Not My Words: Love is the Battery for Charging Our Heart’s Power (Nehemiah 9-13)

On the twenty-fourth day of the month, the Israelites get together and throw a small party. Or, at least, their version of a party: fasting, wearing “sackcloths,” sitting around with “earth on their heads,” and confessing their sins (Neh 9:1). Bring chips.

The confessing of sins takes centre stage and they talk for a long time about how great God is and how shitty they’ve been to him (“I only hit you because I love you, baby”). I’ve been reading the Bible for just over a year now, which is amazing to me, and I think God’s been pretty shitty to them, too. So it’s kind of a two-way street. The Israelites wrap up their protracted apology by promising to “not neglect the house of [the] Lord,” (Neh 10:39) which seems like something they should be doing anyway. Basic chores.

I guess Jerusalem is overcrowded so the Israelites cast lots so that one out of every ten people can live in the holy city. It’s not that bad for whoever doesn’t get in because there are loads of villages surrounding it. Besides, the holy city’s not really that special; it’s just easy to live there because of the Starbucks, TD, Metro, faux Irish pub and Walking on a Cloud.

Now – racism. I can’t read the Bible for very long without bumping up against some overt, historically-situated, unfiltered racism. Nehemiah, who’s narrating, makes some choice remarks about how Jewish men are marrying women of “Ashdod, Ammon and Moab” and – horror of horrors – the women are actually teaching their half-blood children some of their own language. This is disgusting to him. Admittedly, I might find it disgusting if the dudes are gross and the women are really hot, like when you see a tiny, attractive, fit Asian lady with a pudgy, red-faced, weak-chinned, middle-aged white guy. You might think me judgmental but take a look at THIS:


You agree with me.


Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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Everybody’s Working for the Weekend (Nehemiah 6-8)

I know I’ve been a little inconsistent with posting of late but I should mention that this will be my last post for three weeks. I’m headed to South Africa for some work, some play. Mr. Mandela asked me to help him to assuage the lingering tensions between the whites and the blacks so I’ve got to go hold hands with them all and make them realize their differences aren’t so big, really. When we’re finished, Nelson has promised me a slow dance.

Okay. So a wall has been built around Jerusalem and it’s a big deal, according to our narrator, Nehemiah. He’s a bit of a braggart if you ask me. He says that, for a while there, he had to hide out because everyone was trying to kill him because they were jealous that he was so close with God, or something. Reminds me of those girls who tend to think every guy is hitting on them.

After the drama dies down, there’s a big job push. Tons of people get hired to be gatekeepers, singers and Levites (servants, basically). And – no surprise here – all those people and their sons are named in a string of excruciatingly long, boring paragraphs.

Once that’s over, Nehemiah tells everybody to build a booth. Booths have come up a few times in the Bible and what I’ve always pictured are those stripey tents you see in Moroccan bazaars or the movie Aladdin. However, these ones are supposed to go on top of everyone’s house, which is kind of cool. I guess it’s like the biblical equivalent of a porch or a roof-top patio. They must be for kickin’ back and crankin’ a brew on a Friday. TGIF. When I was in university, and fancied myself much funnier than I do now, I like to put on a particular t-shirt that I crowned “The Party Shirt” after classes were done for the week. The Party Shirt used to be a workout shirt of my Dad’s until I learned what irony was and then, consequently, how awesome the shirt was. I still have it: it’s a pale blue Budweiser shirt with Spudz Mackenzie surfing on it, above the words “Hang Twenty”. I used to wear this shirt while listening to Loverboy’s “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend)” and threatening my roommates that when it was hot enough, I’d purchase a kiddie pool and chill in it in the front yard, advertising my state of relaxation to other collegiates and eliminating all possibility of myself (or them) getting a date.

Published in: on November 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I’ll Pass on the Tiramisu and Have the Sweetbreads (Nehemiah 4-5)

The Israelites are in the middle of building a big wall around Jerusalem. This is probably a good idea since people keep attacking them and killing them. As they’re sweating away, putting one stone on top of another, their enemies, who I guess are within earshot, are standing by making fun of them. Here’s the best insult an Ammonite drummed up: “Yes, what they are building – if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” (Neh 4:3). Ha. Pretty lame. Especially since a fox probably couldn’t climb up a wall unless it had some degree of slope to it. He should have used something like a badger. Or – better yet – a Honey Badger. Those things are badass. That’s why I used capitals. I fear the Honey Badger.

If you’ve ever made my acquaintance then you know that I’m not really up on my YouTube videos. I still don’t know what the big deal is about Chocolate Rain, I’ve only ever seen Double Rainbow once and I’ve never seen the video with that guy who had his house robbed or something and is talking about “how everybody’s gettin’ raped”. I hope I have that right. Anyways, I love this Honey Badger video and it’s new to me so here it is:

Now back to the Bible. Nehemiah, the narrator of this particular book, becomes governor of Judah and tells his readers, most objectively, that he’s the best governor that there ever was: “The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens upon the people, and took from them food and wine, besides forty shekels of silver… But I did not do so, because of the fear of God” (Neh 5:15). Sure, sure. He even says that he didn’t take advantage of any of the governor’s typical privileges, which were probably things like sweetbreads, flowing robes and virgins. Sweetbreads, I’ll have you know, are made from an animal’s (calf or lamb, usually) glands, often their cahones (balls). Careful not to confuse these with sweetmeats, which are sugary pieces of confection. Seems obvious to me that these names should be reversed.

Mmm. Cut me a slice.

Published in: on November 15, 2011 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Audie Murphy: Now THERE’S a Real Movie Star (Nehemiah 1-3)

Nehemiah is one of the worst storytellers ever. I don’t know how he made the final cut of the Bible. He must have slept with someone.

Nehemiah tells stories like my Dad tells stories: under the assumption that his listener has the same background knowledge that he does about people, places and things. It seems that everytime I go home to visit my parents, my Dad goes on and on about old movies stars like Audie Murphy (who?) and past events like the four-minute mile (imperial system?). And he never seems to notice my eyes glaze over, or my half-hearted attempts to change the subject (how ’bout that Amanda Knox?).

From the sounds of it, Nehemiah is some boring do-gooder who feels profoundly moved by the fact that Jerusalem has gone to shit. So he asks his king, King Artaxerxes, for leave so he can go and help out. Here is his long-winded account of that meeting: “…in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and give it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live for ever! Why should not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lies waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Neh 2:1-4).

And that’s not even the whole account. It exemplifies another trait of a bad storyteller: extraneous detail. He lost me with the sad face, wine, ass-kissing, etc. Although, the most interesting part, admittedly, is that the king thinks sadness is warranted only when a person’s sick. Talk about being alienated from emotion. That king probably does improv, stand-up  or sketch. One of the three, for sure.

Anyways, Nehemiah packs up and heads over to Jerusalem. He describes all different parts of the city as if the reader is familar with it. Here are some interesting attractions, if you happen to be visiting Jerusalem centuries in the past, that you might want to visit:

– the Tower of the Hundred (a hundred of what?)

– the Fish Gate (sushi joint)

– the Broad Wall (lots of pencil skirts here)

– the Dung Gate (least popular)

– the Tower of the Ovens (did someone say ol’ fahioned bake-off?)

– the Muster Gate  (did not pass muster)

Audie Murphy: war hero AND movie star (the kids love 'im)

Published in: on November 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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