The Lost ePistles from the Dead Sea iParchment – Emails from the Good Book
(available as a book too)
If the Bible was a laptop what would you find in the inbox?
A collection of humorous and thought-provoking emails from various Bible characters.
Useful for your own reflection, or for reading in services, small groups or other events.
The first 12 can be viewed and downloaded as this PDF: The Lost Epistles – The first twelve chapters.
The full 50 can be found in the book here: The Lost ePistles
* * *
2 Samuel 12
To the King
A dire situation has come to my attention, I thought I should let you know about it.
There are two men not far from here, one is filthy rich, the other is very poor. The rich man has plenty of sheep and cattle. Of course he would. The poor man owned nothing but a little lamb he had worked hard to buy. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. He loved it, truly loved it. Then one day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing a lamb from his own flocks for food, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and served it to his guest. What do you make of this?
Your servant Nathan
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This is appalling! Bring the rich criminal to me today and I will sort him. He deserves to die very painfully indeed. But I will charge him four times over instead. He will repay four lambs for his greed, stupidity and lack of respect.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
To the King
I hoped you might say this. Have you looked in the mirror lately?
Your servant Nathan
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The mirror? What d’you… the mirror? Are you mad Nathan?
Not about lambs at all then. A rich man stealing something else. You know then? No point denying it I suppose?
* * *
2 Samuel chapter 11
My dearest David
You once told me that Abigail saved you from murder. You said you were going to kill her first husband and she persuaded you not to. I wish she’d been there last week. I wish she’d have talked sense into you then. She is a smart woman. As result of her your conscience was clear. You don’t have her husband’s blood on your hands. But you do have mine. I couldn’t; save you, I wasn’t smart enough, in fact I feel like I led you into this mess.
Uriah was a good man. And now he is gone. I got the news today. He was killed in battle on a dangerous mission, a mission he didn’t have to be on.
I know you will be annoyed about me confiding in your other wives but I needed to talk to someone. And you have slipped into a strange twilight place, plotting, scheming, trying to pretend this could be swept away quietly. I can’t reach you. Abigail told me her husband Nabal died anyway. You didn’t have to engineer anything. He dropped dead and you married her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have ended that way with Uriah. He wouldn’t have just died like that. But maybe there could have been another solution. A cleaner one. One that doesn’t keep me off my food and awake at night. That indiscretion has cost us both dearly. We may never pay the bill.
Michal tells me she helped you escape from Saul when you were first married. She is wise and resourceful too, like Abigail. Though you may have forgotten that, she also tells me you haven’t spoken to her in a decade. You have good wives David. Why did you want me anyway? Maacah, Ahinoam, Haggith, Abital, Eglah. Michal, Abigail? Weren’t they enough?
I was reading the writings of Moses today. He warns that a king should not have lots of wives. That it will only lead them away from God. Is that what I have done? Are both our lives ruined because I gave in that night? Shouldn’t I have just stayed away? Shouldn’t I have been more discreet? Shouldn’t you have just crept into bed with Abigail or Maacah? Michal tells me you have not had sex with her in years. You broke her heart and you refuse to mend it. You have business to do with her. But you won’t even look at her.
You were bored, idle, drifting, weren’t you? That night you watched me. All your men away fighting and you back at home with time on your hands. How many times had you watched me secretly? Night after night? I wish I could turn back time. I feel I have let God down. Led you away from him.
And now we are having a baby. And I have just seen Nathan. He wants to speak with you. He says he will send you an email. He didn’t smile as he said it.
I don’t know why I’m sending this, what I am saying. Only that my husband is dead. And I loved him, I know I betrayed him, but I did love him.
Please let’s talk David. Come out of your corner.
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 19 and 2 Samuel chapter 6
I rescued you! I saved your life. I was a prize idiot. I should have let my dad kill you slowly. I cannot believe I was such a fool. Love is blind they say, well it was deaf, blind and dumb in my case. I fell for you the moment I saw you and it was the biggest mistake of my life.
I waited and waited and waited. And you never called. Never texted. No emails. No messages on FaceScroll. A big nothing. Because you are a big nothing. I cannot believe the number of times I thought about that last sight of you escaping out of our bedroom window. Running into the night. How many times I imagined you returning the same way. I thought you were such a hero and I felt a hero to be your wife. The woman by your side. I felt so proud to be the one dreaming up schemes to help you escape. What a schmuck! The schmuckest schmuck ever.
I hate you.
Why did you bring me back? After all this time why did you make me come back to your cheap palace. I had started to rebuild a life with Palti. He loved me. He wasn’t the big man you claimed to be, but he was a good man and when your thugs came and tore me away from him you broke his heart too. He was the only good man in my life. My dad was a murdering psychopath and you were a manipulating, absent liar. I would have loved you David, I would have done anything for you. And now you won’t come near me.
Instead you’d rather lap dance for those slapper servant girls of yours. Those swoony young women who think you’re the next James Bond. Throwing yourself at them, wowing them with your moves and your great body. Well they can have you. They’ll soon see how black your heart is. How meagre and spindly your soul is. You may have muscles on the outside, but your spirit is as weak as a stream of camel’s spit. You disgust me. If you want to love me you should set me free. But you won’t, you’ll keep me locked up with all your other women, listening to those dismal songs you churn out.
