Another marathon session this week, mainly because these couple of books are a lot easier to read than the repetitive crap in the Pentateuch. I made it all the way from the tail end of Judges through Ruth (which is admittedly a very small Bible book) and through both books of Samuel. The names of the books of Ruth and Samuel are easily explained, and are the same in Dutch as they are in English. Ruth is named after the Moabite woman whose story this is, and Samuel is named after the man of God who appears to be one of the first prophets, maybe even the first one.
First I had to deal with the tail end of Judges, however, which proved to be one of the more repellent stories I’ve read so far. There’s this man, who has a concubine, and she runs away back to her father. After a while he goes to visit her father to get her back, but when he wants to leave her father keeps delaying him so that he can’t get back home in one day. He decides to stay the night in Gibea, a city of the Benjaminites, and is offered hospitality in the house of some old geezer. Then suddenly it’s Sodom and Gomorrah all over again, because all the men of the city surround the house and tell the old geezer to send out his guest so they can have sex with him (which I still have trouble believing – no way is everyone in that city gay, so is it some sort of humiliation thing? whatever).
Just as before the geezer implores the people not to do this, and offers his virgin daughter and the man’s concubine instead. The men don’t listen, but the concubine is shoved outside anyway, and is raped to death.
I’m not entirely sure how the man wasn’t expecting this to happen, but when he finds her on the doorstep the next morning she’s dead, so he cuts her into twelve pieces and sends them out into all of Israel. Because that’s obviously what you do to your concubine who’s just been raped to death.
Anyway, all of Israel is outraged and they decide to go put Gibea to the sword, except the rest of the Benjaminites say fuck you, we’re on Gibea’s side. So there’s a big battle and all of Benjamin is pretty much eradicated, except for six hundred men who flee into the desert.
Then, suddenly, the other tribes feel remorse and lament the fact that Benjamin will now no longer be among the tribes. They decide not to pursue the six hundred survivors, but they won’t be able to procreate, because the other tribes have sworn an oath not to let their daughters marry Benjaminites. What now? How to ensure that the Benjaminites won’t become extinct?
Fear not, there was one city in all of Israel which didn’t march on the Benjaminites, so they just go and kill everyone in that city except the virgins, which are all handed over to the Benjaminites. Except there’s not enough of them, so the rest is advised to go and steal some girls at a local festival. Because hey, women are just cattle and commodities, you don’t have to worry about how they feel about the whole thing.
After all of that, the book of Ruth is quite tame (and sadly missing from the Brick Testament). It’s also sort of sweet, to Biblical standards. I haven’t really got more notes on it than that, other than registering my surprise at the fact that Ruth is King David’s great-grandmother.
So on we go to the double Book of Samuel. It’s surprisingly readable, and most of my notes here are random comments: 1 Samuel 1 – Samuel’s mother Hannah is infertile (which seems to happen a lot to favourite wives) and promises God that if she gets a child she’ll bring him to the temple as soon as he’s weaned. It seems pointless to me to ask for a child only to then give it up, but hey.
1 Samuel 6 – The Ark of the Covenant is captured by the Philistines, but it gives them tumours. The Philistines decide to give it back to the Israelites with an offering of golden tumours to appease God. Ew. So the Ark returns to the Israelites, but God’s a dick and kills everyone who looked at it.
1 Samuel 9 – The people want a king, and God selects Saul to be that king. Saul is a Benjaminite, which struck me as odd given the things that happened at the end of Judges.
1 Samuel 15 – Saul is punished by God for doing something perfectly logical, i.e. not killing perfectly good cattle. He even intended to sacrifice it to God! But no, obedience is more important, and God commanded him to put everyone and everything to the sword.
1 Samuel 16 – David was a ginger!
1 Samuel 17 – Goliath is said to be ‘6 el and a span’. In here ‘el’ is the Dutch word, because I don’t know the English equivalent, though Wikipedia puts it as a ‘cubit’. In any case, translated to proper measurements this means that Goliath was nearly three metres tall.
1 Samuel 18 – David wants to marry Saul’s daughter Mikal, and Saul demands 100 Philistine foreskins as a bride price. I don’t think I want to be at their wedding breakfast…
1 Samuel 25 – David has to flee Saul’s ire and Saul gives Mikal to another man, but that’s okay because David acquires two more wives elsewhere.
1 Samuel 31 – End of this book, with Saul’s death.
2 Samuel 1 then immediately appears to contradict the way Saul died.
2 Samuel 2 describes the friendship between David and Saul’s son Jonathan, which appears to have been a proper bromance.
2 Samuel 3 – David has six wives by now.
2 Samuel 11 – David spies Bathsheba, the wife of the Hittite Uria, calls her to the palace and gets her pregnant. To solve this awkward problem he has his army general put Uria at the front of the next battle so he gets killed and David can marry Bathsheba. He clearly liked her a lot, because her son Solomon becomes the next king. Another interesting detail is that David was beloved by God and did nothing wrong in his entire life except for this little mishap. Considering God’s wrath for minor offenses such as not killing perfectly good cattle when you’re commanded to, I’m getting more and more pissed off at God for being an arsehole.
2 Samuel 16 – David’s son Absalom tries to take the kingship and chases his father from the palace. His father’s advisers then tell him to have sex with all of David’s 100 concubines on the roof of the palace, in full view of the populace, so they know he’s king or something. I’m now imagining people sniggering down below and making snide remarks about his virility or lack thereof. How long would it have bloody taken him to service 100 women? Or did he have a few at a time?
Owait, there were only ten. Sorry, my handwriting on the bus gets a bit wobbly at times.
Anyway, here is the lego version of this fantastic tale.
2 Samuel 18 – Absalom gets his just rewards for trying to usurp his father and is killed while hanging from a tree by his hair. David then spends several days bewailing his death, until his advisers tell him to man the fuck up and stop mourning a son who tried to kill him. Finally some decent advice!
2 Samuel 20 – So what is the fate of the ten poor concubines who were raped by Absalom in full view of the people? Solitary confinement for the rest of their days, that’s what. I guess I should be surprised they weren’t killed.
2 Samuel 24 is the last chapter, and it confuses me. David invokes God’s ire by counting the people? What? There’s probably some context I’m missing here…
So that was mainly the story of Saul and David, with a few cameo appearances from Samuel. I’m not sure why these weren’t the Books of David, but hey. Next week I’ll move on to the Kings, who mostly seem to be good at pissing God off, with the result that Israel gets increasingly fractured. Watch this space.