Shiny Happy People Holding Tablets

OT: Exodus 34; Psalms 24-25

Exodus 34

God tells Moses to make two new stone tablets like the ones that he smashed on the ground in a puerile rage a couple of chapters ago, and promises to write on them again in his own special divine handwriting. After that, Moses is to come up to the top of Mount Sinai, alone. And God means really alone. In fact, Moses is responsible for ensuring that not a single person is anywhere on the entire mountain. There can’t even be livestock grazing at the base of the mountain. But Moses does what God says because he’s totally whipped.

When he gets to the summit, God comes down and “proclaims the name, ‘The LORD'” (5). I’m curious what the Hebrew is here. I think one of the Jewish names for God, “Hashem,” literally just means “the name,” and another, “Adonai,” means “the lord.” So I’m guessing the Hebrew here says that God come down and proclaims Hashem, “Adonai.” But that’s weird (if it’s even correct) because, of course, Adonai isn’t supposed to be God’s name – it’s Yahweh, isn’t it? It’s clear that whatever is going on here, names – and especially The Name – are important. God’s name is so important, in fact, that observant Jews don’t even like to have the word “God” written in full on anything that might be destroyed; they write “G-d” instead. Some even use this elision in emails, even though we all know those can’t really be destroyed because the internet never forgets. But I guess there’s the off-chance someone might print it out and then throw it away? When I visited temple with my Jewish friends as a child, I remember them all rushing to kiss the laminated prayer sheets whenever they accidentally fell on the ground. And that’s just for things that say “God,” which is more of a title than a name, kind of like “the Lord.” I can’t really wrap my head around why God’s name is so important – and, if it’s so important, why it can’t be used frequently. Why do we call call him God or the Lord so much more often than we call him Yahweh if his name is such a big deal? Is his name reserved for special occasions in order to make it more special? Like a dress you only wear once? Speaking of which, I am constantly trying to find an excuse to wear my prom dress again, because I really object in principle to the idea of a dress you only wear once. So if you plan on throwing a party or a brunch or a 30 Rock viewing party where the dress code encompasses floor-length full-skirted strapless yellow polka dot ballgowns, hit me up.

After proclaiming his name (or not), God “passes in front of” Moses (which, as Eli pointed out in a comment on my last post, could mean any number of things), then recites a little laudatory poem about himself. Maybe God is “full of great loyalty and faithfulness” (7), but can he be a shark?

I don’t think so. But Moses is impressed anyway, and grovels before God and begs him to come along on the trip to Israel, despite the fact that he has already agreed like twice to do exactly that.

The Amorites worshiping at their sacred poles

God decides to restore his covenant with Israel, which I think was broken when they all wandered off to worship a metal cow. He promises that “I will do an awesome thing with you,” which just makes me feel vaguely dirty. He reminds Moses that he’s going to annihilate a handful of other tribes for no stated reason, and says the Israelites will have to destroy their altars and their pillars and their “sacred poles” (13). He also warns that they must not “prostitute themselves” to the other tribes’ gods, or let their children intermarry for fear that they might do the same.

He’s got some other rules, too. Don’t make any more scrap metal deities. Remember to observe Passover. All the firstborn males belong to God, including both livestock and humans; they have to be ransomed. (God is half kidnapper and half small-child-calling-dibs-on-everything-before-anybody-else-can-claim-it.) Nobody should show up for a chat with God without bringing a present. Everyone should work six days a week and rest on the seventh. All the Israelite men must “appear three times a year before the LORD God” (23) – does that mean they only have to go to temple once every four months? Or do they go to the temple every week on the Sabbath, like people do now, and make some other kind of special “appearance” before God three times a year? God also lists some other mandatory holidays and some more rules about sacrifices.

“Please don’t boil us!”

And, finally, he delivers the rather alarming command, “Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (26). Was that a common practice back in Biblical times? Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions here, but wouldn’t it be difficult to even amass enough milk to boil a whole goat in, even a small one? More relevantly, I think this command is the source of the kosher rules about not eating meat and dairy at the same time, even though, if you will recall, Abraham served God’s own angels a meal that included meat and butter.

God tells Moses to transcribe “the ten words” of the covenant on the tablets (28). I’m not sure what the ten words are. I mean, I always thought the thing Moses brought down on the tablets was the ten commandments, but there’s no way each one can be expressed in one word. And I’m sure all the commands just given above can’t be condensed into ten words either. Does “word” mean something counter-intuitive here?

After not eating or drinking at all for forty days and forty nights, Moses is long since dead of dehydration and starvation. Just kidding, this is the Bible! Instead of him dying, his face just became unusually shiny. So shiny, in fact, that when he came down from Mount Sinai, all his friends were so weirded out by his shiny, shiny face that he started wearing a veil to keep it under control. Moses told them everything that had happened on the mountain. And from then on, he took the veil off whenever he needed to chat with God, and put it back on when he came back to the tribe looking all shiny-faced and creepy.

Psalm 24

Everything in the world belongs to God because he made it all. Who can go to God’s house and hang out with him? Only someone clean and pure and honest. Those people are blessed. That’s the way it works for “the generation that seeks him” (6). Giant ancient doors, open to let God in, who is powerful and glorious!

[I wonder why the psalmist only refers to one generation of God-seekers?]

Psalm 25

God, I trust you with my life. Don’t screw me over! Instead, shame the traitors. Teach me your ways and truth because you are my savior. Remember your eternal compassion and forget my past crimes. Try to focus on my good parts. God is good. He guides the weak and the sinners to justice. Things are great for people who obey him. God, to keep up your own reputation as a good dude, forgive my mistakes! God will guide those who honor him, and they will live well, and their descendants will be rich. God takes care of his peeps. He’s my homie and he’s got my back. God, I’m lonely and unhappy so pity me. Shit keeps getting realer, so forgive me and fix everything! Look how many people want to fuck with me! Save me because I believe in you! And “save Israel from all its troubles” (22)!

Highlights

God gets a handful of animal welfare points for attempting to prevent cruelty to baby goats…

Lowlights

…but he loses them for continuing to blather about animal sacrifice. And he specifies that if you cannot ransom a firstborn male donkey, you must break its neck. Horrific.

Love Shack

Oh my god you guys the wifi in my apartment is the worst. I’m sorry it took me to the end of the day to get this up, but I kept working on it for a few minutes at a time and then trying to download a photo and then being cruelly denied and then leaving in a huff to listen to the NPR Sunday Puzzle and allow Will Shortz’s soothing voice to heal my psychological wounds. I would like to write these at 1369 Coffeehouse from now on (which would be great because the 45-minute limit on free wifi would force me to manage my blogging time better), but I can’t right now because I’m fasting for Ramadan. I know, I know. I’m the strangest atheist. Whatever. I warned you guys up front that I fucking love church. This shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Oh yeah, also I read some Bible today. Here it is.

