Sunday, May 29, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 31 & 32

Chapter 31

Isaiah's continuing campaign against hiring Egyptian mercenaries: better to turn your attention to god, who is planning some vague evil against the politicians and ambassadors. He points out that men and horses are flesh, and in a war situation it's much better to have spirits on your side than people with weapons. He compares it to shepherds attacking a lion, who just growls at them. He also says that god is like a flock of birds hovering over your city: full of shit. Okay, he doesn't say that. Methinks Isaiah was not a soldier before he became a prophet.

What should they do instead? Cast away their idols and wait for god to defeat the Assyrians.

Chapter 32

Another prophecy that has yet to come true: god is going to appoint a righteous king with just princes, as opposed to the usual rabble of inbred tits one usually finds in royal families, I suppose. They'll provide housing and public works and free glasses to the blind and hearing aids for the deaf and free schools and speech therapy.

Fools and scoundrels (read: political and military, as opposed to religious leaders) will discredit themselves through dumb speeches and welfare cuts. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand. (v. 8) Try to find a Republican who quotes that particular verse.

He even makes an appeal to women to listen to him, but only so he can tell them the grape harvest is going to fail, so what they have to do is take off their nice clothes and wear sackcloth and slap their breasts in sorrow because god is going to get smity for awhile.

But then he'll restore everything, because some years there is rain in the right amounts and at the right times and other years there is drought and if you haven't invented modern irrigation you're at the mercy of the elements, which you may start to think of as god-like and then just god. Then there will be peace for a few years, followed by more hail, because Mother Nature god is just funny like that sometimes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 29 & 30: Channeling Ghost

Chapter 29

Either Jerusalem changed its name, or we've wandered into a production of The Tempest because Isaiah is now cursing someone or something called Ariel, which he is going to besiege and destroy at the same time as all his other enemies. How's he going to destroy it? The usual: fires, earthquakes tempests (v. 6). It's going to be as bad as when you fall asleep hungry and then dream that you're eating and wake up still hungry and realise you forgot to go to the store but it's okay because we live in a 24/7 world and not the Bronze Age, where not having any food REALLY meant you wouldn't eat that day.

People who don't believe him are blind and drunk and listening to false prophets. To convince them, he's going to perform some wondrous works of nature that will wipe away their memories.

Never forget that god knows everything and we are as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? (v. 16).

Finally, god promises to do something nice instead of smiting and plaguing and burning shit down: he's going to make the crops grow in Lebanon, restore hearing to the deaf, make the blind see and make the meek and poor love him more. Politicians will be consumed. I guess this one hasn't come true yet. The point of all this? To make people who only murmured the words believe them.

Chapter 30

Threats against those who would make a treaty with Egypt: A caravan carrying money to pay for mercenaries will have to cross a desert full of lions, snakes and fiery flying serpents (v. 6) will come to nought, because you just can't trust 'em. Why? John Locke says so. Whoops! Not for another 2000 years or so. But the thesis is the same: they don't believe in your god.

More pottery imagery: he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit. (v. 14) The only solution is to repent. No matter what they do otherwise, flee on horses, even swift horses, god's horses will be faster.

But when they do repent, god will be forgiving and will teach them to be better and throw away their idols like a menstruous cloth (v. 22). Seriously Isaiah is completely obsessed with the female reproductive cycle. In exchange, they'll get rain, bread and fat cows and dead enemies, in this case the Assyrians, which they will celebrate. Then he'll burn the king at the stake.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 27 & 28: God hates dragons

Chapter 27

God takes a break from smiting the Moabites to kill Leviathan the sea dragon. In response, the Israelites are supposed sing about red wine from the vineyard god is tending because he finds it soothing. No, I'm not skipping any verses here, that's really how the transition goes. Also, I think the idea of god unwinding in his winery is cute. I wish he spent more time there.

God, speaking through Isaiah, informs us that he would burn any brambles and weeds that threatened his vineyard, though one would think that would also hurt the grapes, but he'd much rather make peace with them. But of course, god isn't really talking about viticulture, he's using a metaphor.

