Monday, May 30, 2011

Joshua 7-8: God makes the Israelites lose a battle

So the Israelites have just destroyed Jericho. Before they attacked, Joshua specifically told them to not take anything from inside the city; they were to burn it all and leave it there. But some guy, Achan, didn't listen. He took something (a "devoted thing"... and idol or some holy symbol, maybe?), and now they must all suffer for it. Obviously.

Joshua sends a couple of guys out to spy on the next target, Ai (which is an awesome name for a city). These spies are better than the last; they return with no problems. They report that there aren't many people there, so they don't even have to use their entire army. Just send a few thousand people. So that's what they do...little do they know that God is pissed that Achan took something from Jericho, so he let a bunch of them die in the attack. Not only that, but they fail to conquer the city and are chased off.

Joshua says, "What the hell, God? I thought you were going to be helping us out!" God says, "Nope, I'm pissed because somebody took something from Jericho. I know I could have told you this before all those people died, but what fun would that be? Anyway, if you want my help you'll have to find them and destroy them." God tells Joshua to get the people ready, and tomorrow Joshua should present them family by family before him. If they are found with the stolen items, they will be burned to death. I do find it amusing that all-knowing God has to search people in this limited fashion, one family at a time.

So the next day, Achan's turn comes up, and he stupidly confesses. They take him and all his children to some valley and stone them all to death. Because that's fair; the children were totally to blame. Also, I thought God was going to burn them to death...guess not.

As far as I can see, this is just a story about superstitious people and stupid brutality. Superstitious people loose battle, find scapegoat, murder scapegoat. Fantastic.

Then God says, "Thanks for murdering that guy and his children! Now I'm not mad anymore!" He tells Joshua to send the entire army to Ai and conquer it. He also gives them permission to loot it. Weird.

So, this time 30,000 men go to Ai. 25,000 men led by Joshua run away and get all the men of Ai to chase them. Meanwhile, while everyone from Ai who know how to fight are away, the 5,000 other Israelites run in to Ai and slaughter the women and children. Then Joshua and his men stop running, fight the men from Ai, and kill them all. A successful mission!

It's amazing what 30,000 men and a tricky ambush can do, compared with 3,000 men doing a straightforward attack. Wait, I mean, it's all because God helped them out this time!!!! Yeah.

Anyway, after they kill everyone, they loot the city and burn it to the ground.

Then they go to Mount Ebal, build an alter and bless and curse themselves, just like Moses told them to.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Joshua 1-6: Destruction of Jericho

So Moses is dead, and Joshua is the new leader. The 1st chapter is pretty much a waste of space; God reminds Joshua to obey all the rules, and Joshua reminds the tribes who want to live on this side of the Jordan that they have to come help with the fighting. Yawn.

Joshua tells everyone to prepare to leave in 3 days, and in the meantime he sends 2 spies into Jericho. They stay at a prostitute's house for some reason. Her name is Rahab.

They must be really shitty spies, because they are discovered after only 2 sentences. The king comes to Rahab's house looking for them, but she sends him off looking somewhere else. They were hidden on the roof the whole time! Clever.

She tells them she knows what they are up to, and she asks that they spare her and her family when they take over. They agree, but only if she ties a red cord on her window.

God is going to be pissed when he finds out about this. He has been very clear from the start; fucking kill everybody.

Then they get away and get back to Joshua, who for some reason isn't upset at the idea of sparing some people, in direct violation of God's commands. Hmm.

The next day they set out. Joshua tells everyone to follow the Ark of the Covenant, but not to get too close to it. Why not?

When they get to the Jordan, God decides to do a magic trick to show them, once again, that the "living God is among you." Does God ever tire of glorifying himself? I guess not. Anyway, the trick is that when the Ark of the Covenant gets into the River, it effectively acts as a dam; the river stops flowing. So the guys carrying the Ark stand there while everyone crosses the dry riverbed. Ooo, magic.

God tells them to make a little monument for the occasion... 12 guys, 1 from each tribe, take a stone each from the dry riverbed and put it in their camp that evening. Right then.

So they crossed the river and are camped outside of Jericho.

There are 40,000 Israelites armed for battle. This number seems pretty small to me. There were 601,730 at the last census (numbers 26), and that only counts men older than 20, and doesn't even include Levites, who as priests might not be fighting. Some of those might be too old to fight. But still, 40,000 isn't even 10% of their total fighting force. Why?

Apparently that little trick with the river freaked out the natives... "their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." So really, if they aren't even going to put up a fight, this isn't even going to be a battle; it will be a massacre. Apparently God is OK with that.

This next bit is just freaking weird. God says, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” AGAIN? What does that even mean? What are they cutting off now??

Oh I see. This whole generation of Israelites have never been circumcised in their 40 years of God making them wander around. Why not? And why are they bothering now, after all this time? And why hasn't God killed them or whatever for this transgression? And why did that previous bit say "circumcise them again," implying that it was already done?

Whatever. They stay there until they are all healed. They could have done this in the safety of their camp across the river, but no, they do it now, right outside of Jericho. That makes no sense.

Also, while camped near Jericho, they celebrate the passover. Again, why are they doing all this stuff here that could have been done in relative safety on the other side of the river?

