Monday, December 26, 2011

Day(s) of Rest

I jammed allot of text into the last few weeks so we could start Matthew on Christmas day.  Let's take a couple days off to rest and/or catch up.  We'll resume on Friday, December 30th, 2011.

Happy Boxing Day!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Gospel of Matthew 1-2 - A New Hope

Matthew 1-2

We start the New Testament (NT) with the Gospel of Matthew.  This book seems to be a 'cliff notes' of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew born of a virgin mother, baptized by John the Baptist who then considers himself to be the son of the God of Moses.

I have to admit that the book didn't start out well for me.  A long list of begats is no way to draw in the reader.  And the end result is ultimately irrelevant!  So what if Joseph is a decedent of Abraham?  He has no blood ties to Jesus and is fairly unnecessary to the story other then to add a small amount of drama.  We should have gotten MARY'S lineage!

The Holy Ghost impregnates a teenager before her betrothed gets a chance.  Joseph is not happy but plays along.

Once Mary gets pregnant, the story kicks off and it's quite a tale.  Wise men on a quest, a jealous king, a family on the run.  We're off to an exciting start!
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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays to the cranky folk that are offended by Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Book of Malachi - We're Freakin' Done with the Old Testament!!!

Malachi 1-4

Malachi is the last of the minor prophets as well as being the last book in the King James Old Testament.

He isn't any more pleasant then the previous 11 minor prophets and is actually fairly graphic in his descriptions of God's wrath.

2:3 Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.

God (actually, the priests in charge) demands money and food;
3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
3:9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

We finish up with the command to remember the laws of Moses.  I know that there is some disagreement on wether or not Jesus tells followers to obey the old laws or to forget them.  I hope we'll find out in the next book!
4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD

We finally make it to the end of the Old Testament.  I wish I had some profound words but it's more like feeling exhausted when you cross the finish line in a race, you're just glad it's over.

Having read the Gospel of Matthew before, I know it's a MUCH more pleasant book and a lot of positive messages for the reader. :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Book of Zechariah, ...saith the LORD of hosts

Zechariah 1-14

Damn, one more longish book.  Can you guess what it's about?

I love this line;

1:15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.

Can you believe that there is reference to Santa n the Holy Bible? It's true!  Zechariah prophesied Santa Claus over a thousand years before he came to be.  You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried!

2:6 Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north...

And the fact that it comes up in our reading JUST BEFORE CHRISTMAS?!?!  There is no way that is a coincidence!

Zechariah eats peyote and writes several more chapters on his visits with angels, God, Joshua, The BRANCH and a flying roll. They all have something profound to say.

Chapter 8 gives us some nice, encouraging words fro God.  He gets sentimental after a few beers;

8:3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
8:4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

8:5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

This is an odd prophesy.  Anyone know who the ten men are supposed to be?

8:22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.

8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

God admits he's punishing the innocent;

10:3 Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats

Once again the future is foretold!

14:12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

The last part of Zechariah is apocalypse, end of the world stuff but it falls pretty flat in my eyes.  

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Book of Haggai, Be strong, all ye people of the land

Haggai 1-2

I was a little confused by the first part of chapter 1.  It seemed that God was pleased with 'the people', but then he wasn't.  He didn't seem to like the house they built?  And he blew them down?  Hmmm.

Haggai/God does revisit some rather obscure laws;

2:11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying,
2:12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.
2:13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean.
He seems to use them as metaphors.  Nice work.

Still the LORD doesn't quite get it.
2:17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD

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Book of Zephaniah, Woe to her that is filthy and polluted

Zephaniah 1-3

Zep gets right down to it.  Death and destruction from the word go!

He goes after a large number of people, probably the largest group threatened by a single prophet.

At the end, he lets up on the threats to let the people know that they can be saved if they submit to God's will.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Will the World End in 2012?

We're one year away from the end of the Mayan calendar.   The minor prophets are giving us some proto-revelations doom and gloom.  Political upheaval and economic turmoil are constant headlines.

The end of the world is being shoved in our face.

So, what do you think?  Is mankind about to be an endangered species?  Did the ancients see it coming and try to warn us?  Will a supernatural being take us out? Will nature impose itself on us?  Are humans dumb enough to take themselves out?

Vote in the latest poll and leave a comment here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book of Habakkuk

Habakkuk 1-3

What can you say about Habakkuk that hasn't already been said?
Here are some personal highlights;

2:7 Shall they not rise up suddenly that shall bite thee...

Biblical Raunch!
2:15 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!

2:16 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.

