… zzz …
*snrk* whuh?  Oh.  Uh.  Good morning.  Can uh… can I help you?
Right.  Blog post.  Yep… coming right up.
*looks at a calendar*
OCTOBER 2017??  It’s been ALMOST A YEAR??
How long was I asleep?!
That was rhetorical!
Oh my gosh.  The Blog.  Who’s been feeding the blog?  It needs a post every week!  The fans demand it!  I have followers, you know!  (Probably shouldn’t call them that, it feels weird when anyone but Jesus says that.)
Come on come on come on come on, Blog, wake up!  Speak to me!  I don’t know how to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a web page, so, here’s finger-to-keyboard resuscitation –
You’re alive!  Oh sweet Je– (probably shouldn’t say that)– Thank you G– (probably shouldn’t say that), Oh… Secular… Hooray?  Ah well.  Good enough for now.

Thank you all for tuning in.  A year ago I churned out a good nine posts on the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, and most of Leviticus.  I’d been hit with this strange calling to talk about the Bible, and for some reason that meant blogging, in comedy, while geeking out by making Magic: the Gathering cards.  I don’t know how much of that was God’s “putting it on my heart” to do it that way and how much of that was Him letting me pick.  It was a weird feeling.  It was like a mix of having a good idea, like a personal project, and like feeling you’re supposed to do it for some bigger reason.

And here’s the sort-of-divine part: I stopped needing sleep.  And as long as I spent almost the whole night on-topic, I could stay up two, three, even five hours, and get up in the morning like I’d got 8 hours.  This is after a lifetime of desperately needing 7 hours or more, and literally bumping into walls like an 8-ball when I didn’t.  And the two nights I tried just staying up and not doing the blog, that’s how I felt.  I only got energy for the blog.

So, late October, that’s when I heard I might lose my job.  All my other priorities dropped.  Job-hunting is an all-consuming fire for the brain that replaces everything else.  (Which is weird, because I definitely didn’t spend 40 hours a week searching and applying when I was between jobs, but it sure felt like 40.)  The jobs I had since then have not been stable.  Until now.  I signed a lot of non-disclosure contracts, so I won’t say what I do or where.  I promise it’s not for the alt-right.

As for the Bible… I… I didn’t wait for you guys.  I read the whole New Testament!  And it’s almost 600 pages!  (It took me a year to get that far, and that’s with months of distraction throughout.)  This led to plenty of Magic: the Gathering card concepts, a backlog of which I’ll get to when someone bribes or threatens me into it.

As for Magic: the Gathering, there is an absurd amount of new card sets now!  More of Ixalan’s Mayans with Dinosaurs, the fantastic parody card set Unstable, revisiting the decades-old storyline of Dominaria, and the kind-of-storyline-less gladiator fest of Battlebond.

https://mtg.gamepedia.com/Template:List_of_Magic_sets

Oh, one other bit of news.  I’ve written a book.

https://abeclabby.wordpress.com/blog/

Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get updated when it’s published!

-Abe

 

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I’m not sure how to transition to this, so I’m just gonna say it: in Exodus 24, 74 people sit down and literally have dinner with God.

So at this point, God has been a person walking in Eden, a wrestler with Jacob, a burning bush, a would-be assassin to Moses, a cloud and a pillar of flame, and an entire mountain on fire.  Now God’s invited Moses, Aaron, and a lot of the elders of Israel go up a mountain and meet him there.  They don’t describe God.  We know what Zeus and Thor and every other religion’s super-beings look like.  We have ancient statues and Renaissance paintings and modern cartoons for them.  But the Abrahamic faiths are very clear not to describe God.  (In Islam a lot of people do the same with Mohammed / Muhammad).  If you draw someone, it can make them a caricature.  They’d just be a drawing.  People would dress up as them for Halloween.  It wouldn’t be sacred, it’d be a concept people could toy with and make fun of and put words in His mouth.  So no, as much as I’d like to know what they saw, it also doesn’t matter.  God isn’t a human, so He could look like whatever He wants to.  (In fact these commentators really go on about how they probably didn’t even see God in a human shape at all, probably just light and power and glory.)

But at least they describe what it looked like around Him.  “and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.” (Exodus 24:10)  So the ground looked like the sky… so was He just floating?  Was the ground just reflecting the sky?  Was the ground made of some tangible material sky-stuff?  Not sure if it matters.

And apparently they all sat down to dinner.  Nobody said what was served.  Nobody said what they talked about.  If you’re a Judeo-Christian mystic, that is the worst sort of tease.  But I’m already getting used to those.  They had 4,000 years to cover, they didn’t have space to write like Stephen King.