Weird. Joshua finds some guy with a sword. He asks him who's side he's on. The guy says he is "commander of the army of the LORD." I thought Joshua was leader of the army, but I guess not. Joshua is convinced anyway... he bows before this guy, and asks what message God has for him. Apparently that message is "take off your sandals!" If you'll remember, this is also the first thing the burning bush said to Moses, so God must really advocate going barefoot. Who the fuck is this guy? I guess we'll never know.

Chapter 6 is all about the fall of Jericho, and I think most everyone knows how it goes. In fact I remember singing a song about it in school choir. Anyway, God has them all march around the city once a day, for 6 days, and on the 7th day, they marched around the city 7 times, then when 7 priests blew their 7 trumpets, everyone shouted and the wall of Jericho fell down. 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7!! Holy crap, 7.

Anyway, that's where the song ended, but that's not where the story ends. When the walls fall down, the Israelites run inside and kill everything, except Rahab and her family. They collect them, and apparently they became Israelites forever after. Aww. They also collected all the gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and put it in "treasury of the LORD’s house," whatever that is. What does God need money for anyway?

Then they burned everything else to the ground. Joshua puts a curse on the place, and on anyone who might try to rebuild it.

I really want to know why it's OK that they spared Rahab's family. God has been so clear on this point, that they must kill everything, even the animals. Spare nothing, or God will be fucking pissed; that has been the message. And what's the first thing they do? Spare someone. And God doesn't care. What?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Deuteronomy 26-34: God is one sick, twisted fuck

So, Moses has just finished going over all of God's rules. Now comes the part with the threats and coercion to get them to obey.

There is yet another statement of the little deal they're making... God says that the Israelites are his "treasured possession" and they will be a great nation, better than all the rest. Nothing we haven't been hearing a million times since the beginning of Genesis. And in return, the Israelites promise to obey. Or more accurately, Moses promises on behalf of the Israelites that they will obey.

Moses tells them that after they cross the Jordan, they have to go to Mount Ebal and build an alter there. They have to include 3 big rocks that have all these rules written on them. And, guess what, they have to make sacrifices.

Also, they have to curse and bless themselves. Moses splits them in half, one half has to stand on Mount Ebal and recite the curses, the other half stands on Mount Gerizim and recite the blessings. Weird.

People who do the following are cursed:
  • make idols
  • dishonor your parents
  • move boundary stones
  • trick the blind
  • withhold justice from foreigners, orphans, or widows
  • sex with your father's wife, sister, half-sister, or mother-in-law
  • bestiality
  • secretly kill your neighbor (apparently you have to do that in the open)
  • hit man (killing someone for money)
  • anyone else who doesn't follow the law (lol, did they get bored?)
And the blessings are:
  • fruit of your womb
  • crops
  • livestock
  • basket and kneading trough
  • "when you come in and when you go out" ...whatever that means
  • you will easily defeat your enemies
  • barns
  • "everything you put your hand to"
  • you'll get rain!
All this holds as long as they obey. But if they don't obey, woe unto them! Pretty much exactly the opposite of all the blessings happen. The fruit of your womb is cursed, no rain, and so on. Also,
  • disease
  • plague
  • blight
  • mildew
  • scorching heat
  • sky turns to bronze (weird)
  • ground turns to iron
  • your carcasses will be food for wild animals
  • boils
  • tumors
  • blindness
  • oppression
  • madness
  • wives raped
  • you will build a house and not live in it
  • you will plant a vineyard and not enjoy it
  • slaughter and theft of your livestock
  • children sold into slavery
  • locusts
  • worms
  • destruction
  • hunger
  • thirst
  • nakedness
  • poverty
  • you will eat your own children (the ones who weren't sold into slavery?)
Holy shit, I think you've made your point. This is an awful lot like Leviticus 26. I dare anyone to read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 and still say that God is loving. God is one sick, twisted fuck.

Interestingly, God says that he is making the covenant today, right now, with them. I thought he made it with Abraham ages ago. Whatever.

They are warned, yet again, to not let anyone worship idols or other gods. If you worship something else, God will never, ever forgive you. Also, they will ruin it for everyone!! The land will be a "burning waste of salt and sulfur." And they will be driven out of their land and scattered among other nations. Fantastic.

However, if after that they come back to God, he will forgive them and gather them back to the promised land, and all the good stuff we just talked about will still happen. Aww, that's so cute, God actually thinks he can forgive.

It also mentions "circumcise your heart" here again.

Then there's some little statement about how God has laid 2 paths before you, prosperity and destruction, which path you take is up to you!! I think God set them up to fail, (by giving them laws that they couldn't possibly follow all the time, plus God himself is going to be tempting them to fail) but that's just me. Also, since they have a choice, does this mean we have free will?

Believe it or not, I actually don't know how this story ends, which makes me suspect it ends badly, because why else wouldn't I have learned it in sunday school or church? I guess I'll just have to read on and see.

Then Moses declares Joshua is the new leader.

Then Moses writes down all the rules and gives it to the Levitical priests, with instructions that every 7 years, when everyone comes to God's Special Place, they have to read the rules to everyone.

God tells Moses and Joshua to go to the tabernacle so he can "commission" Joshua. Though apparently he just wanted to talk to them in private, because when they get in there, God tells them that he already knows that the Israelites will rebel, and bring all those curses down on themselves. Hmm, so much for free will. Also, if God already knows all that horrible shit he said is going to happen, then why did he set it up this way? The only reason I can think of is because that's what he wants to happen. God is a real asshole.

