An Update

As you may have noticed, I did not return to Bible blogging last Thursday. The feedback I got regarding the hiatus was overwhelmingly, “Your take on the Bible is interesting, but why put yourself through that?”

Wise advice from my trusted friends and advisers, I think. So the “Atheist Reads the Bible” project is on permanent hold for now. I did have someone suggest that I approach it a whole book at a time and give a more general overview, which is an idea I may eventually circle back around to. But not yet.

I’m really enjoying not reading the Bible. It gives me a whole extra hour every day for the important things, like sleep, Netflix, and cuddling with cats!

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A Brief Hiatus

I am really burnt out on this Bible reading and blogging project. For the last 2 weeks or so, it has been an absolute struggle to force myself to sit down and do my daily post. One of the perks of being an atheist is supposed to be not having to slog through boring, outdated, misogynistic, murderous old holy books .

Before I started this project, I google’d to see if it had been done before, and it turns out that the internet is littered with the remains of dead atheist bible reading blogs. That should have been a sign, I guess. I really don’t want to be just another failed attempt at this, but I need a break.

So, since yesterday was the last day of 1st Samuel, I think this is a good time to take a little break. I’m hoping that a mini vay-cay from the Bible will give me the renewed focus I need to pick back up and carry on. Hopefully a short break will prevent complete and utter give-up-ing in the near future.

Here’s an outline of how I want this to go: I’m going to take off tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday. I have a test tomorrow that I’ll be studying for tonight, then plans with real people I like a whole lot more than the Bible on the other 2 nights. Then I want to jump back in to this with the book of 2nd Samuel on Thursday.

If  you think this blog project is worth continuing, please let me know. (I’m not doing it if nobody’s reading it. Ain’t nobody got time for that.) The peer pressure of knowing I’m slacking on something that people like will hopefully be enough to bring me back.

Also, I think I need to focus on including more posts that aren’t Bible related. I read back through some of my old posts from pre-Bible blogging times, and I was actually well written and (I think) interesting. I don’t feel that way any more. So, I’m also soliciting suggestions on what else you fine folks would like to read about.

Until then, dear readers, have a great couple of days! I’ll see you in a few!

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1st Samuel 28-31

Chapter 28- The Philistines decide to go to war against Israel. Achish makes David one of his chief guardians. Saul is afraid since he knows God has departed from him, and none of the prophets have been able to tell him what will happen. Saul has banished all mediums from the land, but he is able to locate one and he  goes to visit her. She brings up Samuel’s spirit. Samuel tells Saul that Israel is going to lose to the Philistines, and that Saul will die. Saul is distressed.

I find it interesting that David is going to fight for the Philistines. I know he’s the future king of the Israelites, but teaming up with the Philistines to accomplish that goal feels a little dirty to me.

The story of Saul going to a medium reminds me a lot of the show Merlin. Saul/Uther banish mediums/magic, but when shit hits the fan, they’re both willing to break their own rules. Such hypocrisy.

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Also, did the Bible really just admit that mediums are actually effective? That we really can communicate with the dead? My religious upbringing taught me the exact opposite, and so I’m more than a little surprised to find this in the Bible. 

Chapter 29- The other Philistine commanders aren’t happy that David and his men are taking part in their fight against the Hebrews. They think he will switch sides mid-battle, so they demand that Achish send David home. David protests, but eventually goes. 

Wise men. I still don’t see this David/Achish alliance working out well for Achish.

Chapter 30-When David and his men get home, they find that their city has been attacked by Amelekites, their homes have been burned, and their families taken captive. David finds an Egyptian servant who had been abandoned by the Amelekites in a field, who agrees to lead them to where the army is camped. David kills them and steals their stuff/families back, as well as taking some spoils of war. The men who fought with David didn’t want to share the spoils with those who were too sickly to fight, but David forces them to.

Giving livestock to people who didn’t earn it? SOCIALISM!!!!!

Chapter 31- The Philistines kill a whole bunch of Israelites, including Saul’s son Jonathan, and wound Saul. Saul commits suicide so as to not die at the hands of “uncircumcised men.” The Philistines display his body on a wall, but some people come and steal the body and burn it (respectfully, like cremation, not like a witch hunt.)

