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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Numbers 9-14: Arrival at the promised land, some actual story

So now it's a year and one month after they left Egypt, even though Numbers started off a year and two months after Egypt. Can't this shit even be chronological? It's confusing enough as it is.

They are also still, in fact, at Mt. Sinai. Seriously.

God says, "you people be fucking sure to celebrate the passover, even though I've told you about it 10,000 times already!" Small point of order: what if I've become unclean because someone close to me died? Can I still celebrate the passover? The answer is yes, but one month later.

In their travels, God apparently controlled when they traveled and when they camped. When there was a cloud that also looked like fire (huh?) over the tabernacle, they camped until the cloud left (so what, they didn't even disassemble it to carry it? Or did God just descend upon the wagon that the pieces of the tent were in...). When the cloud left, they immediately set out again, even if it was the middle of the night. They camped as long as the cloud stayed, "Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year." And hence a journey of a few months dragged out for 40 years, apparently.

God handily suggests they make trumpets for letting people know when it's time to set out. Interestingly, God himself seems to not have either the will or the ability to let more than just a few people know when it's time to go. He also suggests they use the trumpets for other things, such as communicating in battle, or celebrating festivals. What a handy God.

Now they travel from Sinai to the Desert of Paran. And they give the marching order, again. Ugh.

People complain, and God burns some of them to death. Then Moses prays and the fire dies down. Aww.

Now here's a fantastic story. People are complaining about the manna...they want meat. Moses complains to God about how the people are upset and it's all too much for him, and he never asked to be in charge anyway. So God says he's going to help Moses out by "taking some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them [70 Israelite elders]. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone." Um, what Spirit? The Holy Spirit? This is the first we've heard of it...and far from being in everybody, as I was taught, it seems to only be in a select elite. Wonderful.

Now God turns his attention to everyone else and their complaining about not having meat. God, in an incredibly spiteful move, promises to give them so much quail to eat for the next month, that "it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it." Really? So, God makes a wind that blows the quail in from the sea, and quail cover the ground 3 feet thick for at least a day's walk in any direction from their camp. And then, for even more spite, just when they are about to eat some of it, God suddenly smites them with a plague. And all sorts of people die. Seriously. What the fuck is that all about?

Here's another weird story. Aaron and Miriam (Moses and Aaron's sister) talk about Moses behind his back. Apparently God overheard, because he calls all 3 of them together and says "Moses is my prophet! How dare you speak poorly of him!" Then he gets mad and leaves. Suddenly, Miriam has leprosy. (Why not Aaron too?) Moses asks God to heal her. God says, "I'll do it in 7 days. Let her suffer til then!" So she has to go outside the camp for 7 days, and they all have to wait. Again, what the fuck.

So now they're at Paran. God tells Moses to send some people out to scout Canaan. So what...are they there already? No idea. They return in 40 days though, so I guess they can't be far. They come back and report on all the awesome fruit that grows there, and they have an argument about whether they could conquer the people or not. (So, what, they're not even going to try talking to these people before they attack? I knew that's what they were going to do, but it still seems ridiculous.) Anyway, they describe the cities as large and fortified, and the people as so large that "we seemed like grasshoppers." Yep, you could totally take them.

The people hear this report, and suddenly Moses has an uprising on his hands. The people don't want to die in battle, and who can blame them. Some wanted to elect a new leader and go back to Egypt. (Yeah, I'm sure you'll get a warm welcome there.) Joshua and Caleb (2 of the guys in the scouting party) tell everyone again how incredibly awesome the land is and reassure everyone that they will totally win, because God is on their side. The people react to this inspiring speech by wanting to stone them to death (lol).

God comes along and says "WTF? I'm going to kill all the Israelites with a plague and start again." Cause that's his answer to everything...wipe it out and start over. Once again, Moses talks him out of it (I still don't get how it is even possible to talk God out of something). Interestingly, part of Moses' plea to God was this: "just as you have declared: ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion'" Lol, when did God, or anyone, ever say that? I don't remember it. And it sure as fuck is not evident in his actions.