Chapter 3 lets us know that even though God may be violent and vengeful, Habakkuk has faith that the LORD will eventually become kind and gentle.

Fig trees once again get picked on.  Doesn't Jesus kill a fig tree also?

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Book of Nahum

Nahum 1-3

The only interesting thing about this short book is that it involves the proposed fate of the city of Nineveh, the same city that Jonah was charged with saving.  I'm guessing this is the violence that God was promising before Jonah showed up.  Good thing the folks of Nineveh had a change of heart.

My only question would be, did God have Nahum standing by as his back up prophet in case Jonah's whale conversion didn't take?
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Book of Micah

Micah 1-7

Same old Doom and gloom.  Absolutely nothing new here.

Book of Jonah

Jonah 1-4

The ultimate fish story.  But what a poorly thought out one.  I didn't like the ridiculous means used to finally get Jonah to Nineveh.  See Idiot Plot
On the bright side, God is happy with the results and doesn't kill anyone. This makes Jonah sad.

God calls Jonah to be a prophet but Jonah has a very human reaction.  He freaks out and runs away and jumps on a ship!
The LORD has ways to deal with deserters though.  God  creates a mighty storm and Jonah does the noble thing and has himself thrown overboard to save others from a wicked storm.  Right into the mouth of a whale.  Like Jesus, it takes him three days to return to the world.

Once out of the 'fish', Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches about the city's destruction in 40 days and to his surprise, everyone from the king to the peasants listen to him!  God puts the pin back in his holy hand grenade.  But, Jonah seems disappointed.  Why?

On the bright side, this little girl does a perfect job of telling the story!

I want her to do the entire bible!!!

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Ideas for Charitable Donations

Below are a few suggestions for giving to those in need this season.  I'm sorry for the awkward presentation, I couldn't figure out a way to convert a Keynote document so that it was web friendly.
Some of these ideas are Chicago-centric and time sensitive but hopefully they will give you some ideas.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Book" of Obadiah, Thou shouldest not have...

Obadiah 1

God be praised for Obadiah's brevity!

1:1 ...Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.

George W Bush and friends started the Iraq war for the same reason.  If a rumor is good enough for God... ;-)

God is still in the revenge game.

15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.

Otherwise, the same fire, destruction and invasion we're used to.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book of Amos, I will send a fire

Amos 1-9
Amos continues God's rant against everyone that has done him wrong.  Get it all out LORD, you don't want to have a stroke.

Amos does give us a theme to make the reading easier.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of <insert evil people here>, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because <fill in transgression here>...
But I will send a fire upon <insert transgressor here>...

This one line is the smoking gun I've been looking for.
3:2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Ever since the story of Noah, I've wondered why God seems to be stalking and terrorizing a very small, specific group of people.  After all the VAST majority of the world's population could care less about this god, most have never heard of him.  He only has power to hurt you if you believe he exists.
As people left to start out on their own, why didn't God smite the hell out of them as a lesson?
I truly would love to hear an answer.

Chapter 4 just highlights how clueless God is when he wonders why his people no longer worship him, even after he's starved them, killed their young men and brought drought and floods to the land.

Still, Amos/God continue spewing the same doom and gloom as the others have.

The last part of the book gives us Amos' origin story.  He is warned not to go into the prophet biz but God insists.

God uses props to help Amos understand.  A plumbline and basket of fruit.

He also will cause a famine of himself.
8:11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
8:12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

I'm guessing that if Israel doesn't care about him now, having him disappear isn't going to bother them much.  They'd probably enjoy a reprieve from the killing.

We end the book with God again promising to destroy all but a few of his special people.
He then makes a promise, that Israel "shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them". 
Only took him 2500 years to keep that promise and even now, Israel is under constant threat from it's neighbors.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book of Joel

Book of Joel 1-3
The book of Joel seems to be all over the place.  He covers a lot of ground in three short chapters. If only the previous prophets were so kind...
Still, I'm REALLY bored with this repetitive shit.

First, Joel gives us the standard doom and gloom (The end of the world is nigh, but if you repent...).  He's very unhappy about the drought, wether real or metaphorical.

He then slowly changes the tone to one of the LORD loving his people and promising to be nice to them and give them the bounties they deserve.  "I'm coming back to you, and then we'll all eat ice cream and cake!'
I always get a kick out of this line which is repeated in various ways throughout the Old Testament;

2:13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

We finish with Joel not quite understanding what has happened to the people of Israel.  He seems to think that other nations came in of their own accord and ransacked the land, scattering the people and their wealth.
3:4 Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will ye render me a recompence? and if ye recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompence upon your own head;
3:5 Because ye have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried into your temples my goodly pleasant things:

3:6 The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their border.

