Seven Brides for Seven Israelites (Judges 20-21)

Not a whole heck of a lot happens in the final two chapters of Judges. The Israelites battle the Benjamites, whose people were responsible for raping that guy’s concubine to death (you’ll recall that that guy chopped up his concubine’s body into twelve pieces and placed them around the land… that’s not on the table for discussion because it was “symbolic,” I guess). The Irsaelites outnumber the Benjamites by a lot and predictably, win (but of course, the Bible attributes their win to God’s intervention). Out of twenty-six thousand Benjamites, the Israelites kill twenty-five thousand and one hundred. A pretty clean sweep.

Now – what to do with the rest of them? Solution: “Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead with the edge of the sword; also the women and the little ones” (Jud 21:10). There is literally a baby-killing directive in the Bible. I don’t care much for babies but this seems a tad harsh. The only people who are spared are virgins, naturally. Four hundred headband-wearing virgins to be precise.

Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough virgins to go around at this stage in the game. So the Israelites have to get creative. They head out to Shiloh, where they lay in wait in the vineyards until some women come out to “dance the dances”. Then they steal them. Problem solved. This reminds me of the plot to one of my all-time favourtie movie-musicals, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The title pretty much says it all. It’s so antiquated and sexist that I’m just dying for a revival. It’s way more over-the-top than South Pacific. The lead character actually sings a plucky song about the rape of the Sabine women (from Roman times) and how the secretly enjoyed it. The exact lyric, if I remember correctly was…

Oh, they acted upset and annoyed

But secretly, they was overjoyed

Amazing. It’s exactly as I remembered.

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 5:54 am  Comments (1)  
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An Outstanding Moral Lesson (Judges 19)

Judges 19 diverges again into a moral lesson which I think I already learned from a shitty movie with Jeremy Piven called “Very Bad Things”.

For whatever reason, the chapter picks up with the story of a man who is never named, who happens to have a concubine, who is also never named. The man is travelling about with his concubine (great travel buddies – very agreeable, those concubines) and he has a hard time finding a place to crash. He happens upon this old guy who offers him a place to stay. Him and his concubine hunker down for the night until a bunch of party animals start banging on the door, wanting to “know him”. If you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah then you know what that means. They’re not looking for a tete-a-tete.

Here’s what the old guys suggests: “No, my brethren, do not act so wickedly; seeing that this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do with them what seems good to you; but against this man do not do so vile a thing” (Jud 19: 23-24). What a great problem-solver; must have been in gifted class.

So the party animals descend upon the concubine who is raped, literally, to death. In the morning, the man finds her dead outside the house and – in an effort to tie up loose ends – he takes a knife and cuts her into twelve pieces and spreads those pieces “throughout all the territory of Israel” (Jud 19: 29).

These passages are described in such an incredibly neutral tone that I don’t know what anybody is supposed to learn from this. 

When I was thirteen, I read a lot of Amy Tan books and wanted to be Asian. I remember renting this movie and thinking I was really sophisticated for doing so because it’s foreign.

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 2:33 am  Leave a Comment  
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Priest for One (Judges 17-18)

Judges is so random; it keeps changing up protagonists. I feel like I’m reading One Hundred Years of Solitude again (I don’t care what you say, [P]Op[e]rah – that book is a snooze).

Judges 17 turns to this character named Micah, whose makes his first appearance by pulling a fast one on his own mother. His mother is bewailing the eleven hundred pieces of silver of hers that went missing until Micah’s like, “Don’t worry Mom – I’ve had it all along. Because I stole it”. His mother is so happy to have her silver returned to her that she barely bats an eye and takes two hundred of it to get some idols made (here we go again…). Obviously, she’s one of those mothers who thinks her son can do no wrong and would probably testify in court on his behalf even if, say, all evidence pointed to the fact that he raped his prom date in the backseat of her Corsica.

Once the idols are made, a wandering Levite shows up, looking for a place to crash. Micah obliges him and somehow manages to turn his into his own personal priest (and I guess butler, too). There musn’t have been a regulating body at the time. I talked to this guy one time at a bar who claimed to be a minister capable of marrying people. He said you could register to do it online, the only qualification being whether or not you have an internet connection. Times haven’t changed much.

