israelites have been so bad and unfaithful. And then it turns out that one of the most famous lines of the bible is not quite as you remember it, and possibly racist to boot: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? (v. 23) Clearly they were not anticipating Michael Jackson.

Chapter 14

There is a drought so bad it's turning donkeys into dragons. So they start praying to god. But Jeremiah is there to tell them that their praying and fasting and sacrificing is having no effect and god is going to kill them with swords, plague and famine. When Jeremiah points out that the prophets have said god promised peace, god vows to unleash the same wrath on them.

Chapter 15

God is really going to follow through on his threats this time, and not even the pleas of Moses or Samuel will change his mind. And why is he going to kill his people with swords, famine, enslavement, dogs, beasts and birds? Well, because of something Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem (v. 4). I didn't have any idea what Manasseh did either, but Wikipedia reminds me that he reinstituted pagan worship.

More threats: infertility, more widows than sand, young men struck down at noon. The rest will be attacked and enslaved. But all this can be reversed if they just repent!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 10-12: Jeremiah was a bullfrog

Chapter 10

Other people's false idols are harmless, because they do neither harm nor good. Why spend all this time on them, then? So what does the god of this book do? Well, he creates earthquakes, and he made the earth, he controls the weather. He decides who lives where and whether dragons will move into the places he destroys. And he punishes heathens. Basically, he's a god created by subsistence farmers with no knowledge of science or advanced agricultural practices and who were completely dependent on good weather for their continued existence.

Chapter 11

Jeremiah explains AGAIN that he's just the messenger, sent to deliver god's word of doom and destruction to the people of Judah who refuse to follow the covenant and are therefore keeping the rest of them from their promised land of milk and honey. Sweetie, those people are always going to be there. They're harder to get rid of than bedbugs. And all this smiting and burning and starvation doesn't seem to be helping in the least. But today god has a new tactic: the good people, all two of them, are not to pray for the bad ones anymore, even when he's killing them through war and famine.

Chapter 12

Jeremiah asks the age-old questions Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? (v. 1) He asks god to punish them. Yeah, that'll happen. Jerry Falwell's answer ought to be enlightening for its lack of enlightenment: The problem that the wicked seem to prosper is discussed often in the Scriptures. No definitive answer is given except that, according to God's most wise and holy purposes, all things are under His control and that he will deal justly with the wicked in His appointed time and way. It is enough for the believer to leave things in God's hands and let Him truly be God of his whole life.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 7-9: The Balm of Gilead?

Chapter 7

God will let the Israelites back into the temple if they promise to behave themselves. Is this the space currently occupied by The Dome of the Rock? because if it is, at this rate they're never going to get back in. He threatens to do to them what he did to Shiloh, which is not entirely clear, but does involve smiting, in the form of Philistines, which is a nice excuse. And what is he planning for the Jerusalemites? Burning. Burning the ever-loving shit out of the place, including the trees. Then he admits that he's sick of burnt offerings and tells them to eat the meat themselves. Or they can just send it over here. I love me a good barbecue. He finishes the chapter with a final threat: he'll kill them all and leave them to the vultures, then he'll shut up all mirth.

Chapter 8

In the future, people will go into the ossuaries and bring out all the bones, until they cover the earth. And then they'll kill themselves rather than face god's wrath. Then he's going to give away all their stuff, including their wives. Jeremiah must write the most cheery holiday greeting cards. Also, it seems that if your wife leaves you, that's a really, really, bad sin and you shouldn't take her back, but if god gives her away to another dude, that's totally fine. In bizarro world.

Then, in case anyone has survived, god will send snakes and cockatrices (snakes hatched from chicken eggs) to bite all of us.

Jeremiah's reaction to this is the feigned shock and sorrow of a venal gossip who tells you all the bad things people are saying about you behind your back. And this is where the famous Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? (v. 22) line comes in.

