Zechariah: Part 2

Uggh.  O.k.  Straight up: Zechariah is the most difficult Bible book review I’ve had to write thus far, and we’re nearly done with the Old Testament.  Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written any reviews, and that is probably partly playing into this, but I swear to you this is the worst.  And why is that?  Zechariah is one of those books that is weird for the first half and then goes completely off the rails in the second half.  And when I say off the rails, I mean really just … I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to make heads or tails of it for weeks now.  I’ve never in the entire time I’ve been reviewing the Bible had to split a review into 2 posts before.  But I did it this time because if I kept this as one post, it was going to be pushing 7,000 words.  Part 1 is here if you haven’t read it, and it covers all Zechariah’s visions from chapters 1-8.

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Zechariah: Part 1

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O.k., well, this is not what I was expecting.  First off, Hi.  It’s been over a year since my last Bible book review.  In case you were sitting there waiting and wondering where I’ve been, as I’m sure so much of my imaginary loyal readership has, I’ve been around.  Just busy with obnoxious stuff.  Well, one of the things keeping me busy was good, which was that I got a new job.  Yay!  The other stuff was bad.  Other than the new job I got, which I am genuinely happy about, 2016 was a shitshow for everyone, right?  It’s not just me?   Right.  O.k. let’s move on.

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Haggai

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Haggai wants you to restore the glory of the Lord’s Temple.  Why won’t you do it?  Just do it, dude.  K?  Alright, here’s what Haggai has going for it: 1) It’s short and sweet: only 2 chapters.  2) Haggai lived in a later time period than all the other prophets so far, which makes his book juusst different enough from the same tired stuff we’ve read for the past 15 books or so, to make it somewhat palatable.  Of all the previous prophet books, the one that had covered the latest time period was Daniel, which covered the period after Babylon defeated and destroyed Judah/Jerusalem, while the Jews were exiled in Babylon.  Haggai comes even after Daniel’s timeframe, which I’ll get into more below.  Is it interesting?  Mmmm Nah.  It’s still pretty boring.  But at least it’s a teeny bit different.

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Zephaniah

1:2 “I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,”  “When I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.

1:17 “I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the Lord. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.

Uuuuuggggggggggghhhhhhhh are we still not done with this shit yet!!??  How many books have I been reading now that are the same. damn. story. over and over and over again?  I’m starting to feel like …

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Habakkuk

Why *are* these things happening, Habakkuk? You tell me.

Why *are* these things happening, Habakkuk? You tell me.

You know, all I can think of when reading some of these minor prophet books at the end of the Old Testament – Nahum, Obadiah, Habakkuk, etc. – is how the hell did I memorize all these book names for my church confirmation process when I was a teenager?  I didn’t know jack shit about what any of the books actually said back then, so what was the point of memorizing all their titles?  It seems ridiculous, but I can’t entirely blame the Methodist church for my lack of proper training, as I wasn’t exactly the best Sunday School student.  If I had only realized what I was missing back then, maybe I would’ve been more interested.  I’d be extremely curious to know how 13  year-old me would’ve reacted to these things.  We’ll never know now.

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Nahum

1:2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.

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Oh really now!  Ya don’t say.

1:7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…

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Oh … uhhh, o.k. thank goodness I was starting to get a little worried for a second there haha because I mean that other verse said …

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Micah

Why do I keep putting off writing this Micah review?  I’ve been busy lately, but that’s nothing new.  Hey that rhymed.  It was an accident.  I ain’t tryna make a poem out of this.  Anyway as I’m sitting here forcing myself to start writing it, I’m realizing the problem – Micah is like the prophet book equivalent of vanilla ice cream.  Take the most generic, stripped-down and standardized “prophet book” outline and then write only that, and you’ve got Micah.  No frills and nothing novel or interesting to jazz it up.  No major hook.

No hot gingers

No locusts

No whale

No lions

No whoore wives

No Samuel L. Jackson reading (or sorta reading) its verses in a classic movie

No bears eating children

NADA.

Just another prophet blabbing about God’s plans to inflict violent punishment on his people.  Yaaawwwn.  OH WAIT – I actually did just remember one thing: This is apparently one of those Old Testament books that the New Testament later references as a supposed prophecy about the coming of Christ.  So, I guess it does have one thing going for it, but unfortunately there’s not much I can even say about that until I get to the part of the New Testament that references it.  I need context.  Well o.k., I’ll do what I can for now.

