Thursday, January 30, 2014

Animals In The Bible #5 - Fish (and Fish-Like Creatures)

Fish! Fish, fish, fishes! Fishies are everywhere in the Bible, from the 150 days that they literally ruled the world because there was no land (Genesis 7:24), to metaphors and parables and netloads of fish in the Gospels, fish swim all through the OT and NT, probably because they were a major food group for Biblical times. Some notable fish stories include:


In Job 40:2, God is admonishing Job - "“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” And even though Job essentially says, "I can't, I'm not worthy," God's not letting him get off so easily and says, " “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." (Job 40:7)

Thus God sets off on a longish rant that boils down to, "I did this, I made this, can you do that? No? All right then, shut up." (Nicer than that.)

In his rant, God talks about how His arm is longish, His voice is thunderous, his wrath is wrath-i-ness, and He made a lot of cool stuff including a Behemoth, which could be a hippopotamus, a dinosaur, or a crocodile, but is definitely a land monster because starting in Job 41, God talks about the Leviathan, the sea creature counterpart.

God (or whoever wrote Job) is quite taken with the Leviathan, because He goes on for a FULL 34 VERSES describing the thing. It's got a "graceful form" (v12), a "double coat of armour" (v13) "snorts flashes of light" (v18), "its chest is as hard as a rock" (v24), "its undersides as jagged potsherds,"(v30). God kinda like this sea serpent he made, but no mention of what He thought of the movie 

Great Fish (That Is Not A Whale.) 

Yep, Jonah was not swallowed by a whale, as your Sunday School lessons would have you believe, but he was swallowed by a "great fish" (Jonah 1:17), and stayed inside that fish for three days and three nights.

Though it's tempting to imagine what it was like for the Biblical precursor of Pinocchio, let's consider it from the Great Fish's POV.

Great Fish - Hi, God. It's me, the Great Fish. I did what You wanted me to and I swallowed this guy Jonah. Now what? 

God - You have done well, good and faithful Great Fish. Just hang out for a bit. 

Great Fish - Cool beans. Need me to swallow anyone else?

God - Not right now. 

Great Fish - Kay. Hey, can I eat that school of plankton over there?

God - Uh... sure. Go for it. 

Great Fish - Thanks!

(Second Day)

Great Fish - Hey, God?

God - Hmmmm? 

Great Fish - the dude You wanted me to swallow, he's, um, praying.

God - Yes, I know. He was praying to Me, actually. I was listening to him. 

Great Fish - It's a little uncomfy. 'Cause it's an echo chamber in my belly, and all the "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer ode to you, to your holy temple," (Ch. 2:7), it's just bouncing off the walls over and over and over again. It's the meal that keeps me remembering, you know what I'm saying?

God - Just hang on, Jonah's not quite done learning stuff yet.

Great Fish - Learning, awesome, great, listen. Could he maybe learn somewhere that doesn't involve my gastrointestinal system?

God - Just hang on. 

(Third Day)

God - Hey, Great Fish. 

Great Fish - Hmmm? What? Sorry, I'm really miserable, this tummy ache You're making me carry is not cool at all.

God - I know, I know. Good news, he's coming out. Today. Right now. 

Great Fish - Really? Fantastic, but um, um, um, how?

God - Check it out. 

(God punches Great Fish in the tummy. Great Fish vomits Jonah out.)

Great Fish - That, that, that, was... a really gross way to do that, man.

God - Not as gross as if he went out the other way. 

Great Fish - .... uh, wow. Wow. You really do know everything, don't You. 

God. - Yep. As advertised. 

Multiplying New Testament Fish 

Jesus employs a ton of fish in the Gospels.

In the popular Feeding Of The Multitudes, these are actually two separate miracles.

The first one is Jesus feeding the 5,000. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15.) Here, Jesus takes five loaves and two fishes, feeds 5,000 people and has twelve basketfuls left over.

