Good Riddance (Deuteronomy 33-34, Joshua 1-2)

Having gone out on a song (broadway-style), Moses somewhat unceremoniously goes up Mount Nebo (which has a very nice panoramic view of the land that he won’t be around to see his people inherit) and dies. I assumed he was in rough shape, being one hundred and twenty years old, but not so because “his eye was not dim; nor his natural force [semen] abated” (Deu 34:7). God thought he’d just shake up management, I guess. “We’re restructuring”.

In steps Joshua. He seems to be trying a little too hard and comes off as a bossypants. His first initiative is to send out spies to peruse the land God has been promising the Israelites (for like, ever). So he sends out these two jokers who wind up staying at a harlot’s house (“I swear all the inns were full!”). Turns out that she’s a pretty wily harlot, fortunately, because the king of Jericho comes searching for them (for trespassing?). The harlot hides them on the roof of her house – which would seem pretty conspicuous until she covers them with stalks of flax. Very smart. She’s probably harlot-ing to put herself through college.

I wanted to know the difference between a harlot and a whore, so I looked it up. A whore takes money; a harlot can, too, or is just promiscous and does it for free. So perhaps a harlot is a sporadically enterprising slut. Hmm.

These bumbling spies continue to be pursued as they check out their new digs. They use the harlot’s house as a safehouse and she – this is all her ¬†– devises a way for them to get in and out in a clandestine manner. She ties a scarlet (no symbolism there) cord to her window for them to make use of. When the job’s done, they return to Joshua and hilariously try to sell him on the idea that they scared the shit out of everyone there: “Truly the Lord has given all the land in our hands; and moreover, all the inhabitants of the land are faint-hearted because of us.” (Jos 2:24). Whatever, guys.

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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You Say Party! God Says Die! (Deuteronomy 30-32)

God’s got some exciting news for Moses: it’s time for him to die. God wants Joshua (who is much more “with it”) to take over leading the Hebrews. Out with the old, in with the new, as the saying goes. Moses, after all, is pushing one hundred and twenty years old and probably keeps telling people the same old boring stories.

To smooth things over, God suggests a sing-a-long. Oh, yes. God imparts a really verbose, drawn-out song to Moses that he should use to bless his people before his death. To give them a pre-show before the main event. There’s no sheet music in the Bible but judging by the amount of pages the song covers, I can imagine that it’s about the same length and cadence of a typical Tori Amos tune. Remember how long her cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit¬†was? It was like, twenty-two minutes long. In case it’s not as fresh in your memory as it is mine, here it is:

Kudos to you if you made it through the whole song. It is painful, painful. I forgot that Tori Amos starts almost every one of her songs with a sharp intake of breath, as if she’s given herself a paper cut. That said, I still adore “Cornflake Girl”.

Anyways, the song that God wants Moses to sing contains tons of threats if the Hebrews don’t obey his commandments and refers to God as – no kidding – “the Rock”. For example: “The Rock, his work is perfect/for all his ways are justice” (Deu 32:4). Have you ever tried to give yourself a nickname? It doesn’t usually work. In high school, I pushed pretty hard for “Tank” because I was suffering from a female version of the Napoleon complex. I was really the only one who ever used it.

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Negative Reinforcement (Deuteronomy 27-29)

God decides it’s time for a rehashing of the Ten Commandments. For variety’s sake, he puts a more negative spin on them. For example: “Cursed be he who dishonors his father or his mother” (Deu 27:16). The orginal phrasing, “Thou shalt not…,” is like saying “Don’t do that, please” and this “Cursed be he…” business is like saying “Fuck you if you do that”. Harsh. This would never work on me; I always thought it was funny when I was a kid and a teacher would get REALLY mad and scream in an effort to control an uruly classroom. I remember a certain French teacher – Monsieur Desjardins – screaming and throwing a stapler across the room. Admittedly, French teachers in Ontario do not have an easy time and are literally driven to madness by Grade 8 students who, after years of core French, still only knew how to say “Je m’appelle Stefan (De Pinto)”. Man, that kid was dense.

