Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Survivor

Chapter 18 and the following chapter tell the story of the siege of Jerusalem by Sennach′erib of Assyria. Judah is caught between great empires, and Sennach′erib, the son of Sargon who conquered Samaria, is still bent on conquest. Judah is in dire straits against a far more powerful adversary; Hezekiah relies on diplomacy to try to survive, through an alliance with Egypt. He also tries to buy off the attackers. All of this is consistent with the historical record. At the conclusion of the story in the following chapter, Yahweh kills the besieging Assyrian army. Other contemporary records, however, do not record an ouright defeat of Assyria and in fact, while Judah survived, it became a tributary kingdom. 

Although the Biblical account does not make this clear, what actually happened was that after initially paying tribute, Hezekiah agreed to an annual tribute, but he reneged, and counterattacked in alliance with Egypt, which is why the Assyrian army reappeared at the gates of Jerusalem. That part is left out.

Nevertheless historians believe that Judah prospered under Hezekiah's reign. No doubt being relieved of the burden of constant warfare outweighed the cost of any tribute paid to Assyria. Of course the Biblical account ascribes Judah's survival to Hezekiah's abolition of the worship of Baal.

18 In the third year of Hoshe′a son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezeki′ah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechari′ah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Ashe′rah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehush′tan. He trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went forth, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and would not serve him. He smote the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

In the fourth year of King Hezeki′ah, which was the seventh year of Hoshe′a son of Elah, king of Israel, Shalmane′ser king of Assyria came up against Samar′ia and besieged it 10 and at the end of three years he took it. In the sixth year of Hezeki′ah, which was the ninth year of Hoshe′a king of Israel, Samar′ia was taken. 11 The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12 because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded; they neither listened nor obeyed.

Sennacherib Invades Judah

13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezeki′ah Sennach′erib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. 14 And Hezeki′ah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezeki′ah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 And Hezeki′ah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16 At that time Hezeki′ah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts which Hezeki′ah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria. 17 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rab′saris, and the Rab′shakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezeki′ah at Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. 18 And when they called for the king, there came out to them Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the secretary, and Jo′ah the son of Asaph, the recorder.

19 And the Rab′shakeh said to them, “Say to Hezeki′ah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this confidence of yours? 20 Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? 21 Behold, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. 22 But if you say to me, “We rely on the Lord our God,” is it not he whose high places and altars Hezeki′ah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem”? 23 Come now, make a wager with my master the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders upon them. 24 How then can you repulse a single captain among the least of my master’s servants, when you rely on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen? 25 Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it.’”

26 Then Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, and Shebnah, and Jo′ah, said to the Rab′shakeh, “Pray, speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall.” 27 But the Rab′shakeh said to them, “Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the men sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine?”

28 Then the Rab′shakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezeki′ah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. 30 Do not let Hezeki′ah make you to rely on the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ 31 Do not listen to Hezeki′ah; for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me; then every one of you will eat of his own vine, and every one of his own fig tree, and every one of you will drink the water of his own cistern; 32 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezeki′ah when he misleads you by saying, The Lord will deliver us. 33 Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 34 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharva′im, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samar′ia out of my hand? 35 Who among all the gods of the countries have delivered their countries out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

36 But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.” 37 Then Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, who was over the household, and Shebna the secretary, and Jo′ah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came to Hezeki′ah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of the Rab′shakeh.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Governor is puzzled

 In just  the past few years Kentucky has suffered from repeated unprecedented flooding and destructive tornadoes. Governor Andy Beshear is mystified:

I wish I could tell you why we keep getting hit here in Kentucky. I wish I could tell you why areas where people may not have much continue to get hit and lose everything. I can’t give you the why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is everything we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them out.

Four climate scientists give him the explanation

Let me just add a couple of points, since, unlike many people who like to weigh in on this issue, I actually know what I'm talking about. (I have a doctorate in policy, for which I had to pass qualifying examinations in economics.) Renewable energy is indeed already cheaper than burning fossil fuel. The sun doesn't charge us anything to use its electromagnetic radiation. And as you might expect, the proportion of the U.S. energy supply produced by renewable sources has been increasing. But there are two obstacles to the growth of renewables that require government intervention to overcome. 

1) The need for investment in public goods, specifically the "smart grid" power transmission and distribution system that will allow for uninterrupted delivery of electricity even though much electricity from renewable sources is produced intermittently.

2) Threshold effects. Before people will generally rush out to buy electric vehicles, there need to be charging stations as conveniently available as gas stations are today. But there won't be a lot of them if there aren't a lot of people driving electric vehicles to patronize them.  So giving a boost to development of charging stations will speed the adoption of electric vehicles.

The absolutely urgent, critical need for us to stop burning carbon makes these investments equally urgent. But in the long run, they'll save you money.