In Judges 18, a bunch of weird people called the Danites come along and steal Micah’s idols. They also convince the Levite that it would be way cooler to be a priest to them instead of just one guy (fair enough). He’s got zero loyality and is easily swayed. He takes off with the Danites, leaving Micah to lay out his own clothes on the bed in the morning. The Danites show him a real good time by raiding a town called Laish and then torching it.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 3:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Why, Why, Why, Delilah? (Judges 15-16)

In Judges 15, Samson pays a visit to the [ex] wife he gave away with unrealistic expectations: “I will go in to my wife in the chamber” (Jud 15:1). Her father won’t have it and offers his younger daughter in her place. Samson reacts badly and somehow attaches lit torches to the tails of three hundred foxes that he then sends into the fields and orchards of the Philistines in order to burn them down. Samson is forced to flee after he makes an arse-onist of himself but the Philistines catch up with him and tie him to a big rock with ropes. But the “Spirit of the Lord” comes upon Samson and he busts out of his ropes as if they’re tearaway pants from 1998. He kills everyone in sight (one thousand men – impressive) with the jawbone of an ass, which he happens to see lying on the ground. This guy’s unstoppable.

But then Samson meets his match in Judges 16. In Gaza, he has sex with this woman named Delilah who is every single guy’s worst nightmare: the one-night stand who suddenly wants to know everything about your life. This bitch wants to talk. At length. In particular, she wants to know his greatest weakness (worst interview question ever). He lies to her three times but eventually she gets it out of him: it’s his hair. When he’s asleep she shaves off all his hair which, given the lack of conditioner in those times, was probably a disgusting, curly, matted mess. She must have been itching to perform this makeover for a while. In my mind there are only two types of guys who should sport long hair: androgynous Abercrombie & Finch models and Eurotrash villians on soap operas.

Once Samson’s hair is shaved he loses all his power. I felt exactly the same way when I got a terrible haircut at Magicuts when I was fourteen (how would boys notice me with a lop-sided bob?). He’s captured by the Philistines, who gouge out his eyes and make him work by grinding the mill in a prison. He calls upon the Lord so he can exact revenge which he does by pulling down a large house upon himself and a whole bunch of Philistines in a final act of strength (remember when Braveheart mustered his last ounce of energy to cry, “Freedom” right before he died… or when Maximus fatally wounded Commodus in “Gladiator” after he knew he’d been done in himself?). What a way to go.

I’ll leave you with this:

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm  Comments (2)  
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Take That, Eckhart Tolle (Judges 13-14)

God punishes the Israelites for all the mischief they’ve been getting into by handing them over to the Philistines (who force them to read Us magazine, eat in food courts and listen to Top 40 hits).

Along comes a man named Manoah. His wife is barren. An angel of God drops in and tells her, “Behold, you are barren and have no children,” (Jud 13:3) which sounds like something the awkward guy in the office says only to keep a laboured conversation going. Well, not to worry because the angel informs her that she’ll have a son. Manoah and his wife ask the angel what his name is and he side-steps the question by asking, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Jud 13:18). This is a great line to use at a bar when you’re talking to someone that you haven’t the faintest interest in.

Manoah and his wife name their son Samson. When he’s all grown up, he tells his dad, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah; not get her for me as my wife” (Jud 14:2). Most ladies would view this as sexist but I find it refreshing, personally. It’s good to be pro-active, don’t you think? Anyways, Samson heads into town to see this girl and runs into a lion (get ready for some weirdness). The lion roars at him but fortunately, “the Spirit of Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion asunder, as one tears a kid” (Jud 14:6). So that’s why evangelical churches are always having “barbeques”. No matter. Samson finds his girl and takes her as his wife. On their way back, they come across the lion carcass, which is swarming with bees. To Samson’s delight, the bees have made honey in the carcass so he scoops up a bunch to take home to share. Now, I’m no amateur beekeeper but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen regularly in nature.

At the wedding reception, Samson poses a riddle to his guests:

“Out of the eater came something to eat/

Out of the strong came something sweet” (Jud 14:14).

This is kind of a twisted way of telling his guests that he killed a lion and rooted around for honey in its decaying carcass. And that they’re eating it now. The guests, many of whom are Philistines, go a little crazy trying to guess the correct answer so they persuade Samson’s wife to find out and tell them. She does and when Samson finds out, he hits the roof because he takes riddles very, very seriously. He kills all the men she’s told and forsakes her, giving her to his best buddy. I’m sure she’s okay with this.

