Badger’s Bible Project – Ruth

Yes, kids, for the first time we get an entire book of the Bible in one post! How exciting! Of course the entire “book” is only three pages, but there you are.

I will say at the outset that this book surprised me. There’s no god, there’s no angels, there’s no genocide, there’s no smiting. There’s just a lonely, middle-aged woman and her daughter-in-law trying to make a life for themselves, and that’s far more interesting, inspiring and heartwarming than anything I’ve read so far (which, admittedly, isn’t saying much).

We begin with Naomi, a woman who lives in Moab. She’s married and has two adult sons (Mahlon and Chillion), who have married women named Ruth and Oprah. So, apparently the divine Ms. O is older than we’d all suspected. Anyhow, Naomi’s husband dies (Ruth 1:3), and then this:

“Then both Mahlon and Chillion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband” – Ruth 1:5

How unpleasant, and though that’s not something most of us have experienced, I think we can all empathize. What a horrible thing that must be to go through, especially since, as there’s no mention of grandchildren, the sons probably died fairly young. From what I can piece together from my somewhat fragmentary knowledge of ancient Jewish marriages, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sons were in their mid-teens at the time of their deaths, which would be really horrible for their mother.

So Naomi, having lost her two children and her husband, now decides it’s time to leave Moab and return home. She still has her dead sons’ widows hanging around, and doesn’t want them to feel obligated, so she tells Ruth and Oprah that they are welcome to get on with their lives. Oprah agrees, but Ruth doesn’t.

“But Ruth said:
‘Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your god, my god.
Where you die, I will die,
And there be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.'” – Ruth 1:16 – 17

Well, it’s a bit emo and a bit co-dependent, but frankly it’s also kind of lovely. It seems like it’s Ruth saying that she’s with Naomi through thick or thin, even if it means living in a strange land, with new people and worshiping a new god. But is there something else? I don’t know about you, but my third thought upon reading this was, “Lesbians!” Turns out I’m not the only one. I doubt this is meant to be the case. I think it’s just the sort of weird, flowery language of ancient Hebrew by way of Greek and early modern English, but I won’t say it’s outside the realm of possibility. Of course for this to be an accurate view, you have to overlook Ruth spending much of the rest of the book falling in love with a man.

Anyhow, Naomi and Ruth arrive back at Naomi’s hometown where people are pleased to see her, but she seems understandably bitter.

“But she said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.
“‘I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?'” – Ruth 1:20 – 21

Couple of things here. First off, according to my Bible, the name “Mara” means “bitter”, which was a surprise since I thought it meant “unconvincing snake thing“. Second, yeah, I bet she’s bitter! Her husband and sons are both dead, and she’s too old to have any more (Ruth 1:11). I can well understand her bitterness.

Anyhow, it seems that they arrived at her hometown, Bethlehem, just in time for the local barely harvest. Ruth heads out to glean some of the heads of grain from the fields owned by a man named Boaz. He sees her working, and seems quite taken by her, though he starts by referring to her as “my daughter” (Ruth 2:8), which is kind of creepy given what happens later. I assume it’s just a reasonably subtle way of showing that he’s quite a bit older than she is.

He then starts being nice to her, and she’s confused about this, and asks him why.

“And Boaz answered and said to her, ‘It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.
“‘The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given to you by the lord god of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.'” – Ruth 2:11 – 12

Now that’s something that I like. He recognizes that he’s standing before a good and decent woman who made real sacrifices to care for someone who wasn’t a part of her blood family. I like that. I like that a lot.

Ruth likes it, too, and seems to be developing an interesting Boaz, who then does this:

“And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.
“‘Also let grain from the bunches fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.'” – Ruth 2:15 – 16

So everyone seems happy at this state of affairs, including Naomi, who is very aware that Boaz, who is a relative of hers (Ruth 2:20), might be helpful to them in restoring some stability. She actively encourages Ruth to pursue him, saying:

“‘Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor: but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.
“‘Then it shall be, when he lies down, taht you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.'” – Ruth 3:3 – 4

Ruth does this, and Boaz seems quite taken by her behavior. He even makes it clear to all and sundry that in fact nothing happened between them. I kind of like that idea. I find the notion of preserving a woman’s virtue to be very quaint and not out of place here.

