Saturday, March 4, 2017

Just some amusing observations about the Bible

There are a few things in the Bible that I have to admit have always amused me because when I sat down and did a little thinking about them, some of the things that occurred to me struck me as funny.

1. That scene in Acts where Herod is speaking to the crowds, they all proclaim his voice is like that of god instead of man, and then it's reported that since he didn't give glory to God, he was eaten by the worms and died.

I have to wonder, does this mean a bunch of worms consumed him from the inside out, or did they literally pop out of the ground like in Dune and eat him alive? Either way, it's a blackly comical image if you ask me.

2. In Leviticus, if you made a grain offering, you were supposed to offer cakes or wafers made of fine flour, or crushed heads of new grain if it was an offering of the firstfruits.

I did a little research, and I realized that technically, corn harvested when the seeds are dry count as a grain product, and popcorn would be about the same size as the wafers of grain specified, and since grain offerings were supposed to be prepared with oil and salt, it would have been acceptable to offer a bowl of popcorn as a grain offering. Even corn itself offered as a firstfruit offering would be acceptable, as you can harvest dried corn and offer the seeds dried and crushed like you would heads of wheat.

3. In another moment of black comedy from Leviticus, Aaron's sons Nadab and Elihu screw up, offer fire not consecrated to God to his altar, get immolated for it. Sin offerings are made in restitution for this, and Moses later chews out Aaron for not eating the portion of the sin offering alloted to the priests.

Aaron's response amounts to "My sons got burnt up, you want me to eat meat that was sacrificed to atone for their screw-up like I'm supposed to be happy they died?"

Moses' reaction was basically "Yeah, you got a point there."

Even more interesting, Aaron was correct in that he was not compelled to eat his portion if he didn't want to. As defined by God, it was a privilege granted the priests, not an explicit order that they had to do on pain of death.

It was also a nice loophole around the whole prohibition on the high priest (which Aaron was) not letting himself become unkempt and letting himself go if a close relative died. Since he couldn't do that, he settled for denying himself some free barbecue to show he was in mourning, and since there was no rule saying he had to eat his portion of the sin offering (it could either be burned up or another priest could eat it), it kept the rules from being broken while letting Aaron show he was in mourning at the same time.

4. Around the time King David was being chased out of his own kingdom by his rebellious son Absalom, he got two sets of advice on how to deal with his dad before he could strike back.

The smart chancellor Ahithophel knew David had a long history as a guerrilla fighter and had almost been killed by Saul more than once because David couldn't withstand sustained pursuit, so he advised to get a strong force of soldiers they could drum up ASAP and take him out immediately.

However, a guy who pretended to defect from David suggested something really dumb: Wait till you have a massive army, then crush your dad with overwhelming might to prove you're the mightiest in the land.

The latter advice was really dumb because it gave David time to gather his own forces and prepare for that sort of crap, and when Ahithophel saw this advice was swallowed by Absalom hook, line, and sinker, he hung himself because he realized this was gonna go so wrong there was no way he wasn't gonna get executed once David won.

5. Also, the elements of Absalom's rebellion are also funny in a really dark way if you think about it.

First, he establishes his claim as king in Hebron, the same town David did before the last elements of Saul's family got killed and the rest of Israel decided to accept David as king.

He then further decides to rub salt in the wound by taking all the ladies in David's court and sleeping with them, in public, as a metaphorical and even in some ways literal, "fuck you dad".

This wound up imploding after Absalom wound up pushing daises, but it's still hilarious how he went out of his way to spite his own father, especially when you remember earlier on David outright forgave Absalom for cold blooded murder of his brother Amon (who raped their sister Tamar).

6. And, as if the comedy in David's messed up family isn't hilarious enough, it gets even more comically stupid in the case of the succession crisis between Solomon and his brother Adonijah.

Around the time David was dying, he made it pretty clear Solomon was getting the throne. However, Adonijah, being older, assumed since he was the older brother it was gonna go to him by default, and so tried to seize the crown anyway, prompting David to speed up Solomon's coronation from his deathbed, and when Adonijah heard this, he basically peed himself in fear when Solomon found him in the temple of the Lord clutching the horns of the altar like Linus does his security blanket.

Solomon was actually pretty nice about it and told him to just go back home and he'd let the whole thing slide.

Before I go on, this was pretty merciful, since royal succession crises can end in rivers of blood, so you'd think Adonijah would be grateful he was let off so easily and keep his mouth shut.