Suicide as a better option than being killed by another race of people. Why am I not surprised by the Bible’s racism?

 

 

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1 Samuel 25-27

Chapter 25- Samuel dies. The people mourn and bury him. There is a rich man named Nabal who acts like a jerk to David and his servants. David plans to kill Nabal and all his men, but Nabal’s wife Abigail brings presents to David and talks him out of it. God ends up killing Nabal anyway, 10 days later. David takes Abigail for a wife, as well as another woman named Ahinoam. Saul gave David’s first wife Michal to another man.

We’re only in the book of 1st Samuel, but Samuel is already dead. I’m rather curious what 2nd Samuel is going to be about. Is there going to be another guy named Samuel?

Hooray for another story where David takes the high road and avoids slaughtering his enemies!

This business with David’s wives feels unseemly to me. God kills Nabal on behalf of David, and then David immediately proposes to Abigail, not giving her any time to mourn her dead husband. Granted, it basically says that Nabal was an asshole to her, so maybe she was just that grateful to David for rescuing her. David also immediately takes another wife, Ahinoam, who we are told pretty much nothing about. And then there is this one verse, “But Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish who was from Gallim.” (44) What in the world is up with that? I know David left Michal behind when he had to flee from Saul, but how does that give Saul the right to give her to another man?

I suspect that Saul considered Michal to be David’s abandoned property, and thus gave her to another man so he wouldn’t have to support his daughter any more. Or, to try to emotionally wound David. Either way, ugh to the way women get treated in the Bible!

Chapter 26- Saul and his men go out in pursuit of David again. When they are camped that night, David and one of his men sneak in to Saul’s camp, where God has put everyone in to a deep sleep. David’s servant Abishai wants to spear Saul through the head, but David won’t allow it. Instead, he steals Saul’s spear and water jug, then sneaks back out of the camp. From a safe distance, he hollers at Saul’s camp, rebukes Abner (the commander of Saul’s army) for being asleep and not protecting Saul, and asks Saul why he is trying to kill him again. Saul apologizes again, and they go their separate ways again.

I really am happy to see David taking the high road on so many occasions and not killing people willy-nilly. But, a little part of me wants him to just off Saul already. This guy clearly isn’t going to keep up his end of the don’t-hunt-David-down-and-try-to-kill-him bargain… and, maybe the Bible’s murderous ways gotten in to my head. Shame on me. David’s doing the right thing.

Chapter 27- David realizes that Saul isn’t going to give up trying to kill him, so he flees back to Achish, king of Gath (a Philistine). He lives with the Philistines for about a year and a half, then Achish gives him his own place to live in Ziklag. David goes out and kills Achish’s enemies, and Achish believes that David will be his faithful servant from here on out.

Ah, David’s murderous side has returned! “Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camel, and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish.” (9)

I suspect that Achish is in for a surprise when David betrays him. I feel it coming.

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Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

What is compelling these Philistines to trust David, anyway? He has a history of killing the Philistines, and gained his fame by taking out Goliath. I’m not entirely sure why Achish thought it was a good idea to take David in and trust him.

 

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1st Samuel 21-24

Ugh, today is a 4 chapter day. Thankfully 3 of them are short.

Chapter 21- David goes to priest Ahimelech and asks him for bread and a sword. The priest gives him holy bread and Goliath’s old sword. Then David goes to see Aschish king of Gath, but ends up fearing for his life because Aschish’s servants think David is also a king. To protect himself, he acts like a madman and drools on himself.

This chapter is confusing.

“And the priest answered David and said, ‘There is no common bread on hand; but there is holy bread, if the young men have at least kept themselves from women.’” (4) What? The grammar in that sentence is all kinds of vague. I first interpreted it as “The bread only exists if the men are virgins,” not “You can only have bread if you haven’t had sex recently”, which the context seems to indicate is the more accurate interpretation.

But, it’s only been 3 days since they were with women. Good to know that 3 days of heterosexual abstinence is all that’s required for a man to become holy enough to eat God’s special bread.

