God’s Ghost Friends (Chronicles 2 16-18)

Chronicles 2 is a recap and I should probably remember what went down. But I don’t. What I’ve gathered this second time round is that Asa is king over Judah and during his reign he makes a pact with the king of Syria and gives his some gifts directly from the house of the Lord, which basically is regifting. I’ve regifted once – someone gave me one of those word magnet sets that you put on your fridge and make sentences with. People who have been identified as having a large vocabulary often get gifts of this nature. But we don’t have time to stand in front of our fridges and play with magnets because we’re too busy reading, people.

Jehoshaphat is next in line to rule over Judah and up until this point, he has done no jumping whatsoever. But he keeps things interesting by picking a fight with Ramothgilead. Ahab, king of Israel, joins him in this conquest. But in a weird way. Here’s what goes down, according to some guy named Micaiah, who tells Jehoshaphat: “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.'” (Chr 2 18:18-21).

Two questions arise: one – where did this ghost come from and why is he keen to do God’s dirty work? and two – why is lying – one of the Ten Commandments – okay here? Now that I think of it, God has lied a few times. Most notably when he lied to Abraham about having to sacrifice his son in order to prove his faith (gotcha!). That was a whopper.

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Published in: on September 30, 2011 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tired of Getting Sand Kicked in Your Face? (Chronicles 2 13-15)

A guy named Abijah begins to reign over Judah and comes up against Jeroboam who, next to Satan, seems to be one the Bible’s antagonists. Jeroboam is so bad that Abijah feels inclined to stand on a mountain and shout into the wind, “Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel! Ought you not to know that the Lord God over Israel gave the kinship to Israel for ever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt?” (Chr 2 13:4-5). This is a very indirect way of communicating. I’ve tried many-a-time to resolve my issues with others via the wind and it doesn’t work, people. It doesn’t work. You need face time.

And… what’s a covenant of salt? Is it that thing people do when they toss spilled salt over their left shoulders? Because that’s wishing. I know this because my Nana was a fanatic for it. That and Three’s Company. We used to watch it on full volume when I visited on account of her poor hearing.

Abijah and Jeroboam eventually go to war and it’s pretty clear whose side God is on. Abijah’s forces smush (technical military terminology) those of Jeroboam. Then it’s time for another round of cleaning house. All the false idols get chucked and all the trees standing in a circle get chopped down (take that Lillith Fair… I don’t know – the association here is pretty clear in my mind).

Next, this Ethiopian leader named Zerah gets up in Asa’s (Abijah’s successor) business. Now, I could have told you this would be an easy win. Those guys are pretty skinny and they only eat lentils and squishy bread (such is my impression). The Ethiopians get sand kicked in their faces, so to speak. I used to love those old Charles Atlas ads in the back of Archie comics (which were built on the assumptions that a real man stands up for himself by throwing punches and that women like it).

Asa and his gang are pretty hardcore: “And they entered into a covenant to seek  the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul; and that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman” [italics added] (Chr 2 15:13). Hmm. Is that a good thing?

Skinny?! Why, thank you!

Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chill Your Boner (Chronicles 2 11-12)

At this stage in the game, Rehoboam is now in power in Jerusalem. Wanting to throw his weight around, he assembles one hundred and eighty thousand stout-hearted men to battle against Israel. Just as everyone’s getting all excited, the word of God descends upon him like a Debbie Downer upon a casual dinner party. “There will be no fighting,” says God, “You’re all brethren here so just chill your boner” (Chr 2 11:4). I might have paraphrased that in my preferred idiom.

Rehoboam’s lifestyle is polygamous: he has eighteen wives total, three of which are worth mentioning (Mahalath, Abihail, Maacah). The other fifteen remain unnamed. He also has sixty concubines. Busy guy. But after say, the fifth wife, aren’t they all just concubines? What differentiates them? Probably housing. Whenever I picture a group of concubines, I picture a writhing mass of veiled bodies in a pit of silken pillows. Kind of like the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese but… pillows.