Silly man.  That was all Gods doing.  He destroyed Israel and sold his own people to other nations because of their disobedience.  God must be pissed that Joel didn't give him full credit.

God will get his revenge on the people that took HIS people captive.
3:8 And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Remember, he hasn't yet changed the rules to "Turn the other cheek" and "Forgive those that trespass against us"

Funny, the shorter the book, the more I write about it. :-)

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Why it's not "Just a Theory"

Let's take a quick break from the doom and gloom of the Old Testament prophets for a positive story about education.  Ricky Line, The Superintendent Of The Hart County Board Of Education in Kentucky wrote a letter to Kentucky Board of Education, telling them that he was taking a stand against the teaching of evolution because it was 'just a theory'.  His full letter and attachements can be found here.

Terry Holliday, from the Kentucky Board of Education sent him a reply that explains Science and Scientific Theory in very easy to understand language.  I think it's one of the best explanations I've seen.

The bottom line is that SCIENCE should be taught in SCIENCE classes and not religious belief.
If creationist/intelligent design proponents want their beliefs taught in public schools they will need to use the scientific method and present evidence.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book of Hosea, Like a silly dove without heart

Book of Hosea 1-14

Hosea gives us a rather long winded parable on the Israel's fall from grace.  We've heard it all before in the same style (including Israel portrayed as a whorish woman).  At least it's a pretty easy read.

God tells Hosea to marry tainted women and then buy a woman and have an affair with her.
The old "God told me to!" excuse.  Timeless.

There is really nothing of note in this book other then God's disappointment with his chosen people and the brutal way he deals with it.

Ultimately, god will forgive them and take them back.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Post Ezekiel Aperitif

I meant to post these at the beginning of the book but forgot.  Enjoy.

Journey - Wheel in the Sky

Husker Du - Books about UFOs

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book of Daniel

Daniel 1-12

The book of Daniel is all about dreams and their interpretations.  This post is about as confused as his prophesies.

Daniel and some friends are made slaves of Nebuchadnezzar and have their names changed.
Slave Daniel asks God to save his hide by helping him interput Nebuchadnezzar's bad dream.

Daniel's interpretation is convoluted and a pretty generic answer, sort of like today's psychics.

Even so, the king is so impressed that he worships the jewish god and makes Daniel a ruler;

2:46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
2:47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

But in the next chapter ol' Nebu gets mad because the Jews won't worship his god and idol 
and throws them into a burning, fiery furnace, but they are unscathed!!!  And to top it off, the Son of God is walking around in the furnace with them!

3:25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

What else could the king do but convert to Judaism.  Again.

3:29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

But, God causes Nebbie to go nuts and lives like a wild animal in the woods for (a year?  Not really sure on the exact timeframe) before returning to the throne.  You think this would have been mentioned somewhere else other then the Bible but I can't find it.

Daniel repeats his dream interpretation act almost to the letter with king Belshazzar and is again rewarded.  But that doesn't stop him from being thrown to the lions by Belshazzar's confederates.

6:10-24 is the story of Daniel in the lions den.  Once again I'm shocked that such a quick story has gained such notoriety, even outside the christian community.  The gruesome end of the guilty parties (and their families) is never mentioned of course. 

The dreams and interpretations continue thru-out the book.  Daniel meets several angels.
As per Daniels first predication, a string of kings comes and goes.  Nebuchadnezzar even writes a chapter!

The second half of the book turns grim and we get some proto revelations.  End of the world stuff.
It goes into great detail on the happenings but it's still middle-east centric, which is odd because the world is so much bigger now.
When reading it, I got the feeling that the author thought the end times would occur with-in his lifetime, but Daniel is ultimately noncommittal as to when God will put and end to his failed experiment.

All we know is that there will be zombies!!!

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Book of Ezekiel 44-48

Ezekiel 44-48
The last big book of the Old Testament comes to an end.  Thank Jebus!

God shows Ezekiel around the new, improved temple and then says "You'll have to use the servants entrance."

Who's this prince their talking about?

The Levites get demoted from priests to usher.  I'm surprised God let's them participate at all!
God then gives us a rehash of the rules of the game*.  It's good that he's focusing on the important stuff like justice, kindness and helping others in need.  Oh... wait.

God hates wool and sweat!

44:17 And it shall come to pass, that when they enter in at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, whiles they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within.

