Saturday, August 18, 2012

Judges 10-12: Fucking human sacrifice

Now we've come to one of my favorites... the story of Jephthah.  It's much like that one time when Abraham almost killed Isaac, except if he had actually killed him.

But first, the usual bullshit... the Israelites "sin" and are generally "evil," God gets pissed and sends a bunch of people to attack them.  The Ammonites in particular are being a nuisance in Gilead, and the people there decide that, for whatever reason, they absolutely need Jephthah to lead the attack against them.  Some time ago, Jephthah's brothers chased him away because his mother was a prostitute (obviously), but these people win him to their cause by saying he gets to be leader of Gilead if he'll do it.

So Jephthah and the leader of the Ammonite army exchange some messages... Jephthah wants to know why the Ammonites are attacking Gilead, they say it's because the Israelites stole their land back when they first left Egypt and they want it back.  Jephthah says, "We didn't take your land, our god gave it to us!  Why don't you just take whatever your god gives you, and be happy with that!"  No problem with that, clearly.  Oh, your god gave you the same land that our god gave us?  Now I'm at a complete loss for what to do, I guess we should just bludgeon and stab each other to death now.

So that's what they do.  Right before the battle, Jephthah makes this promise to God:

If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.
What a fucking moron.  Maybe it was way more common back then to have, like, goats or chickens coming out of your door to greet after a hard day's battle, but isn't much more likely to be his wife or daugther?  Or maybe a servant?  Some sort of human, for the burnt sacrifice?  Hmm.

Anyway, the Israelites win the battle and Jephthah goes home.  And guess who comes out of the house first?  His only daughter!  Surprise!  He allows her to go off into the woods with her friends for two months to mourn her virginity, or something.  I figured this was a flimsy pretext she came up with to get away, and it worked!  Run, girl, run!  But no, for some stupid reason she comes back to her stupid, murderous father, and "he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin."  Well goodie, at least she was a virgin.  What the fuck does that have to do with anything.

Great biblical morals in this story.  Jephthah murders his daughter as a human sacrifice to God, and God doesn't say anything about it whatsoever, meaning that he either approved or wasn't paying attention.  Either way, I'm disgusted.  As usual.

Here's a great video about this story:

After that, Jephthah leads another battle against Ephraim, for some reason.  They won (even though Jephthah is fresh out of daughters to murder) and killed everyone who lived there, including the one guy who tried to pretend he was from somewhere else, but he couldn't pronounce "Sibboleth" correctly.  Then Jephthah dies and it lists a few people who ruled after him.  Very exciting.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Judges 9: Abimelek is almost killed by a woman...the horror!

So, Gideon is dead and the Israelites are back to their horrible wicked ways. His son, Abimelek, decides he wants to be the leader now. To prevent his 70 (!) brothers from getting in the way, he murders them all, except for the youngest, Jotham, who escapes.

The people crown him their king. (I was wondering why they would want the horrible guy who murdered 70 of his brothers to be the king, but we learn later than they helped. So, that's great.) During the ceremony, Jotham shows up and tells a confusing parable (which, apparently, are not only for Jesus). It's about some trees who want to pick out a king, and they go around asking various trees if they'll do it, and they refuse. Finally they ask the thornbush to be the king, and it agrees, but promises to burn down the cedars of Lebanon, whatever that is. Whatever that's all about... I guess Abimelek is the piece of crap thornbush of the story. Or something.

Shockingly, Jotham fails to persuade the people that Abimelek will be a bad king (I'm just assuming that was his goal, I have no idea what's going on), probably because they didn't know what the crap he was talking about. So Jotham runs away and hides for 3 years.

Meanwhile, Abimelek is king, and God "stirs up animosity" between Abimelek and the people. He does it to avenge the 70 murdered brothers; in typical fashion, God chooses to exert his supposedly omnipotent power, not when it might have actually done any good, but for revenge when it's too late.

Now we get a little story that is, I suppose, the main result of this civil unrest. Someone named Gaal moves to a town called Shechem, which is under Abimelek's juristiction. At some party Gaal gets the people all riled up, saying that some other guy should be the leader. Viva la revolution! This guy Zebul hears this and, being loyal to Abimelek, sends him a message telling him to come attack Gaal. So they come the next morning, Gaal and his people fight them, and they (Gaal et al) are all killed or chased off.

You'd think the story would be over now, wouldn't you? But no. Abimelek has to destroy the entire city and kill everyone there, even though they had next to nothing to do with Gaal's harmless little comment. The next day he destroys the city when everyone goes out to work in the fields. The survivors go to some stronghold (Helm's Deep?). Abimelek goes there and sets it on fire with everyone inside.