OT: Exodus 33; Psalm 23

Exodus 33

God tells Moses to take the Israelites to the Promised Land, and ominously pledges to “drive out” (2) six other tribes for unspecified reasons. But God won’t accompany his favorite tribe on their road trip, because they are “a stubborn people” and so he would “destroy” them before they ever made it to their destination (4). Seems harsh, but then again, I’ve shared a car with my grandmother from Massachusetts to Virginia, so I can’t help sympathizing with God here. Although I can’t say I get the part where he inexplicably demands that the Israelites all remove their jewelry* before the journey.

Did they have to remove their shoes too?

Moses set up a special tent where people could go to ask God for advice. It’s unclear whether or not everyone else got a response, but when Moses visited the tent, God would show up and talk to Moses “face-to-face” while a tornado blocked the door (9-11). Oh, and apparently Joshua, Moses’s assistant, never ever left the tent, for some reason.

Why is this book so full of unnecessary and unexplained details?

Anyway, at one of their littltête-à-têtes têtes-à-tête têtes-à-têtes conversations, Moses is like, “Look, God. You keep telling me to take these people somewhere but I don’t even know where I’m going or who will guide us.” And God is like, “Ok, I’ll go with you.” [Then what was all the business with the refusing to go and the jewelry removal?] Then comes my favorite part of this boring chapter, where Moses goes on haranguing God without listening at all to what he just said, continuing to demand what he has already agreed to, because Moses and God are an old married couple. Moses is like, “If you don’t go, how can we even go at all? Nobody will know we are special unless you are there to tell them!” And then God says [verbatim], “I’ll do exactly what you’ve asked because you have my special approval, and I know you by name” (17). Whaaa? I’ve already said how problematic I think it is for God to arbitrarily give one person or group his “special approval” or to have a “chosen people,” but it’s even weirder to think that there might be some people in the world whom he doesn’t know by name. Again, I’m sorry, but doesn’t this completely annihilate his hypothetical omniscience? Seriously, how do people rationalize this?

Then things get a little kinky when Moses begs God to “Please show me your glorious presence” (18), bringing their relationship from old married couple to awkward hormone-soaked teenager status. God gets all coy with Moses, and is like, “Ok, I’ll walk past you and flaunt my glorious presence. But I’ll put you behind a rock, so you can’t see me. But there will be a chink in the rock, so you can see me. But I’ll cover the rock with my hand, so you can’t see me. But then I’ll take my hand away at the last second, so you can see me – except I won’t take my hand away until I’ve passed you, so all you’ll be able to see is my back.” God justifies this convoluted plan by explaining that “you can’t see my face because no one can see me and live” (20), which sounds suspiciously like a rule he made up just now for fun, and is difficult to reconcile with the claim made just a few verses before that he and Moses have been speaking “face-to-face” (11) in their little Love Shack tent.

* There couldn’t have been much jewelry to remove anyway since Aaron already melted all the gold down to make the calf in the last chapter. Just saying.

Psalm 23

Okay, I’m sorry, I can’t do the Common English Bible on this one. I saw “my cup is so full it spills over!” and I knew this wasn’t going to work. I’ve got to go with the good old KJV here.

This is, justifiably, the most famous psalm. It’s less whiny, more celebratory, and just prettier than any of the others I’ve read so far. I’m not even going to try to cutely summarize it. I’ll let it speak for itself.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Highlights

Weirdly enough, the psalm is actually the best part of today’s OT portion. It speaks to one of the qualities we most wish we had in a god: protection. The God of Psalm 23 provides for you, he leads you where you need to go, he always wants what’s best for you, he showers you in blessings, he defends you from harm. He is your home. It’s a beautiful specimen of wishful thinking. And, if you like, it illustrates what we need from ourselves and from each other in a godless world. If there is no house of the LORD to dwell in, we must build our own home, fill our own cups, and find our own route to the green pastures and the still waters. We must be the gods we wish we had.

Lowlights

Psalm 23 also gets today’s lowlight, because it reminded me of my AP Chemistry exam, which was definitely a lowlight of high school. Just in case that connection isn’t crystal clear, allow me to explain: When I arrived at the school where I would be taking the exam, I realized that I had left my calculator at home. I didn’t have time to go back for it, and I panicked double hard since chemistry was already my worst subject. I was in acute distress, facing certain failure, when I spotted one of the only people I knew in this entire school walking through the halls between classes. When I told him of my plight – looking for commiseration, not solutions – he immediately handed me his calculator and walked off to his next class. To express my deep and abiding gratitude, I wrote him this poem, which I just dug up from the bowels of my Facebook notes.

TEDDY is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to do well on my chemistry test: He leadeth me through the free response section.

He restoreth my calculator: He leadeth me in the paths of accuracy for his awesomeness’ sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of failure, I will fear no stoichiometry: for Thy calculator is with me; its exponents and its logarithms they comfort me.

Thou preparest a solution for me in the presence of acids and bases: Thou anointest my head with relief; my answer booklet runneth over.

Surely 4s and 5s shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will totally owe TEDDY for ever.

So…yeah, that happened.

NT: Mark 4

Mark 4

Jesus stands in a boat and tells parables to a crowd of followers on the shore. He tells the parable of the soils again. When people are like “dude WTF,” Jesus is like, “No it’s cool. You guys can grok what I’m saying because God gave you the secret of his kingdom, but lame outsiders won’t understand what we’re talking about because it’s in a cool secret code.” Not sure what the secret of the kingdom is, or why Jesus doesn’t realize that even the in-crowd doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. Anyway, he explains why he’s preventing outsiders from understanding his lessons: “This is so that they can look and see but have no insight, and they can hear but not understand. Otherwise, they might turn their lives around and be forgiven” (12). I believe, in professional circles, this technique is known as “stacking the deck.” Alternatively, “douchebaggery.” (It depends which professional circle you’re in.)

Jesus explains the parable the same way as recounted in Matthew 13 – it’s about all the different pitfalls that can stop someone from being saved after hearing the word. He promises that all will be revealed in time, and that “God will evaluate you with the same standard you use to evaluate others” (24).

He tells a parable about the kingdom of heaven that I don’t think we’ve heard before: it’s like when someone scatters seeds on soil, then goes off to sleep and ignores them, and the neglected seeds grow to maturity, and then the farmer reaps them at harvest. Can anyone explain that one to me? I guess I’m one of the uncool kids that Jesus doesn’t want to understand his amazing lessons.

After retelling the mustard seed story again, along with a bunch of other unspecified parables, Jesus and his posse leave for the other side of the lake. On the way, there’s a storm, and while people are freaking out, Jesus is asleep. His followers wake him up and are like “um news flash we are drowning, so if you are planning on giving a shit, now’s the time.” Jesus magically ends the storm with his Jesus-powers and then scolds his crew for not having faith. Everybody is like “whoaaaa who IS this guy?!”

