Hero in a Half-Shirt (Chronicles 19-20)

Longstanding enemies of the Israelites, the Ammonites have a new king, Hanun. King David decides to pay his respects by sending messengers offering condolences on the passing of the previous king. Seems innocent enough, but some of the Ammonites are convinced that they’re spies and get Hanun to come down hard on them. Here’s what he does: “So Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away” (Chr 19:4). I understand the bit about shaving (which wouldn’t be so bad a punishment given the desert heat) but I don’t understand the bit about the garments. There are two possibilities here, as I see it: either they’re naked from the waist down (weird) or they’re wearing half-shirts (awesome).

Anyways, the Israelites get pissed off by being half-shirted and go to war with the Ammonites. The Israelites are on a winning streak until the Philistines get all up in their business again. The Philistines, I’ll have you know, have a little trick up their sleeves: giants. Indeed. One of my favourites things about the Bible is the regular and offhanded mention of giants. Just another reason why it should be read literally by the good folks in middle America and Texas (actually, I’ve always wanted to go to Texas and do a tour of the child pageant circuit and megachurches where preachers have to wear headsets; I’d also like to see a bunch of parents freak out a high school football game). Here’s what’s going on with the giants: “And there was a war again at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was descended from the giants. And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, slew him” (Chr 20: 6-7). I guess he wasn’t that quick on his feet. No hustle.

Amazingly, this ad is trying to sell this shirt on a model who's posed like a meth addict.

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hi, My Name Is… And I’m an Existentialist (Chronicles 16-18)

King David is pleased with himself for bringing the ark of the Lord into Jerusalem and housing in a tent and making offerings and appointing a whole bunch of people to watch it. Division of labour isn’t David’s strong suit since he appoints about a million gatekeepers and he probably needs only one. They probably stand around talking about their relationships most of the time. And he appoints one guy to clash some cymbals together while another guy plays the trumpet in order to create “atmosphere” around the ark.

Kissing ass, however, is David’s strong suit. He sings a long, boring song about how wonderful God is. Nothing is ever said about such songs being prepared beforehand so I imagine that it’s all improvised, kind of like religious scatting. I had to go to church every week until I was sixteen (and unruly); it would have made it so much more entertaining if the priests had to make up the hymns on the spot. I bet there’s some really cool priest out there somewhere named “Father J” who does just that. Maybe he even raps.

It dawns on David that he lives in a nice, fancy house and the ark – a very important symbol of the enduring relationship between God and the Israelites – is in some crummy tent. So David sidles up to God and says things like, “You’ve been too good to me” and “I’m not worthy” and other nonsense. He really doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut – he’s got a good thing going. Nothing really seems to come of this. Maybe it’s simply a lesson in how to be a groveller, which is a baseline expectation of Judaism and Christianity. Various existentialists have pointed out over the centuries how the overriding motif in these religions is “God is everything. You’re nothing. Deal.” I remember reading something from the second year course I took in existentialism that asked something to the effect of, “Why can’t we be our own ‘little gods,’ empowered and in control of our own morals, values, choices, etc.”. The phrase “little gods” really hit home with me but then again, I’m an only child.

If the existentialism doesn't get ya, the syphilis will.

 

Published in: on August 31, 2011 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Public Arking (Chronicles 13-15)

Now that David’s in charge of Israel, he wants to put on a big to-do and march the ark of the covenant from its resting place (Kiriathjearim) to Jerusalem. Everything’s going great, until Uzzah, who’s helping cart the ark from town to town, gets a little too close to it. See, he’s all thumbs. “Uzzah put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled” (Chr 13:9). God, like a teenager hell-bent on guarding his privacy (“Don’t touch my stuff, Mom!”), lashes out and kills Uzzah right then and there. And the merry-makers in tow cease doing their thing for all of five seconds.

Once back in Jerusalem, David adds a few more wives to his happy family and expands his brood. Reading through the Bible, I surprised that there aren’t more branches of Christianity calling for polygamy. There’s lots to back it up. I guess the people who are in to polygamy give it a bad name because of their cultish vibe and bad fashion.

