Asher, you will be Top Chef.

OT: Genesis 47-50 <—– THE END OF GENESIS!!!!! Tomorrow, we will start on the only book of the Bible known to be written by Bob Marley.

Genesis 47

Joseph is like, “Hey Pharaoh, my family’s here in Egypt and/or upstate New York! Here are half my brothers.” Pharaoh’s like, “Ok dudes, what’s your bag?” They’re like, “We’re shepherds, and we came here cause we were hungry.” Pharaoh’s like “Cool, welcome to your new home.” Joseph’s like, “Great, thanks. And here’s my Dad.” Jacob blesses Pharaoh, who asks his age, and Jacob says he’s 130. Well, technically, he says, “I’ve been a traveler for 130 years” (9), invoking the popular image of life as a journey.

I actually really like that trope. I went to daily prayers this morning at our school chapel (because I’m churchy like that), and they always end the short morning service with a blessing that begins something like, “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us,” which is a sentiment that every person on earth should be legally obligated to reflect on every single day.

http://i.qkme.me/60rv.jpg

I bet Egypt's incipient Tea Party was up in arms over this...or would have been, if tea existed in the Middle East back then, which I don't think it did.

Anyway, Jacob blesses Pharaoh again and goes back to settling into his new home. Then Joseph does some kind of political/economic shenanigans to take advantage of the famine to centralize power under Pharaoh’s (and his) control: he acquires all the farmland (except that belonging to the priests), and gives people seed to plant it in exchange for a 20% tax on all their crops (the priests are exempt from this tax). Meanwhile, Jacob lives a few more years, then realizes he’s about to die. After making Joseph swear (with his hand under his thigh again…ew) to bury him back home with his ancestors and not in Egypt, Jacob passes out on his bed (but doesn’t quite die yet).

Genesis 48

Joseph figures out that his father is dying – not because of the part where he passed out on the bed, but because someone told him – so he and his sons go visit Jacob. Jacob tells Joseph how God gave him Canaan for his descendants, then gets ready to bless Joseph’s sons (Manasseh and Ephraim). But we have a confusing situation with the blessings…again. Apparently, it’s very important to Joseph that Jacob bless Manasseh, the elder son, with his right hand, and Ephraim, the younger, with his left. So Joseph brings them over in such a way that Manasseh is next to Jacob’s right hand and Ephraim is next to Jacob’s left hand. But Jacob figures this out and crosses his hands in order to reverse Joseph’s intended hand placement. Joseph apparently spaces out while this is happening, because not until the blessing is over does Joseph notice the hand-crossing and shit a brick. He’s like “NO Dad you’re ruining it Manasseh is the older one!” And Jacob is like, “I know, he’s gonna have it good, don’t worry, but Ephraim will have it extra good.” Then Jacob’s like, “Joseph, I’m about to die, but don’t worry, you’re getting twice the inheritance of your brothers. Also you should go back to Canaan someday.”

Genesis 49

Jacob gets all twelve of his sons to gather around his bed so he can prophesy all up on them. This is his big dying speech:

Okay, listen up, dudes. Reuben, you’re the oldest and strongest, but you “violated my couch” (4), aka nailed one of my many wives, so fuck you. Simeon and Levi, you are violent assholes, and you “maimed oxen” (6) for fun, which is definitely one of the symptoms of psychopathy. Judah, you’re a badass, you wash your clothes in wine for some reason, and people are going to adore you. Zebulun, you’re going to live by the water. Issachar, you are sturdy like a donkey and you work hard. Dan, you will settle disputes, but also fuck people over? Gad, people will attack you, but you will show them who’s boss, like a bad roach. Asher, you will be Top Chef. Naphtali, you’re going to have hot kids. Joseph, you are just objectively better than your brothers. Benjamin, you are a wolf.

Then he blesses them all, even the ones who got shitty predictions, and asks them to bury him in the cave back in Canaan where his parents and grandparents are buried – not with his favorite wife, Rachel. Then he got comfy and died.

Genesis 50 AKA THE LAST CHAPTER OF GENESIS EVER

Joseph cries all over Jacob’s corpse, then has him mummified and mourns him for a couple of months. After the mourning ends, he gets Pharaoh’s permission to go home to Canaan to bury his father. A bajillion people go with Joseph, including every single one of Pharaoh’s servants. Apparently the children and livestock of Jacob’s family stayed in Goshen, completely unsupervised. So all these people go to Canaan and mourn some more and bury Jacob in the cave and then go back to Egypt. Joseph’s brothers suddenly worry that, with their father dead, Joseph will punish them for that time they plotted his death. So they tell Joseph that Jacob told them to ask Joseph’s forgiveness (it’s not specified whether he really did), then everyone cries, and the brothers bow down to Joseph, and he tells them not to worry about it because it turned out better in the end since he was able to save so many lives in the famine. So everybody lives happily in Egypt for a long time – long enough for Joseph to meet his great-grandchildren, some of whom were apparently “born on Joseph’s knees” (23). Gross. (Yes, yes, I know this probably just means that they sat on Joseph’s lap.) Eventually Joseph tells his brother’s he’s about to die, promises that God will bring them all back to Canaan one day, and tells them to bring his bones with them when they go. He dies at age 110 and gets mummified.

Highlights

IT’S OVERRRRRRR!!!!!!!

Lowlights

Now I’m just imagining afterbirth all over someone’s knees. Eeeeeewwwwwwww.

NT: Matthew 17-18

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a mountain summit and then turns on his magical shiny powers. Moses and Elijah show up to chat with Jesus, and Peter awkwardly offers to build three shrines, one for each of them. Then a cloud talks to theme and says Jesus is his (its?) son and they should listen to him, so the disciples fall prostrate in awe. But Jesus touches them and is like, “get up, it’s all good,” and so they do and nobody’s there but Jesus. On the way down the mountain, Jesus tells them to stay silent about the vision until after the Human One is resurrected. The disciples are like, “why does everyone say Elijah has to come first?” And Jesus is like, “Oh, he was already here, but nobody recognized him, and they treated him like shit, just like they’re going to do to the Human One.” They figure out that he means John the Baptist.

They get back to where Jesus’s fans are waiting, and a man asks Jesus to heal his epileptic son because the disciples weren’t able to. Jesus calls everyone faithless for the billionth time and whines like a teenage girl: “How long will I put up with you?” (17). But he heals the boy – by casting a demon out of him, thereby setting up a stupid superstition that continues, to this day, to attach absurd stigmas to people with organic neurological disorders. The disciples ask why they were unable to exorcise the boy, and instead of explaining that anticonvulsants haven’t been invented yet, Jesus says it’s because they weren’t wishing hard enough: “I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will go. There will be nothing that you can’t do” (20). Funny, I haven’t noticed any of the oh-so-faithful Republican candidates – or anybody else, for that matter – flinging mountains around with their eyes. Oh, wait, I forgot, everything is a metaphor and you can only understand the true meaning if God wants you to.