Highlights

I like Mark 4:24 (and the other instances where the same thought appears – I know we encountered it in Matthew at least once).

A big part of why I like it is that it inspired the title of a Shakespeare play. The KJV goes something like “For what measure ye mete, it shall be meted to ye again.” And my expert opinion is that Measure for Measure is probably Bill’s most underrated play. So…go read it.

But I also just like it because of how it echoes the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s just too bad God operates outside the rule.

Lowlights

I don’t know why it’s so important to Jesus to selectively hide important salvation information from certain people. How cliquey of him.

Déjà Lu

OT: Psalms 18-22

Psalm 18

[This is David talking after God saved him from Saul.] God is awesome. He’s my rock. I was about to die but I asked him for help and he heard and saved me. His anger caused an earthquake. [And then, um, God became a dragon?] “Smoke went up from God’s nostrils; out of his mouth came a devouring fire; flaming coals blazed out in front of him!” (8). Smaug-God dispersed my enemies with arrows and lightning. God saved me and rewarded me for my righteousness, because I’ve followed all his rules. God, you are nice to good people and mean to bad people. You’re perfect. Nobody but God is divine. God makes me strong. God helped me annihilate my enemies. “I crushed them like dust blown away by the wind; I threw them out like mud dumped in the streets” (42). Thanks to God, “foreigners grovel before me” (44). Yay for God who “delivered me from violent people” (48) but then helped me kill them!

Psalm 19

“Heaven is declaring God’s glory” (1). Each day tells the next day about God’s awesomeness, and spreads the news worldwide. God built a tent for the sun. “The sun is like a groom coming out of his honeymoon suite” (5). It runs across the sky and heats everything. God is a perfect teacher, whose commands make people wiser and happier and healthier. His judgment is true. God’s laws are worth more than gold. God, please forgive any sins I have unknowingly committed, and prevent me from willful disobedience. I hope my words and thoughts please you, God.

Psalm 20

I hope God helps you when you’re in trouble. Let God protect you, remember your offerings, and make your dreams come true. Then we’ll celebrate. I know God saves his favorite people. Some people trust worldly things, and they will collapse, but we who trust God will stand strong. God save the king and give us what we want!

Psalm 21

God, the king is glad that you gave him what he asked for. You gave him life, glory, and happiness. Because he trusts you, he won’t fall. God, you will capture all your enemies, and “you will light them up like an oven on fire. God will eat them whole in his anger; fire will devour them” (9). You’ll kill their children, too, for good measure. They tried to hurt you, so you will shoot arrows into their faces. Yay for God’s strength!

Psalm 22

God, why have you left me alone? I cry out but you don’t answer. You’re holy and my ancestors trusted you and you helped them. People hate me and tease me for trusting you. “I was thrown on you at birth; you’ve been my God since I was in my mother’s womb” (10). A bunch of evil people surround me, threatening me, and I’m terrified. My strength is gone, my mouth is dry, and you’ve left me to die. They watch me and divvy up my clothes. God, come save me! Oh good, you’ve finally answered me! Now I’ll celebrate you and make others honor you because you listened to my cries for help. Let all the sufferers find God and praise him! Everyone will worship you because you are the only ruler. The strong and the weak all serve you, and people who aren’t alive yet will serve you too and tell their children how great you are.

Highlights

There’s one part in psalm 22 when David announces, for no apparent reason, “I can count all my bones!” (17)

Lowlights

Everything else. But also, the hypocrisy of thanking God for saving you from “violent people” and then killing them brutally. Also, David’s imperialist tendencies, where he wants to make foreigners grovel before him. By the way, David seems to get himself into trouble a lot. He constantly talks about being surrounded by his enemies and despairing and then being saved by God. Are all these psalms retelling of one battle, or is he just a terrible soldier who constantly needs to be rescued from death? Also, I dislike the hereditary nature of religion described in psalm 22. Children shouldn’t have people choose their beliefs for them, let alone fetuses. Oh, also, there’s that part where God eats people alive.

NT: Mark 2-3

Mark 2

Jesus goes back to Capernaum, and people flock to hear him. Some bring in a paralyzed man – because they can’t carry him through the crowd, they bust open a hole in the roof and lower him into the room where Jesus is speaking. Jesus is impressed with their creative problem-solving, so he tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven. The legal experts in the room start mumbling and saying that Jesus is blaspheming because “only the one God can forgive sins” (7). Jesus basically tells them they’re stupid, and says, “Well, it’s easier to forgive sins than to make paralytics walk. Now you’ll know that the Human One can forgive sins!” Then he tells the paralyzed man to take his mat and walk home, which he does, amazing everyone.

This is what Levi said to Jesus later.

Jesus goes out and walks around teaching people some more. He sees Levi, a tax-collector, and tells him to follow him. So Levi follows Jesus…to Levi’s own house, where Jesus has invited himself over for lunch. Awkward. Jesus and his disciples eat with a bunch of tax-collectors and sinners. The legal experts are like, “Hey disciples! If Jesus is so cool, why is he hanging out with sinners? Huh!?” Jesus is like, “Dumbasses, sick people need doctors, not healthy people. I’m here for the sinners, not the righteous.”

Some people ask Jesus why John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but he doesn’t. Jesus says wedding guests can’t fast while the groom is still around, but soon the groom will leave and then they will fast. Then Jesus goes back to two metaphors I still don’t really understand: don’t sew a new patch on old clothes, and don’t pour new wine into old wineskins.

Jesus and his disciples walk through the fields picking wheat on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees freak out. Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for people, not the other way around.

Mark 3

Jesus goes to the synagogue, where there is a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees are looking for an excuse to arrest Jesus, so they watch to see if he will break Sabbath law by healing the man. But didn’t they just see Jesus breaking Sabbath law by picking wheat…? Anyway, Jesus asks them whether it’s legal to save lives or kill on the Sabbath, but they don’t answer. Jesus is angry and “deeply grieved at their unyielding hearts” (5). He heals the man’s hand and the Pharisees go to Herod’s supporters to plot Jesus’s death.

Jesus goes back to the lake and, as usual, people come from all over to see him and be healed, so he asks his followers to get a boat ready for him so he isn’t trampled to death. When evil spirits see him, “they fall down at his feet and shout, ‘You are God’s Son!'” (11) and then Jesus is like “shhhh don’t reveal my identity!” Which is odd since he keeps healing people and walking on water and shit. Also, why would evil spirits listen to his orders? Although the text ambiguously says that Jesus tells “them” not to say who he is, and it’s unclear whether “them” refers to the evil spirits, the people trying to be healed, or the disciples. In any case, his secrecy is weird since he hasn’t exactly kept his magic powers on the DL.