44:18 They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.

Wool is naturally fire retardent so God didn't want to have his priests wearing anything that would protect them if he felt the need to spontaneously combust them for an infraction, ala Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu.

God gives really shitty gifts;

44:28 And it shall be unto them for an inheritance: I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel: I am their possession.

God then parcel out land, gives more measurements and tells us how to kill and prepare his meals.

Chapter 47 tells us that there is a leaky pipe in the temple.  The robot with the tape measure is worthless when it comes to repairs.

And the exciting conclusion to the Book of Ezekiel?  God redistributes land to the tribes. What a lame way to end a book!  Jeez.

*Great movie.  Rent it if you get a chance.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book of Ezekiel 39-43 Bender's lame cousin Measurer

Ezekiel 39-43

More Gog bashing.  They have so many weapons that it'll take seven years to destroy them all!
And the Israelites are going to be burying bodies for seven months!
God must like the Gog (he/them/it) more than his 'chosen people' because the Gog get buried.  Lately, when God has had his own people murdered he just leaves their bodies out to rot and get eaten by the animals.
God hasn't yet come up with idea of turning the other cheek and the doing unto others slogan;

39:10 ... and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD.

Chapter 40-42 is officially the lamest part in the bible.  Ezekiel eats some peyote and meets a robot that measures things!  I kept reading, waiting for something interesting to happen but it never did.  You thought the description for the original temple was boring?  Ha!  I give you permission to skip this shit.  
There is an important aspect to this chapter though.  The prophesy of the man with the shiny metal ass would be fulfilled in 1999.

Things get a little better in chapter 43 when God shows up in person to give more details on the house.
He points out, like Monty Hall, that Israel can own this house for the low, low price of their obedience and subjugation.  He also wants them to start cooking for the LORD again.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book of Ezekiel 34-38 Gog Damn It!

Ezekiel 34-38

Well fancy that, we find another 'prediction' of Jesus' coming;
34:23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

34:24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.

In 35, God plans to kill off the Edomites on Mount Sier.  "I can't destroy Babylon, Egypt or the Assyrians but there is this smaller group up in the mountains I can probably take!"  God suddenly seems very small and impotent.

Chapter 36 tells us the good that God is going to do isn't for the benefit of the Israelis but for his great name.  Vanity, thy name is the LORD!
36:22 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went.

36:23 And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD

Chapter 38 brings us Gog.  They are the usual threat against Israel and God's gonna cause a lot of shit to go down.  End of Days type stuff.  Literally.  Everyone, even the birds and bees are going to be afraid.  This is done so God can "magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD."  
Yeah, they'll know he's the LORD but everyone will hate him!  Time for some anger management!

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Book of Ezekiel 29-33 More stuff that didn't happen

Ezekiel 29-33

I know we're not supposed to take these writings literally, but I find it annoying that God/Ezekiel continue to claim credit for the works of others.  Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon will destroy Egypt and spread it's people around, same thing that happened to the people of Judea and Israel.  I'm sure Nebuchadrezzar had no intention of doing this until God put it into his head.  Right.  I don't expect the Bible to talk about the good stuff that he did during his reign but at least give him credit for the warring.

Chapter 29 has Egypt becoming a barren wasteland for 40 years (what was with these people and the numbers 40 and 7?).

29:8 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.
29:9 And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it.

29:10 Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia.
29:11 No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.

Didn't seem to have happened.  According to history anyway.  Sort of like the exodus.

I also find it VERY funny that "the LORD" has Babylon invade Egypt;
30:25 But I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and the arms of Pharaoh shall fall down; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall put my sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt.

I'm guessing "the LORD" was the last thing on their minds during the war.
I don't think there are accounts of Nebuchadrezzar saying "I'm a peaceful man.  Why am I invading Egypt?!?!  Who is making me do this?  The LORD?!?!  :-)

Chapters 31-32 are repetitive.  Why am I surprised?

In Chapter 33 God tells Ezekiel that the people or "the watchman" will be the ones to blame when God starts killing people if they don't take heed.  God has to kill so he's not responsible.  I believe this is a repeat of an earlier writing.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Book of Ezekiel 26-29

Ezekiel 26-29

More ranting about the same ol' thing.

As an aside, the Skeptics Annotated Bible has some interesting side bars on the prophesies that didn't quite come true.  I usually read the SAB with a skeptical eye since it's EXTREMELY biased, but the parts they pointed out are pretty obvious errors.

4 more days of Ezekial and then we get to the quickie one day books of the OT before Jesus shows up!
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