Chapter 9

Jeremiah laments what deceitful liars his people have become and tells us to trust no one, because they might be a non-believer. Is he Fox Mulder? So of course the solution is to destroy Jerusalem and let the dragons take over, then kill the people with tainted food and water, then run them through with a sword. They'll be dying so thick and fast their bodies will just rot where they fall. This will apply to the circumcised as well as the uncircumcised.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 4-6: Circumcise your hearts

Chapter 4

God wants the Israelites to swear a loyalty oath that will involve circumcising their hearts. Ouch! And the consequences for not doing so will be even more painful: burning to death. He also promises to reenact his little temper tantrum at Sodom and Gomorra in a few cities in the north, as well as the royal family. He will do all this in the form of a thunderstorm. But unlike the first case, the people will survive this one and will run out to the desert, where the heat and wind and dry air will ruin their skin and no one will want to have sex with them anymore. And in the final verse, Jeremiah proves that he's just as childbirth-obsessed as Isaiah, predicting the resulting wailing will be like a woman in labour with her first child.

Chapter 5

God says he'll refrain from destroying Jerusalem if he can find even one man who is blameless. It turns out all that smiting and plaguing and burning people alive has not had the intended effect. I'm shocked. SHOCKED. But of course god doesn't think it's his insane methodology that's at fault, the people are clearly poor and dumb. So he decided to go and talk to the rich people, who are clearly smarter, and found the same thing. Now he's planning to send lions, leopards and wolves to kill them. What's that they say about the definition of crazy being 'Someone who does the same thing over and over again and expects a different result every time?' Yeah, that's what this is.

No, he just can't forgive them because they've committed adultery and visited prostitutes. They've also decided that god doesn't exist, so he has to burn them to death now. And then he's going to send strangers in to take over their property. But he promises not to starve them to death. He ends the chapter by showing just a bit too much of his hand: The prophets prophesy falsely (v. 33).

Chapter 6

At this point, we've gone through 72 straight chapters of god's bipolar disorder, in which he alternately lavishes attention and empty promises on the Israelites, then threatens them with creative new forms of destruction. So I'm going to try and get through Jeremiah 3 chapters at a time, though I have very low hopes for the rest of the Old Testament. There's a reason you've never heard of Obadiah, Amos or Joel.

Anyway, god instructs the Benjaminites to prepare themselves for war against the rest of the tribes, starting with Jerusalem. Why? Because they haven't circumcised their ears. So he has to kill all of them, and the Benjaminites will get to scavenge. He'll do this after deliberately making them sin. So why not make them obey?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jeremiah, Chapters 2 & 3: The sex lives of camels

Chapter 2

God harkens back to the honeymoon phase of his relationship with the Israelites, when they were prepared to follow him anywhere, even on pointless 40-year treks through the wilderness. But now, oh now, they've been cheating on him with other gods and nobody, not the priests, the civil servants or the prophets, even thinks about him anymore, preferring Baal. But fear not! He's got a punishment brewing.

But first, some insults. The Israelites have become harlots, chasing Baal like female camels in heat, a slutty donkey who will mate with anyone. God has tried everything to get their attention, including killing children, but they've just killed his prophets.

Then we find out that even in biblical times, women were obsessed with jewellery and bridal gowns and finding 'the one.' You can call this misogyny, but as a keen observer, if not participant in, the wedding-industrial complex that swallows up to 18 months' of North American women's free time in their 20s and 30s, it's actually totally true. But god is trying to make a broader point that if things as ephemeral as shiny baubles are unforgettable, why isn't he?

Chapter 3

Yay, double standards! If a man divorces his wife and she remarries, he won't take her back because she's damaged goods, so why should god take the Israelites back? Also, what kind of fucked-up family values did the Israelites practice? Not even Liz Taylor managed to pull that one off. He also compares them to street hookers and says that's why he hasn't sent any rain.

Then he starts calling the Israelites adulterers and then he sort of runs out of steam and tells them if they come back quietly and apologise, he'll forgive them and give them good, honest priests. He'll also give them lots of babies and convert all the other nations to Judaism. Don't hold your breath.

But no, he was just gathering his second wind, because now he's comparing the Israelites to women who leave their husbands, then promising forgiveness, then telling them how ashamed of themselves they should be. Textbook bipolar disorder.