Monday, February 1, 2016

8 Most Unlikely Killers in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is rated R for sex and violence. Why did the Holy Spirit want all that stuff in there, anyway, when He could have made it about loving the planet, tolerance, and accepting other religions? Sometimes the Bear wonders if prelates have even read the Old Testament. It's chock full of genocide, adultery, rape, dismembered concubines, and a daughter-in-law who pretends to be a prostitute so she can have a child by her father-in-law. There are bloody palace coups, civil wars, terrific battles, assassinations, and outright murder. Plagues, famines fire from heaven.

The Bear notices that the stakes were always high. Things mattered to those Old Testament heroes and heroines. They lived with an intensity that would burn us up in a heartbeat.

But aside from the great figures, the mighty warriors, every once in awhile an unlikely hero will emerge to do what needs to be done. Here are eight that got the job done when nobody expected it. NOTE: Updated to include defenestrating eunuchs as suggested by reader "Laurel."

8. David -- Heads Shall  Be Scattered Far and Wide

Ah, all those beautiful, peaceful Psalms we love so much.

Psalm 110 (109) is considered to be one of the most important Messianic Psalms. It reads, in part: "The Master standing at your right hand shall shatter kings in the day of his wrath. He the judge of the nations will heap high the bodies; heads shall be scattered far and wide." (Grail Psalter) You won't find that verse in your Christian Prayer when you do your Liturgy of the Hours, but our St. Meinrad monks include it in their LOTH for Benedictine Oblates.

Benedictines aren't sissies.

"In case you missed it, look!"

Hardly, "The Lord is my Shepherd." Let us not forget young David the shepherd, was the original bear-fighter when he protected his flocks. How unlikely was it that a youth would best the colossal champion of the Philistines, Goliath? Later the people would sing, "Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands." (Saul was a paranoid schizophrenic, and didn't appreciate the songs, but that's another story.)




7. Sinner Kabob

Then there is another youth, Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, a young priest, who ended a plague caused by foreign women spiritually polluting Israel. He was just a kid, a relative nobody, when all of sudden he snaps and grabs a spear. He catches a couple in flagrante delicto and, with great economy of movement, skewers both of them at once with the spear.
When Phineas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation, and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the inner room, and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through her body. Thus the plague was stayed from the people of Israel.
(Numbers 25:7-8 RSV)

A two-fer. Awesome.

"I guess my eunuchs held a grudge."

6. Defenestrating Eunuchs

If you can't trust your eunuchs, who can you trust?

They say paint covers a multitude of sins. If so, Queen Jezebel had to use a trowel. Her end came when her trusted eunuchs chucked the original painted lady out of a window after a coup. Eunuchs always know which way the wind is blowing, not being distracted by other things.

In hindsight, sitting in front of a great big window with men whose testicles you've cut off is just asking for trouble. Maybe Jezebel thought her fading charms would make an impressive sight when Jehu pulled up in his chariot. Or maybe she just wanted to go out in style.

Jehu called out, "Who is with me?" The eunuchs looked Jehu and his army, then at each other, and, finally, Jezebel. It wasn't a hard choice. They shoved her out the window and gave Jehu a thumbs up.

Yet Jezebel's indignities were not finished. First, her body got trampled by horses. As the victors were having dinner, the new king suddenly smacked his hand to his head and remembered Jezebel hadn't been buried. She was the daughter of a king, after all. But all they were able to find were her head and the palms of her hands. Dogs had eaten her. ("That explains why Spot wasn't begging for scraps.")

There is speculation that her head and hands would have been decorated with henna, which is very bitter, causing the dogs to avoid them.
When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window. And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, "Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?" And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. He said, "Throw her down." So they threw her down; and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her. Then he went in and ate and drank; and he said, "See now to this cursed woman, and bury her; for she is a king's daughter." But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. When they came back and told him, he said, "This is the word of the Lord, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite," In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel. '"
(2 Kings 9:30-37 RSV)


5. Two She Bears Who Saved Elisha

Before there was "The Revenant," There Were Elisha's Two She-Bears.