I started to think a little bit about Mormons and how hard they must have to look to find those terrible Anne of Green Gables-esque clothes. I found this website promoting “Fashion without Compromise” and – you know what? – it wasn’t half-bad! They had some really cute slouchy tops for sale. There were lots of fashion tips warning you about things like cleavage and how heels would make you “look more like a woman of the world than a woman of the Lord”. But check this out:

Shorten that hemline and you've got "fierce" with a capital "fierce".

Cute, right? Right out of Roman Holiday. I’d rock that if it were above the knee and I could pair it with espadrilles.

Back to David and the ark. He puts on this huge, over-the-top production bringing it into Jerusalem with musicians, singers and back-up dancers (I’m just guessing). Watching all of this and glowering is Michal, the daughter of Saul. She “looked out of the window, and saw King David dancing and making merry; and she despised him in her heart” (Chr 15:29). This is the closest the Bible had come to clearly identifying a good guy and a bad guy. I wonder what kind of dance moves he was doing. I bet they were the kind of moves that guys sometimes do that look like they’re pushing something away over and over again. Kind of like raising the roof if the roof’s directly in front of them… know what I mean?

Published in: on August 29, 2011 at 1:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Things Just Got Handsome in Here (Chronicles 12)

I must give credit where credit is due: the above title is one of my gal pal Andrea’s favourite expressions, used frequently to mark the entrance of an attractive male into whatever watering hole we’re lingering at.

Chronicles 12 details David’s army and things do get handsome. The dudes sound tasty. Firstly, they’re men in uniform so that’s a good start. What’s more, they’re ambidextrous bowmen who can “shoot arrows and sling stones with either the right or the left hand” (Chr 12:2). What else can they do with both hands? Oh, my…

In addition to being ambidextrous, the dudes have “faces like lions” and are “swift like gazelles upon the mountains” (Chr 12:8). When I read this, I immediately thought of that late 80s show Beauty and the Beast starring Linda Hamilton before she had those wicked shredded delts. Looking back, I remember that Beauty and the Beast gave me “feelings” as a pre-pubescent youngster, sitting in her parents’ basement and watching television in her gymnastics leotard. At the time, all I knew was that I really, really wanted to watch it.

Looks aside, these dudes get shit done. They have a “singleness of purpose” (Chr 12:33) in making David king. And – they’re organized: “All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king over all Israel” (Chr 12:38). Fantastic.

The best thing about these dudes, however, is that they travel with snacks (snacks that aren’t just unleavened bread). No. They bring “cakes of figs, clusters of raisins, and wine and oil” (Chr 12:40). Class acts all the way.

Sexy.

Published in: on August 27, 2011 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Help Wanted (Chronicles 9-11)

Now that all the genealogies have been outlined (in painful detail if you’re reading the Bible, in broad, hasty brushstrokes if you’re reading this blog), something can finally happen. Terrific.

The first thing that happens in Chronicles 9 is all sorts of boring jobs get delegated. Here are some of them:

– gatekeepers: these folks guard the different meeting places and are placed on the north, south, east, and west sides (like its The Craft)

– singers: these folks were on duty “day and night” in case anybody was itching to hear some covers at 4am

– people in charge of utensils: I’m not even sure they had a full table setting established in biblical times so I guess these folks had to specialize in “the art of looking busy”

– people in charge of, specifically, “holy utensils”: I bet these folks were really snobby to the people in charge of the regular utensils

– people in charge of flat cakes: these folks were probably boring

In Chronicles 10, the Israelites go the war with the Philistines and, to be honest, I don’t know if this is new information or another recap. Regardless, the Israelites fair poorly (having no doubt been distracted by the Philistines waving copies of US Weekly at them) and Saul, who’s in charge, decides the dignified thing to do is to commit suicide. So he “fell on a sword and died” (Chr 10:5). It’s kind of unclear if God is upset by the suicide because it says only that “Saul died for his unfaithfulness; he was unfaithful to the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance” (Chr 10:13). I don’t think that one can read “unfaithfulness” as representing suicide since he “died for his unfaithfulness”. That would be like saying “he killed himself because he killed himself”. It’s pretty interesting that the whole suicide thing is just passed over.