Things kind of go from there. Boaz wants to marry her, but knows there’s someone else ahead of him (according to the law), who gets first dibs. He sorts this out by making the other man an offer he won’t accept and then the other man makes Boaz an offer he can’t refuse. The two marry and, unusually for a Bible story, everyone lives happily ever after.

I found that this Bible story was quite decent and enjoyable, once I got past the dense language. At it’s heart it’s about family and love and that’s something that hasn’t generally existed in the Bible in a positive way. It’s also interesting to see that Ruth was able to be accepted as a convert to Judaism, because it’s my understand that that sort of thing was fairly rare back in the day and can cause problems even now.

We end the book on the birth of child to Ruth and Boaz; a child that Naomi helps mother like he was her own.

“Also the neighbor woman gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” – Ruth 4:17

Hmmm…Is that perhaps the David, of whom even I, an atheist, have heard? Perhaps. Tune in next time for the first part of the First Book of Samuel, the first Biblical book to have an official sequel!


Badger’s Bible Project – Judges 9:1 – 12:15

Well, I bet you thought you’d never see one of these again! What can I say? I spent the day working on my Judaism homework for my religions class and got inspired. So here we are. And for the record, the hard part of these is not writing. It’s actually having to read the Bible, the worst, most obnoxious book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read Anthem.

This portion of Judges begins with the rise of Abimelech. Now he’s an unsavory character who decides he wants to take the throne. He does this by wading through the sort of rivers of blood we’ve come to expect from the Bible. He kills all of his brothers (seventy of them), bar one, a fellow named Jotham who is able to hide from the wrath of Abimelech. He tries to warn the people that supporting Abimelech is a somewhat bad idea. They ignore him and make Abimelech king.

Abimelech is clearly a wicked, evil man. Naturally God won’t allow him to remain on the throne that represents his kingdom on Earth, no sir! This is a man who killed his own family to get to the top. If this were a crappy fantasy novel he’d be known as Abimelech Kinslayer, or something equally pretentious and stupid. So of course God doesn’t want this man ruling and decides to do something about it right quick!

“After Abimelech had reigned over Israel for three years…” – Judges 9:22

Ok, so perhaps God’s eye was on the sparrow at the time.

Anyhow, God finally acts against Abimelech and of course a war ensues. Naturally. Abimelech behaves like you’d expect. He goes around raping and pillaging, slaughtering civilians and butchering entire populations. That shows he a bad guy. Unlike, say, Joshua who went around raping and pillaging, slaughtering civilians and butchering entire populations but did so because God wanted him to. That’s how you know he was moral!

He's not quite dead!

Eventually a woman fatally wounds Abimelech who has one of his toadies off him so that no one will say he was killed by a woman. Which of course everyone does. Whatever. Anyhow, here’s the moral we’re supposed to learn from this:

“Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers.” – Judges 9:56

Excuse me? Excuse me?! God repays this wickedness by allowing this man to be on the throne for three years, then lets him go on a killing rampage through the Levant, and this is is some sort of punishment against Abimelech?! I’m very confused here. Surely this would be more of a punishment against the several thousand people he had killed? That also ignores the fact that the sin Abimelech committed wasn’t against the people or against his seventy brothers, but rather against Abimelech’s father. Gotta love Bible morality.

Anyhow, moving on we come to a jolly story about a fellow named Jephthah. Yeah, there’s a name that doesn’t have it’s teeth in. He’s born of a harlot, from what I can tell, l but goes on to great things, eventually becoming a great military leader. At one point he decides to make a promise to assure victory for his side.