Anyway, then God gives them a song to teach to the Israelites. Apparently his motivation for this was so the song would "be a witness for me against them." "This song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants." So he can say "nyah, nyah, I told you so" later, in other words.

Chapter 32 gives the song lyrics. It pretty much tells the story about how they got here, and then it talks about their impending failure. So... now the Israelites know what's going to happen. And apparently they're just going to go along with it anyway.

Then God tells Moses to climb Mount Nebo. Apparently the view of the promised land is quite good from up there... since Moses can't go there, at least he can have a look. How nice of God. And then he gets to die up there. God already told him to do this, of course, and he still hasn't.

Anyway, before he goes, Moses blesses the people. Pretty uninteresting.

Then Moses finally climbs the mountain, and sees the promised land, and then he dies. The Israelites grieved for 30 days.

Apparently there has never been another prophet like Moses, "whom the LORD knew face to face." So Joshua, the new leader, doesn't get to talk to God? And what about that new prophet that was promised a couple of chapters ago? Doesn't that happen? Oh well.

So that's Deuteronomy. A pretty unnecessary book, really. Moses just rehashes all the stuff from Exodus-Numbers, and then dies. Boring.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deuteronomy 14-25: Where to poop (and other rules)

Yeah, this is a really huge section of bible, but it's mostly a repeat of the rules from before, with a few new things thrown in. I marked the new things; you could just read those parts and not miss anything. That's pretty much what I did.

We get reminded what food is clean and unclean. It still says that rabbits chew the cud and bats are birds, just incase that wasn't wrong enough before.

Then it says that thing about "don't cook a baby goat in its mother's milk." That never gets any less weird, no matter how many times I read it.

NEW: Tithes. Reserve 1/10 of your harvest, and once a year travel to that one place where God is going to "put his Name," (since it doesn't have a name yet, I will call it "God's Special Place") and eat it there. If it's too far and you can't carry it all, go there with an equivalent amount of money and buy food there to eat in God's presence. Every year do that, except on the third year. On that year, store all the tithes in the cities so the Levites and other people who don't have much (widows, orphans) can use it. How nice.

If God really cared about the poor, he'd give all the tithes to them, not just 1/3 of them. Just a thought.

Every 7 years, all debts between Israelites are cancelled (debts with foreigners remain). This is kind of random, and seems to be pretty much a "because I'm God and I say so" thing. There is an admonition to not be tightfisted toward the end of those 7 years, because you won't be paid fact, you should be extra generous then.

Sorta new: A small change from Leviticus... all servants go free after 6 years, including the women. That's the different part, used to be female servants were yours forever and ever. Like before, if a servant wants to stay, you have to nail their earlobe to the doorframe. Then they stay forever.

As we've heard before, God wants the firstborn of all the livestock. But here we finally find out what that means. You're supposed to take them with your tithe to God's Special Place, and eat them.

This is a TON of food they're supposed to eat in God's Special Place. How does that work? Or are they just supposed to stay there for months until it's all eaten? How inconvenient.

Once again, celebrate the Passover! No fucking yeast. It must be celebrated at God's Special Place. Also, celebrate the festival of weeks and the festival of tabernacles.

NEW: Select judges for each city, and they shall judge with fairness, justice, and no bribes. If a case is too hard for these judges, go to God's Special Place and bring the case to the Levitcal priests (apparently the Levites got a promotion). You must accept their ruling, anyone who doesn't will be killed.

Don't sacrifice any animal with a defect.

Stone to death anyone who worships other gods. You must have at least 2 witnesses to do so, and they must throw the first stone.

NEW: When you are set up in the promised land, you can have a king, but only the king that God chooses. That king may not have too many horses, too many wives, or too much money. He must have his own personal copy of all these rules, so he can become familiar with them. And even though he is the king, he may not break them.

Levites and priests don't get their own stuff. For food, they eat specific parts of the sacrifices and other offerings (grain, etc).

Do not follow the ways of the people you're about to wipe out. No other gods, no divination, child sacrifice, witchcraft, etc.

NEW: Apparently, there is going to be a prophet to talk for God, because at some point the people said they couldn't stand to talk to God themselves (I don't remember that). Any false prophet must be killed. You can tell the difference by whether what they say is true or not. Lol, clearly there are no problems with that.

Set up cities of refuge for people who accidentally kill someone to go to and be safe from revenge. Here it gives a ridiculous example of an accidental murder: you could be cutting down a tree, when the head of your axe flies off and kills someone! That's random.

You need at least 2 witnesses to convict someone of a crime. If a witness is found to be lying, they will suffer the same fate as though they had committed the crime they lied about.

NEW: When you go to war, don't worry if the opponent is stronger, because God is with you. You should bring a priest, and just before the fighting starts he should address the soldiers with an uplifting speech. And apparently after that, the officers will give everyone one last chance to desert. Weird. Then, before you attack, offer them peace. If they accept, you just got some new slaves!! Congratulations. If they refuse, you can kill all the men, and keep the women and children. If there's a woman you fancy, you can take her as your wife. Take her home, give her a month to mourn, then fuck her. If it wasn't to your satisfaction, throw her out. But you can't make her into a slave at this point, you have to just let her go free. This is disgusting.

However, in the conquest of the promised land (which I'm sure they'll get around to eventually), spare no one. Also disgusting.