The disciples all get together in Galilee for a reunion and Jesus kills the mood by reminding them that he’s going to be killed soon. He also reminds them that he’ll be resurrected three days later, but they’re still bummed. Then they go to Capernum and the people are like “Hey Peter, everybody has to give a half-shekel to the temple; doesn’t your rabbi friend pay his taxes?” Peter’s like “OF COURSE HE DOES” but Jesus is like “Peter, who pays taxes to the king: strangers, or his own kids?” Peter’s like “Strangers, duh.” So Jesus is like “Well then I guess I don’t have to pay!” because Jesus is a nine-year-old attempting to rhetoric his way out of his chores. But then he decides he has an opportunity to show off  some more, so he tells Peter to throw a line into the lake and pull out the first fish he catches, which will have a shekel in its mouth to cover the tax for both of them.

Matthew 18

The disciples ask Jesus who the best person in the kingdom of heaven is, and Jesus says the people who humble themselves like little children are best, and that whoever welcomes a child is also welcoming him, Jesus. Then he says that whoever tempts believing children to sin is totally fucked, and reminds everyone that it’s better to amputate yourself than to sin. He says that God doesn’t want his children to stray into sin, just like a shepherd will always go looking for his lost sheep. Jesus then explains that if any of your own siblings (or, probably, anybody else, since every one is “brother” or “sister” too him) sins, and won’t listen to you or to the church and mend their ways, you should excommunicate them and treat them like strangers. But then Jesus touts the importance of forgiveness – but only in exchange for repentance. You can be forgiven, but only by groveling. To illustrate this, he tells a story about a king who forgives a servant’s debt, but then punishes him when he learns that the forgiven servant refused to forgive somebody else’s debt. In this case, we’re all the hypocritical servant, and God is the vengeful king.

Highlights

Moving mountains around and healing the sick sounds cool. Then again, if it were really possible, everybody would be doing it. I mean, who wouldn’t become a Christian in order to acquire Harry-Potter-like powers?

Lowlights

Everybody should forgive everybody all the time! But God is angry and vengeful! But also God is love! And everybody is made in his image! And he can stop people from sinning if he wants to but sometimes he decides to let them do it so he can torture them instead!

But Can Harold Camping Cure Vaginal Itch?

Personal note: today is my last first day of classes (read it again; it works) as an undergraduate. =( =( =(

OT: Genesis 43-46

Genesis 43

Eventually, Jacob and his sons finish all the grain they got from Egypt in exchange for Simeon. Judah is like, “Dad, we can’t go back without Benjamin, or the guy will flip out.” Jacob is like “WHY DID YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM ABOUT BENJAMIN IN THE FIRST PLACE?!” And the sons are like “HE JUST ASKED US ABOUT OUR FAMILY HOW WERE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW IT WOULD LEAD TO A WEIRD RANDOM SCHEME?!” Judah’s like, “Look, I could have gone and come back by now. I’ll take care of him. But we have to go so we don’t starve.” Jacob’s like, “Okay, fine. Take Benjamin. And take back the silver you took before, and some more. And take some of this random shit we have lying around, like resin and honey and nuts that we aren’t eating for some reason.”

http://www.donkeys.net/images/miniature_donkey_foal_weba.jpg

I hope they had miniature donkeys. Those are the cutest.

So they go back to Egypt and Joseph sees them coming and has dinner prepared for their arrival. He has them brought to his house, which freaks them out, and they worry that he is going to “make slaves of us, and take our donkeys” (18). OH NOES NOT THE DONKEYS. They tell Joseph’s assistant that they’ve brought back the silver they left with before plus more and that they don’t know how it got put back in their sacks to begin with, confirming commenter Jenin’s suspicion that Joseph was framing them for theft, not forgiving them. So much for forgiveness, then. The assistant is like, “It’s cool, I got the money.” Maybe Joseph paid for the grain himself? So yes to forgiveness, but also with sneaky framing?

The assistant reunites Simeon with his brothers and gives everyone refreshments. Joseph comes home and the dudes present him with their gift of souvenirs from Canaan or wherever, and bow to him. He asks if their father is still alive, which they confirm. Then he sees Benjamin and asks if that’s the younger brother, and when he’s told it is, he runs into the next room to cry because he loves Benjamin so much. Awww. Then he comes back and has dinner served, but the Egyptians have to eat separately from the Hebrews because everybody is racist. Also, Joseph gives Benjamin literally five times as much food as he gives to everybody else, which just makes me think of this.

Genesis 44

Joseph tells his assistant to put grain in the brothers’s sacks with their silver on top, and to put his (Joseph’s) silver cup on top of Benjamin’s sack. He sends them off, and then, a little while later, sends his men after them to stop them and accuse them of stealing the cup. When they catch up to the brothers, they’re like, “What are you talking about? We brought back the silver we mysteriously left with before, and we certainly didn’t take anything this time. You can check our sacks, and whoever has the cup you think we stole can be executed and the rest of us can become your slaves.” (You would think they’d remember what happened last time they didn’t pack their own sacks.) Of course the servants search and find the cup in Benjamin’s sack, so everyone freaks out and goes back to Joseph’s house. Instead of defending themselves or doing anything useful, the brothers are like “oh I guess we’re your slaves now, bummer!” Joseph says, “No, only the one with the cup will be my slave. The rest of you can go home.” Judah is like, “Look, dude, if we don’t bring Benjamin back, our father will plotz. Can I stay as the slave instead?”

Genesis 45

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Goshen, Egypt

Joseph decides he can’t deal with his web of lies anymore, so he sends away all his servants and then bursts into tears and confesses that he’s Joseph. The brothers are all terrified of what he’ll do to them, but he’s like, “No, don’t worry, I’m not mad, God obviously sent me to Egypt to save lives by predicting the famine.” Because that’s definitely easier than just letting Pharaoh figure out his own dream, or maybe sending an angel to say “Hey Egypt, get ready for famine,” or maybe not causing a famine in the first place. Anyway, Joseph is like, “Look, go tell Dad what happened and how powerful I am here, and then you and he and all your family should move here and live in Goshen.” I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Joseph means the Land of Goshen in Egypt, and not Goshen, NY, the shithole where some of my cousins live and whose website is partying like it’s 1996. Pharaoh hears about the plans and is excited that Joseph’s family is coming, and sends along extra wagons and supplies to make their move nice and comfy. They get home and tell Joseph everything, and he’s ecstatic and can’t wait to get to Egypt to see Joseph.

