Flock, Raper, Spitzers, FRUIT!
January 20, 2012 2 Comments
…And we’re back!
I worry that some of you may have been worried in the last few days. I’m worried about your potential worrying. Don’t worry. I didn’t abandon you. I had a thesis chapter due, and things got real. This may happen periodically throughout the year – especially once classes start – but remember not to worry! I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU.
OT: Genesis 34-38
Oh thank god, the first word of this chapter is “Dinah.” Dinah “went out to meet the women of that country” (1)…of Canaan? What is going out to meet them? Anyway, Shechem – the prince, not the place – sees her and rapes her. Nice. But also he “love[s] the young woman and trie[s] to win her heart” (3)…by raping her? He asks his dad Hamor to arrange his marriage to her with her father Jacob. When Jacob and his sons hear about the rape, they are angry – not because their sister has been assaulted, but “because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter. Such things are simply not done” (7).
Hamor asks Jacob to give Dinah to Shechem in marriage. Jacob’s sons respond “deviously,” telling Shechem and Hamor that they can’t let women of Israel marry uncircumcised men, so all the men of Hamor’s city will need to be circumcised first. So Hamor says to all the guys in his city, “Dudes, if we cut off a little bit of our penises, we’ll get to marry Israeli women and we’ll get all their livestock.” And the dudes are like, “Sounds good.” A couple of days later, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons, go into the city and kill every single male in it. Because the best response to rape is genocide! Their brothers loot the city and carry off all the property and women and children. Jacob’s like, “Wtf guys? Now you’ve made me look like an ass to everyone in this land, and the people of nearby cities might attack me, and I don’t have enough men to fend them off.” And the sons answer, “But didn’t he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (31).
God tells Jacob to go to Bethel and build an altar. Jacob tells all his people to “get rid of the foreign gods you have with you” (2) and wash and change their clothes (maybe to get rid of the evidence of the killing spree they just committed?). Everybody gets rid of their “foreign gods” (meaning images of them, I think) and their earrings too, for some reason, and Jacob buries them all. Then they head to Bethel, and “God [makes] all of the surrounding cities fearful” (5) so they won’t attack Jacob’s tribe, again demonstrating that God can manipulate people and prevent horrible crimes, contra the people who think free will ends theodicy. Jacob & co. get to Bethel and Jacob builds an altar, and Rachel’s nurse Deborah (since when did she have a nurse?) dies and is buried there.
God appears to Jacob and blesses him, and says, “Your name is Jacob, but your name will be Jacob no longer. No, your name will be Israel” (10), and then God officially names Jacob Israel…again. God gives the land to his descendants…again. Jacob makes a sacred pillar out of a stone and pours wine and oil on it…again. Jacob names the place Bethel…again. Is this book written by the guy in Memento?
The leave Bethel, and then Rachel goes into “hard labor” (16). She has a son, and, with her dying breath, names him Ben-oni. Jacob ignores his wife’s last choice in life, and renames him Benjamin after she dies. They bury Rachel and pack up camp and move on to make a new camp near the tower of Eder. Reuben, Leah’s son, sleeps with Bilhah, one of the servants that Jacob mated with. Aka, he slept with his half-brother’s mom. Apparently Jacob/Israel (the names are used interchangeably in this chapter) “heard about it” (22), but that’s all the info we get about that story.
Jacob goes to visit his dad Isaac, who dies at age 180 (this has been a rough chapter for Jacob), and his sons bury him.
Esau has some kids. Esau and Jacob have too many livestock to live in one place, so Esau moves away from Canaan. Esau’s kids have kids who have kids and so on. Also, it’s unclear whether or not Esau and Edom are the same person. One verse says, “These are the descendants of Esau, that is, Edom” (1). But a few verses later, we get, “These are the descendants of Esau, the ancestor of Edom” (9). And then it says something about Edom lying in the mountains, so maybe Edom is a place, not a person, and Esau is the ancestor of all the people in that place? Anyway, this whole chapter is just a list of who begat whom and who was king when and what tribes came from where and so on.
So Jacob and his sons are living in Canaan. Joseph is 17, and sounds like a little shit – he tells his dad mean things about his brothers. But Jacob loves Joseph the most out of all his sons “because he was born when Jacob was old” (3) – but by that measure, shouldn’t he love Benjamin even more? Jacob makes Joseph “a long robe” (3) – one might even say, an amazing technicolor dreamcoat. Jacob’s other sons hate Joseph for being their father’s favorite. Joseph dreams that when he is gathering grain with his brothers, his grain stalk stands upright [PHALLIC SYMBOL] and his brothers’ stalks bow down to it. He tells his brothers about his dream, and they interpret it to mean that he will rule over them (obviously), so they resent him extra. Then Joseph dreams that the sun and moon and 11 stars bow down to him, and he stupidly tells his family again, and his brothers get pissed off again, and Jacob is like, “What, you want me and your mother and your brothers to bow down to you? Nice try. Go to your room.”
