Mawkish Victorian Image of Nehemiah
Looking at the thread of comments in the last post reminded me of my favourite and potentially the most lary character in the Old Testament (or, for my Jewish friends, the Testament!). In the eponymously-named book of History that is Nehemiah, the protagonist, a high-ranking Jewish servant/exile in the house of the Babylonian King Darius, pleads for the return of Israel to Jerusalem, to rebuild the House of the Lord, the walls and palace gates of Jerusalem which had been demolished 70 or 80 years previously.
He returns and, together with the scribe Ezra, they rebuild the walls and the spiritual lives of the people. He's a great character - at one stage, the people of Israel are under physical attack from the nearby tribes - and so they work to rebuild the walls, men and women, with one hand they are building and in the other they are ready with their weapons. While the men load the stones into place, the older men and women stand behind with spears and lanterns so they are ready for any attacks.
But Nehemiah is so funny! I always laugh out loud in church whenever they read the following chapters:
Chapter 6 vs 8: he tells a bunch of big-wigs: "You are just making it up out of your head."
But the best bit is in Chapter 7, where he catches a lot of the Jewish elders going round nicking wives from the unbelieving tribes and doing naughty things they shouldn't be doing with various ladies of questionable reputation:
"(CH 14 v 7): I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair."
ha ha ha ha! Chortle! Every time I see this in my head I think of TEACH from the Beano, jumping up and down and pinging chalk onto a kid's nose, while snorting in rage and yelling: "Nincompoop! Imbecile! Moron!".
And when I see this in my head and they're reading this passage out in Church, I always laugh out loud. If more ministers of the cloth so rebuked their recalcitrant congregation, the world would perhaps be a much better place. I'd love to see The Archbishop of Canterbury labouring about some minor clergy's head with an advent candle for some misdemeanour. It would amuse me greatly to witness a pastor slam-dunking someone's cranium into the collection plate for smoking on the church step.
After all, if the Muslims can wreak religious punishments, surely Christians could do it better, with more panache and possibly with a wry sense of irony.
Ah! Nehemiah! You have much to teach us today. Just leave my highlights alone.