Well watch out, David, Abigail is way smarter than you, and I still have a few grey cells in my head. One day I may persuade her to plot a way out of this prison.
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 25
Don’t know if you remember me. I’m Nabal’s wife. I bought you that feast when you were starving. My husband was well… bit of an idiot really. nearly got us all killed. Refused to help you and your men. Anyway, I stopped you killing him, because – hey – you didn’t want his innocent blood on your hands really. He might be an idiot but he’s not a criminal. or rather he wasn’t. Now he’s not even an idiot. He’s just a corpse. He dropped dead ten days after you’d been around.
Now I know I don’t sound much like the grieving widow, but that’s probably because I’m not. I have to be honest, I married Nabal for his money, not his heart. As you’re well – aware a woman’s got to eat. I didn’t dream of falling into the arms of a rich idiot when I was growing up, I had visions of running off with adventurous heroes and brave princes. Which is where you come in.
This girl still needs to eat. I know a good man when I see one. You’ll be king one day, I’m sure of it, I’ve heard that song they sing. The one about you and Saul. The one about you being the bigger hero. I won’t flatter you, but a good man needs a good woman.
You know where I live.
* * *
1 Samuel 18 and Psalms 23, 119 and 139.
I’m a bit concerned about this song everyone’s singing. The one about me killing tens of thousands of Philistines. For one thing, I haven’t. It’s nice of them to do it and at first it made me feel great and sound well cool. But It’s not really true, I just killed Goliath and a few guys in battle. You see the other thing about it is it makes Saul look bad. And I don’t want that. I may be imagining it but sometimes, when they start up with the song again it’s like his face changes, and he stares at me with this real serious look. It’s not my fault, but I don’t know how to stop it. I want to serve the King I don’t want to undermine him. Everywhere we go they sing the song and it’s starting to make me feel well embarrassed. What can I do? I wish they’d sing it the other way round, you know – David’s decked a thousand but Saul has killed ten thousand. I’d be very happy with that. I’m worried it will make the king do something bad. It’s number one in the download charts and it’s been there for sixteen weeks now. It knocked Moses’s song off the top, that one that’s been there for years, the one about killing loads of Egyptians in the Sea of Reeds.
I’m thinking about writing some new songs, so maybe people will start singing those instead. I thought I’d get a band together and we could do some numbers about how great God is rather than how great I am. And we could do some about how he’s killed our enemies, seeing as people really like that one Moses did.
I think I can get a gig in the bar in town. My brother Abinadab is a mean drummer and Eliab plays sax. Jonathan can play bass and his sister Michal is a stunner on keyboards. I’ve written this number about God being our shepherd, helping us through dark valleys and feeding us with a banquet. It fits the tune of the Beatles All you need is love. Then there’s one about how God made us, and is always with us. You know sees us in the dark and the light, knows all about us. The tune’s a bit like that old classic White Christmas. And then there’s a really long number about how great God’s law is, all about his guidance and rules for good, healthy living. It’s like Bohemian Rhapsody crossed gwith Mr Bluesky and has a great guitar solo in the middle.
So what do you think? Do you see me having a career in songwriting?
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 18
To you lot
I’m tired of people saying I’m double-minded. I see there was another post about it on FaceScroll this morning. This has got to stop.
I know I was all over him for killing that giant, lovin’ this new kid in town, and then only days later I tried to spear him to the wall. But anyone can have an off day.
I admit I promised he could marry my daughter Merab, and then withdrew the offer at the last minute and married her to someone else. And I know that I then gave my other daughter Michal to David only to drag her away from him and give her to someone else before they’d even finished the wedding cake. But hey! He’d gone running off by then, out playing Jack the Lad in the wilderness with his band of outlaw brothers. He’d abandoned Michal anyway.
I know also that I welcomed David into my family with open arms and then tried to kill him. I chased him away, then forgave him, then tried to kill him again, and then forgave him again. It’s only what any decent king might do! Currently there is a warrant out for his arrest and a price on his head. Now some people might say that’s fickle, two faced and small minded.
But I don’t. I am the king! I am! And I can do what I like!
And for goodness sake, he stole my son and my daughter from me. They think he’s the dog’s business! He’s sickeningly good at everything he does, the women all fancy him and the number song for the past sixteen weeks has been that pitiful ditty about how I’m not too bad but doleful Dave is pure awesomeness. Well enough!
I do not want to hear or see anyone else calling me the melodramatic mood swing monster. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!!!!!!!!!! Not, not not!!!!!!!!!!! NOT!
Please forward this message to everyone you know.
On second thoughts, don’t.
Or maybe… do.
Saul (The King – remember that)
* * *
1 Samuel 17
Come on out! You pilchard headed losers. You backside faced cowards. Your mothers are three toed sloths and your fathers are dung beetles. Your sisters are pork pies and your brothers are cat food.
Send out your man and I’ll take him on. No need to kill thousands, no need for rivers of blood and piles of limbs left for the vultures. Send out your best man and I’ll show him who’s boss.
Pick your biggest, hardest, toughest guy. Who’s your strongest? Who towers above everyone else? Let him loose. Let him out so the matter can be settled.
