Gettin’ Shit Done (Kings 20-22)

In Kings 20, Israel goes to war with Syria, led by a guy named Benhadad. Despite the fact that they’re scarce in numbers (down to about seven thousand after the last plague), the Israelites trounce the Syrians, killing one hundred thousand of them in a single day. The Syrians are embarassed – rightfully so – and demonstrate this by surrendering themselves wearing “sackcloths on their loins and… ropes on their heads” (Kin 20:32). This cries “I’ll hang myself naked in front of you if this surrender doesn’t go smoothly”.

Kings 21 is an interesting episode. Ahab, king of Israel, decides that he wants a vineyard owned by this guy named Naboth. He wants to turn it into a vegetable garden. Very domestic. Very “I’ve just been through a rough divorce and need something to focus my energies on”. Naboth, naturally, protests. Furthermore, he says that God doesn’t want him to give up his vineyard. That’s tough to argue with. Ahab takes this issue back home, to his wife Jezebel, who we discovered had a healthy amount of sass in the last post. Jezebel is not having it. She takes the issue straight to the elders and convinces them to call upon Naboth under false pretenses (cursing God) and stone him to death, which they do. Vineyard? You’re welcome.

Israel continues to war with Syria and Ahab gets killed in battle. As predicted by a spooky prophet, dogs licked up his blood and then “harlots washed themselves in it” because apparently, there was puh-lenty to go around (Kin 22:38). Gross.

Published in: on July 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Recipe for Angel Food Cake (Kings 19)

When you single-handedly slay a bunch of prophets, word gets around. Jezebel (one biblical name that, oddly enough, hasn’t regained popularity) is pissed that Elijah did this and threatens to kill him herself (this lady’s sassy – watch out) so he flees into the wilderness, which is where all the kids are fleeing these days.

Elijah parks himself under a broom tree, an inviting bit of nature that looks like this:

No hammock?

While he’s sleeping under a broom tree, an angel shows up (who – let’s face it – probably watched him sleep for a while) and wakes him by saying, “Arise and eat” (Kin 19:5). Elijah opens his eyes to find a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water waiting for him. I imagine this cake to be like the flourless chocolate cake at Terroni, which is spectacular. I thought it was clever to title this post referencing angel food cake but in actuality, I loathe angel food cake. It takes me back to the late 80s when I was a pudgy pony-tailed child on my first self-imposed diet who kept seeing angel food cake touted as a “sensible dessert” in Chateleine, a magazine I read by the pool after doing the calisthenics along with a morning exercise show. Who the fuck likes angel food cake? It is not delicious. And what’s worse, it’s boring. You might as well put blueberries on a Saltine.

Anyways, Elijah is struggling with what he did and he calls upon the Lord. He doesn’t get the Lord but he is treated to a variety of impressive meteorological events: crazy winds sweep by him, an earthquake comes, and then a huge fire. It says in the Bible that God wasn’t present in any of these events so I guess their significance is to show how alone and puny Elijah is. Eventually, God starts speaking to him and tells him, “Go, return on your way to the wildnerness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall annoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall annoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shapat of Abelmeholah you shall annoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes the sword of Jehu shall Elish slay. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, and all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him” (Kin 19:15-18). Okay – I get it. God is pitting his people against each other as punishment for – guess what – worshipping another god. I guess this is more fun for him to watch than a regular, old plague. I’m not sure how everyone’s going to take to Elijah going around annointing everyone different things. I suspect that the current king of Syria will be especially put out.

Published in: on July 8, 2011 at 2:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Little Cheesecake Would Have Been Nice (Kings 17-18)

Kings 17 begins to follow a person named Elijah during a period when God has stopped the rain from falling. God commands Elijah to head east without much of a plan or even an inept GAP tour leader to follow (oh, Mirko… you tried). He stumbles upon the house of a widow and asks for a morsel of bread. Unfortunately, the widow has only a handful of meal in a jar and some other crap to offer guests. This surprised me because widows, in my experience, always have the best snacks. The kind that you never buy for yourself. Like Sara Lee layer cake with pink frosting that comes in that compact, rectangular box. Or those shortbread cookies with the chocolate on top that are usually in the middle of an assorted biscuit tin. Fond, fond memories.