NEW: This is weird. If a murdered person is found in the middle of nowhere, the leaders of the nearest city have to make atonement to God. I'm not sure why they are to blame. Anyway, they have to make atonement by finding a cow that has never worked, take it to a valley that has never been plowed and that has a stream, and break its neck. Random as ever.

NEW: You have to give your firstborn son a double share of the inheritance, even if he's not your favorite. It also casually mentions what to do if you have 2 wives here, so clearly the Bible still doesn't care about monogamy. Just an FYI.

If you have a "stubborn and rebellious son" and he just won't obey, everybody in town must stone him to death. That'll show him.

NEW: If you put someone to death for some crime, you may hang their corpse on a pole, but only til sundown, then you have to take it down and bury it. Don't want to stink up the place I guess.

If you see something that someone lost, return it to them.

If you see someone with an animal that fell down, go help them get it up again.

NEW: No transvestites. "A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this." Awesome, I will add this to my big list of reason God hates me. I honestly had no idea the bible says this, I'm surprised it's not brought up more often.

NEW: You can take eggs from a bird's nest, but don't get greedy and take the bird also. Random.

NEW: When you build a new house, include a parapet (a wall around the roof) so no one will fall off the roof and hurt themselves. Also random.

Don't crossbreed your crops.

Don't yoke a donkey and ox to the same plow.

No fabric blends.

Attach tassels to the corners of your cloak, to remind you of God's rules somehow.

NEW: If a man, after sleeping with his new wife, suspects she is not a virgin, he can accuse her of being a whore. Now the burden of proof falls on her father. He must "display the cloth before the elders of the town." Apparently that proves it somehow. I don't know what cloth it's talking about. Anyway, if it can be proved that she was a virgin, the man must pay a fine and is never allowed to divorce her. If it cannot be proved, she must be stoned to death in front of her father's house. Yay, biblical morality. I guess "innocent until proven guilty" hasn't been invented yet.

If a man sleeps with a married woman, they both need to die.

NEW: Here's an interesting rhetorical question for you: if a woman is raped in a forest and there's no one around to hear it, is she still guilty? Guilty of what, you might wonder? Don't think about it or you'll just get angry. Here's what the bible says:
  • If a virgin is raped inside a city: they both get stoned to death. (The woman must be punished because she didn't call for help, obviously.)
  • If a virgin is raped outside a city: only the man is killed, do not punish the woman. (Because, clearly, there was no one to hear her scream.)
If a man rapes a virgin who is not betrothed to marry anyone yet, he must pay her father a fine and they have to get married. Because that's fair.

Hey bible, what happens if a woman who isn't a virgin is raped? Or what if a man is raped? I guess that just doesn't matter. It's almost like the bible doesn't care about rape for the reasons a normal human being would (because rape is obviously horrible), but because virginity is some sort of commodity that is stolen, and you must be punished for the theft of it. Or for not protecting it by screaming loud enough, I guess.

Don't marry your father's wife.

NEW: The following people may not enter the "assembly of God," whatever that is:
  • anyone who has lost his testicles in an accident (random)
  • no bastards, or any of their kids for 10 generations
  • no Ammonites or Moabites, no matter how many generations later
  • Edomites and Egyptians can join after 3 generations
NEW: Go outside the camp to poop. When you do, dig a hole and bury it. Seriously, the bible has rules for pooping. And it's not because it's more hygienic, it's because poop is unholy. Apparently God is in the camp, and if he sees you pooping, he'll be all grossed out and "turn away from you." So, since omnipresent God is somehow not outside the camp (I still haven't figured that one out), you have to out there to poop. What is God, 2 years old? I really think he needs to read "everybody poops" or something. Seriously.

Don't give foreign runaway slaves back to their masters. That's actually pretty good.

Don't be a shrine prostitute. I don't know what that is.

Don't charge an Israelite interest when you loan them money.

If you make a vow to God, do whatever it is quickly.

You can go eat from someone else's field, but just eat there and don't take anything away with you. Like a buffet!

NEW: Say a man and woman get divorced, the woman remarries, then divorced again. The first guy isn't allowed to marry her again "because she has been defiled." I really don't know why it matters.

NEW: A man can't be drafted for 1 year after being married, because he should have a chance to be happy with his wife. Aww.

Kidnappers must die.

Be nice to the poor, foreigners, widows, and orphans. Let them forage in your fields.

NEW: Don't punish the parents for the children's sins or vice versa.

NEW: The maximum number of lashes as punishment is 40.

If a man dies, is brother has to marry his widow. If he doesn't want to marry her, God will kill him!!! Ahem, or, she goes and complains to the town elders, and the elders try to talk him into it. If he still doesn't want to, she gets to spit in his face in front of everybody. She also takes one of his sandals, and his family will ever after be known as "The Family of the Unsandaled." Oh snap! (I assume someone from that time and place would say) That is fucking silly, is what I, from this time and place, would say. But at least God changed his mind about killing people in this situation. Good.

If a man is in a fight and his wife tries to help out by grabbing the other guy's junk, her hand must be cut off. "Show no mercy!!"

Use honest weights and measures.

God still hates the Amalekites.