Genesis 46

http://www.icecreamtrucks.org/images/sherrys-sweets-llc-soft-serve-novelties-goshen-new-york-21277706.jpg

Goshen, New York

Jacob & co. head out for Egypt. En route, Jacob stops to sacrifice to God, and God tells him in a dream that everything will be copacetic in Egypt. Then the narrator helpfully lists Jacob’s approximately nine trillion grandchildren, plus some confusing and questionable math. However many people went along with Jacob and his three-ish wives and his eleven sons minus Joseph and his one oft-neglected daughter, they all go to Egypt. Judah goes ahead to ask Joseph for directions to Goshen. When they get there, Joseph comes to meet them and is joyfully reunited with his father, who says he can die now. Joseph tells his family that when Pharaoh asks what they do, they should say they’re shepherds, because Egyptians think shepherds are beneath them and so will let them live in Goshen (as opposed to what?). Then Joseph goes to tell Pharaoh everyone’s arrived.

Highlights

It’s nice that they’re all one big happy family now.

Lowlights

What was the point of all the lying and kidnapping and ransoming and threatening?

OT: Psalm 10

God, where are you when the wicked are hassling the good? I hope their plans backfire.

WAIT. We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming (hasty first-person summary of boring psalms) to share this excellent excerpt with you:

The wicked brag
about their body’s cravings;
the greedy reject the LORD, cursing.
At the peak of their wrath,
the wicked don’t seek God:
There’s no God—
that’s what they are always thinking.
Their ways are always twisted.
Your rules are too lofty for them.
They snort at all their foes.
They think to themselves,
We’ll never stumble.
We’ll never encounter
any resistance.
Their mouths are filled
with curses, dishonesty, violence.
Under their tongues lie
troublemaking and wrongdoing.
They wait in a place
perfect for ambush;
from their hiding places
they kill innocent people;
their eyes spot those
who are helpless.
They lie in ambush
in secret places,
like a lion in its lair.
They lie in ambush
so they can seize those who suffer!
They seize the poor, all right,
dragging them off in their nets.
Their helpless victims are crushed;
they collapse, falling prey
to the strength of the wicked.
The wicked think to themselves:
God has forgotten.
God has hidden his face.
God never sees anything!

http://usu-shaft.com/wp-content/uploads/the-atheist-e.jpg[gnawing on a severed human leg] …Mmrph. Sorry, what was that? I was so busy hunting and eating innocents that I forgot you were there! Wait, shh! Get down behind this shrub. I think another Christian baby is about to crawl over here! [sharpening a spear]

But seriously, this very fair and accurate and not at all stereotyped or offensive characterization of atheists is only slightly marred by a minor contradiction. Are we “always thinking” to ourselves that “There’s no God” (per verse 4), or do we “think to [our]selves” that God exists but “has hidden his face” (according to verse 11)? Or are we so stupid that we believe both of those things without any cognitive dissonance? I just want to make sure I’m getting this right.

Anyway, the eloquent psalm-bitcher continues:

Blah blah atheists are stupid, you are God and you see everything, you’ll punish the wicked and help the oppressed.

Highlights

One less psalm left to read.

Lowlights

[sigh]

NT: Matthew 16

Those pesky Pharisees are at it again, and with the Sadducees in tow, too. They demand that Jesus show them a sign – because I guess they missed all the magical healings and such? Jesus is like, “You stupid Pharisees. You can tell the weather by looking at the sky, but you can’t see the other signs that are right in front of you.” He also says that only evil people demand signs (which is pretty unfair, because how else are we supposed to know what to believe?), and that they “won’t receive any sign except Jonah’s sign” (4). I learned in church today (another friend was preaching) that Jonah went to Nineveh to warn them of God’s punishment, and then the people of Nineveh abandoned their evil ways and God changed his mind about destroying them. So maybe Jonah’s sign is the thing John the Baptist and all the apostles have been doing about warning everyone that God will punish them if they don’t get their shit together.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-4ZBOT3fyk54/TYvGOmPjT5I/AAAAAAAAH3o/1BWR9ZSEUIE/s1600/yeast-732837.jpg

DANGER WILL ROBINSON

The disciples get to the other side of the lake (I guess the Pharisees were on the boat with them? Why did they even let them on?) and realize they once again don’t have any bread. Jesus tells them to watch out “for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (6). The disciples ignore this comment and confer amongst themselves, then uselessly announce out loud what they had collectively realized two verses earlier: “We didn’t bring any bread” (7). Jesus again calls them “people of weak faith” (8) and is like “Remember all those times I MADE FOOD APPEAR FROM NOWHERE? Also don’t you get that it wasn’t really about bread? It was all a METAPHOR. Now watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.” Then the disciples have a belated epiphany: “Then they understood that he wasn’t telling them to be on their guard for yeast used in making bread. No, he was telling them to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (12). First of all, duh. But second, to be fair, what does teaching have to do with yeast? Couldn’t Jesus just have easily have said “watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees” instead of “watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees”?

Jesus asks everyone who people say the Human One (or Son of Man) is, and they answer that popular theories include John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or other prophets. Then he asks who they think he is, and Simon/Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16). Jesus is like, “You’re lucky – you learned that from God, not from any human. You’re Peter [which means “rock”] and I will build my church on this rock and give you the keys to heaven.” Then he tells all his disciples not to tell anyone he’s the Christ, which still makes no sense to me.

Then Jesus starts telling everyone he’s going to have to go to Jerusalem and suffer and be killed and then raised three days later. Peter is like “No, that can’t happen!” Then Jesus calls Peter Satan – which is a bit harsh since he was just being compassionate and compassion was basically the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount – and calls him “a stone that could make me stumble” (rather than the rock on which the church will be built) because he is “not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts” (23).

Let me just say that if God’s thoughts involve torture and sacrifice while human thoughts involve compassion and peace, I’m proud to be human.

Jesus tells his disciples they “must say no to themselves” (24) in order to follow him, and must be willing to give up their lives in order to truly gain life. He promises to repay them for their sacrifices – which makes said sacrifices not really sacrifices so much as loans, if you ask me (but why would you?).

Finally – and this is really interesting – he promises “that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One coming in his kingdom” (28). In other words, Jesus seems to anticipate that his famed and glorious Second Coming will occur within the next century or so, at most. It sounds like Christianity wasn’t really supposed to be a millennia-long journey so much as a sprint to the finish. He’s kind of pulling a Harold Camping here. Speaking of which, he apparently retired after his most recent false apocalypse prediction. I bet his retirement is nice and comfy thanks to all those donations he got from the people who sold all their belongings in order to follow him – just like Jesus told everyone to do. Maybe Harold Camping is actually the truest Christian of them all for most closely following Christ’s example.

Highlights

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Btw, if yeast is so bad, how is Christ our Risen Lord? Did he just use copious amounts of baking soda?

Remember that guy who became a YouTube sensation for his fairly unoriginal and arrhythmic spoken word piece about why he “hates religion but loves Jesus?” I already knew enough to figure out that his references to religious hypocrites in Jesus’s time are alluding to the Pharisees. But now that I’ve read that whole bit in Matthew 16 with the extraneous yeast metaphor, it just took on a new level of hilarity. The voice of our generation, bball1989, claims about two and a half minutes into his magnum opus that “Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums,” in that the former is the “cure” and the latter is the “infection.” So…Jesus is like an antifungal cream, or maybe just a glass of strong cranberry juice?