I’m also curious how the servants of this other king were able to recognize David. I can see why his name would be famous, what with the whole slaying of Goliath thing, but how did they recognize his face? How did anybody know who anyone was in the days before camera phones and the internet?

Chapter 22- David flees to Adullam, but his fans find him. Then he goes to stay in Moab and asks the king to shelter his parents. The prophet Gad tells David to go stay in Judah. Saul hears about the travels of David, and calls Ahimelech the priest in for questioning. Saul doesn’t like what he hears, so he has 85 priests killed, and the entire town of Nob destroyed. One of Ahimelech’s sons survives, and goes into hiding with David.

Again, I have to wonder how people knew where David was. He was hiding in a cave! It seems that privacy never truly existed, even in the days before everyone would “check in” on Facebook.

Saul is just making things worse for himself. If you’re afraid that David is going to rise up against you, you should probably avoid pissing off everyone else too. Allies are an important thing to have, after all.

Chapter 23- David hears that the Philistines are attacking the town of Keilah, so he goes there and defeats them. Then Saul hears that David is in Keilah, and makes ready to attack them to get a David. David, with Jonathan’s help, flees to several different places with Saul/Saul’s men hot on his trail. David was about to get caught, when Saul was forced to return home to fight the Philistines off again.

God reminds me of a magic 8 ball.

11″ Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will deliver you.

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Ask again later.

Chapter 24- Saul pursues David again. He goes into a cave to do his business, and it just so happens to be the cave in which David was hiding. David sneaks up on Saul and cuts off a corner of his robe, but refuses to kill him or allow his men to kill him. Then he confronts Saul and basically says, “Look, I had the chance to kill you, but I didn’t. Now would you please knock it off with the trying to kill me?” Saul admits that he’s been a douche, acknowledges that David will be king, and asks David not to cut off his family. David agrees and they make a deal.

How refreshing to see someone take the non-murderous route to conflict resolution! Good job Good Guy David!

I do have some follow up questions about what Saul was doing in that cave, though. “So he came to the sheepfolds by the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to attend to his needs.” (3) What kind of needs could he have been attending to that would allow David to sneak up and cut off part of his clothes? I suspect it was more than just a quick bladder emptying expedition into that cave…

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1st Samuel 18-20

Chapter 18- Saul’s son Jonathan becomes besties with David. David starts doing a lot of things for the king, and does them really well, which makes the people start to praise David more than Saul. This makes Saul jealous, and he tries to stab David with a spear a couple times, then he decides to put David in a position where the Philistines will kill him. He also tries to get David to marry his daughter Merab so she can lure him into temptation. She ends up marrying some other guy, but luckily Saul’s other daughter Michal actual likes David and volunteers for the job. David is hesitant about becoming son-in-law to the king, since he is just a poor, lowly boy who can’t afford a dowry. Saul says he wants 100 Philistine foreskins for a dowry (thinking that David would get killed by the Philistines in the process) but David actually comes back with 200, and he and Michal are wed. They’re happy together, which makes Saul even more angry. David continues to act wisely, and things go well for him.

Let’s just start from the very beginning here.

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

 

That sounds like more than platonic friendship going on here. I’m totally cool with David and Jonathan undressing for each other, but I don’t think people should use the Bible to hate on homosexuality considering that this passage exists.

Then there’s this business about foreskins. 200 foreskins as a dowry?! Brutal. I know women didn’t really get a say back then, but I would have been strongly protesting against marrying the guy who murdered 200 people so he could bring my father the extra fleshy bits of their penises. Not romantic at all!

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I’m not even surprised any more.

Chapter 19- Saul asks Jonathan to kill David. Jon tells David to go hide until he can have chat with Saul. Jon convinces Saul not to kill David, and David returns home. Alas, God sends a distressing spirit to Saul, which causes him to try to stab David with a spear again. David flees again, with the help of his wife Michal who puts goat hair and some other stuff under a blanket to look like David is sick in bed. David ends up going to stay with Samuel. Ever messenger Saul sends to try to bring David back ends up catching the Holy Spirit and prophesying instead. When Saul himself goes, he ends up prophesying naked. 

