Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Vibe of Eli

Eli’s vibe bumbles through the early chapters of the book of Samuel like a well-meaning but utterly inept grandpa. As guardian of the Ark of the Covenant – the box containing the Ten Commandments, Eli is one of the most senior high priests in the whole of Israel. Even so, it feels like the rest of the Israelites have been given a bum deal. Eli’s first faux pas is to assume that Hannah, a childless woman fervently praying in the temple for a child, has been hitting the bottle. Undeterred, Hannah finally gives birth to a tiny boy called Samuel, who she gives to God as a thankyou. Eli looks after Samuel in the temple in the city of Shiloh and, fortunately for the infant, Eli’s grandfatherly vibe makes the temple a safe and happy home. However, when Samuel hears a voice calling him, it takes Eli a while to realise that it might actually be God, despite them both sleeping within spitting distance of the Ark. And Eli being High Priest. Eli’s biggest downfall is his wayward sons over whom it appears he has no control. These corrupt thugs masquerading as temple priests have been selecting the best bits of meat sacrificed to God and eating them. In fact they are even pre-ordering the food that they want people to sacrifice, using God’s temple as an elaborate meal delivery service. The final straw for Eli is when his sons take the Ark with them into a battle with neighbouring Philistia, believing that God will protect them. God is actually livid with them and ensures that Israel loses, that Eli’s sons are killed in the process and that the box of stone tablets given to Moses is carried off by gleeful Philistines. A survivor of the battle finally makes it back to Shiloh to tell Eli that his sons are dead and the Ark is gone, news which sends the old man falling backwards off his chair. The fall breaks his neck and Eli dies. Vibe over.

Using temple sacrifices as a food delivery service = bad vibe

Using temple sacrifices as a food delivery service = bad vibe

General vibe of Eli: Second best

Factvibe: After a plague of tumours, boils and mice breaks out in their country, the Philistines hurriedly return the Ark to Israel.

The Vibe of Deborah

The prophet Deborah has an Amazonian warrior vibe. The fourth judge and only woman to rise up and take command of Israel, she is strong and fearless in the knowledge that God is on her side. She orders one of Israel’s military commanders, Barak, to raise up ten thousand men to fight Jabin, king of the neighbouring land of Canaan. Barak has feeble vibes and only agrees to lead the army if Deborah tags along with him like a mum. However, Deborah warns him that a woman will get the credit when they win. Inevitably, Israel absolutely thrashes the Canaanite army and Jabin’s military commander, Sisera, runs away. He takes shelter in a tent owned by a man called Heber who, despite being an Israelite, is at peace with Canaan. Sadly for Sisera, Heber’s wife is less sympathetic to the Canaanite cause and, once she’s tucked Sisera up in bed with some hot milk, she hammers a tent peg through his skull. Deborah then sings a victory ballad proving that she’s every bit as good at song writing as she is at being a prophet.

Geberal vibe of Deborah: Sisters doing it for themselves.

Factvibe: Heber was the father-in-law of Moses

A tent peg, not something you'll look at in the same light after reading this vibe.

A tent peg, not something you’ll look at in the same light after reading this vibe.

The Vibe of Bathsheba

Few vibes in the Bible are as foxy as that of Bathsheba. It all kicks off around 1000BC when Bathsheba, wife of a general in King David’s Israelite army decides to take a bath. At this precise moment, David is wandering around on the roof of his house and from his fortunate vantage point, sees his general’s attractive young wife in a state of undress. Fire burns in his royal loins and he determines that the fox in the bath must be his. After a quick tumble with the king in the royal bedchamber, Bathsheba discovers she is pregnant. What follows can only be described as the ‘low point’ of David’s reign. He summons Bathsheba’s husband Uriah back from besieging the Ammonite city of Rabbath and does everything he can to get him in bed with Bathsheba. After all, if Uriah sleeps with Bathsheba he might think the child is his. But, like many warriors of his time, Uriah abstains from making late night ladymusic while fighting and, despite being told to go home to his bed, he camps instead at the gates of David’s palace. Frantic that he is about to be outed as an adulterer, David sends Uriah back to the battle but makes sure he is in the thick of the fiercest fighting. Uriah dies relatively soon after this, but there is no immediate happy ending for the two lovebirds – their baby son dies soon after he is born. Bathsheba and David go on to have another son, Solomon who becomes one of Israel’s greatest kings, allowing any number of artists to use Bathsheba as an excuse to paint pictures of naked girls in bathtubs.

