Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 11-15: Goodbye to all that

Chapter 11

Lysias decides to take over the temple and sells the high priest's office to the highest bidder every year. Judas Maccabeus hears about it and raises an army. While they pray, someone appears on horseback dressed in white and gold armour, which does not seem smart, because even though I quit chemistry at the end of high school, I still remember that it's a pretty soft metal and anyone with something harder would just pierce it. In other words, this armour is the equivalent of vanity muscles.

We get the death tolls, and also the information that some of Lysias' forces escape naked. Lysias himself flees and then offers to make peace with the king. Then there's a bunch of letter writing restoring the peace and the ability of the Jews to eat their preferred meats.

Chapter 12

When peace is restored, the city of Joppe convinces its Jews to get on a boat, promising them a pleasure cruise, but really the boat sinks and takes 200 people with it. Judas hears and burns the harbour down at night. He plans to go back and raze the city, but before he can, he hears the Jamnites are planning to pull the same trick on their Jews, which, like, fool me twice, idiots.  But really, Judas has just developed a new fetish for burning down harbours. I mean, he's kind of burnt every other structure at this point.

For a bit, Judas can't find any matches, so instead he goes around doing infrastructure projects. But only for a bit. One of them is to build a bridge to the walled city of Caspis. But the people are so confident of their walls that they're rude to Judas and he hears them shouting and blaspheming from outside. So they kill everyone so hard a lake 14 miles away turns red with the blood. This whets his appetite for killing again, so he goes and does that for awhile, supposedly in search of the general Timotheus, but really because he's a mass murderer. He does eventually catch up with Timotheus, and exchanges him for several of his men's parents, but the number of deaths in this chapter is staggering.

At some point they have to stop fighting so they can bury the dead, and as they go to loot their bodies, they discover they were all carrying false idols, so they also get to act smug about the enemies whose gods have failed to protect them.

Chapter 13

This chapter starts with a lovely description of a tower in a town called Berea where they kill all the sinners by throwing them off the top into a giant fire. King Antiochus arrives in Berea intending to do far worse, for some damned reason. Judas hears about the plan and goes to the king's camp one night and kills 4000 of his men and the biggest elephants. Apparently this makes the king think the Jews are manly.

Chapter 14

Now Demetrius is back and he killed king Antiochus and Lysias. He comes to the high priest Alcimus, who has sinned by mixing with gentiles, and gives him some tat for his temple. Demetrius meets with him and asks what the Jews actually want. Alcimus tells him Judas Maccabeus is a bloodthirsty warmonger who doesn't actually want peace and the people are miserable. Seems pretty accurate. So the king appoints someone to kill Judas, but they make peace and the guy buys a nice house in Jerusalem, where Judas frequently comes to tea and he urges him to get married and start a family. Judas does and he does calm down some, but Alcimus the priest is jealous and tells the king his general has appointed Judas the crown prince. This causes a rift between Judas and the general, and the general goes to the temple to make up, but Judas won't see him and the priests won't tell him where he is. So he threatens to pull down the temple and build a pagan one instead. One of the priests is an old man named Razis, speaks out, and the general sends 500 men to take him, but instead he conducts a long, elaborate suicide that ends with him throwing his disemboweled intestines at a crowd. It's worse than torture porn.

Chapter 15

The general pursues Judas into Samaria during the sabbath. He happens to have some Jews in his army who don't want to attack anyone on the day of rest. But the general tells them to fight anyway. And they refuse.

Judas, for his part, is confident nothing will happen and sets about praying. While he's doing that, a man with grey hair appears and gives him a useless gold sword, which he uses to kill the general. Then he desecrates the body. The writer of the book encourages us to read it with a big glass of wine.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 6-10: A treatise on pooping

Chapter 6

During a lull in the fighting, the king sends an old man from Athens to convince the Jews to stop being Jews. His method for doing this is to rename the temple after Jupiter and to let the gentiles hold wild sex parties inside. He also outlaws the sabbath and public declarations of Judaism and forces them to celebrate Bacchus. Anyone who refuses will be put to death, starting with two women who have circumcised their sons, who get thrown off the wall. Other people are found worshiping in caves and burnt to death. The book urges us to see these as punishments befitting a wayward people.

Next Eleazar, a scribe, is forced to eat pork, but spits it out, preferring death to bacon. Some of his friends have succumbed, and they urge him to just bring his own meat to the feast so as to avoid the death penalty, but he'd rather die with his principles intact, so he gets killed.

Chapter 7

The Greeks aren't done trying to force the Jews to eat pork, and now they want to force seven brothers and their mother to try it. But they say they're prepared to die, which enrages the king, who tortures them quite graphically. He starts killing them, and as each is led up to die, he insults the king and tells him he's going to hell. Antiochus starts to believe it a bit, and exhorts the last brother with the promise of riches to convert to Greek paganism. He even gets the mother in on the act. But the mother leans in to whisper in his ear that not even roast suckling pig is worth it (wrong). When the son speaks aloud, he also insults the king, who kills him and his mother.

Chapter 8

Judas Maccabeus goes around looking for the remaining Jews and finds about 6000 of them. They pray to god to remember them, then start attacking the heathen by night. The king puts a man named Nicanor in charge, who attempts to defray the costs of the war by selling Jewish captives as slaves. But Judas reminds them of all the times god helped their forefathers. They defeat the Greeks handily and have a sabbath, then distribute all their war booty to poor women and children.

Chapter 9

Antiochus, who is a king, let's remember, goes on a little temple-robbing tour. While he's looting, he gets word of the defeats in Israel, which makes him angry because he'd bragged that he was going to murder all the Jews.

As he's hopping around and screaming, god suddenly strikes him with irritable bowel syndrome, which is fitting because disemboweling is one of his favourite forms of torture. Still he keeps bragging about how he's going to slay all the Jews, so god makes him fall of his chariot, which hurts a lot. Then he gets worms and starts to smell, and eventually he realises it's god doing all this and becomes a Jew.

God isn't satisfied and says he won't give him mercy until he sets Jerusalem free and makes the Jews citizens of Athens and restores the temple at his own expense and goes around proselytising. Even after he agrees, though, he's still stinky and in pain, so he writes a letter to the Jews asking for forgiveness. But even that isn't enough and so he dies in the mountains.

Chapter 10

The Maccabees clean the temple up and pray to god that nothing like that ever happens again. And of course it does the very same day, but they clean up again. Then they hold an 8-day feast. Next we get a recap of 1 Maccabees again, except that this time in one of the battles, 5 handsome horsemen arrive from the sky and lift Judas up with them and kill all his enemies. Other than that, it's even less interesting than the first version.

Monday, February 9, 2015

2 Maccabees, Chapters 1-5: More of the same

Chapter 1

The Jews in Jerusalem write a letter to the Jews in Egypt reminding them of what happened in 1 Maccabees, but embellishing it so they caught Antiochus in a temple and stoned him to death through a skylight and announcing a new holiday because they recently rediscovered a fire that some priests kept in a pit in Persia that turned into thick water (v. 20) when they went to get it.