One day, Joseph’s brothers are tending the flock, and Jacob is like, “you should go check on the sheep situation and report back to me,” and Joseph’s like, “I’m down.” So he goes and finds them (even though they’ve left the field and a random guy has to point Joseph in their direction), but as he’s approaching, they see him and decide to kill him and throw him in a cistern and say he was killed by a wild animal, because they’re tired of his megalomaniacal dreams. Reuben is like, “wait, let’s throw him in the cistern, but let’s not kill him,” and he plans to rescue Joseph and bring him home safely.
So Joseph gets there and they take away his robe/dreamcoat and throw him in the cistern (it’s empty so he’s not going to drown). Then some Ishmaelites come along, and Judah’s like, “hey, if we kill Joseph, we don’t gain anything, so let’s sell him!” And everyone’s like “yeah good idea!” So they pull Joseph out of the cistern and sell him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. Good luck dividing that by eleven, assholes.
Reuben goes back to the cistern and sees that Joseph isn’t there anymore and freaks out – I guess he wasn’t around for the whole selling-his-brother-into-slavery thing. The brothers kill a goat and smear its blood on Joseph’s special robe, and bring it to Jacob claiming they found it. Jacob assumes a wild animal has killed Joseph, because this was before the CSI thing where you can swab the blood and find out whether or not it’s human in like four seconds. Too bad. Jacob freaks out, goes into mourning, and refuses to be comforted by his family, understandably. Meanwhile, Joseph has been sold to the chief officer of Egypt’s Pharaoh.
Judah moves away and marries a Canaanite woman (of no specified name, described only as the daughter of Shua) and has three sons with her: Er, Onan, and Shelah. I like to think that her first son was a preemie and so she hadn’t thought about names yet when she went into labor, and once she delivered the doctor/midwife/whoever was like, “Hey, congratulations, it’s a boy! What are you going to name him?” And she was taken off-guard and went, “Er…” and the doctor was like “Great, I’ll write that in the file! Welcome Baby Er!”
Er marries a woman named Tamar, but God thinks Er is “immoral” (7) so he strikes him dead. His immoral behavior isn’t described, so we have no idea what offence, if any, he’s being punished for. Judah tells Onan to go to Tamar and “do your duty as her brother-in-law, and provide children for your brother” (8). Since when is that part of the brother-in-law’s job description? And in what sense could those children possibly belong to Er? Even once a man dies, his wife he still his property, and whatever comes out of her body belongs to him too? Onan finds this system unjust, so he agrees to sleep with Tamar but he pulls out and ejaculates on the floor. That’s admittedly pretty yucky and I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to clean that up, but God overreacts and executes Onan.
(I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t embed that video. Linking to it seemed insufficient.)
Tamar is probably pretty freaked out by now, but do we get to hear about her perspective? Of course not! Judah just tells her to go back and live with her dad until Shelah grows up, but Judah thinks Shelah’s going to be zapped too if he marries her. Eventually Judah’s wife dies, and after the mourning period, he and his neighbor head off to shear his sheep. Someone tells Tamar that Judah’s on his way, so she takes off her widow clothes and puts on a veil and makeup (in that order) and goes and waits on the road where Judah will be coming.
Judah sees her and thinks she’s a prostitute because of her veil. This is part of her crafty plan: she knows Shelah has grown up but she hasn’t been married to him, so she’s tricking Judah as a punishment. Anyway, Judah asks to sleep with her (since he doesn’t recognize her), and she’s like, “What’s in it for me?” And he’s like, “A baby goat!” But he doesn’t have the goat with him, so she’s like, “Oh yeah? I need a deposit.” And he’s like, “What kind of deposit?” And she’s like, “Your seal and your staff.” And he’s like, “Okay.” And they get it on and she gets pregnant.
She leaves and changes back into widow clothes. Judah sends the goat with his neighbor to give to her and retrieve his deposit, but the neighbor can’t find her. He asks locals where the “consecrated worker” (21) is – apparently an alternate translation is “cultic prostitute” – and they’re like, “there isn’t one here,” so he goes home confused. He tells Judah he couldn’t find the “holy woman” (22). What exactly is it that they think her job is? What’s the difference between a cultic prostitute and just a prostitute? What’s religious about the job? Anyway, Judah’s like, “whatever, I don’t want to be laughed at, so she can just keep the deposit.”
Three months later, somebody tells Judah that his daughter-in-law Tamar has become a prostitue and is pregnant. So he naturally responds, “Bring her out so that she may be burned” (24). So Judah will execute some prostitutes, but employ others? He’s like a nightmare version of Eliot Spitzer. When Tamar is brought out to be burned, she sends the deposit to Judah along with the message that she is pregnant by the man who owns those things. Crafty! He recognizes his stuff and is like, “Shit.” Except actually he says, “She’s more righteous than I am, because I didn’t allow her to marry my son Shelah.”