Then we get one of the most awkwardly-phrased sentences in the history of the genre: Hath he smitten him, as he smote those that smote him? or is he slain according to the slaughter of them that are slain by him? (v. 7), talking about Israel's enemies. Dude, there is alliteration and then there's this. Clearly thesauruses had not been invented yet. Then he starts talking about the exile and sin and destroying altars and burning down Jerusalem AGAIN and finally bringing them back.

Chapter 28

Apparently the people of Samaria drink a lot and the city has become the party capital of the Middle East. It's so fun that even the priests and prophets go there for debauchery. So naturally god destroys it with hail and floods, because he hates fun. Or maybe he's just a very zealous cleaner, because all tables are full of vomit and filthiness, so that there is no place clean (v. 8). Good to know the Jersey Shore house has a biblical precedent.

Once he has cleaned up the place, god clearly delineates who will and will not be able to sit down and study with him: people who are weaned will be accepted, those still breast-feeding will have to wait. Get them while they're young, indeed.

Wow. I had no idea that the expression here a little, and there a little (v. 10) was biblical. I thought it was something my mom said to make cleaning up my toys seem like a more manageable task.

Anyway, once god has raised his army of scholars, he'll take on the political leadership, who are, of course, a bunch of lying rogues that have all made deals with the devil. Because theocracies are always so fun to live in. How is he going to do it? Tiny House! Literally. He's going to make the beds too short and the covers to narrow. And you know he can because he spends the rest of the chapter describing his intimate knowledge of which farming implements should be used to harvest which grains.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 25 & 26: Apocalypse Now and Forever

Chapter 25

Because he's insane, Isaiah exalts god for destroying Jerusalem. Yet somehow he has protected the poor and given them refuge from storms and heat. You know what really protects from water and sun? A house.

Next, god cordially invites you to a mountain-top feast for all the people of the world. As a grand finale, he'll rid the world of death. And people will praise him. Well, people will praise anyone who cooks for them, especially if they don't then have to do the dishes.

All the world's people, that is, save for the Moabites. They're going to be thrown on the dungheap like old straw.

Chapter 26

A song about holy cities and only the righteous being allowed inside. There will be perfect peace because no one will live there. He will also punish bad people. He calls on righteous people to obey god's laws and tells us how eagerly he's awaiting god's return.

Isaiah admits that the Israelites have strayed in their exclusive relationship with god and promises that NOW he's the only one for them. They thank him for killing off their enemies and increasing their territory and disciplining them when they needed it. He then makes ANOTHER reference to women in childbirth like, dude, get a new simile. Then we're told that dead people will come back to life and the living will rejoice rather than run away in terror. He encourages those self-same living to go home and hide out until god's in a better mood, because he's coming around now with punishing on the brain.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 23 & 24: What? You thought predicting the apocalypse was a new thing?

Chapter 23

Tyre, a great trading port in Syria, is doomed to flooding so severe not a building will remain. Other countries, their trading revenue dried up, will howl at the thought of the priestly class taking over the economy as well, because among the many things priests are not good at is economics, which they regard as prostitution.

The people of Sidon are also doomed to wander the earth in exile, BTW.

Chapter 24

Isaiah predicts the apocalypse, and oddly it's not that different from what Harold Camping said would happen: since god promised not to flood the earth again, but never said anything about burning it, this time he's going to follow a scorched-earth policy, then scatter the people all about. Why? Because we haven't been obeying the laws.

Then Isaiah predicts Prohibition: the grapes will wither on the vine, the beer will go sour, and all the parties will stop. People will 'hide' in their 'houses,' which I'm just going to assume is code for 'drink' in 'speakeasies.'

Then, then, when there is nothing else to do and no way to drown their sorrows, They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD (v. 14) which first of all: BWA HA HA HA! as if in the entire history of banning vices the result has been a 'turning back to god.' Second, how pathetic is your religion that the only way to get people to pay attention is to take away every other source of amusement?