Chapter 2

This chapter elaborates on the fire story from the last. Now we find out that Jeremy the prophet got hold of the fire and took it up Moses' mountain along with the tabernacle and the ark. When he gets up there, he finds a cave with a door, where he hides the treasure. He hides it so well his followers can't find it. When they ask him about it, he scolds them that they won't see it again until god forgives his people.

Another prophet, Neemias, made the world's most boring library and filled it with bible scrolls. Judas Maccabeus reclaimed a bunch of temple junk from his enemies, repurified the temple, and fought a bunch of wards. We know all of this thanks to Jason of Cyrene, who wrote five volumes, but mercifully the author here agrees to condense them into one

Chapter 3

For awhile, there is peace, but then a tribal leader, Simon, is put in charge of the temple and falls out with the priest. So he tells the governor of a neighbouring territory that the Israelite treasury is full of gold and silver. The governor reports the story to the king, Apollonius, who sends his accountant to Jerusalem to collect the money. The accountant gets to Jerusalem and just outright asks if the story is true, and the priest confirms it is, but also explains that the money is for widows and orphans. But the accountant has his marching orders, and he takes the money despite the sad faces the priests are making in his direction.

God notices the hubbub and sends an horse with a terrible rider upon him, and adorned with a very fair covering, and he rain fiercely, and smote at Heliodorus with his forefeet, and it seemed that he that sat upon the horse had complete harness of gold. / Moreover two other young men appeared before him, notable in strength, excellent in beauty and comely in apparel, who stood by him on either side, and scourged him continually, and gave him many stripes (v. 25-6) This all causes Heliodorus to faint, and his guards to acknowledge god's power. They convert right there and ask the priest to ask god to restore Heliodorus' health. The priest, fearing he'll get blamed if he sends the accountant back broken, makes a sacrifice and the two young men from the vision reappear and tell Heliodorus to thank the priest for giving him back his health.

Heliodorus does, then goes back to the king and tells him how amazing god is. The king isn't quite ready to give up on the treasure, so he asks who he should send, and Heliodorus says only someone he hates, because no one can penetrate Jerusalem as long as god protects it.

Chapter 4

Simon from the last chapter isn't done spreading rumours about the high priest. This time he says everything that happened to Heliodorus was smoke and mirrors. But then things get out of hand and his men start wantonly murdering people. The priest, Onias, turns to king Apollonius, not to tattle, but for the public good.

Meanwhile, Onias' brother Jason also wants to be high priest, and he's attempting to bribe the king with temple silver so he can get planning permission for a gym, which apparently is a heathen practice. The king, seeing the value of Greek-style exercise, has agreed and some Jews have joined and even started wearing hats, which conservative Jews see as profane.

Furthermore, the priests are leaving because they've fallen in love with the discus, of all things and want to spend all their time practicing. Next, there are some Olympic-style games in Tyrus, and rather like Sochi, Jason sends silver to pay for sacrifices to Hercules, which the messengers disapprove of, so it gets spent on gallies instead.

Jason gets even worse when he welcomes Apollonius to Jerusalem and then takes a trip with him to Phenice. Three years later, Jason sends Simon's brother Menelaus to the king to pay tribute and ask for favours. But instead he wrangles a commission as high priest, even though he's a cruel tyrant with a vicious temper. Jason flees and of course Menelaus doesn't pay the promised tribute.

The king calls him and the local governor to his palace to explain the missing money, and Menelaus puts his brother Lysimachus in charge, which causes rebellion in a territory that has been granted to the king's concubine Antiochis. The king leaves to settle the rebellion down, leaving his deputy Andronicus in charge. Menelaus, left alone with the temple, steals a bunch of gold and gives some to Andronicus and sells the rest on the black market.

The original priest, Onias, tries to retreat into a monastery, but Menelaus persuades him to leave and promptly kills him. When the king gets back, the people bitch about the random killing of priests. The king defrocks Andronicus and kills him. Then the city rebels against Lysimachus and kills him next to the treasury. The whole thing gets blamed on Menelaus, who turns to yet another king Ptolemee and promises to make peace if he'll give him money. He manages to stay in charge even as he's widely hated.

Chapter 5

Antiochus is preparing to go to Egypt, but suddenly a group of horseman appears in the sky dressed in gold and armed with lances and starts having a battle that goes on for 40 days. The people pray this is a good omen, but instead a false rumour spreads that Antiochus is dead. Jason immediately starts assaulting the city and randomly murdering civilians. Eventually he meets resistance and has to go on the lam into Egypt.

The king hears about all this and he thinks Judea is revolting, so he attacks and kills a bunch more people, eventually killing 80 000 people in three days. He also destroys the temple. He leaves bad governors in charge. The only hope is Judas Maccabeus, who hides out in the wilderness, biding his time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 14-16: There, the murderers, / steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers / unmannerly breech'd with gore

Chapter 14

More alliance-forming. This time Demetrius is trying to head off Tryphon, but gets kidnapped by the king of Persia. By contrast, Simon is enjoying a period of peace and sets up a welfare state. He renews the peace treaty with Rome and their pen pal relationship. To celebrate, the people make a plaque listing all his deeds, including his love of purple robes, and mount it on a temple pillar on Mount Sion. They also nominate him general for life and make it illegal to question his wisdom or wear your own purple robes. Even Demetrius is somehow able to make peace from him, though the book seems to forget that he's still in prison.

Chapter 15

Antiochus is in exile on an island, but he manages to get a letter to Simon in which he lays out his plans for revenge. In addition, he grants Simon the power to mint his own money and forgives his back taxes.

He manages to get free and goes back to reclaim his crown from Tryphon. Most of the people join his side, so Tryphon flees to a place called Dora. Antiochus besieges him and while he's waiting him out, he receives ambassadors from all of his old ally-enemies, including a gold shield that weighs a thousand pounds, which seems both stupid and impractical.

As the siege goes on, Simon tries to send reinforcements and money, but Antiochus refuses them, then sends an envoy to complain that the Jews have taken over two cities that he considers rightfully his. He wants them back along with their property taxes. Simon basically tells him to fuck off, but does offer him a small tribute. The envoy returns and repeats the conversation in a rage.

While this not so intriguing intrigue is going on outside the walls, Tryphon manages to flee by ship. Antiochus sends a raiding party to Judea while he chases after Tryphon.

Chapter 16

Simon's son John reports on the coastal raids. Simon sets his two sons, Judas and John in charge of the armed forces and sends them down the coast to fight the invaders. They go and find the invading army is in a field with a stream running through it. Their army is afraid to go across the stream until they themselves do it and show them it's safe. Judas is wounded in the ensuing fight, but John chases the raiders off and burns the survivors.

In Jericho, Ptolemeus, who I think is a new character, but there have been so many names starting with Ptole- that I have no idea, is fomenting his own rebellion. He's the high priest's son in law, if that is supposed to help, but I'm pretty sure the only marriage we've heard anything about was Cleopatra's, and she was Egyptian. Best not overthink this, I suspect, because clearly the authors haven't.