So God says, "Yeah, alright, I forgive them. BUT! Everyone who is at least 20 years old and has grumbled against me will die before we get to the promised land...which is pretty much everybody except for Joshua and Caleb." Yep, that is surely true forgiveness. Err, wait, I mean that is "God getting exactly what he wanted in the first place," except he spared the children. I still think God (OT God, anyway) is literally incapable of forgiveness.

Also, all of the 12 men who went scouting and came back with a "bad report" (i.e. a realistic report) about it, which started this whole thing...they were all struck with a plague right then and there. That's all of them, except for Joshua and Caleb. Wonderful. God apparently would prefer blind optimism over reality. Actually, that's not so surprising.

So Moses tells all this to the Israelites, they get upset (presumably because they don't want to die, and who can blame them), so they are like "we've learned our lesson, we want to go to the promised land now!!!" So they went on without Moses or the tabernacle, and in the direction God told them not to go. Why? I dunno. Maybe they panicked. Maybe Moses forgot to tell them the part about which direction they were supposed to go next while he was telling them that God is going to kill them soon. Anyway, they get attacked by the people living in the area, and I assume, many were killed. Fantastic.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Numbers 6-8: Fuck the Kohathites

Now God lays out how to become a Nazirite, whatever the hell that is. Shockingly, men and women can do it. We are just told it is a "special vow of dedication to the LORD," for whatever length of time you decide. There is nothing given for why anyone would want to do this. Not even something vague and lame, like, "Because I'm God and it would make me happy." Nothing.

So, you've decided to take a "special vow" to God, whatever that means and for whatever reason. Now you can't drink alcohol, or eat grapes in any form. You also may not go near a dead body. If, by chance, someone suddenly and without warning drops dead near you, you have to start over with the time of your vow. Also, you cannot cut your hair...that is the symbol of your vow. As soon as the vow is over, you shave your head, make some sacrifices, and have a glass of wine.

God also tells Moses and Aaron the specific words they have to say to bless the Israelites. This just seems weird to me. Why does God need specific words to be spoken to bless people? Actually, why do they even have to ask at all? Couldn't God just bless the Israelites anyway? They are his favoritest people, after all. (Of course, I don't even get why they are the favorite. Why can't God just like everybody? I am so confused.)

Now Moses sets up the tabernacle, and the heads of the families come with "offerings." They give Moses a bunch of oxen and wagons, and God says "give them to the Levites, so they can use them to haul around all this shit I made you build." What a nice guy! Oh but wait...one clan of the Levites, the Kohathites, must "carry on their shoulders the holy things." I don't know what these people did that was so horrible.

Then there's an entire chapter listing each and every thing the heads of the families offered, besides the wagons. Boring.

There's an interesting little sentence here: Numbers 7:89, it says that whenever Moses talked to God in the tabernacle, God talked to him out of the cherubs that decorated the ark of the covenant. Moses sounds crazy to me...

Now God has to make damn sure, for like the 5th time, that Aaron is tending the lamp in the tabernacle correctly. Holy shit, that lamp must be important.

Right, apparently it's time to "purify" the Levites, so they can begin their service to the priesthood. To purify them, sprinkle them with "the water of cleansing." Then they have to shave their body hair and wash their clothes. And, of course, lots of stupid sacrifice.

Interestingly, the Levites themselves are a "wave offering" to God, on behalf of the rest of the Israelites. I have no idea what this means. I don't remember if it actually said this or if I just inferred it from the name, but I thought a wave offering was something that was literally waved around in the air. Clearly this can't be the case...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Numbers 1-5: Let's count everything!

Ah, Numbers. I can see why they call this book Numbers. Cause it's jammed full of numbers, so far anyway. I have yet to see whether God continues to circuitously lay down stupid laws in this book.

