Monday, September 26, 2011

Amos, Chapters 1-5: Biblical dental care

Chapter 1

God is angry, though he isn't exactly sure why or who at. First he's pissed at Damascus for beating Gilead with threshing instruments, but then he's going to set fire to Hazael. Then he's mad at Damascus again, but he's going to punish the people of Aven. There are a number of other tribes he's got a beef with, most notably the Ammonites, who have been killing the women of Gilead in a territorial expansion effort.

Chapter 2

God is still listing his grievances, but at least the reasons are getting more interesting. Now he's angry at the Moabites for burning the king of Edom's bones until they turned to lime. For that, he's going to burn them and kill their princes. He's going to burn Judah for lying, Israel for trading the poor for a pair of shoes, and for fathers and sons sleeping with the same women. Yuck.

The Amorites are too tall, so clearly they need to go. Also, they day of judgement is coming, and even the bravest men will run away naked.

Chapter 3

God is going to punish the Israelites because you always hurt the ones you love. How exactly? Carrying them off to Syria in the corner of a bed, then tearing down altars and smashing houses together. After 1300+ pages, this is getting old.

Chapter 4

God has done everything to the Israelites: given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities (v. 6), famine, drought, flooding, blasting (v. 9), which apparently means blight, pestilence, war, lack of sanitation, and still the Israelites won't worship him exclusively. What is an abusive deity to do?

Chapter 5

God is going to kill 90% of the Israelites in hopes of convincing the other 10% to just like him on Facebook. For those who survive, he has some advice: Seek good, and not evil (v. 14) and hate the evil, and love the good (v. 15). Wow. Avoid evil. That is some profound thinking that is totally worth killing 9 out of 10 people for.

There will be lots of wailing, followed by a day of Judgement that sounds extraordinarily unpleasant. Then he just gets mean, telling the Israelites he hates their sacrifices, worship, music and festivals so he's going to exile them in Syria.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Joel, Chapters 1-3: At least it's short

Chapter 1

God is in a smiting mood, what else is new? This time he's going to rain down environmental destruction on the Israelites, first with worms that will eat all the fruit, then with something that will kill all the vines and trees, thus rendering all the offerings impossible to offer and making the animals desperately unhappy. Then he'll set fire to everything.

Chapter 2

The day of the lord is coming! And it's going to be dark and gloomy, because for all the bible occasionally pays lip service to rewarding the faithful, it's much more fun to talk about how the sinners will be punished.

First, god will send a fleet of fiery chariots with warriors who cannot be killed, even if you stab them with a sword. Then the sky will turn pitch black and god will tell the people that if they just turn their hearts towards him and repent, he'll forgive them and give them corn again.

A few warning signs that the day of the lord is nigh: Wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. (v. 30-31)

Chapter 3

Okay, so what else happens before the day of the lord? Well, people will be scattered, mostly for selling their kids in exchange for alcohol. That's probably for the best. Then he'll free all the Israelites that the Tyreans and Zidonians have sold to the Greeks so the Israelites can sell their former slave-owners to the Sabeans. Somehow, that doesn't make it right.

Back in Isaiah, we were promised that we could beat our swords into ploughshares because there would be everlasting peace. Now Joel instructs us to Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruninghooks into spears (v. 10).

Then he repeats the rigamarole about the sky going dark and earthquakes, but adds something new: the banishment of foreigners from Jerusalem. Good luck with that one.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 8-14: Biblical family values

Chapter 8

God is going to set fire to Ephraim for flirting with other gods and making peace treaties with Assyria. You may have heard a part of verse 7: For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Chapter 9

In return for worshipping other gods on the threshing floor, god is going to kill all the extant children, cause miscarriages in pregnant women, then make them all infertile. Jerry has a lot to say about harvest festivals, but nary a word about god aborting all those innocent little babies.

Chapter 10

In yet another episode of Biblical Family Values, god is going to knock mothers' and children's heads together only unlike the Three Stooges, this will end in actual death for the participants.

Chapter 11

Jerry, of course, has plenty of time to point out how this chapter predicts that Jesus' family will flee to Egypt. Of course he ignores verse 5, which is rather confusing and talks about people who refused to leave Egypt and ended up being ruled by the Assyrians. After all, it's that kind of verse that we'd expect Biblical scholars to be able to explain.

Chapter 12

David Plotz thinks this is the most boring chapter in the entire Old Testament, which is saying a lot when you consider that Leviticus is basically a long list of sacrifices, Numbers has about 10 chapters dedicated to listing family members, and Ezekiel spends half a book recording measurements. What's it about? I don't know, I fell asleep.