God also throws this into the mix: “Cursed be he who misleads a blind man on the road” (Deu 27:18). Cursed be that guy for sure; he’s an asshole.

God mentions the good stuff that could happen to his people if they stick to his commandments. Stuff like having the “fruit of your body” be blessed. But it’s contained in a single paragraph in Deuteronomy 28. When it comes to the bad stuff that could happend, God goes on and on for pages. This much negative reinforcement goes against everything I’ve gleaned from reality television about dog training and child rearing (which isn’t much but I’m always in favour of holding strong, yet unsupported opinions).

Here’s some of the bad stuff that could happen:

– consumption

– fever

– inflammation

– drought

– mildew (OH NO!)

– blasting (it doesn’t say what kind)

– boils

– itchiness

– “…your ass shall be violently be taken away before your face…” (Deu 28:31)

– someone will have sex with your wife that isn’t you

– rain that isn’t rain but actually a kind of powder (haven’t heard of this one before – way to stay fresh, G)

– you’ll be forced to eat your own children (dark)

– a nation of stern countenance will rise up and overtake you (probably China)

Brothers: Just Like the Movie “Brothers” (Deuteronomy 24-25)

I’m really getting to like Deuteronomy. It’s a real cache of weird rules.

For example, if an ox walks all over your grain, you’re not allowed to muzzle it. This is a good rule because most folks get a little nervous when they see a muzzled animal. It’s usually pit bulls and those “miscellaneous” dogs that street kids tote around who have muzzles on them. Those dogs probably get a bad rap. Everytime I see one I remember how that woman who got that face transplant was originally attacked by a golden retriever. Who was probably wearing a bandana around its neck and named “Sandy”.

Deuteronomy 25 completely contradicts something in Leviticus. I’ve mentioned in past posts one particular passage from Leviticus that I’m overly familiar with thanks to the 1969 Hal Wallis classic Anne of the Thousand Days, a movie I watched pretty much every day when I was twelve. Henry VIII is able to divorce his first (barren) wife, Catherine of Aragon because she was formerly his brother’s wife and Leviticus calls this an “unclean thing… they shall be childless”. But in Deuteronomy 25 it says, “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her” (Deu 25:5).

I was looking for a relevant clip to show from Anne and I noticed a certain penchant for Tudor enthusiasts to create montages with Anne Boleyn to – for whatever reason – the music of Evanescence, which I find hilariously inappropriate because it sounds nothing like court music. I’ve come across this phenomenon many times.

So Deuteronomy 25 means that Tobey Maguire’s character in Brothers shouldn’t have gotten so pissed at Jake Gyllenhal’s character because he was just trying to do what was right. As a brother.

This trailer proves that even shitty movies can look good when backed by the music of U2.

Another weird rule in Deuteronomy 25 is that if a woman sees that her husband is in a fight and she tries to help him by grabbing the other guy’s junk then she’s in big trouble. Her punishment is her hand gets cut off. Yikes.

Published in: on March 23, 2011 at 2:12 am  Comments (4)  
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Poop (Deuteronomy 23)

There are just so many things to be ashamed of.

Next on the list: pooping.

Here we go: “You shall have a place outside the camp and you shall go out to it; and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excrement” (Deu 23:13).

The reasoning here is that because “the Lord walks in your midst,” it follows that you literally cannot soil your home and are under strict obligation to keep it poop-free so he doesn’t step in it. This is before the advent of indoor plumbing, of course.

Moving on, I’m not sure what “the assembly of the Lord” is but I’ll assume that it stands in for “church”. Okay, so you can’t go to church if you’re a man and have crushed testicles or your ding-dong cut off. “He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deu 23:1). My question is: who’s going to know?

