Friday, May 29, 2009

2 Chronicles 36: Evil at Eight

In the wake of national, international, or global tragedy, we are prone to Monday-morning quarterback—to try to answer those hardest of questions: Why and how? That’s why Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism after WWII. And why so many of us read the 9/11 Commission Report (a government document that was also the 11th best-selling book of 2004).

I think that the book of Chronicles can be understood, at least partially, as its generation’s 9/11 report. Indeed, one of its main goals is to retell history in such a way as to explain how something so right (a unique covenant with God, the creator of the universe) went so wrong … and ended in cataclysm. Written after the invasion of Israel by the Babylonians and the destruction of the temple, Chronicles is rehistory: an updated rendition of the story of the Israelites from Adam to Exile, designed to describe how we moved from Paradise to wandering in Persia without a home.

As mentioned in a previous post, there are numerous discrepancies between the Chronicler’s version of events and that of previous historians. In exploring these changes, we can discern the author’s motivations for rewriting previous Biblical books. (While once again confirming that even Biblical authors rewrite the Bible.) Today, I want to focus in on another of these alterations: perhaps the funniest—but also one of the most frightening—in the book.

2 Chronicles, much like 2 Kings, recites the occasional triumphs and frequent misdeeds of a long string of Israelite/Judahite monarchs. Though some of these leaders are good—Josiah and Hezekiah stand out—most are terrible. The repeated refrain of Chronicles and Kings goes a little something like this: “[Insert king’s name here] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Not exactly “Do you like pina coladas,” but this little ditty gets its point across: from Solomon on, the monarchy is spiraling out of control like a helicopter with a bum rotor.

The purpose of marking this steep descent? To make a simple point: the leaders of Israel and Judah (the northern and southern parts of land previously known as Canaan) get worse and worse; by the end, they are so bad that they bring on God’s just punishment and the razing of Jerusalem. This is the argument of 2 Kings, but the Chronicler ups the ante by embellishing the evils of the crown.

In 2 Kings, we learn of Jehoiachin, the penultimate leader of Judah before the Babylonian invasion. In brief, Jehoiachin is another worthless despot. He reigns just three months, and during that time, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done” (24:9). Wickedness, it seems, has become hereditary, passing from parent to child like a genetic mutation.

But in re-telling Jehoiachin’s story, the Chronicler slightly changes the specs on this misruler: “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign […] He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36:9). Eight years old. Eight years old? And already doing evil in the Lord’s sight? This is ridiculous. What “evil” can an eight-year old do to invoke the Lord’s wrath? Eat the Temple paste? Write on the walls in the palace lavatory? Hit Susie with the royal scepter?

Granted, in Kings Jehoiachin is just 18 when he takes the throne, but at least we can imagine him having some self-awareness; post-adolescents can sin. But can third graders?

Of course, this is exactly the Chronicler’s slightly inane point. In Judah before the fall, the kingly line has become so corrupt that even primary schoolers can do evil. Real, God-provoking, apocalypse-courting evil. The land is so depraved that the innocence of childhood is replaced by an immorality that should only be possible in maturity. In the words of Isaiah, “babes shall rule over them” (3:4), and these will be nasty little babes.

Like Children of the Corn nasty. I picture the Chronicler’s Jehoiachin throwing his mom of a balcony like Damien in The Omen. Or crawling down the stairs backwards while spewing pea soup and cursing in Latin like Regan in The Exorcist. Or with his twin brother Dylan standing in a bloody 70’s-era hotel hallway like in The Shining. (Okay, so I made “Dylan” up, but you get my point.)

So the Chronicler makes a funny change to the character of Jehoiachin … but it’s also horrifying.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In support of "The Year of the Bible"

As some of you may have noticed, the blogosphere was ablaze with liberal rage (and conservative zeal?) last week as Paul Broun, a House Republican from San Francisco, proposed a Congressional resolution that would make 2010 "The Year of the Bible." (Just kidding. He's from Georgia ... but did I catch anyone?) The full text can be found here.