When even that fails, god will get even more dramatic, causing earthquakes. Then he'll arrest all the other gods and the kings (but not, you will note, the priests)and put them in prison. Then the sun and moon will fade and god will rule over the earth. The scorched, ruined, teetotalling earth. Sounds like a blast.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 21 & 22: The world is still here

Chapter 21

The fate of the desert of the sea (v. 1), or Babylon: the Elamites and Mediaites will attack. This information makes Isaiah's body hurt like a woman in labour. Or a man who wandered around in the fucking desert for 3 years without so much as a sandal-strap.

He tries to warn them, but they just ignore him, like you would anyone who emerged naked from the desert claiming to have been burnt in the face by an angel. He says god told him to tell them to set up a watchman, who should be especially alert for chariots or people arriving on donkeys or camels. Um, what else does one have a lookout for, if not to spot people arriving in chariots or mounted on something?

Finally, the guard does say that he sees something: a couple of guys in a chariot, who declare that Babylon has fallen and all its idols broken.

Isaiah, sensing he's on a roll, turns his attention to Edom now, where, like a toddler on a car trip that refuses to go to sleep, someone keeps asking him if it's morning yet. Isaiah's reply smacks of the irritated parent: The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come (v. 12).

He's STILL not done. A prophesy concerning the Bedouins of Arabia: bring water and food for the (Israelite?) refugees because their civilisation is going to end within the year.

Chapter 22

Isaiah has a vision about the people of Jerusalem running en masse to their rooftops because the streets are full of diseased corpses and the leaders are now prisoners. He must have been such an uplifting dinner guest.

But Isaiah doesn't want your sympathy as he cries for the destruction of his people at the hands of the lord via Elam and Kir! Nope! That's why we're having this conversation! So you won't feel sorry for him! And of course, it's not at all because the priestly class is trying to take credit for defeat as well as victory in war.

Anyway, the Jerusalemites will try to defend themselves, but won't remember that god made all this happen and his instructions for today were to put on sackcloth and ashes and tear out your hair, rather than what they will do, which is make sacrifices and utter one of the most famous lines in the book: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die. (v. 13) And god will never forgive them for it, like a petulant 9 year old.

God also has a message for Shebna, the palace administrator and clearly someone who crossed Isaiah at some point: you're stupidly building your own tomb, because god is going to throw you around like a sack of potatoes into a foreign country where you'll die in disgrace with all your fripperies. I would have loved to have seen Shebna's reaction to all of this. Somehow, I doubt he was shaking in his boots.

Why all these ad hominem attacks on Shebna? Well, so Isaiah's brother-in-law or nephew or cousin or something, Eliakim can have the job, of course! He's going to be the new ruler of the house of David.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 19-20: Last post before the apocalypse?

I'm writing this on Saturday, 21 May, the day that, according to one particularly well-organised group, will be the first day of the apocalypse. Not that this hasn't happened before.

Chapter 19

God's plans for Egypt. Firs, civil unrest: ride up on a cloud. Cause tension between brothers, cities, kingdoms. Make the survivors heed the council of false idols and wizards. Finally, install a cruel overlord.

Then, economic collapse: cause a drought. Make the fishermen cry. Then do something non-specific to make the weavers and flax-workers sad. Then destroy the fish-farming industry. In fact, make it so there's no work at all.

Political ruin: tell everybody he was watching porn. Whoops! Actually, make the pharaoh's advisors look like drunken fools.

The end result: the Egyptians will be afraid, five of their cities will change their official language to Canaanite, and they'll all convert to Judaism. They'll even build two big altars to god; one in the middle and one on the border. Finally, the Egyptians, Assyrians and Israelites will sign a freedom of movement treaty. If only!