The second miracle is Jesus feeding the 4,000 (but really, what's a few more people, give or take a thousand). This one appears in Mark 8:1-9 and Matthew 15:32-39 , and it's seven loaves, "a few small fish", 4,000 people and seven basketfuls left over.

Jesus liked to make his points using fish. He called the first disciples - fishermen Simon Peter and Andrew - to come follow him and be his disciples, saying, "I will make you fishers of men," (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17; Luke 5:10) I like to think he did this because Jesus knew having fishermen as your best buds meant you'd be able to catch dinner most places.

And if you read further in Luke 5, you see that Jesus instructs Simon Peter where (deep water) to catch a giant load of fish (Luke 5:4-11)

John 21:1-11 mentions another great catch of fish as directed by Jesus, this time by using the all important trick of throwing your nets on the other side of the boat.  

Jesus used a fish to pay the temple tax in Matthew 17:27, but perhaps my favorite use of a fish in all the bible is the one Jesus eats in Luke 24:42.

This is after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected, and it's the first time he's appeared to the disciples (and in a lovely bit of irony, Jesus has shown himself first to a group of women, and then to two total strangers on the road to Emmaus before he showed himself to the guys who've been following him (and fishing for him) for three years).

Jesus greets the disciples, and they think he's a ghost, because... well, I dunno why. You followed this guy for three years, he told you he was the Son Of God, you saw him do miracles and when he shows up after you saw him crucified you think... MUST BE A GHOST! I'VE COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING HE SAID! OOPSIE!

So to prove to his buddies that he's indeed alive (or alive-ish), Jesus eats... a broiled fish. It's broiled, not grilled, not fried. Most likely seasoned with salt, maybe pepper. Delicious stuff, really. :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Animals In The Bible #4 - Donkeys!

Donkeys! We got donkeys all up in here! I am going to be nice and good and not call them asses, even though that is an official name for donkeys, as in Equus africanus asinus. Nope, because this post could get all full of asses, and then we're suddenly showing up in naughty search engines, and then I go to hell.

So! Donkeys it is. Donkeys have been around forever, and in Biblical times,were all around Egypt, and a bunch of them accompanied the Israelites when they got away from Pharaoh and wandered around the dessert for 40 years. 

The most obvious role for donkeys would be transportation, as those little hoofers are quite tenacious. But they're also considered property and Exodus has a slew of rules about donkeys and what you should and should not do with them. Most of it is common sense - if you find your neighbor's lost donkey, take it back to them, help your enemy's fallen donkey, and make sure your donkey gets to rest on the Sabbath, just like you do. (Exodus 23) Deuteronomy 22:10 commands us "Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together." What was simple agricultural sense (different leg lengths means a wobbly plow, different temperaments and diets means ornery animals) takes a different tone when 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us not to be yoked with unbelievers, all because they happen to use the same word "yoked."

 It was a pack of lost donkeys that brought Saul to meet prophet Samuel so Samuel could tell Saul that God had chosen Saul to rule over his people in 1 Samuel 9 and 10. Saul's reign didn't end so well, but hey, the donkeys were found quite quickly.

Samson struck down 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. How? Well, just take a peek at this clip from 1949's Samson and Delilah. It's not exactly 1,000 men, and Samson uses a few things more in addition to a donkey's jawbone. But consider it artistic license (and the donkey jawbone slaying starts around 2:16)

 I've already mentioned Balaam's talking donkey before.

In the New Testament, Luke does not specifically mention that pregnant Mary rode a donkey when she traveled with Joseph to Bethlehem to be counted in the Census, but really to give birth to Jesus in a manger (Luke 2:1-7). However, can a billion Christmas Nativity mangers be wrong?

But it is mentioned in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12 that Jesus rode a donkey (or a colt, the foal of a donkey) into Jerusalem on the last week of his life.

 This fulfills the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 that the Messiah will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. So it's the workhorse donkey, not a champion stallion, that escorts Christ to his destiny.