Chapter 13

Over 10 years ago, when I was in my early 20s, I broke up with a guy because he's an asshole. Unfortunately, we still have some friends in common, so I occasionally see him at weddings or barbecues. Not only will he not so much as look at me, his wife, who did not know me at the time, also refuses to speak to me. That couple has a lot in common with god, who is STILL smarting over the golden calf incident way back in Exodus. Now he's going to punish the Israelites with wild animals. He's especially going to focus on ripping pregnant women and infants to shreds. Jerry of course is mum. Fortunately, Pastor Deacon Fred has lots to say.

Chapter 14

After all the killing and aborting and animal savagery, god will forgive Ephraim and allow them back into the fold.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 3-: Buying a wife for a bushel of barley

Chapter 3

God tells Hosea to take another adulteress as his wife to symbolise god's love of the Israelites despite all their failings. So he buys one for the bargain price of fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley (v. 2). He makes sure to tell this one before the wedding that she shouldn't cheat on him, and promises to do the same. Then he explains that Israel will be without leadership for awhile, but then they'll go back to god.

Chapter 4

God has decided to punish the Israelites in a totally new, unique way that has never been seen before: death, whoring and wine. People who worship Baal will be punished with harlot daughters and cheating wives. You know how divorced people say things like, 'I was married to X for 22 years, one of them happy?' That's what this entire book thus far reminds me of. There have been maybe 10 chapters total in which god wasn't punishing his chosen people for some transgression or another.

Chapter 5

Even though Hosea falls well after the Babylonian exile in the Christian bible, he seems much more concerned with the sins of Ephraim and Judah, specifically whoring, which has resulted in strange children (v. 7). The punishment? Death by lions.

Chapter 6

More threats of death against Ephraim and Judah for the sins of lewdness and whoredom. I'm sensing a theme.

Chapter 7

Poor god! There he was, all ready to forgive the Israelites and start healing, but then stupid Ephraim had to come along and mess it all up by fraternising with foreigners. So now he has no choice but to punish them. How? You guessed it! Death.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hosea, Chapters 1 & 2: Son of a whore!

Chapter 1

The things god puts his faithful followers through. He orders Hosea to take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms (v. 2). Why? To prove a point to the Israelites, of course! So he takes a wife called Gomer, which was a boy's name somewhere else and on TV. Anyway, she has a son called Jezreel, which refers to something that happened back in Kings and means the house of Jehu will be avenged. I'm not interested enough to actually look it up.

Next Gomer has a daughter called Loruhamah, which means 'No Mercy' or 'Unloved.' Finally, she has another son called Loammi, or 'Not My People.' Way to set your kids up for future criminal charges there, god.

God does offer up some hope at the end, promising that even though he's breaking up with his people now, he'll take them back in future so they can take revenge for whatever happened at Jezreel. Okay, I looked it up: Queen Jezebel seizes some land illegally.

Chapter 2

Further ensuring future delinquency, Hosea tells his kids No Mercy and Not My People to tell their mother that she's not his wife and to stop cheating on him. He threatens to strip her naked and leave her to die of thirst in the desert. He's got plans for their siblings as well, namely not to have mercy on them.

He goes on and on in his trauma-counselling-inducing tirade, threatening to destroy all her possessions à la Ronny on Jersey Shore and to exile her to an isolated country estate. That actually sounds much better than being married to this guy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 10-12: Do you understand the thing?

Chapter 10

Daniel sees something true, but it will take a long time. He understands it. But we don't because he doesn't say what it is.

Whatever it is, it causes him so much grief that he doesn't eat or drink for over 3 weeks, until one day, sitting by a river, he hallucinates a very strange man. The people with him can't see the man, presumably because they've eaten in the last few days, but they can feel his presence. It scares them, so they hide. God hates an audience.

What does god need privacy to tell Daniel? Is his fly down? Does he have food in his teeth? No, it seems the Persians are going to invade, followed by the Greeks.

Chapter 11

They say Jerry Falwell died of a heart attack in his office, no doubt brought about by constantly masturbating to the book of Daniel. For example, this chapter is full of 'prophecies' about kings and treaties and wars, all of which, he claims, have come true. Of course he doesn't specify when or how, but let's just take one verse:

And in the end of years they shall join themselves together; for the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times. (v. 6)

Wow. So at some point in the last 2600 years, a king has sent his daughter to make a treaty and it will all go wrong? That's some prescient shit right there.

There's a lot more predictions that mostly come down to 'In a war, one side invariably loses,' but no names or dates or locations, which makes it very easy to say that it's all come true.