Having utterly destroyed Shechem and all of its people for their tangential involvement with Gaal and his drunken boasting, he goes and attacks some city called Thebez. I cannot figure out what this place has to do with anything, other than Abimelek is on a roll and it's the next random target. All the people in the town lock themselves in a tower, and some woman drops a big stone on Abimelek and cracks his skull. Abimelek asks one of his men to kill him, so that no one will ever say that he was killed by a woman. Wow. Misogyny taken to the extreme, I guess? I don't even know what to say about that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Judges 6-8: Did Gideon get away with building an idol?

So, as per usual, the Israelites are "evil" for 7 years, and God makes the Midianites oppress them. The Israelites ask God for help, and he sends another leader, Gideon. An angel appears to Gideon, and says "the Lord is with you." Gideon is like, if God is with us, then why do our lives suck so badly? Smart man. I like him already. The angel's proof that God is with them is that he will give Gideon the strength to overcome the enemies that God himself sent. Yep, impeccable logic, that.

Gideon, however, is still not convinced. He asks the angel to wait while he prepares an offering. He puts his offering on a rock, and when the angel touches the rock with his staff, the bread is consumed with fire and the angel vanishes. Now he is convinced! And also freaked out, because apparently you can't see God and live, so he thinks he's going to die now. But God is like, relax! You're not going to die.

Yep, it just keeps switching back and forth about whether you can see God and live. My guess is that you die after looking at God if God already wanted to kill you anyway.

Also, as usual, the bible can't seem to tell the difference between angels and God. I still haven't figured that one out.

Anywho, God tells him to destroy his father's alter to Baal (the main competitor god) and build one to him in its place. So he does this, the people find out it was Gideon and they tell his father to bring him out to be killed. His father is like, “What the hell kind of crap god is Baal if he can't even defend his own alter?” This is a truly excellent point, and everyone clearly saw the truth of his words and did not kill Gideon. Actually, I'm not sure why they didn't kill him, but that's what I like to think.

So Gideon summons a bunch of the Israelites to him to attack the Midianites. But first, he asks God for more proof that he's doing the right thing...he tells God he's going to put some wool out overnight, and if only the wool is damp with dew and the ground is dry then he'll believe him. And guess what, that happened. The next day he says he's going to leave the wool out and this time he wants dew on only the ground, and guess what, that happened too. Fairly smart actually, to make sure that the wool wouldn't just soak up the dew whether God was involved or not.

Now that Gideon is good and convinced, we can get on to the part where they lay waste to those Midianites for their horrible crime of being a pawn in God's stupid "fuck with the Israelites" game. But first, God is concerned that the victory won't glorify him sufficiently, so he reduces their number from 32,000 to 300.

God wakes Gideon up in the middle of the night and tells him to go attack the enemy, who are apparently “thick as locusts.” If, God says, he is nervous for some silly reason, he should go spy on their camp. He goes and overhears one guy telling another guy about a dream he had in which a loaf of bread knocks down a tent, and they decide that obviously it all means that God is on the Israelites' side. Clearly the bread had no yeast in it.

So, I guess hearing that his enemy was scared of him made him feel better. He attacks, and what an attack it is. His 300 people stand around with trumpets in one hand and torches in the other (so apparently no weapons) and just wait while their enemies kill each other. Some of them run away and they are killed by Israelites, and a bunch of other people are killed too. Great.

Now that things are all peachy again, the Israelites ask Gideon to lead them. He says "no!" and then proceeds to be the leader anyway. He got some of the gold from all their killing and looting, and makes what sounds suspiciously like an idol ("Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."), but apparently God doesn't care. He doesn't say anything about it, at any rate.

So, while Gideon lived (4o years) everything was great! Then he dies, and immediately the Israelites start worshipping Baal again. Sigh. This whole story is so lame (still). The Israelites turn from God for some reason, God punishes them but for some reason doesn't destroy them entirely even though he would clearly like to, then the Israelites come back to God for some unknown and unfathomable reason. Repeat forever. This shit has been going on since Exodus, it sucked then and it sucks now. The characters suck, the plot sucks, and there's no motivation for anything that happens.

Furthermore, God promised them such horrible doom (eating their own babies and such) if they ever turned from him. They have done that several times now, and basically all God has done about it is to send some people with chariots to generally be a nuisance now and then. Where's all the doom? I was expecting doom. Seriously.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Judges 3-5: God hires an assassin

Chapter 2 was like an overview of the many years after the conquest of the promised land. It said basically that God kept giving them leaders, and while the leader lived things were more or less OK, but as soon as they died the Israelites were right back into their "evil" ways...I guess until God picks out the next leader (which you'd think he could have done more quickly, without such a big gap for "evilness" inbetween, but whatever). Starting in chapter 3, we get some details.