Chapter 20

God tells Isaiah to take off his clothes and shoes and wander naked around Egypt and Ethiopia, because the king of Assyria did the same thing to some Egyptian prisoners and it was humiliating? This will somehow inspire them to rise up against their oppressors.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 16-18: More threats

Chapter 16

Now suddenly Isaiah has some sympathy for the poor, hot Moabite women with no mans. Now the Israelites can take them in as concubines. That's it, though. The whole rest of the country is to wail and beat its collective chest at the loss of everything else. All this will happen within three years.

Chapter 17

Isaiah runs out of mean things to say about Moab and turns his attention to Syria. First, Damascus will be in ruins. He will leave a few berries and grapes for gleaning, so that the grateful Syrians will look upon god as a saviour. And of course because this is a book written by farmers before the invention of things like irrigation and nitrogen-fixing, there is a bit about agriculture, namely that god will cause the crops to wither on the vines. Then other countries will invade, but they won't succeed in conquering Syria.

Chapter 18

Isaiah seems to be running out of steam. He can only work up the energy to call Ethopia a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled! (v. 2) God doesn't have any great plans for Ethopia, just to hang out in the hills and wreck the weather so the crops don't grow. Then he'll scatter the people but there's no talk of making them bald or sending plagues or anything, just benign neglect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 14 & 15: The single most influential chapter in the entire bible

Chapter 14

The Babylonians will enslave the Israelites then be enslaved in their turn and their king will be sent to hell. Apparently we get the one and only reference to Lucifer in the entire bible: How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! (v. 12), which must make this one verse the most influential in the entire book, given how much press it has generated. Oh, and he's going to punish his children as well, natch, because heaven forbid we should let that go unsaid.

There are also some threats for Assyria, the most interesting of which is that a serpent is going to give birth to a cockatrice, which is going to give birth to a fiery flying serpent (v. 29), which I guess is then going to destroy all of Palestine so its people can be free.

Chapter 15

Moab's fate is that all the men are going to get alopecia. The weaving industry is going to go to pot and they'll be forced to wear sackcloth. This vain group of early metrosexuals will then run around wailing at their lack of co-ordinating separates.

Then there are some boilerplate threats: withered fields, people scattered, blah, blah, blah, but at last god will make the rivers run with blood and lions will eat the survivors.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 12 & 13: Cognitive Dissonance

Chapter 12

Six blessedly short verses all about finding peace and salvation in god. Too bad the entire rest of the book is a series of lunatic rants against Israel's enemies and predictions of a messiah that no one will be alive to confirm.

Chapter 13

First rant: Babylon. Hoo boy is god pissed at Babylon. His revenge: raise an army to destroy the land whilst simultaneously making the Babylonians' knees weak and melting their hearts. What does it say about you when your deity is so uncertain of your ability to win all by yourselves that he has to render your enemies completely helpless? I think it says your priestly caste wants the credit.

Nasty anti-woman insult: the enemies will wail like women in childbirth. And the women, who did not write this book, will roll their eyes.

God will blot out all light whilst making the people's faces go up in flames, shake the heavens, and move earth around a bit. He's going to run all the Babylonians and their families through with swords, dash their children to pieces and rape their women. What a charming fellow he sounds like.

Babylon will become so unpleasant that only satyrs and dragons will want to live there. Already I'm counting the chapters until this book is over: 53. 53 more chapters of this drivel.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 10 & 11: Watch out Assyria, you're next

Chapter 10

Just a few chapters after he was telling us that god would spare no one, not even widows and children who had turned against him, he's now condemning people who pass laws doing the same thing. Talk about your 'do as I say, not as I do' deities!

Then he outlines his plan to get the Assyrians good by sending them to war and letting them win and get all the spoils. This will make him really arrogant, then god will cut him down to size and make all his soldiers starve to death. Then he'll burn down all his crops and forests. Then he'll send a plague to kill the people.

As a result, naturally, the Israelites will be enslaved. But after a while, god will rescue them. Aren't psychopathic divine beings the best?