So THEN God gives Moses the Ten Commandments AGAIN.  Moses goes the rest of the way up the mountain, into the cloud God covered the top in, because He wanted some privacy even though he just had almost 100 people over for dinner.  And it takes a whole 40 days to carve these ten rules down… because God told him a lot of other things too.

You’ve heard of the Ark of the Covenant, right?  Big gold box, melts peoples’ faces?  Well I’m flattered that the Bible made it into Hollywood, but I’m way ahead of y’all at 2 Kings 24 and still haven’t seen that yet.  But, sneak preview – when the Ark does get stolen and put in their god’s temple, the statue’s head falls off.  Then everybody gets the plague.

Ark of the Covenant

It takes the next 7 Chapters, all the way up until the golden calf, for God to give the exact dimensions and materials of the Ark of the Covenant (some say the Ark of God) and the rest of his His temple, the Tabernacle.  Now you can build your own!  (Note: a cubit is 1.5 feet.  Why the translators didn’t convert it to meters I’ll never know.)

I’ll mention something about this temple – it’s not just a symbolic building to show God you love Him.  The Tabernacle was the literal dwelling-place of God.  The Ark of the Covenant was brought to the back of the temple in a secret room.  It was so sacred and separate that almost no one could ever go there.  The Ark had two massive gold-covered angels sculpted above it.  Between their wings, it was said, was where God would sometimes sit.

Holy of Holies

So then, since I covered the golden calf last week, next God tells them to pack up and move.  They’re trekking to the Promised Land after all, which Abraham and his descendants have been talking about inheriting for over 500 years.  It’s about time.  The bad news, God says that land is filled with people.  You can tell there’s lots of them because they all have different names: Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  (There may be more later, I lose track.)  The good news is, God’s sending an angel ahead to subtly nudge them out of the land by the time the Israelites get there.  And it’s a “land flowing with milk and honey,” so it should be worth it.  (This had better be a metaphor.  If there are just dairy springs and oases in the desert, I wouldn’t trust it.  And honey without bees I wouldn’t think was honey, but honey with bees would mean an insane amount of bees.)

The bad news is, God’s ditching the Israelites.  They’d been crammed in together on this road trip and they couldn’t stand each other.  He even says so – “because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”  Brrrrr.  Is it cold in here?  He even tells them to dress down and take off their “ornaments” out of humility. (i.e. their jewelry, unless this was a tacky Christmas sweater party and they were wearing baubles and Christmas lights.  This was the desert and there was no Christmas.  You knew I was kidding.  I’m just saying in case you skimmed and missed that.)   So they do, and the people mourn.  This probably involved watching The Note-scroll and sending him drunk tablets at 2 in the morning.  The Bible was a good enough friend not to talk about that in detail.

And onnn that note, they’re off!

Your parents told you they didn’t have favorite kids.  But God sure has favorite animals.

In The Beginning, God made the animals, and saw that they were all good.  Except one of them was a talking snake, which talked the first humans into sentience and breaking literally God’s only rule.  (Which means the snake had knowledge of good and evil already, which means the snake had already eaten from the tree!  That just hit me.)  Granted, that snake may or may not have been Satan (it’s more inferred than stated, really), the angel who led a civil war among angels and got cast out of Heaven and into Hell.  Either way, God punished all snakes forever by saying all humans and snakes would be at war forever, a war which humans usually win.  There’s a big theme of ancestry in the Bible – people are defined by who their parents were.  I think as a millennial I’m supposed to reject that, and all labels.  But our culture’s been rebelling against its parents for 55+ years, unlike most of the untold thousands of years before that.  But right or wrong, it’s in the Bible.  (That will settle the argument for some of you; the rest of you, keep writing with existential uncertainty.)

God sort of makes peace with snakes later, at least off-and-on.  The first time God shows up as or with an animal, it’s Moses’ staff turning into a snake, which eats the Egyptian magician’s snakes.  Then later, we’re not there yet but later, Moses makes a metal snake statue on a staff that can cure snakebites.  In other words, snakes symbolize the numerous, often supernatural enemies, but are overpowered by the one good snake.

After snakes, the Bible sort of toys with an evil-cows theme for a while.  When Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he dreams of good cows (representing prophesies of plentiful food), and then 7 vile, gnarled cows come up and eat them.  If you can’t picture this, it’s because cow mouths are small, and cows are big.  I assume there were multiple bites.  The gnarly cows must’ve been thinking was so many one-time vegetarians do: “I tried living off just plants, but meat is just too good!”

Bull of Famine

The next time cows come up, it’s during “Let My People Go” – when Pharaoh won’t free the Israelites from slavery, one of the plagues is on all the livestock, which all get sick and die.  For animal rights activists reading, keep in mind animals were seen as extensions of people, like property.  You might’ve preferred a Plague of Runaway Animals where the cows escaped from bondage.  That’s okay.  That’s not the story, but if you ever get to decide a plague, you can do that.