Anyway, Simon comes to visit with Judas and another of his sons, Mattathias, and Ptolemeus invites them for dinner, and when everybody's good and drunk, he kills them all, à la Macbeth. Ptolemee writes to the king for more men, and sends some of his forces to hunt for John. They manage to surprise him, but he still kills them all. His adventures will be in the next, blessedly last, book.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 12 & 13: Nepotism

 Chapter 12

Jonathan has spent his time since we last saw him composing his Christmas letter to the Romans. He tells the Romans how much he loves them and about how troublesome the neighbours have been. Not that he needs their help! Nope, he has god to help him. Also, he's defeated Numenius, son of Antiochus, and someone named Antipater and he's sending them to the Romans. The Romans' Christmas letter is equally pleasant, like all Christmas letters. A sort of early Facebook, in which everyone's life is hunky-dory and better than yours.

Pretty soon after sending his letter off, Demetrius tries to invade again. He camps nearby, and the army is so intimidated it flees across a river before he can smite them, so he smites the Arabs instead. Simon is having his own adventures, but eventually the two meet again and decide to set up forts. Meanwhile someone else called Tryphon tries to conquer Antiochus, but is afraid Jonathan won't make peace with him, so rather than send envoys he takes the logical step of trying to assassinate Jonathan, which sparks another visit by Jonathan's army. Luckily, he's in a good mood today, so he just wants to exchange gifts. Tryphon manages to lure Jonathan to Ptolemais, where he captures him, then goes to Judea in triumph, which causes the neighbours to invade once again.

Chapter 13

Simon is not dead, and he hears about the troubles in Judea. He vows to avenge his brothers and the people elect him new head of the army. He sends a new Jonathan, son of Absalom, possibly the one in Kings, or possibly someone else, to Joppe. 

Tryphon has been dawdling in Ptolemais this whole time, but then leaves with Jonathan, intending to invade Judea and finds Simon in charge. He sends word that he'll release Jonathan in exchange for back taxes and two of his children. Simon senses it's a trap but still sends the kids because he worries the people will revolt if they knew he could get Jonathan back but didn't. And of course, he doesn't get Jonathan, so now he's down one brother, two nephews and a hundred silver talents. And Tryphon invades.

His advance guard sends word from the wilderness that they've run out of food, and he tries to send more, but it snows. So he kills Jonathan and goes home to kill the new Antiochus and declare himself king of Asia.

Simon reburies his bones and builds seven pyramids and there's lamentation. Then he keeps going with his infrastructure project, which the bible explains to us in great detail. Then he makes peace with Demetrius in the form of red robes and gold crowns. They win Demetrius over and he forgives them their tax bill and asks them to send some courtiers.

Now there is finally peace, so Simon is declared high priest and the people set about making contracts with each other so they can sue later. But they get bored pretty quickly and invade Gaza. They ask for peace, so rather than murder them horribly, he just banishes them and throws away all their idols. Not dissimilar to modern-day Israel, really. Simon does the same for another group in a tower in Jerusalem. His final act in this chapter is to notice how amazing his son John is and make him an army general. Funny how that works.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 11: War, huh, yeah, what is it good for?

The Egyptian king joins territories with Greece. He then sets up garrisons in all the towns. When he gets to Azotus, he's shown the burn temple and the rotting and burnt bodies and explain it's Jonathan's fault. He holds his tongue until he meets Jonathan in a city called Joppe. We are not privy to the contents of said meeting.

Once Ptolomee has dotted the landscape with soldiers, he starts plotting against Alexander by sending an ambassador to Demetrius and promising to give poor Cleopatra to him in exchange. Then he just goes and takes his daughter back and hands her over to her new husband, which I didn't even know you could do. Anyway, Alexander is smart enough to realise this is an act of hostility.

Ptolomee next travels to Antioch and crowns himself king of Asia and Egypt. Alexander is away dealing with a revolt, but when he hears about Ptolotmee's act, he declares war on him, but gets defeated and flees to Arabia, where the king cuts off his head and sends it to Ptolomee.

Ptolomee doesn't get to savour his victory for very long, though, because three days later he's also dead, clearing the way for Demetrius, whose life is not restful, as Jonathan has started to foment rebellion for some damned reason. He writes to Jonathan to meet him in Ptolemais. He goes, but with a full stock of gold and silver and clothing, which he uses to butter up the king. Dude, you're a king. If you want purple robes for yourself, isn't the point that you have access to the treasury so you can buy them? Anyway, Ptolemee is flattered and renews his position as high priest. Jonathan also asks to be made free from tributes to Demetrius. Demetrius agrees and writes a letter confirming.

For awhile, Demetrius has peace, so he disbands all of his armies except some foreign mercenaries, which pisses off his father's soldiers, who plot to make his kid the king. Meantime, Jonathan is also agitating to get rid of the garrison in Jerusalem. Demetrius agrees, but mentions how he needs soldiers, so Jonathan sends them 3000 men. Unfortunately, 120 000 soldiers are marching on him, but he gets wind of it and flees after sending for more help. They handily defeat 100 000 men, and then the rest surrender. Things go back to being peaceful.

The king's mental state starts deteriorating. He isn't coherent and he won't talk to Jonathan and won't reward him for his service. He leaves for Tryphon with Alexander's son Antioch, whem he crowns, and is immediately attacked. 

Young Antioch writes to Jonathan to say he's still the high priest and sends him some gold and purple robes with a gold buckle. He makes Simon the head of the army. Jonathan starts on a tour and people come to supplicate him for help. Except in Gaza, which isn't very welcoming, so he invades it and burns it. Eventually they sue for peace. Then he heads for Cades, where there is another rebellion, but all his soldiers desert. He covers himself in ashes and prays, then goes off to fight alone, which causes the enemy to flee. This convinces his men to come back and kill another 3000 men.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 10: Some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground

A new Greek king, Alexander, tries to make friends with either a country or a king called Ptolemais. This causes Demetrius to seek peace with Jonathan and ask if they can also write to Ptolemais before he signs his treaty with Alexander. Also, they did some pretty evil shit to Ptolemais and his family and countrymen, and Alexander's pact might make him remember those things.

Jonathan writes back to Demetrius to ask his permission to set up an army. Then he goes to Jerusalem to hold court and collect the prisoners being held in the tower. The people are a little nervous about the whole army thing and immediately release the prisoners. Jonathan decides to settle in Jerusalem and starts rebuilding the city using square bricks in the wall. For some reason this terrifies the Greeks, who leave, along with all the other infidels, except for a few in Bethsura, because it's a refuge city.

Alexdner hears that Demetrius and Jonathan have made up, so he decides his best bet is to also cozy up to Jonathan offering him the high priest's jobs, which comes with a purple robe and a gold crown. Something tells me the Israelites would've loved Disney movies.