And that's about it, I think. The whole rulebook for the Israelites. Interestingly, as much as it repeated the stuff from Leviticus, there's a bunch of stuff that got left out. Like the bit about "man shall not lie with man, blah blah, etc." Totally not in Deuteronomy (so far, but I think rule-making time is over). I guess that's just not as important as "no fabric blends," which did make the final cut. Oh yeah! That's right. God does care more about fabric blends than homosexuality. Bwah haha.

Anyway, most of this stuff is either just plain weird or morally reprehensible. This is where people claim to get their morals from? I would fear for my safety if I thought that was true. And I'm the immoral one, because I don't believe in this shit. Really?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Deuteronomy 9-13: Circumcise your heart. No, really.

Guess what, Moses is still talking.

He talks some more about how the enemy is strong, but never fear, you will destroy them with God's help. (Also God's magic hornet, but it doesn't mention that. Boo.) But! God is not helping you because you are righteous! It is because they are wicked, more wicked than you.

So... what, this is like that one joke; how fast do you have to be to outrun a bear and/or zombie? Faster than the other guy! How do you survive God's wrath? Be slightly less wicked than somebody else! Got it.

He's also helping because God never reneges on a promise! (Though he can apparently take 500 years to make good on it, and kill bunches of your people in the meantime) But of course, I still want to know why he bothered to make a promise to Abraham in the first place.

To illustrate just how unrighteous the Israelites are, Moses rehashes the story of how they made a gold calf to worship, while Moses was off getting the tablets of covenant law. Of course, all those people are dead now so I don't know why this is supposed to make them feel bad about themselves.

Funny thing about that story, Moses says while he was off getting the 1st set of tablets (the ones he broke), he didn't eat or drink for 40 days. Then he went to get the 2nd set of tablets, and also didn't eat or drink for 40 days, but that time it was because of their sin. So what, the first time he didn't eat or drink just for fun? At that point they hadn't sinned yet, after all.

My, Moses really likes to guilt them. I don't want to be offensive, but I'm pretty sure Moses is the world's first stereotypical Jewish grandfather. Oh how I've suffered for you!! But don't worry about it, I'll be fine. Also I'll be dead soon. But don't worry about it, I know how you have things to do.

He also mentioned some of the other times God got angry enough to kill them, but not in as much detail.

Then Moses says, God doesn't ask for so much really! Just your complete, unthinking, unwavering, zombie-like obedience! Love him, serve him, fear him, and above all obey him. We've heard this before, sigh.

God owns everything in heaven and earth, and yet he chose you losers as his favorite. The least you could do is give him what he wants...obedience. Therefore, "circumcise your hearts, and do not be stiff-necked any longer." What a disgusting image. What the fuck does that even mean??

So, God chose you out of all people to be his favorite. And in return, all you have to do is have absolutely no choice in how you live your own life, or even how you think your own thoughts. Stray out of the tight little mold God has made for you to live in, and he will fucking kill you. How magnanimous God is! What a great deal! Ugh.

LOL: "For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes." God is God of gods. What an excellent definition of God.

Also, since when does God accept no bribes?? Are they supposed to stop doing animal sacrifice now? No. God demanded the first born of all people and animals (for what, who knows). Then he decided to take all the Levites instead. Is that over now? Do the Levites get to live their own lives instead of being bound in service to the priesthood? No. God not only accepts bribes, he demands them. And yes, those things are bribes; they do them to gain favor with God (ie, not be killed by him). So what the fuck is that all about?

Ugh, Moses is still going on about "love and obey God." STILL.

Apparently this land is so fantastic because God cares for it... this whole time he's cared for it, even though the Israelites aren't there yet and it's been inhabited by the 'even more unrighteous than the Israelites and therefore they deserve to die' people.

Also, they won't have to irrigate it because it "drinks rain from heaven." rains here. Awesome. But only if they love God will it rain. If they don't love God, he "will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you." Ouch.

So why does it rain there now, with all the wicked people in it? If this is how it works, shouldn't God have been saying, "no rain for you, wicked people!" And they all would have died or moved away, and the conquest would have been so much easier. Or is this just another example of God making the Israelites' lives harder for no apparent reason. This book makes no sense.

Once again, Moses tells them to destroy all their places of worship and holy things. God has been going on about this about a million times since Exodus. I think they get the picture.

He also says that once they're all settled in the promised land, God will come and "put his Name" on some place, and that is where they all have to go to do their sacrifices and whatnot. Don't do sacrifices just anywhere! Do them at that one specific place.

Now, I don't know how big the promised land is, but I imagine that some people will have to travel for weeks to get to this place. How can God possibly avoid playing favorites when he picks this place? Or maybe that doesn't matter to him.

While he's talking about sacrifice, he reminds everyone that they aren't allowed to eat (drink?) blood, but this time he includes the reason: the blood is where the "life" is. I'm pretty sure all life isn't in the circulatory system. Maybe that's where the soul is.

Lol. If some prophet shows up and says "let's worship other gods!" - that is actually God testing you. He wants to see if you really love him. Why does he have to test them like that?? Why does he make them destroy all the people and holy objects just so they wouldn't be tempted to worship other gods, only to throw temptation at them himself? What's the point??

Oh yeah, and that prophet... he must be put to death. Why? If God is making this happen, why does that guy have to die now?? What is his crime? Being a pawn in God's sick twisted mind games? What the fuck!?!?!