Chapter 11

More prophesying about the messiah, who will smite all the sinners. Also, did you know that 'the lion will lay down with the lamb' is not the actual verse? Verse 6 really says The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Also lions will become vegetarians and children will play in snakes' dens. I hope nobody ever tested this chapter out. Then there will be peace. And more smiting. Because you can never stop smiting.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 8 & 9: Mahershalalhashbaz?

Chapter 8

God tells Isaiah to pick up a pen and a pad of paper, because he's going to tell him about Mahershalalhashbaz. Then he has sex with a prophetess, who gets pregnant and has a son called, wait for it, Mahershalalhashbaz. I know, I know, you were all thinking the name would be Immanuel. What was the pen for, exactly?

Before the kid is able to talk, all the spoils of last chapter's war will be taken away by the king of Assyria, because the Israelites have been bad. Then he tells the foreigners to be afraid, because he's going to crush them, so they'd better convert now. God will keep talking to Isaiah, because his family are meant to be a warning to the people of Judah. Nope, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but they can't edit it out.

Chapter 9

The darkness and despair will not last forever. I reckon a year or so, until I finish this book. But Isaiah is talking about his messiah, who will free the people and vanquish their enemies and peace will be upon the land.

The leaders who lead the Israelites astray will be killed, along with the wives and children of hypocrites. So everybody, then. Who will do the killing? Not god, men. They'll even kill their own brothers. They will also become ravenously hungry, so much so that they eat their own arms. Or children, depending how you want to interpret it. Then all the Israelite tribes will turn on each other.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Isaiah, Chapter 7: Jesus is coming! Maybe!

War! But the Israelites defeat their enemies pretty easily. God tells Isaiah and his son to go and meet the king in the washing field at the end of an aqueduct. Why it can't be in his palace or in a fancy hotel, where a king would not stick out like a sore thumb is not explained. And what are they supposed to tell him in this primitive laundromat? Not to be afraid because god is on their side. That certainly seems worth all the drama and intrigue.

Then like all skilled liars, god challenges the king, Ahaz, to test him on his sincerity. Ahaz refuses, but god, ever the show-off, insists on testing himself, therefore proving... absolutely nothing. What he will do is, get ready for it... get a virgin pregnant! Or young woman, depending how you interpret your Hebrew. I say since 'I'm a virgin, I swear! This is god's baby!' usually works so well, good for her for pulling it off. Anyway, this pregnant virgin is going to call her son Immanuel and give him the best of foods so he'll know the difference between good and evil. As you can imagine, Jerry Falwell's bible is having multiple orgasms at this point because clearly this is a sign that Jesus' birth is imminent. Except not, because by his very own dating system, all this is taking place between 736 and 720 BC and Jesus won't be born for another 700-odd years. So what god is doing here is saying to a king that he's going to prove he's not lying now by making something happen in 700 years, according to Jerry. Totally the best way to win an argument the other person is refusing to have with you.

Far more relevant than a 700-years distant birth to an unnamed virgin living somewhere on the planet Earth, god also tells Ahaz that the Assyrians and the Egyptians are going to attack, and god is going to use a razor to shave off all Ahaz' head and foot hair. Of course Jerry ignores the part that Isaiah has clearly been digging into the wacky tabacky by this point. The same day as the foot-shaving, a man with a cow and two sheep will somehow produce enough milk and honey to feed everybody, and all the crops are going to wither and fail. But don't worry! Jesus will be along in 700 years' time!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 6: The Dumbing-Down of the Israelites

Jerry Falwell loves this entire book, because it 'predicts' Jesus if you read the tea leaves right. Apparently it has never occurred to him the people writing the New Testament needed to convince followers of the Old Testament that it was true so they changed the narrative to fit it. This was easy because they were writing a minimum of 300 years after the events supposedly took place and they didn't exactly have digital video back then.

Chapter 6

Isaiah tells us he's been to the house of the lord, which is how you know he's lying. He's even been in god's throne room. God's throne is flanked by two six-winged angels. Why six wings? Well, two to cover the faces, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. It makes perfect sense! And what they do is shout Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory (v. 3) and I dissolve into giggles picturing Allen Ginsberg shrieking at his audience about assholes and marijuana. Then when god enters the doorposts shake and the room fills with smoke. I supposed in the days before special effects that was pretty impressive, but now it sounds like a haunted house for the under-4s.