Jesus goes up a mountain and appoints twelve apostles to go preach on his behalf and gives them the power to throw out demons. Also he gives cool nicknames to some of them. He picks Simon, but calls him Peter. He picks James and John, but calls them the Sons of Thunder. He also picks Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, a different James, Thaddaeus, a different Simon, and Judas Iscariot, but they don’t get cool nicknames.

Jesus and his followers go into a house to eat but the crowds make it impossible. Jesus’s family comes and says he’s out of his mind and tries to “take control of him” (21). By Jesus’s family do we mean Mary and Joseph? Wouldn’t they know that he’s the son of God because of all the angel messengers and the immaculate conception and all that? So why would they ruin his plans by trying to have him committed? Anyway, the legal experts say he’s possessed by the devil and that’s how he throws out demons. Jesus is like, “Idiots. How could the devil throw himself out? A house divided will fall. If Satan fights himself, he’s screwed. I promise that humans will be forgiven for every possible kind of sin except insulting the Holy Spirit.”

His mother and brothers arrive. When Jesus hears that they’re outside waiting for him, he’s like, “What do you mean, my family is outside? My family is in here! All of you who obey God are my family.” Awwwww.

Highlights

I am a fan of the “humanity is one big family” trope (although obviously I wouldn’t make membership contingent on worship).

Lowlights

You know, this book is unnecessarily repetitive. We haven’t really heard anything new in this installment. Mark is just telling us what Matthew already did, and David is just writing more psalms that sound exactly like the other ones. It’s getting boring and I am running out of funny to make it interesting. =(

Emily Dickinson > God

HEY EVERYBODY I TURNED IN THE FULL DRAFT OF MY THESIS YESTERDAY!!

This has a couple of implications.

1) I will probably graduate! It was touch and go for a while there.

2) Now I can respond to all the emails that have been languishing in my inbox for the past couple of weeks. If you’re one of those poor neglected souls, please accept my apologies.

3) It’s time to get Biblical again! This weekend, as promised, I’ll be publishing a couple of gargantuan catching-up posts. So grab some snacks or roll a joint or something, because we’re going to be here for a while.

OT: Exodus 15-19

Exodus 15

Moses & co., to celebrate the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of their fellow human beings, sing a happy song! It goes a little something like this.

Yay! God drowned all the Egyptians!
God’s the man. He saved us. We like him.
Did I mention that he drowned all the Egyptians?
Sometimes he kills people!
He “shatters the enemy” and “burns them up like straw” (6-7)!
Isn’t that cool?
Also, he just drowned a bunch of people.
People were chasing us,
But he drowned them all.
Who else is as cool as God? Nobody!
He led us to safety.
He scared all our enemies away.
He brought us to our homeland.
He’ll rule forever.

For good measure, Miriam, Aaron’s and Moses’s sister, leads all the women in dancing and playing tambourines and singing along with the chorus (which is one of the many parts about how God just drowned a bunch of people).

The Moses leads everyone out into the desert. They go three days without finding water, which I’m pretty sure would kill them if this were real life. Then they find somewhere with water, but the water is “bitter” (23). They panic about what to drink. God shows Moses a tree, and Moses somehow intuits from this that he is supposed to throw the tree into the water. For some reason, when he does that, the water turns sweet.

http://images.cheezburger.com/completestore/2009/12/3/129043416959660646.jpgGod makes a rule that if the Israelites obey all his commandments, he won’t give them any of the diseases he tormented the Egyptians with. Isn’t that nice? Then the Israelites arrive at an oasis with exactly 12 springs and 70 palm trees, and they camp there. I’m guessing this is somehow symbolic of the fact that 70 members of Jacob’s family, including the 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel, migrated to Egypt back in the day. See? I’m paying attention.

Exodus 16

They leave the numerology oasis and relocate to the Sin desert, which is confusing because last time I checked they were nowhere near Nevada. By now they’ve been wandering in the desert for like six weeks, and everybody is yelling at Aaron and Moses, saying they were better off back in Egypt where they could sit down and cook their food like normal people and they should have look at a map before they left and we told them to pull over at the next rest stop but no they just had to wait until they got to the one with a Starbucks but here we are an hour later and we still have to pee and no Starbucks so where does that leave us? And Aaron and Moses are like well we only did this because you complained about the whole slavery thing every day so we’re doing this for you but you can’t be satisfied with anything and you were the one who wanted coffee in the first place and it’s your own fault we don’t have bread here because while we were out negotiating with Pharaoh and getting us set free your job was to pack up the food and jewelry and it certainly wasn’t us who told you wait until the last minute to make the bread and now you’re complaining because your bread is too flat and you don’t have coffee and you could feel free to take the lead any time but you’d much rather sit back and keep complaining and for god’s sake quiet down in the backseat because NO WE ARE NOT THERE YET!

http://beerstreetjournal.com/images/2011/04/Hebrew-Manna-Small.png

Yes, this actually exists.

God sees Moses is in trouble so he’s like “I got you, Moses! I’m gonna make it rain bread.” So he rains bread down on the desert, and it covers the sand in thin flaky layers, like frost, which sounds like it would be really difficult to gather without getting sand all up in your bread. Everybody gathers it anyway and Moses tells them to eat it all and trust that God will send more in the morning, but some people save some just in case, but it becomes infested with worms, or melts in the sun. Gross. But then on sixth day Moses tells everyone to collect double weird-flaky-heaven-bread because tomorrow God is going to rest and won’t rain bread, so they save half and it doesn’t become infested, so they eat the rest the next day. Some people go out to look for more anyway, and God is like “OMG why can’t you just do what I say? I gave you double food for exactly this reason. Go home and rest.” So they do. Apparently the flaky magic bread, which the Israelites call manna, looks like cilantro seeds but tastes like honey wafers. Moses, on God’s instructions, saves a jar of the manna for posterity so future generations can see what the Israelites ate in the desert when they escaped from Egypt. They all wander the desert for forty more years and live off of manna until they finally get to Canaan.