Friday, July 29, 2022

What's in the bill

Sorry for not posting yesterday, we had a faculty retreat to talk about making the experience better for our doctoral students, it took up most of my day and I just didn't have the energy. 


But as for today's topic, a big fat problem with the corporate news media is that they cover everything as a political game -- who's the winner and who's the loser -- and just channel the political rhetoric. They don't tell people what the policy issues are, and what's at stake for them. That's why is really useful. Here's an explainer of the so-called Inflation Reduction Act. I suppose they called it that to make Joe Manchin happy, but it's not a bogus claim.

The inflation reduction part has to do with investing in renewable energy. I don't know why it's so hard to get people to understand this, but the U.S. is in fact energy independent, and has been since last year. That's right, the U.S. became energy independent after Joe Biden took office. But people don't understand what energy independence means. The U.S. exports more fossil fuel than it imports. There is trade both ways for reasons of convenience, or somebody happening to have a surplus to sell to U.S. customers, but if all sources of foreign fuel were  shut off today, we would be able to supply our own needs. 

However, that does not protect us from rising prices. The reason for that is called capitalism, which as far as I know most people who blame Joe Biden for high gas prices actually support, or claim to support. Petroleum and petroleum products are sold on a global market. The companies that extract, refine and trade petroleum products have one motive and one motive only, which is to maximize their profit. They will sell to the highest bidder, which means that U.S. customers have to match foreigners' bids (maybe slightly less because of lower transportation costs), which means when gas is more expensive in Europe, it's more expensive here. The only way Joe Biden can do anything about it is by nationalizing the oil companies, which is called socialism, which you do not support.

Dependence on petroleum, whether it's extracted and refined here or elsewhere, therefore makes us vulnerable to potentially hostile foreign powers who can take actions that increase the price and possibly create scarcity. And yes, scarcity abroad can mean scarcity here because foreigners will buy up more of our oil, and as I say, our oil companies will sell it to them if they're willing to pay the price.

So, by investing in renewable energy, which is already cheaper than fossil fuel energy, we can bring down the price of oil while also making even cheaper energy more available. Why would anybody be against that? It doesn't cost money, it saves money. It's an investment, and it's one we need to make.

The bill also extends subsidies for ACA insurance to middle income families, allows Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices, closes tax loopholes, and beefs up income tax enforcement so tax dodgers don't pick your pocket. Why would anybody be against any of that?

Well, 100% of Republicans in the Senate and House are against it.You figure it out.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Shit gets really real

Ch. 17 tells of the conquest of Israel -- the northern kingdom, aka Samaria -- by the Assyrian empire. Yes, this definitely happened. And it was indeed the practice of the Assyrians to deport at least part of the population of conquered territories. In the biblical account, essentially all of the population was removed and replaced by people from elsewhere. The deportees became known as the ten Lost Tribes of Israel. (The tribe of Dan had joined Judah earlier, so those two tribes survived) Historians dispute whether the deportation was really total, however. Nevertheless whatever Israelite population remained was diluted, and apparently lost its ethnic and religious identity. It is also likely that many people fled to Judah, although they were presumably assimilated and lost their tribal identity. (That Yahweh sent lions to attack the immigrant population of Baal-worshipers is not confirmed by the historical record, however.) The destruction of Israel by Assyria happened in 721 B.C.


The story in the next chapter, that Judah under Hezekiah successfully resisted the Assyrian siege and wound up buying temporary peace for a large quantity of silver is also historically true. Although Judah subsequently went through many travails, the people known as Jews today are descended from the people of Judah and named after them. So it is the story of Judah that carries on from here.

17 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah Hoshe′a the son of Elah began to reign in Samar′ia over Israel, and he reigned nine years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him. Against him came up Shalmane′ser king of Assyria; and Hoshe′a became his vassal, and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshe′a; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samar′ia, and for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshe′a the king of Assyria captured Samar′ia, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

And this was so, because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs which the kings of Israel had introduced.[a] And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places at all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city; 10 they set up for themselves pillars and Ashe′rim on every high hill and under every green tree; 11 and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, 12 and they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and the warnings which he gave them. They went after false idols, and became false, and they followed the nations that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. 16 And they forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves molten images of two calves; and they made an Ashe′rah, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Ba′al. 17 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings,[b] and used divination and sorcery, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah only.

19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced. 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, and afflicted them, and gave them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.

21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David they made Jerobo′am the son of Nebat king. And Jerobo′am drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jerobo′am did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

Assyria Resettles Samaria

24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharva′im, and placed them in the cities of Samar′ia instead of the people of Israel; and they took possession of Samar′ia, and dwelt in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations which you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samar′ia do not know the law of the god of the land; therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away thence; and let him[c] go and dwell there, and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samar′ia came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.

29 But every nation still made gods of its own, and put them in the shrines of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they dwelt; 30 the men of Babylon made Suc′coth-be′noth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashi′ma, 31 and the Av′vites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sephar′vites burned their children in the fire to Adram′melech and Anam′melech, the gods of Sepharva′im. 32 They also feared the Lord, and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. 34 To this day they do according to the former manner.