Cows even get their own punishments – right when God starts making all the little rules after the 10 Commandments, which I hear Jesus doesn’t carry over to Christianity later.  (If you’re wondering why there are few sermons on this, it’s not because people are picking and choosing what parts of the Bible count – though that does happen too.  In this case it’s about what rules were laws for the Israelites and their personal covenant with God, as opposed to what rules were universal moral norms.  But if you want sources for this, there are countless theologians who have answered this.  Post some in the comments and I’ll put it here and give you credit.)

In the first chapter of the list of rules, Exodus 21, it says, and this verse is special enough to put on your T-shirt and screensaver:

“If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels. That is, about 12 ounces or about 345 grams of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death.” (Exodus 28-32)

Amen.

You can tell from the tone that this was meticulously legalistic.

Goring Ox

Let’s leave the cows alone for a second, ’cause Exodus 21 talks a lot about slaves.  If you’re Jewish or Christian (or maybe Muslim, if you feel like the early Quran makes you look bad too when it talks about this), this makes you nervous.  Defending slavery as God’s plan is… outdated.  If you  find yourself defending it, it’s usually after you say the words “I’m not racist, I just think that…” and then you grasp at straws to defend it.  That’s what you’d call a Straw Man argument.  (You studied logic in high school too?  High-five!)

Now if you’re not one of those faiths, this kind of verse could be why you don’t trust religion, possibly not at all, possibly just older Western religion, possibly just in the hands of conservatives.  It all depends how much you define a religion by what bad was done in its religious circles.  After all, almost all of history people have been religious.  Is it all religion’s fault that people are stupid and suck sometimes?  (I would pay to watch a debate with this title.)  Or is it just correlation, not causation?  People were doing stupid things and they were religious, but religion wasn’t the one thing that kept people from being mature, scientific pacifists.  And yes, some of the religions were made up; I don’t know of a theory today that holds that all religions are factually true.  That would be a lot of creation stories and gods pushing the sun.  Whether they’re philosophically true is… nope, not enough room in this blog for that.  Moving on!

Hebrew slavery was only slightly different.  They’d just been slaves themselves in Egypt.  They may have been desensitized to the idea, like with corporal punishment and watching Family Guy with kids in the room.  The chapter also starts off saying “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years.  But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.”  This means they were making some of their own people into slaves.  They weren’t taking other peoples and keeping them as slaves.  It also means slavery was temporary.  It worked as a kind of indentured servitude, a way of working their way out of debt.  (If this were still legal, we could pay off ours before we were 30.  I’d put an exclamation point and laugh, but I might cry hot tears of rage, so a period will do.)

Slaves also had rights, some spelled out here, others in other chapters (here’s a more in-depth explanation if you’re still thinking “this guy’s whitewashing slavery, pretty sure he’s making some of this up.”)  This chapter does say if someone injures their slave (knocking out an eye or a tooth) also frees them immediately (Exodus 21:26-27).  I’m not sure if the verses right before it count: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” which is where we get that old expression.

Tooth for a Tooth

But honestly, anything that contractually requires for someone to work for someone for 7 years, with any fewer legal rights than the rest, is a nauseating idea.  I could make Egyptian Slavemaster cards all day long, but that’s because they’re the Biblical bad guys.  I can’t bring myself to do that for the Hebrews, even if I gave the ability slightly different subtypes to make it a milder version of service from one of your creatures to another.  Moving on.

Oh and it says men can sell their daughters as slaves (Exodus 21:7-11) oh no time for that I have things I want to write about byeeee…

I’ll just list the other important points for time’s sake:

