Like water torture, I am continuing the drip, drip, dripping of the Bible. Joshua is an incredibly dull book—wars, circumcision (“At that time the Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.” – A SECOND TIME?!), the walls of Jericho fall down.
Judges continues the dullness with a bit more spice, continued wars but then there’s a lady who nails someone in the head to kill him, and the weird decision to draft every man “that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth,” and the dude whose skull was fractured by a woman who then asked his servant to kill him so that people wouldn’t be able to say that a woman killed him. Our pal Samson (the strong hairy dude) is in here, shorn of his strength then he grows it back and pulls down the pillars of a house to kill everyone. Then there’s a scene with an eerie echo of Sodom, a man goes into a house and townsmen beat at the door saying they want to “know him” (bugger him) but the master of the house says don’t do such a wicked thing but here’s my daughter. Violent rape ensues and she dies on the doorstep of her father’s house the next morning. Jesus fucking christ. But the horror isn’t over—her body is then cut into 12 pieces and sent to all the coasts of Israel. WTF!? Then there’s some low-key kidnapping of wives and finally we get to Ruth.
Ruth, what a delight! The first book named after a woman, I settle in and am excited to read about her and Naomi (her mother-in-law). This is a welcome change from the war and violence of the previous seven books of the Bible. Ruth marries Naomi’s son who dies, and Ruth clings to Naomi, then she is married off to a kinsman, Boaz. We hear about the custom of giving someone your shoe as a testimony for confirming a land transaction? “Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor: and this was a testimony in Israel.” Ruth has a son and is the great-grandmother of David. Is it the famous David of Golliath? We’ll have to wait and see! And I’m ready to continue flipping pages of this delightful tale when, whoops, Ruth is over. Only 4 chapters?!
Samuel 1. Lots of killing, wars. Some weird thing where god turns Samuel into “another man”?? Saul is trouble from the start, hiding from everyone but he’s tall so his hiding place discovered easily. Then Saul becomes a mad king and we meet David, the gentle harp player/shepherd who’s known for taking down Goliath with a single stone before sawing his head off and parading around with it. (I guess you had to come with receipts to prove what you’d done.) Saul tells David he can marry his daughter Michal, but instead of a dowry he wanted 100 foreskins of the Philistines. What is up with this obsession about foreskin/circumcision? David overachieves and brings 200 foreskins. Saul keeps trying to kill David so he escapes, and when he’s recognized pretends to be mad (has lots of practice from seeing Saul up close, foaming at the mouth). Surprise: there is an extended discussion of fortune telling in here! (1 Samuel 28:7-19) Samuel, who’s dead, gets brought back by a spiritual medium and he tells Saul that he’ll die tomorrow. Which he does and David comes out on top.
Samuel 2. More killing, rape, incest. Good times. King David has an all-night dance party (he “danced before the lord with all his might). There’s a special form of torture where they “shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks”. I vaguely remembered a Biblical tale of David and Bathsheba which is here: David spots Bath-sheba washing herself and she was “very beautiful to look upon” so he gets her pregnant and then has her husband sent off to be killed in war. More rape in 13:14 where Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar; this is revenged 2 years later when Tamar’s brother Absalom kills Amnon. This causes Absalom to flee from David’s wrath and leads to this curious exchange: he sends for Joab to be a messenger between him and David but Joab refused to come. After the 2nd time he refused to come, Absalom told his servants to set Joab’s barley field on fire, which they do, and Joab comes running, WTF are you doing, mate? Absalom sends him to talk to David for him. Later, Absalom humiliates his father David by sleeping with David’s 10 concubines in a tent on the roof of his palace so the whole town can see. During battle, Absalom gets caught in a tree and Joab walks up to kill him with 3 darts. David mourns his son’s death, “Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” What’s refreshing in all these violent, ruthless, devious books is the near absence of that vengeful god—most of the blathering is being done by humans instead of a jealous spirit. The ark, however, is being yanked around and moved from place to place still.