Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 17-19: Stick to your day job, god

Chapter 17

God instructs Zeke to tell a riddle about an eagle who decides to become a farmer, so he takes a cedar branch and some seeds and sets them up in a field. The seeds sprout and the vines grow towards him. Then another eagle comes along and the vines grow towards him instead. God wants to know if this slutty vine can prosper. Then, for those of you who have not been following along for the past oh, 8 books or so, he explains that the vine is Israel and the eagles are god and another, fake god and as punishment for cozying up to the fake eagle god, the king of Babylon is going to enslave the vine. Seriously, it's not like these people had important, pressing episodes of Jersey Shore to watch on TV at night. All that free time, and this is the best metaphor they could come up with?

Anyway, god is still pissed that the king of Babylon offered the Jerusalemites a truce and they didn't take it and instead went off to make agreements with Egypt and it's like relearning all those treaties that set off WWI way back in 9th grade history and it's making my head hurt. But god does promise to restore the Israelites again when he's vented his spleen.

Chapter 18

God bans another proverb, specifically the one that goes The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge (v. 2). So no using either of those, mkay?

Then he says that sinners will die, but people who behave and don't do things like have mountain picnics, sleep with their neighbours' wives or associate with menstruating women, oppress debtors and who give food and clothing to the poor, will live forever. Well, doing or not doing all those things, plus a healthy dose of clean water, vaccinations, nitrogen fixation and pasteurised dairy products, none of which god mentions here.

In an odd twist, god informs us that if your son is a thief, you'll be punished. Up until now, the kids have been responsible for the sins of their parents. Then in one of those crazy-making verses that literalists tie themselves up in knots trying to explain, god gives everybody a blank slate. From now on you're responsible for your own sins. Because we haven't heard that before, only to have it contradicted in 200 other places.

Chapter 19

The New Yorker magazine has a regular feature called Block that Metaphor! which really should be used more about this book. First, god is a lioness and the princes of Israel are her cubs. One becomes a man-eater and is imprisoned in a pit in Egypt. Another becomes and even fiercer man-eater who also destroys entire cities and keeps everybody up all night with his roaring until the people enact a noise ordnance and take him to the king of Babylon to shut him up.

Then suddenly Israel is a vine with exalted branches that gets set on fire and cast out into the wilderness.

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