As any number of critics argue, this seems a lot like government sponsorship of Judeo-Christian traditions--and hence a clear breach of church/state separation. And as others point out, though Broun may be flying in the face of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, he's also late to the game. Ronald Reagan already proclaimed his own "Year of the Bible" ... in 1983.

But in the tradition of Job's Satan--and taking a brief break from my regular format--let me play devil's advocate for a moment, get up on my soapbox, and throw myself firmly behind Broun's resolution. But if we're going to do it, let's do it right. Let's make 2010 "The Year of the Whole Bible."

Because--and I'm definitely speculating here--I bet when Broun speaks of "the Bible," he's talking about John 3:16 and the nice passages where Jesus has little toddlers sit on his knee. He's probably speaking of the Bible in which God is love and belief delivers salvation. I also bet he means the Christian Bible--complete with "New" and "Old" Testaments--and not the Hebrew Bible, which ends enigmatically with 2 Chronicles and never gets on the Jesus train.

So, if I'm going to support Broun's resolution--and I'm close!--I'm going to need him to abandon this abridged, altered Bible and support wide readership of the whole damn thing, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels. And I'm going to need him to recognize what kinds of unexpected things he's ushering onto the Congressional record:

Like the moment in Genesis (ch. 34) when God seemingly blesses the third patriarch, Jacob, for slaughtering an innocent village under the holy sign of circumcision.

Or the passages in the Pentateuch--and in Paul's letters, for that matter--regulating the ownership of slaves.

Or the section of 1 Samuel (ch. 28) in which King Saul (successfully!) hires a witch to raise his old friend Samuel from the dead.

Or the other parts of 1 and 2 Samuel in which the son of Saul, Jonathan, strips down before the beloved King David and kisses him on the mouth. Then, the opening chapter of 2 Samuel when the same David calls Jonathan's love "passing [better than] the love of women."

And the Song of Songs, in which God is never mentioned, but sex is ... a lot.

And Ecclesiastes, in which the Teacher argues that everything is futile, including the pursuit of wisdom and, perhaps, the worship of God.

And Job, in which our hero--the most righteous man on earth--gets so angry at God's sins that he begs to take the deity to court.

And the Mark gospel's Jesus who not only speaks of God's love, but exorcises demons ... lots of demons.

And the passages in 1 Corinthians 11 in which Paul argues that women should be veiled, as they are in conservative Islam.

And the book of James, in which the author confirms that both faith and works are necessary to salvation.

I'll also need Broun's resolution to recommend that Americans read all the boring parts of the Bible I bet he's skipped. Like the description of the tabernacle in Exodus. And all of Leviticus. And every verse of Proverbs. And each of the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline letters. And all the weird letters not by Paul.

I'll also expect that Broun's resolution will allow--and even encourage--all American Jews to stop reading after the "Old Testament" ... and argue that the Christian New Testament is not even part of the Bible.

So what do you say, Congressman Broun? Are you up for that kind of "Year"? If so, I'm your biggest supporter. Paul Broun in 2010!
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Isaiah 5: Rumsfeld and the Infidels

So, as many of you may have noticed--especially those of you who are sad at not having W. to kick around any more--the most recent issue of GQ features a worthy rehashing of some of the previous administration's late crimes and misdemeanors. Among the juiciest tidbits, however, is information on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plastering of Bible passages on the front pages of intelligence briefings shown to President Bush.

At one level, this is just more evidence for a scary Christianizing of the military, recently reported in an excellent Harper's piece by Jeff Sharlet. However, what's more interesting to me is that Rumsfeld isn't just quoting the Bible--he's quoting it poorly. Let me explain ...

The front cover of one of these briefings features a passage from the prophet Isaiah: "Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses' hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels are like a whirlwind" (5:28). This is cut between photos of tanks lined up under a desert sun, devout soldiers kneeling to pray (presumably not to Allah), and military men heaving packs in the sandy dusk.