Something I liked in Deuteronomy 23 was that the Bible permits you to go into your neighbour’s vineyard and eat as many grapes as you want. I might consider this stealing but then again, what’s a few grapes between neighbours? This ought to apply to all fruits. I have a delightful memory when I was a child of sitting by the chain-link fence that separated my parents’ yard from our neighbours’ and reaching through to eat the raspberries that they grew. I cleaned that thing. Then I would wait a few days until the green ones ripened and clean it again. They probably thought crows did it but it was just my chubby nine-year-old self, perpetually frustrated by small dinner and dessert portions.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 12:31 am  Comments (1)  
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You Can’t Get Raped in a City (Deuteronomy 22)

You know who would enjoy reading Deuteronomy 22? Feminists. Here’s why:

If you’re a virgin who is engaged and you’re raped then you and your rapist both get stoned to death. He gets stoned because he raped you and you get stoned because “[you] did not cry for help though [you] were in the city” (Deu 22:24). Who said you didn’t cry for help? The assumption here is that if you’re in a populated area and nobody hears or helps you it’s because you weren’t shouting loud enough and probably wanted it in the first place. Maybe you were yelling rape instead of “fire” or “sale” or better yet, “fire sale”.

If you’re a virgin who is engaged and you’re raped in the “open country” then only your rapist gets stoned to death. Fingers crossed you’re raped in rural Oklahoma.

If you’re a virgin and your husband has sex with you and is unsure afterward that you’re a virgin (wide pelvis?) then you and your parents have to get your “tokens of virginity” aka bloody bedsheets, round up the elders and show the bloody bedsheets to them at the edge of the city. Gross. Probably not something you want to do at a Chili’s. If your bloody bedsheets are convincing then your husband gets whipped and you’re off to a great start to your marriage.

Deuteronomy also has some non-rape-related ridiculous rules. For example, you can’t wear “mingled stuff,” like poly-cotton blends or anything sold at the store Preloved. You also can’t sow your vineyard with two different types of seed or plow your fields with two different types of animals. You can’t watch your brother’s animals run away and do nothing, even if they’re foaming at the mouth and even if your brother happens to be a jerk. You can’t take a nest with both the mother bird and the baby birds (monster!) but you can just take the baby birds (“Not without my daughter”).

The best part of the trailer below is when the voiceover goes, “He lied…”.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 6:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why Buy the Cow? (Deuteronomy 21)

Deuteronomy 21 packs a punch.

Let’s say you’re on a power walk one day and you stumble across a dead body. Commonplace in biblical times, I’m sure. What you’re supposed to do, according to Deuteronomy 21, is gather the elders from the city that is the closest (old people have nothing better to do – well, maybe show up somewhere fifteen minutes early). They’re supposed to get a heifer that hasn’t worked much (so, a lazy one) and take it down to a valley and break its neck. Isn’t that hard to do? All I know of breaking necks I’ve gleaned from action movies. From what I understand you have to grab the head on either side and twist really fast like chiropractic gone wrong. I imagine this would be difficult if your target was a large bovine.

Let’s say you’re pillaging a city and you see a beautiful lady and you want to have sex with her. You’re not made of stone. What you’re supposed to do, says the Bible, is take her home with you, make her shave her head and give herself a mani/pedi. Literally, it says “you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and pare her nails” (Deu 21:12). This helps break her spirit. You’re supposed to give her a month of “space” during which she can cry about stupid things like missing her family and not wanting to get raped. When the month’s up you can have sex with her (says the Bible but likely not the lucky lady). If, for whatever reason, you’re left unsatisfied (maybe she just wasn’t into it) you can set her free and let her find her own way. But you can’t sell her. Oh, no. That would be immoral.

Let’s say you’re having difficulties with your son. He’s a problem child. Talks back to you, eats too much junk and drinks. Well, you can just round up all the men in town and stone him. They’re your buddies and should be happy to help resolve this familial problem. It’s probably wise that this applies only to your own children and not other people’s. I’d get a little stone-happy.