Lowlights

I’ve been liking Jesus less and less as the Gospel of Matthew goes on, but his creepy similarity to Harold Camping is the real dealbreaker.

Fabio and the Amazing Technicolor Loincloth

OT: Genesis 39-42

Genesis 39

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Joseph

Joseph does a good job as Potiphar’s servant (Potiphar is Pharaoh’s chief officer), so Potiphar makes him his head of household. God likes Joseph, so he blesses the household for Joseph’s sake. Now, Joseph, we are told, is “well-built and handsome” (6). Potiphar’s wife has the hots for Joseph and asks him to nail her. Joseph’s like, “Look, your husband trusts me and gives me complete control and denies me nothing but you; how could I screw him over like this and offend him and God?” (My response would be, “Because he bought you as a slave.”) Every day the crazy lady tries to seduce Joseph, but he keeps say no. One day when nobody’s around she grabs his clothes and is like “TAKE ME NOW.” He flips out and runs away, leaving her clothes in his hands. So she summons the other servants and is like, “Joseph tried to rape me but I screamed so he ran away but I grabbed his clothes for some reason!” Potiphar hears this and throws Joseph in jail. But God still likes Joseph so he makes the prison guard like him too. The prison guard puts Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and trusts him as much as Potiphar did, which is some pretty unorthodox prison-guarding if you ask me.

Genesis 40

Pharaoh gets pissed off at his baker and his sommelier and sends them to jail, where they are put under Joseph’s supervision. One day they look upset, so he asks what’s up, and this is their answer: “We’ve both had dreams, but there’s no one to interpret them” (8). I’m pretty sure it was for situations like this that the hashtag #firstworldproblems was invented.

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2678/4133892421_d5f652fdc1.jpg

You know, this one. The dream of the 90s is alive on the top of his head.

Joseph tells them he’ll interpret their dreams for them. The wine steward (I’m going to go on assuming this means sommelier because it reminds me of that snooty sommelier who was on Top Chef a few years ago) tells Joseph he dreamed he saw a three-branched grape vine, and crushed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and gave it to Pharaoh. Joseph says the three branches are for three days, meaning that Pharaoh will give the sommelier an audience in three days and forgive and re-hire him, and he’ll put the cup in Pharaoh’s hand like the good old days. Joseph also asks the sommelier to put in a good word for him with Pharaoh to get him out of prison since he didn’t do anything.

The baker tells his dream: he had three baskets of bread on his head, but the birds were eating Pharaoh’s bread out of the baskets. Joseph delivers the following horrifying interpretation of this seemingly harmless dream: “After three days, Pharaoh will give you an audience and will hang you from a tree where birds will peck your flesh from you” (19). ?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Three days later happens to be Pharaoh’s birthday, so he throws a party for all his servants, which is a cry for help if I’ve ever heard one. He decides this would be the ideal time to hear the pleas of the imprisoned baker and sommelier, and to rehire the sommelier and hang the baker. Many happy returns! Also, the sommelier forgets all about Joseph in his joy. Oops.

Genesis 41 [just ten more you guys!!!!]

Two years later, Pharaoh dreams that seven healthy cows and seven emaciated cows climb out of the Nile, and then the skinny cows eat the fat cows. Then he dreams that seven shitty grain stalks somehow devour seven healthy grain stalks. None of Egypt’s “religious experts” (8) – or, alternatively translated, “magicians” – can figure out what this means. This whole debacle jogs the sommelier’s memory, and he’s like, “SHIT. I forgot all about that dream guy in jail!” He tells the story to Pharaoh, who summons Joseph from the prison and asks if he can interpret his dream. Joseph’s all “it’s not me, it’s God,” which he said before, too. Pharaoh’s like “yeah whatever just tell me what it means.” Joseph says it means that God is going to send seven years of prosperity to Egypt, followed by seven years of famine; he suggests that Pharaoh respond by reserving one fifth of the produce for the next seven years and saving it for the famine. Pharaoh’s impressed with this wisdom, so he makes Joseph second-in-command over all of Egypt, gives him a bunch of jewelry and fancy clothes, renames him Zaphenath-paneah (?!), and marries him to Asenath, a priest’s daughter.

Joseph, who’s 30 now, spends the next seven years traveling around Egypt and storing grain for the famine. Meanwhile, Asenath has two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The famine strikes when predicted, and Pharaoh tells everybody to follow Joseph’s instructions, and everybody buys the grain that he stockpiled. The famine hits surrounding countries, too, and people come from all over to buy Egypt’s grain.

Genesis 42

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I have no idea what this is, but it came up in Google images when I searched for spies.

Back in Canaan, which is also hit by the famine, Jacob learns that there’s grain in Egypt and sends his ten oldest sons to go buy some. He keeps Benjamin at home, probably since the last time he sent his youngest son along with the older ones, he never came back. When the ten older boys get to Egypt, Joseph recognizes them but they don’t recognize him, so he pretends not to know them. They bow down to him, like in his dreams back in the day. He asks where they’re from, and they say they’ve come from Canaan to buy food. He’s like, “I don’t believe you. I think you’re spies.” And they’re like, “No, Master, we’re your servants, we just want food.” And Joseph’s like, “SPIES.” And they’re like, “No, we’re twelve brothers! Except one is back in Canaan and one is gone.” And Joseph’s like, “SPIES!! Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll put all but one of you in prison until the other one brings back your youngest brother. If he comes and confirms your story, you’re free. If not, you’re SPIES!” But he puts them all in prison, and three days later he’s like, “Ok, look, one of you stay in prison, and the rest of you can take grain back home, but you’d better bring back your youngest brother.”

The brothers are getting ready to go, and they’re all like, “Shit, we are probably being punished for that time we sold our brother into slavery. Oops.” And Reuben is all “I TOLD YOU SO.” And Joseph is eavesdropping and cries. He takes Simeon and ties him up, and packs up grain and loads up the donkeys for the rest of them – and, when they’re not looking, he puts their money (which they had paid for the grain) back into their grain bags. They head out, and when they stop for the night, one opens his grain bag to feed his donkey, and he finds the silver inside, which causes everyone to flip a shit, for some reason: “Terrified, they said to each other, ‘What has God done to us?'” (28). They get home and tell Jacob the whole story. Then they find the silver in all the bags, and freak out again, still for unclear reasons. Jacob is like “Joseph’s gone, Simeon’s gone, and now you’re taking Benajmin? FML.” Reuben is like, “Look, I promise I’ll bring him back safe. If I don’t, go ahead and execute both my sons.” WTF?!?! How would it be their fault?! WHY DOES EVERYBODY SUCK? Jacob’s like, “No, I’m not sending Benjamin with you. If anything happened to him, I’d die.”

Highlights

It was nice of Joseph to give his mean brothers the grain for free. Yay forgiveness!