Isaiah whines about about being unworthy of standing in the lord's house, and one of the angels has the most bat-shit crazy solution I've ever heard of: he picks up a burning coal from the altar and flies over to Isaiah, where he puts it against his lips and promises it will purify him. Fortunately I can't find any video evidence of true believers out there who continue this practice, but if we have snake handlers and people looking for the Red Heifer I've no doubt there are nutters out there kissing their barbecues.

Then god comes out and asks who his visitor is. So much for omniscience. Isaiah raises his hand and god tells him to go back and tell the people to hear but not understand, watch but not perceive. He wants them to get fat, so fat their ears are blocked and they can't see. Why? He doesn't want them converting. How long do they have to be stupid for? Until the cities are empty and the land has gone to waste. Weird.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 4 & 5: This chapter brought to you by the alcohol producers of ancient Israel

Chapter 4

On the day women all get scalp disease and lose all their finery and access to deodorant, they'll get so desperate for a man that 7 of them will take hold of one guy and beg and plead him to marry them, and will even agree to provide their own bread and clothes, as long as they can get his name and be respectable. I can think of one society that's in dire need of a good Beyoncé concert.

Anyone who manages to stay in Jerusalem will be called holy, because god is going to kill the women and burn down the city and build a temple.

Chapter 5

A song about Isaiah's male lover's vineyard:

He tilled the soil and planted the grapes, then built a tower in the middle with a grape-press inside. Nope, not a sexual metaphor at all! But alas, the vineyard didn't yield good grapes! So he decides to destroy it because, get this, there is no vineyard! It's a parable about Israel!

Much like Elijah and Elisha from way back in Kings, Isaiah cannot stand it when other people have fun. So he starts threatening people who enjoy drinking, music, smoking or food, because they all distract from god. It's completely the opposite message of Ecclesiastes, but since no one has actually read this book in its entirety, who cares?

Anyway, the result of all this enjoyment is that god is going to sell the Israelites into captivity and then into hell. This will somehow bring them back to god.

There is one good piece of advice in this chapter, in verse 22, which reminds us not to mix grains when drinking. Also, don't drink cheap red wine unless you want a cheap red wine hangover, which necessitates a trip to McDonald's, which they didn't even have back then, so life sucked. Also you're going to hell.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 2 & 3: Is it the end of days already?

Chapter 2

We start off with one of those prophesies that will be so important in the New Testament. In this case, god is going to build a house on top of a mountain that's on top of a mountain. It will be holier than either mountain, and people will climb both of them to worship there. It'll be a kind of school, where people will go to learn about god's laws, but also about peace because they'll beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (v. 4).

Now some criticism of the house of Jacob: they're trading with people in the east, they've turned to soothsaying and hobnobbing with strangers. They've been enriching themselves with gold and horses and worshipping false idols that they made themselves. But of course, god he is a'comin' for some judgin' and punishin'. He advises them to hide their idols in the rocks for the bats and moles to worship.

Chapter 3

God has decided to starve and dehydrate Jerusalem and Judah, and to humiliate them by putting obnoxious babies in charge, because right now they're behaving abominably.

How badly are they behaving? Well, women and children are in charge! Imagine! Not only that, the women are walking around with their heads high, looking people in the eye, shaking their moneymakers, and wearing shoes with bells on. So god is going to give them scalp disease and discover their secret parts (v. 17) whatever that means. He gives a long list of all the baubles and ornaments god is going to take away from these poor women, leaving them smelly and wearing sackcloth. Men are only going to die.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Isaiah, Chapters 1: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse

Fun's over kids. From now until the New Testament it's just a slog of major and minor prophets no one's ever heard of or read, hectoring us to love and obey god, starting with Isaiah.