After reigning for a few years, Rehoboam figures that his probation period is up and starts acting like an asshole, which pisses off God. He sends Shishak (terrible name to enunciate) the king of Egypt to attack Rehoboam’s kingdom and take all his treasures away. This is a classic parenting technique – negative reinforcement. Very Old Testament. Rehoboam is particularly put out when his gold shields get taken away and he can only afford to replace them with bronze ones. How embarrassing. The only people that are happy with bronze are Canadian athletes. Sorry, but it’s true.

Now THAT'S a concubine.

 

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 12:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gah-wold (Chronicles 2 8-10)

It’s taken twenty years for Solomon to bring the house of the Lord to glorious completion. Naturally, other rulers are jealous and come to check it out; in particular, the Queen of Sheba. I imagine the Queen of Sheba to be quite sexy and exotic and speak with a pan-European accent like Heidi Klum does (I mean, where is she really from? Estonia?). Not only does she decide to pay Solomon a visit; she decides to “test him with hard questions” (Chr 2 9:1). None of these questions are specified but she probably asks him questions like how many sexual partners he’s had and if he fears commitment.

The Queen of Sheba is sufficiently impressed with the grandeur of the new digs and she gifts Solomon tons of gold, gems and spices. As a matter of fact, even though Solomon is a sitting pretty, he receives many gifts from other rulers. This is kind of like how celebrity get swag and clothes from designers for free only after they become famous and can afford fancy stuff. Funny, that.

Solomon puts all this found cash to good use by commisioning useful items like an ivory throne covered in gold. I hope it was made close to home because that would be a bitch to deliver.

When Solomon passes his son Rehoboam takes over. The people of Israel smell an opportunity to take advantage of the new guy and ask him to “lighten the hard service of [his] father and his heavy yoke” (Chr 2 10:4). Rehoboam doesn’t know what to do so asks around: first the old men and then the young men since he wants a second opinion. Then he panics and starts making threats that he’s going to make their yoke even heavier. Scorpions are mentioned, too. Basically he says, “You’re used to being whipped with whips – how do you think you’d like being whipped with scorpions? Eh?”. It seems to me that it would be much more difficult to whip someone with scorpions successfully unless you had really quick reflexes and a good pair of thick leather gloves. File this under “Bad Leadership Skills”.

Say it slowly: Gah-wold

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tub Time (Chronicles 2 4-7)

Solomon has put all the finishing touches on the house of the Lord. There’s this really big tub (that, for some reason, is referred to as the “molten sea”) which can hold thirty thousand baths. So you can have a soak with twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine of your closest friends.

There are some animal sculptures adorning the place, too. They’ve been carefully arranged so that “all their hinder parts [are] inward” (Chr 2 4:4). This is probably a good choice. A number of years ago my neighbour’s fat pug came to visit, sat on my friend’s lap and proceeded to get a huge, pink erection. It was horendous and I love pugs.

To dedicate the house of the Lord, Solomon gives a big speech. Whenever anyone launches into a speech in the Bible it’s generally boring but Solomon manages to ask some interesting questions in this one; in particular, “But will God dwell indeed with man on the earth?” (Chr 2 6:18). I guess he’s saying, “I spent all this time building this place… is God ever going to come and check it out (and bring some sort of housewarming gift)?”. It’s a fair query. If I were in Solomon’s place, I would hope for Misty Mints. I love those things. They’re basically pastel-coloured chunks of butter flavoured with peppermint. They sell them at dollar stores but I think that’s underestimating them. They should be rebranded and sold at Pusateri’s for $5.99.

My eyes are misting over at the mere thought of them.

Solomon also drops this bomb in the middle of his speech: “there is no man who does not sin” (Chr 2 6:36). That’s called “glass half empty thinking”. This is one of my beefs with Judaism and Christianity: they operate under the assumption that we’re shit to begin with.