Lowlights

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Reuben

Why would Reuben let his sons be sacrificed for his own failure? Why would he ever think Jacob would want to do that as punishment? Why was the baker hung?!

NT: Matthew 14-15

Matthew 14

Herod – the sneaky one, remember? – hears about what Jesus is up to, and concludes that John the Baptist has been raised from the dead and that “miraculous powers are at work through him” (2). Wait a minute, you’re thinking, since when is John the Baptist dead? At least, that’s what I thought. But then we go into flashback mode!

<FLASHBACK MODE>

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Yuck

Herod’s brother Philip was married to a woman named Herodias, and Herod had a crush on her and wanted to marry her. I’m not sure whether or not Philip was still alive at this point, but in either case, John the Baptist was like, “Dude, not okay.” And Herod was like, “Ugh, John the Baptist won’t let me marry Herodias, so I wish I could kill him, but people think he’s a prophet so they’ll riot if I do. Oh well, I’ll just put him in prison since he’s annoying.” But then at Herod’s birthday party, Herodias’s daughter (and so probably his own niece?! ewww) danced for him, and “thrilled Herod” (6). GROSS. So Herod offered her anything she asked for. Herodias knew John the Baptist was all that stood between her and marriage to Herod, so she told her daughter to request John the Baptist’s head on a plate. So Herod had John the Baptist beheaded and gave the head to Herodias’s daughter, who gave it to Herodias. John’s disciples came to get the body and buried it and told Jesus what happened.

</FLASHBACK MODE>

Okay, so now John the Baptist is dead and Jesus knows about it and Herod thinks Jesus is zombie John the Baptist. When Jesus hears about John the Baptist, he rides off in a boat by himself to mourn. But people can’t leave him alone, so they go on foot to meet him at the shore, and he feels bad for them so he heals all the sick ones. His disciples are like, “okay, let’s send everyone home now so they can buy dinner,” and Jesus is like, “no, they can stay, feed them here.” The disciples are like, “um, there are approximately five thousand people outside, and we only have five loaves of bread and two fish.” Jesus is like, “NBD.” He blesses the bread and fish and then has the disciples break them apart and distribute them and the food magically amplifies and they all stuff themselves and still have leftovers.

Jesus sends the disciples back across the lake and sends everyone else home, then goes and prays on a mountain. In the morning, the disciples are still in the boat on the lake, and it’s storming. Jesus walks to their boat across the water, and the flip out, thinking it’s a ghost. Jesus says it’s him, and proves it by ordering Peter to walk on the water too, which he does. But then Peter gets scared of the storm wind and starts sinking and freaks out, but Jesus saves him and says, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” (31). They get back to the boat and the storm ends, and the disciples worship Jesus and conclude that he’s the son of God. The boat lands at Gennesaret, where all the sick people hear he’s there and come touch his clothes to be cured.

Matthew 15

Those phucking Pharisees whine to Jesus about how his followers don’t ritually wash their hands before meals and follow other old rules. Jesus is like, “You guys are a bunch of hypocrites. You’re breaking God’s command by following the letter but not the spirit of the law.” Jesus calls everyone over and is like, “Listen up people: God cares about what you do and say, not about what you eat and whether you follow the laws to the letter.” The disciples are like, “Um, you upset the Pharisees.” Jesus is like, “Don’t worry about them. They’re fucked. They’re the blind leading the blind. Look, whatever you eat, you’re going to shit it out and it’s going to end up in a sewer. Whatever. But the things you say come from your heart, and those are the things that can contaminate you if they aren’t pure.” And then he tells us that “eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight,” and I know what he means, but the public health implications still frustrate me.

Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter, but Jesus ignores her. He says he’s only come for “the lost sheep, the people of Israel” (24). I guess all that shit about loving your neighbor as yourself goes out the window, or else it only applies to the neighbors who share your beliefs or ethnicity. The woman begs him to help, but he says, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (26). Turns out Jesus is mad racist, since I’m assuming the children are the Israelites and the dogs are poor people like this Canaanite woman who weren’t lucky enough to be born into God’s Chosen People of Superior DNA and General Excellence, and so will have to suffer. This woman is a badass and talks back to racist Jesus, pointing out that even dogs get to eat the crumbs from the table. Jesus is convinced and praises the woman’s faith and heals her daughter, finally.

Then Jesus gets all repetitive again and goes up a mountain and heals a bunch of sick people and then feeds thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and some fish. Not so impressive the second time around (or the millionth time around, in the case of the healing). Then he takes the boat to Magadan.

Highlights

It’s nice that Jesus is still using his powers for good by healing and feeding people…

Lowlights

…but it’s shitty that he only wants to extend those benefits to Jews. Why is he so racist? Why is he so mean to the Canaanite woman? And why does he have to discourage people from washing their hands?!

Flock, Raper, Spitzers, FRUIT!

…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

Genesis 34

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).

Genesis 35

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.

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Or by the concussed adoption evaluator in that episode of 30 Rock where Liz is trying to get a kid. Or by H.M. Or by a goldfish.

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.

Genesis 36

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.

Genesis 37

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.

Genesis 38

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.”

http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.139004!/img/httpImage/image.jpgThree 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”).

Lowlights

Rape. Genocide. Slavery. Betrayal. Deception. Murder. Hypocrisy. Sexism.

Fun fact: this picture came from "ultimategoatfansite.com." I love the Internet.

Highlights

Baby goat!

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.

Highlights

From now on I’m going to imagine all the psalms as Yelp reviews.

Lowlights

Still shitty.

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.

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CLAP HARDER

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.

Highlights

Jesus was pretty clear for most of this chapter.

Lowlights

Less substantial ethical discussion, and more fixation on judgment and reward/punishment. Also, the yeast-as-evangelism thing was bizarre.

The Wrestler

Happy MLK Day!

Today, I’m going to read Matthew first, because I can.

NT: Matthew 12

Matthew 12

One day, on the Sabbath, Jesus is hanging out in some wheat fields and his disciples are really hungry so they’re eating the wheat, straight off the stalks, like you do. The Pharisees are like, “Jesus, look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!” Jesus is like, “Didn’t you know David broke the rule and ate the priests’ special bread when people were hungry? I’m in charge of the Sabbath anyway. Chillax.” And he reminds them again of that “I want mercy and not sacrifice” thing, which I still don’t totally get.

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Mmm...shabbat. Damn it, now I want challah and I don't have any.

The Pharisees are still looking for reasons to bring Jesus down, so when he goes to a synagogue to heal a man’s messed up hand, they’re like, “Are you sure you’re allowed to heal on the Sabbath?” And he’s like, “Oh my god, are you telling me that if your sheep fell into a pit on the Sabbath, you wouldn’t pull it out? Of course you would. And a person is more important than a sheep. You’re allowed to do good things on the Sabbath.” He heals the guy and the Pharisees leave to plot Jesus’s downfall.

