Day 189: [Read Habakkuk on the toilet]

“Don’t waste the 4 minutes and 22 seconds (on average) you will spend on the toilet. Read the much-neglected Old Testament Book of Habakkuk instead, and try and improve yourself.”

Habakkuk is an odd book. The one verse from it I’ve ever heard quoted is: “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). That verse is always taken out of context, though, as almost all verses from the Old Testament are — and it’s almost unavoidable, really, because so much of the Old Testament is unremittingly bizarre.

Habakkuk is, like most of the Prophets, full of blood and thunder, death and destruction, wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth. It’s also not really clear to me what the occasion of the death and destruction in Habakkuk is: there’s blood and violence, but there’s also drunkenness and foreskins.

So, here’s the context for 2:14:

Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness! Thou art filled with shame for glory: drink thou also, and let thy foreskin be uncovered: the cup of the LORD’s right hand shall be turned unto thee, and shameful spewing shall be on thy glory.

Really, verse 14 seems really out-of-place, and it’s not at all surprising to me that preachers who are on about the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth” are less excited about explaining what that has to do with cities founded in blood, full of drunken carousers waving their foreskins around.

Speaking of foreskins, does anybody remember the part in Exodus when Zipporah hastily circumcises her son and throws the foreskin at Moses’ feet — or maybe his genitals? — so that God won’t kill him (him being Moses)? That’s a good one.

I’m also a fan of the story at the end of Judges about the Levite who allows his concubine to be raped to death, and then cuts her into pieces and sends them to various tribes to incite the Israelites into killing all the Benjaminites. Oh, and when Elisha had two bears kill forty-two kids for calling him ‘bald-head’? Classic.

What point was I trying to make? I’m not sure. I guess it’s this: read the Old Testament, sure, but only if you’re willing to appreciate the truly bizarre and discomfiting moments — of which there are many — without attempting to fit them into some preconceived framework of meaning.

I mean, the Bible is full of sex and violence and intrigue and things that make you say “what the fuck” — and none of that is as much fun if you’re trying to pretend it isn’t there.

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