Monday, March 31, 2014

Tobit, Chapter 7: Worst. Wedding. EVER.

Tobias and the angel finally arrive at Raguel's house. Sara opens the door and she and Tobias check each other out but for all this book is about the importance of kinship, he doesn't introduce himself. Sara's father comments to his wife Edna that Tobias looks a lot like his cousin, and asks him where he's from. Tobias is evasive, only giving his tribal affiliation and current address. Raguel asks if they know Tobit and if he's in good health, which is when Tobias finally introduces himself. This makes Raguel cry. When Tobias explains about the blindness, Edna and Sara also start to cry. Then the five of them barbecue and eat an entire sheep, at which point Tobias is ready to get married, so he asks the angel to explain about how he owns his cousin and therefore gets to marry her.

Of course, Raguel doesn't bat an eye, but fortunately there's an entire gif montage that was just made for this book:

No, Raguel's concern is not about a random weirdo showing up and claiming the right to marry his daughter. He's totally on board with that, it's just that the last seven dudes all died the minute they tried to have sex with her. He encourages Tobias to drink up, but Tobias is no longer interested in being a good guest and says that until they come to an agreement, he's not eating or drinking anything.

At that, Raguel relents and tells Sara she's marrying this guy she met 5 seconds ago and moving to a new country with him. Then they have supper. Next, he instructs his wife to bring in some paper so he can make up a marriage contract, and also to prepare a bridal suite in one of the spare bedrooms. Edna takes her poor daughter into the room to get ready and tells her to close her eyes and think of England.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tobit, Chapter 6: I don't know which is worse, the medical advice or the marital advice.

Tobias and the angel start out on their journey. The first night, they take lodgings near the Tigris river. Since indoor plumbing hasn't been invented yet, Tobias goes down to the river for a bath. While he's washing himself, a fish leaps out of the water and tries to eat him. Raphael, mindful of the tip Tobit promised him if he returns Tobias in one piece, instructs him to get hold of the fish, remove its heart, liver and gallbladder and put them somewhere safe. Then they have a nice fish fry for dinner.

The next day, they head for a place called Ecbatane. To make conversation, Tobias asks what the angel intends to do with the fish organs. Raphael explains that if they smoke the heart and liver near someone who is possessed by a devil, it will drive the evil spirit away. The gall cures white eyes. Perfectly good alternatives to psychotropic drugs and cataract surgery, which is why you see biblical literalists using them all the time.

At some later point, they arrive in Rages and Raphael drops the bombshell on Tobias that they're going to his cousin Raguel's house, where Tobias is going to exercise his right to claim her as his wife. Sure, Raphael tries to spin it as she's pretty and smart and she can't marry anyone else because according to Mosaic law, her father has to marry her to Tobias because he doesn't have any sons and so Tobias is now his heir, but it still earns this reaction from Alison Brie:

Tobias, demonstrating that he's possibly not the idiot his parents think he is, asks about Sara's other seven husbands who all died in bed with her. He doesn't want to be Henry the Eighth. Raphael reminds him of how he promised his father he'd marry one of his kinswomen and promises to take care of the evil spirit. Oh, also this is where the fish stuff will come in handy: he's supposed to smoke the heart and liver of the fish and lie down on a bed of ashes of perfume (v. 16). The devil will smell all of this and run away, as would any sane bride. But then Sara has already been married to seven guys who all died when they tried to have sex with her, which does not speak well of her mental state. Anyway, as further assurance against premature death, but not premature ejaculation, Tobias and Sara are also supposed to pray to god when they first go into the honeymoon suite, following which Sara will be able to go home with him and start on the continual pregnancies. This causes Tobias to fall in love.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tobit, Chapters 4 & 5: Biblical Helicopter Parents

Chapter 4

Tobit suddenly remembers some money that he has buried, or owes or is owed by or quite possibly promised to donate to someone or something or someplace called Gabael. He also remembers that he wants to die, and now his dilemma is whether to tell his son Tobias about the money. He calls his son to his deathbed and tells him not to hate his mother, which does seem like the least he could do, and makes him promise to bury her. He also asks him to be mindful of god and most importantly not to marry a foreign bride or it will lead to famine. Also, pay his workers, stay sober, don't be jealous, and listen to wise people. Then he tells him he owes Gabael, but not to worry, it won't make them broke.

