II Samuel

We get a second book of Samuel, even though Samuel died halfway through the last one. We did see Samuel one time after his death as an especially pissed off ghost: does this second book indicate that he will keep turning up as an undead cranky old man? I hope so! But probably not.

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I Samuel

I was misled by the brevity of Ruth. I forgot how long and repetitive a Bible book typically is, and embarked on I Samuel with good spirits, before slowly realizing that it is longer and more tedious than the pandemic has been. I feel completely beaten down by it. It’s the one where we meet David. Let’s get into it! 

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Ruth is a sudden and extreme departure from everything we have read until now. First of all, the Book is the story of a woman with a name. Second, in the very first chapter, we are introduced to three women all with names, none prostitutes, and are told of the closeness and loyalty of their relationships. It’s hard for me to express just how wildly unprepared for this tonal shift we are by anything that has come up in the Bible thus far. It is as if we have been reading XXX Big Jugs and Extreme Car Crashes magazine, and suddenly there is a long personal essay about raising an abandoned baby bird by hand. 

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The LORD was already half out the door in Joshua, but by Judges, he is only checking in on the Israelites every 40 years or so. They are still His people, technically, but His heart hasn’t been in it since Moses. He’s clearly spending the bulk of His time elsewhere and I’m curious on what, because the LORD is not the sort of deity to entertain himself with books or board games. If He’s not torturing an Israelite, He’s got some other chosen people on some other planet that he’s toying with. 

In this book, the Israelites repeatedly fall off the wagon and start worshipping pagan gods (as we always knew they would), at which point, the LORD gets angry and delivers them into the hands of their enemies. They are enslaved for many decades, and then a man among them prays to the LORD for deliverance, and He sends an angel or similar to help that man deliver the Israelites from bondage and then that man rules over them as a Judge for the rest of his lifetime and things are peaceful. Then, he dies, the Israelites go “a-whoring after other gods” (a-whoring we will go, hi ho!), and the whole cycle repeats. 

We’ll examine each Judge in turn, and then I shall rank them worst to best. 

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I don’t know why I was under the impression that Deuteronomy was an action chapter. It has the least action of any chapter up until now. It opens with Moses delivering one more sermon from the LORD — apparently, the nation of Israel has been chilling on a mountain top with Moses for awhile now, and it’s time for them to be moving along to conquer Canaan. Moses queues up a misty memorial to the sound of flutes, reminding everyone of all they’ve just been through together. It’s a bit passive-aggressive as it’s mostly him reminding them of all the times they’d ignored him and tantrumed against the LORD and gotten what was coming to them, and I guess this is a stage of aging because I recall that my grandparents also spent a lot of time on the ‘remember that time I was right about everything’ highlight reel in their later years.

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Is the endless boring slog of reading Leviticus and Numbers intended to mimic the Israelites’ tedious decades-long trudge through the desert? At the beginning of Numbers, the Israelites have been in the desert for only two years and one month. This seems impossible, given that I feel like it has been at least fifty years since they left Egypt, but having recently lived through 2016 until now, I understand how a year can feel like a decade. 

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This will be a shorter entry, because Leviticus is boring as toast and nothing happens in it. The whole book is just, here’s all about burnt offerings, and also, don’t eat any fat or blood. 

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Is there any figure more truly tragic than Moses? Moses had the shittiest job imaginable (he was the first middle manager), and he was also in a deeply abusive relationship with God. You want to reach back in time and grab him by the collar, shake him, and say, “Moses! He doesn’t really love you! No one who really loved you would ever treat you this way!” 

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I recently started poking around in the Bible as research for a personal project. I’m an atheist, but I was raised a Christian and went to religious schools and then I struggled with my spirituality for awhile, so I’ve actually read the Bible quite a lot. It’s been maybe fifteen years since I last looked at it, and I’ve been enjoying it this time around. 

I think previously when I read the Bible, it was too fraught for me to find it entertaining, but now that I’m past all that, I can appreciate how enjoyable the Bible can be, if you overlook all the awfulness. I don’t think many people actually read the Old Testament, so I thought I’d blog about it as I go along. 

And so. GENESIS. Where it all began.  

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