Yes, put to death anyone who suggests worship of another god, be it your brother, son, daughter or wife. Stone them to death! And you, who love them, must cast the first stone. Even though God is apparently mind-controlling them just to fuck with you. Prove your loyalty to God by killing your loved ones. This makes me ill.

Furthermore, if some town has gone astray and started worshiping other gods, you must kill everybody in the town and then burn the town to the ground, as a burnt offering to God. Only if you do this burnt offering will God "show you mercy." Um, mercy for what? You weren't worshiping other Gods; those other people were.

Anyway, then the town must remain a burnt ruin forever.

This is awfully convenient. Kill anyone at the first hint of turning away from God! Then no one will ever have to be confronted with a different opinion ever again. Not for long anyway. How lovely.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Deuteronomy 7-8: Release the drive bee!

Yep, they are still near the Jordan River listening to Moses prattle on. I am beginning to suspect he is going to do this for the entire book of Deuteronomy.

Here Moses starts talking about their impending conquest of the promised land. He says that "God will drive them out," though I suspect it will actually be the Israelites doing that; we'll just have to wait and see.

Moses reminds them (for the gazillionth time) to fucking kill everybody. No mercy! Don't spare the children, don't marry the women, just fucking kill them. Also, destroy all the alters and other holy objects. The reason is that the Israelites will inevitably start worshipping their foreign Gods, and we can't have that!

You might think it's ridiculous that a few spared children might convince all the Israelites to abandon their God for a new shiny God (I know I thought that for about half a second), but you'd be forgetting the Israelites' nature so far. They abandon God at every chance, even though they know that every time they do God kills thousands of them. And of course I can hardly blame them for doing so because God is such an asshole. This is such a frustrating story, because I hate all the characters.

Hmm, I was so excited, only to be let down again... in this next bit I thought we were going to get a reason why the Israelites are the favoritest. But, not really. It says that God "set his affection on you" because "the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors." What a steaming pile of bullshit. God loved the Israelites sooo much that he...
  • made them slaves for 400 years
  • makes them mutilate their genitals
  • has killed hundreds of thousands of them (so far) for the horrible crime of "grumbling against him"
  • killed off an entire generation before they reached the promised land, again for "grumbling"
  • set up a crazy rule system for them such that the most minor offenses (such as dishonoring your parents) is punishable by death
Have I gotten it all yet? I'm not sure. Anyway you get the point.

Then there's the other "reason," because he swore an oath! But why did he swear an oath? And why to Abraham of all people?? This is no answer at all. This reminds me of when I taught astronomy lab, and so many students would answer questions like "why is mars red?" with "because the rocks on mars are red." But why are the rocks on mars red??? Same damn thing.

Anyway, then Moses says the thing about how those who love and obey God will be rewarded "for 1000 generations," but those who "hate God" will get "repaid to their face by destruction." Lol, destruction in the face? Whatever that means.

What about people who don't believe he exists? I suppose that must count as "hate." So where's all the destruction in my face? You'd think I'd have noticed that. Furthermore, how can both of those things be true? Wouldn't I get a free pass because someone in the past 1000 generations must have loved and obeyed God? But I'm also supposed to get destruction in my face? How does that work?

Then Moses tells them not to worry about the fact that the people they're supposed to kill are much stronger than they are, because God will be with you, and God will deliver them to you, and "LORD your God will send the hornet among them."

Wait, what was that last bit? Hornet?? What hornet?? Not even a hornet, it's the hornet. What a tantalizing clue. Without further information, I will assume that the conquest of the promised land went down something like this...

God says this:

and then this happens:

All of chapter 8 basically says, love God, obey God and his commandments, remember God, don't worship other Gods, etc... again. We've heard this before, countless times. Just fucking obey is the central theme of this book, clearly.

We do learn a few interesting things in chapter 8...
  • Apparently the whole point of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years was to "humble" them. I guess, if by "humble" you mean "kill everyone over 20."
  • The point of manna was to teach them that "man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Funny, I thought the point was so they wouldn't starve to death. Also, I don't know how that was supposed to teach them that, unless manna was obviously words from the mouth of God. From the description, it sounded more like bread. As in, man does live on bread alone.
  • A secondary point of manna was to "test" them. What the hell kind of test is that.
  • Apparently in those 40 years their clothes did not wear out. Woo hoo, a miracle.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Deuteronomy 1-6: Recap by Moses

Right, Deuteronomy. The Israelites are still by the Jordan River, which is apparently the boundary of the promised land, and they are about to cross over into it, and I guess kill everyone they find over there. But first, Moses (still not dead) spends about 3 chapters going over the story of how the Israelites got from Egypt to here. I can sort of understand the repetition in this case, because it's a new book.

It's pretty much the same, except a couple of interesting tidbits:
  • In chapter 1, Moses tells the people about how God told him he wouldn't make it to the promised land, because he somehow fucked up the 'making water come out of a rock' thing. But here, Moses tells the Israelites that he blames them for his death. That's nice.
  • In chapter 2, we find out more about why the Israelites killed some people and not others. Apparently they passed some people by because God told them to, because he had "given this land as a possession to the descendants of" Esau, or Lot, or whoever. In other words, God seems to have had other "covenants" with other tribes of people to give them land. Except in their cases, it didn't take about 500 years of slavery, hardship, wandering around in the wilderness, God himself killing hundreds of thousands of the very people he's supposed to like with plagues and fires, etc. Somebody explain to me in what way the Israelites are God's favorite people again? He treats them worse than everybody else.
Anyway, then in chapter 4 Moses starts talking about all the rules they're all supposed to follow. He basically says, you already know all the rules, and be damned sure to obey them, because...just do it, dammit! He also says, "remember that time when God gave us the 10 commandments..." even though I think he is officially the only person left who was actually alive then. Lol, crazy old man.