Numbers starts off 1 year and 2 months after they leave Egypt. Because of the lack of any time frame up til now, I have no idea if this is a direct continuation of Leviticus and they're still at Mt. Sinai, or if they've left by now.

Anyway, God comes along and tells Moses to do a census. And he has to tell Moses specifically which guys to get to help him. Can't Moses do anything on his own?

So they do the census, which clearly only includes adult men. They give how many are in each of the 12 tribes of Israel (The descendants of Jacob's 12 sons. Apparently the descendants of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, can fuck off. I wonder what ever happened to them, anyway?). And the Levites are not counted in the census, because they are to be in charge of the tabernacle. They get the privilege of carting this load of useless stuff around, and in return they don't get counted in the census. Makes complete sense to me!

Also, if anyone besides the Levites approaches the tabernacle, they will die. Excluding Moses and the priests, I guess, though it doesn't actually say that. Why? No idea.

God also tells them to set up their camps such that they are divided into their 12 tribes. Why? I thought this was supposed to be all one people, God's chosen people. Why are they supposed to divide themselves?

The next chapter, God gives Moses the marching order for the 12 tribes. Why is this important? Also, they give how many are in each tribe, again. I can see this book is going to be just as repetitive as the last.

Now there's a bit more about the Levites. They are basically born to serve the priests. They don't even get the option to be priests themselves... Seems like a raw deal. God says that he will not demand the first borns from the rest of the Israelites, because he is taking all of the Levites instead. I really don't get what the Levites ever did to deserve this.

They list the sub-clans of the Levites, and what they were each in charge of. Like, one is in charge of the tent frame, one in charge of the alters, etc. Imagine, from birth the only prospect for you and your entire family is to be in charge of God's tent poles. Ugh.

Then God has Moses count all the Levites, and all the first born Israelites, apparently to make sure he wasn't getting gypped in his deal to take them instead. The number of Levites was 20,000, the number of first borns was 22,273. Oh no, God is missing out on 273 people! (I still don't get why God is claiming people for his very own, or what that even means.) So to make up the difference, God makes the Israelites give 5 shekels for each of the 273 to Aaron. This is just so confusing and nit-picky, I don't even know what to make of it.

Chapter 4 goes into detail about what the responsibilities of the Levites are, regarding the tabernacle. Basically, everything little thing they do is under the direct supervision of Aaron and the priests. Also, the Levites are not allowed to actually touch anything; it all has to be wrapped in leather or cloth by the priests first.

They also do some more counting...this time they count all of the people in the sub-clans of the Levites.

More randomness... if you are unclean, you must go outside the camp (I guess until you are clean again?). The reason is that you are defiling the camp with your uncleanliness, and God is in the camp, so you have to leave. A couple of things:
  1. God said in Exodus he wasn't going to be traveling with them, so what is he doing in their camp?
  2. In what way is omnipresent God not outside of the camp?
Here's a really weird way to find out if your wife has been sleeping around. First, obviously, all that is required to warrant the test is that the husband is suspicious. That's all. Then you go see the priest. The priest mixes holy water with dirt from the tabernacle floor. Then he basically curses the woman...if she did sleep with someone else, "May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” And if not, nothing happens. He writes the curse out, then washes the ink or whatever off into that holy water/dirt. Then she has to drink it. And then you wait and see what happens. I really don't get what this stupid test is supposed to prove, except that it's probably a bad idea to eat random dirt off the ground. Also, it seems to me that it would be really easy for the priest to rig the test by poisoning her or something.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leviticus 20-27: Yet more random shit