General vibe of Bathsheba: Absolute fox

Factvibe: Bathsheba doesn’t get her name for being discovered in a bath, her name means Daughter of the Oath.

Bathtime fun reaches new heights...

Bathtime fun reaches new heights…

The Vibe of Balaam and his Donkey

Balaam has vibes that would make an animal rights fan foam at the mouth. Balaam is a sorcerer, and as such, is very much in demand. In fact, when the king of Moab, 400 miles to the north hears about Balaam’s wizardy ways, he summons him for a special task: to put a curse on neighbouring Israel in exchange for cash. Balaam saddles up his trusty donkey and is about to set off on his mission but God puts an angel in his way. Freaked out by this, the donkey refuses to budge and is given a sound beating for his stubbornness. After this has happened three times, the ass has had enough and actually verbalizes his displeasure. Only now does Balaam see the angel and consult the Almighty for tips on what to do next. God’s advice is clear – he loves Israel and has no intention of cursing it. Balak tries several times to persuade Balaam to ruin Israel’s vibe but each time Balaam refuses. He even blesses the place. Ultimately the vibe turns sour for Balaam, the lure of lucre is too great and he tells the Moabites that, to beat Israel, all they have to do is send in the dancing girls. When faced with an abundance of pretty and up-for-it ladies, Israel’s men weaken, God sends a plague to punish them and Balaam’s name is added to the lengthy list of Bible baddies.

General vibe of Balaam and his donkey: God moves in mysterious ways

Factvibe: A fragment of Balaam’s story painted on a wall in Deir Alla, Jordan, is the oldest surviving example of literature written in Aramaic.

Talking Donkeys? Balaam's ass is the prototype

Talking Donkeys? Balaam’s ass is the prototype

The Vibe of Baal

Generally, the vibe of the Bible is about God. This is God with a capital G. However, there are plenty of other gods with a small g, the most important of which is Baal, an import from Phoenicia, a long disappeared Middle Eastern region based around modern day Lebanon. However, even Baal isn’t big enough to be god with a capital G.

Some believe that Baal is a son of El, and early contender to be the supreme God of Israel until everyone realizes that God is the only God worth bothering with. Baal’s biggest moment is during a showdown with capital G God, masterminded and stage managed by the prophet, Elijah. Elijah challenges King Ahab of Israel, a fanatical Baal supporter, to get his god to ignite a sacrificial bonfire on Mount Carmel. Sadly for the home team, their fire is a non-starter, whereas a gloating Elijah pours water on his own tinder before bringing down fire from the heavens so hot that even the stones burn.

As a god, Baal has negative vibes written all over it. In fact, it is because Israel begins worshipping Baal instead of God that God sends the judges to bash Israelite heads together. In the end, Baal is worshipped by a few short-lived kings before gathering up his asherah poles and finding easier battles elsewhere. God 1, Baal 0.

General vibe of Baal: weak

Factvibe: Baal also means ‘lord’. Ba’alzebub, better known as Beelzebub means ‘Lord of the Flies’

The vibe of Baal is so weak, you might as well worship one of these.

The vibe of Baal is so weak, you might as well worship one of these.

The Vibe of the Holy Grail

The Holy Grail is really just a conspiracy theory masquerading as a vibe. The grail begins life as a simple item of first century AD tableware – it is a cup of some kind from which Jesus drinks wine at the meal which he shares with the Disciples the night before he is executed – the Last Supper. One of the many legends surrounding the Grail is that Joseph of Arimathea uses it to catch Jesus’ blood while he is on the cross. According to this legend, Joseph is imprisoned and Jesus then appears to him and explains the mysteries of the cup. On his release, Joseph travels west, to Glastonbury in England where the Grail now lies buried beneath the hill known as Glastonbury Tor. In another legend, an English knight named Sir Galahad goes on a mission to find the Grail which leads him to the court of Pelles, the Fisher King where he finally comes face to face with the holy drinking vessel. Another name for the Grail is the Sangreal, which is really just ‘Holy Grail’ in French. However, sang real also means ‘Royal Blood’, which has kicked off a whole flurry of conspiracies: many believe that the chalice known as the Holy Grail is actually the womb of Mary, and that the royal blood refers to Jesus being a direct descendant of King David. Some conspiracy theories suggest that the Knights Templar acquired the Grail and other relics of Jesus during the Crusades and brought them to England; others place the Grail in Italy, Spain and in the famous Oak Island ‘Money Pit’ in Nova Scotia. Despite the fact that Jesus will have drunk from any number of cups during his lifetime, and that one of these cups would have been used at his final meal, Bible experts agree that the Holy Grail is a product of medieval literature. Conspiracy theorists disagree whole-heartedly and the debate continues, often in blockbuster movies and highly page-turning works of fiction.