“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If you will indeed deliver the peoples of Ammon into my hands,
“then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” – Judges 11:30 – 31

Well, there’s no way that could possibly backfire. So let’s see what happens, shall we?, when Mr J comes back home.

Jephthah, about to have a very awkward conversation.

“When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timberells and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her had neither son nor daughter.
“And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it!'” – Judges 11:34 – 35

Well, what the hell was this idiot expecting? Was he keeping chickens in his house, and expecting one of those to come out joyously greeting him? Cows, maybe? Most likely he had slaves, and perhaps expected one of them to come running to say hello, which is a pretty grim thought all on its own. Instead out comes his only child and his reaction is not, “Oh, crap! You have to die, you poor child! My heart weeps for you!” Instead its “Well, my life sucks!” What a prick. A stupid, bloodthirsty, prick.

As for his daughter? Well, her reaction is interesting.

“So she said to him, ‘My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.’
“Then she said to her father, ‘Let this thing be done for me; let me wander alone for two months, that I might go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.’
“So he said, ‘Go.’ And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains.” – Judges 11:36 – 38

“Bewailed her virginity”?! What the fuck?! Her own father is about to butcher her for God and her first thought is, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be getting laid now.” I mean, look, I like sex an awful lot, but I think in that case my least reaction would be “I don’t want to die a virgin”. I think it would be “A two month head start? Hot damn! How far is it to China?” And seriously, if I was that concerned that I wasn’t going to get laid, I’d find the nearest Israelite shepherd boy and take him to the Promised Land. It reminds me of something Pauline Kael once wrote about the potential virgin sacrifice in Dragonslayer, where she wondered why the young maiden in question didn’t work with the hero to get herself disqualified on technical grounds.

But this girl is apparently as stupid as her father, for rather than fucking the nearest shepherd boy and making for China, she instead goes back home to be murdered. Possibly she’s hoping that God will pull a divine “You been punk’d!” as he did with Abraham and Isaac. If so, she’s seriously out of luck as he father lives up to his promise and murders her for God.

Well, how delightful.

This raises the question of exactly why God let him go through with it. Perhaps God wanted to teach Jephthah a lesson about making unwise promises? Perhaps he really wanted the girl dead? Perhaps he just didn’t care? No matter what his reason, the fact that he let it happen adds further evidence to the fact that, as far as fictional characters go, God is about one of the most evil there is, especially since he knew what Mr J would see upon returning home (omniscient, remember?). But he let it happen anyhow. What a charmer.

But lest you think we’re done with Jephthah, think again. He goes back on the road, killing as he goes. Eventually he runs afoul of a group called the Ephramites. When they try to escape from him he sets up a simple little trap. Anyone who can successfully say the word “Shibboleth” is clearly not an Ephramite, as they pronounce it as “Sibboleth”. Indeed. Now it could just be me, but let’s say I’m an Ephramite and I see my friends going forth and trying to say “Shibboleth” and screwing it up. I think I’d spend the next several days learning how to make the “sh” sound. Maybe some of them do that and get through, but most of them don’t. How many?

Forty-two thousand.

Careless talk may indeed cost lives, but it’s pretty clear that even a basic speech impediment, while it might make for great cinema, can be fatal as well.

Next time! We finish up this horrible book with the story of the Bible’s biggest moron, Samson!

Badger’s Bible Project – Judges 1:1 – 5:31

Welcome to the next part of my Bible Project, covering the first few chapters of Judges!

This is an odd book so far. It introduces the concept of the judges, features a couple Tarantino-style scenes and brings us lots more appalling behavior on the part of God and the so-called “good” people of the Bible.

The book begins in the aftermath of the genocidal campaign waged by Joshua against the Canaanites. He didn’t finish the job, so it’s up to Judah to lead the charge against the perfectly innocent, blameless civilian populations of Canaan who made the mistake of worshiping the wrong god. I wonder if he’ll show more restraint than Joshua?

And Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they attacked the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah. – Judges 1:17

Guh. I wish that surprised me. Also, for those of you who, like me, missed the first time the word “Hormah” was used (Numbers 21:2 – 3), you’ll be pleased to know that it means oh, all sorts of bad things.

Now we come to one of the stranger parts of the Bible so far.

This image and more available at! Seriously!

So the Lord was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron. – Judges 1:19

I wrote an entire blog article about this verse back when I first started this site. It’s a weird verse no matter how you slice it. It says that the army of God was defeated because the enemy had iron chariots. So, what, God can’t overcome iron?

Even now, almost two years after I wrote that article, I still don’t get it. Like I said in my article, it’s clearly a case where the Jews, who were probably using bronze weapons, were outmatched by an enemy who knew how to forge iron. Fine and dandy. They faced someone who had better weapons than they did and lost. That makes sense from a military angle.

But it doesn’t make sense from a theological angle. Is God omnipotent? Then his army should’ve walked past the chariots without any problem. Is God the only god? Then no one should be able to outmatch him or do anything to impede his will, right?

There’s one explanation that makes sense in many ways which is that God isn’t the only god around. That perhaps Baal and some of the other gods mentioned in the Bible were real and not just false gods.

Speaking of other gods…

Then the Angel of the Lord came up from Gigal to Bochm, and said, “I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you.
‘And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. Why have you done this?
“Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare to you. – Judges 2:1 – 3

Wow, the Israelites have fallen away from God. Again. Water is wet, rocks are hard… yeah.

Anyhow, it sounds as though the Jews have started practicing some form of religious tolerance by not tearing down the altars in the lands they’ve invaded. God doesn’t cotton much to this and so he says, “From now on, you’re on your own when attacking the enemy! Have fun!”

I must say, I really don’t understand why the Jews would be falling away from God so much. He’s not exactly the god of nothing at this point in the story. He’s up and wandering around a lot, showing off actual miracles, dispatching angels, etc. One would think people wouldn’t need to believe, they’d just know he exists because they’d see direct evidence. Once they know that, why would they ever follow any other gods?

But apparently that’s exactly what some of the Jews began to do, converting over to the Canaanite faith and worshiping other gods.

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals;
and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them, and they provoked the Lord to anger.
They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So he delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and he sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. – Judges 2:11 – 14

Ok, so. Let’s make sure I understand this. Some of the Israelites started to worship other gods. It doesn’t say that they aren’t still worshiping God, but it does make it clear they’ve started to worship Baal (a Canaanite god or various other things, depending) and Ashtoreth (a Canaanite goddess known to many as Astarte). Please note: the Bible doesn’t say at this point that Baal and Ashtoreth aren’t legitimate gods, they just aren’t the God of the Bible.

Which brings us to another point. Which god is God? I’m currently reading The Evolution of God and I’m at a part where the author is talking about El and Yahweh, two Canaanite deities who some believe were later merged together to form what the Bible describes as God, and a god that even features elements of Baal. The author also expresses the notion that, far from being outside invaders, the early Jews were, in fact, Canaanites themselves, but ones from a different group from other Canaanites.

From a historical standpoint, this makes a great deal of sense to me. We know there’s no record of the Jews having been slaves in Egypt. We also know there’s no historical record of the Exodus. So the idea that the early Israelites might’ve just been displaced Canaanites makes quite a bit of sense.

Anyhow, this is an issue worthy of its own blog article, so I’ll have to write up one later. For now, moving on!

Next we come to a bit where God makes it plain that he’s done doing favors for the Israelites.

Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and he said, “Because this nation has transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded my voice,
“I will also no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,
“so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord to talk in them as their fathers kept them, or not. – Judges 2:20 – 22

Here this seems to be an explanation for why bad things are happening to people. It’s because God got pissy, threw a tantrum and stormed off, leaving the Israelites to their fate. Theodicy, I suppose. Of course it could also just be a retcon by the Jews of the time to explain why suddenly they were having setbacks.