Biblically speaking, this passage comes in the midst of the Isaiah author's description of a preternaturally strong military force whose power comes straight from the Lord. Listen to some other snippets from the same chapter: "None of them is weary, none stumbles, / none slumbers or sleeps ... Their roaring is like a lion, / like young lions they roar; / they growl and seize their prey, / they carry it off, and no one can rescue" (27; 29). The implication is clear--the U.S. Army is powered by God-juice, and their enemies do not stand a chance against the inspired killing machine. (Personally, I would have liked it had Rumsfeld included an adjacent verse--"not a loincloth is loose" (27)--if only because it's funny to think about American soldiers wandering the Iraq desert in tight Speedos.)

However, if such use of the Isaiah text is meant to imply--as some media observers believe--that God is on the side of the American military as they wage a holy war on the (Islamic?) infidels, Rumsfeld and his cronies couldn't have gotten it more hilariously wrong. Because the text's big dark joke is that Isaiah is describing the bad guys!

You see, one of God's favorite tricks--especially in the Hebrew Bible--is to punish the Israelites by sending pagan foreign warlords to sack the land. Hence here, Isaiah isn't talking about some holy-rolling Hebrew/proto-Christian militia--he's talking about the Assyrians, sent by God to destroy the Israelites for their latest sins! If Rummy had only started reading a few verses earlier: "Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, / and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, ... He will raise a signal for a nation far away, / and whistle for a people at the ends of the earth" (5:25-26). So, instead of favorably comparing the U.S. military to God's chosen, Rumsfeld's unwittingly saying that they're marauding infidels.

And do you want to know what's even funnier? This Assyrian empire God calls down to do his dirty work gets its start--wait for it--in what is now Northern Iraq. The irony is too delicious.

Which gets me around to one of the main purposes for continuing this Bible blog. We all need to know the Bible better, whether we're cabinet-level secretaries or bottom-feeding semi-corporate functionaries or unemployed Ph.D.'s. And not just so we don't look stupid when GQ publishes our old military logs and proves that we know nothing about the scripture we self-righteously and wrong-headedly quote.

Obviously, I don't condone Rumsfeld's slapping scripture on the front of his war manuals--it's wrong on too many levels. But if he was going to do it, at least he could have done it well.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

1 Chronicles 21: Framing Satan

In 2 Samuel 24, God--to quote the esteemed rabbinical scholar Chris Isaak--does a bad bad thing. Out of the blue, he "incites" David--his bestest favoritest king of all time--to take a census of the Israelite people. This census, however, is quickly characterized as a sinful undertaking (probably because counting the people implies keeping tabs on God's covenantal promise to make them numerous), and God decides to punish David for the "sin" He commands the king to commit. This whole episode seems vaguely akin to a father lending his 13 year-old son the car after cutting the break lines. But God's not done yet.

In what seems nothing less than a sadistic little cat-and-mouse game, the Lord offers David his choice of punishments: either there will be seven years of famine, three months of harassment by foreign rulers, or three days of plague. David picks the last, probably because simple arithmetic tells him that three days is shorter than seven years. (The king was obviously a college math major.)

Okay, so that's not actually his reasoning; his rationale seems both savvy and naive: "let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great" (2 Samuel 24: 14). A hopeful little argument, but the Lord will have none of it. God, intent upon showing just how "great" his mercy actually is, promptly slaughters 70,000 Israelites by pestilence.

Though this seems an unconscionably violent act, it does help prove one of the Hebrew Bible's lasting messages: this God will not be put in a leash, nor will He be kept in a pretty plexiglass case on the mantle next to your Paul Konerko-autographed baseball. God explodes from the text with violent force; He is simultaneously beautiful and irrepressible, sublime and bloodthirsty. He will walk with you in the cool of the evening and then kill your children at night. He is a God to be loved and feared--in a very real way.

Nonetheless, many are uncomfortable around such a God; even other Biblical authors are uneasy with this rambunctious--and there's an understatement if I ever wrote one--Lord, who compels the sin that he genocidally punishes. Hence, when the author of 1 Chronicles retells this same tale, he (or she) makes a crucial change.