Exodus 17

http://www.motifake.com/image/demotivational-poster/small/1004/faithpalm-jesus-god-facepalm-bible-faithpalm-fail-religion-c-demotivational-poster-1271278061.jpgWait, now we’re back to the whole wandering-the-desert part. Sigh. So they leave the Sin desert and they don’t have any water and they all complain to Moses and he’s like “why don’t you trust God?!” And they’re like “BECAUSE WE’RE FUCKING THIRSTY.” So Moses is like “God, you gotta help me out man!” So God’s like “go on ahead with some elders and use your magic stick to whack a rock and it will squirt water.” Then the Amalekites come fight with the Israelites. Moses tells Joshua to pick some strong men and go fight them, which he does while Moses sits on a hill with his magic stick to watch. Moses quickly figures out that whenever he puts his hand in the air (presumably the one holding the stick), the Israelites start winning the battle, but whenever he puts his hand down, the Amalekites start winning, which is a dumb system if you ask me, since God could just make the battle go however he wants without making Moses wave his hands around. Moses’s arms start getting tired so people get him a rock to sit on and help hold his arms up and then the Israelites win the battle. God tells Moses to write on a scroll that God “will completely wipe out the memory of Amalek” (14) and to read that to Joshua. Not sure why Moses needs to read it to Joshua, or why he can’t just tell Joshua verbally, or why God can’t tell Joshua himself. In any case, it makes no sense since the Amalekites are recorded right here in the Bible, keeping their memory alive for several thousand years. Fail?

Exodus 18

Jethro (Moses’s father-in-law, remember?) hears about what Moses has been up to, and comes to visit him along with Zipporah and her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. (I think Moses sent his wife and children away to live with Jethro back when shit was getting real with Pharaoh.) Jethro & co. arrive at Moses’s tent and they all catch up with each other and have a grand old time. After the story of the escape, Jethro talks about how much he likes God and says, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods” (11), again supporting my polytheism theory. Jethro sacrifices to God, and everybody has dinner. The next day, Jethro sees Moses sitting around all day answering people’s questions about God and adjudicating their disagreements and teaching them the commandments. Jethro’s like, “Hey, Moses, this is way too much work for one person. You should pick some other smart people and put them in charge of smaller groups of people. They can bring big difficult questions to you, but mostly they can take care of this stuff without you.” Moses is like “yeah good idea” and appoints his judges accordingly, and bids Jethro adieu.

Exodus 19

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This is probably why men can't touch women

Exactly three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites get to Sinai and set up camp. Moses heads up the mountain and God tells him to tell his peeps that if they obey the commandments they’ll be his favorites. So Moses spreads the news. God tells Moses that, in three days, he’s going to come chat with Moses in front of everyone so they can hear what God says and trust Moses’s authority. In preparation for this, God tells Moses to ready the peeps for his visit by washing all their clothes and such, and tells him to keep the men from having sex with women in the days preceding. God also warns that anybody who touches the mountain during his visit must be put to death, as must anybody who touches the people who have touched the mountain, with stones or arrows. Three days later, God comes down, wrapped in a cloud as disguise; Moses gather the peeps around the mountain to watch while he ascends. God is chilling with Moses on the mountain, but he panics and worries about how many people will die from his own stupid rule about not touching the mountain. Instead of revoking it, like a responsible person, he’s like, “Hey Moses, make sure your peeps don’t touch the mountain!” And Moses is like “nah it’s all good they won’t do that!” And God’s like “Ok, bring Aaron here.”

Highlights

Jethro’s division of labor into lower courts and supreme courts (or what have you) is smart.

Lowlights

Celebrating genocide = not so classy.

OT: Psalms 15-17

Psalm 15

Who gets to chill with you, God? Only perfect people who do the right thing and tell the truth and are nice and hate the wicked and like the faithful and keep promises and lend money without interest. Those people are set for life.

Psalm 16

God, save me, you’re the only good thing in my life. As for those people who thought they were holy but worshiped the wrong God, please fuck them up. I’m not friends with them anymore. You’re all I want. You give me great advice and never lead me astray, so I trust you and I’m happy. You make things great.

Psalm 17

Listen to me! I’m needy! You know me, I don’t mess around. Other people suck but I always obey you. You always do what I want, so do that now! You’re the bomb and you protect your followers. So protect me from my enemies! They’re all around and they want to fuck me up. Kill them! Save me! Hurt them and nurture the people you like more. I know I’ll be rewarded for my awesomeness.

Highlights

Zip. Still hate the psalms.

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Take THAT, stupid psalm narrator!

Lowlights

My favorite part of the whining in psalm 17 is, “Rescue me from these people whose only possession is their fleeting life” (14). I think Emily Dickinson responded well to this sentiment when she observed, “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Emily Dickinson: 1; Psalms: 0.

NT: Matthew 22-23

Matthew 22

More parables. FML.

The kingdom of heaven is like a guy who is throwing a party. He invites a bunch of people and prepares a delicious feast for them but they are ungrateful jerks and don’t come and either ignore the invitation or kill the servants who came to invite them. The host gets angry and sets fire to the city where the people who slighted him live. Then he tells his (surviving) servants to go invite everybody they can find on the road to his party because those other people “weren’t worthy” (8). So a bunch of randos come to the party, and the host wanders around his guests. He finds one person who isn’t wearing party-appropriate attire, and asks how he got in. The guy has no answer, so the host tells his servants, “Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (13). Wow, way to break the metaphor there, Jesus. At the end of this horrific parable, Jesus helpfully tells us the moral of the story: “Many people are invited, but few are chosen” (14). Also, God is a crazed psychopath, apparenty.

The Pharisees keep trying to trip Jesus up. So they ask him whether the law allows people to pay taxes to Caesar given that Jesus doesn’t support favoritism (not sure how those things are related). Jesus is like, “Why are you trying to fuck with me? Go bring me a coin.” So they bring him a coin and he’s like “Whose fucking head is on this fucking coin?” And they’re like, “Caesar’s.” And he’s like, “Great. Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s and give God what’s God’s. Fuck off.” So they do.

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Remember their joyous posthumous reunion? Not part of Jesus's plan.

The Sadducees, who don’t believe in resurrection, come to ask Jesus a resurrection-related question. They explain that they knew of seven brothers who each married the same woman, all in a row, with the next one marrying her when the last one died. Eventually they all died and so did the woman, and none of them had any children. So, they ask, which of the men will the woman be married to after they are all resurrected? Jesus answers that “At the resurrection people won’t marry nor will they be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like angels from God” (30). The Sadducees freak out and leave.

The Pharisees try again, and ask Jesus what the greatest commandment is. He says that the most important is to love God as hard as you can, and that the next most important is to love your neighbor as yourself, and that the whole law depends on those two commandments. Then Jesus turns the Pharisees’ tactics on them. He asks them whose son the Christ is, and they say David’s. But Jesus quotes some passage from the Old Testament where David calls the Christ “lord,” and says, “If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?” (45). Nobody can answer him and from then on nobody dares ask him any questions ever again. I’m not sure how exactly this was such a rhetorical knock-down punch, but okay.