Chapter 5

Tobias promises to do everything his father asks, then immediately tries to weasel out of paying Gabael back, saying he doesn't know who he is. Rather than give him a description or an address, Tobit gives him a sample of the guy's handwriting, which I suppose might work, considering the literacy rate back then was something like 1%. He also recommends hiring a guide. Tobias unwittingly hires the angel Raphael. He asks him if he knows Rages, the city he's supposed to go to, and Raphael says he once lived with Gabael in a strictly platonic way. Tobias goes to tell his father that he's found a guide, and because he's apparently an idiot, Tobit demands to meet the guide before they leave. Raphael goes into Tobit's sick room, and Tobit demands to know his tribal affiliation. Raphael asks if he's hiring a tribe or a guide, and Tobit says he needs to know who's taking his son to the city. Raphael lies and says his name is Azarias and explains his connection to Tobit's tribe. Tobit likes Azarias' people and approves of him as his son's babysitter. Then he asks how much money Raphael wants, and if he requires a per diem, and promises a tip if he returns Tobias alive. At this point I'm starting to wonder if sending Tobias at all is a good idea, considering the amount of hand-holding he apparently needs.

Finally, Tobias and his dog and Raphael are ready to go. Tobit blesses them and stands in the driveway waving them off. Anna is in tears, because she also realises how stupid her kid is, and asks why this ten talents is so frigging important to Tobit. Tobit, after all that drama with the guide thing, assures his wife that their son will come back safe

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tobit, Chapter 3: Psst! Your slaves hate you

Tobit starts crying and praying to god for forgiveness and asking to be killed.

At the same time, a woman named Sara is reproaches by one of her father's slave girls. The slave retorts that Sara has had seven husbands, each of whom has been killed by a devil named Asmodeus right after having sex with her, but apparently people say Sara strangled them. Then she says she hopes Sara dies and never has kids. Rather than just saying

Sara runs upstairs to sulk. But seriously, how un-self-aware do you have to be to think your SLAVES don't talk smack about you behind your back? She contemplates killing herself but ultimately decides against it, as she's her father's only daughter. So she prays to god to kill her. She claims that despite her seven husbands, she's pure from all sin with man (v. 14) which earns her an eyeroll from Frank Underwood:

And begs that if she must live, could god at least stop people from saying nasty things about her. God sends the angel Raphael down to kill three birds with one stone: first, he removes the scales from Tobit's eyes, then he gives Sara to Tobit, because she belonged to Tobias by right of inheritance (v. 17) thus earning them one last GIF from Marty McFly:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tobit, Chapters 1 & 2: There's a body in your duck pond, there, Anna

Chapter 1

Tobit was taken captive by the Assyrians, but remained pious and gave all he had to his family. At some point when he's a kid, everyone goes to see King Jeroboam's golden calves, but he runs off to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the temple for the next 3 years.

When he grows up, he marries Anna and has a son, Tobit Jr., who he indoctrinates from infancy. Then they're taken captive and enslaved by the Ninivians, who don't follow Jewish dietary practices, but he insists on keeping kosher. This somehow endears him to King Salamansar, who gives him free reign, which of course he uses to harangue his fellow enslaved Israelites.

One day he's in the city of Rages and he happens to have 10 talents of silver burning a hole in his pocket. He sees one of his tribesmen is in need and gives him the money.

Some later year, which is exactly how vague the bible is about dates, Salamansar dies and his son Sennacherib takes over. Sennacherib is a raging anti-Semite, but he does not reign in Tobit, who continues to go around distributing clothes and food to the needy and burying the dead. In fact, Sennacherib is too busy conquering Judea, until god gets pissed off at him and he flees. When he arrives back in Ninive, where, to assuage his humiliation, he kills a bunch of Israelites. Tobit buries them, which further enrages Sennacherib, who orders him dead and takes away everything, including his clothing, so that Tobit, Anna, and Tobit Jr. end up running away naked and hiding in a ditch. 45 days later, Sennacherib's sons kill him, at which point Tobit comes back and is able to reclaim his house and his pants. Fascinating. I can see why the Apocrypha were left out.

Chapter 2

At some point, Tobit is having a dinner prepared in his house. The fact he's not doing it himself leads me to believe that the dude who has already been enslaved twice has not learned a thing from his experience. Anyway, he tells his son to go round up some guests for the feast, but his son comes back right quick to report that an Israelite has been killed in the street. Tobit leaped up from his place at the table, and left his dinner, and came fasting to the body (v. 3). Like, dude, you do NOT get to stop eating for an hour and call it a fast like you're some kind of champion saint, okay? Anyway, he collects the body and hides it, intending to bury it after dark and the fact that this is emphasised so much is making me wonder if it's a fetish, especially when the book describes him just sitting there with a dead body, eating bread. At sunset, he buries the body.

This irritates his neighbours, not for the reason you might expect, namely that the guy is turning his house into an amateur morgue and unlicensed graveyard, but because he's already been sentenced to death once. Honestly, if my neighbour was doing that and he was killed as a result... I wouldn't be too broken up about it, especially in summer.

