Judaism aka Low-Self Esteem Club (Job 23-24)

The Book of Job is basically a long, protracted rant by Job, a man who God has battered like a 50s housewife. In these particular chapters, Job talks about how terrifying God is. God IS terrifying; his actions have never squared with the supposed loving and compassionate persona later Christians perpetuated. Love and compassion are Jesus’ bag but most definitely not God’s. Here’s what Job has to say about God: “…I am terrified at his presence;/when I consider, I am in dread of him./God has made my heart faint;/the Almighty has terrified me;/for I am hemmed in darkness,/and thick darkness covers my face.” (Job 23:15-17).

None too uplifting. I think it says something about the Israelites collective self-worth that they’re willing to settle for a god who’s so shitty. At the time there was a veritable cornucopia of gods to choose from. Remember Baal? He was so bad-ass. In Carthaginian worship of Baal, people grooved together in orgies, in celebration of reproduction (as far as rituals go, that one was prett literal – not a lot of symbolism there). In another ritual – and this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – people would sacrifice their own children. After taking in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” this past weekend, this seems like a sensible way for society to get rid of bad seeds. I’m for it.

Baal fist-pumping.

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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If You Want to Destroy My Sweater… (Kings 2 3)

Mesha, the king of Moab, is supposed to deliver to the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams annually. But when a new king comes into power, Mesha is like, “Forget it”. So they go to war over… sweaters.

The new king, Jehoram implores Jehoshaphat, king of Israel in Samaria to help him out. Jehoshaphat has a really great line here, one that I’ll attempt to use in conversation in order to create an epic atmosphere in my life: “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (Kin 2 3:7). Maybe I’ll just say, “My horses as your horses”. Short and sweet. I feel that uttering this line is something I have to do at least once in my life. That and make a citizen’s arrest.

The two Js call upon Elisha because he’s regarded as kind of a prophet. Before he can do any prophesizing though, he calls for a minstrel. Thinking music, I guess. Then he tells them of their rosy future: “…and you shall conquer every fortified city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop up all springs of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones” (Kin 2 3:19). Sounds positively American. God bless.

Predictably, the Israelites defeat the Moabites. In desperation, the king of Moab offers up his son for a burnt sacrifice at the bottom of the ninth (“Dad! You’re ruining my life! Literally. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.”)

Citizen's Arrest: Not Just for Squares Anymore.

Published in: on July 19, 2011 at 2:47 am  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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It’s Not Cold in Here – You’re Just Dying (Kings 1)

Have to give credit to Sarah Silverman for the title to this post.

King David is at the end of his years and he’s cold. He just can’t seem to get warm. So he hires a nurse whose sole responsibility is allowing him to snuzzle into her bosom. Hey – it’s a living. 

Having noticed David’s tenuous grasp on life itself, a young upstart named Adonijah starts proclaiming that he’s going to be the next king. He makes a whole bunch of sacrifices, including something called a “fatling,” which I think should henceforth replace the word “baby”. I’ve never thought babies were particularly cute; I’ve always thought them to look very out of shape. They’re like 75% body fat. Very unhealthy body composition. Adonijah does all this sacrificin’ by this thing called the Serpent’s Stone, a place that sounds like it should be in Camelot or a video game from the late 80s.

Bathsheba tells David that Adonijah is out campaigning, impressing everyone with his fatlings. David gets pissed because he has his sights set on his son Solomon being king. So he tells Solomon to go with Benaiah (who’s capable of killing a lot of people at once if you read the last post) and Nathan the prophet and interrupt Adonijah’s partying with a trumpet blast and an announcement that Solomon is the legitimate king. They do this and scare the crap out of everyone: “Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose [buzzkill] and each went his own way” (Kin1:49). I love this image of a slow scatter. They probably all walked backwards. Adonijah is then like, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and invites Solomon to have some bevvies with him to smooth things over. Very diplomatic.

A fatling.

Published in: on June 23, 2011 at 4:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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Battle of the Wombs (Samuel 1-2)

The Book of Samuel starts out with a man called Elkanah who has two wives (I can see why some branches of Christianity believe that polygamy is fine and dandy; there’s plenty of endorsement of it in the Bible). One of his wives, Peninah, is quite fecund but the other, Hannah, is barren. Hannah is disheartened because the Lord has “closed her womb” (Sam 1:5) and she’s down on herself because Peninah keeps making fun of her for it (bitch). She’s driven to constant weeping and can’t eat. This is bad strategizing on Peninah’s part: if anything, women want their rivals to get pork up, don’t they?