Jonathan accepts the clothes, but also raises an army, which makes Demetrius sad and also causes him to up his ante, freeing all the Jews from taxes and slavery, plus half of his land and seeds to plant it with. Furthermore, all Jews will be immune from prosecution for three days before and after their feasts, in addition to being free from all other persecution all the time. He also offers to employ 30 000 Jews in his civil service as well as allowing them self rule. He also forgets that just two letters ago he wanted to make peace with Ptolemais, because now he offers his land to the Israelites. He also offers 20 000 shekels in free money, plus repair expenses for the temple and the city walls.

Jonathan is not fooled and instead goes with Alexander, who then attacks Demetrius and eventually kills him. Then he makes peace with Ptolomee of Egypt, who agrees Alexander can marry his daughter either at Ptolemais the city or in Ptolemais the king's castle. The daughter is called Cleopatra, and we don't get her opinion on this.

Alexander interrupts his honeymoon to go meet Jonathan, who he invites down to meet Ptolemee. Jonathan arrives with gold and silver for the other two kings, but not poor Cleopatra. While he's gone, a rebellion forms against him  in Jerusalem, but the king wins and makes a public announcement that people should stop bothering him, so the rebels leave. The king makes Jonathan a duke.

Another Demetrius takes over Crete and decides to invade. He sends an insulting letter to Jonathan, which ticks him off, so he raises an army and goes to meet him and somehow wears out his horses. The horsemen flee to a place called Azotus, but Jonathan burns the city down and then keeps burning the runaways until he's killed a total of 8000 men. He brings all the loot back to Jerusalem, which causes Alexander to send him a bucket of gold.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapters 8 & 9: Wedding Crashers

Chapter 8

Judas hears that the Romans are brave and people love them and are flocking to join their army and they even went to Spain one time. Oh, and they fought Antiochus with a hundred elephants and took him hostage and now he has to pay tribute to them. Also, they took his best country and gave it to another king. And they took a bunch of his army's wives and children away and spoiled them (v. 10) which I'm thinking means 'raped and murdered' as opposed to 'gave them so much ice cream they wouldn't eat anything else.'

However, the Romans are nice to their friends, and they don't have a king who dresses in purple. Instead they have a senate and a president and there is no envy among them. He likes what he hears, so Judas appoints someone named Eupolemus to be his envoy to Rome.

Eupolemus is admitted to the senate and explains his mission. The Romans like him and they send him home with a letter of alliance and promising to write to Demetrius to complain about his treatment of the Jews.

Chapter 9

Demetrius hears what happened to his last army and sends another. This time Judas' army is afraid and when the battle starts he only has 800 men. We don't know where the Romans are after their treaty. He tries to rally them, but they just want to go home. There's no real resolution, the next verse just tells us there was a fight and Judas is finally killed. His brothers bury him. Pretty quickly a new crop of evil leaders pops up. Also, and perhaps coincidentally, there's a famine, which causes revolts. The leaders blame Judas and go looking for his followers. Deservedly so, as they have gone to his brother Jonathan to complain about the lack of powerful Jewish leaders and ask him to take over.

Jonathan agrees and immediately the governor of Israel attacks him. So he heads for the wilderness, where the Greeks follow, planning to attack on the sabbath. Jonathan sends his brother John to pray with some friendly clans, but he gets kidnapped by the children of Jambri. They send word to Jonathan that one of their princes has made a great match with a Canaanite girl. So Jonathan and his friends go up into the hills to watch the wedding, then attack just as the dancing is getting going, which seems like a major faux pas, as it ruins the wedding.

Jonathan and his company go back to the wilderness and get attacked by the Greeks on the sabbath. They fight for awhile, then swim across the River Jordan after killing a thousand enemy soldiers. Bacchides, the Greek general, returns to Jerusalem and reinforces his walled cities. He also kidnaps some clan leaders' sons

As this is happening, another prominent Greek named Alcimus has the temple wall torn down. As it's happening, he's struck with a palsy and dies because his mouth is paralysed. Bacchides leaves for Greece. There's peace for two years, so Jonathan's enemies decide they've lulled him into a false sense of security and decide to bring Baccides back in a higher capacity, which leads to Jonathan killing fifty of them and going back to the wilderness.

Bacchides figures out where they are and attacks, but they leave and start smiting a new lot of people. And then they kills some more people and finally they send an ambassador to make peace. This time it's successful and Jonathan settles down to be the king.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 7: And the wars go on with brainwashed pride

Demetrius is born in Rome, but heads to the sea coast with some men to set himself up as ruler. He enters a palace his ancestors occupied and discovers that his army has brought him Antiochus and Lysias, but he isn't really interested in them, so they are killed. Only then is Demetrius crowned. And then all the wicked people of Israel come out of the woodwork.

First is someone called Alcimus, who wants to be high priest and wants to get there by spreading vicious gossip about his rivals, in this case Judas. He asks Demetrius to send an army to conquer Judas once and for all. He selects his friend Bacchides and sends him to Jerusalem with Alcimus.

This time is a little different, because Alcimus is a priest. People who don't agree with the Maccabees start joining him and he promises not to hurt them, then has seventy of them killed for heresy. Then he just leaves there bodies sitting out and everyone's too afraid to bury them. Then they go to a town called Bezeth with a bunch of prisoners, who they also kill and throw into a pit. At this point Baccides feels like his job is done, so he goes back to Demetrius, leaving Alcimus in charge.

Alcimus is still clinging to his dream of becoming high priest, and of course all the other terrible people start following him, which finally gets Judas' attention. So Judas goes and kills a bunch of the 'traitors.' Still not sure how anyone's a hero here.

Alcimus sees he can't win, so he goes crying to Demetrius again about all the ways Judas is hurting his feelings. This time, Demetrius sends a raging anti-Semite prince named Nicanor back with Alcimus. He sends a friendly letter of peace to Judas, who agrees to meet with him, but really he's planning to kidnap him. Judas hears of the plot and doesn't show. So Nicanor attacks him and loses 5000 men. The rest go to Jerusalem.

Nicanor himself heads up Mount Sion and the priests show him the burnt offerings they've been making in the king's name. He makes fun of them and says he'll burn the place down if no one brings him Judas' head on a platter. This makes the priests cry, and they pray to god to let Judas defeat Nicanor and his army for his blasphemy.

Nicanor sets up camp and so does Judas. Judas prays to god to avenge the blasphemers. Nicanor is killed in the battle and his army flees. The Israelites chase after them for a day, then kill them all. They hang Nicanor's head and right hand on the city walls, which causes the people to rejoice and declare the day a holiday.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 6: Rupturing the space-time continuum

Antiochus hears about a temple in Elymias in Persia that is filled with treasure, including some relics from his grandfather Alexander the Great. Rather than just ask for the stuff back, or offer to buy it, he of course decides to attack, but the city heard he was coming and has prepared itself. They rebuff the attack and he goes back to Babylon, where he also hears about the defeats in Judea. He goes to bed to grieve and stays there for several days, until people think he's going to die. He calls all his friends together to go over all his regrets in life, chief among them being raiding Jerusalem. He appoints his friend Philip as his heir and regent to his son Antiochus Jr. Then he dies aged 149.