You call us Philistines as if that’s some kind of put down. Yet we are more advanced, more cultured, better armed than you. You are the uncultured ones. You are the ‘Philistines’. We surpass you with our technology, our art, our invention and design. We make you feel small and you can’t stand it. So let’s settle it.
Send out your big man.
Bring it on.
And it’ll be done and dusted.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Just received this email from the other side so I’m forwarding it on to you. Seems they want to settle this the old fashioned way. One on one. Have you come across this Goliath nutcase? Seems a bit full of himself.
Dare we take him on? Who is our tallest man? Is he up to speed?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Bit of a snag.
It’s the king himself. My dad is head and shoulders above the rest of us and the one with the most armour. I’ll put it to him tactfully, but don’t hold your breath. We could all be eating Philistine prison food before long.
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 16
I remember the stories my grandmother Ruth used to tell me about how she met my grandfather Boaz. She said it was easy to look back with hindsight and see how smoothly it all worked out, but it wasn’t like that at the time. She and her first mother-in-law Naomi were poor and starving. They were desperate refugees and could easily have died like so many others did. But there was a plan she used to say. And the plan involved Boaz, their son Obed and me. She sat me on her knee and told me I was a child with a destiny.
Which is why I’m worried now.
I heard you are on your way to our town.
The say you are coming to make a sacrifice to God. But they say other things too. There are rumours. Insane rumours. Something about a mission to find a king. Well, we already have a king. You know that as well as I do. So – are you sure this is a good idea? I know you’re a prophet an’ all that – in which case you should see better than me that this can only lead to trouble. If word gets out that you are anointing successors to the throne King Saul will go bananas. You know what they say about him, he’s a melodramatic, mood swing monster. You must know the tales about him better than I. They say he’s catastrophically bi-polar. They say the slightest threat can make him fly into the granddaddy of all rages. And I bet you’ve seen it first-hand. I know you chose him to be our first king, but I won’t hold it against you. Anyone can make a mistake. So please don’t make another! Especially not one involving my sons.
I won’t lie to you, I’m worried. I have seven boys, and I’m sure any one of them would make perfect king material. Not so much the eighth, the youngest, he’s a bit of a loner, an artistic type. Good with a guitar and a sling mind you. Sings to the sheep and rips the heads off wild dogs. But he will be out working with the flocks anyway and I’m sure any one of the others will do for you. However, I beg you to think seriously about this. I do not need Saul and his thugs knocking on my door at three in the morning with clubs and swords. I really don’t. We’re a peace loving family but my boys won’t take any stick. They will no doubt put up a fight and there’ll be blood and guts over the walls before you can say ‘sedition’.
Now all of this may be my imagination, but I’m emailing you now because of my grandma. I never forgot her tales of God’s plans. God’s destiny. So if this is part of it, I beg you, make sure you get it right. And whatever you do, keep it under your hat.
See you soon
* * *
28. Samuel 2
1 Samuel 8
To the Ramah Leadership Collective
I’m very disappointed with you. You know that Israel is supposed to be different, not like the other nations. The idea is that the other nations will look at us and want to be like us, but now, you have subverted that. You look at the other nations, like poor kids staring at rich kids’ toys, and you want to be like them. I took your request to God and this is what he said.
You can have a king, but be warned. He will want to be treated differently, he will want pomp and ceremony and riches and worse than that. A king will draft your sons into his army and make them run before his chariots. Some will be commanders of his troops, while others will become slave labour. Some will be forced to plough in his fields and harvest his crops, while others will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own servants. Can you honestly tell me you want this? He will take a tenth of your harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will want your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but the Lord will not help you. The words ‘bed’ and ‘lie in it’ come to mind.
Do you really want this? Are you so desperate to be like the other nations? I know my sons have let you down, I know they do not govern you fairly or with humility. I’m sorry about that. I wanted good leaders for you. But believe me – a king is no better option. God is our king! He is our leader, our prime minister, our president. Why hand that authority to frail men who will only squander the privilege. I know you will say that God is invisible and at times silent and seemingly unfair. But often you do not listen to the people he sends. He speaks through people to you, people who have integrity and compassion, and your effuse to listen. You go and hear them, you sit and nod but it’s just like going to a show for you. It’s entertainment. You don’t follow what they say, you don’t listen when your God is speaking to you through them. I know that false prophets come and go, but it’s not difficult to spot them. People are like trees, a good tree bares good fruit. A good prophet bears healthy fruit, compassion, hope, peace, kindness, faithfulness and self-control. They don’t just talk they live it out. God will send you good leaders and prophets but you need to be patient. Please don’t go ahead with this king idea. You will regret it.
Yours in hope
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This is old ground. We do not want to walk it again. We want a king.
The Ramah Leadership Collective
* * *
27. Samuel 1
1 Samuel chapter 3
To Uncle Eli
I’m not sleeping very well. I keep getting woken up in the night by voices. Well, one voice actually. It doesn’t say much, just my name, but I wondered well, (this is a bit embarrassing) if it might be you? I mean, do you talk in your sleep? Are you having bad dreams? I don’t mean to be a nuisance, but I don’t know what to do.