Jesus gets out of there and keeps healing big crowds of people but telling them not to tell others about him in order to fulfill a prophecy in Isaiah, except the prophecy excerpted here doesn’t say anything about not spreading the news about Jesus, so I’m not sure what that’s about. Jesus heals a blind, mute, possessed man, and everyone’s amazed and wonders if he’s the Son of David (I’m assuming there was a prophecy about the Son of David coming to heal people and generally make waves). The Pharisees, are like, “Nuh uh, he can only throw out demons because he’s the devil himself!” And Jesus is like, “Nuh uh, if I were the devil and I threw out demons, I’d be at war with myself, and my kingdom would collapse because that’s what happens to cities and houses and kingdoms torn apart by internal divisions.” Then there’s a confusing metaphor about robbing a strong man, and then Jesus declares that whoever isn’t with him is against him.

Jesus says that all sins and insults against himself or God will be forgiven, but insults against the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven, for some reason. Also this makes no sense if Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are all the same person. Then he talks again about how a tree is judged by its fruit and evil people can’t say good things, and people will be judged for every useless word they speak. That last part is an idea I’ve heard from my Mormon friends – that “vain speech” is a sin. And I’ve heard similar ideas from Buddhists, actually, who believe in “right speech” as a virtue.

The Pharisees and lawyers demand a sign of some kind from Jesus, but he says they won’t get any sign but Jonah’s: just as Jonah was inside the whale for three days, he’ll spend three days inside the earth. Then he says some confusing things about the citizens of Nineveh and the queen of the South and Solomon. Whyyy can’t he just say what he means?!

Jesus says that when an unclean spirit leaves a person, it wanders and then comes back to inhabit the same person along with seven even worse spirits, so people end up worse than they started. He says this will be how it is for his generation. No idea what this means.

While Jesus is preaching, someone tells him that his mother and his brothers are waiting to talk to him, but he’s like, “What do you mean? All these people are my family! Whoever does God’s will is my family.”

Highlights

I like that Jesus is schooling the Pharisees to obey the spirit of the law more than the letter. I didn’t come upon the saying “the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” yet, but that’s the idea Jesus is expressing, and it’s a good idea to keep in mind no matter what kind of rules you’re dealing with.

Lowlights

This is probably nitpicky, but Jesus has said this thing a few times about how a good tree can’t produce bad fruit and vice versa, and it bugs me. It’s way too simplistic to apply usefully to real life. The fact is, there aren’t really “good” people and “bad” people – it’s not nearly so black and white. But even the people we tend to think of as bad or not very bright or what have you often think of and say plenty of smart, good things, and generally good, smart people often do and say really dumb, bad things. Jesus is really throwing the baby out with the bathwater here.

OT: Genesis 32-33

Genesis 32

Jacob sees God’s messengers and names his campsite accordingly. He sends his own messengers to tell Esau that he’s been living with Laban and he’s rich now and he’s coming back and hopes Esau will play nice. The messengers return with the news that Esau is coming to meet him…with 400 other guys. Jacob gets scared and splits up all his people and livestock into two camps, so that if Esau attacks one, the other can escape. Jacob reminds God of his promise to protect him. He sends a bunch of livestock to Esau as a gift, but splits it up among several servants and tells them all that when they meet Esau, they should tell him it’s a gift and that Jacob is right behind them. But Jacob doesn’t go with any of them; he sleeps at the camp. If there’s a clever strategy in there somewhere, I’m not seeing it.

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It was probably like this.

Jacob helps his two wives and their two servants (presumably the ones he slept with – isn’t that fornication?! I thought that was against the rules!) and his eleven sons (what about Dinah?!) to cross the river, but he stays and wrestles with a random guy for hours. When the guy realizes he can’t win, he tears a muscle in Jacob’s thigh – ouch – then asks Jacob to let him go because dawn is breaking (I’m not sure why that matters). Jacob inexplicably responds that he won’t let the man go until he blesses him. The man asks Jacob what his name is, and he answers, and the man responds, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel [meaning “one who struggles with God”], because you struggled with God and with men and won” (28). Jacob asks the man’s name, but he responds, “Why do you ask for my name?” (29), and then blesses Jacob. Jacob – er, Israel? But the text keeps calling him Jacob, so I guess I will too. Jacob limps away, and from then on, Israelites never eat the tendon attached to the thigh muscle, because that’s where God grabbed Jacob.

Why did God come wrestle with Jacob at all? How did God lose? Why did he ask Jacob what his name was, when he already knew it, because he’s God? And then why did he act so surprised when Jacob asked his name right after he’d asked Jacob’s name? Why does Jacob need his name changed? And where the hell is Dinah?!

Genesis 33

Jacob sees Esau approaching with his 400 men, and so he makes his family stand behind him (I guess they were reunited after the wrestling) – he goes in front, followed be the servants and their children, followed by Leah and her children, followed by Rachel and Joseph (I think he’s placing his nearest and dearest farthest away from Esau to protect them). He bows a bunch of times to try to show Esau he’s willing to serve him and all, but Esau comes running to hug and kiss him, and they cry together. Jacob introduces his enormous family to Esau, then Esau’s like, “What’s the deal with all the animals I ran into on my way here?” And Jacob says, “To ask for my master’s kindness” (8). Throughout the last couple of chapters, Jacob has kept referring to himself as Esau’s servant and to Esau as his master, deliberately reversing the hierarchy established by Isaac’s bungled blessing. Esau tells Jacob he has plenty animals of his own and Jacob can keep them, but Jacob insists on giving him the gift because he’s so happy to see Esau and be received warmly, and because God has been generous and given him plenty of animals too, so Esau accepts. Esau suggests that they all go on together, but Jacob says he needs to give his livestock and his children a rest and go more slowly, and will meet up with him in Seir. Esau offers to leave some servants with Jacob, but Jacob says he’s got plenty.

http://people.bu.edu/azs/sukkot2004/sukkot_2004_1.jpg

Like so.

So Esau goes back to Seir, but Jacob goes somewhere else. He builds a house for himself but only temporary shelters for his animals, so he names that place “Succoth,” which a footnote says means “temporary shelter.” I can only assume this is somehow related to Sukkot, the Jewish holiday where you build a temporary shelter outside and basically live in it for a few days.

Jacob eventually makes it to the city of Shechem, in Canaan, and camps outside the city. He buys the field where his tents are and builds an altar there.

Highlights

It’s nice that Esau and Jacob have reconciled after twenty years, although I’m not totally convinced since Jacob didn’t go to Seir like he said he would.

Lowlights

WHERE IS DINAH?!

Give Me Babies or Give Me Death

OT: Genesis 30-31

Genesis 30

Rachel figures out that she’s barren and freaks out at Jacob: “Give me children! If you don’t, I may as well be dead” (30:1). Keep in mind that Leah has had four sons by Jacob, so the problem is obviously not on his end. Jacob gets pissed off and insists that God, not he, is keeping her from having kids. Rachel pulls a Sarah and tells Jacob to sleep with her servant, Bilhah, saying that “she will give birth for me” (3). I’m not sure why Bilhah’s kids count for Rachel but her sister Leah’s kids don’t, but in any case, Jacob sleeps with Bilhah and has two sons with her, Dan and Naphtali. Rachel sees this as a victory over Leah, somehow.