Bad things happen to the Israelites and the next thing you know, they’re under the thumb of Eglon, king of the Moabites. This leads to a great wailing and gnashing of the teeth by the Jews, so God raises up a Judge to go deal with the problem.

Judges, from what I can tell, are not judges in the legal sense, but rather they are more like generals, or the sort of Judges one might’ve seen in Final Fantasy XII. They seem to basically be generals mixed in with priests.

The Judge that God sends to deal with Elgon is a chap named Ehud who is, among other things, left-handed. Go, southpaws!

So God dispatches Ehud and brings the Bible a vaguely Tarantino moment.

So Ehud came to [Elgon] (now he was sitting upstairs in his cool private chamber). Then Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” So he arose from his seat.
Then Ehud reached with his left hand, took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly.
Even the hilt went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the dagger out of his belly; and his entrails came out. – Judges 3:20 – 22

Well. Uhm. Yeah. Almost like, “Don Corleone has a message for you,” eh? I mean, yipe! The Bible is seldom this gruesome or, it must be said, this interesting, though I notice we’re still torturing grammar. When “he” and “his” are used up there, it is sometimes unclear as to who is being talked about; the king or Ehud.

Anyhow, Ehud makes his escape.

Then Ehud went out through the porch and shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.
When he had gone out, Elgon’s servants came to look, and to their surprise, the doors of the upper room were locked. So they said, “He is probably attending to his needs in the cool chamber.”
So they waited until they were embarrassed and still he had not opened the doors of the upper room. Therefore the took the key and opened them. And there was their master, fallen dead on the floor. – Judges 3:23 – 25

Goodness. Sounds rather like how Catherine the Great had died. She suffered from a stroke while sitting on the toilet and her servants dallied around for quite some time before going in to check on her. Messy.

Now we come to the story of Deborah and Barak. Deborah was one of the Judges, and good on her for accomplishing that! Not too many women rose up to such positions, I am sure.

There’s also a story centering around the hunt for a general named Sisera. He commands the army of Jabin, an enemy of Israel. Deborah sends Barak and some others off to battle with hopes of finding and killing Sisera. This works less-well than they had hoped and Sisera gets away.

Or does he?

However, Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Herber the Kenite; for there was peace between Jabin king of Hazor and the house of Herber the Kanite.
And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; do not fear.” And when he had turned aside with her into the tent, she covered him with a blanket.
Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened up a jug of milk, gave him a drink, and covered him.
And he said to her, “Stand at the door of the tent, and if any man comes and inquires of you, and says, ‘Is there any man here?’ you shall say, ‘No.'” – Judges 4:17 – 20

Hmmm. Well, ok, maybe he did get away clean. He found a friendly woman who is hiding him and giving him milk, though he requested water. That seems a little odd. Actually, something about the whole scene seems a bit odd. Let’s push on and see what happens next.

Then Jael, Herber’s wife, took a tent peg and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, and it went down into the ground; for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
And then, as Barak perused Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek.” And when he went into her tent, there lay Sisera, dead with the peg in his temple. – Judges 4:21 – 22

… holy crap. I mean, wow. That’s even worse than Ehud offing the king. What a gruesome story! We can call her Jael the General Slayer.

Needless to say the Israelites wind up beating the crap out of the enemy and then we have something called the Song of Deborah and Barak and then that’s it for this part of the Bible.

So, thus far Judges is not impressing me. There’s still a lot of evil being carried out by the supposed good guys, and a lot of conquest and nastiness. Still, I gotta admit I like the quotable lines (“I have a message for you from God”, and “Come, I will show you the man whom you seek”). Plus the narrative is at least better than Joshua.

Next time on my Bible Project, we meet Gideon who proves that skepticism is alive and well in the Bronze Age!

Badger’s Bible Project – Joshua 7:1 – 24:33

After a bit of a delay, here’s the newest part of my Bible Project; the remainder of Joshua!