In a moment of desperation, Hannah prays to God for a son down on her knees, moving her lips silently in prayer. A priest, Eli, thinks she’s drunk and basically tells her that she’s cut off. Her prayers work and she bears a son, Samuel who turns out to be a bit of a goody-goody. Eli’s jealous and wishes he was Samuel’s father because his sons are man-whores who keep screwing up the sacrifices. Basically, they’re supposed to burn the fat off the flesh and then offer up the flesh but they keep treating it like a barbeque and eating everything. Very gauche.

Hannah goes on to bear three more sons and two daughters. That’s a total of six children, which is an obscene number in my mind (so is one). Then again, everytime I feel myself ovulating (oh, I can feel it), I contract my abdominals forcefully and crush the egg instantly. I’ll have none of that.

Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 2:16 am  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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Back That Ass Up (Numbers 22-25)

So there’s this guy named Balak and he’s the son of Zippor, king of Moab (to get these facts straight required multiple re-reads). Balak is afraid of the Israelites (because they just mopped the floor with the Amorites) and tells Balaam, the son of another ruler, that they’ve got to unite forces and drive them out of their lands. God then visits Balak and is like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. These are my people. Don’t even.” And Balak is like, “Okay.”

I think Balak was supposed to convince Balaam not to wage war on the Israelites but does a shitty job of it so Balaam heads out with all the princes of Moab, armed and raring to go. Balaam is riding his ass (the Bible uses the word “ass” instead of “donkey” which makes for plentiful out-of-context humour), whipping it so that it’ll go faster (it’s a donkey, not Black Beauty, you moron) when God gives his ass the power of speech. Yes, the ass starts talking to him, saying, among other things, “What did I ever do to you?” (literally in the Bible, the ass says, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” (Num 22:28)). It’s a moment right out of a PETA campaign.

Then an angel appears and tells Balaam to leave his ass alone. Balaam is freaked out enough by all this that he gives up his intended fight against the Israelites and makes a bunch of sacrifices to God, who loves that shit. Things are going along swimmingly between the Israelites and the people of Moab for a while until the men start to realize that their women are slutty and beging to “play the harlot with the daughters of Moab” (Num 25:1). God unleashes yet another plague to punish his people. He also decides to make an example of this one couple and has Aaron’s grandson spear them through their middles in one cool move, skewering them like kebabs. Delicious. The man’s name was Zimri, which isn’t funny, and the woman’s was Cozbi, which is.

Published in: on March 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not Without My Brother (Numbers 18-20)

God starts going on and on about what he wants to see in sacrifices, especially animal sacrifices. He wants any animal sacrificed in his name to be pick of the litter and he wants their fat to be burned on the altar because it is a “pleasing odor to the Lord” (Num 18:17). If the smell of burning fat is so pleasing to God then I wonder why bacon isn’t a bigger part of the Jewish faith.

Previously, I mentioned that God did an about-face and let the Levites socialize with the Israelites. To be fair though, the Levites are basically relegated to the position of slaves. But there are perks. After a sacrifice, for example, the Levites get some of the leftovers, which I assume would be primarily organ meat.

God brings up how touching dead bodies makes you unclean for the umpteenth time. We get it. If you touch a dead body, you’re unclean. But if you’re touched by a person who has touched a dead body then you’re unclean, too. This is sort of like second-hand smoking. I don’t understand how this doesn’t cause mayhem. If it were me, and I touched a dead body (accidentally or not), then I would touch some day-dreaming chump right away and yell, “You’re it!”. Then he would touch somebody else. Then that somebody else would touch somebody else. And before you know it, everybody’s unclean and the congregation has been involuntarily signed up for a game of Everybody’s It tag. Fun.

In Numbers 20, the Iraelites start complaining again about getting dragged out of Egypt and having to roam around in the wilderness without food or water. So Moses does that trick he did many chapters ago in which he takes a stick and beats water out of a rock. Ta-dah! It’s a good thing that his people aren’t dehydrated anymore because they have to pass through hostile territory pretty soon. Before they do that, however, God tells Aaron that he has to climb up Mount Hor, give his clothes to his son Eleazar and die. I don’t know why Aaron agrees to this but maybe he was distracted by the name of the mountain (Mount (W)Hor(e)). Whatever. He’s an idiot. When the people find out Aaron’s dead they all weep for thirty days which surely delays their journey.

Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 11:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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