So God sends this distressing spirit to Saul which causes him to try to kill David. I suspect this is some convoluted step in God’s plan to make David king instead of Saul, but it seems so ridiculous that this was part of the process. Why is David’s misery an imperative part of the plan?

Verse 24, ” And he [Saul] also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” Seriously, something double entendre’d is happening here.

Chapter 20- David has to leave Samuel’s place, so he and Jonathan work out a system to figure out what Saul plans to do to David and act accordingly. David will skip a feast with the king and hide in a field, and based on Saul’s reaction, they would know if he plans to harm David. Jonathan would then go shoot arrows in to the field like secret code to let David know if he could come home or if he needed to run away. They also make a pact that they will be BFFs forever and always look out for each other. Turns out Saul plans to harm David (and actually tries to spear Jonathan in the process, too) so Jon gives David the signal to run away. They both cry.

Verse 17, “Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as his own soul.” Yeah, forcing someone to make promises because you claim to love them? That’s something abusers do.

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Alternately, I also think of this.

When Saul realizes that David isn’t at the feast, he asks, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to eat, either yesterday or today?” (27) Because you keep trying to KILL him! There’s a limit to how many times you can try to spear a guy before he stops accepting your invitations to dinner.

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1st Samuel 15-17

Chapter 15- God tells Samuel to tell Saul to attack the Amelekites, and kill every person and animal there. Under Saul’s leadership, the people kill everyone except  king Agag, and keep the best animals for themselves. Samuel rebukes Saul for not following God’s command, kills Agag himself, and tells Saul that God has revoked his kingship. Saul begs forgiveness, but Samuel isn’t having it.

Verse 3 advises Saul and his people to “kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” Then verse 9 says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.”  So, the men, women and children were all worthless? That’s distasteful.

Verse 35 says, “The Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Look, if you’re omniscient and you know how things are going to turn out, I have zero sympathy for you when you do something you regret. Zero. Get your act together, God.

Chapter 6- God has Samuel go to the sons of Jesse and anoint David. David was the youngest brother, but God had rejected all the older brothers. The spirit of God departed Saul and came upon David. A distressing spirit came to Saul instead, and so he hired David to play harp for him to soothe his spirit (presumably not knowing that David had been anointed in his stead.) He likes David so much that he gets Jesse’s permission to make David his very special armor bearer.

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David and Saul by Ernst Josephson, 1878
I love the look on Saul’s face.

Verse 21, “So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer.” I’m going to assume that this love was platonic (which is not where my mind first took things). Either way, I fear Saul is in for a big disappointment when he realizes what’s really up with David.

Again we see a younger/est brother being the favorite. David, Jacob, Joseph, Abel…there’s a message in there somewhere.

Chapter 17- The Israelites are about to go to battle with the Philistines. The Philistines send they very large and intimidating Goliath to be their champion, and ask the Israelites to send one as well. David at this time is home tending his father’s sheep, but his dad asks him to take some provisions to his older brothers who in Saul’s army. When David gets there, he learns of Goliath, and offers to be the champion. Using only a stone and a sling shot, he knocks out Goliath, then cuts his head off. The Philistines flee in fear, and the Israelites pursue and kill a bunch of them.

David isn’t a particularly good armor bearer if he’s at home with the sheep when Saul goes to battle, is he? I wonder what’s up with that.

Then verses 55 and 56 confuse things even more. “When Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner, the commander of the army, ‘Abner, whose son is this youth?’ And Abner said, ‘As your soul lives, O king, I do not know.’ So the king said, “Inquire whose son this young man is.’” But, but, but…David was supposedly well loved by Saul, who had asked Jesse’s permission to keep David as an armor bearer just 1 chapter ago. Shouldn’t he already know who David’s father is, seeing as how he’s already corresponded with him?! Bible editor, you let me down again.

As for how little ol’ David could have killed big ol’ Goliath, I heard an interesting theory recently that Goliath may have had acromegaly (think Andre the Giant), which often leads to poor vision and an enlarged skull. This article posits that the enlarging of the skull could lead to a thinning of the bone, making it more plausible that a well placed stone could actually kill Goliath.

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