Ah, Joshua. Josh. Joshie. Yeshua. His friends called him… I don’t know, really. I’m tempted to say he probably didn’t have any friends, but then again he likely did. You know who else had friends? That’s right. Hitler!

Anyhow, last time we saw him, Joshua was leading a massacre worthy of any done by the Nazis. One would presume he would show more restraint now and not bother to kill entire populations of cities. One would be wrong.

Before we get to the killing of entire populations, however, we have to get to the killing of one man. Well, and his entire family.

See, it seems that something is awry among the Israelites. Joshua prays to God who basically says, “Listen, jerkstores, one of your pals stole something he shouldn’t have (instead of things he should have), and so you’re suffering as a nation until this one person is dealt with! Yeah, that’s how I roll!” (not an exact quote)

Joshua does some poking around and eventually finds out that a fellow name Achen was the culprit! What did he steal? Some clothes, some silver and some gold. Seems like a minor offense to me compared with, say, helping butcher hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent children, but what do I know?

Naturally the Israelites are going to show all the restraint you’ve come to expect from them and God.

Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achen the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.
And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. – Joshua 7:24 – 25

So again we see a case where a man sins, is punished far out of proportion to the actual crime and then he, and his entire family (apparently, though the text isn’t quite clear on this), are brutally murdered en masse by the entire nation. I wrote just yesterday about people being stoned to death. Good to see some folks still embrace the olde tyme religion, eh?

Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m still wondering why the hell the Bible feels the need to emphasize that people were stoned with stones and burned with fire. I wasn’t expecting them to be stoned with, say, clams and burned with taffy. What a badly-written book!

Now for those who believe Jericho and the slaughter therein was a one-time event, think again. Though it gets less attention, the destruction of Ai (no relation to Ur, Uhm, Eh, Ah or Ee), is just as unpleasant as that of Jericho.

And it came to pass when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness where they persued them, and when they had all fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai and struck at it with the edge of the sword.
So it was that all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand – all the people of Ai.
For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as booty for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which he had commanded Joshua. – Joshua 8:24 – 27

Well, I see there’s one lesson God learned: he’s letting them loot now. Obviously he, in his eneffable wisdom and might, realized that expecting soldiers not to loot back then would’ve taken more than even God was capable of.

On the other hand, we also see that he’s continuing to be a bloodthirsty monster and urge his people to go out and kill thousands of innocent people whose only crime was not being Israelites. I don’t know about you, but if I lived in the next kingdom over, I’d look at this and start wondering how the hell I was going to not be killed off.

Turns out that’s exactly what the good folk of Gibeon were thinking. They make a plan that involves them pretending to be from a far away land. They then set out to make at least some sort of peace with the Jews. When asked why, they have a fun little reply.

… for we have heard of his fame, and all that he did in Egypt. – Joshua 9:9

So apparently all God’s bragging about his evil plans in Exodus paid off. Nice!

Anyhow, the Israelites are all excited about this (though probably bummed that they don’t get to wade to triumph through a river of blood), and they accept a deal with the Gibeonites without consulting God (Joshua 9:14), who could have prevented the upcoming situation, but presumably he was out watching sparrows at the time.

Needless to say the Israelites figure out this little deception and aren’t happy. Joshua pulls aside the Gibeonites and says, “WTF, mate?!”

Then Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you, when you dwell near us?” – Joshua 9:22

Naturally the Gibeonites look at him and, basically, say, “What, are you stupid?”

So they answered Joshua and said, “Because your servants were clearly told that the Lord your god commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all t he inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. – Joshua 9:24

Well, Joshie is pissed about this, but since they promised to let the enemy live, there’s nothing to be done, so instead he turns them into slaves. But, hey, at least they’ve got their health!

Now is the time where, if I were ruling one of these cities, I’d start talking with all my neighbors and say, “Hey, these Israelites are planning to kill all of us. What say we team up and do something about this?”

This is basically what happens, as a bunch of kings get together and go attack the Gibeonites. They complain to their new masters and war happens.

