Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Amos. He baked some cookies, and then he got famous.
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.
So 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.
Can someone please explain to me what this book is about so I can write a review on it? Do you wanna know what the entire description of Joel is in the first section of its Wikipedia page? Here you go:
The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible. Joel is part of a group of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets.
Riiiigghhhht. Clearly I’m not the only one who has been left confused. Joel is 3 chapters long, which I thought would make it a super easy read (and review). Turns out I was sorely mistaken. I mean it was a quick read, sure, but that doesn’t mean I had any idea what was going on or what the point was. I still don’t.
1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him,
“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her,
for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
1:3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Gomer, daughter of Diblaim
Hosea … more like Ho-sea!! Amiright folks?? Looks like Israel’s been hoin’ around with every Tom Dick and Harry she can get ‘er paws on eh? Yeah. That disturbing analogy has been used several times in the Bible so far, but with Hosea, we manage to get an entire book about it. Yay!! So if you’ve been reading the Bible up till this point and thinking, “You know, I’m kinda bummed that we’ve only focused on degrading women some of the time so far … I’d like more of that,” then you’re in luck! Hosea is the book for you.
Here’s the scoop. We’ve gotten several books leading into this that are considered as the books of the “Major Prophets” – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Hosea, a far shorter book than any of those ones, apparently starts off the 12 books of the “Minor Prophets” that seem to be the ones that close out of the Old Testament. I think we’re in the home stretch here, folks.
In terms of chronology, Isaiah lived and prophesied first, during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Then came Jeremiah, who lived through the Babylonian takeover of Judah/Jerusalem. Then lastly was Ezekiel, who showed up during the Babylonian exile. He started later than Jeremiah but overlapped him by a good bit, as far as I can tell. With Hosea though, we rewind back to the time of Isaiah. Hosea’s timeframe is listed here as being during the reigns of the exact same kings – Uzziah through Hezekiah. Both these guys were around before and into the takeover of Israel by the Assyrians, which happened a good while before the Babylonian takeover.
And the man upstairs, I hope that he cares
If I had a penny for my thoughts, I’d be a millionaire
We’re just three M.C.s and we’re on the go
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego
– Daniel Chapter 3 Verses 16-18
O.k. I kid, I kid. If there’s anything Daniel has done for me, it’s to suddenly put meaning behind one of my favorite Beastie Boys songs, which has existed for over 25 years without me ever quite understanding what was happening in the lyrics. Even the names, especially Abednego, I always kind of just mumbled along with the song and assumed I was speaking gibberish. Like the time my aunt Debbie got caught singing “She’s got a chicken to ride” to the Beatles at a party in junior high. But hey, as it turns out, I was actually pronouncing Daniel’s buddies’ names pretty well this entire time.
You know what’s crazy about Ezekiel? Two things:
- It took me so ridiculously long to get through all 48 chapters this book, and it was so mind-numbing, that by the time I finally went to type up this post, I nearly forgot to lead off with the Pulp Fiction connection.
- As disturbing as this scene is when put into the context of a Bible blog, it literally is no different and no less violent than Ezekiel itself. Put God in the Samuel L. Jackson (Jules) role and it’s 100% accurate. Just replace the gun with swords and arrows and stuff. Game of Thrones style.
The verse they quote as “Ezekiel 25:17” in Pulp Fiction is not actually a real bible verse. But the tail end of it, especially the most memorable line – “And you will know my name is the LORD, when I lay my vengeance upon thee!!” – really IS the way verse 25:17 ends. It’s also a phrase that is repeated over and over in various forms throughout Ezekiel. Funny thing is, Pulp Fiction‘s version of a fictional Ezekiel verse is actually a hell of a lot more pleasant than most of the stuff in Ezekiel itself.
Well hello there. Hi friend. I’m back.
Considering how long it has taken me to read and review the last few books, I finished this one at warp speed, relatively. That may or may not have something to do with the fact that Lamentations was 5 chapters. As opposed to Jeremiah’s 52 and Isaiah’s 66.
What can I say about Lamentations? Well, here’s what it has going for it, other than brevity: its name describes its subject matter to a T. This book is traditionally believed to be the lamentations of Jeremiah regarding the destruction of Jerusalem. Although according to Wiki, it’s no longer generally accepted that Jeremiah actually is the author. No matter. Point is, someone is sad about the destruction of Jerusalem and the people of Judah, and he is writing about it in the form of 5 poems (I say “he” because if the Bible has taught us nothing else, it’s that women are generally useless for anything other than bearing children and helping to clear the way for the men to take charge).