Elijah isn’t dismayed by the poor spread and performs a showy little miracle: “The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth,” he proclaims (Kin 17:16). Goody. Enough dry meal for everyone! Crispers would have been better. Still, that was nice of Elijah. He also does this cool thing where he brings the widow’s dead son back to life. All in all, he’s not a bad houseguest.

God is pleased that Elijah followed his commands and he sends rain again. Continuing the brown-nosing, Elijah decides to put the wayward Israelites to a test. See, they’ve been worshipping Baal for some time. So he says to them, “Okay, guys. Let’s sacrifice two bulls: one to the true God and the other to Baal. Call upon Baal and see if he answers you”. They do and he doesn’t. Total egg on their faces. So what do they do? What anyone would do to cope in a moment of intense embarassment: start stabbing themselves with swords and bleeding all over the place. “And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them” (Kin 18:28). I did the same thing when I got my first period in social studies. So that no one would notice I was bleeding, of course.

 

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 2:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Fox and the House of Azra (Kings 16)

It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on at this point in the Bible. So-and-so is king of this part of the kingdom then so-and-so kills him then so-and-so kills him. And wherever there could be detail added in to paint a picture it says something like, “Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and the conspiracy which he made, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (Kin 16:20). I find this incredibly frustrating since I’ve found the Bible up until now to be an exercise in redundancy. It goes on and on about the decorative motifs on altars and thrones but leaves these canyon-like narrative gaps. If I were Cathy (of the aptly-named comic strip “Cathy”) I’d be saying, “Ack!” many times over while reading through this set of chapters.

The above-mentioned Zimri is the most interesting character in Kings 16 because he’s a servant who has got enough balls to kill the king and then be like, “Who’s with me?”. He strikes down Asa, King of Judah, while he’s drinking his face off in this tavern called the House of Azra. Seems like a smart move but it comes back to bite him in the ass. See, his actions inspire another guy named Omri to knock him off the throne. Omni overtakes the city that Zimri is ruling from (Tirzah) and seeing that he’s beat, Zimri burns down his house and himself with it. Apparently, Omri is pretty bad-ass and his son Ahab, who takes over after him, is even worse: “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel  who were before him” (Kin 16:33). But what did he do? Eat a bunch of shellfish? Again, the Bible is scant on details here. Ack.

Published in: on July 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Yada, Yada, Yada (Kings 14-15)

Many biblical scholars agree that there are narrative gaps in the Good Book. That’s not really ceding a lot considering that the Bible has parts in which these gaps are clearly identified in the text. For example: “The rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?” (Kin 15:7). Don’t look at me. I don’t know. Are they? What’s funny to me about this is that it’s a question. It’s like I can hear the author(s) shrugging his shoulders (whatever that sounds like).

In Kings 14, Jeroboam’s son falls ill and he sends his wife to visit a blind prophet to ask if he’s going to die. For unspecified reasons, he tells his wife to wear a disguise (tip-toeing mailbox? pirate? sexy Tim Horton’s employee?) but the prophet is able to tell who she is by the sounds of her steps. This isn’t much of a party trick. People have really distinct walks. Especially if they’re tap dancers or geishas.

Long story short, the prophet curses Jeroboam’s family and tells his wife that her son’s going to die. And he does. As soon as she returns home. Bang on. At this point, the narrative starts to accelerate. Someone dies and someone else becomes king over some part of the kingdom (it’s no longer unified). Rehoboam dies and Abijam takes over Judah. Then he dies and Asa takes over. His main achievement was getting rid of all the male cult prostitutes, which were a huge problem apparently. Meanwhile, after the death of Jeroboam, Nadab takes over Israel only to be killed by someone named Baasha two years into his reign. Baasha, an all-round bad guy, takes over and displeases God by not following his rules. It seems that, given all the horrible plagues that God has sent down upon his people, they should get the point and not worship other gods and go whoring around all the time. Is it that hard to fake it? I know that I had to go to church and pretend to be a good Catholic for a long time in order to get my figure skating lessons paid for.

Male cult prostitutes performed "hieros gamos" rituals to depict their gods. Fancy name for public sex.