General vibe of the Holy Grail: A cup with a story

Factvibe: The earliest mention of the Holy Grail is in Percival le Gallois by the twelfth century poet, Chrétian de Troyes. De Troyes claimed he was told the story by the crusader, Philip, Count of Flanders.

A Grail, though sadly not 'the' Grail.

A Grail, though sadly not ‘the’ Grail.

The Vibe of Golgotha

Also known as Calvary, Golgotha is famous as the place where Jesus is executed by being nailed to a Roman cross. The Bible refers to Golgotha as ‘the place of the skull’ because the geographic features of Golgotha resemble the vibe of a cranium. Golgotha is outside the walls of Jerusalem, probably close to a major road that leads into the city. Some believe that the place of execution is called Golgotha because the skulls of dead criminals littered the ground, or because there was a cemetery nearby. All we know is that all four Gospel writers mention this as the place where Jesus struggles to with his cross, helped finally by Simon of Cyrene. It is here that his hands and feet are nailed to the cross and a sign is placed above him reading the ‘King of the Jews’. Golgotha is the scene of the darkest vibes for Jesus’ followers: the man they had hoped would win them freedom from the Roman invaders who had stolen their land is dying like a criminal. The vibe is a mixture of sadness, humiliation, embarrassment, disappointment and having the wind knocked out of their sails. After Jesus dies, his body is removed by two kind-hearted Pharisees, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathia, and placed in a nearby tomb owned by Joseph. It is here that Jesus resuscitates – the single miraculous act that convinces his followers that he absolutely has to be who he said he was – the Son of God. It is here that Mary Magdalene comes with spices to pour onto Jesus’ corpse only to find the tomb newly vacated, and Jesus up and about and able to hold a meaningful conversation. Finally, the Disciples dash back to Golgotha to check Mary’s story for themselves and, its work done, Golgotha disappears from the Bible. Years later, the Greeks build a temple to Aphrodite on the site, which is replaced by a basilica built by the Roman Emperor, Constantine. A new Basilica built some time in the twelfth century now stands over the place where Christians believe that Jesus was killed.

General vibe of Golgotha: Execution ground.

Factvibe: none of the Gospel writers describe Golgotha as being a hill.

Golgotha's vibe. Not an especially upbeat one.

Golgotha’s vibe. Not an especially upbeat one.

The Vibe of the Garden of Gethsemane

Gethsemane means ‘oil press and the garden is clearly a secluded spot where Jesus likes to gather his thoughts. The vibe is that this is a regular hang out for Jesus and his Disciples, as it is here that Judas leads the mob who have come to arrest Jesus. Jesus comes here with his Disciples at night after they have shared a Passover meal together. Knowing that he is in danger, having made enemies with some very senior Jews, Jesus asks the Disciples to keep an eye out for any trouble while he prays. While their leader prays so hard that his body appears to sweat blood, his Disciples nod off. Jesus reprimands them but the nice food and the wine are all a bit too much for them and they nod off again. While they sleep, Jesus appears to suffer a crisis of confidence. Despite knowing that he must die in order for the plan to work, he asks God if it’s possible for it to work just as well without him dying. The peace (and the sound of snoring) is shattered when Judas arrives with a mob of men armed with swords and clubs. Judas kisses Jesus, signaling to the mob which man they have to arrest. One of Jesus’ Disciples cuts off the ear of a servant of the High Priest, Caiaphas, and Jesus immediately sticks it back on, ticking off his supporter for acting violently. He tells the mob that they could have arrested him any day of the week while he was in the Temple, but that they are part of a preordained vibe – arresting him now in the garden fulfils the promises made by God to the Old Testament Prophets, none of whom wrote about Jesus being stoned to death at the Temple. Finally, Jesus’ Disciples show themselves to be the scaredy-cats they really are and run away before Jesus is led away to an emergency session of the Jewish Council held at the house of Caiaphas. Not a whole lot of horticulture but certainly lots of drama.

Despite the name of this vibe, Gethsemane most definitely is not about horticulture

Despite the name of this vibe, Gethsemane most definitely is not about gardening.

General vibe of the Garden of Gethsemane: Quiet time turns violent

Factvibe: The vibes: ‘The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ and ‘he who lives by the sword dies by the sword’ both come from the events that took place in the Garden of Gethsemane.