  • “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.”  (Exodus 22:2-3) Yaaaay, the South!  We don’t call 911…when it’s dark out.
  • “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.  If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.” (Exodus 22:16) I looked up a dozen translations of this, and rest assured, they all said “seduces,” not rapes.  Had to be sure.  So if a young couple sleeps together, they have to get married.  My God, that would not go over well now!  People don’t know what they’re doing when they start doing it.  Pheromones are beer goggles.  Take your time, teenagers.
  • “You must not allow a sorceress to live. … If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them … They shall be stoned with stones; their blood shall be upon them.” (Exodus 22:17; Leviticus 20:6 & 27, yes I skipped ahead)  Iiiis this bigoted against Wiccans?  My God, that’s a big question.  Like a lot of the Bible, it is against other religions, and other religious practices – pagan, heathen, non-Abrahamic, take your pick of words for it.  This sounds a bit like Salem, where the Puritans killed… wait for it… 20 so-called witches.  (Still bad to kill them, but people talk about it like it was a Holocaust.)  If God is real, this carries more weight, since there’s an underlying power struggle between good and evil.  If God isn’t, then it’s just in-group favoritism and cultural bias leading to genocide / xenocide.  A lot weighs on that distinction.  Mind you, there are not a lot of people today who would lobby for the death penalty for all non-Christians.  Hashtag Westboro.  (I don’t think hashtags work on blogs.  Lemme try though: #Westboro.  Man am I gonna get some interesting site traffic!
    No Life from Death
  • “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) AHA!  Don’t be racist against immigrants!
  • “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22-24) Be nice to single moms and their kids, or God will kill you.  And then your family will be widows and orphans, just to add some poetic justice.
  • You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.” (Exodus 22:29-30) Also not popular today.  I would be drafted into working in the temple for life and be raised by monks.  Not the warrior kind, which I could’ve gotten the hang of (my dad used to watch Kung Fu).  Luckily later on God announces that the tribe of Levite (inventors of Levis) will be drafted from then on instead, but in return, everyone tithes some of their income to them because it turns out priest-ing doesn’t make much money.
  • “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits.” (Exodus 23:6) Heck yeah – due process!  America could work on that.  Hire more public defenders and screen judges for racism in their past verdicts.

But wait til I get to the evilest cow of all!

…that’s not til Exodus 32?  And we’re only on 23? Sheesh!  Way to break up my theme!  Oh what the heck, I’ll throw it in early:

So while Moses went up to get the Ten Commandments written down (God said ’em on Mount Sinai but they wanted a hard copy), the people get real impatient reeeal fast.  Maybe they were a bit spoiled because they’d had the literal, all-providing presence of God, and were getting separation anxiety now that He was off spending time with Moses.  Maybe they missed their time in Egypt (in spite of the slavery bit) and wanted something gaudy and ritualistic to waste their resources on.  Apparently making up a God fills the existential void.  It’s also handy for atheists in AA who have to pick a “Higher Power” but don’t believe in one.

So they literally ask Aaron, the chief priest, who has literally been in on Moses’ every miracle since Egypt (not that Moses made the miracles but – that was a tricky sentence to word), and say “Come, make us gods who will go before us.”  And Aaron, wanting to keep with the times and stay up for re-election, says, give me all your gold jewelry.  And they do, and he makes a golden calf out of it.  And he says to them, “This is your god, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!”

Golden Calf

Whoa, Bessie!  How did this happen?  Was Aaron just telling people what they wanted to hear?  Did they really just find a cow more relatable/relateable (SpellCheck is mad at me whichever way I say it) than the pillar of fire?  And here’s the big distinction I’ve found – this scripture doesn’t say that Aaron or the people thought this was a different God.  Read between the lines, and theologians please descend upon me if I’m wrong, but I think they were just portraying the God of Israel as a cow.

So Moses is up in the mountains with God, and God lets him know what’s going on below.  God muses aloud that he might just kill them all and make Moses’ descendants the new chosen people instead.  Moses talks him out of it.  Mhm.  Moses persuades the all-knowing one who reads minds and has seen all of time.  (Or God was just prompting Moses to speak for his people, since he really resents them too.)

So instead Moses goes down, drops the Ten Commandments in shock, they shatter – that’s the second time God’s tried to tell them these things – and he grinds the calf up to a powder and scatters it in the water.  Then he asks the tribe of Levite to kill several thousand of the calf-worshippers.  And they do.  I — I’m not even gonna touch that one.

Dang this post turned big!  Thanks for reading all the way through.  I got way more cards in this week.  That felt nice.

P.S, if anyone knows a good forum or medium for people to share games & fake cards like this online, lemme know.  It’d be great if this were a project involving more than just one guy.  But for now it’s still nice.