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thank Heaven for Little Girls (Judges 10-11)

It seems to me that the Israelites have a collective memory not unlike that of a goldfish (a creature that says, “Oh, look – a little castle!” every time it completes a lap in its bowl). They persist in worshipping other gods (e.g., the Baals) and are invariably surprised when God gets pissed and delivers them into the hands of other peoples.

The Israelites start sniffing around for a new leader and word on the street is that Jephthah, despite being the son of a harlot, is an excellent warrior. That he is, but he’s also a poor barterer (unlike myself, who excels travelling in countries where bartering is acceptable – the closest thrill I get here is shopping at WINNERS). Jephthah makes a deal with God that if God lets him beat the Ammonites, he’ll sacrifice “whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering” (Jud 11:31). I don’t know where Jephthah gets off using other people’s lives as betting chips but it comes back to bite him in the ass. You probably saw this coming: the first person through the doors of his house is his daughter, his only child. In a burst of irony, she “came out to meet him, with timbrels and with dances” (Jud 11:34). Hilarious. A timbrel is like a tamborine.

His daughter begs him for a bit of time and she heads off to the mountains for two months to “bewail [her] virginity” (Jud 11:37). Not bloody likely. I’m sure she was sexin’ all over the moutains with an assortment of hirsute mountain men. Good for her. She gets sacrificed when she comes back because Jephthah, outstandingly, makes good on his word. At least she got some.

Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 1:39 am  Comments (1)  
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Burning Down the House (Judges 9)

As I mentioned in my last post, Gideon (aka Jerubaal) managed to sire seventy sons in the small amount of time he had between killing lots of people. One of his sons, Abimelech, starts jockeying for leadership of Shechem. He starts running a little campaign, which seems to be going well, but near the tail-end of it he decides to kill all his brothers “upon one stone” (Jud 9:5). That’s one strategy: eliminate the competition completely. However, I don’t really understand how he could have convinced his brothers to line up in an orderly fashion and march themselves up to the bloody stone, one by one since he’s vastly outnumbered. Must have been quite a smooth talker.

After three years, Gaal, son of Ebed (whoever that is/was), challenges Abimelech by raising an army against him. Gaal’s army winds up in a stronghold, surrounded by Abimelech’s men. Abimelech tells his men to lay bundles of brushwood at the base of the stronghold and sets it on fire, killing one thousand men and women. I’m not sure what the rules of engagement are in the Bible, but this seems like a pretty shitty thing to do.

Abimelech does get his, though. Eventually. He’s running amok killing people and burning down stuff until one woman finally says, “Oh no, he didn’t” and chucks a millstone at his head. A millstone weighs one hundred and thirty pounds so we can safely say that this woman is one hell of a shotputter. Amazing. Somehow, taking a large rock to the head weighing more than myself doesn’t kill Abimelech completely so he gets some man to finish him off because he doesn’t want people to know that a woman killed him.

Now here’s someone I’m really crossing my fingers for in 2016. I like her style.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm  Comments (1)  
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Dance, Monkey, Dance (Judges 7-8)

Gideon is all set to take his people into battle with the Midianites. But there’s a hitch: there’s just too many people for God to protect with his heavenly hand so he asks Gideon to cull the herd for him. And apparently, it’s table manners that will be the deciding factor.

Gideon directs everyone down to the river for a drink (but really it’s a test). God tells him, “Every one that laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself; likewise every one that kneels down to drink” (Jud 7:5). I expected the opposite. God wants to save the people who lack either the brains or patience to go get a scoop or jug or something that would allow them to imbibe without doing a face-plant in the water. This is basic early hominid tool. We should be well beyond it at this point. It’s not surprising to me that God would choose these people on dance-monkey-dance terms since, looking back at the rest of the Bible up until this point, he really wants unquestioning allegiance.

Out of all the thousands of Israelites, three hundred dumbasses are God’s extra-special chosen people.

Predictably, Gideon puts down the Midianites. His army manages to get a hold of the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb (who are, judging by their names, originally from the Ozarks) and beheads them. Their heads are sent express back to Gideon. Gideon himself tracks down the kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmumna, kills them and nicks “the crescents [rolls] that were on the necks of their camels” (Jud 8:21).