They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the ordinances or the law or the commandment which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 The Lord made a covenant with them, and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them; 36 but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm; you shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 And the statutes and the ordinances and the law and the commandment which he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, 38 and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, 39 but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 However they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner.

41 So these nations feared the Lord, and also served their graven images; their children likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.


  1. 2 Kings 17:8 Heb obscure
  2. 2 Kings 17:17 Or made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire
  3. 2 Kings 17:27 Syr Vg: Heb them

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

It can happen here . . .

 . . . and it is. I'm just going to rip off this story from The Forward, I don't think they'll mind. 

By Jacob Kornbluh

A group of Democratic officials and Jewish leaders on Thursday condemned Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, for his association with Gab, a social media platform for far-right extremists and an echo chamber for antisemitic tropes.

Mastriano, a Christian nationalist running against Pennsylvania’s Jewish attorney general, Josh Shapiro, paid Gab a $5,000 consulting fee in April, according to recent FEC filings. The platform’s  founder, Andrew Torba, endorsed Mastriano days after the transaction, writing on Gab that he hoped the candidate would “help pioneer a grass-roots movement of Christians in PA to help take it back for the glory of God.”

In a news conference held outside the City-County Building in Pittsburgh, State Rep. Dan Frankel said that Mastriano is “mining this racist, antisemitic haven for votes because he believes that the hatred on those message boards will translate into an election victory for him on November 8.” Frankel, who is Jewish, was joined by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, State Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa and Jeffrey Letwin, an attorney and past chair of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

Mastriano, a state representative and leader of the “Stop the Steal” movement aiming to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, attended the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and won the Republican nomination for governor in May following a last-minute endorsement by former President Donald Trump.

He has repeatedly promoted QAnon conspiracies and has compared the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to the 1933 Reichstag fire and Democratic gun-control proposals to Nazi policies. His campaign aide Jenna Ellis, a Trump attorney, has likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

A recent poll showed Shapiro running 3 points ahead of Mastriano, a gap within the poll’s 4% margin of error – and the two are locked in a dead heat among voters 50 and older. . . .

Gab, launched in 2016 after Torba was banned from Twitter, has long been a home for hate speech and blatant antisemitism. Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, was previously a verified user of the site, where he posted neo-Nazi propaganda and calls for violence against Jews, describing them as the “children of Satan.” . . . 

We're talking about the Republican nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania, who retains the full support of the Republican party and, at this time, of Republican voters.



Monday, July 25, 2022

Committee on the Present Danger

Here's a long essay by John Blake on White Christian Nationalism. He calls it "impostor Christianity," in part because he views it as not being based on the Gospels, but on Revelation. The story is complicated and important -- I do recommend you read it. The in a nutshell pull quote:

The insurrection marked the first time many Americans realized the US is facing a burgeoning White Christian nationalist movement. This movement uses Christian language to cloak sexism and hostility to Black people and non-White immigrants in its quest to create a White Christian America.

This is exceedingly dangerous because it is in no way a fringe movement. It has taken over the Republican party and is the essential, in fact almost the entire basis of support for Donald Trump and the pretenders to his throne such as Ron DeSantis. These irrational extremists control almost half of both legislative branches, and many state governments. This is a crisis.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Are things getting real?

Chapter 16 tells the story of King Ahaz of Judah. There is archaeological and historical evidence for his existence. We are getting close enough to the time the Book of Kings was written that the content likely reflects actual historical memory, not just myth. However, that doesn't mean the details are reliable! For example, verse 2 says he was 36 years old when he died; but in Ch. 18, we are told that his son Hezekiah succeeded him at age 25, which means Ahaz must have fathered Hezekiah when he was 11 years old. 

Verse 3, in this translation, says Ahaz sacrificed his son to a Canaanite God, but as the footnote admits, this is not a literal translation. The Hebrew says "made his son to pass through the fire,"which many people believe refers to a purifying ritual. There is no evidence that human sacrifice was ever practiced in Canaan. The story is anomalous in that it depicts a king of Judah who blasphemes against Yaweh, even making major modifications to the Temple. Since that's contrary to the overall plot, it can be taken as more evidence for Ahaz's historical existence. On the other hand, the stronger plot point is redemption by his son Hezekiah, as we will see.

16 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remali′ah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering,[a] according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remali′ah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. At that time[b] the king of Edom[c] recovered Elath for Edom,[d] and drove the men of Judah from Elath; and the E′domites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tig′lath-pile′ser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened to him; the king of Assyria marched up against Damascus, and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tig′lath-pile′ser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uri′ah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11 And Uri′ah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uri′ah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar, and went up on it, 13 and burned his burnt offering and his cereal offering, and poured his drink offering, and threw the blood of his peace offerings upon the altar. 14 And the bronze altar which was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. 15 And King Ahaz commanded Uri′ah the priest, saying, “Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening cereal offering, and the king’s burnt offering, and his cereal offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their cereal offering, and their drink offering; and throw upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice; but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” 16 Uri′ah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.

