So I’m back after my hiatus, caused by my sister coming to visit for a week. It’s been good fun, even if the week included shopping, a shrew in my freezer (don’t ask), more shopping, a manky foot, even more shopping, tea and scones and yes, still more shopping.
I should add that I detest shopping.
Still, I’ve managed to get a few things I needed, so it was worth it. Plus I got to see my sister again, which doesn’t happen very often what with us living in different countries.
Anyway, on to this week’s reading, and it looks like this will be a biggie…
You probably won’t remember, but I left the last post at Ezekiel 40 with more measurements. This continued for a few more chapters, until in Ezekiel 43 it finally became clear that this was just another ‘I’m God and I want you to build me a place to live in according to these exact specifications’. The Bible is clearly still very much in need of an editor.
Ezekiel 44 is very specific about what priests can and can’t do. This includes instructions on what clothes to wear, since they are not allowed to sweat in the presence of God. They cannot shave their heads, they have to cut their hair instead. Also, they cannot marry a widow or divorcee unless she is the widow of a priest. I’m guessing non-priestly widows are unclean.
Ezekiel 46 instructs the people coming to worship at the temple that if they come in through the North Gate, they have to leave through the South and vice versa. With stupid rules like that, no wonder people worship other gods.
And then we’re on to Daniel, which is quite a nice book for a change. Still with Biblical annoyances, but overall very interesting. It starts in Daniel 1 where the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar wants to be served by handsome young men, which to me sounded quite gay – most kings would want to be served by pretty young women. Anyway, Daniel is one of these handsome lads, as well as his friends Chananja, Misael and Azarja. Except they’re in Babylon, so the king renames the four of them to Beltesassar, Sadrak, Mesak and Abednego. (And how sad am I – I remember the last three names from when I was a child.) Not that it matters, because throughout this entire Bible book they are still called by their old names, after which you’re also reminded of their new names. Clearly the Bible expects all readers to have the memory of Israelites.
Daniel 2 gets weird – Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, and wants it explained because it disturbed him. So he calls all his wise men and tells them to explain it, or die. Oh, and since they’ll clearly lie to him to save their lives, they also have to tell him what the dream was, or he won’t believe they’re telling the truth. And if all the wise men are killed then the same will happen to Daniel and his friends, for reasons that were unclear to me. Because logic? I don’t know.
So the wise men quite rightly tell the king that what he asks is impossible, but the king doesn’t care because he’s the king. The wise men go home wailing, and Daniel asks what the problem is. When they tell him, he asks God for help, and is shown both the dream and its meaning. The dream the king had is about this statue with a golden head, silver chest, copper belly, iron legs and feet of clay. Yes, this is where the ‘feet of clay’ expression comes from. It’s all about a mighty empire with crappy foundations or something.
Anyway, Nebuchadnezzar announces that Daniel’s God is mighty and wonderful, then builds a golden statue and commands his people to bow for it. Again, because logic? Who the fuck knows! Because they don’t do this, Daniel’s friends are chucked alive into a burning oven (no idea where Daniel was at this point – on holiday?) but they are saved by an angel who is in the oven with them and keeps them from being harmed. Note that the oven was so hot that the people who threw Daniel’s friends into it died of the heat.
In Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, and this one means that because of his pride he will become crazy for seven ‘times’. Nowhere is it explained how long one of these ‘times’ is. Is it a day? A month? A year? Again, who the fuck knows! All I’m wondering is, say that it’s a year, and the king wanders around like a gibbering madman in the field, eating grass and whatnot, who is king in that time? Did they just wait for him to come to his senses again? Because he does, and then he just goes on kinging. None of this makes any sense!
Daniel 5 is the source of another saying: The writing is on the wall. King Belsassar (not to be confused with Daniel’s other name Beltesassar) is having a party and suddenly notices this hand, writing the words ‘mene, mene, tekel, ufarsin’ on the wall. Daniel is fetched and explains that the words mean ‘counted, counted, weighed and found too light’. Basically, God has judged Belsassar’s reign and found it not worthy of continuation. That same night the king is killed. It doesn’t say how or why, but I guess that’s not as important (or awesome) as a disembodied hand writing gibberish on the wall.
In Daniel 6 there are a bunch of people jealous of Daniel’s success and they contrive to bring him into disrepute with the king. (This is all very reminiscent of Esther. Also, chronologically none of this makes any sense either.) Through trickery Daniel is convicted to death by lions (seriously, you couldn’t make this shit up), but again God intervenes and sends an angel to keep the lions away from Daniel. He stays in the lion pit overnight, and when the king hastens over the next morning to check on him, he is glad to find him alive. Then he chucks the conspirators into the pit. I think. Lemme check…
…Yes. And their wives and children, which I think is rather unfair, but I think I’ve ranted about stuff like that enough by now.
Daniel 7 has some weird-ass dream about animals turning into people, panthers with wings and a monstrous monster with big iron teeth, frightful and immensely strong and with ten horns. Plus an eleventh, smaller horn with human eyes and big talk. Or something like that. You kind of have to read it to believe it.
The remainder of Daniel degenerates into random vague prophecies about things like the ‘King of the North’ doing stuff or having stuff done to him. All it meant was that I couldn’t stop thinking of Robb Stark. Also, someone sensibly asks the question ‘how long’ (before this happens? Before it is done? No idea!) and receives the answer ‘a time, times and half a time’.
Thanks, God, that’s so helpful!
So much for Daniel – onwards to the Minor Prophets, starting with Hosea.
This book starts off well – God orders Hosea to go and marry an adulterous woman, because Israel has been adulterous. God is very big on metaphors with all these prophets. This is carried through in Hosea 2, which pissed me off because it’s all about a woman being adulterous and running after lovers, with nothing being said of the men adultering with her. It takes two to tango, you know.
In Hosea 3, God says ‘Go and once again love an adulterous woman’ so Hosea goes out… and… um, buys one? Fifteen silver pieces and one and a half homer of barley, is apparently the price of an adulterous woman. Who knew?
The rest was the same boring shit I’d seen preached by all the other prophets – stop worshiping other gods, blah, God will punish you, blah, repent and God will be magnanimous, blah.
The second Minor Prophet is Joel, who managed no more than three chapters (against Hosea’s 14). This is all about how the End of Days is upon us, though I’m not sure whether he means the end of days as in Armageddon or the impending exile. But Israel has nothing to fear, nay, they should rejoice for God is good and will save them and pour his holy ghost out onto them, which will make them prophesy and see faces and dream dreams. To me that still sounds more like LSD than divinity, but clearly I don’t understand the might of God. Who will bring drought and destruction until he saves everyone.
Next week I’ll continue with the Minor Prophets – quite possibly all of them. They really are very minor.