Now Leah’s stopped having children, so it’s her turn to freak out and tell Jacob to sleep with her servant, Zilpah, who bears him two sons, Gad and Asher. By the way, this means that, so far, Jacob has had eight sons and zero daughters. I believe the probability of this occurring is about 0.4%, but somebody should check my math on that because it’s been a while since my statistics class.

Anyway, then comes one of my favorite passages so far:

During the wheat harvest, Reuben found some erotic herbs in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Give me your son’s erotic herbs.”

Leah replied, “Isn’t it enough that you’ve taken my husband? Now you want to take my son’s erotic herbs too?”

Rachel said, “For your son’s erotic herbs, Jacob may sleep with you tonight.”

When Jacob came back from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must sleep with me because I’ve paid for you with my son’s erotic herbs.” So he slept with her that night. (14-16)

http://www.viagra911.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Why-is-generic-Viagra-as-good-as-the-real-deal-2.jpg

Erotic herbs

If only I had a nickel for every time I’d heard the phrase “Isn’t it enough that you’ve taken my husband? Now you want to take my son’s erotic herbs too?” on daytime TV. I wouldn’t have any nickels, but I would still be sitting here in the library and laughing out loud.

Apparently Leah didn’t need the erotic herbs, because she gets pregnant with another son, Issachar, and then another, Zebulun. This brings Jacob’s total reproductive tally to ten sons and zero daughters, which has a probability of just under 0.1% – in other words, if 1024 different men have 10 children each, only one of them will have all boys. Sorry, I’m getting kind of ADD about Genesis lately. Anyway, Leah has her seventh child (Jacob’s 11th), and this one is a girl, whom she names Dinah.

“Then God remembered Rachel” (22), which seems to imply that he had forgotten her, although I would never have thought of God as capable of forgetting things. Anyway, he lets her get pregnant with a son, whom she names Joseph. When she gets pregnant, she says that God has taken away her shame, which sets a terrible example for women everywhere by teaching them that childlessness should be shameful.

http://www.bible-people.info/spotted_sheep.jpgI guess that all happened in the span of seven years, somehow, because after Joseph is born, Jacob asks Jacob if he can leave yet with his two-to-four wives and his twelve children. Laban has learned from a “divine sign” (27) that God has blessed him because of Jacob, so he offers to pay Jacob whatever he wants. Jacob responds as though he completely didn’t hear a word Laban said, because he keeps talking about how hard he’s worked and how he wants to go start his own household. Laban asks again what he wants to be paid. Jacob says, “Don’t pay me anything” (31), but then describes how he’s going to take some of Laban’s livestock with him – specifically, all the speckled sheep, the black male lambs, and the speckled female goats – which sounds like payment to me. Laban agrees, but then sneakily takes all the speckled goats and black male lambs out of his flock and gives them to his sons so Jacob can’t take them. Then he does some kind of complicated magic spell with tree branches to make Laban’s mating sheep produce speckled young so he can take them, but only the strong ones, or something. I read this part like five times and it still didn’t make sense, but the upshot is that Jacob ends up with a lot of really good sheep and becomes really rich.

Genesis 31

Jacob figures out that Laban doesn’t like him very much anymore since he got really rich off of Laban’s livestock, so God tells him it’s time to go. He tells his wives how God made the sheep have speckled offspring to make him rich, or something. Rachel and Leah are like, “yeah, there’s no wealth left here for us since God gave it all to you, so let’s roll.” Jacob “put[s] his sons and wives on the camels” (17) – what about Dinah? – and Rachel steals all her father’s religious icons for some reason, and they all leave without warning Laban. Laban realizes three days later that Jacob is gone (I think he was out messing with his sheep in the meantime and so didn’t notice), and he and his brothers chase after Jacob and catch up with him in the mountains of Gilead. God warns Laban to “be careful and don’t say anything hastily to Jacob one way or the other” (24). I don’t know why he would hastily say something too nice to Jacob, but okay.

http://www.bitrebels.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/tampon1.jpg

The highlight of modernity

Laban’s like, “Jacob, wtf? Why did you run away without letting me say goodbye to my daughters and see you off with a proper celebration? I could punish you but I won’t because God told me not to, but did you really have to steal my religious icons?” Except instead of just saying that “God” warned him to be nice to Jacob, he calls him “your father’s God” (29), which again sounds to me like we’re in a polytheistic world. Anyway, Jacob’s like, “I was afraid you’d take your daughters away from me, so I left quickly. But I didn’t take your icons. Whoever took them will be put to death. Go ahead and search for them.” He doesn’t know that Rachel had taken them. She’s hidden them in her saddlebags and is sitting on them, so she says to her dad, “I can’t get up for you; I’m having my period” (35). Whaaat? Since when can women on their periods not stand up? Is it just cause they hadn’t figured out tampons back then so it was messy and gross and awkward?

Anyway, Laban doesn’t find the missing images, so Jacob’s like, “What the shit, Laban? You stopped me and searched all my stuff and accused us of stealing when we didn’t? I worked for you for twenty years [apparently after the fourteen years of work for the daughters he worked six more years for the flocks during the whole sneaky-mating-manipulation game] and you kept changing my payment [this part wasn’t really clear in the narration but okay] and I think if God weren’t watching out for me you would have sent me off with nothing.”

Laban’s like, “Well, everything you have is mine – my daughters, my flocks – but there’s nothing I can do now, so let’s make a covenant.” So Jacob sets up another stone as a sacred pillar and tells everyone else to piles other stones around into a mound. Jacob and Laban name the rock pile three different things – seriously – and make it the witness of their covenant, where they promise each other not to cross the rock pile to do harm to each other. They celebrate with a feast and in the morning Laban bids farewell to his daughters and goes home.

Highlights

Erotic herbs. What are they? Also I like how they’re never used or mentioned again.

Lowlights

It’s depressing that Rachel thinks reproduction is her only purpose in life. Also, why did she steal the images from her dad?

Seriously, what amazing profound lessons am I supposed to be learning from all these stories?!

NT: Matthew 11

Matthew 11

Jesus and his apostles are teaching in a bunch of cities. John the Baptist is in prison when he hears about what Jesus is doing, so John sends Jesus a message by way of his disciples to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (11:3). Jesus tells the disciples to tell John about the things they’ve seen – the sick healed, the dead raised, and so on.

John the Baptist

Jesus talks to his crowds of followers about John the Baptist, and says that he is the messenger who was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, according to prophecy. He says that “no one who has ever been born is greater than John the Baptist” (11) – yeah, cause he’s a locust-eating BAMF! But Jesus also says that the worst person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist – maybe because everyone on earth sins, even John the Baptist, but you stop sinning when you get to heaven? Jesus says that John the Baptist is “Elijah who is to come” (14). All I know about Elijah is that we leave a seat open for him at Passover, so I guess I’ll have to wait till I get to Exodus to understand this reference.