17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands, and removed the laver from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pediment of stone. 18 And the covered way for the sabbath which had been built inside the palace, and the outer entrance for the king he removed from[e] the house of the Lord, because of the king of Assyria. 19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David; and Hezeki′ah his son reigned in his stead.


  1. 2 Kings 16:3 Or made his son to pass through the fire
  2. 2 Kings 16:6 Heb At that time Rezin
  3. 2 Kings 16:6 Heb Aram (Syria)
  4. 2 Kings 16:6 Heb Aram (Syria)
  5. 2 Kings 16:18 Cn: Heb turned to

Saturday, July 23, 2022

We can't afford it

Joe Manchin and the Republican senators did not give as their reason for opposing Build Back Better the argument that China isn't doing enough. The Republicans claim that anthropogenic climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by scientists who want grant money. Joe Manchin said he was afraid of inflation. Obviously that's not his real reason but let's go with it.

Suppose we do nothing to curb carbon emissions. One consequence will be that Joe Manchin gets even richer. Another consequence is that everything will get more expensive. There are multiple reasons for this. We'll need to spend massively on rebuilding infrastructure in response to rising sea levels and higher temperatures. An airport runway in England recently melted, and they had to close the airport. Trains had to be slowed down or canceled because the rails were bending. We'll need to modify housing and workplaces. Everything will get more expensive.

When the Colorado river dries up, agriculture in the  Central Valley of California and much of the Midwest will be devastated. That's where we get most of our food from and in fact food exports are a big part of what makes the U.S. a superpower. You won't like it at all when that happens, because your food will get much more expensive if you can get it at all.

Oh yeah -- fossil fuels will get more expensive too because the most accessible sources of petroleum have already been exploited and oil companies are having to go to less accessible places and more expensive technologies to extract it. 

But what  if we make the needed investments in renewable energy? Researchers at Brown University (yeah I know, Commie U. I make no apologies) have created an interactive map that shows you the construction jobs that will be created, the long-term renewable operation jobs, energy efficiency jobs, reduced travel times and costs, electricity savings, lives saved because of less pollution, and labor hours saved. Everything will get cheaper! That's because we don't have to pay one penny to the sun for shining or the wind for blowing. Oh yeah, you can even click on West Virginia and see all the good paying jobs that will be created. And they beat the hell out of mining coal.

Friday, July 22, 2022

On religion

I'm probably not the best person to critique religion because, frankly, I don't understand it. Why do people believe in manifest absurdities? Sure, they were indoctrinated as children. So was I. As I've noted here many times, my uncle was a preacher, my mother was a Sunday school teacher, I went to Sunday school and I sang in the choir. Then, at the age of thirteen, when I was just old enough to think for myself, I realized that it was all bullshit. 

This was so glaringly obvious that I didn't really trouble to construct arguments for it. It seemed unnecessary because all arguments for religion are transparent nonsense. By interrogating reality, we've established beyond any doubt that the creation myths and histories of all religions are false.* We have also established that the mind -- conscious experience, sensation, thought, memory, everything we think of as constituting our selves -- depends entirely on the physical substrate of the brain. Damage the brain, and we lose one or more capacities, be it language or the left visual field, the ability to form new memories, or retention of old ones. When the whole brain dies, it's all gone.

Sure, there's a lot we don't know about the universe. Maybe there is some unimaginably powerful sentient entity out there, maybe it even created this universe on purpose. But there's no particular reason to believe that and if it does exist, it most certainly does not give a shit about us. Just making stuff up to explain what is unknown is foolish. If you don't know, you don't know.

So if anyone wants to chime in with an argument for religious belief, any religious belief, I'll entertain it. But good luck with that.


*Some institutions classified as religion, such as Buddhism and Confucianism, don't have creation myths. Neither of these in its classical form has a concept of God either, so I wouldn't call them religions. That's a separate matter. By religion, I mean a belief system that includes one or more gods.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Historical Revisionism

You may have heard about Faux News  and other right-wing media going on a multi-day freakout over the Monticello museum (that's what it is now) telling visitors that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves.

The reality is probably worse than you think. Jefferson enslaved 600 people in his lifetime, 400 of them at Monticello. Most people know that he fathered several children with a woman he enslaved, named Sally Hemmings. What most people don't know is that Sally Hemmings was his wife's half sister. That's right -- Jefferson's father-in-law raped one of his slaves, Jefferson inherited his daughter, then he in turn raped her. (Credit where it's due, as far as we know he didn't rape her until his wife had died.) That southern gentlemen had sex slaves, as well as enslaved field hands and household staff, was fully known and accepted, though it wasn't generally talked about.