We get some detail about the assassination of Eglod, which is at least a story. At some point, the Israelites let some foreigner (gasp!), Eglod, be their king. They didn't like him apparently, because they "cried out" to God, and he sent an assassin, Ehud. He went to see the king with a short sword hidden under his clothing, and told him that he had a "secret message" for him. So the king sent all this people away (idiot). When they're alone, Ehud says he has a message from God, and stabs him in the stomach. BAM!

Next time someone says they have a message from God, look out, they may be about to stab you. You never know.

And now for the clever escape...he closes the door when he leaves, and all his servants assume the king is going to the bathroom, so they wait "to the point of embarrassment." Meanwhile, Ehud gets away. How exciting. They should make that into a movie! Anyway, then he convinces the Israelites that they should attack Moab, and they kill everyone there, just like the old days.

Ehud is leader for a while, and things are good while he's alive. After he dies, the Israelites start being all "evil" again. God gets pissed, again, and gets some people with chariots (oh god no, chariots!) to "cruelly oppress" them. This goes on until the Israelites "cry out" to God, which apparently takes 20 years.

At this point, the Israelites happen to be lead by a woman, Deborah. I cannot express how surprised I am that there was ever a woman leading the Israelites. Anyway, she says that they need to go attack these people with the chariots. This whole story is really confusing and poorly written. Deborah tells this guy Barak that he needs to go attack the chariot people, who she will be leading (how the hell does she intend to pull that off? who knows.) and thus they will win. Barak says that he will only do it if Deborah leads their people with him. She agrees (but what about her mighty and nonsensical plan?), but warns him that he will get no honor from this. Because there was going to be honor for Barak in leading an army into a sham battle against a force that Deborah has already co-opted. Whatever. I clearly don't understand "honor."

They go, there's a battle, and with God's help they kill everyone except the leader, Sisera. So, apparently God can handle the chariots, he's just chosen not to all this time. Great. Anyway, Sisera gets away and makes it to Jael, who is the wife of some ally, and he takes a nap in her tent. While he's sleeping, she drives a tent peg through his head. We never get to find out why she would do this and ruin her husband's alliances, she just does it for no apparent reason. Good story-telling, that.

Then Deborah and Barak spend a chapter singing a song about how awesome they are. I don't think it's about much else.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Judges 1-2: God apparently can't handle a few chariots

So, chapter 1 is all about the Simeonites and ... Judah-ites? ... killing more Canaanites. I really thought conquering time was over, but I guess not. Whatever. Hundreds of thousands of more people die or are enslaved.

Funny, apparently in all this fighting "the LORD was with them," but also they were unable to conquer the plains, because the Canaanites had chariots fitted with iron. So,
Chariots > God
Good to know.

Then God shows up to gloat some more over how great he is at keeping promises. God is so ridiculously proud of himself over this whole clusterfuck.

All the Israelites go their separate ways. A generation later, after everyone who was around for all the conquering was dead, no one knew about God and "did evil in the eyes of the LORD." That didn't take long.

This next part is just weird. God is pissed that they're worshipping other Gods, even though he already knew that this was inevitably going to happen, presumably because he himself set it up that way. So God helps out their enemies, and they lose a bunch of battles.

Then, just to make it confusing (cause what kind of bible story would this be if it weren't confusing?), God "raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them." So he's trying to help them out? Why? If he's so concerned about their wellbeing, he wouldn't have made them lose all their battles in the first place. I still think God has multiple personalities. Also, judges? What the fuck does that mean? The footnote says it could also be translated as "leaders."

Anyway, it doesn't work. The people ignore their new leaders and continue worshipping their other gods. Apparently this goes on for several generations, with God playing for both teams for some reason. Eventually God becomes not just angry, but "very angry," and decides that he's not going to help the Israelites at all anymore.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Joshua 13-24: Who gets what land, in excriciating detail

OK, I thought the whole promised land was conquered, but I guess that although they've already conquered the entire north and the entire south, there's still more to do. However that works. I think the bible just invoked a 4th spatial dimension.

Actually, they give the specific regions yet to be conquered, but it doesn't mean anything to me, I'm not really up on my ancient middle eastern geography. And actually, I learn later, this "yet to be conquered" part never actually gets conquered. Oh well.

Chapter 13 - 21 is a detailed account of how they split up the land among the tribes. Again, this means very little to me.

And, of course, the Levites don't get any of it, which it said like 10 times just now, not to mention the 1,000 times it was said before. Though they do get a few towns within the other tribes' land.