You guys are still paying attention?  Bra-vo!  I was thinking you’d heard the general version of these stories growing up, grown distant from the faith, got into fantasy gaming, and only clicked on this because of a hashtag.  (Thanks for reminding me to put hashtags in the past posts.)
Disclaimer: the controversial part I talked about last week is actually after this blog post.  There keeps being more in the Bible than I remember.  With a thousand events or so in the Bible (probably a low-ball estimate and a pretty arbitrary one at that, so you could round it either way to skew statistics), we were never gonna have a sermon or children’s story on each one anyway.  We would’ve had no time to waste.  That’s a weird thought; what would I have done with all the time and energy I put into card games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!? (that sounded angry, but the “!” is part of the name, I didn’t make the rules, Japan did)
Well I’m glad you asked!  (If you’re confused, I wrote it, you thought the words you were reading and therefore I read your mind.  It literally is what you were thinking.)  If you’ve spent the prerequisite several solid days of study time teaching yourself “Magic: the Gathering” (MtG, which ironically is how people abbreviate “meeting,” which is what a gathering is) … and if you’ve poured maybe a day shift’s pay into collecting the right tiny pieces of paper, you’re in luck!  Now you can justify that narrow skill set and social alienation by looking at Bible-themed Magic cards.  It’s more grounded in reality anyway (if I just spiked someone’s blood pressure, take a cleansing breath and come back to the blog when you’re ready).  And believer or not (insert exclusivist Christian reference here), you get to see it play out, one rambling blog post & dynamic mostly-just-makes-sense-to-gamers card at a time.
https://mtgcardsmith.com/user/AbeClabby/cards
But can we play with them, you ask?  Isn’t that what card games are for?  People actually did ask that, not like the prop-question in my last paragraph.  Well – since I’m making a gallery of them, all the ones in these blogs and more will be in one place.  When I have enough, we’ll see what we can arrange.  But first, to make them!  That was the point of this anyway.  They should be balanced and fit within the Magic: the Gathering framework, but all tied to something that happened in Scripture.  Like flash cards for the Old Testament, but flash cards that can destroy each other.
When we last left Moses, he’d gotten into a fight in the desert with the Amalekites, who God does not like, because they got into a fight with His people.  God kind of plays the protective husband sometimes.  The “Bride of Christ” term comes up in the New Testament with the same theme.  It fits with his “have no other gods” theme too.
But in other ways He’s more like the cosmic Dad, getting into it with the parents of the kid who pushed His kid down at school today.  He just also snaps at his own kids for breaking the rules and making bad decisions and dating some troublemaker.
So God decides, apparently being a cloud / PILLAR OF FIRE (emphasis added) wasn’t enough, so God goes down to Mt. Sinai and sets a whole mountain on fire.  Volcano, you ask?  Brushfire?  I dunno.  There’s also lightning, which can go with either or start the second one.  In a way it doesn’t matter from a believer’s perspective whether physics were bent or natural things happened by coincidence, since either way God told Moses in advance so it was prophesied, ergo, he didn’t just find a wildfire and say “Look, it’s God!”
Mount Sinai
But God warns the people that if anyone, even a priest, touches the mountain, God’s power will break out and destroy them.  Well that’s different.  God’s usually been pretty choosy with who He destroys so far.  But God wasn’t in all those cities in person as an entire mountain of fire.  He’s been an anonymous traveler, as have His angels, and He’s been a bush and a cloud, both on fire.  You’ll find God is frequently on fire.  He’s just so intense.  I’ve heard Him compared to the Sun: unfathomably huge and powerful, source of all life on Earth, but too intense to even look at or you’ll go blind.  It’s like there’s too much of a good thing.
And God did invite Moses up the mountain, through the smoke and fire, and told him the Ten Commandments.
These are those things people want put outside courts or capital buildings.  And other people really don’t want them there.  Let’s see what they’re fighting over:
1) No Other Gods Before Me.
(Mmmmm-hm.  This one’s pretty straightforward.  The only faith I’ve come across that’s okay with worshiping gods other than their own pantheon is Buddhism, and that’s because they believe there are no gods to be before anyone, and Buddha wasn’t a god, just a person with an enlightened spirit.  If you take the sentence literally, “No Other Gods Before Me” would be okay with gods… next to Him.  Or just beneath Him.  Somehow that doesn’t square with the rest of the Bible.  Worshiping at pagan temples with prostitutes and false idols is the biggest thing God keeps getting angry at them for.  Granted, I don’t think He’s a xenophobe who recoils at the semi-religious symbols of all other cultures – yoga, yoga pants, Yoda backpacks – but I’ll admit to not having the scripture in hand to back that up.  The Bible really only brings up other faiths when someone’s making sacrifices to them, and that’s a big line to cross.  We don’t really ritually kill animals for religious purposes anymore.  But more on that in the next blog.
(Could I make a card out of this?  Ehhh… I really struggle with where God fits in a game of Magic: the Gathering.  You’re this superbeing summoning creatures and casting spells.  Are you a Prophet?  Sort of, maybe.  But then there’s no way to have a relationship with God in the game, which is half the point of the Bible.  Feeble creatures gaining blessings from the Creator who bestows things upon them from His hand, as they strive to bring Him glory, has a nice warm-glowy feel to it.  Then again, if your character is God, 1) sacrilege, 2) kinda trivializes God which uh, take a look at the 3rd commandment, 3) you’d not be omnipotent or omniscient, meaning God could run out of life and die, 4) you’d even be fighting against an equal, who would probably have to be Satan.
….I actually started the paragraph thinking I’d be pushing for God to be the player, but uh, didn’t turn out that way.  Lemme put this in my notes, I have lots of notes.)
2) No Graven Images, or Any Likeness of Any Thing in Heaven, Earth, or Sea.  (Specifically, don’t worship them.  A lot of people were doing it back then.  See, the first part sounds like God’s saying: Don’t Carve, or Sculpt, or Draw Anything, Ever.  Honestly that’s how it gets quoted later on, but originally there was this context to go with.  The Israelites must have caught on, because I haven’t come across a verse where someone drew something and God or anyone in Israel got mad at them for it.