Jefferson manumitted his children in his will, though he couldn't bring himself to do it while he was alive. Some of them decided to pass as white, others chose to identify as Black, and to this day the descendants of Sally Hemmings may be of either identity. Some cousins became estranged when they made different choices. By the way, Jefferson did not free Sally Hemmings in his will but to be fair, this may have had to do with Virginia law and enabling her to remain in her home, though that was an inferior quarters, not in the mansion.

It is completely indefensible to discuss Jefferson's legacy without seriously confronting his hypocrisy. Apparently Jefferson himself was conflicted about slavery but not conflicted enough to do anything about it. He encapsulates the fundamental contradiction of American history. He was responsible for much of the high minded rhetoric about freedom and equality, but when he wrote that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, he meant, first of all men, not women; and he didn't actually mean all men, he meant white men of property. He didn't mean Africans, or Native Americans, or poor white men. He meant people like himself, who denied Freedom to Africans and life itself to indigenous people. To pretend that isn't true is an offense to humanity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Hit the snooze button

Chapter 15 consists largely of a boring recitation of names of kings with an occasional random event thrown in. There are a couple of points worth noting, however. First, I should clarify that this repeated reference to people burning incense in the high places is about ceremonies worshiping Baal. For some reason the kings of Judah can't seem to eradicate it. Despite this, the book continues to emphasize the  greater righteousness and loyalty to Yahweh of the kings of Judah versus the consistently perfidious kings of Israel/Samaria. (Two names for the same kingdom.)

In verse 12, God promises Jehu his descendants will reign for four generations -- this despite their doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Recall that this is his reward for exterminating the descendants of Ahab. In verse 16, Menahem "rips up" all the pregnant women in several cities. The writer offers this without comment. Verse 30 refers to the twentieth year of the reign of Jotham. In verse 33, we learn that Jotham reigned for 16 years. They really need a copy editor.

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Jerobo′am king of Israel Azari′ah the son of Amazi′ah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoli′ah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amazi′ah had done. Nevertheless the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. And the Lord smote the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he dwelt in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land. Now the rest of the acts of Azari′ah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Azari′ah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.

Zechariah Reigns over Israel

In the thirty-eighth year of Azari′ah king of Judah Zechari′ah the son of Jerobo′am reigned over Israel in Samar′ia six months. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him, and struck him down at Ibleam,[a] and killed him, and reigned in his stead. 11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechari′ah, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 12 (This was the promise of the Lord which he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit upon the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it came to pass.)

Shallum Reigns over Israel

13 Shallum the son of Jabesh began to reign in the thirty-ninth year of Uzzi′ah king of Judah, and he reigned one month in Samar′ia. 14 Then Men′ahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samar′ia, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samar′ia and slew him, and reigned in his stead. 15 Now the rest of the deeds of Shallum, and the conspiracy which he made, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 16 At that time Men′ahem sacked Tap′puah[b] and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.

Menahem Reigns over Israel

17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azari′ah king of Judah Men′ahem the son of Gadi began to reign over Israel, and he reigned ten years in Samar′ia. 18 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart all his days from all the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 19 Pul the king of Assyria came against the land; and Men′ahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that he might help him to confirm his hold of the royal power. 20 Men′ahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy men, fifty shekels of silver from every man, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land. 21 Now the rest of the deeds of Men′ahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 22 And Men′ahem slept with his fathers, and Pekahi′ah his son reigned in his stead.

Pekahiah Reigns over Israel

23 In the fiftieth year of Azari′ah king of Judah Pekahi′ah the son of Men′ahem began to reign over Israel in Samar′ia, and he reigned two years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not turn away from the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 And Pekah the son of Remali′ah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the Gileadites, and slew him in Samar′ia, in the citadel of the king’s house;[c] he slew him, and reigned in his stead. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Pekahi′ah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Pekah Reigns over Israel

27 In the fifty-second year of Azari′ah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remali′ah began to reign over Israel in Samar′ia, and he reigned twenty years. 28 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tig′lath-pile′ser king of Assyria came and captured I′jon, A′bel-beth-ma′acah, Jan-o′ah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naph′tali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria. 30 Then Hoshe′a the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remali′ah, and struck him down, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzzi′ah. 31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel.

Jotham Reigns over Judah

32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remali′ah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzzi′ah, king of Judah, began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jeru′sha the daughter of Zadok. 34 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzzi′ah had done. 35 Nevertheless the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the Lord. 36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 37 In those days the Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remali′ah against Judah. 38 Jotham slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father; and Ahaz his son reigned in his stead.