Anyway, David shows up on the scene and becomes king over Israel. He and a bunch of his buddies head down to Jerusalem (a happening place) and the people there say, “You will not come in here” (Chr 11:5). Hospitality is not their forte. David, not exactly known for rolling with the punches, takes the stronghold of Zion and makes it his pad. This is easy for him because he has a lot of friends with beefy arms.

I forget who introduced me to Homestar Runner in university but I STILL find it funny.

Published in: on August 24, 2011 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crushed Velvet (Chronicles 5-8)

I’m trying to plough through the first ten chapters of Chronicles because it’s just list after list. It’s so boring that I can’t help but hear the text in the voice of the guy who played Ferris’ teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 

I’m not sure what to make of the first few lines of chapter five: “The sons of Rueben the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born; but because he polluted his father’s couch, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel…” (Chr 5:1). Gross. I hope it wasn’t an expensive couch. Guess it found its way to Goodwill. I once bought a really nice cushy chair from Goodwill for $15. It was covered in blue crushed velvet. Crushed velvet. I had an extended conversation with a gal pal last night and we both agreed that the fabric had played an important role in our adolescence. She had been a Goth; I had been a figure skater. Polar opposites brought together by a spectacularly unflattering fabric.

The rest of the chapters run down the descendents of Gad, the Levites, Issachar and Benjamin. The only other slightly amusing thing that comes up is that Machir, the father of Gilead, acquires wives for these two guys named Huppim and Shuppim, who I imagine to be two middle-aged beedles living together in the male equivalent of a Boston marriage. If you don’t know what a Boston marriage is, it’s was a term used in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to describe two women living together without the financial support of a man. Not necessarily lesbians but – hey – who doesn’t sometimes get cold at night, right?

A fantastic resource for the history of Boston marriages. Yes - I've read it.

Published in: on August 22, 2011 at 12:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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It’s a Boy! (Chronicles 1-4)

I was really looking forward to Chronicles because I thought it was chock-full of all those predictions that people like Nostradamus kept on about. The first four chapters consist of long lists: so-and-so was so-and-so’s son and so on and so forth. Yawn. Basically, the sons of Israel, David and Simeon (who?) are listed in detail. Usually, I’m a girl who loves lists (I make a “To Do” list almost every day, even on a Sunday, and get an incredible charge when I check something off) but these lists are bo-ring. 

There are some interesting facts that pop up, however. For example:

– Abraham had a concubine named Keturah, who bore him six children (then had to do her Kegels to keep her post)

– Caleb had sex with his mother, Ephrathah, and she bore him Ashur (whose father was also his brother and whose mother was also his grandmother)

– Jabez’ mother named him as such because “[she] bore him in pain” (Chr 4:9)… if you pronounce “Jabez” as one syllable and make the “z” soft then it makes sense

Giving birth is one of the most terrifying things to me. That and getting eaten by a Great White Shark like Robert Shaw’s character in Jaws. My pal Summeroni (nickname) was in town visiting this week with her new baby boy, August. She had pictures on her iPhone of August coming out of her vagina. I was horrified. She was pretty casual about it. Remember the days when the dads stood out in the hallway, pacing and handing out cigars to everyone? Let’s bring those days back.

"We're going to need a bigger boat."

Published in: on August 20, 2011 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Didn’t See That One Coming (Kings 2 24-25)

At this point in time, Jehoiakim is king of Judah and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, is giving him some trouble (if you’re a fan of The Matrix then you’ll remember that Nebuchadnezzar is the name of the vessel – just saying). Nebuchadnezzar (who I imagine is probably called “Buch” by his intimates) takes Judah without much of a fight from Jehoiakim. As a matter of fact, Jehoiakim not only gives himself up but gives up “his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his palace officials” (Kin 2 24:12). Wimp.

When given an inch, Nebuchadnezzar takes a mile and takes almost everyone in Judah for captive, except the poor people (who are left to their own devices: questioning their childrens’ paternity and Big Gulps). He also takes all the treasure that Solomon had put in the house of the Lord. Apparently, all this was foretold so I suppose they should have seen that one coming.

After twenty-seven years of servitude, Evilmerodach becomes king of Babylon. And guess what? He’s actually pretty nice despite his name. He frees Jeroiakim from prison, gives him some sort of special chair, has dinner with him every night and even gives him an allowance. Wow. Didn’t see that one coming.

Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 1:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Time to Take Out the Trash (Kings 2 21-23)

“Time to take out the trash” is one of my favourite expressions. I used to say it a lot while pretending to pull my pants up like some Chris Farley character. The expression is relevant to these chapters in Kings 2 because once again, the reigning kings revert to doing “what was evil in the sight of the Lord” until Josiah comes along and sets things right.

Manasseh reigns in Jerusalem and consorts with soothsayers, augurs, mediums and wizards, which God says is bad form even though this kind of company would make for a great party. These are the kinds of folks who, if you happen to be planning a wedding, you’d want to spread out amongst the tables in order to facilitate scintillating conversation. Augury, in case you didn’t know, is a practice of divination which involves interpreting the movements of birds as various omens. Augury is also a progressive death metal band from Montreal. They are very good (I don’t really know; I hadn’t heard of them until I searched “augury”).

Manasseh’s son Amon succeeds him and is no better. His reign is shorter, however, because he’s killed by his servants. This reminded me of one of my favourite old BBC series “I, Claudius”. I love John Hurt’s performance as Crazy Caligula, especially when he’s being assassinated by his German guard. He’s indignant: “You can’t kill me; I’m a god…. I’m a god, I’m a god, I’m a god!”. When he comes back as a ghost to visit his uncle Claudius he says, “Uncle Claudius, I wasn’t a god after all! You could have knocked me over with a feather when they told me!”. I found this uproariously funny as a twelve-year old because on the inside, I am an old lady. 

Anyways, Josiah eventually takes over. He gets one of his posse to make a visit to one of the priests and he finds the “book of the law”. Josiah flips through it and is like, “We’re not doing any of this. Shit”. He goes into overdrive. He spends most of his time going around and knocking down altars and trashing statues of other gods. He takes out the male cult prostitutes, too (they’re back…). None of this happens before he “rent[s] his clothes,” of course.

Fitting. Augury has a song called “Becoming God”. Enjoy.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slide Show (Kings 2 19-20)

Hezekiah, king of Judah, decides to be a bit of a tattletale and tell God about how Sennacherib has been mocking him and doing bad stuff. Hezekiah does this by means of a long-winded, rambling prayer which ends on the following threat: “I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came” (Kin 2 19:28). I’m not sure what “bit” means in this particular context. I did my research and most biblical scholars agree that it loosely translates into “dink”.

God hears Hezekiah’s prayer and exacts an appropriately untimely end for Sennacherib: he’s killed by his own sons while he’s worshipping some god named Nisroch. Interesting fact re: Nisroch… he’s the god of agriculture.

In chapter 20, Hezekiah falls ill and receives a visit from Merodachbaldan, son of the king of Babylon (If you want it, come and get it… Babylon). Hezekiah is the worst host to Merodachbaldan. Worse than my own dad, who is at his wit’s end if he has to do anything more than turn on the soccer game. Interesting fact re: my dad… he would probably make no contact with the outside world if it weren’t for my mum. He still occasionally calls me “Spud,” the name of our cat who passed away over ten years ago now. He’s kind of out to lunch. Anyways, Hezekiah subjects poor Merodachbaldan to an exhaustive tour of his house including, but not limited to “his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in the storehouses”. In fact, it is stated that “there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (Kin 2 20:13). Bo-ring. 

Interesting fact re: me… I really dislike being shown other people’s photos. I don’t know what it is, exactly. I suppose it’s the trapped feeling I get, like I can’t end it when I want to, as in a conversation when you can switch topics when someone’s boring you out of your skull. Maybe it goes back to this geography teacher I had who used to force the grade nines to sit through epic slide shows of his travels. Let’s call him Mr. Brotherhood (because that’s his name). Mr. Brotherhood’s look could only be described as “pedophile chic”. You know what that is: uncomfortably high slacks, thick glasses and tan windbreaker. Mr. Brotherhood loved to take pictures of things like rocks and then take another picture of an everyday object, like his keys, next to those objects in order to “show scale”.

Here’s the final scene from one of my all-time favourite movies “Strictly Ballroom”. Skip to 3:19 for a partial example of “pedophile chic” and possibly the best slow clap ever.

“Listen to the rhthym”. 

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 12:51 am  Comments (2)  
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