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Paul Wylie and the Greatest Freeskate of All Time (Deuteronomy 19-20)

I don’t really see the difference between the Israelites and pirates. God wants them to attack other tribes, kill all the men, ransack their villages and take all their stuff. This sort of behaviour is especially okay when dealing with: Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perezzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Oh, and the Chinese.

It’s easy to get a little nervous when approaching battle, knowing that there is a distinct possibility that you might have a sword pushed through your belly and come out the other side of you. So God has a canned pep talk that his people can draw upon in times like these. He says, “Hear, O Israel, you draw near this day of battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint; do not fear or tremble, or be in dread of them; for the Lord your God is he that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory” (Deu 20:2-4). This is way too dry. Not inspiring at all. God obviously hasn’t seen the Kenneth Branagh version of Henry V. Oh, man. That speech he gives is so good:

Did you see a young Christian Bale?

I feel like I’ve mentioned this speech before. It figured prominently in my childhood. Plus, I’ve always had a lady boner for Kenneth Branagh. What gave me a double lady boner was when Paul Wylie skated his silver medal-winning freeskate in the Albertville Olympics to the soundtrack to Henry V. I can’t remember it that clearly but I’m pretty sure I got a “feeling” watching this in 1992:

This post wasn’t so much about the Bible. But it was about things I like.

Published in: on March 17, 2011 at 3:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Don’t Feed the Seagulls (Deuteronomy 15-18)

Surprise, surprise. More rules from chapters 15-18 of the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 15 puts forth the ridiculous rule of – get this – giving to the poor. Not only that, God commands that “you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be” (Deu 15:8). That’s pretty wide open. What if his need is a bottle of Sailor Jerry Rum, a cell phone or a sad (and strangely simultaneously vicious-looking) dog that he can’t care for? That’s what I feel I’m being asked for everytime the bottom strata asks me to metaphorically open my hand. Little do they know, I live off of free samples that I garner from those 20-somethings standing at major intersections in matching smocks.

The number seven figures prominently in the Bible. It’s probably been carried over from paganism. If you own a slave, you’re supposed to release him on the seventh year of his servitude. This is slippery because it’s likely that slaves back in biblical times couldn’t count. “Has it been seven years already? No, no, no, my good man. I think it’s been only five. Now back to your goat-milking (or whatever)”. If, in a lapse of sanity, the slave doesn’t want to be set free and instead wants to stay on with the family, God commands you to nail his ear to the door in some weird, symbolic gesture of bondedness: “…you shall take an awl, and thrust it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your bondman forever” (Deu 15:17). Sure, that makes sense, I guess.

Published in: on March 15, 2011 at 1:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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Don’t You Want Somebody to Stone? (Deuteronomy 11-14)

Don’t you need somebody to stone?

Wouldn’t you love somebody to stone?

You better find somebody to stone.

Ahem.

God really hates Egypt. He promises the Israelites that their awaited land will be way better than the so-called “iron furnace” and says that it is “a land the Lord your God cares for,” (Deu 11:12) implying that he does not care about other lands. Recent happenings in Japan might be seen to back up these harsh sentiments, Christian readers (of which I have none).

Anyways, as I said in the last post, Deuteronomy does not offer a lot of new information. I’m getting pretty bored here. The commandments are hammered home and there’s more talk about what you can and can’t eat. New on the list of animals you can eat: the (Sears &) roebuck. Game. Delicious. New on the list of animals you can’t: the little owl. Too bad. Doesn’t seem like a big deal; it’s just little, after all. And you can’t eat any animal you find dead (like roadkill) either. You can, however, give it to a non-Hebrew stranger to eat or, in the spirit of entrepreneurship, sell it to a foreigner. Genius.

Moving on, God wants anyone who presents him or herself as a prophet or “dreamer of dreams” (aren’t we all?) and tries to steer the Israelites away from their faith to be stoned. He’s pretty clear about this when he says, “you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death” (Deu 13:9). Well, not everyone can be first but I guess God wants everyone to be enthusiastic. Get into it, people.

Published in: on March 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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