It’s hard to make that a card, though.  It would have to really be a stretch.  Comment if inspiration strikes you, I’ll give you shared credit for it.)
3) Don’t Take the Lord’s Name in Vain.
(…this already isn’t gonna be a Magic card.  I had to research “in vain” for a while, ’cause usually that means “unsuccessfully.”  Scholars seem to be saying not to misuse it, which, since that didn’t tell me much, also got taken as misrepresenting God when talking about Him.  It also might mean no cussing, though I mostly heard that in Sunday school.)
4) Keep the Sabbath Holy.
(literally Don’t Work on Saturday.  Okay!  Don’t have to tell me twice!  This is actually good timing, ’cause I did work Saturdays for years until a month ago.  This one made sense for an ex-slave people who’d needed God himself to lobby for a single holiday weekend.  The official reason is to rest because God rested on the 7th day of Creation instead of making something else cool right after humans.  He adds that not even your kids or your cows or your not-Jewish neighbors in your city should work.  As for us, America loves work – at least the idea of it – so this doesn’t always come easy for us.  I mean for some of us it does.  For those people I’ll add that it says to work the other 6 and that Saturday is God’s day.  Not necessarily recover-from-hangover-and-prepare-for-another-one day.
(I actually do have a card for this one!  Surprisingly enough.  There wasn’t an obvious picture for people not working, but I found Indian people sitting down and figured it was close enough.)
Fourth Commandment
5) Honor thy Father & Mother
(You know this one.  Your parents might’ve taught you this one… and thought it whenever you disagreed with them.  I looked hard for a better explanation of what’s meant by Honor here.  The closest alternate-Bible-translation version I found was “Respect.”  I could actually debate myself in circles with when it would or wouldn’t be honoring or respectful to disagree with your parents, or to disobey them.  That could actually get real vicious in the comments.  Feel free to fight for my amusement there.
(Side note: the first time God says it, here, that was only half the sentence.  He finished with: “that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”  In other words, you’ll live longer if you honor your parents.  That’s why I sleep easier knowing I’m protected from that ominously open corporal/capital punishment by this next commandment:)
6) Thou Shalt Not Kill
(Now this one’s pretty popular and mainstream.  If you don’t count action movies or gun legislation or capital punishment or law enforcement or foreign policy.  The important thing to note here is that there are several words for “kill” in old Hebrew, and the one here means “murder.”  It’s never used in the Bible to mean killing during wartime, or being put to death by law.  What it does include is allowing someone to die through neglect or carelessness.  Not preventing someone from dying when they could have been saved is a form of murder here.  So whichever party you’re in, the Bible agrees and disagrees with you here.  Closing note: Jesus doesn’t want anyone to hurt anyone, not even when mandated by law, not even if they’re trying to rob you or kill you.
(Could this be a card?  I think it’s too bogged down with nuances of the kinds of killing.  If killing in wartime is OK, at least when God says so (He didn’t always say so out loud), it really wouldn’t restrict much.)
7) Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
(Nope – definitely not getting a Magic card.  Don’t cheat on your spouses, people.  The sex wasn’t the thing missing from your relationship anyway.  I mean not the only thing.  If you’re married and starved for companionship, there are these kinds of people called friends who you don’t commit adultery and poison your marriage and make you the bad guy (or girl) who ruined things.  And if those don’t make you happy, either you’re doing it wrong, or you’re wanting something from others that you can only get from yourself.  Talk to someone about how.
I’m going to play it safe when saying “someone” and list LoveIsRespect.org (who has a chat line and hotline (866) 331-9474, and I used to work here so that’s my stamp of approval), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness i.e. NAMI.org (whether it’s all your fault or all his/hers, they have support groups all over the country; you can call them at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) (M-F 10a-6p)).
8) Thou Shalt Not Steal
(Can this get any more black-and-white?)
(A card for this would really just penalize taking control of another player’s cards.  I’m afraid that’s just kind of a rare ability.  It’d be a defense against something that wouldn’t be too likely to happen.)
9) Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against thy Neighbor
(Lying’s a trickier thing than it sounds.  Most people can justify lying in the right situation.  Some do it to get out of trouble, or to avoid upsetting people, or to make someone feel better, or to make their kid believe in Santa Clause knowing full well that the kid’s going to stop believing one day and they’ll realize you were con artists who went to great lengths to deceive them just so you could see them get giddy!  Sorry, I forgot how many feelings I have about that.  The point is that we want it to be around.  Apparently those people’s prayers were heard, because technically most theologians say the 9th Commandment is about “bearing false witness,” meaning lying in a legal setting.  It may not mean not to lie.  I almost didn’t clarify this because I didn’t want people to read this and start lying more.  So I’ll remind people that there are plenty of other non-Commandment verses saying God wants people to be honest.  There.  I think I’ve done my due diligence.
(This really isn’t a good post for Magic cards.  You can’t lie in a game where every enforceable rule is written right on the card.)
10) Thou Shalt Not Covet
(Covet?  That’s not an everyday word.  Lemme finish the commandment first: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”  Aheh, heh, heh, heh.  Yeah, you’re pretending He didn’t mean donkey.  All right kids, snap out of it!  Sheesh.  So what it means is, don’t want to take what isn’t yours.  Even if you’re not gonna take it, don’t even want to.  I always took this as “you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses,” but it at least means don’t go wanting things that aren’t yours or that you’re not supposed to have.
Well, readers, thanks again for reading, and you’re welcome for reading.  Copyright God 2000-ish BC.  All rights reserved.