Lysias - who may or may not be Philip, and who may or may not have his own son named Antiochus, sets up someone named Antiochus as the new ruler and changes his name to Eupator. Together they start locking up all the Jews they find near the temple, which causes Judas to decide to besiege Babylon. Or possibly some other place. The bible really underscores the importance of pronouns by its vagueness.

Anyway, there is a siege and some people manage to get to the king and ask him when he's going to avenge the deaths of his citizens and also advise him to give up, given how persistent and murderous these Jews have proven to be. The king gets angry at this and gathers an army of 120 000 men and 32 battle elephants. They head for Bethsura, but the locals fight back and set fire to them. Then Judas shows up, which causes the king to also come in person with even more men. And to the end they might provoke the elephants to fight, they showed them the blood of gapes and mulberries (v. 34). Then they divide the elephants up amongst the armies so that each elephant has 1000 armoured men and 500 horsemen as bodyguards. Each elephant is decked out with a wooden tower containing 32 men, not counting its trainer. Clearly whoever wrote this knew nothing about elephants. When the elephants meet Judas' army, they handily kill 600 of them.

Someone named Eleazar Savaran notices that one of the elephants is bigger than the others and better kitted out, so he surmises that it must be the king's elephant and decides to attack it. He runs towards it in the heat of battle, killing people left and right, until he kills his way to under the elephant, which he stabs in the stomach until it dies and falls on him. Somehow this scares the Jewish army into retreat, so they go back to Jerusalem with Antiochus' forces in hot pursuit. Unfortunately, they have to surrender rather quickly, because they forgot to stock up before they left. For good measure, the king also takes Bethsura and builds a fort.

Somehow, despite Judas surrendering, Antiochus still has to besiege the temple for another seven years. Eventually the food runs out there until only a few starving priests are left.

Around this time, Lysias hears that Philip is back. Another thing the bible could use: structuring words, because I never knew Philip was gone. But apparently Lysias sent him off to Persia and Media on an errand, and now he's back to reclaim the throne. He wants to make peace with the Israelites by letting them live under their own laws. This satisfies the king, and why no one just sat down and had a conversation and worked out their differences years ago is not explained. Antiochus, possibly the son of the other Antiochus, possibly Lysias' son, then goes back to Antiochia, where he finds Philip ruling, even though he was just in Israel.

Friday, January 30, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 5: Bite, bite, bite, fight, fight, fight, the Maccabee show!

The surrounding countries hear about the new altar and aren't happy about it. They invade and Judas handily defeats them. One of them is called Bean, which I'm confident is the result of foresight on the part of the translators. Judas, for his part, is done with taking prisoners and has just started burning his enemies once he defeats them. I can totally see why this guy is a hero.

After awhile, he returns to Israel, much to the discomfit of its occupants. One group, some heathens in a town called Galaad, attack the local Israelites, who shut themselves into a fort and write to Judas for help. While that letter is being read, a contingent arrives from Galilee to complain about similar attacks from their neighbours. But this time, rather than riding out with an army and burning the enemy to death, Judas decides to hold a conference to decide what to do. Eventually he tells his brother Simon to save the Galileans and rides off to Galaad with another brother called Jonathan. They leave someone named Joseph in charge of Judea, instructing him not to start any new wars until they get back.

Simon goes off to Galilee with 3000 men and somehow manages to kill 3000 heathens, whose houses he raids and whose wives and children he enslaves. Judas rides off into the wilderness for three days, where he meets with a group called the Nabathites, who tell them about the situation in Galaad, which is that the enemies are planning to attack the fort. So Judas goes into the city and kills all the men and takes all their stuff, then burns the city because he's a pyromaniac now.

That night he goes to the fort and finds more enemies in the process of attacking it. He kills another 8000 people and then goes off to kill, burn and rob all the enemy cities in celebration. He gets word that yet another army has gathered to attack and goes to meet them. He leaves the scribes behind, then goes off to fight. The enemy is afraid and runs into a temple, so Judas burns the city and the temple. Judas asks all the Israelites living nearby to come back to Judea with him. On the way, they arrive at Ephron, which they can't go over, can't go under, and can't go around, they have to go through it. He promises to do so in peace, but they won't open the gates. So Judas orders his army to pitch their tents and then they attack the city until it falls, then do their usual routine of killing, robbing and burning, which seems a lot more complicated than say, building a ring road.

When his cabal gets to Mount Sion, they have a feast and barbecue, and Simon also comes back. They sit down to discuss their exploits. A couple of army captains are listening in and decide to wage their own battle against the heathens so as to make a name for themselves. They go out and find our old friend Gorgias, then kill 2000 of his men. This sets off a whole trend of Israeites going out and attacking random foreigners. Even a group of priests attacks a city and gets its ass handed to it.  This leads to Judas having to go out and do even more valiant acts to stop the other Israelites from showing off

Thursday, January 29, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 4: They fight, they bite, they bite and fight and bite

Someone named Gorgias sneaks out of camp with 6000 of the best soldiers, intending to attack the Jews under cover of night. Of course Judas hears about it and sneaks away with his army. Gorgias goes looking for them in the mountain, but they aren't there, either. In the morning, Judas shows up with 3000 men. The men are nervous on seeing the heathen camp, but Judas reminds them about the Red Sea and asks them to pray. Then they go to fight and chase the heathens into the field and a bunch of other places, killing 3000 in the process.

Judas returns to the camp with some spoils, but reminds the people not to be greedy and asks them to come with him for the rest. While he's speaking a bunch of Gorgias' men peek around the corner and see the Jews preparing to leave and wastefully burning their tents and realise they aren't afraid to fight. So they flee to a neutral country. Judas robs their tents.

The escaped soldiers go to Lysias and tell him what's happening, and Lysias is distressed at how poorly things are going. So he raises an army of 65 000 men, which Judas meets with his rabble of 10 000. So he prays to god to turn the army into cowards. When they fight, he kills about 5000 enemy soldiers while Lysias looks down.

Lysias is impressed by the manliness (v. 35) of the Israelite soldiers and how they're prepared to die for their cause. He goes to Antiochia and gathers an army of foreign conscripts and returns to Judea. While he's away, Judas proposes cleaning up the cemetery, but when they arrive on top of Mount Sion, the only thing they can do is weep and rend their clothing and throw ashes on their heads. So Judas appoints a company to actually do the cleaning while he goes back with the rest to fight some more.

The priests on top of the mountain get to work burying the defiled artifacts, but aren't sure of the new temple's design, so they put some stones aside until a prophet can come along and tell them what to do. They do manage to build a new altar and sanctuary as well as some new pots and candlesticks. Once they have everything in place, they decorate the building, burn some incense and sacrifice some bread and sing some songs for eight days. They like it so much they make it an annual tradition, which I think is Hanukkah, but I no longer have an annotated bible. They also build a fort in the hills.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 3: History is written by the winners

Judas and his brothers and their father's followers happily fight a battle in Israel. Judas himself carries a great big sword that he uses to fight sinners, which makes lots of kings nervous.