Jesus makes another opaque analogy, comparing his contemporary generation to a child sitting at a market and complaining that people don’t dance when he plays the flute. Oooookay, Jesus. But I think his main point here is that people aren’t seeing the important things that Jesus and John the Baptist are doing, instead complaining that John seems possessed and Jesus spends too much time hanging out with sinners and so on, “but wisdom is proved to be right by her works” (19) – which sounds like a fancy way of saying “I’m right – you’ll see!” Then Jesus chides the cities where he did his best miracles because the people there didn’t change their sinful ways.

Jesus talks to his dad, praising him for hiding truth from the wise and revealing it to babies. (But why?) He says that nobody knows the Son but the Father and vice versa (except that anybody can know the Father if the Son chooses to reveal him to them). Jesus calls all who struggle under heavy burdens to come to him and put on his yoke instead because it is easy to bear and they will find rest.

Highlights

John the Baptist is probably in prison for badass civil disobedience. What a BAMF.

Lowlights

Jesus still isn’t making much sense compared to the Sermon on the Mount.

Jacob Only Loves One of His Wives

OT: Genesis 28-29

Genesis 28

Isaac calls Jacob over and blesses him (what, again? after all the hubbub before?) and tells him not to marry a Canaanite woman (is that the same as a Hittite woman like Rebekah hates?), but to go marry one of Laban’s daughters – i.e. one of his first cousins. Great. Esau figures out from this that his parents hate Canaanite women like his wives, so he marries Ishmael’s daughter (his first cousin) as a third wife, as though that will fix things.

On his way to Laban’s house, Jacob has a dream about a staircase from earth to heaven, with angels going up and down, and then God appears on the staircase and tells Jacob he’ll have lots of descendants and the land he’s sleeping on will be theirs and God is protecting him – you know, the usual. Jacob wakes up and freaks out in terror of God’s presence, and takes a stone that he had set next to his head when he went to sleep (why, I don’t know) and makes it a “sacred pillar” (18) and pours oil on it. He renames that place Bethel (meaning “God’s house”), because Bible people love renaming things symbolically, and promises that if God protects him on his trip, “then the LORD will be my God” (21). The random rock that he decided was a pillar will be God’s house, and he’ll give a tenth of his earnings back to God.

Now, hold up. There have been a lot of times already in Genesis where the way people have spoken about God has made it sound like there are multiple gods to choose from. This whole thing with Jacob deciding whether to follow God is just one example. It seems less like he’s unconvinced of God’s existence and is waiting around for more evidence before committing, than that he knows God exists and is just figuring out whether or not he’s worth following, which only makes sense if there are other options. Obviously if we all knew definitively that there was exactly one God and he was in charge of everything and all that, we would follow him without a second thought. We’d have to be daft not to. But people keep talking about the God of Abraham and so on, as though in opposition to other gods. And every time somebody makes a statement about how their god is a good god and so on, that always sounds to me like they’re comparing him with other gods. Am I crazy? Or does the Old Testament seem like a vaguely polytheistic document? Not always – the actual creation story at the beginning doesn’t seem to admit of other gods, at least not ones who are concerned with the earth – but in some places it seems to tell a different story.

Genesis 29

Jacob has an oddly technical conversation with some shepherds about proper sheep watering schedules, then sees Rachel shepherding her father’s sheep. He gives them water, then kisses Rachel and bursts into tears. Awkward. He tells Rachel who he is and they go to Laban’s house to tell him too. Jacob stays and works for Laban, and after a month Laban says Jacob shouldn’t have to work for him for free just because they’re related, and asks what payment he wants. Jacob is in love with Rachel, so he offers to work seven years for Jacob in exchange for Rachel, and Laban agrees. I’m not sure why Rachel “costs” seven years of work when Rebekah was sent off for free.

Anyway, after seven years, Jacob gets really blunt with Laban: “The time has come. Give me my wife so that I may sleep with her” (21). Laban invites everyone in town over for a feast to celebrate, but that night he sends his older daughter Leah to sleep with Jacob instead of Rachel. Why didn’t Rachel intervene? Why couldn’t Jacob tell it was Leah? Even if we imagine that it was pitch black, wouldn’t her voice sound different? Did they just not talk at all? In the morning he sees that the woman in bed with him is Leah, so he’s like, “Laban, WTF?”

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/95/10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_film.jpg/220px-10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_film.jpg

Guys, remember when Heath Ledger was still alive? Those were the days.

Laban’s all, “Well, I don’t know what they been teachin’ you down in Canaan, but round these here parts, we don’t let the younger sisters get married until the older ones are. Like a Taming of the Shrew kind of situation. Or a 10 Things I Hate About You situation, if you prefer.” So sneaky Laban tells Jacob to enjoy his week-long honeymoon with Leah, and then, if he promises to work seven more years, he can have Rachel too. So he finishes his honeymoon, marries Rachel too, finally gets to nail her, loves her more than Leah (seriously, it says this), and then works seven more years for that prick Laban.

Why isn’t anybody in this book nice? It’s like Wuthering Heights. Except not nearly as well-written or interesting.

God sees that Leah is unloved, so he makes up for it by giving her kids and making Rachel barren, even though Leah was complicit in the trickery and this whole thing wasn’t really Rachel’s fault. Leah has four sons in a row – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah – and every time, she thinks this will be the son that will make Jacob love her. It’s really sad, actually.

Highlights

I guess Jacob’s willingness to work to earn Rachel is kind of sweet in a Ferdinand-and-Miranda-in-The-Tempest kind of way, except, again, not as well-written.

Lowlights

Everybody is so deceitful!

OT: Psalms 7-8

I don’t like the psalms so far, but I’m guessing they’re prettier in the KJV.

Psalm 7

http://www.thebadchemicals.com/comics/2009-07-29-anger-management.jpg

God needs to work on his anger management.

David complains again about all his enemies and asks God to save him, unless he’s done anything wrong in his life, in which case he asks to be caught and killed. He asks God to get angry and establish justice, and calls God a “shield” (10) and a “righteous judge” (11) who will punish those who don’t change their ways. He also says that the wicked basically get what’s coming to them – “the trouble they cause will come back on their own heads” and so on (16). There’s actually one line in this psalm that says God “is angry at evil every single day” (11), but there’s a footnote saying that “at evil” doesn’t appear in the original Hebrew. So the translators just added it…? I think “God is angry every single day” would be a more accurate description of the character depicted so far in the OT.

Psalm 8

God is glorious and majestic and defeats enemies and it’s amazing that he bothers to think about humans at all and gives them power over the whole earth.

Highlights

None.

Lowlights

The psalms are repetitive and boring. I’m always sad on the days when we have psalms to read instead of NT.