Chronicles is Biblical rehistory--a later, second version of the rise and fall of the Israelites, from Adam to the destruction of Judah. However, as rabbis and scholars have noted for literally thousands of years, there are many significant discrepancies between the two tales. And only some of the Chronicler's motivations in changing the earlier stories are clear. (Though many mark these differences as weaknesses of the Biblical text, I tend to disagree. The compilers of the Tanakh understood that there could be different versions of events, and they would not force their history--nor their God--to conform to a single narrative. What sane boldness.)

But our author's motivation in changing the story of David's census seems crystal clear: he needs to get God off the hook. Thus, when the Chronicler revisits the king about to make his count, he audaciously (and arbitrarily?) changes the identity of the "inciter": "Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel" (1 Chronicles 21: 1). Presumably unable to stomach a God capable of such diabolical villainy, our author calls in an understudy, Satan, and when all's said and done (and killed), we can all feel better with God in heaven punishing the unjust and Satan on earth tempting the weak.

But is this Satan as master tempter, or mere scapegoat? Granted, I might be once again guilty of understatement if I call Satan a patsy. But as I've tried to explain in previous posts, it's equally wrong to characterize the Hebrew Bible's Satan as the leather-winged, horn-headed, raw umber master of all evil. Satan loosely translates as "the Adversary," and he's more like a prosecuting attorney in other books like Job.

And once again, I'm not sure if in 1 Chronicles he's even that. For my money, he's just the fall guy--the shmoe wheeled in from offstage to make us forget God's deadly shenanigans in 2 Samuel. (For the record, I'm going to cast Joe Pesci as Satan in the film version, though I'm not expecting the 1 Chronicles the movie to be a summer blockbuster; maybe we'll find a cult market in DVD sales.) But I digress, and let's get right down to the point of this post: I think the frame is on!

So if only for a moment, can't we have a little sympathy for the devil?
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ezra 4: "We worship your God as you do"

It still sometimes strikes me as odd that Ezra and Nehemiah are not the last books in either the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament. Together, they make up the final movement of Biblical Israelite history and tell the tale of the people's return to the Holy Land in the years following the Babylonian Exile.

For many years, Ezra and Nehemiah were read as one complete whole, though significant stylistic trends seem to distinguish one from the other. However, both hold up the earlier book of Joshua as a template. Joshua, which we'll have the opportunity to discuss in a later post, tells of the Israelite people's first entrance into the promised land. It is an idealized history that imagines the people's conquest of the promised land as total--and totally successful. Yahweh aids the Israelites as they march through Canaan and commands their armies to annihilate the inhabitants of the land, or to "put them under the ban." They do so with a sometimes disturbing zeal.

However, like Batman Returns and Critters II, the Ezra/Nehemiah narrative proves to be an early instance of the sequel falling short of the original.

For the return to Israel is not so spectacular a trip as the initial invasion. To begin, though the Israelites are allowed to go back, they do so only at the behest of an imperial ruler (Cyrus), and as vassals of a Persian empire that now engulfs the promised land. Further, they have to contend with an unruly resident population who will not and cannot be wiped out--but instead must be dealt with. Finally, they relearn the disturbing truths they already knew: that Jerusalem is a shadow of its former self, that the temple has been destroyed, and that the defensive walls lie in ruins. (The plot of Ezra will be largely taken up with the rebuilding of the temple, and Nehemiah will concern itself with the re-fortification of the walls.)

However, I believe that both books make the tacit argument that during the difficult process of banishment and return, the notion of exile becomes part of the Israelite soul. And during both, we come to learn, ironically, that homelessness and instability might more accurately characterize Israelite cultural and religious practice than stability and rootedness. We get some evidence of these claims in Ezra 4.

Having successfully returned to Jerusalem, the Israelites undertake the reconstruction of the religious edifice that once anchored the city: the Temple. First, they build the altar and begin the messy work of sacrifice (Ezra 3: 1-7). Then, they restart the priesthood, naming those who will lead the renewed spiritual community (8-9). Then, they lay the foundations for the Temple itself (10). (By the by, I believe this order is important--the naming of the religious elite is secondary to the building of the alter, suggesting that the hierarchy of the grand poobahs takes a back seat to the actual processes of sacrifical devotion; more simply, the religious act is more important than the religious person who leads it.)