Matthew 23

Jesus tells his followers to do what the Pharisees say but not what they do, because “Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others” (5). He points out that they really liked to be called “Rabbi” (i.e. “teacher”), and warns everyone that Christ is their only teacher and God is their only father, so no human should be called teacher or father because they are really brothers and sisters. He also talks again about how the low will be lifted up and the high and mighty will be brought low and the greatest will be servants and so on.

http://qph.cf.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-10adc7257e051cb3fbc8cc5066ff2d02Jesus condemns the Pharisees and similar folks for their hypocrisy and general lameness. He calls them stupid and blind, and blames them for keeping people out of the kingdom of heaven. They follow the tiny busybody rules to the letter but totally miss the big picture – they tithe diligently but don’t understand justice, for example. He says that though they look righteous and pure on the outside, they are polluted inside (yes, this section was alluded to in this video). Finally, Jesus bemoans Jerusalem’s lostness and blindness and how God has tried so hard to save the people of Israel but they keep going astray.

Highlights

The condemnation of hypocrisy is pretty cool, and pretty ironic given the political climate of this country.

Lowlights

The most appealing part of the idea of an afterlife, to me, is the idea of being reunited after death with those whom you loved in life. And that certainly seems to be one of the components which most comforts people I know who believe in an afterlife. But Jesus puts the kibosh on that idea with the whole story of the seven brothers. Too bad.

Moses is a Parselmouth

Heads up: there are some naked butts in this one. But also there is a cute stack of frogs.

OT: Exodus 7-10

Exodus 7

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"Scared, Pharaoh?" "You wish!"

God’s like, “Ok, Moses, you and Aaron keep hassling Pharaoh, but I’ll make him stubborn so I can show off my magic tricks. I’ll attack and bring my peeps out of there, and then the Egyptians will know who’s boss. Moses, when Pharaoh asks you to do your tricks, tell Aaron to do the staff-turning-into-a-snake thing.” So they go do the snake trick for Pharaoh, but he gets his “wise men and wizards” together and they do the same trick because of their “secret knowledge” (11). It probably went like this. Moses’s stick-snake eats all the other guys’ stick-snakes, but Pharaoh’s unimpressed. God’s like, “Ok, plan B. Go tell Pharaoh to release the peeps, and when he says no, whack the Nile with your staff and it will turn to blood and smell bad and all the fish will die and nobody will be able to drink it. That’ll be cool.” So Moses does all that, and the river turns to blood, as planned. But Pharaoh’s magician friends can do the same thing, so Pharaoh remains unimpressed. One would think the magician friends would use their “secret knowledge” to turn the river back to potable water, but no, they just make more blood. Also, did it occur to God and/or Moses that the Hebrews need to drink the Nile water too? In any case, now everybody has to dig wells to get non-bloody water. Great.

Exodus 8

http://cache2.artprintimages.com/p/LRG/20/2066/XD72D00Z/art-print/frogs.jpg“Okay, plan C! Tell Pharaoh to release the peeps, and when he says no, I’ll rain frogs all over.” So Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh to release the peeps, and he’s like “still no,” so Moses is like “Okay Aaron do the frog thing!” and then Aaron waves his arms around and then suddenly there are frogs all up in Egypt. But the Pharaoh’s magicians are like “look we can do it too!” and they add some more frogs. They really are just making things worse for themselves by doubling all the plagues. Anyway, Pharaoh is like, “Ok, Moses, this frog infestation is kind of gross, so if you pray to God to take the frogs away, I’ll let your peeps go to Burning Man.” Moses is like “Ok, when do you want me to pray for the frogs to go away?” Which seems like a stupid question, because obviously Pharaoh wants them gone as soon as possible, right? Wrong. Pharaoh asks Moses to pray tomorrow. Maybe he wants one more night to say goodbye to the frogs he’s befriended.

So Moses prays the frogs away. Except they don’t disappear; they all die. “Great,” Pharaoh thinks. “There’s no more hopping and ribbiting, but now my country is full of decomposing frog carcasses. Gross.” He changes his mind and doesn’t release the peeps.

God’s like, “ok, Moses, tell Aaron to use his magic wand to poke the dirt so lice show up everywhere.” I’m wondering why God doesn’t cut out the middleman and just talk to Aaron himself, or why Moses can’t do his own stunts. Anyway, Aaron does his thing, and “all the land’s dirt turned into lice throughout the whole land of Egypt” (17). Really? All the land’s dirt? If by “dirt” we mean “sand,” since this is Egypt, then the entire country is basically just made of lice now. I don’t think the society could continue to function. I’m pretty sure buildings built on writhing insect foundations would fall to the ground, people would be literally eaten alive, etc. In any case, the magicians once again try to make things worse by making lice of their own, except this time they can’t figure out how to do it, so they tell Pharaoh that this must be an act of God. But Pharaoh still refuses to release the peeps, which is pretty freaking stupid.

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The Egyptians couldn't handle this kinky shit.

Next God sends insects of an unspecified nature on Egypt but spares Goshen to make it very clear who his favorites are. God calls Moses and Aaron over and he’s like, “Can’t your peeps just do their sacrifices right here?” And Moses is like, “No, because we’re going to be doing some freaky shit and when the Egyptians see it they will stone us to death. We need to go to the desert where nobody can see us.” Pharaoh is like, “Fine, you can go to the desert, but you can’t go too far, and you have to pray for me while you’re there.” Moses is like “Ok, it’s a deal. The bugs will go away tomorrow. You better not screw us over again.” So Moses goes and prays and God makes the bugs disappear but Pharaoh decides again not to release the peeps.

Exodus 9

God has Moses warn Pharaoh that if he pursues in his dickery, all the Egyptian livestock (but none of the livestock belonging to the Israelites) will be infected with a fatal disease. Pharaoh’s like “BRING IT.” So God brings it, and all the Egyptian livestock die. But Pharaoh still won’t release the peeps. Next God has Moses throw a handful of ashes into the air which turn into soot and cover all of Egypt which somehow causes all the Egyptians (but none of the Hebrews) to break out in blisters. But Pharaoh still won’t release the peeps. Next, God threatens to rain deadly hail down on Egypt. Some people have caught on to the whole whatever-Moses-warns-us-will-happen-actually-happens pattern, so they bring all their livestock inside and huddle under their roofs. But others ignore the warnings and hang out outside with their cows and shit. Then the hail falls everywhere in Egypt (except in Goshen) and destroys everyone and everything that’s outdoors. So Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and is like “okay! you win! you win! my bad! you can go! please stop the hail!” So Moses is like, “okay, as soon as I’m outside the city limits, I’ll make God stop the hail.” So he goes and stops the hail and then Pharaoh changes his mind and doesn’t let the Israelites leave. Which is kind of confusing, because didn’t Moses wait until he was outside the city? Did Pharaoh go bring them back? Can’t he wait to stop the hail until he gets way out into the desert instead?

Exodus 10

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Imagine trying to breathe in this. Wait - don't. Oh, too late? Sorry.