(I'm not even going to mention Ezekiel 23:20, where the prophet talks about Jerusalem as a metaphor for a prostitute named Oholibah, who "lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." GROSS GROSS GROSS. Who knew the Bible could be that gross? Yuck, yuck, yuck, we're going on those naughty search engines now for sure. Sheesh.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Animals In The Bible #3 - All Star Edition - The 10 Plagues


Tonight’s blog entry has coloring pages!  Wheeeeee!  Coloring pages!  The fact that they’re about the Ten Plagues is…. well…. actually very disturbing.

I tried to check to make sure I wasn’t violating any copyright issues by using these images.  If you happen to be the owner of these images and don’t want them used, please contact me and I will happily take it down.  I will also ask you why you created coloring pages of the 10 Plagues, because that seems very very creepy to give to a kid to color in Sunday School.  But I would love to be educated on this issue, maybe there’s something I’m just not seeing, some educational benefit in coloring pictures of dead cattle.


We’re in OT times again!  (Someday, I will do a Bible Series about strictly NT stuff.  I promise I will.  As soon as I can figure out what an awesome series would be. Taking suggestions on that one.)

The 10 Plagues are located (in Egypt) in Exodus, Chapter 7 - 12).  Our major players include:

Moses - slave baby in the Nile rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, killed a Egyptian beating a Hebrew, ran away, Burning Bush, received call from God to go with brother Aaron to tell Pharaoh to Let My People (The Israelites) Go.

Aaron - I’m the brother and I got a masters in Elocution.

Pharaoh - I’m a Jerk.  And King.

Pharaoh’s Magicians - We Do Cool Stuff.

God - Dude, I’m God.  If you don’t know Me by now, well, hold on to your hats.

Animals In The Plagues - C’mon, get to us already! We wanna break stuff!

So!  The basic storyline is that God has sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites’ freedom.  Pharaoh says no way, they’re my chief labor supply, and my temples aren’t going to build themselves.

(This blog entry is not about the classic debate of Who Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart.  Because it can be interpreted a bunch of different ways, and there’s no clear answer, just your projections that you cast on the situations.  But I can guarantee you, no matter what side you land on, you will always hear this song in your head: )

So when Pharaoh says No, everyone else says WHOA, because through Aaron and Moses, God unleashes the Ten Plagues!  Let’s say hello to…

Plague #1 - The Plague Of Blood - where the Nile River turns into blood. (Exodus 7:14-24) The fish died, and stank up the joint and thus starts an interesting animal chain reaction:

Plague #2 - The Plague of Frogs (Ch. 8: 1 - 15) With the water red, and the fish dead, the frogs say, hey, I’m outta here.  They hop out of the river and infest the city and are apparently cheerful about it, if you're believing this coloring page:

The best part is when Moses asked for God to take the frogs away, the frogs simply died where they were, meaning Dead Frog piles everywhere.  BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR REQUESTS, PEOPLE.  Don’t just say, “Take away the frogs.”  Say, “Take the Frogs Away And Their Frog Bodies, Too!” And since there are no more frogs, in marches….

Plague #3 - The Plague of Gnats (Ch.8: 16 - 19) Can you help this poor gnat?  He can't find his brothers so they can go plague the people of Egypt:

Without any frogs to eat them up, gnats consume Egypt.  This starts the Plagues That Pharaoh’s Magicians Can’t Duplicate.  Which kinda makes you wonder how they pulled off the whole ‘It’s a FROG” thing.  Not that Pharaoh cares, he still says nope, which opens the door to…

Plague #4 - The Plague of Flies (Ch. 8: 20 - 32) Flies?  We just had gnats, now flies?  Kinda similar, don’tcha think?  Didn’t you wanna move on to something bigger?  Like maybe…

Plague #5 - Plague on Livestock (Ch. 9: 1 - 7)  (cut to Pharaoh’s livestock saying, “Thanks a lot!”)

Here's your coloring page on dead cattle!  I know you were waiting for it!

Israel’s livestock isn’t harmed, but they’re too busy toiling under the sun to snicker about it.