  1. 2 Kings 15:10 Gk Compare 9.27: Heb before the people
  2. 2 Kings 15:16 Compare Gk: Heb Tiphsah
  3. 2 Kings 15:25 Heb adds Argob and Arieh, which probably belong to the list of places in verse 29


Monday, July 18, 2022

The future is now

If you're just waking up after a 72 hour coma, you need to be told that western Europe is suffering from an unprecedented heat wave.  But it's worse than unprecedented. As the linked Reuters article tells us:

Britain’s Met Office weather agency also issued its first-ever “red warning” of extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday, when temperatures in southern England are forecast to reach 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit). Britain's highest recorded temperature, from July 2019, was 38.7 Celsius; the country's weather agency forecasts an 80 percent chance that this current heat wave will overtake that record. There is a 50 percent chance, they recorded, that it will hit 40 degrees, or 104 Fahrenheit, for the first time.

Two years ago, the country's meteorological service presented a hypothetical forecast for Britain's expected temperatures in 2050 in order to demonstrate the effects of climate change to the public. That forecast, supposedly slated for 30 years from now, is expected to hit the country next week.

Portugal, France and Spain are battling unprecedented  wildfires. Alaska and Siberia are also on fire, and it isn't even making the news.  And yes, the situation we are confronting right now, today, is exactly what has long been predicted for 2050. That Chinese hoax is looking more and more convincing. And oh, by the way, this is a big part of why there are all those desperate migrants at the southern border, and Syrian society collapsed, and there are all those migrants in Europe. It's just going to get worse and worse..

There are no more words left to mince. Joe Manchin and the Republican party are enemies of humanity.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Sketchy History

In Ch. 14 we get a lot of random, poorly explained factoids about kings of Judah and Israel, with several references to the full story being told in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah and The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. These books have been lost. This does not refer to the Book of Chronicles, which merely selectively recapitulates stories from the Torah and the Deuteronomic History without adding anything except a lot of genealogy consisting of nothing but lists of contextless names. It does contradict the Deuteronomic History in certain details, for example it offers yet a fourth version of the death of Saul.

The stories in Ch. 14 seem largely pointless, although it is of interest that Israel could go to war against Judah and literally plunder Jerusalem.  I'm not sure why this story would be here unless something like it had actually happened. The same goes for the unexplained conspiracies against kings. We may be getting close enough to the time this was written that we are leaving the realm of pure mythology and entering a realm inspired by real events, although likely not very reliably reported.

One passage in Ch. 14 is ridiculous, verse 6, which refers to Deuteronomy 24:16, which commands that children not be put to death for the sins of the fathers. But as we have seen, this is a routine practice throughout both the Torah and the Deuteronomic History, often extending for multiple generations and resulting in the massacre of dozens of grandchildren. SAB rounds up more  than a dozen examples, by no means an exhaustive list. Of course, the massacre of the descendants of Ahab has just happened

14 In the second year of Jo′ash the son of Jo′ahaz, king of Israel, Amazi′ah the son of Jo′ash, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jeho-ad′din of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father; he did in all things as Jo′ash his father had done. But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. And as soon as the royal power was firmly in his hand he killed his servants who had slain the king his father. But he did not put to death the children of the murderers; according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall die for his own sin.”

He killed ten thousand E′domites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm, and called it Jok′the-el, which is its name to this day.

Then Amazi′ah sent messengers to Jeho′ash the son of Jeho′ahaz, son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” And Jeho′ash king of Israel sent word to Amazi′ah king of Judah, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife’; and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle. 10 You have indeed smitten Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

11 But Amazi′ah would not listen. So Jeho′ash king of Israel went up, and he and Amazi′ah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-she′mesh, which belongs to Judah. 12 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. 13 And Jeho′ash king of Israel captured Amazi′ah king of Judah, the son of Jeho′ash, son of Ahazi′ah, at Beth-she′mesh, and came to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the E′phraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 14 And he seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, also hostages, and he returned to Samar′ia.

15 Now the rest of the acts of Jeho′ash which he did, and his might, and how he fought with Amazi′ah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 16 And Jeho′ash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samar′ia with the kings of Israel; and Jerobo′am his son reigned in his stead.

17 Amazi′ah the son of Jo′ash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Jeho′ash son of Jeho′ahaz, king of Israel. 18 Now the rest of the deeds of Amazi′ah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 19 And they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish, and slew him there. 20 And they brought him upon horses; and he was buried in Jerusalem with his fathers in the city of David. 21 And all the people of Judah took Azari′ah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amazi′ah. 22 He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers.

Jeroboam II Reigns over Israel

23 In the fifteenth year of Amazi′ah the son of Jo′ash, king of Judah, Jerobo′am the son of Jo′ash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samar′ia, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amit′tai, the prophet, who was from Gath-he′pher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jerobo′am the son of Jo′ash.