Isaiah starts off with a bang, telling us that unlike oxen and asses, who know their masters, the Israelites have become rebellious, evil, corrupt sinners and god's pissed. As a result from the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. (v. 6-7). Jerusalem is abandoned and on the brink of turning into Sodom and Gomorrah.

Then god takes the microphone and says he's finally sick of barbecued meat and incense and has decided to ignore their prayers. I can't help noticing, as I slog through this under-edited book, how many times god tells his people he isn't going to help them anymore in their times of need, and how convenient that is, 'Your crops are failing? Lalala! I can't hear you!' He tells them if they just obey, he'll come back again.

More on the cities, from people who have since moved to the suburbs: it's full of prostitutes, it was once good but now murderers live there, it's full of people who cheat you with fake silver and watered-down wine; the city leaders are corrupt and only help their friends, ignoring widows and orphans. So god decides to 'clean the place up' as so many a reform-minded mayor has tried and failed to do.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 8: All good things...

Our heroine wishes her lover were her brother so she could kiss him in public. Do you kiss your brother in public? That's creepy. It gets worse: then she'd take him home and let him drink her pomegranate juice (v. 2) while hugging her. Yup, that's beyond the level of contact I'm comfortable with from my brother.

We find out they had sex under the same apple tree as where the hero's mother gave birth. Whether that's a real apple tree or a bed, I don't find it hot. She asks him to seal his heart and possibly get a tattoo of her to ward off jealousy.

Love is all-consuming. Only if you do it wrong. Then there's some bizarre talk about marrying off pre-menstrual girls. They decide that if she's a virgin, they'll seal her up, and if she's not, they'll seal her up. Our heroine is one of the virgins, which is why her lover takes such great delight in her. Ugh. I'm reading a book about this virginity fetishisation called 'The Purity Myth' and some of the stuff it describes is every bit as gross.

Then she's describing one of Solomon's vineyards that he lets out for the princely sum of 1000 pieces of silver. She says he can till her soil for free, and she'll even pay the keepers of fruit 200 pieces of silver for their labour. Then she commands him into the garden for some more loving.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 7: Are your boobs more like grapes or Bambi?

Our hero continues his weird compliments streak, telling his mistress her feet and thighs are like jewels. What, he doesn't like her calves or her knees? Her ankles aren't sexy enough? Her navel is like a goblet filled with wine and her belly like a heap of wheat surrounded by lilies. Huh? And again with the Bambi boobs. Also, her neck is like a tower, her eyes like fish ponds, and her nose... is also like a tower? I'm thinking he's operating on the 'keep her self-esteem low so she'll sleep with you' principle. He does like her hair, though.

The complements get even weirder: she has the posture of a palm tree, and her breasts are like bunches of grapes. Wait, did they have implants back then? Then he talks about climbing up her so he can fondle her breasts and smell her breath, which he imagines is like apples. I'm totally lost.

He can't wait to kiss her, or for her to go down on him, you decide which.

Then she starts talking about another outdoor tryst in the vineyard. She also mentions mandrakes, which can either mean paganism or fertility.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 6

Our heroine is still seeking her lover, who has gone down to the garden to pick some herbs. He starts talking about how hot she is, with her goat's hair and full set of teeth.

But wait! He tells her that of his 60 queens and 80 concubines, she's the hottest, which makes this not so much a sweet poem about first love (if you can ignore the beatings, which I can't), but a ploy to add yet another woman to his harem, and if you remember that statistics, there are another 859 to come.

Not only that, our heroine is an only child, which is going to doubly disappoint her mother. But if it's any consolation, Solomon's other 140 wives all agree that this new one is the hottest of all of them.

He goes down to the garden to look for her, but somehow she has gone home, so he begs her to come back. Right. To being one among 140.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 5: Did you poop before sex?

Solomon is sitting in the garden, eating a bunch of 'sexy' foods like honey, wine and milk that would actually make most people's stomachs turn, and perfuming himself with myrrh. The woman is asleep but hears him in her dreams asking to come in. She's not really in the mood at first, and doesn't want to put on her robe or re-wash her feet to open the door, but then she hears him fiddling with the lock and her bowels move. I'm pretty sure that's an expression that hasn't kept up with the time. Then again, Snooki recently admitted that she poops before sex, so who knows?