But no, Tobit fears god more than the king and at this particular point god is super concerned with what happens to dead bodies, something only occasionally mentioned in the Old Testament, which lends further credence to my fetish theory, and he keeps hiding them in his house and burying them at night. One day he gets tired of burying people and sits down by the wall to take a nap. While he's sleeping, a bird shits on his face and somehow blinds him, even though his eyes were presumably closed. But no, this is a test from god in a similar vein to what happened to poor Job, except that Job had 10 kids and was rich and happy and ended up naked on a dungheap scratching himself with a pottery shard and Tobit has a bunch of dead bodies lying around his house and yard in a hot climate before embalming was invented. In other words, the loss ought not to be as meaningful.

Much like Job, Tobit refuses to curse god, though thankfully we don't have 42 chapters of him bitching, either. Nope, he just sits there patiently and ignores people who make fun of his necrophilia. His wife continues at her weaving job, no doubt grateful that she no longer comes home and finds corpses littering the floors she JUST washed. One day, someone gives her a young kid goat and she takes it home. Tobit hears it bleating, and tells her to take it back, because they can't eat or touch something that was stolen. Poor Anna can only roll her eyes at this apparent new fetish and argues that all his piety has left him blind and sitting in a fucking graveyard that she no doubt imagined with a nice gazebo and maybe a fish pond, not a bunch of cadavers. The scene ends with her continuing to upbraid him.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2 Esdras, Chapter 16: Can we go to Paradise Island?

God's, or possibly Esdras' hate list today includes Babylon, Egypt and Syria. He urges the residents to dress in hair shirts and sackcloth and prepare for swords, fire, plagues, lions, arrows, thunderstorms, earthquakes and tidal waves. Esdras can't wait.

We're told that food will be cheap, but people will still starve and no one will be around to bury them, nor will there be anyone to till the fields. In fact, cities will be reduced to 10 residents and you know it will be the most annoying ones, the people who go out onto their balconies and shout insults down the phone at 2am or who play club music all. afternoon.

The virgins will 'mourn' at the lack of bridegrooms, as will the women and the daughters, because the mans will die in the wars and famines. Which is how you know whoever wrote this was a man, because Paradise Island sounds awesome. Pregnant women will give birth and immediately have pain in their uteruses, which seems both prurient and gratuitous.

Esdras tells us all to quit our jobs, since the world is ending and god apparently hates employment more than anything. He also warns that a bunch of infidels will invade and kill the believers, but not to worry, god's still on your side. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

2 Esdras, Chapter 15, Widowhood is a sign of the apocalypse

The angel tells Esdras to go and heckle people and don't worry if they ignore him like they did all the other prophets, because the sinners are going to hell, after god does a bunch of nasty shit to the world. He promises to bring his people back from Egypt, even though we're supposed to be just getting back from Babylon.

Anyway, there will be sedition and people will no longer follow the secular leaders, i.e. the kings and princes. People will want to go to cities, but will be mysteriously unable to. The cities themselves will become Detroit-style hellholes, and god will foment rebellion between them and between kingdoms.

God already knows who the sinners are, which begs the question as to why he isn't acting. For now it's plagues and visions of Arabian dragons and Carmanian wild boars attacking Assyria. It's not clear why this is supposed to intimidate the Israelites, but okay. Oh, eventually the Arabian dragons that conquer Arabia will also attack Israel. For now, there are thunder clouds and a layer of shit as high as a camel's shin, which is what you get when there isn't a Sulabh around.

Other ways to tell the end times are near: wind, clouds, stars, fire, hail, flying swords, rain, destruction of everything, and the invasion of Babylon. Note that only some of those are notable. Eventually the Babylonians will be enslaved, and so will the rest of Asia because... hast decked thy daughters in whoredom, that they might please and glory in thy loves, which have always desired to commit whoredom with thee! (v. 47) Other signs: plagues, widowhood, poverty, famine, sword, pestilence, to waste thy houses with destruction and death (v. 49) and thy children shall die of hunger, and thou shalt fall through the sword: thy cities shall be broken down, and all thine shall perish with the sword in the field. They that be int he mountains shall die of hunger, and eat their own flesh, and drink their own blood, for very hunger of bread and thirst of water. (v. 57-58). Also, their children will be enslaved and all the hot people will get scars.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

2 Esdras, Chapter 14: Candleheart

A few days later, Esdras is sitting under a tree, which starts talking to him. God reminds us that he also spoke to Moses from a bush, and reminds Esdras to take notes on what he's seen and heard, because soon he's going to join Jesus' entourage and then the wold is going to end, because it isn't the spring chicken it once was.