Every night at the moment I wake up to hear ‘Samuel’ – and it’s getting louder. Is the place haunted? Is there someone locked away somewhere? I don’t understand it at all. I was wondering, do you think it has something to do with the Ark of God? Can it talk? Is there someone inside it? I’m a bit scared of it, because I know it’s powerful, and I keep imagining someone sitting inside it calling to me. I thought there were only the stones in there, with the commandments God gave to Moses. They can’t talk can they? Can stones from God talk? I thought about how Moses made the sea open up, and how he made water come from the rock and bread from the sky and so I wondered if he made the stones talk and maybe they are shouting at me for something I’ve done wrong.
Maybe I am going mad. Maybe these voices are in my head.
Help me please uncle, I’m a bit scared.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
My dear Samuel,
You are not going mad and you are not hearing voices in your head. You have done nothing wrong. My sight is not good these days, I don’t see too much, but you have opened my eyes to something extraordinary. It is God, he is calling you. Yes! God! We haven’t heard from him for a long while but he is honouring your mother. She dedicated you to the Lord and now he is taking her seriously. Next time you hear that voice just say, ‘Yes God, I’m listening.’ And I am sure he will show what he wants you to do. Samuel, this is not frightening, it is exciting. God has come back to his people. Go for it!
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 3
Just thought I would let you know how things are going with your son, Samuel. He is training up well as the next priest and governor for Israel. He is a smart boy, obedient and quick to learn. But that is not all. I believe this boy has a special gift. He hears voices. Or rather, one particular voice. The voice of God. You know that we have not heard from Yahweh for so long, it’s been nothing but the sound of silence as far as guidance goes. Well, I believe Samuel has the gift. He heard God calling to him the other night and mistakenly thought it was me. I was losing patience with him because he kept coming to me and waking me up, then it hit me. I told him to tell the Lord he was listening and this is what he told me.
God gave him a message, but he wasn’t too keen to pass on the news. I pushed him and he told me God talked about my family.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘is it good news or bad?’
‘Errr, not entirely good,’ he replied.
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘so… how good, percentage wise? 60% good to 40% bad? Or is it more 50/50? Or 40/60? Maybe 30 good 70 bad? No? How about 20/80…’
I could go on, but I’ll cut to the chase. Turns out it’s zero good – 100% bad. All bad. Totally. No good news whatsoever. My sons are history. They are not going to take over from me. They do not have a long and illustrious career in priesthood ahead of them. They are losers and wasters, and they do not respect God. A dangerous concoction. And one that has put the final nails in their coffins.
Your son, however is different. He is the future of Israel. I am confident that as he grows he will continue to hear God’s voice and put it into practice. When I see him there in that tunic his mum made, well it melts my heart. He looks like a mini-me. He’s perfect, he has the ephod apron complete with miniature versions of the sacred stones for discerning God’s will. The urim and thummim. He’s been learning about these just this last week. And he’s a natural.
So please pray for your son that he may stay close to God and not be distracted as he grows up. It’s so easy to chase after other things and put God on the backburner. So many distractions come along, so much peer pressure, so many deceptive reasons to give up on the truth. But he is a chosen person, I am confident that he will give himself wholeheartedly and never regret it. I don’t mean it will be easy. It won’t be. Of course it won’t. It has cost many people everything. But that doesn’t not mean it is not worth it. A precious stone might cost a year’s wages, but that’s because it is so precious. The clue is in the name. And I have seen the opposite. I have seen my boys turn their back on the things that really matter and go chasing the wind for quick fulfilment. And I have watched them fell apart.
So be encouraged – you have a remarkable son.
Thank you for entrusting him to my care and tuition, I would promise to look after him as if he were my own, but that may not be the best thing I can say when you think on my two boys.
* * *
1 Samuel chapter 1
Please please stop this cyber bullying. It’s horrible. You are making my life miserable, posting up your messages on FaceScroll like that. Taunting me about not being able to have children. How would you feel? It’s okay for you – you have a whole bunch of the things. It’s not fair, it really isn’t. How do you think it makes me feel? What have I ever done to hurt you? Is it because Elkanah gives me a double portion of food when he goes to make a sacrifice? If it is – it’s not my fault!! He’s trying to encourage me because you’re so horrible! He just sees me crying all the time after I’ve read more of your messages on FaceScroll. He says he doesn’t need me to have sons for him, but I know he would be different if I gave him a boy.
You know what a slur it is on my character, not having children. You know I feel so pathetic and insecure about it. I want to give Elkanah a family too! Strong boys. Descendants. But while you keep taunting me online like this it just makes everything bitter and caustic. Can’t we be friends? Please?
I pray for you every day, and not for a thunderbolt to strike you down, I promise. I pray we can be friends. And I pray for a child too, I pray that God will open heaven and open my womb and let me be a mother. But you’re poison does not help this.
I was praying just yesterday in fact, pleading for a son, when the priest caught me. I felt so stupid because I’d been crying and my face was all red and blotchy, and I was there rambling on to God and he thought I was drunk and talking to myself. He had a go at me! I told him that I hadn’t been drinking at all, that I was under a lot of stress. Thankfully he listened to me. He prayed that God would grant me the answer to my prayer. So maybe it will happen! Maybe I will have a boy, and I’ll dedicate him to God, and maybe, just maybe, we can be friends?
Please stop sending these horrible messages and spreading vicious rumours about me on FaceScroll. We are sisters-in-law, we can help each other. We don’t have to be rivals. Think about how it must look to others. It’s not just me you are insulting, it’s the God we serve. What do you think it looks like to the world when they see you spitting poison on the internet? People will think your God is a poisonous one too. We know he isn’t, we know he’s compassionate and kind and patient and caring. Please let us both imitate that.