They also name the cities of refuge

Caleb asks Joshua for some land, and talks at length about how much he deserves it because of that one time when God killed all the scouts for the horrible crime of being realistic about their chances of conquering the promised land, and he and Joshua were the only 2 who remained faithful that they would actually pull it off. Which is a fair point, actually... it is my impression that this one incident is what propelled Joshua to celebrity status, while we haven't heard anything more about Caleb. So Caleb gets some land, though everyone does, so I'm not sure what the big deal is.

There's also this one odd story about how Caleb attempts to get more land for himself, some place called "Kiriath Sepher," by offering his daughter in marriage to the first guy who conquers it for him. And who does it but his brother. Seriously, still with the inbreeding, bible?

So, I guess everything is officially conquered now, even though it said it wasn't. Oh well.

There's also this little statement: "Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled." Lol, only, what, 500 years later? Good job.

You know what, I'm so inspired by God's mighty ability to make and keep promises, I'll make a promise too. I hereby promise to love and obey God. But not until 500 years from now! Shh, don't tell him that last bit.

Anyway, the tribes who wanted to live on the other side of the Jordan river (Gilead) finally get to go there. Yay.

OK, seriously. On their way home, those tribes from the other side of the river build an "imposing alter" near the Jordan, before they cross it. When the other tribes hear this, they gather at Shiloh (which I think is the city that will become "God's special place") to go to war against them. What?? It kind of makes it sound like this alter is an affront to God somehow, but I don't get it.

So, they get to Gilead and ask them, "How could you turn away from the LORD and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now?" They answer that they were afraid that because of the river, the Isrealites from the Canaan side would be like, "What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel?" So they decided to just go ahead an pre-emptively build their own alter. That way they can prove later that they, in fact, worship God. What the fuck?

Anyway, they hear this and are just like, OK! And they forget all about the fact that they were going to rain doom down upon Gilead, and go home. Aww.

Right. Some time later, Joshua is old. He gathers the other leaders to him and basically says, "don't fuck everything up after I'm dead." Only he goes on about it for a whole chapter.

I do like that Joshua says, "I am about to go the way of all the earth." It's just so poetic.

Hmm. He also says this:
But just as all the good things the LORD your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the LORD your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.
So, God's actions are "evil." Good to know. It also makes it sound like all the "evil" things will definitely happen, regardless of how obedient they are. We already knew that God set them up to fail, but here he states it explicitly. Whoops.

Then Joshua gathers all the Israelites together and gives them a nice short recap of Abraham until now. Then he made them promise to serve God, and when they do, he writes it on a stone and puts it out as a reminder to all. Aww.

Then Joshua dies, and that's the end of the book. Not very exciting...but are they ever, really? What are the 2 things that everyone knows about Joshua? The knocking down of the walls at Jericho, and the making the sun stop thing. Why? Because those are the only things that happened, all the rest of it was a big long list of who got what land. Boring.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Joshua 9-12: Unusual biblical conciseness

Just an aside... I don't know if anyone reads this, but if someone does and has been wondering where I've been, the length between posts here varies depending on how much free time I have, and my interest. Sometimes, I need or want to do other things besides read the bible, shocking I know. Anyway, my point is that even though there's big long gaps with no updates, I will not give up!

Anyway, onwards.

The people of Gibeon decide to trick the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them. They dress up like they've been traveling for a long time, and say, "We're from really far away, and we've heard of how great your god is. We want to join you! Look, our worn out clothes and moldy, stale bread proves our story!" The Israelites buy their lame story for some reason, and make a treaty. 3 days later, they find out the Gibeons were from nearby. They apparently can't kill them now, because they promised not too! They're all sad about it. But they get to turn them into slaves forever.

The king of Jerusalem is freaked out that Gibeon is allied with Israel now, because apparently Gibeon is big and powerful. So he gets a bunch of other cities to team up with him to attack Gibeon. The Israelites come to Gibeon's rescue; they kill a bunch of people, then God kills all the rest with hailstones as they run away. Fantastic.

For some random reason, on this day Joshua asks God to make the sun and the moon stand still for the whole day. There's no context or reason for it, really. It's not supposed to help them with the battle or anything. Apparently it's just to glorify God some more. Is anyone surprised.

Anyway, after the battle, they hang the kings' corpses up on poles for the day, then threw them in a cave.

Next, in a rare bit of biblical relative conciseness, Joshua and the Israelites utterly destroy all the cities in the south in only half a chapter, and all the cities in the north in the next chapter. And there you have it, the promised land totally destroyed in only 1 1/2 chapters.

Concise time is over! Now we get a big chapter long list of all the kings and territories they conquered.