Wiki also points out that God doesn’t speak in this book at all, which I didn’t even notice until now. Considering how pissed off and murderous God was in the last several books (err, most of the Bible books so far), he is not someone I missed in the least here. It’s just the author (maybe or maybe not Jeremiah) lamenting about how badly God screwed the Jews over, and then, later, saying, “Oh well, I guess we deserved it.”
I’m not even gonna bother with a “Good Stuff” and “Bad Stuff” section for this book, because it’s short and there really isn’t anything that could be described as “good” here. It’s actually annoying, because at first the book tricks you into thinking that the author is legitimately taking God to task for his insanity, with verses like the following:
6:19 Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in time of distress, to you the nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, “Our ancestors possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. 16:20 Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!” 16:21“Therefore I will teach them— this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the Lord.”
19:7 ”In this place I will ruin the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. 19:8 I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. 19:9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.”
That’s right, bitches. God is going to make you eat your children. And then after you eat your kids, you’re gonna have to eat your friends. Because you’re a disloyal a-hole. All you had to do was remain faithful to God, but oooohhhh no. Oh no Mr. Man. You just couldn’t do it. You had to start worshiping all those other gods out there. All those FALSE idols. And now the time has come to pay the piper, buddy boy.
Ack, this is bad. I was doing so well for the first half of last year, and I certainly slowed down in the second half, but still. I didn’t expect my progress on Isaiah to be this close to the speed of molasses. Slllooowly dripping molasses. It’s not entirely unexpected though. The last few books I’ve read have been in the short to medium length range, which spoiled me a little. Isaiah, however, was 66 chapters. Combine a long book with content quality that is somewhere between mind-numbing and nearly useless, and you’ve got me taking 4 full months to complete the damn thing (and then even longer to write this review). Well, and an extremely busy and stressful stretch at work certainly has not helped either.
Why are Isaiah’s eyes so bloodshot here??
But honestly, Isaiah felt like such a waste of time that it had me wondering where it would rank in a “Most Useless Bible Books” list. The books that have felt very useless to me thus far have been the ones that a) rehashed stories from previous books (e.g. 1st and 2nd Chronicles), and b) were very repetitive and added very little new information or revelations that hadn’t already been covered in previous books (e.g. Psalms). Isaiah, for the most part, is guilty of BOTH of these things (though I know Christians will disagree with me on this for one specific reason, which I address in the “Interesting Stuff” section a little ways down this review).
This book is named Isaiah because it is supposedly told by the 8th century prophet Isaiah ben Amoz. Wikipedia has a good breakdown of the book’s story sections:
- Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1–39), containing the words of Isaiah
- Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40–55), the work of an anonymous 6th-century author writing during the exile
- Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), composed after the return from exile.
O.k., I’m still not doing well with my productivity level here. I’ve been on an 8 chapter book for two full months now. And in the end it only took me two nights to read it. I just took a loooong time between each of those two nights. This time my excuse is a) an overseas vacation and b) work got really busy. And oh right, I’m a horrible procrastinator. Uggh.
Anyway, let’s discuss Song of Solomon. This book is … weird. Seriously, it has to be the strangest book I’ve come across in the Bible thus far, by a long shot. First off, like Psalms and Proverbs, it’s not told in story form. Rather it’s more of a collection of poems/songs … or maybe even just one long poem/song, for all I can tell. Second, this book has nearly zero intention of trying to teach any sort of life lessons about God or about anything really, save for maybe one or two lines here and there. And lastly, all the poems/chapters in this book are on the same topic: love, and sex.
Oh man. I really have not been doing well with these ever since Psalms, have I? At least I had an excuse with that one; it was 150 chapters. And then Proverbs was another 31. Ecclesiastes, however, was all of twelve chapters, and it took me a month and a half to get through it. Yikes. That pace is a liiiiiiiiiiittttle on the pathetic side. I’ve been blogging weekly on another blog on an entirely unrelated topic, which, I’ll be honest, has completely distracted me from this Bible Reviews project. I’m still on it though, as you can see. I’m just slow. Luckily the next few books are short.