Nope. He instead attempted a backdoor into gaining power again, by asking Solomon's mom give him a woman who basically served as David's bedwarmer in his old age (she slept in the same bed to keep him warm since he found it hard to stay warm by himself) to be his wife, which was essentially, had it gone through, been Solomon's mom all but saying Adonijah still had a legit claim to the throne.

When Solomon heard this, he decided he had been an idiot to be so merciful to his older brother, and he basically declared Adonijah had earned the right to see what his entrails looked like in broad daylight.

7. And for my last mention of hilarious stupidity in the Bible, let's cover Joab, the bloodthirsty yet competent CINC of Israel's armies under David.

Joab had two brothers, Abishai and Asahel, and all three served David with distinction, but of them all, Joab lived the longest, and we'll get to why in a moment.

Joab was essentially David's right hand man after David became king in Hebron after Saul died, and while engaged in a civil war with one of Saul's remaining family members, David wanted the war to end in as little bloodshed as possible, since Saul has been anointed by God and had been murdered, and David had made a promise to Saul's son Johnathan he would show as much mercy to Saul's family as he could. Another reason was that Saul's former right hand man Abner was propping up the Saul loyalists, and since Abner had been David's former boss once, David really wanted to win Abner over to him as well.

Joab didn't care, and after a brief parley/exhibition match between the two sides ended in some bloodshed, Asahel chased after Abner, who had similar feelings of "can't we just end this peacefully?", Asahel refused to stop chasing him after multiple attempts by Abner to get him to cease pursuit failed, and so Abner had to kill him in self defense.

Later, Abner briefly convinced Joab and Abishai to let it go because of that, and they did, temporarily, but Joab later decided to screw up Abner eventually being willing to defect over to David and had him killed in cold blood because he wanted Abner to pay for Asahel's death, even though it had been self defense and it had been war, that's how that sort of thing works.

David was pissed at Joab for this, but since the death of Abner had been of tactical benefit by crippling the Saul remnants, not to mention Joab was deemed scarier if he defected to the enemy, David let him off then with a strong condemnation, though he went out of his way to apologize for Abner's murder, even giving him a state funeral in the process.

However, Joab still remained as David's top general, and to give Joab credit, he was an effective guy at the job, and when David decided to off Uriah so he could have his wife, Joab reluctantly but loyally followed David's orders to basically set Uriah up to be killed.

Later, Joab's murder streak got bigger around the time Absalom rebelled, and while Joab joined David, David put a guy called Amasa in Joab's place as top general, and Joab didn't like that, and Amasa wound up getting shanked later. But before that, despite David's explicit order to capture, not kill Absalom, Joab found the kid caught in a tree by his hair and had him killed on the spot anyway.

Again, to be fair to Joab, he did make a good point to David later to quit insulting the guys who fought for him during the rebellion by spending more time mourning Absalom than honoring their sacrifice, and even Joab had the good sense to realize that when David later called a census of the fighting men of Israel (instead of relying on the Lord to bring victory) that it was really dumb idea, but David ignored this and God made him pay for it later.

Joab's karma finally caught up with him around the time of Solomon-Adonijah succession crisis, because as part of David's deathbed orders to his son, he wanted Joab to be made to pay for all the murders he had tallied up. And, when Joab stupidly backed Adonijah for the throne, he gave Solomon the perfect excuse to have Joab killed right in front of the altar of God, where like Solomon's older brother he was clutching onto the altar's horns like a coward, hoping no one would kill him in a holy place.

The dark irony in this is that the price for murder was one's life in exchange for those who killed another, so by slaying Joab in front of God's altar, it was essentially a guilt offering to atone for Joab's murders, so Joab's little plan was a failure before it even started.

It bears mentioning that despite all of Joab's military accomplishments, he never made it into the ranks of the Thirty, which was basically David's version of a special ops team of badasses, while even Abishai made the list, as did Uriah, who David had arranged to have killed (it was mentioned prior to this Uriah was an honorable soldier of David's who refused to be derelict in his duty even on orders from the king because he had an obligation to his military duties, which was part of the reason David had him arranged to die), yet Joab never made the list.

As additional salt in Joab's wounds, even his ARMORBEARERS made the ranks of the Thirty, one of them being of Ammonite descent, a tribe God had had a longstanding hatred of for screwing over his chosen people, but Joab himself was never considered one of them.

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