Published in: on July 2, 2011 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One Thousand Very Unsatisfied Women (Kings 11-13)

King Solomon is a wayward man; he just loves women too much. And not just the acceptable Israelite kind. All different kinds. Benetton women. The Bible numbers his wives at seven hundred and his concubines at three hundred (although I don’t see much difference between the two, especially when you’re in the triple digits). It’s not that having a bevy of babes is an issue; it’s that they seduce him into worshipping other gods. Here are some of them:

– Ashtoreth (goddess [goddess!] of the Sidonians) was associated with fertility, sexuality and war. She is depicted as a massively pregnant woman launching a spear into the air while her water breaks.

– Milcom (called in the Bible “the abomination of the Ammonites”) liked to have children burnt alive in sacrifice. He also started a small internet company named after him that handled with very general, mundane operations.

– Chemosh (called in the Bible “the abomination of Moab”) was kind of a poor man’s Baal. He is to Baal what Rachel Weisz is to Kate Winslet.

Since Solomon has been pussy-whipped into worshipping other gods, God decides that the kingdom will eventually be lost. Not during his lifetime but during his son’s. Doesn’t seem like much of a punishment to me. Who cares what happens after you die? I don’t. But then again, I’m an atheist. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, takes over the Israelites start getting uppity again and complain that they’re working too hard: “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you” (Kin 12:4). This is bad idea. Reverse psychology would have worked better. They should have said something like, “Let us work more overtime. We don’t have families or outside interests”. Instead of lightening their proverbial yoke, Rehoboam says he’s going to make it heavier. He’s kind of a jerk that way. On top of that, he says, “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (Kin 12:11). Seems a tad harsh. He is also advised by the elders to use the following argument, which sounds vaguely sexual: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins” (Kin 12:10). Either that means that he’s very manly with big, sausage-sized fingers (hello) or his father had seriously atrophied adductor muscles.

In Kings 13, a few weird things happen. Some “man of God” shows up to the temple that Solomon built and starts sounding off on how much God hates the Israelites now. Jeroboam tries to make the equivalent of a citizen’s arrest and his hand shrivels up (cool!). No one is going near the man of God now. He tries to establish some deal in which he gets some portion of the kingdom if he goes on a fast. God apparently told him to do this. Whatever moral instruction there is to be gleaned from this is lost on me completely. Of all people, a prophet tricks him into eating and drinking at his house. Not only does the deal go south, the man of God ends up getting killed by a lion since he didn’t do what God told him. Let this be a lesson to us all. 

"I'm ashamed."

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 4:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Old Spice (Kings 8-10)

Solomon has impressed everyone by building a very ostentatious-looking House of the Lord with his gay lover Hiram of Tyre (“Oh, how I tire of you, Hiram. When did you become so positively bo-ring?”). It sounds pretty tacky to me. This throne, for example, is way over-the-top: “The king also made a great ivory throne, and overlaid it with the finest gold. The throne had six steps, and at the back of the throne was a calf’s head, and on each sise of the seat were arm rests and two lions standing beside the arm rests, withle twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps” (Kin 10:18-19). I think I’ve seen something similar in Little Italy. I hope it’s not a toilet. That’s even worse. So much for the message of humility and poverty. Well, I guess that doesn’t come until the New Testament. (Yes, I will take fresh ground diamonds on my hummus). 

Solomon has a reputation as being both really rich and really wise. Along comes the Queen of Sheba to check him out and see if he lives up to his reputation (“Queen of Sheba” reminds me of a name of that kind of cheap incense sold at dollar stores that has slightly erotic pictures on it… anyone?… anyone?). She asks him a whole bunch of really difficult questions (none of which are given any specificity… we just know that they’re super-hard… probably questions like, “Shellfish is to dining as consensual sex is to [marriage]”). He bests her and answers all of her questions satisfactorily. So she gives him lots of (Old) Spices as a reward. Good. He can built a wing to the House of the Lord for the sole purpose of spice-storage.

I think they meant "provoke your mind".