Perhaps you have seen a picture of adorable ragamuffins being mauled by Bears. That's not the way it happened. This was a dangerous mob of 42 youths, trying to stir up the local populace against God's prophet, Elisha. You really don't think Elisha was so vain that God sent him ferocious Bears to punish children who made fun of him for being bald, do you?
He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she- bears came out of the woods and tore forty- two of the boys 
(2 Kings 2:23-24 RSV)
It isn't unlikely that Bears might attack a human, but 21 apiece? That's unlikely. What's even more unlikely is that when Elisha is in trouble, who comes to his rescue but two freakin' bears? The Bear bets that town didn't mess with prophets for a long time afterwards.

Or Bears.

4. Sorry, Holofernes, But This Was Totally Predictable

"Look, mistress, it fits right into my bag."

Or Judith, who used her feminine wiles to decapitate the enemy's general.

"Oh, Holofernes, you can completely trust me, beautiful Hebrew widow that I am, because I think you're totally dreamy."

The Bear am imagines Miles Gloriosus from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. "Of course you cannot help but be smitten by me. What's more I shall get hammered and lay on my bed completely at your mercy, you beautiful enemy wench, while my guards give us some privacy, if you know what I mean. In case you didn't notice, my best head-chopping sword is hanging on the bedpost."
She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes' head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, "Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!" And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed his head from his body. Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes' head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.
(Judith 13:6-10 RSV)

Only two whacks? Judith was some woman. Holofernes would not live to regret underestimating her. Or that he never laid a finger on her.

3. Jael Nails Sisera

"Look, Barack! That's right! I did this, not you, you big chicken!"

Or another woman with unusual arm strength, Jael, wife of Heber who lulled a fleeing general to sleep with warm milk and cookies, and drove a tent peg though his skull. Now that's a pounding headache!

A prophetess told Barack to attack. He hemmed and hawed, and finally said he would if she came along with him. Sensible, if untrusting. For his lack of faith, he would be denied the honor of killing the enemy general, Sisera.

When Sisera was defeated, he hid out in Jael's tent. She put a blanket over him, gave him some nice warm milk, and probably cookies and a bedtime story, too. Soon, he was fast asleep.

Then she looked around and asked herself, "What can I assassinate this idiot with?" Her eyes fell upon a hammer and tent peg. She shrugged. So powerful was her blow that it went all the way through Sisera's head and right into the ground.

Barack may have won the battle, but the glory went to Jael, wife of Heber.
But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, till it went down into the ground, as he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died.
(Judges 4:21-22 RSV)

2. Abimelech Gets Stoned

 A anonymous woman dropping a millstone from the tower.
Notice how the men don't seem to be doing anything useful.


Abimelech executed seventy sons of Jerubbaal in a coup. When he was about to burn the tower at Thebez, an anonymous woman dropped a millstone on his head. He had his armor bearer run him through so that no one could say he had been killed by a mere woman. (See Judges 9:53)

Not only did some woman whose name is not even recorded bean Abimelech from on top of the tower, he's so afraid that someone might say a woman killed him, he had his armor bearer run him through with his own sword. In a way, you might say millstone lady killed him twice. 

Considering how apparently often it was that generals were killed by women, you would think it would not have been that big of a deal.

1. Most Unlikely Killer of All

"Ow, get off me! Don't you know who I -- aaaarrrgh hissssss."

Not Old Testament? That makes the inclusion of Our Lady even more surprising.
And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and the beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.
(Genesis 3:14-16 Douay Rheims)

Maybe that old serpent doesn't actually die when Mary crushes his head. But the Bear bets he wishes he were dead. The Orthodox praise the Virgin Mary with the martial title of "Our Champion Leader." Mary is Queen of Heaven, and Queen of Angels. Since angels are the "host" in "Lord of Hosts," Our Lady is a Warrior Maiden.

What's All This Have to Do With Me?

We are fighting a different kind of war. It is not as simple as assassinating an enemy general. But the spirit of the Old Testament heroes and heroines should animate us. The Holy Spirit wanted these stories in the Bible for a reason. The worldly weak prove unlikely heroes. Help comes from unexpected quarters. We're at the crisis. Stand at your post and fight the good fight, sometimes literally breath by breath. The Bear doubt any of us will see the tide turn. We just have to fight the same battles day by day until we're judged.