Then he reminds them about the "no idols!" rule, which I am absolutely convinced is the only thing God cares about, other than "no fucking yeast" and the "pleasing" aroma of burning animals. In what may be the biggest understatement of the bronze age, Moses also calls God "jealous" a couple of times in here.

Also at this point, Moses says (for the third time) that he is going to die here because "The LORD was angry with me because of you." Why is he blaming them? From my own understanding of what the bible said, God got upset for no apparent reason about the one time Moses made water come out of a rock. In that case, Moses can just blame God for being a fickle bitch.

On the other hand, it seems that the general interpretation of that story is that Moses didn't sufficiently glorify God for the water...he tried to take all the credit for it, in other words. In that case, it's mostly his own damn fault. And again, God is still partly to blame, for being a fickle bitch. Either way, he should really stop trying to guilt everyone about it.

Moses also threatens them that if they don't follow all God's rules, they will "quickly perish" and be destroyed, and scattered, and so on. Fantastic.

Then Moses starts talking about how fantastic God is. He created the universe! He brought us out of Egypt! You people had just better acknowledge his existence and obey his every fucking whim.

Then Moses names the 6 cities of refuge.

Man, this is all over the place. If the storyteller was trying to capture the fact that this is basically the incoherent ramblings of a dying old man, they did a great job!

For his next act, Moses goes over the 10 commandments... the 1st version, not the 2nd one (the one about "don't cook a baby goat in it's mother's milk" and so on). A couple of interesting bits here too.
  • Moses says that even though God laid down the covenant law at Mt. Sinai, he wasn't actually making the covenant with them, it was with the people alive now. Except that's not what he said then... apparently God lied to them. Fantastic.
  • Also, Moses says that at Mt Sinai the people were too afraid to go up the mountain...but at the time, I remember God repeatedly forbidding anyone but Moses from going up there.
Moses also tells them to obey "so that you may live." Always with the threats.

Now we get a whole chapter where Moses tells the Israelites to obey, remember, love, and fear (but mostly obey) God. Also, teach the covenant law to your children, and that they should all think and talk about it almost constantly (when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, etc). And write it on your doors and gates. Because this is totally not excessive.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Numbers 35-36: Again, nothing really happened

God, after declaring that the Levites weren't going to get any land, says that each of the other 11 tribes must give them land out of their own inheritance. Weird. Anyway, they get 48 cities, and some land.

6 of the Levite cities are supposed to be "cities of refuge," where a person who accidentally killed someone can go to hide and be safe from anyone who wants revenge, until they stand trial. Yep, because then no one will know where they are. Oh wait...

This is so weird. If you accidentally killed someone, you stand trial. But whatever the outcome, you have to stay in the city of refuge until the high priest dies. (Err, why then? What happens when the high priest dies?) If you leave the city of refuge, anyone can, without blame, kill you out of revenge. But if they kill you in the city, they'll be in trouble! Weird.

Now God clears up some point about inheritance. Remember a couple of chapters ago, God said that women can inherit property? Some people are upset about that, because if a woman owns property and then marries someone from another clan, her property will be removed from her clan and added to her husband's clan. Oh dear. Clearly this cannot be! And God agrees. To deal with this, God declares that if a woman owns property, she must marry someone from her own clan.

And that's the end of Numbers. The Israelites traveled from Mt. Sinai to near the promised land, spent 40 years wandering around killing people, and when the entire older generation of Israelites were dead (as promised by the oh-so-merciful God), they finally get to the River Jordan, where they are about to go into the holy land. Overall, I was impressed with how much this book managed to be horrifically violent and boring all at the same time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Numbers 26-34: 8 chapters and nothing happened

God says, look, I know you're all busy with the conquest and whatnot, but I demand you do another census! And they count every male older than 20 years, and it was boring. It makes some statement about how not a single person counted last time is still alive, except Caleb and Joshua (and Moses I suppose). God promised that they would all be dead by the time they reached the promised land, and I guess that's one promise he actually kept. Wonderful.

Then God gives the Israelites some inheritance law. This is prompted by some uppity woman complaining to Moses about how she should get her father's inheritance, and for some reason God agrees with her. I am shocked.

For his next act, God orders Moses to climb a mountain and die, just like Aaron. And he names Joshua the new leader. But first, God spends a chapter reiterating some of the rules from Exodus and Leviticus. Just reliving those good old times, I suppose. There's actually a new rule here: if a woman makes a vow and her father or husband forbid her from actually making good on it, God will release her from the vow. Random, as ever.

Hmm, actually, before Moses can die God wants him to "take vengeance on the Midianites." For what, I don't know. So the Israelites killed every Midianite man, and took all the woman and children and goods for themselves, and burned everything else down. But that's not good enough for Moses, he tells them to kill every boy and every woman who isn't a virgin. And they do. Yay.

Then there is half a chapter about what they looted (including the virgins!) and how much, and how it was all split up. This is Numbers, after all, I suppose. I'm just surprised it wasn't longer.