Someone named Apollonius, presumably one of those kings, gathers an army to fight Judas, who meets him on the battlefield and kills him along with some of his followers. The rest run away. And now, just like the hated Alexander and his progeny, you know, the guys who took all the riches out of the temple, Judas robs his enemies.

Next a certain Seron, a Syrian general, decides to make his name by fighting Judas. Judas meets him with a small army, who immediately start bitching that they can't win since they've been fasting all day. Judas reassures them that god is on their side. So they ride out to meet Seron, who gets his ass handed to him. His army ends up going to the land of the Philistines.

Now all the neighbouring countries are afraid of Judas and even Antiochus hears about him, and he's pissed. He sends out all his armies and bribes the soldiers with a year's pay. Unfortunately, when he opens up the treasury to get the money out, he discovers there isn't much there because god has sent rebellions and plague as punishment for breaking the laws. So he decides to invade Persia to restock and leaves a nobleman named Lysias in charge. He leaves behind his son, also called Antiochus, and some elephants and asks him to take care of the Jewish problem.

Lysias sends a general called Ptolomee with 47 000 people to conquer Judas once and for all. The army camps in Emmaus, where they are promptly set upon by silver and gold merchants and people wanting to buy the Israelites as slaves. A couple of companies from Syria and Philistine also join in. Judas and his army are not intimidated, but they do pray.

All this time, Jerusalem is a ghost town and the temple is destroyed. The Israelites are forced to pray in another place called Maspha, wearing sackcloth and ashes. When they finish, Judas appoints new captains and dismisses the people who are building houses, engaged, busy with the planting, or just shit-scared. He moves the rest south of Emmaus, where they prepare to attack int he morning.

Monday, January 26, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 2: Sacriligious sacrificing

Matthias is a priest in Jerusalem and he has 5 sons. The middle one is called Judas, and nicknamed Maccabeus, which leads me to believe he might become important later. Anyway, Matthias laments all the sinning going on in Jerusalem and he and his sons put on sackcloth.

At the same time, the king's men arrive in a city called Modin and try to make the people there sacrifice. The people go to Matthias for help. The soldiers praise Matthias and co. and ask them to make the fist sacrifice. They promise if they do, the king will like them. But Matthias refuses. As he's speaking, a Jew comes up to the altar to make a sacrilegious sacrifice, which makes Matthias' kidneys tremble, so he kills the guy right there on the sanctuary, along with the king's commissioner. For good measure, he breaks the altar. Then he shouts so all can hear Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me. (v. 27).  Then he and his sons flee into the mountains, and some of their followers head for the wilderness.

When the king's garrison in the city finds out what happened, they go looking for Matthias' party and surround them on the sabbath day. They promise that those who agree to come back and obey the king will be pardoned, but they won't come out because it's the sabbath. So the king's men attack, but the Jews refuse to fight back, and a thousand of them die.

Matthias' group hears about this and mourns, and they all agree that if they don't fight, they'll all die. So they decide to fight, even if it's the sabbath.

Now a group of Assideans, a sort of fighting yeshiva student, shows up, along with a bunch of other refugees. They slay the sinners and the wicked, but some get away and join the heathens. So Matthias and his new army go around pulling down the altars and circumcising children and avenging themselves on sinners.

They do this for awhile, long enough for Matthias to get old. As he's dying, he passes his crusade on to his sons and tells them the story of the Old Testament again. He appoints Judas Maccabeus as the leader, then dies at age 146.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

1 Maccabees, Chapter 1: Choking on my ham sandwich

Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and eventually Greece, killed Darius, king of the Persians, among others, and started a lot of wars and stole a lot of stuff and conquered a lot of territory. Then he gets sick and it looks like he's gonna die. So he calls up his slaves and divides his holdings up among them. Each of them puts a crown on his head and tries to pass it along to his son. You can imagine how well this works out. The very worst of them is called Antiochus Epiphanes, whose father was a hostage in Rome and then the king. One of them ruled in the year 137 of the Greek calendar.

At the same time, there are a lot of wicked people in Israel who want to make a treaty with the heathens surrounding them. Some of them go to their king, who grants them leave to make a treaty. So they build a palace of exercise (v. 14) in Jerusalem and uncircumcise themselves, which is somehow supposed to please the Greeks.

When Antiochus has occupied Israel, he decides his next conquest will be Egypt. The current Ptolemee flees, which makes victory easy. Six years later, Antiochus returns to Israel and steals all the stuff out of the temple. There's a list, even. Then he goes back to Greece and brags about all the killing he did.

This has a terrible effect on Israel, it makes the virgins feeble and turns the women ugly, which turns the grooms right off. The king lets things rest for a couple of years, but then sends his tax collectors to Jerusalem, but actually they sack the city and burn it and take all the women and children hostage, as well as the cows. Then they rebuild the city with new walls.

Antiochus writes to all of his conquered territories to say they should be one big happy family, and most of the nations sign up, including some Israelites, who stop sacrificing and start eating delicious, delicious bacon. They also fail to circumcise their kids. It helps that Antiochus sends another letter telling people that if they don't become Greek, they'll be executed.

Some of the Israelites flee into the mountains, but most of them set up idolatrous altars and start worshiping. They even burn their Torahs and make it illegal to have one. Eventually they get around to killing more people, this time including women who had their sons circumcised. The remaining Isrealites decide to give up the unclean food, thinking it's better to die than to eat a ham sandwich.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Prayer of Manasses

One chapter, one verse, half a page. This I can get behind. Manasses was the king of Juda and was taken to Babylon. Where he prays to god for forgiveness for all the things he did to end up kidnapped in another country. None of it is interesting enough to write about.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The History of the Destruction of Bel and the Dragon

I have always said the bible lacks enough good dragon stories. This one was also cut off from the end of Daniel, though it doesn't specify whether that was for not being in Hebrew or some other reason.

Anyway, we start off with Daniel and King Astyages of Persia having a conversation. We also learn that the Babylonians have a god named Bel, to whom they sacrifice 12 heaping portions of flour, 40 sheep, and 6 wine casks. The king also worships Bel, but Daniel has his own god. The main thrust of this conversation then is, why doesn't Daniel worship Bel? And of course Daniel has to be as obnoxious as possible and answer Because I may not worship idols made with hands, but the living god, who hath created the heaven and the earth, and hath sovereignty over all flesh (v. 5). Which of course immediately riles up the king, who asks if Daniel doesn't believe Bel is a living god, given how much he eats?

