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.