Abraham and a Lot of Others

September 11, 2017

(This post is part of an ongoing series on my making the Old Testament into Magic: the Gathering cards.  Best to start at the beginning, which is the Word…press link here.)

Let’s pick up the pace a bit.
Where were we?  Noah.  Right.  10 generations later, Noah’s 3 kids have had an amazing amount of babies and have repopulated the Earth.  “Go forth and multiply” were their only instructions, so they took it and ran with it.  Then we get to Abram.  (His name gets extended to Abraham later.)  He’s living in a pagan city, where his dad literally makes idols for a living.  God speaks to him, Abram is called to pack up and leave, and God promises him that He will make him the Father of Nations, children as plentiful as the dust, and as numerous as the stars.  He will, after all, officially start Judaism, which later add Christianity and (not genetically but by giving them source material) Islam.  So, naturally:

Abraham, Father of Nations

Abraham, Father of Nations {3}{W/G} 3/3 Creature – Human Cleric: {x}: summon X 1/1 Descendant tokens. When an ability targets Abraham, you may also have it target any number of Descendant tokens.
“I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.” Genesis 22:17

I skipped the parts that were hard to make into a card- like how he goes to a city, and he’s so sure that people will kill him to take his wife that he tells her to pretend she’s his sister- and the King marries her. And Abram gets rich! But when the King finds out, he feels terrible about it, and lets him leave with everything he earned while the king’s brother-in-law.  A lot of people do morally-questionable stuff in the Bible, and some of them get called out by God and/or killed for it.  It’s a little Game-of-Thrones-y.

And then there’s his son Isaac. He’s in his 80’s, God tells them they’ll get pregnant, and they name him Isaac.  A few years later, God tells him, sacrifice him to me. Abram’s about to, when an angel shows up and tells him not to, because that was a test.  And Isaac never says a word about it again.  I can see the card text now: “Sacrifice a creature. Cancel that sacrifice.” Hindsight makes it a little less dramatic.

Wait a second. I almost forgot there’s this city called Sodom.

City of Sodom

City of Sodom {black}{black}: Enchantment: Target player’s creatures gain Sin. When their abilities would raise each other’s Power or Toughness or place +1/+1 counters on them, those abilities pick new targets if possible, and can now target opponents’ creatures, but now lowers Power and Toughness by the same amounts.
“Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness, and the poor suffered outside their doors.” Ezekiel 16:49

(I’ll explain Sin another day.  For now it’s just a label you stick on a card – and some other cards do worse things to cards with Sin.)

It’s actually a little less edgy than you’ve heard.  It turns out 95% of what’s ever written about them had nothing to do with being gay.  Sort of.  There are lots of verses, before and after it blows up, about how terrible these people are and how everything they do is a blight against God.  One of the few specific examples written is “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness, and the poor suffered outside their doors.” Ezekiel 16:49  (And for context, God describes Israel as acting worse than Sodom when His people are doing something terrible, like having temple prostitutes and sacrificing their children to bull-headed fire gods (Leviticus 20), which was very… MtG-black-card-ish.)

The other thing that happened is why the city got blown up.  God announced to Abraham that he was going to destroy it.  (Hold your horsemen, there’s gonna be a card for this.)  A pair of angels in disguise come to warn Lot, who takes them into his house.  And then this mob of rapists shows up – I’d repeat that, but just read it again and imagine it louder.  They demand he send out the men (the angels) for them to gang-bang (the one gay part of this encounter), like a hostage exchange.  Lot’s so desperate to bribe them and save everyone else that he offers them his adult daughters (who hear him say this, by the way).  Don’t you tell us who we can’t do, they say, “now we will treat you worse than them” – now they try to grab Lot and pull him out.  The angels start striking blind people – that came out wrong – striking people blind in the doorway, and warn Lot and his family to escape, because they’re about to destroy it.  Now you see why?