Chapter 12

At the end of days, someone named Michael, who is possibly an angel, or possibly yet another Messiah, will raise a zombie army... for some reason. Daniel wants to know when he can expect this, but god is predictably vague, only promising that it will happen in the End of Days.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 7-9: Daniel's Bad Trip

Chapter 7

Daniel has a dream about sea monsters with horns making war against saints until a saviour comes along and turns the tide decisively in the saints' favour, at which point a bunch of kings will come along and fight each other, until one prevails. Then he'll start a new, everlasting kingdom. Jerry Falwell just about creams his pants over this chapter, devoting nearly a page of footnotes to explaining how this chapter predicts Jesus and Revelations and End Times and the Antichrist and the Rapture and all that awesome stuff lunatics like him look forward to.

Chapter 8

Daniel has another dream, this time about a goat and a ram that fight. He doesn't get it, so an angel comes along to explain: the goat is Medo-Persia and the ram is Greece. They'll fight and eventually one ruler will prevail. Jerry continues to spin a wild-eyed story about temple schedules and the Antichrist, because he doesn't understand that if you write a second book to conveniently fit all the prophecies in your first book, that doesn't prove anything except that you read the first book.

Chapter 9

Daniel prays to god to forgive his people and let them go back to Jerusalem. Eventually a man, or possibly an archangel named Gabriel comes along and says fine, you can have Jerusalem back in 70 weeks, at which point a prince will come along and help them rebuild it. But then it'll be destroyed again in a war, and then there's a confusing bit about sacrifices and desolation. Meanwhile, Jerry's orgasm, which has been building for 3 chapters now, finally explodes into a full PAGE of commentary about how the Hebrew word for 'week' can represent up to 7 years as long as they're prophetical years and not solar years, and therefore when Jesus is killed exactly 483 years to the day (April 3, AD 33) later, it all fits perfectly. Provided you use 30 day months and skip ahead to the Book of Revelation.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 5 & 6: Not the lion story you thought you knew

Chapter 5

King Neb is dead. Long live the king! And now his son (or most likely not his son) Belshazzar is having a party. As the wine flows, he decides it's a good idea to get the gold and silver vessels from the sacked temple in Jerusalem so he can reenact every photo of the Stanley Cup ever.

Bad idea. A mysterious, detached hand appears and starts writing on the wall. Unfortunately, the language isn't Babylonian, so nobody can read it. Meaning it could say anything at all. The queen suggests that maybe Danny could be of service here, so the king sends for him. Danny basically tells him what you'd expect to hear: drinking out of the holy vessels was a big no-no and now he's going to die ignominiously and his kingdom will be divided. Rather than get a second opinion, Shazzar rewards him with a promotion to third in command. Then he dies and Darius takes over.

Chapter 6

Daniel is the Tracy Flick of the Babylonian administration, and the other bureaucrats are the Mr McAllisters, trying desperately to find something wrong with him so they can kick him out. Of course they can't, so they draft a law saying anyone who petitions anyone but the king for something in the next 30 days will be thrown into the lions' den. The king happily signs the decree, because in the bible all kings are easily-manipulated fools.

Of course Daniel immediately makes a point of praying three times a day with all the windows open because he's incredibly irritating. And of course the other administrators catch him at it. They tattle to the king, who reluctantly throws him into the lions' den, because again, as the king, he has no power to change the law. As he's shutting the door, the king asks Danny if he really thinks his god will protect him. Danny assures him that he will. Note how few Christians today are willing to take the same leap of faith.

Of course Danny survives the night, and that's where most people think this tale ends. But it doesn't. Instead the other senior officials are gathered up, along with their wives and children, and thrown into the pit, where they are not as lucky as our hero. Then Darius issues another decree, this time that everybody has to worship god.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daniel, Chapters 3 & 4: Goldmember

Chapter 3

King Neb commissions a giant gold penis substitute statue and orders the people to worship it. Anyone who doesn't will be thrown into a fiery furnace. So of course Daniel's friends refuse.

Neb hears about this and orders them brought to his castle. They confirm it, and he orders the furnace heated to seven times the normal temperature and throws them in. It's so hot it kills the executioners, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego get up and walk around. A fourth guy who is like the Son of God (v. 25) even joins them. King Neb stupidly approaches the grate to speak to them, then orders them released. He issues a new decree: now anyone who refuses to worship the Jewish god shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill (v. 27). Seriously? A guy with religious beliefs this flexible is supposed to be an example to us?

Chapter 4

Suddenly Neb takes over the narration so he can tell us his personal testimony. But he's not very good at it and immediately loses half the audience by telling us all about his dream and how Daniel interpreted it for him. Then he loses the other half by telling us about another dream he had about a very tall tree. While Neb is gawping at the tree, a man comes down from heaven and starts shrieking at him to cut it down, no doubt because it's blocking his view and he's a nimbyist. He even wants Neb to put an iron band around the stump so it can't grow higher.