When Solomon wraps things up, “the glory of the Lord filled the temple” (Chr 2 7:1). Apparently, glory is one in the same as fire because God takes that form and consumes all the offerings in one fell flaming swoop. And there were a lot of offerings. Solomon lays out, to give you an idea, twenty-two thousand oxen. Reminds me of a Chinese wedding I once went to. A traditional Chinese wedding has ten courses. The point is to show off how much wealth the family has. It’s deemed a success if there are tons of leftovers to toss in the garbage. The Scottish in my finds this deeply offensive. What a waste. I’m pretty sure I took home a doggie bag of my own devising. I typically carry tuppeware in my purse on any given day and weddings are no exception.

 

Published in: on September 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Attack of the Giant Babies (Chronicles 2 1-3)

At the beginning of the second book of Chronicles, King David is dead and his pansy son Solomon is in charge. His main task is to build the house of Lord the way that David imagined it which, by all accounts, resembles a Vegas casino. David had pretty bad taste. If he lived in modern times he probably would’ve had a couple of stone lions at the end of his driveway, regardless of the size of his house. I’m of the opinion that you need to have a big house to do stuff like that. If you live in a small, decrepit bungalow then take a pass on the stone lions, Chinese dragons, arctic wolves and the like.

Basically, the house of the Lord is covered in gold. Does God care about that sort of thing? It doesn’t really square with the messages at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition which I thought upheld poverty as a virtue (almost). But maybe that’s just when Jesus comes into the picture. Whatever the case, here’s a sample of what the joint looked like: “The vestibule in front of the nave of the house was twenty cubits long, equal to the width of the house; and its height was a hundred and twenty cubits. He overlaid it on the inside with pure GOLD. The nave he lined with cypress, and covered it with fine GOLD, and made palms and chains on it. He adorned the house with settings of precious stones. The GOLD was GOLD of Parvaim. So he lined the house with GOLD – its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors; and he carved cherubim on the walls” (Chr 2 3:4-7).

I added the capitalization for effect.

The description of the cherubim is particularly disturbing from the interior decorating point of view. Mostly because of how enormous they are. I’ve always had a soft spot for those fountains that have a cherub pouring water out of an urn. I think they’re really classy. Or maybe it’s because I want to live in an Italian villa and have a tragic life like that loopy lady in the video for Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved”. Anyways, I think if you’re going to do cherubim then keep them small. Always smaller than scale. The cherubim in the house of the Lord have a wingspan of like, twenty cubits. That’s way over the top. Babies are cute and all (I guess) but giant babies are downright frightening. Imagine trying to carry on a conversation in a room where you’re eclipesed by a statue of a giant baby with wings. I couldn’t.

Clearly, you married for the money so you get what you deserve. Stop trying to steal your daughter’s statuatory rapist. It’s gross.

 

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 1:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Meddle of Honour (Chronicles 27-29)

Whenever I think of the iconic “Dad,” I think of a man sitting, waiting patiently in an armchair, one leg crossed over the other, reading the paper with glasses perched on the end of his nose. I also think of a man giving unsolicited, semi-patronizing advice.

King David is just this kind of Dad. He’s supposed to build a house for the ark of the covenant but he can’t because, as a warrior, he’s got blood on his hands. God wants his son Solomon to take over the task. Rather than let Solomon do his own thing, David insists on giving him blueprints for the house and supplying all the materials. He gives him specifications for everything right down to the lampstands. Solomon doesn’t get to add any of his own flair at all. He probably had some cool ideas, like a billiards room or a chocolate fountain.

More obnoxious than that, when the house is finally built, David insists on blessing the house AND blessing God. I didn’t know that this could be done. What good is it to bless God? He’s God. He can look after himself.