I continue to be amazed at how the bible can be so horrifically violent, and yet so boring, all at the same time. I've never read anything else quite like it.

So they are about to cross the river Jordan, which is seemingly the official boundary of the "promised land." (So why have they been killing so many people on their way here? I thought the point of all that killing was so they could take over the promised land. But it seems it was just some pointless slaughtering of innocents, just for fun! Cause they weren't staying there...they just killed everyone and moved on. WTF.) A couple of clans come up to Moses (who for some reason isn't dead yet) and say they want to stay here. Moses calls them cowards for not going into battle with the rest. As a compromise, Moses agrees that their women and children can stay here because it's safer, but their men have to come help with the fighting, and they can't come back here until the whole promised land is conquered.

Interesting tidbit here... we finally find out the time scale of their trip now. I know it was supposed to take 40 years, but I've been wondering when (or if) that happened. So a few chapters ago, they just got near the promised land and sent scouts out, and God got upset about their realistic reports and killed them, and also promised that anyone who had "grumbled" would die in the wilderness before they get there. Apparently it is now 40 years since that happened...God's solution for killing them off in the wilderness was apparently to just make them wander around until that generation died of old age. I guess this is what God not killing people looks like (remember he promised not to kill them?) Brilliant loophole. Excellent story telling too. I had absolutely no idea that the seemingly random wandering of the past few chapters was supposed to have taken 40 years.

Anyway...then we get a chapter long recap of their journey so far. Boring. God takes the opportunity to once again tell them to fucking kill everybody. Or he will kill them and you. Somebody needs a nap.

Then God tells them what the boundaries of their land will be. And he tells them who will decide which clan gets what land. Can't these people decide anything for themselves?

By the way, Moses is still not dead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Numbers 22-25: Shrek and the talking donkey

Right, where was I? Oh yes, the Israelites have just started their ruthless conquest of the promised land.

The Israelites are now camped in Moab near Jericho. I guess their reputation has preceded them, because the people of Moab are pretty freaked out. The king of Moab, Balak, sends some messengers out to some guy named Balaam, who is apparently some sort of holy man, or divination guy, or something. Balak knows he can't defeat the Israelites on his own, so he wants Balaam to curse them before they fight.

The funny thing about Balaam is that he talks to the same God as the Israelites do. I don't get why there is some guy who is on God's good side already in the promised land, with all the people who are so horrible that they all need to die. I wonder what happens to God's BFF Balaam when the Israelites take over? And I wonder if there are any other secret friends of God in the promised land? There must be. This is just weird. I was expecting Balaam to either be talking to some other God, or to himself.

So Balaam asks God if he should go with Balak and curse the Israelites, and God is like, "Don't curse the Israelites! They're my favorite! Even though I've personally killed hundreds of thousands of them..." So Balaam says no. Undeterred, Balak sends fancier messengers with money. This time God tells Balaam to go with them, but not to do anything without his OK.

This next part is just weird. Balaam, as per God's instructions, goes off with the messengers to see Balak. But God is pissed off for some reason. Is anyone surprised... So God sends a couple of angels to stand in the road and get in the way. Somehow Balaam doesn't see them, but his donkey does and stops. And Balaam beats the donkey to get it going again. 3 times this happens, then God speaks out of the donkey's mouth and makes it ask, "what did I ever do to you, you jerk?" Shrek - err, Balaam - has a nice little conversation with his donkey about how frustrated he is that the donkey won't move. Like as though this happens all the time. If that happened to me, the first thing out of my mouth would be something along the lines of "holy crap, a talking donkey!" But no.

Anyway, then suddenly Balaam can see the angels in the road. The angels tell him that he shouldn't be going with the messengers, and that they are here to "oppose" him, and that they would have killed him for going on, except the donkey stopped. I so don't get this...God told Balaam to go with the messengers. Balaam says just that, and the angel is like, "OK fine, go with them." Seriously.

He gets there without being murdered by God for following God's own instructions, and then makes Balak build 7 alters (that seems extravagant), then they sacrifice a bull and a ram on each one. Then Balaam, speaking for God, says nice things about the Israelites. Balak is like, WTF!? You're supposed to curse them! I know, come stand over here; maybe it's a location problem. (Weird.) They go somewhere else, built 7 more alters, and try again...and the same thing happens. So they do it all again. Then Balak is like, "go away, you suck." *pout* But Balaam has more to say, mostly about how the Israelites will crush their enemies (which is himself. Great.) Then they part ways and go home.

Lol. While all this is going on, the Israelites are apparently getting bored again. Again! (I've said before, I really don't know who I hate more, God or the Israelites.) "The men indulge in sexual immorality" with the Moab women (men having sex with women? what's the problem!) and participate in sacrifices to somebody named Baal. God makes Moses kill all the Israelite elders for allowing this to happen.

Just as this is being decided, some poor sap comes into the camp with a Midianite woman. One of the priests stabs them both with a spear. "Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped," though it never started. Oh well. God is thoroughly impressed with this display of zealotry, and decides not to kill anyone else today (though he already killed 24,000 with that plague, so he's still way ahead). And he decides to reward that priest and all his descendants by making them priests forever. Though he's already a descendant of Aaron, so I thought this already happened. Hmm. God is clearly expert at giving you what you already have, and making it seem like a big treat.