At some point, god divided the world into 12 parts. Ten and a half of those parts have gone and died. So he tells Esdras to get his affairs in order and hector people to repent before that part and a half is used up. Esdras agrees, but is concerned about who will harangue the future people, since at some point apparently the law got burnt. He wants god to send down the holy ghost so he can write all this down.

God tells him to gather the people together so he can tell them to leave him alone for 40 days. In that time, he's supposed to take box trees to Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ecanus and Asiel. When he gets back, god will light a candle of understanding in his heart until he finishes writing. God will specify which of the writing is public and which is for the priests.

Esdras gathers the people so he can berate them and offer them 40 days of respite. He takes five men to the field with him. In the morning, the angel tells him to open his mouth and drink. The cup is full of fire-coloured liquid that makes him understand and remember. He starts yapping constantly, and the other dudes write it down, but only during the day. At night they eat bread, but Esdras prattles on. At the end of 40 days, they've produced 204 books, which are probably of the excellent quality you'd expect when someone writes a book a day for nearly six weeks. God tells him he can put the first book in the library, but the last 70 books are only for the priests.

Monday, March 3, 2014

2 Esdras, Chapter 13: Fire Jesus

After 7 more days of no protein, Esdras starts hallucinating again. A wind comes off the sea, and he sees a man whose gaze causes earthquakes and whose voice burns people alive. An army comes to attack the guy, and he creates a mountain, then flies to the top of it. Esdras doesn't know where the mountain is, because he's too stoned. The army fights even though the men are afraid. Rightly so, since the dude on the mountain breathes fire and hurricanes, which he turns on the army, reducing them to dust.

The man comes down the mountain and calls out to another, more peaceable group. Some are happy, but others not so much. At this point, Esdras wakes up in fear and asks the angel what the hell just happened. He starts answering his own question, that the dream was about the end of days. He feels sorry for the people left on earth.

The angel agrees but clarifies that the people on earth are lucky, because the dude in the sea is some version of Jesus, and he'll give order to the chaos of the apocalypse, first by burning the sinners, then by rewarding the righteous. At first, there will be a lot of fighting, and the bad guys will want to fight Jesus as well, hence the mountain, which is Zion. From there, he'll punish the sinners with fire.

The good guys in the dream were 10 tribes who were first enslaved by a king Osea, then by Salmansar of Assyria, who took them overseas. The tribesmen agreed to escape and find a new, uninhabited country, where they put up their statues, which were forbidden in the other places they lived. So they go down the Euphrates and at some point god stops the water so they can cross. They travel for a year and a half until they get to someplace called Asareth, where they've lived up until now.

But now they're coming back to Israel, and god will again stop the rivers so they can cross. He will also burn their enemies. Esdras wants to know why Jesus came out of the sea. The angel replies that scuba gear hasn't been invented yet, so people can't see what's in the ocean. Somehow this also means we can't see Jesus except in daylight. The angel praises Esdras for devoting his life to the law and tells him to wait another 3 days in the field.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2 Esdras, Chapter 12: Geopolitics and eagles

The eagle's head and four of its wings disappear, leaving two wings in charge. That goes about as well as it ever does, and eventually the last two wings go away as well, and the body burns. At that point, Esdras wakes up. He tells the angel he's tired and weak and afraid, mostly because he hasn't had protein for several months. Now he wants god to finally say whether he likes him or not and explain the dream.

The angel does at least consent to tell him what the dream is about: the eagle is the same kingdom Daniel saw in his dream, which wasn't explained at the time, but at some point in the future, a kingdom will be the most powerful country on earth. It'll have 12 kings in a row, and the second one will reign longer than the others. That's what the feathers were. The voice was the civil war that will follow the 12th king. The eight feathers were eight new kings after the civil war. None of them will reign for long, either. The three heads are three other countries that god is going to raise up in the end times. They'll be very powerful and they'll oppress their peoples and they'll be very wicked. The last head will be one of the kings, who will die in bed, but in pain. The other two will kill each other in a sword fight. The last two feathers were a small kingdom that is full of strife. The lion is Jesus, or some variation thereof.

After getting rid of the corrupt leaders, Jesus will be nice to the people so they won't protest to much when the apocalypse arrives. The angel tells Esdras to write all this down and hide it, and eventually teach the people what he learned. But for now he's supposed to wait another 7 days and god will show him more nifty stuff.

For some reason, people are still curious about why Esdras hasn't returned, so they go out to ask him if they've offended him, because that's so hard to do. Apparently he's the last prophet, and they've got so used to being harangued all the time they sort of miss it. He promises that he hasn't abandoned them, he's just praying. He tells them to go home and says he'll be along shortly. Then he sits in the field for another week, eating flowers.