I’m begging you,
Your sister, Hannah
* * *
Ruth chapters 1 & 4
If you ever hurt my daughter in law I’ll break your nose. She is the most caring, dedicated person I have ever met. Back in Moab, when she was married to my son, she used to wind me up no end. Always doing things her own way, but you know, when I had lost everything she stuck with me. And let’s face it, I’d never say this out loud, but I am just a cantankerous old woman, bitter and twisted, and with good reason. God took everything I ever had, my husband, my sons, my future. And in my old age I found myself limping back to my old home, like some wrinkled old prodigal daughter, looking for somewhere to go and die. But enough about me. The point is, Ruth did not abandon me, which would have been the sensible thing. My other daughter-in-law Orpah has a reasonable head on her shoulders, she always listens to what I say and so she went back, she listened to my advice and went to her home for a new husband. Ruth is a stubborn young mule and she blatantly disobeyed me. Thank God.
And you know, she said the kindest thing anyone ever said to a grieving, lost woman, ‘Wherever you go, I’ll go. Your home will be my home, your God will be my God, and where you die I will die.’ They don’t put that on the e-cards they advertise on FaceScroll do they? Well they should. They really should. And she meant it. It wasn’t just a line in a song to her. She has stayed with me through thick and thin. Through death and poverty and loss. And now she’s promised to do the same for you. She’ll do it. I know, so you’d better take good care of her, give her lots of strong sons, and maybe one of them will turn out to be a prime minister or a king, who knows. If her children have a single ounce of her strength and courage then they will surely go a long way.
So watch your back Mr Boaz, because I’m watching you.
Naomi, your new mother-in-law
P.S. Thank you for rescuing us. The Lord gave and the Lord took away, and now he has given back.
* * *
Ruth chapters 1-4
I cannot believe I’m sitting here with my own iParchment in my own house sending you an email! This time last year Naomi and I were broke and living rough. We had nothing. It was terrible. We were starving and poor. There were times I really thought we were gonna die. Now look at me, living in luxury with all the home comforts, a good husband, oh and – are you sitting down? – I’m pregnant. You’re gonna be an aunt! Congratulations!
I never want to forget what it was like back then though, to have nothing I mean. I never want to forget the fears and the hunger pains and the desperate longings. I never want to become so comfortable, because there’ll always be people with nothing, won’t there? Always be rich and poor. And if I can help others I will.
I’m glad things worked out okay for you when you got back to Moab – I’m sorry your mother is unwell. Naomi is okay, grouchy as ever, but deep down I think she knows things have worked out incredibly with me and Boaz. She has a granny flat over the chariot shed. She finds plenty to complain about but what else is there for her to do these days! She still has plenty of bright ideas and tries to steer me in her direction, I resist most of them but some of them are quite wise. No doubt she has plenty of things up her sleeve to tell me about being a mum.
Hang on I need the loo… back in a moment.
I’m back. Not long to the birth now hence the regular need for the long drop. I think it’s a boy, but who knows? I just hope it’s healthy and strong, that’s enough for me. Maybe he’ll do something significant one day maybe not. If he takes after Boaz then that’ll be great. Boaz is wise and compassionate. He has his mood swings but nothing too bad. He is a good man and I want my son to be a good man too. If he is a man! Might be a girl of course, then the poor thing will be like me! Oh dear.
Met the mother-in-law, or rather my new mother-in-law, the other day. Rahab. Boaz’s mum is quite a character. She has a bit of a past. Remembers the days of Jericho. She has this old sliver of ribbon fixed on her wall, apparently it saved her life. Something about spies and prostitutes. She promised me she’ll tell me about it one day.
Look I have to go and do a few things but I hope the situation in Moab is okay these days, I hope that things are better now that horrible Eglon has been got rid of, he was a bad guy wasn’t he? People have been saying amazing things about Ehud, the man who killed him. It’s all over FaceScroll. They say he pretended to bring a message from God to Eglon, then leant over to whisper to him and stabbed him one in the gut! Ouch! Then they say he escaped through a sewer – lovely. What you have to do to be an assassin, eh?
Ouch! Ow! Ooh! Something’s happening… I’d better go… I think it may be the baby starting… sorry to dash I think I’d… ooh! Ow! Agh!
* * *
Judges chapter 16
We know you have moved in with this despicable Israelite. It is therefore your duty to do something. Last week he went and nicked the gates of the city, and when you’ve seen the size of them you’ll know it was no mean achievement. I mean shoplifting’s one thing but you can hardly shove a couple of 8 meter cedar gates up your jumper can you? And then walk nearly 40 miles home with them! What is this man? A machine? A monster? Those things weigh 400 kilograms. Each. And he nicked two of them! What for? He could hardly want to have them in his lounge for decoration surely?
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is he is capable of anything and will stop at nothing. This gate-stealing incident came on the back of the fox-lighting one. That was apparently an act of retribution because his former parents-in-law remarried his wife to the best man. I’m not sure that ‘best man’; is quite the correct term for a friend of the groom who happily runs off with your missus the moment your back is turned, but Samson had abandoned the woman and disgraced her. But of course he then decided to ‘get his own back’ when he found out that she had moved on and become his ex-wife. The fox-lighting incident involved him tying burning torches to the tails of a few local foxes. Three hundred of them! The countryside was lit up like a matchhead. Samson may be popular with the local chickens but that’s about it. This has got to stop!