Somehow, Daniel manages to get even more obnoxious by smiling and replying that his host's god is just brass and clay and doesn't really eat. The king calls his chief priests over and tells them to figure out where all the flour, wheat and wine is going on pain of death, either theirs or Daniel's. I mean, I'm not in favour of the death penalty for blasphemy or anything, but I'm not sure how I feel about the death penalty for rude houseguests named Daniel. Of course, Daniel is not fazed by the idea of death.

We find out that there are seventy priests to Bel and they all have wives and children. They all go to the temple with the king and Daniel. The priests explain that they're going to go out, and the king should set out the holy meal, then leave and seal the door. In the morning, they'll know who is going to die. And of course the priests are confident because they have a door in the floor that they use to go in and eat every night.

So they king sets out the meal. While he's doing that, Daniel covers the floor in ashes. Then they leave. The priests come in with their families and eat their meal.

In the morning, Daniel and the king go back to the temple. Daniel agrees that the doors are still sealed. The king opens the door and shouts praise to Bel. But Daniel, continuing his campaign to be the worst guest in recorded history, laughs and asks whose footprints are in the ashes. The king notes that they are the prints of men, women and children, which proves nothing, but anyway, he goes to his priests, who confess to eating all the nightly food. And of course Astyages puts them and their wives and children to death. Then he gives the temple to Daniel, who destroys it.

The Babylonians also worship a dragon, because smart people will hedge their bets. The king asks Daniel if the dragon is also made of brass. Daniel says no again and offers to slay the dragon without any weapons. So Daniel makes an incendiary device (a weapon, no?) and puts it in the dragon's mouth. The dragon explodes and Daniel makes fun of the Babylonians and their false gods.

Now, needless to say the people start hearing about this indecorous foreigner who is apparently turning the king into a Jew and start feeling rebellious. They go to the king and demand Daniel or they'll overthrow him. And the king, being more of a politician than a theologian, hands him over. He's thrown into a den with seven hungry lions.

There is a certain prophet named Habbacuc who has made some soup and bread and is carrying it to the field to feed the threshers, but an angel visits him and tells him to take the food to Daniel instead. Habbacuc replies that he doesn't know where that particular lions' den is, so the angel picks him up by the hair and carries him there. He offers the dinner to Daniel, who eats it. A week later, the king comes down and finds Daniel safe and sound, so he throws the people in the den instead. Charming. I can see why people are so taken with this book.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The History of Susanna and threesomes

Another story that was rejected from the book of Daniel for not being in Hebrew. A rich Babylonian man named Joacim marries a pretty woman named Susanna whose parents had raised her as Jewish. The Jews like this Joacim because he deals fairly with them.

The same year as the wedding, two men are appointed as judges. They spend a lot of time hanging at Joacim's place with the rest of the court. One day, everyone but the judges leaves around noon, and Susanna takes a turn around the garden. The judges are inflamed by lust for this hot young Jewess, and they feel so ashamed they can't even admit it to each other. Still, they come back day after day for the show. Finally, one says to the other that they should go home for lunch, and the other agrees, but they both circle around and try to sneak back in. When they meet again at the gate, they both admit to being in love with Susanna. They agree on a time to tell her how much they love her together.

On the appointed day, Susanna comes out to the garden as usual, but this time it's hot and she wants to take a bath. The men hide and watch. She sends her maids out on some errand and the two horndogs approach and ask her for a threesome. They point out that there are no witnesses and if she doesn't agree, they'll tell everyone she has a lover. Susanna sighs that she's damned if she does and damned if she doesn't, but she'd really rather not have sex with a couple of olds, so she refuses. Everybody starts screaming and the slaves come running out and the old farts blab their false story about Susanna's fake lover.

The next day, some people are hanging out at Joacim's and the two troublemakers show up. They send for Susanna, who shows up with her entire clan, wearing a demure veil. They demand that she take off the veil, so she does, and she's so hot that everyone starts crying. The two old coots put their hands on her head and tell the baldfaced lie that they saw her with a lover the day before. No one asks why two perverts were hanging around in someone else's garden spying on his hot wife and her lover. Rather, they buy the story hook, line and sinker and condemn Susanna to death.

Susanna cries out to god, who actually listens, and sends down Daniel, who calls the crowd a bunch of assholes and points out the two codgers were lying. He separates them and asks them which tree the alleged assignation took place. And of course they say two different things, so the crowd cuts them in half. And Susanna's husband forgives her and they all lived happily ever after the servants cleaned the blood up.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Song of the Three Holy Children: No dragons

Apparently this was a part of the book of Daniel, but got left out because it wasn't in Hebrew, which is too bad, because it opens with children walking through fire. This causes someone called Azarius, who is also in the middle of this fire, to stand up and start praying for forgiveness. That goes on for 20-odd verses we've heard before.

Then we get a bit more story:

A wicked king put 'them' (I assume the 3 kids, but who knows?) into an oven. Then he stoked the fire so high, it streamed forth above the furnace forty and nine cubits (v. 24). On its way up, it kills some Chaldeans. Alas, we do not hear the story of how Chaldeans came to be in the air above a furnace.

Anyway, an angel and Azarius arrive on the scene and cool down the centre of the fire. And do the three children use this space to make dragons? No, they do not. They immediately drop to their knees to say a prayer of thanks. And that's all we can say about this book, really.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Baruch, Chapters 3-6: How to tell if your god is false

Chapter 3

The continuation of the prayer to god to release the Israelites from Babylon, as it's been a couple of generations now. We are told that there used to be giants, but they refused to receive any wisdom (read: preaching) and they all died. We also find out that farmers who practice animal husbandry have it.

Chapter 4

Jacob was given a book and told it contained the laws, and if people obeyed them, they would live forever, but if they ignored it, they'd all die. But then everyone started to ignore it and sacrifice to the devil, so they ended up enslaved in Babylon. And now the city of Jerusalem weeps for them and wears sackcloth. But no worries! God will free them and all the nations that laughed at the Israelites will be burnt and inhabited by devils.

Chapter 5

Eventually god will let the Israelites go back to Jerusalem, so Jerusalem should get ready to welcome them.

Chapter 6

Now we change tack and get a letter from someone called Jeremy. I can only hope it's less boring than the last 5 chapters, but this is the bible we're talking about.

Anyway, Jeremy sent the letter to the Israelites before they were taken hostage to warn and rebuke them. He also wanted to warn them that the Babylonians had their own gods, and they shouldn't join them in worship or be afraid of them. Rather, they should pray silently to this god.

They also shouldn't listen to the Babylonians, for all their pretty words, because they lie all the time. Other funny things the Babylonians do: make crowns for their gods and have corrupt priests who steal temple gold to pay for prostitutes. However, their idols get rusty and moth-eaten in their finery. Furthermore, their gods have weapons, but can't fight off death or war or thieves. Bit rich coming from the god that sold his people into slavery.

Anyway, the Babylonian gods are useless and the priests are so greedy even their wives won't give out salted bread to the poor. Even worse, menstruating women and those in labour eat the sacrifices. In fact, women are allowed to make offerings directly to these gods! In fact, even the Chaldeans dishonour them.