During this war, something very, very strange happens.


This never happened.

Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lor delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon.
And Moon, in the Valley of Ajialon”
So the sun stood still,
And the moon stopped,
Till the people had revenge
Upon their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. – Joshua 10:12 – 13

Ok, there’s a lot of weirdness here.

First, is it just me, or does that sound like some badly-written attempt at haiku? Let’s see if I can do better.

The Bible sucks ass.
It’s a really awful book.
I hate it a lot!

So, not great, but at least I keep the 5-7-5 going!

Second, the Sun stands still in the sky? Really? The Moon, too? That’s interesting, because that would require that the Earth stop rotating and that the Moon does t he same. Oddly, there’s no effects of this sudden disruption upon the environment. Also, this great celestial event goes unnoticed in the rest of the world. Almost like it never happened at all! Hmmm…

Lastly, the Book of Jasher? My Bible does not have this book. Turns out no one else’s does, either. Read more about ths and some more of the Bible’s Greatest Blunders here!

The next couple chapters are pretty self-explanatory. The titles are “Joshua Conquers the Land” and “The Kings Defeated by Joshua.” Right after that we get some more badly-written Bible verses as one verse, 13:13, tells us that Joshua is old and advanced in years and then, in the same verse, has God tell Joshua the same thing. Argh, I hate this book!

The rest of Joshua’s story seems to consist of nothing more than the Israelites dividing up the spoils and high-fiving each other on a job well done. The Levites get cursed, an Altar gets built and then, finally, Joshua makes his farewell address. The first line has an air of deja vu about it.

And Joshua called for all Israel, for their leaders, for their elders, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers, and said to them, “I am old, and advanced in age.” – Joshua 23:2


Eventually Joshua up and dies at the age of 110. Not a bad run. He’s burried rather specifically.

And they burried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Serah, which is in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. – Joshua 24:30

Great! The next verse also mentions Joseph’s bones being burried there, so why not go dig them up? I mean, that’s a pretty specific place, yeah? So let’s go digging, and see what we find. Surely if we find the bones of Joshua and Joseph, that helps the cause of the religious out there, right? Of course I think this is as likely as finding the Garden of Eden where it’s supposed to be.

So that’s the end of the Book of Joshua. What a horrible book. What horrible people! Like I’ve said before, we, as a people, are more moral than God, at least going by what he does in this book.

I find it interesting that people still think Joshua was a hero. It’s a sort of culture blindness, I guess, like the one in Romania that leaves people there believing that Vlad Tepes was a great guy because, even though he slaughtered many people in horrible ways, hey, he defended Christianity!

Next time, we see how God is like an old-world Celtic faerie!

Enslaving Canadians

My mom sent me the following in an email. Enjoy!

Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?

October 2002

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted fan,

(name removed)

Note to Stumblers:
Some comments criticizing this piece indicate that it was “hijacked” from a West Wing episode.

Badger’s Bible Project – Numbers 15:1 – 21:35

So here we are again! Yes, another part of my series on the Bible!

You may have noticed there’s quite a gap between posts lately. Well, this is partly because I have other things going on in my life and partly because Numbers is really, really hard to read. I can’t wait until I’m outta the Pentateuch and onto the regular stories again!

Anyhow, gird your loins, cause here comes some more of Numbers!

We start with laws concerning offerings. What a zesty, exciting read this isn’t! Nevertheless, I do find one part to be of interest.

Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day.

And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation.

They put him under guard, because it had no been explained what should be done to him. – Numbers 15:32 – 15:34

Now what, I ask, do you think a good punishment should be for someone in this case? Here we have someone who committed a “crime” by violating a “law” that said you can’t do any work on the Sabbath. Gathering sticks apparently counts as work. So what would a reasonable, rational, compassionate, just society do in this case? Well, they probably wouldn’t have a law like this in the first place, much less consider it a crime worth punishing. Frankly, that’s the kind of stuff the Taliban does.

Gimme that old time religion!