If anyone can find a way it’s you. Tap him for some ideas about where he gets this hideous strength from. If we can clip his wings then we can get rid of him. We know your strengths Delilah, use them to find his. We’re told he has a weakness for women. Prove it to us and we’ll cross your palm with thirty pieces of… no… with eleven hundred pieces of silver. Each. We’ll all chip in. Betray Samson and you’ve won the lottery.
The men of Gaza
p.s. can I book a haircut for next Tuesday at 3?
* * *
Judges chapter 14
Dear mum and dad
I’m coming home soon. This place stinks and I don’t want these Philistine women any more. I’ve had enough of them. Remember that one I married? What was her name again? It was er… oh… you know… oh… whatsherface… er… thingy… oh, can’t remember now. But I remember her bad habits! Ear picking, toe picking, nose picking. Plus – when whenever we were out – she used to reach over and eat the chips off my plate! These Philistines are just total… philistines. I want a sexy Israelite girl, one who won’t mess me about. And one that won’t trick me the way my wife did. I came up with a well-clever riddle to trick some of the lads at our wedding and then she went and wangled the answer out of me. Those meathead philistine lads couldn’t work it out in a million years so what did they do? Only get her to squeeze it out of me.
I’ve been shacked up with another Philistine woman, Delilah. You know how I’m never supposed to get a haircut my whole life, which is totally unfair by the way, cause I’ve been stuck with this mullet like forever. While all my mates get a flattop or a number one, I have to spend my life looking like Bono in the 80’s. Anyway I was thinking I might try and get a new look. You see Delilah’s not just a looker, she’s a hairdresser as well and she’s got some ideas for a new style for me. And even though she’s a Philistine I think I can trust her. And she’s top quality in bed. I reckon a trim wouldn’t hurt would it? I know that getting a haircut is supposed to diminish my strength and everything but surely a half-inch off will only take my six pack down a little. I’m not talking about going skinhead or anything.
She’s been asking me about how come I’m so fit when I don’t work out much. I told her it’s a gift and the only thing that can make me weak is being tied up with a few spindly bits of twine. Lol. And guess what – she fell for it. Lol some more. Then a funny thing happened, some guys attacked us and tried tying me up with a few spindly bits of twine. Coincidence or what? Weird, eh? Anyway I broke out easily and escaped. Delilah was well upset for some reason so I cheered her up by telling her that it’s really brand new ropes that take my strength. And you’ll never guess what – last night., I kid you not, some more guys came and tried tying me up with new ropes. Another coincidence or what? Anyway, I broke out of those no problem. Delilah keeps on at me so I thought I might tell her some tiny clue about my hair, like if it gets dyed blond then I’m in trouble. But I won’t tell her the truth. Never. Weird how these things keep happening though.
Gotta go, thought I might catch some foxes and set fire to their tails.
See ya soon, and you’re gonna love my new look,
* * *
They say you should never send emails late at night when you’re drunk, angry, or have just trashed your dad’s idols. Too late, here it is.
If you are wondering why I have just destroyed your Baal altar and your Asheroth pole then think on this. There’s an old story about Abraham and his father Terah. It is said that Terah was an idol manufacturer and he once left Abraham in charge of the store while he was away. Abraham got inspired and smashed all the idols except for one. He then took the hammer and placed it near the one remaining idol, the biggest one. When his father returned he was horrified to see all the idols smashed.
‘What have you done?’ he cried.
‘It wasn’t me,’ said Abraham, ‘a woman came in with some food for the idols and they fought over it and the biggest one won and smashed all the others.’
His father shook his head. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ he said, ‘they can’t do that.’
‘Then why do you worship them?’ asked Abraham.
You know what I’m saying dad. Some people hire craftsmen to make them gods. Then they bow down and worship them! They carry them around on their shoulders, and when they set them down, they stay there. They cannot even move! And when someone prays to them, there is no answer. They have no power to get anyone out of trouble.
I’m in trouble now, I know it. The local big shots won’t like what I’ve done, but our God, the all-powerful invisible God, has called me to follow his ways, and his ways don’t require idols and false gods so I’ve cleared the way. I’ve only done what our father Abraham did. By the way if you are reading this without knowing I had smashed the altar… well…er… you know now. I met an angel and I made a sacrifice to God. I know this may cause trouble but let the idols defend themselves. I have to fight the Midianites and bring freedom back to our people. We’re starving and skulking in the hills and it’s time to do something. Don’t laugh, I’m really gonna do it. Somehow. And I started by freeing our town from the tyranny of false religion. I expect you’ll be getting a knock on your door any time now. Good luck. God is with us. (So actually we can just leave the luck on the shelf.)
All the best, I know you’ll stick by me,
* * *
Judges chapter 4 & 5
I have a confession to make.