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Jonah

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You know what’s really weird about Jonah, as a Bible book?  Until now, there have only been a couple books out of the last 25 or so that I immediately remembered the main gist of, from my Sunday school days, before reading them.  There was Daniel, which I knew would involve a lions’ den, and there was Job, which I knew would involve a dude who would get screwed over royally and painfully.  And now, there’s Jonah, which I knew would involve a wha- err … o.k. a “great fish” which would swallow him right up.  But what’s so weird about Jonah in comparison with the previous two books is how utterly simple it is.

Both Daniel and Job – although I had remembered the main gist of each correctly – were far more detailed and/or convoluted than what I recalled being taught in Sunday school as a kid.  Daniel’s backstory leading into the lions’ den tale was quite comprehensive, and then post-lions, his book took a weird 6-chapter acid trip of a turn that I was not expecting.  Job, similarly, spent a surprising 35 chapters on Job & friends just sitting around speculating about God’s motivations for torturing him.  But Jonah, conversely – which is only 4 chapters long – is not only exactly what I learned as a kid, but it provides what might be even less detail than the Sunday school stories as I recalled them.  It goes like this:

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Obadiah

Obadaiah.  Ohhhh badiah.  Have you ever met anyone who gives any craps about Obadiah as a Bible book?  Were you even aware it existed?  I, certainly, had forgotten.  But being that it’s the shortest book in the entire bible, I was absolutely thrilled to get here.

Of course, as it has been with these super short books thus far, Obadiah proved to be a far tougher nut to crack than I expected.  The reason being in Obadiah’s case – All throughout its 21 verses, it references some dude named Esau.  Esau??  Esau who?  That name sounds familiar but … ohhhh right.  If I rewind my brain back 30 books and nearly 4 long years ago, all the way back to Genesis when I very first started this project, it starts to come back to me.  Esau was Jacob’s brother.  We know Jacob well: son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, the father of the 12 sons who make up the 12 tribes of Israel.  God gave Jacob the name “Israel”; he IS The Chosen One – the very father of Israel itself.  But his bro Esau?  We left him in the dust 30 chapters ago.  He was apparently easy to forget for me.

The funny thing is that I’m now recalling that Esau was the founder of a nation that’s been a pretty major player in the Bible thus far – Edom.  Sound familiar?  One of Israel’s neighbors; a Kingdom_of_Edomcountry that, just like every one of its other neighbors – Damascus, Moab, Ammon, etc. – has played the bad guy in these stories on the reg.  And it makes sense, because Esau was cast as the “bad brother” in the fam back in Genesis, and was unfavored by God.  Jacob was God’s fave.  Esau was merely Jacob’s loser brother.  So of course his country of Edom is one of the Bible’s key recurring villains – the Loki to Jacob/Israel’s Thor.

This is all well and good but, how does it relate to Obadiah?  Let’s give a summary of the plot of the book.  It starts off with an introduction of Obadiah.  But where most other books normally give the setting at this point, Obadiah gives zero setting at all (you’ll recall I was also quite annoyed with Joel for this same offense).  All we know at the beginning is, he’s a prophet, and he lives in either Israel or Judah.  Here’s what happens from there:

Obadiah’s all like: “Hey Edom, we’re gonna KICK YOUR FOOKIN’ ARSES!!!  You conceited bastards think you’re hot shit but we’re about to teach you a thing or two when we destroy you!!  Just because you live up in those mountains like big tough guys, you think no one can defeat you, but guess what?  God gave us permission and he’s behind us all the way, so get ready cause we’re coming for ya, bitches.”

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Amos

Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Amos.  He baked some cookies, and then he got famous.

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O.k. fine, the idiocy of that joke is indicative of how hard it’s been for me to start writing this review even though I finished reading Amos over a week ago.  I just don’t know how many times I can review the same story over and over and over again.  We’ve been through 3 major prophets and 3 minor prophets now and it’s always essentially the same thing.  Israel and/or Judah are misbehaving.  God angry.  God angry, god SMASH.  God smash, God smash a lot.  O.k. ohhhh k, God sorry God smash.  God make things better again for God’s people.

hulk-smash11So what’s different or interesting about Amos vs. everything else we’ve read so far?  Per usual let’s start off with the setting and we’ll go from there.  “1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoasha was king of Israel.”  You may recall that both Hosea and Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  They had been the earliest prophets of the bunch so far.  Well Amos, it seems, actually slightly preceded both of those dudes (with some overlap).  His active years were somewhere around the 765-753 BC timeframe, according to the estimates listed on Wikipedia.  Those years are estimated based on the years of the reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah, plus a historically verifiable earthquake that happened early on in this timeframe, which according to this verse, happened 2 years after Amos began to prophecy.

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