Agent to Sodom (1)

Agent to Sodom (4)(r): 4/4 (Creature – Angel Archer)
Hexproof, Indestructible.  Angels gain Pure and cannot lose it.  
Morph {3}{r}<i>(you may cast this card face-down as a 2/2 creature for {3}.  Turn it face-up at any time for its morph cost.)</i> When Agent of Sodom is turned face-up, all of target player’s tapped creatures gain Sin.  When Agent in Sodom attacks or blocks, put -1/-1 on all creatures with Sin.
“We are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” Genesis 19:13

So they do.  This is where we get the preacher phrase “fire and brimstone.”  Oh, and the angels said not to turn around and look at it, but Lot’s wife looks and turns into salt.  Not sure how to card that one yet.

Who’s next?  Isaac the almost-sacrificed, surprisingly, decided to have a kid anyway.  That was Jacob.  You probably didn’t hear about his brother, Esau.  Kind of a family secret.  Jacob had an older twin brother, but Jacob talked him into signing over his rights as firstborn son.  And when their father was half-blind and dying, Jacob’s own mother played favorites by getting Jacob to pretend to be Esau and have his father sign over the rest of his inheritance.  Then he runs away because he rightfully thinks his brother is gonna kill him for this.  (Jacob, if you’re reading this, you’re a much better brother than Jacob, Jacob.)

Jacob, Traitor Twin

Jacob, Traitor Twin (1)(i) 1/2 Creature – Human Nomad: When Jacob, Traitor Twin enters play, choose a creature. When target creature would be affected by a spell or ability, you may make it affect Jacob, Traitor Twin instead.
“But Jacob said “First swear that your birthright is mine!” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as a firstborn son to his twin, Jacob.” Genesis 25:33

But there’s a happy ending – decades later, Jacob’s made it rich as a shepherd (you’ll understand this if you play Settlers of Catan – it’s useless until everyone needs it).  He sends a message .  When he shows up, he sees Esau’s waiting for him, with an army of 400 people.  So he starts sending servants ahead with his animals as gifts.  Then he camps out a ways away, and hopes that sinks in.

That’s when – do you know the story of a guy in the Bible wrestling an angel?  The church simplified it a bit.  What happens is that in the dead of night, Jacob’s alone, probably remembering how terrible of a brother he was growing up… and a man comes right up to him and starts wrestling him.  No wings here.  Almost no angel is ever said to have wings.  I’m sure there was some context for this.  But then, given the army over the hill, it’s a little less unexpected to be attacked right now.  And they wrestle… the entire… night.  Total metaphorical undertones.  ‘Long, dark night of the soul,’ anyone?  Anyone?  It’s an expression, I’m actually not pretentious enough to quote whoever coined it.

Then it’s coming up on daybreak, and it says that the man knows he won’t win this wrestling match.  So the man touches Jacob’s hip and that knocks it out of place.  The man says, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”  Reading between the lines here – Jacob’s hip’s out of alignment, and he’s still wrestling?  Jacob is ballsy.  He says back to the man, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”  More between-the-lines: I know people gave each other blessings back then, but I think Jacob may know this isn’t one of Esau’s soldiers.  The man asks (probably rhetorically) “What is your name?”  “Jacob,” answers Jacob.

And the man tells him, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Pause for dramatic effect.

That’s a riddle right there.  Yes, God’s all-powerful and can turn cities into pillars of fire, but you see these moments where He walks as a man.  And for Jacob to accept his challenge and not give up or dismiss it and run, that’s a symbolic gesture.  But here’s the taunt: Jacob asks him again, “Please tell me your name.”  And the man just asks him, “Why do you want to know my name?” and blesses him.  Even the scripture isn’t willing to say that was God.  So was it an angel?  Was it someone sent to play the part in Jacob’s life?  Was it a lucid dream?  No answer.  It says Jacob struggled with God and man, but this person could have been either one.  If this had been a new chapter in a young-adult fantasy series, the forums would be on fire when this came out.

 

Wrestle with God (2)

Wrestle with God {1}{p}: Tap and put a -1/-1 on target creature.  It gains Hexproof, Indestructible and Pure <i>(this creature’s Power & Toughness cannot be lowered.  Pure removes Sin.)</i>
<i>“And the man said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28<i>

Well – that’s not the end of the Bible.  There’s actually a lot more.  An insanely lot more.  But let’s make it into blog-sized pieces.  Hint for next week: Jacob has kids.  You’ve heard of one of them.