I’m not one for complaining usually, just get on with life actually. I mean, when King Jabin was throwing his weight about and making life difficult ,me and my man we just moved out of his reach a little bit. Got on with living, didn’t make a fuss. But when I purchased your tent pegs for use on our home I was really disappointed. I did not expect one of them to buckle under the first blow. Admittedly the first sixty-three worked perfectly, so I can’t complain about them. But when I came to use peg sixty-four well, the result spoke for itself. It crumpled like a politician under pressure. It was useless. I only struck it once and instead of going in nice and smooth and straight it concertinaed in my fingers and caused me to hit my thumb with a glancing blow from the mallet.
Now admittedly I wasn’t using peg sixty-four for the normal purposes. So I realise I may not be within the confines of the guarantee. So I’m willing to negotiate. I doubt if many of your customers have had cause to nail a man’s head to the floor. But when you need to do it you don’t expect the tools you have to fail. It’s too important. When you place the tip of the tent peg into an evil general’s temple you want it to crunch its way through first time. No messing. Obviously there is mess, I found that out when I went on to use peg sixty-five which I can happily say did the job perfectly. So you can be proud of that one. The aforementioned general, who had been until that moment oppressing my people mercilessly, gave a yelp and a gurgle and a splintering sound and then he just lay very still with all kinds of goo bubbling out of him. Having a lie down took on a whole meaning for the man.
Now general Sisera may well have a thicker skull than most men, certainly his head was bigger, but that shouldn’t mean I can’t smack a tent peg through his cranium without it crumpling under the force. I’m not heavy handed, really I’m not. And I’m accurate. I took careful aim with that tent peg, adjusted my hand on the mallet and raised it above my head like there was no tomorrow. And in fact for Sisera there was no tomorrow. Peg sixty-five saw to that. All those orphans and widows, made that way by the general’s evil campaigns under King Jabin, will sleep better from now on.
I’d just like to add that ever since we moved away (so we could put some distance between ourselves and the troubles brought on by Sisera) we have been using your tent pegs with no problems whatsoever. So it’s really just peg sixty-four we’d like replaced. If you want I could send it on to you so you can see the damage for yourself. Obviously peg sixty-five is tied up elsewhere so I wouldn’t be sending that one and I doubt if you’d really want to see the state of that peg now.
Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite
* * *
Numbers chapter 13 & Joshua chapters 14 & 15 & Judges 3
I want those hills. I want that land. I am not done with the challenges of life just yet. I don’t want to put my feet up with a hot cup of milk and honey staring at daytime parchments every morning and dozing in the afternoons. Remember when you and I first ventured into the Promised Land? Remember the vision we had? We could see past the giants and the pitfalls and the problems. We could see the future, we could this as a land full of potential. Well, I’m not done with that. I saw potential in those hills and I want to take them.
Remember the Anakites with their impressive walled cities? That’s what I’m after. If God has given us this land and if his promises are not hollow, then let me take it. There is nothing to fear. I have good men who have courage and faith – the combination of those two is a powerful cocktail. They fear God, they believe him, and they are brave men. So they will follow me into those hills. There’s one guy in particular that I have my eye on. Othniel. He is a hero believe me. I see us in him, it’s like looking at you forty years ago. I’d give him my own daughter if the time was right. He is a powerful young man. Maybe a future leader even? God forbid that the people ever lose their way with the Lord, but of they did he would be a man to bring them back. People in general are like sheep, Joshua, you know that. Moses saw that. They always need good leaders and without good leaders the majority always go astray. Always. It’s a fact of life, but with good leadership, compassionate, courageous, humble leadership, anything is possible. Othniel, if you ever read this and the people need a saviour – get out there! You’re the man for the job. And I’m serious about my daughter, Achsah is a great catch for any man – she knows her mind and will speak it, believe me. She gets the better of me at times…But I digress.
What I’m trying to say is… give me those hills! Please. I mean it. Give me those hills! Or I’ll come round and put a scorpion up your pyjamas.
What do you say? Can I take the battle to the Anakites? Can I storm their pagan cities and tear down their altars to foreign gods? Can I assault those walls and take those strongholds? All those years ago I was fobbed off with an interminable period of waiting in the wilderness by all those people who had no vision. I don’t know why but they couldn’t see how great the gift of God was, they could only see the problems. Why do some people get like that? Why do they focus on the difficulties and miss the opportunities?
Get back to me soon, we’re kitted up here ready to go. Remember, a scorpion.
* * *
Joshua chapter 5
I am confused. As we embarked on the Jericho campaign a group of our foot soldiers met you just outside the city. When they presented their arms and demanded which side you were on you refused to answer. Do you not realise this is a war zone? You were clearly armed. If you do not declare which side you are fighting for you are liable to get yourself killed. This is not some Sunday afternoon picnic. We are here to take this city, anyone who gets in the way of that will be taken out, I assure you. Tomorrow I shall be patrolling myself near the walls, if you should cross my path please be prepared to declare your allegiance. Anything else could be fatal for you.
Joshua, commanding officer of the forces of Israel
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Let’s be clear about one thing. The important question here is not whose side I am on. I can take care of myself, believe me. Allegiance for me is not a question. However, for you it’s an issue which must be settled. I too am a commanding officer, I understood how it works. I tell those beneath me to go and they go, I say do this and they do it. It’s all very straightforward. But I do that because I know who I serve, and I know whose army I am in charge of, and it is not my own. I am placed here by one who is above all generals, all commanding officers, all foot soldiers and all conflicts.