One day, the Bear hopes, all of the current nonsense will be put right. Until then, the Bear shall remember the two heroic she-Bears who defended the prophet Elisha against the mob of 42 youths.

Did the Bear miss your favorite unlikely killer?

15 comments:

  1. Very fine and spiritually challenging post, Bear. I have taken much heart from it. Keep at it.

    Just at side-bar, and keeping with the subject of your exposition, i.e. "7 Most Unlikely Killers in the Old Testament", may I suggest and 8th?

    In the Book of Judges 11:30-39 is the story of Jephthah who, fulfilling a vow to God that he might have victory over the Ammonites, unexpectedly had to slay his daughter to fulfil the vow.

    It is a hard one though the symbolic significance resonates with these words of Christ:

    "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

    And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me..." Matthew 10:37

    Congratulations to you, Bear, on another gem of a post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Your Honor. Horrifying, although you just knew such a foolish oath was going to have that Twilight Zone twist. More than one lesson there, but the one you found is good.

      Delete
  2. Very insightful, Bear, but none of these souls stood in place, they acted!

    "Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!"

    JUDITHS
    LIVE

    I’ve been big sister
    All my life
    Seen trials and tears
    Much love and strife.

    I took some hits
    The biggest and tall
    For the love of them
    My siblings small

    But once again
    I’m called to fight
    For little brothers
    With all my might.

    My little brothers,
    Fathers they be,
    Need sisters older
    Judiths like me

    To walk behind,
    While men do scorn
    And praise these priests
    And sound the horn

    To give support
    As they help others
    And back them up
    My cassocked brothers

    But how you hate
    You say to me,
    These other Christs
    That live for He.

    With that my hair
    Stands up on end
    For born a Catholic
    I will defend.

    You better run,
    You better hide,
    To bully His Blood
    I won’t abide.

    With sacrifice
    And daily Mass,
    Big sister I
    Will kick your…

    …as I was saying,
    To all them others -
    Don’t mess with Judiths
    Little brothers!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant "stand your ground" as in stay in the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church, with your foot nailed to the floor in front of your favorite pew." It's figuratively speaking, since there are "alternatives" out there.

      Delete
  3. Nobody wants to acknowledge this stuff ever happened, or was the right thing to do? It makes me curious to know more about the Old Testamant, since there is so much that's well, violent! Interesting Bear, and your captions and comments are funny. See, this is why I read them aloud to my mate, and he does laugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course, the OT was scriptures for Jesus and the early Christians. There are boring stretches of genealogies, but a lot of stories of good and evil that are edifying.

      Delete
  4. Bear,

    Here's another one from 2 Kings 9:30-37, the death of the wicked Queen Jezebel prophesied by Elijah.

    30 When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her eyes, and adorned her head, and looked out of the window.
    31 And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, "Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?"
    32 And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked out at him.
    33 He said, "Throw her down." So they threw her down; and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her.
    34 Then he went in and ate and drank; and he said, "See now to this cursed woman, and bury her; for she is a king's daughter."
    35 But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.
    36 When they came back and told him, he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, 'In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel;
    37 and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.'"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Eunuchs! That's totally unexpected. It is theorized that her head and hands would have been left by the dogs because they would have had henna on them, which is extremely bitter. (It is. I tried some.) Yeah, I probably should have added the unexpected eunuch defenestration.

      Delete
  5. This is a most awesome post! I did not know about the shishkabob couple!!

    Seattle Kim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And then Phineas turned and said, "What God has joined, let no man put asunder." If they made a movie about Phineas that is what he would say, anyway.

      Delete
  6. Seriously---anytime lusty thoughts cloud your mind--just imagine being shishkabobbed to the object of your lust.
    Awesome tool.

    ReplyDelete
  7. IMPORTANT NOTE. The Bear has added the defenestrating eunuchs, at Laurel's suggestion, making the 8 Most Unlikely Killers in the Old Testament.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WOW! Thanks Bear! I like the picture you posted, too!

      Delete
    2. Except there was no one to catch Jezebel.

      Delete

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