Plague #6 - The Plague of Boils. (Ch. 9: 8 - 12) and Plague #7 The Plague of Hail (Ch. 9 13 - 35)  don’t have any animals in them (and are kinda gross)

Plague #8 - The Plague of Locusts (Ch. 10: 1 - 20) - and if you’re like me and wondering “Gnats, flies, locusts, does it really matter?” The answer is… sorta.  Gnats and flies got into everywhere, but the locusts are the one who do the eating.  If someone had a gun to your head and said Pick A Plague, you’re best off picking gnats.  I feel like you could step on gnats easier than try to brush away flies. And locusts are just bad news all over. It should be noted, though, that when Moses prayed to God to take the locusts away, God sent “a very strong west wind which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea.  Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt.” (Ch10:19) So somebody was learning the ways of the Almighty Clean Up Crew.

Plague #9 - The Plague of Darkness (Ch. 10: 21-29) and Plague #10 - The Plague on the Firstborn (Ch. 11: 1 - 9) get us out of the section (and again, so so sad, why is there a coloring page on this?  Better yet, why is there a Pharaoh Mouse mourning his dead mouse firstborn?!)

The Israelites finally get out of Egypt, into the dessert, where they get lost and wander around for 40 years.  Had to be better than locusts, though.  Just has to be.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Christmas and Starbucks Gift Cards

So I’m really sorry about that lapse in blog posting. I blame the holidays.  You should too.  Anything you didn’t get done in the month of December, just blame the silly season.

And I barely got any writing at all done over the holidays, which is highly unlike me.  I was Chief Wrangler of my Mother Who Used To Be The Phone Harpy But Now Is Chief Check Twice Do I Have Everything?  All of the time I could’ve been writing was spent reassuring Mom that yes, she has everything, the hotel key is in her wallet, her wallet is in her purse, the bag is in the car, the camera is in the bag, and my mind is quickly going to pieces (but I think hers went first).

But there was one thing I wanted to share with everyone, in the midst of the Soon To Be Resumed Animals Of The Bible blog series (because I KNOW you guys are waiting on pins and needles for that one to be resumed, amiright?)

But at the start of the holiday, and facing down the unruly and drop dead depressing wilds of LAX, I hit upon what I thought would be a great idea – I got a set of $5 Starbucks Gift Cards, and decided I would pass them out to the people working at the airport, since that has got to be the ultimate worst – working any part of LAX during the Christmas season.

So maybe handing someone a $5 gift card to make their day a little better would help, right?  Maybe? 

But people, do you realize how hard it is to give a gift to someone when they’re not expecting it?

All throughout the holiday, everyone I tried to give a gift card to looked at me like I had three heads. Like why are you giving this to me?  “Merry Christmas, have a Starbucks on me!”  I chirp to the Delta ticket agent, to the toll booth workers on Orlando toll roads, to the MCO ticket agent.  All of them look damn confused.  What’s confusing about a Starbucks gift card?  What’s confusing about Merry Christmas?

But I get it.  One time when we were rolling up to the toll booth, the worker tells us, “The guy before you paid for you.”  “What?  Why?”  I didn’t know the guy.  So the idea that a stranger did something nice for me didn’t make sense.

But I quickly paid it forward by giving the toll worker one of the gift cards (though upon reflection, I should’ve paid the toll for the person behind me.  Ah, hell.  Botched opportunity.  I’m going to hell now.)

But at least the toll workers smiled and said thanks.  The people at the airport were just confused.  I dunno, maybe I was interrupting their flow.  They were expecting luggage, not lattes.  So concentrated on continuing the flow of people, they couldn’t understand.

Man, working at an airport must really really suck if you can’t immediately recognize a Starbucks gift card.  Oh well.  There’s always next year.  Hell, there’s always Valentine’s Day!  I’ll just run right down to LAX on Valentine’s Day and hand out roses like some Bachelor reject.

Nah.  Coffee is always better.  Methinks. :)