28 Now the rest of the acts of Jerobo′am, and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he recovered for Israel Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 29 And Jerobo′am slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechari′ah his son reigned in his stead.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Bad Faith

Here's a lengthy discussion of the recent corporate media debacle concerning the ten year old girl who had to travel from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion. You probably know the gist of it already. The physician who performed the abortion discussed the case with reporters from the Indianapolis Star and the story made headlines around the world. Then right wing politicians and media started claiming it was false, and the Washington Post's "fact checker" Glenn Kessler gave them aid and comfort. (Kessler's "fact checks" are frequently non-factual.) 

The story was true, police have arrested the rapist and he has confessed. It's obvious what's going on here. The movement to ban abortion was based on faith, the definition of which is to believe without evidence or reflection. Having faith means not allowing yourself to think critically or to reason about the implications of your beliefs. As long as banning abortion was an abstraction, that was possible, but when it became reality, it was no longer. The first reaction of denial was forced because the reality was incompatible with the faith.

I have to believe that most people who wanted Roe v. Wade repealed so their state could ban abortion, when confronted with the reality of a ten year old girl forced to bear her rapist's child - or quite possibly die in the attempt -- would think that should not happen. They're having the same problem with ectopic pregnancy, other circumstances that threaten the lives of pregnant women, treatment of miscarriage -- problems and issues they didn't think about before they became real.

Of course, as a matter of faith this is all manufactured anyway. As I've discussed here many times, the Bible does not condemn abortion, in fact it promotes it. The idea that Christianity considers it a sin, or holds that human life begins at conception, is entirely of modern origin. People believe because they are indoctrinated. When I was a child I watched a TV show called Ranger Andy. He pretended to be a park ranger and he had an audience of kids in a phony "ranger station." He'd show cartoons and what not.. Every show, he'd pick up a guitar and have the kids sing along: "You read it in the Bible, you read it in the Bible, you read it in the Bible so you know it's true." Then they'd tell a Bible story. Of course none of the stories we've been reading lately were included.


If you read it in the Bible, you can be pretty sure that it's not true. But the vast majority of believers have not read it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


 I commend to your attention this essay by Ethan Grey, which sorts out what many people mistakenly think is hypocrisy when it comes to the Republican party and liberty. No, it's not hypocrisy, the problem is that "freedom" means something different to them than it does to people with a moral compass. Quoth Mr Grey:


You’ve watched the Republican Party champion the idea of “freedom” while you have also watched the same party openly assault various freedoms, like the freedom to vote, freedom of choice, freedom to marry who you want and so on.

If this has been a source of confusion, then your assessments of what Republicans mean by “freedom” were likely too generous. Here’s what Republicans mean:

  1. The freedom to tell people what to do.
  2. Freedom from being told what to do.

When Republicans talk about valuing “freedom”, they’re speaking of it in the sense that only people like them should ultimately possess it.

Read the whole thing, but I'll give away the punch line: "People like them" means white, Christian, heterosexual  men.  Once you understand that, much confusion is cleared up.

  Also too, this blog post by Betty Cracker. How the Republicans manage to hold on to the brand of "freedom" when all they want to do is take away our freedoms is a mystery.


Wednesday Bible Study: Jeho -- whatever

In Chapter 13 we get a couple more kings of Israel -- i.e.the northern kingdom, also called Samaria -- who keep doing evil in the sight of God, specifically by tolerating or perhaps encouraging the worship of other gods. This is a consistent theme of the Book of Kings, obviously, with Judah generally being the more righteous kingdom. As I've said before, it is most likely this was commissioned by Josiah, king of Judah, and it's basically self-serving. In any case, God is ambivalent about punishing Israel and shows some forbearance. Then we get a strange story with Elisha and the king of Israel, who doesn't perform the magic quite right and so doesn't get the full benefit. Then Elisha dies but it turns out his bones have the power to resurrect the dead. Okay, sure. 

There is ongoing confusion about the names of kings, there's another Jeho'ahaz and a Jehoash/Josash.

13 In the twenty-third year of Jo′ash the son of Ahazi′ah, king of Judah, Jeho′ahaz the son of Jehu began to reign over Israel in Samar′ia, and he reigned seventeen years. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them continually into the hand of Haz′ael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-ha′dad the son of Haz′ael. Then Jeho′ahaz besought the Lord, and the Lord hearkened to him; for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them. (Therefore the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians; and the people of Israel dwelt in their homes as formerly. Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jerobo′am, which he made Israel to sin, but walked[a] in them; and the Ashe′rah also remained in Samar′ia.)

Nothing specific is said about this "savior," not even a name. The "Ashe'rah" are trees or poles sacred to the Canaanite godess of the same name.

For there was not left to Jeho′ahaz an army of more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing. Now the rest of the acts of Jeho′ahaz and all that he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? So Jeho′ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samar′ia; and Jo′ash his son reigned in his stead.