 

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Saving Solomon (Kings 7)

This post has nothing whatsoever to do with the movie “Saving Silverman” and its many complex themes. It just happened to be on my mind since I was home visiting my parents this weekend and its one of those movies that’s always on television Saturday afternoon, alongside “Jaws” and “Contact”; the former is actually my favourite movie of all time and the latter reduces me to tears everytime I watch Jodie Foster in that scene where the aliens appear to her in the guise of her dead father. Man, that scene gets me. Jodie Foster is one of the few actresses totally believable playing a scientist, not only because she has a titanic IQ in real life but because whoever styled her for the movie made her wear fleece and sport a double ponytail. 

So Solomon has built this magnificent temple and its taken a total of thirteen years to complete. It has some interesting features. Yesterday I pointed out its gay aesthetic (thanks to the plentiful cherubim). Today I’ll point out the following features:

– the House of the Forest of Lebanon (for hide-and-seek, I imagine… what else?)

– the Hall of the Throne (for pronouncing judgment)

– the Hall of Judgment (oddly enough, not for pronouncing judgment)

– the Molten Sea (a giant bath – it holds two thousand baths… that’s gross)

Solomon’s buddy Hiram of Tyre has been tacked onto this project all along. It’s mentioned that he, during this massive undertaking, is in charge of pots. Pots? They’re definitely gay lovers.

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wipe the Sweatshop Off Your Brow (Kings 4-6)

Apparently, King Solomon is a pretty smart guy: “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure… so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt… he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman [even HE-MAN, who has the Power of Grayskull?], Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the nations round about” (Kin 4:29-31).

King Solomon is also a big believer in forced labour.

He gets together with Hiram, king of Tyre, to build an ostentatious temple in the name of the Lord. And what does he need to do that? Answer: Strong backs. And what is his building material of choice?Answer: Stone. So Solomon and Hiram “raise[d] a levy of forced labour out of all Israel; and the levy numbered thirty thousand men” (Kin 5:13). To add to that man-power, they also acquire thousands of men who are given the job title of “burden-bearer”. Sounds like thirsty work.

God promises that if Solomon builds this temple he will “dwell among the children of Israel” (Kin 6:13). Is that incentive? It sounds sort of like a threat to me because it’s like a meddling parent suggesting they move in with their twenty-five year-old. Not cool, Dad.

It’s kind of a big deal that Solomon and Hiram are building this temple out of stone but it’s an even bigger deal that they overlay everything with gold – the vestibule, the solarium, the showers… it’s all golden. They also festoon it with cherubim (also overlaid with gold) which seems like a gay aesthetic. There are two kinds of people that I imagine to have lots of cherubs as part of their decor: gay men who only wear white pants and eccentric spinsters who are perpetually dressed for dinner.

I always thought the pink shirt showed confidence.

Published in: on June 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Ol’ Switcheroo (Kings 3)

Women are baby-crazy, aren’t they? They just love ’em, don’t they? (Not I, of course; nothing bores me more than a game of “Pass the Baby” at a social gathering).

In Kings 3, King Solomon has to resolve an issue between two women and two babies, one of which is alive and one of which is dead. You do the math. Two women approach King Solomon claiming to be roommates (a likely story) who are so synched up that they both get pregnant at the same time and give birth on the same night. One of these women who must think she is a cat lies on top of her newborn during the night and kills it. So she swaps her dead baby for the other woman’s. A-ha! The ol’ switcheroo. When the other woman wakes up and finds a dead baby on her chest (could be worse, am I right, ladies?) and realizes that her roomie has pulled a fast one on her. They argue and seek out King Solomon to settle things.

Solomon is a smart guy. He’s like, “Okay, ladies. You both had a baby. Now only one of you has a baby. But you both want a baby. Why, I can’t imagine. But, whatever. Split the baby in two and each take half. Fair’s fair“. This is a scare tactic designed to reveal the real mother. It operates on the principle that a woman’s instinct for preservation of her young is so strong that she’ll do anything to see it live. Note to Solomon: This doesn’t always happen in the wild. I’m not sure which species are capable of eating their young but I’m sure there’s more than one. I decided to look it up and came across this question, which I deem to be slightly retarded:

“I am doing a report on abortion and I was wondering if you could give me a few examples of animals that kill their young?  Animals that are most commonly known would be very helpful.  Thanks!”

In the end, the real mother protests much more loudly (squeaky wheel) than her roomie that the baby should live regardless of who raises it and in so doing proves herself. Solomon gives her the baby. Problem solved.

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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