Monday, May 3, 2010

240: Lamentations, May Contain Lamenting

Lamentations 1-3:36
"Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her. The LORD has decreed for Jacob that his neighbors become his foes; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them." - Lamentations 1:17

I think the majority of the books in the bible could just be called "Lamentations". This book isn't packed with particularly new or revolutionary complaints (lamentations). The one defining feature of this book is that everything seems to be personified. Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel as a whole all seem to be personified all the time.

The chapter starts with Judah crying about how she has no more friends. All the roads to Zion are also mourning (because nobody is walking on them anymore?). Jerusalem has a filthy skirt and is crying out to God. Zion is stretching out her hands but nobody will comfort her. Did I mention that everything is personified in this book? Overall nothing interesting happens in this chapter. The bible just tells us again how Babylon destroyed everyone.

Chapter 2 continues this wordy recounting of how the Babylonians destroyed the cities of Israel. It is interesting that God interchanges himself destroying Israel and the Babylonians destroying Israel. For example:
The Lord is like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces
and destroyed her strongholds.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation
for the Daughter of Judah.
Nowhere (recently) have I seen a story of God personally coming down to destroy Israel. It was the Babylonians doing the destroying, so why is God taking credit for it? And if God is taking credit for it, why are the Babylonians being punished for this destruction?

Whoever wrote this book (it's generally attributed to Jeremiah) has some harsh words for God at the end of the chapter:
Look, O LORD, and consider:
Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed
in the sanctuary of the Lord?
Yes, God is still making people eat babies.

Chapter 3 seems to be a story about God beating the crap out of whoever the writer is. First the man (again, probably Jeremiah) is made to walk in the dark. Then God makes his skin old, and walls him in (imprisons him?). He's then weighed down with chains, mangled, shot multiple times with arrows, shot in the heart, has his teeth broken with gravel, and is trampled on the ground. Then God has the people of Israel laugh at him. What does the (probably dead) man have to say about all of this?:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
God's love?! What love? I don't know if there is a more clear message that someone doesn't love you. If someone locks you up, shoots you, and breaks your teeth, I think you can safely assume they're not very fond of you. If by "consumed" the writer means killed in the above quote, I think I'd rather be dead then have all of those terrible things happen to me. At some point God's "mercy" (i.e. beating the crap out of you) becomes worse than his "ultimate punishment" of death.

Dale Mcalpine was arrested in the UK for "a public order offense, causing 'harassment, alarm or distress' after disparaging homosexuals". This was in the context of citing biblical passages. Needless to say, Christians in the US are freaking out.

This is the wording of the law he broke:
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
Well, this looks like a pretty open and shut case. The language was insulting, and according to the police report, could be heard by many. Do I agree with the law? No. But that doesn't mean he didn't break it.

However, I do support hate crime laws in the United States (as I understand them). Some people feel that this would violate their right to quote scripture. Maybe a new law would, but maybe a new law should. Here is an example of something I think should be protected by freedom of speech:
The bible says gays are terrible, and I completely agree. I think they're gross and I don't want to be around them.
By the way, I don't agree with any of that, I'm just using it as an example. Something that I don't think should be protected speech is this:
Leviticus says that we should kill all the gay people. I completely agree! Meet at five o' clock Monday and we'll go kill the gays.
The line is crossed when you start making threats against the people you are hating. So in that respect I disagree with the UK law, I don't think simply insulting someone should be grounds for arrest.


  1. how about I believe in WHATEVER I want and you have nothing to say!

    let me show you the end results of this particular *ONE-DIMENSIONAL SCIENTIFIC MODE*
    of thinking that is called *CRITICAL THINKING*, which is completely divorced from
    any human objectives...

    this style has been perfected by dawkins, pz, randi and the other *NEW ATHEISTS*
    THE BOOBQUAKE - 911!
    hey, atheists don't even BELIEVE IN BOOBIES!!!
    they thought BOOBIES had no effect... WRONG!

    see, I just want to make it clear to the rest of you:
    jen is unable to see that there is a CONFLICT BETWEEN EROS & SCIENCE....

    see how we take a term and convert it into its AUTHENTIC POLITICAL DIMENSION - THAT
    OF LIBERATION - not just merely harmless expression...

    Visit for the BOOBQUAKE:

  2. The religious mindset hasn't really changed at all since Jeremiah's days. Have you seen the video that compares poor down-n-out Stephen Baldwin to Job?


    A horrible misrepresentation of the story of Job, a shallow attempt to get money out of people under the guise of helping a brother out, and yet somehow by restoring Stephen Baldwin all the glory will go to God, for some reason.

    At first I thought it might be an April Fool's thing. I really don't know how to think about it now..

  3. First thing - Kudos on the news article. I agree with you wholeheartedly. There is a big difference between being open about your beliefs and brandishing as a club against others. Anyone for "Draw Muhammad Day?"

    Personification is one of the major poetic device of the OT - Just wait until you get to Song of Solomon and decide to peek at some commentary to explain WHY it would be part of the OT cannon to begin with. Fun stuff.

    Actually, there isn't much to say in response to your Bible post as a whole. The other baby-eating scenarios earlier in Deuteronomy were a clear warning: IF you fail to listen and do the wrong thing, THEN these problems will befall you. The mothers were driven to "bay eating" out of sheer poverty and starvation. God brought them to that poverty, ergo he "made" them.

    Re: the story line, Jeremiah often conflates himself with the Jewish nation, and the personal suffering he writes of mirrors the travails of his people. As a result, death and consumption would be utter destruction of the nation, not just himself.
    But yeah, it does seem harsh.



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