Moses goes to Pharaoh and he’s like “Guess what’s next? Locusts! Locusts everywhere! Locusts eating all your trees! Locusts crawling all up in your homes! Locusts all over your children! Locusts! Locusts!” Pharaoh’s advisers are like “Um, Pharaoh, get with the program. It is time to release the peeps before Egypt is completely destroyed.” So Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron and is like “Okay, go do your sacrifices! Who all is going?” And Moses is like “All of us need to go.” And Pharaoh is like “Yeah right! I’m not letting all of you go. That’s very suspicious. You’re plotting something crafty. Your men can go, but the women and children stay here.” So God sends a locust shitstorm, and Pharaoh is like “OH GOD MAKE IT STOP I’M SO SORRY PLEASE FORGIVE ME I MESSED UP PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.” So Moses sends the locusts away, at which point Pharaoh promptly changes his mind. So then Moses turns Egypt pitch-black (except where the Israelites live) so nobody can move or see or do anything. Except somehow they are able to summon Moses and Aaron, and Pharaoh tells them all the Israelites can go to the desert – even the children – but the livestock have to stay in Egypt. But Moses is like “nope, we need to take all the animals with us, every single one, because we have to sacrifice some of them but we won’t know which ones we’re supposed to sacrifice until we get there.” And Pharaoh is like “well that sounds made up.” And he decides he’s done with Moses’s bullshit and sends him away and threatens him with death if he ever sees him again.

Highlights

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"I told you, the Knight Bus doesn't run on Columbus Day! Can you just keep looking for the Portkey? I'm sick of trying to outrun the wind!"

Magic staffs! Transfiguration! Freaky natural disasters! It’s like Harry Potter and The Happening by J.K. Shyamalan!

Also: Perseverance! Plucky underdogs! The American Dream!

Lowlights

At one point, somewhere between the blisters and the hail, God sends Pharaoh the following message through Moses:

By now I could have used my power to strike you and your people with a deadly disease so that you would have disappeared from the earth. But I’ve left you standing for this reason: in order to show you my power and in order to make my name known in the whole world. (15-16)

See, it’s easy to get carried away by the Passover story of slavery and abolition and magical retribution and hard-won freedom and the escape through the desert and so on. But the social justice narrative you usually hear is a far cry from the way the story is actually told in scripture. It’s not a battle of God against Pharaoh, or oppressor against oppressed; God makes Pharaoh stubbornly refuse to free the Israelites in order to achieve his real goal, which is to show off his power and “make [his] name known in the whole world.” In this light, God looks a little less like Abraham Lincoln and a little more like Tamburlaine.

OT: Psalms 13-14

Psalm 13

God, how long do I have to suffer? Why aren’t you helping me? Come back and save me from enemies! I still trust you because you’ve been faithful.

Psalm 14

Fools say in their hearts,
There is no God.
They are corrupt and do evil things;
not one of them does anything good. (1)

This seemed called for again.

God looks to see if there are any good humans – nope, zero. Those jerks attacking my faithful people must be stupid to not be on God’s side. Eventually they’ll freak out when they see how wrong they were. God’s gonna make us win in the end!

Highlights

Nope. I still hate the psalms.

Lowlights

Really, not a single person on earth is good? Psalm 14 says that God “look down from heaven on humans” to see if any of them are good, “but all of them have turned bad….No one does good – not even one person!” (2-3). But then in the next verse the narrator talks about “my people” (4), who are “the righteous generation” (5). Um…you might want to check your math there. Also, whenever Christians are like “don’t worry I’m not bigoted enough to think that atheists can’t be good people!” I’m like “okay well that’s nice of you but your God seems to disagree since he says that ‘not one of [us] does anything good’…but thanks?”

NT: Matthew 21

…is for tomorrow.

Why God Hates Violence, But Loves Fiery Death-Rain

OT: Exodus 1-4

Exodus 1

http://images.sodahead.com/polls/000927249/bunny_answer_3_xlarge.jpegJoseph and all of Jacob’s other descendants – all seventy of them – are in Egypt now, breeding like rabbits. Soon, all Jacob’s sons are dead, but Egypt is chock full of Israelites, to the point where they outnumber the “real” Egyptians. A new Pharaoh comes to power and freaks out over all the Israelites, kind of like one of those jerks who panics about what will happen when white people are no longer a majority in America. So, according to this translation, Pharaoh says, “Come on, let’s be smart and deal with them” (10). But at least Pharaoh’s Final Solution is just slavery, not genocide – at first. After they’ve been enslaved for a while, he tells some Hebrew midwives to kill all the baby Israelite boys that are born, but let the girls live. But the midwives are like, “Yeah okay Pharaoh,” and then obviously don’t do what he says. But obviously Pharaoh catches on to the fact that there continue to be Israelite boy babies, so he calls the midwives in and is like, “um, what about that thing we talked about?” And the midwives are badasses and are like, “Oh, yeah, the problem is that Israelite women are just way tougher and cooler than Egyptian women – they squeeze out the babies early and fast, before midwives can get to them.” Instead of realizing that this would put them out of a job if it were true, Pharaoh’s like, “Oh, okay. Bummer.” God rewards the midwives for their badassery, but in the meantime, Pharaoh has a new solution: he orders all Egyptians to throw all baby Hebrew boys into the Nile.

Exodus 2

One day, a Hebrew woman has a baby boy, and she decides she’s had enough of this semi-genocide bullshit, because god damn it, she loves her kid. So she hides him for three months, but then realizes she can’t hide him any longer, so she puts him in a tar-sealed reed basket and sets him down in a clump of reeds at the riverbank. But his older sister (that’s going to be Miriam, right?) stays nearby to watch what happens to him.

When Pharaoh’s daughter comes along to bathe in the river, she finds the baby in the basket, crying, and feels bad for him. She figures out that it’s one of the Hebrew boys, right when the baby’s older sister, who’s been watching, comes over and asks if she should go find a Hebrew women to nurse the baby for her, and Pharaoh’s daughter says yes. So the smart awesome girl goes to her mother and explains the situation and brings her back. Pharaoh’s daughter offers to pay her to nurse the baby for her, and the mother obviously agrees. But once he’s weaned, she has to bring him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopts him and names him Moses.

http://skeptisys.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/funny-pictures-cat-hides-body.jpgI guess Pharaoh’s daughter was upfront with Moses about his origins, because one day when he’s an adult, he goes out and sees their hard slave labor and gets upset. When he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, he kills the Egyptian and buries him, which is a creepy detail I never hear about during Passover. Funny. So the next day he sees two Hebrew men fighting, and asks the one who started it why he would attack his fellow Hebrew. The guy pulls a “you’re not the boss of me” maneuver, and then taunts Moses by asking if he’s going to kill him like he killed the Egyptian. Oooooohhhh. Moses freaks out and realizes his murder isn’t a secret; Pharaoh finds out about it and tries to kill Moses, but he runs away to Midian (wherever that is). One day, Moses is chilling by a well in Midian, when seven sisters come to get water, but are chased away by some asshole shepherds. Moses defends the girls and draws their water for them and their sheep. When their father finds out about this, he invites Moses to come over for dinner, which turns into Moses living there. Usually that’s the worst kind of house guest, but apparently the host really liked Moses because he let him marry his daughter Zipporah, which is probably the best Bible name so far. Moses and Zipporah have a son named Gershom. Years go by and the asshole Pharaoh dies but the Israelites are still enslaved and cry out to God, who hears them and “remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (24), which maybe means he forgot before? Oops.