Now we get a list of punishments for this stuff they aren't supposed to do.
  • Sacrificing your children to Molek - stoned to death. (Who the fuck is Molek?) You also get "cut off from your people," though I don't see why that matters when you're dead.
  • If you know of someone who sacrifices children to Molek, but you ignore it, you also get "cut off from your people." But you don't get bludgeoned to death with rocks.
  • Following spiritists and mediums - cut off from your people
  • Cursing your mother or father - death. Obviously.
  • Adultery - both people die
  • Gay sex - death for both people
  • Marrying both a women and her mother - all 3 of you get to "burn in the fire, so no wickedness will be among you." Err...burn that wickedness away? Again, not sure why it matters that you got rid of your wickedness when you're dead.
  • Bestiality - death. Also, death for the animal.
  • Having sex with a women on her period - you both get cut off from your people!
  • Having sex with a close family member - you get cut off from your people.
  • But if you have sex with your aunt, you will both "die childless." Uh huh.
  • Being a medium or spiritist - stoned to death
Again there is a little statement about the Israelites had better be damned sure to not follow the ways of the people they're about to conquer, because they were bad, horrible people and God hates them all. Even though God already knew they were going to be bad back in Genesis and did absolutely nothing to prevent it. I don't get this book.

Now, there's even more stupid rules to torture the priests with! Gah. The priests must not make himself unclean by handling dead bodies. They must not cut their hair or beards. The girl they marry must be a virgin. If their daughter becomes a prostitute, she must be burned to death. Any person with a "defect" cannot be a priest, clearly because he would desecrate the tabernacle if he went in it.

The priests must be ceremonially clean when they do sacrifices, otherwise they will be cut off from the people. Also, "The priests are to perform my service in such a way that they do not become guilty and die for treating it with contempt." WTF?

It says (AGAIN) that the animal sacrifices cannot have a defect (which includes everything from a wart to crushed testicles). Also, animals become eligible for sacrifice after they are only 8 days old.

Then the holidays are listed, and details about how to celebrate them are given. Seriously, it's been over all this so many times already, I'm not going to go into it again.

And here, again, is the command that Aaron light and tend the lamp in the tabernacle all night, every night. When is this guy supposed to sleep? Seriously? And, again, God says that he wants bread on the table in the tabernacle. Why, who knows.

Now here's a charming little anecdote about someone (possibly a little boy? hard to tell) who blasphemes the name of God! Oh such horribleness. Then God tells Moses to have the entire assembly stone him to death. Make an example of the cheeky bastard, I guess... I remember something about "don't blaspheme," but, interestingly, I don't remember anything about the fact that if you do, you get stoned to death. Surprise!

Funnily enough, God seems to take this opportunity to ramble on some more about his laws. Immediately after the stoning, God says, "Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death." So... I guess that means all the Israelites have to die now. As well as God himself, really. Wonderful.

He also rambles on about some other stuff at this point, but it's nothing we haven't heard already, repeatedly.

They must give the land a "sabbath," every 7th year, where they don't plant anything. We've heard this a few times before.

Now here's some stuff about property. Some confusing stuff about a "year of jubilation" every 50 years... something about how on that year, everyone is supposed to return to his family's property. So as I understand it, the Smiths own this chunk of land. But young Bob Smith buys a piece of land from the Johnsons and starts his own farm or whatever. But on the year of jubilation, Bob gives the Johnsons back "their land," for good, and goes back to the Smith land. This excludes houses in a walled city, apparently. That is so weird. But that's how it sounds.

Hmm, apparently none of this matters at all, because all the land actually belongs to God: Leviticus 25:23, God says, "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers." WTF??? The Israelites are all going to be foreigners in the promised land? After God has been going on since Genesis about how "the land is going to be yours!" This God makes no fucking sense.

Also, more thinly veiled threats from God...apparently the land will only produce food if the Israelites are good and do what they're told.

There's some stuff about how you really shouldn't take advantage of poor Israelites... don't turn them into slaves or whatever. Nope, the slaves are supposed to come from other nations. This part downright encourages them to enslave other people, actually.

Here's that threat from God again...do what I say, and you get rain, and abundant food, and peace, and wild beasts and enemies won't attack, and lots of babies. Great.