No, better to be a king or a jar or a door or a pillar of wood  or a scarecrow  or a dead body than to be a Babylonian god

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Baruch, Chapters 1 & 2: Don't piss off the bride

Chapter 1

This book does not start off strong. We learn too much about Baruch's genealogy, and that he's writing this in Babylon at the same time as the Chaldeans sacked Jerusalem. This book is a transcription of a sermon he gave to someone called Jechonias, the son of Joachim, the king of Juda, and a bunch of nobles and commoners. When they heard the sermon, and we're up to verse 6 with nary a word, they wept and collected money to send to Joachim for rebuilding. Apparently Joachim was left behind while everyone else was carried off to Babylon, where they were allowed to continue to write letters and send money and temple decor. Anyway, in their letter, they instruct Joachim to make sacrifices on their behalf and pray for the life of king Nabuchodonosor of Babylon and crown prince Balthasar. They also want Joachim to read the book aloud. They admit to sinning and disobeying god ever since they left Egypt, which is why they're now in Babylon.

Chapter 2

So they don't really blame god for making their lives miserable by sending plagues and causing them to eat their own children or selling them into slavery. Not so different to these guys today.

And have they learned from all this? Why, no. They continue to sin. But now they want forgiveness. They know they've been told they need to stay in Babylon or god will cause to cease out of the cities of Juda, and from without Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of joy, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride (v. 23) And you know what happens when you piss off a bride! But it seems something has happened to the bones of their ancestors: they've been cast out onto the ground, because this book is basically a zombie saga, and the temple ruined.

Anyway, they want god to listen to them so they don't end up assimilating into Babylonian society and disappearing as a people. And also, god promised to send them back to Israel at some point and they'd like that to be now, please.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 47-51: 'Wisdomed' out

Chapter 47

Now we hear more about David, who played with lions and bears, which is why he was able to kill Goliath. And of course he never passed up an opportunity to literally sing god's praises. Funnily enough, even though this book was supposedly written by Solomon, he now writes about himself in the third person. He does not forget to praise himself for being wise. He credits god with creating peace so he could build the temple. But of course the good times didn't last and Solomon somehow begat an idiot son called Roboam, who was the first of three bad kings who were all punished.

Chapter 48

All was saved by Elias, who raised the dead and traveled on a whirlwind of fire. His successor was Eliseus, who was unimpressed by princes and whose body kept talking after he died, which is not surprising, considering he never shut up while he as alive. Also, this book has a zombie fixation. Then there were some decent kings and god rewarded them by smiting the Assyrians.

Chapter 49

The next really good king was Josias. All the others were defective somehow, mostly by burning down the temple or the city around it. Then there were a bunch of other kings, the most notable of whom was Neemias, who built the temple again and was honoured for it.

Chapter 50

Next we hear about Simon, a priest in the temple. We get the odd detail that he covered the cistern with brass, but not why that's significant. Further, he was good at sacrifices and preaching.

Chapter 51

The last chapter of this godforsaken book is a prayer by yet another Jesus. He thanks god for giving him wisdom for free.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 43-46: Shoe theives

Chapter 43

The sun is awesome, even when it parches the country. Also awesome: the moon, because it tells us when it's feasting time. In fact, Solomon likes everything in the sky: stars, rainbows, snow, clouds, hail, wind, thunder, tornadoes, mist. Solly also likes the sea, especially whales. So we should all worship god.

Chapter 44

Let us now praise famous men, (v. 1) Hey, I read that book! And it isn't very good. See the photos, definitely, but you can skip the book. Anyway, Solomon thinks we should listen to famous men because god gave them their smarts. He also gave them potent sperm that will continue forever. Sol`s most-admired famous men: Enoch, Noah, who was apparently promised that no one else would die in floods, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Chapter 45

Yawn. Now we`re just going though Genesis and Exodus again. Moses goes up the mountain, blah, blah, blah. Aaron, whom god loved despite the whole golden calf bit. Apparently god gave Aaron pomegranates and lots of fancy clothing. People who insulted Aaron for his frankly gaudy blue and purple silk, were burned to death, because god is nothing if not thin-skinned. Then we hear again about Phineas who I've frankly forgotten, and David.

Chapter 46

Jesus, but probably not the one you`re thinking of, was good in some wars, because he made the sun go back. Oh, is this Joshua? I think that's the guy who stopped the sun in one of the early books. Then we hear about the judges. Apparently we all remember the names of the ones who didn't go whoring and sinning, because we're supposed to bless the rest without being reminded of who they are. Oh, and let their bones flourish out of their place (v. 12). And finally Samuel, who was so honest he never took so much as a shoe (v. 19)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ecclesiasticus, Chapters 40-42: Elbows out of the meat!

Chapter 40

Here's a cheery thought: your whole life will be filled with sorry and work. Any time you don't spend doing that will be spent imagining and fearing death, being angry or fighting. Everyone, from king to pauper, lives like this. But it's seven times worse for sinners, because they have to deal with death, and bloodshed, strife, and sword, calamities, famine, tribulation, and the scourge; (v. 9) That those things happen to everyone is just a sign of how loose the definition is of 'sinner.'

Anyway, eventually everything dies except good deeds. Also, ungodly people won't have grandchildren and they'll be the first to die. Learning to love your work, and by this I'm pretty sure they mean labour, not graphic design, and to be content with what you have is sweet, but striking it rich is even better. Having kids is also great, but having a virtuous wife is the bestest. Wine and music may be great, but wisdom is even better. Too bad there's so little of it in this book. Pleasant conversation beats them all. Who else thinks the writer never gets drunk and shoots the breeze with his friends?

Wives are better than friends, alms are better than brothers, good advice is better than gold. And of course, love of god is the very greatest. Oh, and death is better than begging.

Chapter 41

Rich people fear death the most because it means losing their stuff. It's fine for the poor or sick or old or depressed. But nobody should fear death unless their parents were sinners, because that's the end of the road for them. What makes one not a sinner? A good name.

Don't hide your wisdom or your treasure. But don't be a whore, and don't lie to the king and for goodness' sake, don't put your elbow in the meat. Also, don't look at harlots or other men's wives or slave girls. And don't tell secrets.

Chapter 42

Don't accept other people's sins. Be fair to travelers and business partners and use correct weights and measures. Tolerate poor customer service, child abuse, and people who hit their slaves so hard they bleed. Keep your wife in check if she's evil. Get contracts in writing. If people are being dumb, call them on it, and everyone will respect you for it.

Fathers care for their daughters, especially their virginity, because without that, everyone will hate them. They can't stop when their daughters get married though, they have to remain vigilant lest they cheat on their husbands and become barren. If your daughter has slut-like tendencies, keep her in or people will laugh at you. Never sit amongst women because they're wicked. It's better to be a churlish man than a courteous woman.

Some things god has given us: the sun, the past, the future, and the steps needed to make discoveries. Also god is perfect and doesn't need advice. We can't see how perfect, because we don't understand. Problem of evil right there, folks.