Anyway, once she has uh, defecated, she puts some more perfume on and opens the door, only to find her beloved has gone. She chases after him, calling his name, only to be found and beaten by the city watchmen. God, that's depressing. Unfortunately, it only makes her more lovesick and she asks her friends to tell him she's looking for him.

Like any good friend, they ask what makes this guy so special, and mostly it's his looks: ruddy cheeks, wavy black hair, nice eyes, kissable lips, good breath, strong hands, six pack, swimmer's legs. Mmm, swimmers' legs. Oh, and apparently he's also her friend. Yeah, the kind of friend who gets you beaten up while mind fucking you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 4: Goat hair?

Pillow talk was different 2000 years ago. We're back to the male protagonist, who tells his lover that her eyes are like doves and her hair is like a flock of goats winding its way down from Gilead. Sold!

Teeth were just as important, and our heroine's are not only as white as a freshly-bathed sheep, she has all of them. Her lips are red, she speaks well, and her forehead is like... pomegranate. Um, I see pomegranate, I think 'acne.' Maybe this is supposed to be like Sonnet 130? Because in the next verse we find out she has a neck like a linebacker's and her boobs are like twin fawns. That's right: Bambi breasts. Sexy.

In a non sequitur, he has to go hunting for expensive perfumes for the evening. Then? Because she's so hot? Possibly? He asks her to leave Lebanon and come live with him.

He loves her more than wine. Her lips are like honeycombs. Her clothes smell of cedar. Mmmm cedar. He thinks of her as a locked garden, full of spices. He invites the wind to blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out (v. 16). Awesome. Cunnilingus rocks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 3: All night long

Our heroine wakes up at night and reaches for her lover but doesn't find him. So she goes out onto the city streets looking for him, which is never a good idea. The sentries haven't seen him, but shortly afterwards she finds him and brings him back to fulfill many a person's dirty sex fantasy of doing in their parents' bed. Yes seriously into the chamber of her that conceived me (v. 4)

She asks her acolytes once again to let her lover sleep, and again while she's talking he comes out of the forest in a cloud of perfume. And he has... a bed? I don't know. With 70 men surrounding it, every man hath his sword upon his thigh (v. 8), which I like to think of as yet another extremely kinky sex fantasy because it's more fun that way and this book is drastically short of fun. We have Isaiah coming up, which is 66 chapters of hectoring misogyny.

Anyway, Solomon also has a chariot made of cedar which is decorated in his typical over-the-top style of a 12 year old girl: silver posts, gold bottom, purple cushions, decorated by the daughters of Jerusalem, who seem to have appallingly bad taste. He invites the girls to come and see him in his crown, which his mother gave him on his wedding day. The happiest day of his life. So happy that he did it 999 more times. Like a drug addict or something.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Song of Solomon, Chapter 2: Porntastic

Are heroine is so hot, she makes all the other concubines look like thorns next to lilies. She compares him to an apple tree in the forest and tells us how much she likes to sit under his shadow (v. 2) and taste his fruit. Nope, not about oral sex at all.

Afterwards, she makes him take her out for dinner, because that's all women want out of men, fancy dinners of cakes and apples, to replenish her stores.

Then we get into sex positions, although this one is pretty tame face-to-face missionary, which is excusable because this book represents the birth of porn as we know it and they're learning as they go along.

Now the woman is talking to the other daughters of Jerusalem about how important it is not to wake a man up after sex. But then while she's talking he does wake up and comes bounding down to the harem for more nookie. He pulls her away from her lecture, which, rude, because he wants to do it in the forest again because it's springtime. He begs her to take off her veil and... chase foxes from the vineyards? It's kind of incongruous. Then they have a picnic and an all night... prayer session, until he leaves again in the morning.