Now that Gideon has supplied the Israelites with delicious crescent rolls, they unequivocally want him to be their leader (I would). He accepts because it’s a better gig than that wheat-shearing he was doing before (plucked out of obscurity – just like a Ford model). Gideon has an impressive seventy sons by a veritable stable of women who all clearly have very basic emotional needs. But when he dies, the Iraelites go back to their wayward ways and beging to worship Baal again because they have the collective memory of a goldfish. 

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Remember that Christmas Movie with Mary Steenburgen? (Judges 6)

I’m getting concerned that this blog is becoming less a scholarly work of post-modern biblical hermeneutics and more an arena for me to free associate and bring up things I liked as a kid. Indulge me one last time.

In Judges 6 – guess what? – God disapproves of something the Israelites do and hands them over to the Midianites. For seven years. I’m not sure why the number seven keeps appearing but there’s some significance that’s lost on me. I went to an offshoot of a Judaism website called “Ask a Rabbi” and all it really said was that seven represents “wholeness” and “completion”. That seemed to be an unsatisfyingly retroactive explanation, based on biblical events like God taking seven days to create mankind. No matter. I’m sure this is something that conspiracy theorists have loads to say about in relation to paganism and the Knights Templar and Christmas trees and all sorts of stuff that really isn’t significant anymore anyways.

Moving on. An angel of God hand-picks a young guy named Gideon to deliver the Israelites from the Midianites. Gideon is spotted shearing wheat under an oak tree in a land called Ophrah (a misreading of this passage probably accounts for Oprah’s God complex).

If I had an angel visit me (I’d rather an incubus but beggars can’t be choosers), I’d certainly want him to be named Gideon, just like that Christmas movie with the fragile and flinty Mary Steenburgen. I used to watch this movie all the time as a kid around the holidays knowing that I was going to cry. I think it was a way to gain the emotional release I was denied as the child of two British imports. This movie, I remember, involved Steenburgen losing her “Christmas spirit,” which is then compounded by her husband getting shot trying to save the day in a bank robbery. An angel named Gideon comes down from heaven to convince her Welch’s commercial-worthy daughter to get her Christmas spirit back. She does and the angel makes the Dad come alive again. And it’s the best. 

I might have just cried watching this; it’s been a while.

Gideon in Judges 6, manages to get himself all worked for battle by trashing an altar to Baal, earning himself the new nickname Jerubbaal.

Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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What I Wish I Learned in Girl Guides (Judges 4-5)

I only went to Girl Guides once. I think I was eleven. I told my mother I wouldn’t go back because the uniform was unbecoming and braids didn’t suit me. Furthermore, I knew that if I was put in the position to push boxes of cookies that I would likely eat the vast majority of them and have to cough up the money out of my scant allowance. This could not happen since I was hoping to save enough for a hypercolour t-shirt.

In Judges 4, the Israelites do something unspecified to anger God so he delivers them into the hands of Jabin, king of Canaan, who was famous for having nine hundreds chariots of iron.

On another almost completely unrelated note, I have a client that I lovingly call “Chariots of Ire” (a play on her name). She’s a curmudgeonly old lady in her mid-seventies who has reached that glorious stage in life in which she just doesn’t care. One day she showed up to the gym without her gym clothes. Despite my protests, she insisted on taking off her pants and working out in her pantyhose and underwear (a very sensible pair of Hanes, would have been my guess). Insisted. That was an interesting hour. As I was told, it was “nothing you haven’t seen before”.

Anyways, the Israelites are unhappy with their situation so they consult Deborah, a prophetess who prophesizes under a tree also named Deborah, which is weird. She tells them that God will protect them if they challenge Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army. And they do. They win depsite the chariots of iron and Sisera flees. He finds himself at the abode of an Israelite woman named Jael who tells him that he can take refuge in her tent. She even gives him some milk to drink. Then do you know what she does? She takes a tent peg and drives it through his temple. That takes a lot of strength and precision. This woman would be good to take camping.

In Judges 5, Deborah sings a long, boring and very literal song about these events which I imagine would sound like something done by Jane Siberry or Tori Amos.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 12:12 am  Comments (1)  
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