Exodus 3

Moses is taking care of Jethro’s (his father-in-law’s) flock when he sees a bush that is on fire but not burning up, and so he aptly thinks, “Let me check out this amazing sight and find out why the bush isn’t burning up” (3). Check out, really? Okay. So God calls Moses’s name from the bush, and Moses gives the same stupid answer that Abraham and everyone would always give when God would call them: “I’m here” (4). God tells Moses to take off his shoes because he’s on holy ground (apparently he’s on a special mountain called Horeb), and then tells Moses he’s God, so Moses averts his eyes in fear from the thing he went to “check out” a moment ago. God is like, “Moses, the Hebrews are in deep shit. You’re going to get them out of there and lead them to a land of milk and honey, aka Canaan.” Moses is like, “Who, me?” And God goes, “Yes, you.” And Moses goes, “Couldn’t be!” And God goes, “Then who?” Wait, just kidding. That was from that episode of Barney where they can’t figure out who took the cookies. Got my wires crossed.

God’s like “no it’s cool I’ll come with and make sure everything goes smoothly and then you’ll come back here and worship, okay?” Moses asks the weirdest possible question: “What if the Hebrews ask me what your name is?” But God, unfazed, replies, “I Am Who I Am” (14), and helpfully clarifies that Moses should tell people that he was sent by I Am. God promises that the Hebrews will listen to Moses, and tells Moses the plan: Moses will tell Pharaoh that all the Hebrews need to make a three-day religious pilgrimage into the desert to offer sacrifices, and then they’ll come back. God promises to manipulate the Egyptians (see?! no pretensions to free will!!) into lending the Hebrews a bunch of jewelry and riches, so they can rob the Egyptians when they don’t come back from their three-hour tour three-day pilgrimage.

Exodus 4

Moses is all, “What if they don’t believe me that I had a conversation with God in the desert?” And then God decides to do an epic mind-fuck: he asks Moses what he’s holding, and Moses is like, “A shepherd’s staff,” and God is like, “Throw it on the ground,” and Moses is like “I WON’T BE PART OF YOUR SYSTEM” and throws it on the ground where it TURNS INTO A SNAKE OMG EW. Moses is like “GAH WHAT THE FUCK” and God is like “Now pick it up!” and Moses is like “WHAT” but he picks it up and it turns back into a stick. So God is like “See? Isn’t that a great party trick? They’ll believe you now!” God also has Moses put his hand into his pocket and pull it out with a gross skin diseases, then put it back in and take it out again all healthy. And he tells him that if the other two magic tricks don’t work, Moses can throw some Nile water on the ground where it will turn to blood. Cool!

Then Moses keeps whining and whining and he’s like “But I’m not good at public speaking!” And God is like “Moses, who makes people good at public speaking? ME. Because I’m fucking GOD. You’ll be fine.” And Moses is like “I DON’T WANNA” and God is like “Ok I’m done with this. Aaron is coming to meet you now, and he can be your spokesperson. Now scurry along, and don’t forget your magic snaky stick. Have fun!” So Moses goes and tells Jethro he needs to go home to Egypt to find out if his family is still alive, and Jethro’s like “yeah okay.” God tells Moses it’s time to go back because everyone who wants to kill him before has died (how old must Moses be by now?!). So Moses gets his wife and his kids and his special stick and heads out on donkeys. On the way, God tells Moses what to do when he gets there: first, he should do his magic tricks for Pharaoh. “But,” God says, “I’ll make him stubborn so that he won’t let the people go” (21). Ummm…wouldn’t it be easier to not do that, so he just lets everyone go peacefully? That seems preferable in every possible way. Anyway, God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that God says (seriously) that Israel is his (God’s) oldest son, and since Pharaoh wouldn’t let him/it/them go, now God is going to kill Pharaoh’s oldest son.

Then things get freaky, which is too bad, because so far Exodus has been so much better than Genesis. Anyway, everything about this paragraph is so weird that I can’t not post it in full:

During their journey, as they camped overnight, the LORD met Moses and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a sharp-edged flint stone and cut off her son’s foreskin. Then she touched Moses’ genitals with it, and she said, “You are my bridegroom because of bloodshed.” So the LORD let him alone. At that time, she announced, “A bridegroom because of bloodshed by circumcision.”

Ummmmmmmmmmmm………………………………………………….

what is this i don’t even

No words

Does not compute.

Ahem.

God tells Aaron to go meet Moses on God’s mountain, and Moses tells the whole story. They get all the Israelite elders together and do the magic tricks and tell the story and all and everyone believes and gets excited that God has decided to get up off his ass and do something about the whole slavery situation so they all worship him.

Highlights

It was so normal at first! People were nice and sane! The mother loved her child and was smart and tried to save it and the older sister was smart and saved it and the Pharaoh’s daughter was nice and everyone was doing great there for a while besides the whole slavery thing!

Lowlights

The foreskin situation. What. What. WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

OT: Psalms 11-12

Psalm 11

God protects me so I don’t need to run away from evil people, God sees everything. And the Least Self-Aware Juxtaposition Award goes to…

[God’s] very being hates anyone who loves violence.
God will rain fiery coals and sulfur on the wicked. (5-6)

How is this not a Colbert Report-style ironic commentary or something!?!?

Anyway, God loves righteous people and fucks everyone else blah blah.

Psalm 12

Oh, this one’s good. David (or whoever) is complaining to God that all the faithful people are gone and the world is overrun with lying bragging atheist assholes. But God rescues the oppressed faithful (I thought they were all gone?) and protects them from the depraved atheists.

Highlights

ZERO

Lowlights

God hates violence! That’s why he BURNS PEOPLE ALIVE BY RAINING COALS ON THEM.

NT: Matthew 19

Eh…bedtime. Matthew 19 can be tacked onto tomorrow’s chunk. This is the kind of flexibility we’re going to have to be okay with if this blog is going to survive thesis season. Sorry folks.

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

http://www.keyway.ca/gif/goshen2.gif

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

http://www.pinkapple.com/productphotos/2007_large.jpg

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.