But then! Another weird miracle: the tree will grow a man's heart, which will then be replaced by a beast's heart. Neb challenges Daniel to find meaning in that muddle of gibberish. It takes Danny an entire hour, but then he comes back with this: the tree is Neb himself, and the litigious neighbour is his enemies. Eventually he'll be driven out of society and forced to live amongst the animals, eating grass like a cow. This will go on for 7 years, at which point he'll accept god into his heart and be restored to his rightful throne. Danny Boy advises him to start acting like a good person now and avoid all the hassle of living in fields drinking rainwater, but Neb ignores him and everything comes to pass. The way he frames it, it actually sounds more like a schizophrenic episode, but he comes out of it later and becomes a good Jew.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Daniel, Chapter 2: Dreamweaver

King Neb has a nightmare. He gathers all his prophets and sorcerers around him and tells them to interpret it. They point out that they need to know the contents to explain it, but the king is in a bad mood, so he petulantly tells them that if they can't work it out for themselves, he'll kill them all and turn their houses into a dunghill (v. 5). This goes on back and forth for awhile, until the king gets bored and orders them all killed, including Daniel.

Daniel asks to see the king before he's executed and for some reason the king agrees. He's clearly been watching Inception, because he's able to tell the king that he dreamed about a figure made out of gold and silver and other metals, which gets smashed by a stone, then blows away in the wind. The stone, meanwhile, becomes a mountain.

Can you figure out what this dream might mean? Can you? Because my kitten understood it, and she fell out the window twice last week. The figure in the dream is Neb. Each metal that makes up his body is less precious than the last, until the feet. Those cheap metals are the increasingly-inferior kings that will succeed him. The statue's feet are made of clay and iron, meaning the kingdom will be weak and strong. The smashing is the breaking up of his kingdom. The stone is not explained.

Neb is dumber than my kitten, because he falls down at Danny Boy's feet and starts worshipping him. Danny becomes the most powerful man in the universe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Daniel, Chapter 1: Jewish Integration Courses

King Nebuchadnezzar, whom you will remember from every book since 2 Kings as the guy who sacked Jerusalem, orders his chief eunuch to find the best and brightest of his new Jewish captives and bring them to the palace so they can learn all about Babylon and hopefully convince their people to stop whinging on about being conquered and taken from their homelands. Good luck.

Our story focuses on 4 of them: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom are given Babylonian names: unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego (v. 7). Oddly none of these except Daniel is currently in widespread use, except perhaps in certain Israeli sects.

Daniel, of course, being a prophet, decides not to join the cause and refuses to eat the king's meat or drink his wine. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs (v. 9) which you can interpret as you will. I personally will go with Hoyay!. But the eunuch is still worried that the king will see a bunch of ugly, starving people, and won't be happy. Daniel proposes a test: give him and his friends beans and water to drink for 10 days and see who looks healthier at the end.

Somehow the vegans end up looking fairer and fatter (v. 15) despite how they normally look skinny and self-righteous and so they're allowed to continue their annoying lifestyle. Daniel is soon visited with hunger hallucinations visions and dreams and when King Neb finally calls on him, he finds him ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm (v. 20) though of course we are given no indication of how.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ezekiel, Chapters 45-48: Have ruler, will measure

Chapter 45

God and Zeke are still measuring things. Now god is giving him the dimensions of a plot of land that is to be given to the clergy. A priests' preserve, if you will. The princes are to have a similarly-sized plot right next door. The princes' task is to remove violence, stop taxing people excessively, behave justly, use honest weights and measures and currency conversions. Then all the offerings and sacrifices are laid out again.

Chapter 46

The prince gets his own door to the temple, because life is fair like that. He also has his own sacrificial quota, but he doesn't actually have to make the sacrifices himself, that will be the priests' job.

As for the plebs, they all have to use the same gate. The prince is also instructed not to confiscate their lands to give to his sons, which apparently some religious folk take to mean that the rich shouldn't be taxed at all, because they are idiots.

Chapter 47

Suddenly, water starts trickling out from underneath the imaginary house. It starts off slowly, but soon becomes a river too wide and too deep to cross. The bronze man explains that the water that makes it into the sea will be purified, but the stuff that hangs around in marshes and pools will gradually turn salty and impure. Magical trees with medicinal leaves will never stop producing fruit.

Next god lays out the borders of Israel and divides the land into 13 portions. The tribe of Joseph gets a double portion. It's troubling because god appears to promise large portions of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to them. And of course in all the Zionist rhetoric about, 'God promised us Israel in the bible!' verse 22 is conveniently left out. It reads, in part e shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.

Chapter 48

Most bible books have terrible endings, and this one is no exception. The first eight verses outline where the tribes are supposed to live. Then the priests' portion is laid out, followed by the dimensions of the city and farmland. Oh, and the name of the city will be: The LORD is there (v. 35). Snappy, right? And on that dull note, Zeke ends and Daniel begins.