Gimme that old time religion!

Speaking for myself, I’d say, “Yeah, whatever, next time stock up on sticks the night before. Now go away.” But what does God do? What does the Bible tell us is the right, correct and moral thing to do?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.

So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones and he died. – Numbers 15:35 – 15:36

How is this right and proper? This man hurt no one; he just gathered sticks on a day he shouldn’t. We don’t know why. Perhaps he was sick the day before, but needed to have wood so he could have a fire that night and not freeze. Perhaps he just felt like gathering sticks instead of sitting on his ass, or donkey. Either way is this really a crime that should be punished by something as horrible as stoning a man to death? This really is an awful way to die. Just imagine for a few moments what it must be like. You stand there, waiting for the rocks to fly. The first one hits you. You stagger a bit, but then its friends arrive, hitting you everywhere. You try to cover your head and other vital parts, but it does no good. Eventually a few hits to the head land and you die in great pain, misery and anguish.

Yes, just the exact punishment anyone should receive for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.

Moving on past this sad scene, we go past a would-be rebellion. David Plotz, in his articles “Blogging the Bible”, which inspired my articles, comments on this by saying:

An astonishing rebellion against Moses (and God). A Levite named Korah and a few sidekicks denounce Moses and Aaron: Moses has cut the people off from God and tried to hoard God’s love for himself. The rebels declare: “For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourself above the Lord’s congregation?”

This may be the first recorded example of what has become the fundamental conflict in all religions: religious elite vs. the people. (See, for example, the pope vs. Martin Luther.) Korah asks an essential question: Why should the few priests and prophets monopolize God? What’s so great about them that they control access to the divine? In the 3,500 years since, many religions have come down on Korah’s side of this question, deciding that God belongs to the masses, not an anointed elite. But the Bible doesn’t. It rules emphatically—smitingly—for Moses and Aaron, for the few rather than the many.

He has a point there. The Bible doesn’t view this sort of thing the same way we do. Rather like most of the rest of the Bible, it’s got very little to do with modern reality. No sane person these days would believe it’s really ok to stone someone to death for working on the Sabbath, and the vast majority of people would likely agree that you don’t need a priest or a minister to have a relationship with God (though many would say it’s helpful to have one).

Of course God punishes these rebels with death, naturally, and kills their wives and children, too. Again, a wonderful example of a Bronze Age mentality (the sins of the father are visited upon the children), that, according to the Bible, is perfectly fine and acceptable, but which these days would be regarded as appalling and evil.

Not long thereafter the Israelites start bitching about this and so God kills off a great many of them cause, you know, dissent cannot be tolerated. Charming.

Moving on, we see at the end of chapter 20 that Aaron has died. Meh. Good riddance.

Then we come to an odd part of Numbers. The Israelites are bitching about food again. God gets pissed about their constant complaints and so responds as any rational deity would: he sics flaming serpents on them.

So the Lord sent firey serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people died. Numbers 21:6

Ok, as one of my friends would said, “omgwtfbbq?” This is a very odd, though at least somewhat creative, way of killing people. But Moses eventually intercedes, trying to ruin God’s fun. God could, of course, just snap his fingers and banish the serpents to the Land of Wind and Ghosts, but no. He has a much more complex and weird idea.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a firey serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.

So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. – Numbers 21:8 – 9

That’s just… bizarre. I mean… wow. That’s so weird I don’t even have a good reply. Damn. I mean, why not just get rid of the serpents? Why set it up so that people are still getting bit, but can fix their bites by looking at a fake snake? This is just truly strange.

Onto one slightly amusing passage where we find out God is, perhaps, a bit of a frat guy at heart.

From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” – Numbers 21:16

So! Apparently there’s a place called Beer where we find a well. I don’t know. It’s not all that funny, really, but given the tone of the Bible, I’ll take my jokes where I find them, thank you.

And that’s enough for now! Next time, we see Balaam and his talking ass! Get your jokes ready, people!