Nonetheless, no sooner than the foundations have been laid than the "adversaries of Judah and Benjamin" (4:1) come slinking around to get a piece of the action. (For after all, who can resist a good burnt offering?) They say, "Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him" (4:2). An interesting offer, and perhaps a tempting one given the scads of heavy brick-lifting that surely await the Israelites. But the returnees will have none of this Johnny-come-lately devotion: "You shall have no part with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel" (4:3). (I can imagine myself groaning at the extra work; on the other hand, maybe I would have stayed on my couch in Persia eating grapes and sheep-meat.)

The identity of these "adversaries" remains somewhat of a mystery throughout the Ezra text. Clearly, some of these are the old enemies: the Amorites, Amalekites, and Arabs (oh my!) who used to harass the people during their first stay in the land. And some, as the text indicates, are foreigners forced to dwell in the kingdom by the Assyrians years before.

However, there is every possibility--and many scholars concur--that some of the "adversaries" are just un-exiled Judahites. For when the Babylonians finally take over Judah and Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E., they do not or cannot banish all of the inhabitants; some stay behind, and though we know little of their fate in the intervening years--because the Hebrew Bible focuses on the plight of the exiles--we know that they remain. And we also know, perhaps most clearly from the Ezra text, that they continue in their worship of God.

Thus there is a possibility that the Israelites who rebuild the temple in Ezra keep some of their brethren (and sistren) from helping. Now, perhaps this is just sour grapes, because who wants to share a good temple-building after a long trip from Persia--after all, haven't the Israelites earned it? But perhaps their is a deeper meaning in this exclusion ...

In keeping the un-exiled chosen from helping with the temple project, the Israelites may be suggesting that their own extended sojourn away from the promised land has become a part of the covenantal relationship with the divine. Indeed, the Biblical text is explicit in suggesting that the Israelites deserve the Babylonian Exile--it is divine punishment for their apostasy. Thus, maybe those who stay behind haven't taken their medicine; they aren't purged of the sins that exile expunges, and hence their relationship with God is fractured or even destroyed. Banishment from the Holy Land has become part of the relationship with God, and those who do not live it through miss out.

Thus Ezra confronts us with two more deep ironies: to be a true Israelite, perhaps one must suffer exile. And to get the temple back, perhaps we must fully lose it.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Daniel 12: Hebrew resurrection

Like Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, like Orville Redenbacher invented popcorn, and like Michael Jackson invented diamond-studded gloves, it is widely believed that Jesus invented resurrection. (He didn't, but that's beside the point, at least for the moment.) But it will come as a surprise to some that the Bible's first reference to resurrection actually comes in the Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament), in the twelfth chapter of the "prophetic" book of Daniel.

Daniel tells the story of a mysterious Hebrew sage who, sometime during the sixth century B.C.E., rises up through the ranks of the imperial court to serve at the side of the Babylonian despot Nebuchadnezzar (and later, the Persian Cyrus). However, the book was most likely composed hundreds of years after the time of Babylonian ascendency, in the middle of the second century B.C.E. From historical cues not-so-cleverly hidden in the text, most argue that Daniel comes from the time of the Maccabean revolt--when Jews bravely fought off foreign tyranny and, in celebration, gave each other presents for eight nights and tried to avoid the lite rock stations that played only Christmas songs for six weeks. (Just kidding ... though these events do, of course, inspire Hanukkah.)

A repeating trope in the book of Daniel is the hero's interpretation of dreams. (Many note that Daniel is a kind of latter-day Joseph.) Each of these dreams correctly tells the future--a less impressive feat given the fact that the book was probably written during the "future" whose existence the narrative predicts. Nonetheless, the Daniel author's faux-proleptic tales may have served a crucial purpose by inspiring freedom-fighters to strength and bravery. The message of the dreams is clear: the imperial powers under which the Israelites have long suffered are weakening, and the current ruler--the nefarious Antiochus--is ripe for defeat. The revolutionaries just need to have faith in the God who will deliver them.

It is in this context that many understand Daniel's explanation of resurrection:

"There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12: 1-2).