Tamar eventually gives birth to twins, in a really bizarre and, I think, physiologically impossible way. First, one boy sticks his hand out of her vagina. So the midwife, instead of, you know, helping him be born, ties a piece of red string to his hand in order to mark him as the firstborn, because birth order is incredibly important to everybody in the Bible, even with twins. Priorities. Then, the string-baby pulls his hand back into the womb. Then, the other baby pops out all at once. That one is named Perez, meaning “bursting out.” Finally, the string-baby pops out, and is named Zerah (meaning “dawn”).
Rape. Genocide. Slavery. Betrayal. Deception. Murder. Hypocrisy. Sexism.
OT: Psalm 9
Thanks God, I like you, I’ll tell everyone you’re great. My enemies “will fall down and die right in front of you because you have established justice” (3-4). You’ve annihilated everyone and everything you don’t like. You rule justly forever and help the oppressed and don’t abandon them. You’re vengeful and remember the suffering. Yay for you. Have mercy on me. I suffer but you save me so I will give you a positive review on Yelp. The wicked are punished by their own schemes – hoist with their own petard, if you will. Kill all the wicked and the atheists and the wrong kinds of theists. Sufferers will be soothed. Judge everyone and scare them.
From now on I’m going to imagine all the psalms as Yelp reviews.
NT: Matthew 13
Jesus goes and sits by the lake, but there are so many spectators that he gets into a boat to preach from there. Prepare yourself for the lesser-known Sermon on the Boat, which is just a shitload of parables.
Parable of the soils: A farmer scattered a bunch of seeds, and most of them failed (eaten by birds, dried in the sun, choked by thorns), but others bore lots of fruit.
Jesus’s disciples are like, “dude, why do you have to always speak in opaque parables?” And Jesus is like, “here, let me answer your straightforward question with more opacity!” and gives a little Yoda speech. The intelligible part is that people see without truly seeing and hear without truly hearing; they pay attention but don’t really understand what they’re being taught/shown. Um, Jesus, has it occurred to you that this might be because you speak in confusing metaphors all of the time?! Also, btw, it turns out that Jesus’s habit of speaking in parables fulfills a prophecy. I should have known.
Jesus helpfully explains the farmer parable. The seed is the news about the kingdom of heaven. If they hear it but don’t understand it, the devil steals what was planted in their hearts, like the birds eating the seeds. Other people get the news and are happy for a while but lack perseverance and so abandon the new philosophy when it gets hard, like the seeds planted in shallow soil and dried by the sun. Others have the virtue strangled out of them by wealth and earthly matters, like thorns.
Parable of the weeds: The kingdom of heaven is like planting good seeds in good soil. But while everyone’s asleep, an enemy comes and plants weeds too. The landowner’s servants ask if they should go pull the weeds, but the landowner says not to because they’ll pull the good grain up too. Instead, let them both grow side by side, and at harvest, the weeds will be burnt while the grain is gathered.
Okay, that one was pretty clear.
Parable of the mustard seed: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed – the smallest seed grows into the largest plant.
Yes, I get that one too. This is all much better than the “new wine in old wineskins” nonsense.
Parable of the yeast: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough” (33).
…I take it back. That one was weird.
We’re told again how Jesus’s parables fulfill prophecy.
Jesus goes home and his disciples are confused and ask him to explain the weed parable. I’m not sure why, since I thought that one was pretty obvious. But he spells it out for them anyway: Jesus is the grain-planter, the devil is the weed-planter, the grain is the righteous, the weeds are the wicked, the harvest is the end of days, the harvesters are angels. Followers of God will join the kingdom of heaven. As for the others, Jesus “will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (42). Again, let’s drop the whole myth that Jesus never mentions hell – and the story that hell is just separation from God that you bring on yourself rather than a place that God puts you.
Parable of the treasure: The kingdom of heaven is like a buried treasure that is exciting to find.
Well that one was underwhelming.
Parable of the merchant: The kingdom of heaven is like a guy who sells everything he owns in order to buy one very precious pearl.
So…the kingdom of heaven is an idiot?
Parable of the net: The kingdom of heaven is a net that gathers lots of fish, and then the fishers keep the good fish and throw out the bad ones.
Redundant with the weeds parable, but okay.
Jesus asks if everyone understands the parables, and they say yes. Then he compares the legal experts to people who take old and new things out of their treasure chests. Great, he’s getting all opaque again.
He leaves for his hometown and teaches in synagogues there. People freak out and wonder how he learned to be wise and do miracles, and then “they were repulsed by him and fell into sin” (57), for some reason. Jesus says that “prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households” (57) – is that true? Anyway, because of people’s disbelief, he’s not able to perform many miracles there. So I guess he’s like Tinkerbell and needs people to believe in him in order to do his thing.
Jesus was pretty clear for most of this chapter.
Less substantial ethical discussion, and more fixation on judgment and reward/punishment. Also, the yeast-as-evangelism thing was bizarre.