Jehoash Reigns over Israel

10 In the thirty-seventh year of Jo′ash king of Judah Jeho′ash the son of Jeho′ahaz began to reign over Israel in Samar′ia, and he reigned sixteen years. 11 He also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them. 12 Now the rest of the acts of Jo′ash, and all that he did, and the might with which he fought against Amazi′ah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 13 So Jo′ash slept with his fathers, and Jerobo′am sat upon his throne; and Jo′ash was buried in Samar′ia with the kings of Israel.

Death of Elisha

14 Now when Eli′sha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Jo′ash king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 15 And Eli′sha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows”; so he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow”; and he drew it. And Eli′sha laid his hands upon the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward”; and he opened it. Then Eli′sha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 18 And he said, “Take the arrows”; and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them”; and he struck three times, and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

20 So Eli′sha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Eli′sha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Eli′sha, he revived, and stood on his feet.

Israel Recaptures Cities from Aram

22 Now Haz′ael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jeho′ahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them; nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

24 When Haz′ael king of Syria died, Ben-ha′dad his son became king in his stead. 25 Then Jeho′ash the son of Jeho′ahaz took again from Ben-ha′dad the son of Haz′ael the cities which he had taken from Jeho′ahaz his father in war. Three times Jo′ash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.


  1. 2 Kings 13:6 Gk Syr Tg Vg: Heb he walked

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Deep Time

Release of the first images from the space telescope at L5 reminds me of a topic I've been meaning to remark upon.

I just read Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee. It's at least partially boring -- the frame is extensive touring of the United States with geologists, learning about the geological history of the North American continent -- although he doesn't really get to Canada or Mexico. The specific details pile up to form a mind numbing mountain, although he does manage to work in some interesting human stories along the way. But the main takeaway is the utter insignificance of these human stories, against the unimaginably vast backdrop of time. 

To borrow now from Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden (about which I recently expressed some reservations), if we mapped the history of the universe onto a single calendar year, and set the origin at 1 minute after midnight on January 1, the earth would have formed on September 14. The oldest known rocks, and hence the beginning of John McPhee's story, formed on October 2 -- whatever was there before has disappeared, subducted into the mantle or overridden and buried so deep we cannot find it. The first eukaryotic cells appeared on November 15. The asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred on December 28. Our ancestor Homo erectus appeared at about 11:00 pm on December 31, one hour from midnight. and neolithic civilization -- the dawn of agriculture -- occurred at 11:59:35. All of human history -- that is, since the invention of writing -- has therefore happened in the last 25 seconds. And the scientific revolution has occurred in the final second, with the United States founded perhaps half a second ago.

People simply cannot comprehend a 4 1/2 billion year old earth, let alone a universe nearly 14 billion years old. And this makes it difficult for them to accept all of science. Evolution, the continents drifting around, crashing into each other and breaking apart, the origin and history of the universe -- all of these are essential to scientific understanding. You can't reject or ignore any of it and still have a coherent understanding of the rest. Perhaps even more difficult for many people is the implication that we just don't matter, in time and space we are nothing. Now, that isn't true from our own point of view -- we matter to ourselves and to each other. But that's the only way we matter. That is the humanist conclusion. It doesn't seem to work for some people, but it has the great virtue of being the truth.

Monday, July 11, 2022

A weird disjunction

I keep getting comments, which I do not publish because they are factually false, to the effect that too bad for me, the American People want to ban abortion and guarantee the right of 18-year-olds to purchase and carry military rifles and high capacity magazines. No, they do not. I'll just talk about item number 1 today.


Here is recent polling from the Public Religion Research Institute which finds that 65% of Americans say that abortion should be legal in "all or most circumstances." Obviously there is a partisan divide. Only 35% of Republicans agree. But still, that's actually a lot of Republicans and the overall majority is about as strong as you're going to get for any disputed proposition. Then they break it down by religious affiliation, and show how this has changed before and after Dobbs, the recent ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade:


Notice that the Catholic Cardinals have a big problem here. Aside from that, two things should jump out for you. One is that when the question got real, rather than abstract, support for legal abortion went up, by a lot, for almost everybody. The second is that there is one, and only one religious group with majority support for banning abortion. And no, white evangelical protestants do not, for the most part, belong to the same denominations as Black protestants so we are talking here about a specific religious category, not just a religio-ethnic category. However . . . 


In spite of this, voters installed a president  in office who pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and a Senate that would confirm them. Now, about half the states are moving to ban abortion under pretty much all circumstances. (By the way there is majority support for that in only 10 states.) So how can this be?


It's largely attributable to what political scientists call concentrated vs. diffuse interest. For the people who want to ban abortion, it's the most important political issue -- in many cases, the only issue, the sole determinant of their vote. Preserving the right to abortion is, or at least was, equally important to a smaller number of voters. So lots of people who would say they wanted abortion to remain legal still voted for candidates who did not. This was even easier for them to do because they thought it would remain legal no matter what Senator Foghorn said or did because of Roe v. Wade. We'll see how this plays out in November but it may well be that the Republicans will find they are the dog who caught the car.