This is a time of anguish, says Daniel's author to the Israelites, but you will be delivered, and many of you will come back from the grave. Many scholars, thus, read Daniel's prediction of resurrection as a call to martyrdom: many Maccabean revolutionaries who die in the cause will not really die--they'll get out of jail free and collect $200. (And perhaps even the slackers in the cause--or even the enemies--will reap "shame.")

Of course, this story has a happy ending, though perhaps not for those freedom-fighters who did die and are waiting around for the end of their dirt nap (or for those who came back only to "everlasting contempt"--a rude awakening, to say the least) . The Maccabees win, Antiochus is repulsed, and we later have the institution of the Hasmonean dynasty--a rare moment of Jewish semi-independence in the age of empires. And perhaps the author of Daniel deserves some of the credit.

However, we're all a little warier of calls to martyrdom these days. We don't necessarily want suicidal fighters who believe in everlasting life as reward for their actions. So, an open memo to the author of Daniel: keep it down on the topic of the resurrection. Jesus will blow the lid of that one in about 200 years.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Song of Solomon 4: Teeth twins

The Song of Songs--or Song of Solomon, as it is alternately titled--is a fun Biblical book because, well, it seldom feels very Biblical. The whole work is a collection of love poetry--beautiful love poetry, moving love poetry, and often to the surprise of stodgier readers, erotic love poetry. Too often, religion is equated with chastity--those suffering under such a delusion should give the Song a quick read.

The book is also unique in that it never once mentions God. Rabbinic and early Christian scholars argued for its canonization by suggesting that the poems' lover is Yahweh (or Jesus) while the beloved is either the Israelite people or the church. Perhaps, but this seems--to use Harold Bloom's term--a strong misreading at best, and the book's inclusion in both Hebrew and Christian Bibles remains an enduring mystery.

However, I turn to the text tonight because of its unique (or unique-to-us) use of metaphor. The Song is ancient Hebrew society's version of "My love is like a red red rose," and it hints at both how an ancient Jerusalemite might have set up a booty call and how ancient authors understood the romantic idiom.

The author starts conventionally enough in chapter 4: "Your eyes are doves behind your veil" (4:1). Standard stuff, I think. But the second half of the verse gets stranger. "Your hair is like a flock of goats." A flock of goats, eh? I'm not sure I'm going to try that one at the bar next week (and not just because my lovely girlfriend would leave me), but I respect the effort to shoot for a more challenging simile.

We move on: "Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes / that have come up from washing" (4:2). I laugh, but I'm clearly not from a pastoral society; poets and lovers alike use the cultural tools at hand, and our author seems to be intimately familiar shepherding life. He continues, and I laugh a bit more, "all of which [these ewes] bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved." Let me tell you, these are some fertile sheep-teeth! But let's take some time to paraphrase this unexpected praise: the author is complimenting his love for her complete set of chompers. Dental hygiene sure has come a long way in 2500 years, and I'm happy that I've been able to take a full complement of teeth as a given in looking for dates.

We can learn a bit about the poem's historical setting from a later idiom: "Your neck is like the tower of David, built in courses; / on it hang a thousand bucklers, all of them shields of warriors" (1.4). At this point, I'm not sure if our lover is complimenting or shaming his giraffe-girlfriend, but we may wonder if he is perhaps more familiar with military threats than he would prefer. (Of course, Israelite history is sometimes little more than a sequence of wars, near-wars, or threats of war.)

But perhaps I should shut up for a moment and let the language--even in translation--speak for itself:

Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
that feed among the lilies
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
and the hill of frankincence ...
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace. (4:5-9)


Granted, as I've mentioned before, we don't necessarily have access to much of the ancient Israelites' cultural context, so there is every chance in the world that for contemporary audiences, the "Song" was little more than a compendium of hackneyed lines--the love doggerel of 4th-century B.C.E. Judah. But they are certainly not conventional to us, and a closer reading may allow us to fill the world with revitalized silly love songs.

Hence, I dedicate this entry to my beautiful girlfriend, whose eyes are like doves and whose wooly teeth all give birth to healthy teeth-twins.
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