Now, holy crap. God rants for about a chapter about all the stuff he will do to the Israelites if they disobey him. Really twisted shit. Here's a good part: Leviticus 26:29 "You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters." Great. It goes on like that for a whole chapter. How can anyone reconcile chapter 26 with a loving God?

Chapter 27 is really weird, and all about "dedicating" stuff to God. Apparently you can dedicate something (a person, animal, house, etc) to God, by giving...someone (the priests?)...the equivalent monetary value. Aside from the fact that I don't know what it means to "dedicate" something like a house to God, this chapter is fun because it gives monetary value for human beings, something I didn't really think was possible... Is it any surprise to anyone that men are twice as valuable as women? Also age factors in, basically people in their prime are worth the most, the elderly are worth not much, and babies are worth almost nothing at all. Interesting.

So that's basically Leviticus. Seriously, so fucking boring and repetitive. They have been at Mt. Sinai for the entire book and half of the last one, listening to God lay down random, arbitrary, wandering, repetitive, stupid, tedious laws. The only break in this was the parts where God demonstrates his cruelty and wrath by ruthlessly burning Aaron's sons to death, for no obvious reason, and by ordering the stoning of the guy who blasphemed. And I guess the part where they find out they get to eat their own children if they disobey. Ugh.

This covenant just gets better and better. We've gone from tons of descendants and good land, no strings attached, to you people get to live as strangers in my land, provided you mutilate your genitals, are willing to sacrifice your own children to me, get enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years (at least that part is over now), and you generally have to follow every single one of my stupid little nit-picky commandments, or I'll kill you or send you away. What a load of bullshit.

And this is how God treats his favorite people! What horrible things does he do to the people he doesn't like? I suspect we'll find out soon, if God ever shuts his mouth and they leave Mt. Sinai.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Leviticus 16-19: God has office hours, repeats himself some more

Right, now we're back to bullying Aaron. Man, this "story" jumps around a lot.

God says "I don't want Aaron just going in the holy tent whenever he wants!" So God establishes office hours for himself, once a year, on July 10. He also lays out a veritable gauntlet of tedious ceremony to get in, involving dressing up, a bath, and...you guess it...lots of animal sacrifice!

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again, but this is a horrible book. I mean, look back through this blog, and imagine everywhere I say something like "tedious animal sacrifice," there is a minimum of an entire chapter going into every single detail of how to do it. The same thing. Every. Time. Sooo tedious. Sooo repetitive. Just imagine how much shorter it would be, if they only went into the details one time. Also, there are so many better things to go into detail about. Things that could actually help mankind; I thought God was supposed to be all about that (an idea I certainly didn't get from his book, but rather from his followers...).

Of course, I think I'm starting to get repetitive in my complaining about how repetitive the bible is. But then again, this is just a stupid blog and not a holy book.

Anyway, then God makes a rule that all sacrifices must be done in the tabernacle by a priest. Apparently there was too many people thinking they could just do their own sacrifice! Big problem, that. I see this as simply a way to control people. Though, I can sort of see the appeal of leaving this sort of thing to the experts. I mean, look at how complicated it is, plus God might burn you to death if you do it wrong.

Also, don't eat blood. Guess they're all vegetarians now. I think this has been mentioned like 5 times already.

Now there's a whole chapter about who you can't have sex with. Basically, don't have sex with any family members closer than about...your aunt. Too bad the people in Genesis didn't know that.

Oh, and here is an obvious slap to the face for Jacob: "Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living." Oh snap!

In the middle of this list of family you aren't supposed to sleep with is the religious right's all-time favorite bible verse, Leviticus 18:22: "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable."

After reading this chapter, I've come to the conclusion that the bible is perfectly OK with lesbians. The whole chapter is sort of written from the point of view of the man, in that it just lists all the women you can't sleep with... as in, "don't have sex with your mother." One might assume that also means, "don't have sex with your father." But it doesn't necessarily have to mean that, since it also says "don't have sex with your daughter," which would cover it. And the next verse, 23, is about bestiality. It basically says "don't have sex with animals, and also, women shouldn't have sex with animals." They go out of their way to specify no bestiality for both men and women, but they only tell men not to have gay sex. So every social conservative should be a-ok with lesbians now, right? Lol. Oh well, it's not like I would be OK with throwing gay men under the bus anyway.

