Bible Project Part 18 – Amos 1 to Malachi 4

Wohoo, I made it to the end of the Old Testament! I did it in 18 weeks, so at about 40 minutes per day, five days a week minus a few holidays and bank holidays, I make that about 56 hours worth of reading. Not very intent reading, mind you (or at least not all the time), but that means I spent more than two full days reading the Bible. So far.

Sheesh.

So anyway, as promised I rattled through the remainder of the minor prophets (especially Malachi, since it was Friday and I had half a page left to go while being only about a minute away from my bus stop), and here is the roundup.

Let me start by giving all twelve of them in full, Dutch names in brackets: Hosea (Hosea), Joel (Joël), Amos (Amos), Obadiah (Obadja), Jonah (Jona), Micah (Micha), Nahum (Nahum), Habakkuk (Habakuk), Zephaniah (Sefanja), Haggai (Haggai), Zechariah (Zacharia) and Malachi (Maleachi). They’re called the minor prophets because all these books are very short. Hosea and Zechariah as the longest two manage 14 chapters each, while poor Obadiah only manages the one chapter. The rest generally manage about three or four.

Sad little factoid: I can still rattle all twelve of the minor prophets off by heart. In fact, I can still name all 39 Books of the Old Testament by heart, though I have to do it in chunks and I might mix a few of them up. I can also not tell you which book comes after any of the 12 minor prophets without rattling off all 12 of them. (What comes after Habakuk? Um, Hosea, Joël, Amos, Obadja… etc.)

I’ve covered Hosea and Joel, so lets move on to Amos. Let me say btw, that all these minor prophets do the same as the major ones did: they predict doom, gloom, exile, misery and lots of wailing, then subsequent saviour by the Lord, who is benevolent and loves his people. (We’ll get back to that later.)

So, Amos. These are the words written down two years before the earthquake, so all I could think was ‘what earthquake? Did I miss an earthquake?’ I’d have thought something that important would have been mentioned before, but I guess even after 18 weeks I’m still expecting too much from the Bible.

Amos then proceeds not being able to count. Or actually, I suppose it’s God who can’t count, since Amos just passes on what he’s being told. He keeps saying things like ‘for three transgressions, yea, for four shall I punish thee’ to various cities and people. After which he then generally mentions only one transgression. In Amos 7 he has visions, and in the third of those God threatens to put a plumb line among the people, for he will spare them no longer. I am still puzzled about what this will achieve, because personally I wouldn’t be very frightened of a plumb line, but then who am I?

Other than that it’s still the usual crap – God will punish Israel, then restore them forever. Because history has shown him that surely they’ll never sin again, and he can trust them to be faithful.

I have literally nothing to say about Obadiah other than ‘omg this book is short!’. Oh, and it’s the evil uncle from the first Iron Man movie.

Jonah is quite funky – unlike all the other prophets, when Jonah is called to service by the Lord, he legs it as far away as he can manage, boarding a ship in Tarsis to cross the sea. God is a bit pissed off at that, so he sends a mighty storm. The sailors on the ship fear they will be shipwrecked and ask Jonah what to do, and Jonah (in my mind very resignedly) says ‘yeah, it’s my fault, just chuck me overboard’. Which they do, and he’s promptly swallowed by a big fish. (In the Netherlands everyone always assumes it’s a whale, but the Bible doesn’t actually specify.) After three days God takes pity and the fish spits him out on dry land (how??) and Jonah sits down to thank the Lord (why??) and then (still resignedly) goes to Nineveh to preach death, doom and destruction, as the Lord commanded him. In a shocking twist (possibly the best twist in the entire Bible) the people of Nineveh actually listen and mend their ways and God decides not to destroy them after all. Jonah is pissed off at this, because he’s had to leave his home behind when he knew God would change his mind anyway. God then berates him by growing a tree overnight and then killing it after a day by letting a worm sting its roots (what kind of worms do they have in Nineveh??). Again, this is some kind of weird metaphor, and I think Jonah had a fair point about God being fickle. I rather like Jonah, I imagine he may have been cool enough to be sarcastic.

Micha is more of the same – there is talk of lamentations like jackals (can kind of see that) and cries of mourning like ostriches (?? what the hell do ostriches sound like??). I believe this is also the first book where Bethlehem is mentioned as the birthplace of the Messiah.

Nahum actually sees behind the fake mask of benevolence God tries to present. Almost the first words in this book are ‘A jealous God and an avenger is the Lord, an avenger and full of wrath; an avenger is the Lord to his opponents, and he will remain angry with his enemies.’ And then in Nahum 2 Nineveh gets sacked, so I guess God changed his mind again.

Habakkuk berates the Chaldeans for travelling through the world taking possession of dwellings that do not belong to them. Hello, isn’t the pot calling the kettle black there? I seem to recall that’s exactly what the Israelites did when they arrived in their land of milk and honey.

Zephaniah is, yet again, more of the same. God shall wipe the earth clean of everything – plants, animals, fish, birds, people, everything. Even though I clearly remember him saying in Genesis, after the flood, that he’d never do such a thing again. Other than that it’s all doom, gloom, woe and blah.

In Haggai God has a good whine because people have dared to rebuild their houses but not his temple. It’s all ‘why should you live in nice cosy houses and not I?’ and ‘why did you spend so much time building your houses nice and sturdy while I have nowhere to live? I will give you crap harvests for that, until you’ve rebuilt me a nice, cosy temple!’. Because guess what? God’s a dick.

Zechariah is another prophet with visions. There’s horses (horsemen?) and a smith shattering horns and a dude with a measuring tape. I must admit I was rather losing interest at this point, because even the visions were getting boring. But then Satan turned up, woo! I think this was kind of like a trial in heaven where Satan accused Zechariah (don’t ask me of what, that appears to have been irrelevant) but then it kind of fizzles out and Zechariah gets new clothes. The rest of the visions involve flying scrolls, a woman in an efa (which is some kind of measuring vessel? I think?) and four wagons. Then Zechariah asks ‘what does it all mean?’ and God answers ‘don’t you know?’ At which point I’d have said, ‘No, I fucking don’t, or I wouldn’t have fucking asked, would I?’

In Zechariah 5 godlessness is represented by a woman, so once again – fuck you, God. Also, in chapter 13 he claims that he will wipe out all the names of all the false gods so no one will worship them anymore. So I have just one question: If you can do that, why didn’t you do so two hundred fucking years ago? Or however long it’s taken to get from Exodus to here. It’d have saved you all that trouble and I wouldn’t have had to sit through 56 hours of this drivel.

Malachi is a bit of a blur due to the aforementioned ‘nearing my bus stop’ incident, but it was all doom and gloom and destruction anyway, and God whining about people sacrificing damaged animals to him, because I guess they don’t taste as nice if they’re missing an eye? Whatever.

And that is it, the end of the Old Testament! So what have I learned from it? I shall try to summarise it in one pithy sentence:

God is a fickle, gullible, vengeful, genocidal dick with a foreskin fetish.

There, now there’s no need for you to ever read the Old Testament.

<– Back to part Seventeen                                                                     On to Part Nineteen –>

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