This behaviour reminds me of my own Dad who says grace at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner even though my Mum (and to a lesser extent, me) has worked all day to prepare everything. Don’t get me wrong – my Dad is a great guy – but the way he puts on airs to say grace makes me want to throw the turkey at him. Maybe it’s a generational thing. All the older men in my family are like that. They mow the lawns and that’s it. I once asked my Dad to help me make a salad and he looked at me as if I was speaking Cantonese. Here’s how that conversaton went:

Me: “Since it’s Mother’s Day, how ’bout I do some fish and you make a salad?”

My Dad: “… oh, well… I think it’d be better if you made the salad, love.”

Me: “Why?”

My Dad: “… oh, well… you’re so much better at it.”

Me: “It’s a salad. Just wash a bunch of lettuce and vegetables and put them in a big bowl.”

[blank stare]

Me: “YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO MAKE A SALAD, DO YOU???!!!”

My Dad: “Frankly, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Me: “Just go watch the soccer.”

Knows how to make a friggin' salad.

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 2:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Not All Child Stars Turn Out to Be Neuroscientists (Chronicles 22-26)

I think that everybody’s got one friend who is lacking in the memory department and insists on telling you the same story multiple times. I feel that the Bible has become that friend to me. I’m positive that I’ve been over some of this stuff before but for whatever reason, it’s being rehashed.

King David is building the house of God but, knowing that he’s getting on in years, passes the task to his son Solomon. Building the house of God is like having Wal-Mart come to your hometown: there are a ton of new jobs for the taking. Builders, officers, judges, gatekeepers and musicians who are supposed to “offer praises to the Lord with the instruments… made for praise” (Chr 23:5). What instruments are made specifically for praise? I’m guessing the oboe’s not one of them.

The sons of Asaph and Heman land the most interesting jobs. They’re tasked with prophesizing with musical instruments; in particular, the lyre, harp and cymbals. I don’t know how they produce prophesies with instruments but I bet it’s kind of like jazz and they can do whatever and no one will question it for fear of looking like an idiot. This is why I laugh at any and all attempts at political humour. Heman, as it turns out, is a seer, although not a bad one. There’s a fuzzy line in the Bible when it comes to the business of seeing into the future. Sometimes it’s sinning and sometimes it’s not. Whatever. Heman has fourteen sons and three daughters and all of them are musically gifted so Heman is put in charge of turning them into a biblical version of “The Partridge Family”. Terrible idea. It’s definite that one will develop a substance abuse problem while another will develop an eating disorder. Child stars rarely mature into well-adjusted adults, with the exception of Blossom.

Fierce.

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Sophie’s Choice Awards (Chronicles 21)

I’m almost 100% certain that there’s been no mention whatsoever of Satan up to this point. Seemingly out of nowhere, Chronicles 21 announces, “Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (Chr 21:1). What? Of all the things that Satan could do to show himself as a bad-ass, he nags David to take another census. That’s not evil; that’s helpful. Besides, this rag-tag crew of Jews probably needs organizing.

As it turns out, there are 1, 100, 000 men in Israel who “drew the sword” (Chr 21:5) because apparently, no one else counts. Expect for the 470, 000 men in Judah who also drew the sword. These make for pretty shitty records.

For some reason, God is displeased with all this cleaning house and presents David with a choiceless choice aka a “Sophie’s Choice”. If you remember that movie, it all boils down to Meryl Streep’s character choosing between which of her two children will die in a concentration camp (I guess there can never be a camp devoted to intense mental focus by the same name – too bad). She chooses her daughter to line up for the gas chamber over her son because deep down she’s a misogynist. At least that’s how I interpreted it. Anyway, David has this choice to make: “Take which you will: either three years famine; or three months of devastation by your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you; or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence upon the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel” (Chr 21:11-12). Well, that’s a pickle.

David chooses the last in this list of choices and a pestilence (of some unspecified kind) descends, killing 70,000 men. This makes Meryl Streep’s choice look fairly innocuous – n’est pas?

This is helpful if you’re trying to learn Spanish and get depressed at the same time:

Published in: on September 2, 2011 at 2:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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