I have been yelled at a lot for taking things out of context...how's that for context? Lol.

Anyway... then there is some statement about how this (all the incest, gayness and bestiality) is what the people who are already in the promised land did wrong, this is what they did to deserve what's coming to them. That seems a bit harsh to me. And it seems a bit strange that God cares so much about sex. More than almost anything else, besides the "pleasing aroma" of dead burning animals. God is weird...

The next chapter is titled "various laws." This ought to be good. Really, I think I could have titled every chapter since they arrived at Mt. Sinai "various laws."
  • Be holy, because I, God, am holy
  • Respect your mom and dad
  • Observe the sabbath
  • No idols
  • Do the sacrifices correctly
  • Don't be too careful in your harvests, so poor people can forage in your fields
  • Don't steal
  • Don't lie
  • Don't deceive each other (aka, don't lie? again?)
  • Don't swear falsely by my name!
  • Don't rob your neighbor (or, don't steal...again.)
  • Pay your workers on time
  • Don't curse the deaf or trip the blind
  • Judge fairly
  • Don't spread slander (err, don't lie?)
  • Don't hate a fellow Israelite. But apparently you're free to hate other people
  • Don't bear a grudge
  • No crossbreeding of plants or animals
  • No fabric woven of 2 kinds of material
  • Don't sleep with other people's slaves
  • When you plant a fruit tree, don't eat the fruit til the 5th year
  • Don't eat blood!
  • No divination
  • Don't trim your beard
  • No body modification (tattoos, etc)
  • Don't let your daughter be a prostitute...otherwise everyone will want to do it! OK...
  • Observe the sabbath (AGAIN)
  • No spiritists or mediums (you will be defiled by them!)
  • Respect the elderly
  • Treat foreigners nicely
  • Be fair when you weigh or measure stuff
Seriously, almost all of this has been said multiple times already. God is repeating himself sooo badly.

So, one of the most common things to happen when I try to talk to religious people is that they say "God says being gay is wrong!" Then I say "God also said shaving and fabric blends are wrong. You're just picking out the parts you like and ignoring the rest." Then they say, "you're just taking it out of context!!!" Seriously, I don't see how. The "context" seems, to me, to be that they have been hanging out at Mt Sinai for like 40 chapters, listening to God ramble on incoherently about (mostly) stupid and inconsequential shit that the Israelites should and shouldn't do. In the course of that rambling, he brings up "don't be gay" along with tons of other things, such as "don't shave and don't wear fabric blends." It would be like me saying "picking on the handicapped is wrong, because the bible says so!" But no, I already thought that for myself, it's just a happy coincidence that the bible happens to say so too.

I guess you could say that homosexuality, bestiality, and incest are "extra bad," because God is planning to wipe out entire tribes of people over it (though really, I think they just happen to be in the way and God is looking for an excuse. God knew this was going on happen back in like Genesis 15, but he does absolutely nothing to prevent it), whereas the rest of the stuff he mentions, he's just like "don't do that, k?" But... if you really believed in God, wouldn't you care about everything he says, not just the "extra important" stuff? It's a strange attitude; it's like trying to get away with something. Yeah, I know God said not to shave, but I think I can get away with it... but God seems to really hate teh gay, so don't do that. That just seems to be a strange way to look at it, if you truly believed in God.

Therefore, having read this far, I still say that I am right and they are wrong. These people already decided for themselves that homosexuality is wrong (or, more likely, "icky"), and they should just take responsibility for it rather than saying "God said so!" If they really cared about what the bible says, they would care about the rest of this stuff too, but they don't. And I don't see why anyone should.