You must familiarise yourself with that person. Don’t worry about me and whose side I am on, get to know the one above all wars and battles. You are an officer, you expect those beneath you to serve well. Now you must choose to serve the one who made them. Whose side are you on? His? Or your own?
Better decide soon, before you undertake your next battle. And when we next meet you’ll be on Holy Ground, so I suggest you take Moses’ advice and impersonate him, remove your sandals and bow. Remember what Moses told you about humility. It may not just save your life, it may well make it great.
That stranger with the big sword
* * *
Joshua chapters 2 & 6
Just wanted to thank you for saving my life. And for honouring your promise and preserving my family too. When your boys knocked on my door I wouldn’t let them in at first, I only take one customer at a time. I’ve been caught out before. Plus they didn’t look rich and I’m a high class girl you know. I take some paying. Anyway, I’m glad I did. thanks. If I’m honest I didn’t expect you to honour the promise. Why would you? Just some alien hooker begging for her life. I’m used to men using me for their own ends and then conveniently forgetting to follow through on their promises. Men and cheap talk are real bed buddies, believe me. Thank you for being different.
I don’t know what the future holds for you or me. You’ll probably go down in history as some great hero of your people, most men do, and me, I’ll most likely be forgotten by tomorrow lunchtime. I have to make a new home here now in this place amongst a strange people. We’re not exactly refugees thanks to the new home your men gave me, but we are strangers in a strange land. We haven’t travelled far but in some ways it feels like a million miles. Nothing is the same anymore. Neighbours, shops, food, way of life. And these strange religious customs.
Who is this God you all talk about? I don’t get it. No child sacrifices, no temple prostitutes, no orgies. And only one! He must be a busy God – fire water sky earth weather war peace pain pleasure food drink tears laughter – he seems to be Lord of them all. I’ve never encountered anything like this before. And where are the idols? How can you relate to an invisible God? I hear tales of him looking like smoke and fire in the desert – but you can’t touch that. How’s that help? Doesn’t even have a real name. Just ‘I am’ – the present. Don’t you need something more tangible? More confinable. Strange.
My little boy Boaz was thrilled and horrified to see the city burning yesterday. He laughed and cried. He’s always playing soldiers with his cousins, so he was fascinated by the sight of the real thing. Weapons and officers, strategies and explosions. But that’s his world gone up in smoke now. The only place he’s ever known. He hasn’t spoke since he woke up this morning. I think the reality of all he’s lost is sinking in. I’m glad he has his cousins and uncles here.
I met one of your people yesterday, a woman called Naomi, she was kind and helpful. Made me really welcome. Not sure if we’re destined to be friends but just her smile and conversation made me feel better about things. She has two baby boys, so I guess she understands the stresses of being a mother. She seems a good woman.
Not sure if I’ll see you again, you’re a busy man and I’m a nobody. But thank you again.
* * *
Exodus chapter 24
Dear uncle Moses,
That was an astonishing morning! I can’t quite get my head around what happened. And I still can’t quite see straight after all that blinding light. I’m still seeing stars. Did we really see… what we saw? Did we come face to face with that… and live? How can that be? How can we be here to tell the tale? How can I be sending you this message from my i-Parchment? You can’t do that, you can’t look on something like that and live! It’s not possible, not since Adam and Eve were banished from Eden and forfeited those kind of privileges. I’m astonished and confused. But more than that, I think we should keep this quiet.
You see Moses, the meeting we had and the food we ate are all very well, but people might misunderstand. Do you know what I mean? We want the people to fear God, not think that he is somehow just a celestial picnic thrower. They can go doing what they like without threat of destruction. We can’t be having a God who just throws parties and welcomes anyone can we? A deity without the fire and the thunder will make us a laughing stock to the other nations. We need to show these other countries that they can’t mess with us, that we’re right and they’re wrong and we have a God to back us up. Too many stories of sapphire pavements and a God throwing a feast on a mountain and they’ll all want to come! We need to be careful. We are different, unique. I mean, God’s not going to throw that sort of feast in a hillside for anyone and everyone is he?
Is this what you’ve been doing all this time? Going up that mountain and breaking bread with the Creator. How? How can that be? How can we do that and live? No one can see God and survive. Maybe one day the unthinkable will happen, the glory of God will appear in such a way that anyone can fix their eyes on him. Perhaps that magnificent pavement of sapphire will weave its way through the streets of our land and we’ll all walk it. But until then we need the sacrifices and the blood spilt, we need the blood of the covenant.
A word of warning – I noticed you ventured a good deal closer than the rest of us. Be careful Moses, don’t imagine that your particular relationship with God somehow makes you special, you are our leader and we would not want to lose you. Remember those who so recently lost their lives because of their arrogance. Remember your place, and whatever you do don’t encourage others to venture close to God like this. We wouldn’t want the whole world to think that they can climb God’s holy mountain and share a meal with him.
God is almighty. Not all-matey. We are his servants, not his friends. He is surely never likely to get that close to us. How could he? How could the divine, omnipresent being reduce himself to a state where he could sit at the same table as us? Who would he would cease to be the God of all creation if he became one of his creation. So let’s just keep it between ourselves. We had an incredible experience, we sat down and ate a feast in God’s presence, we saw his majesty and that incredible sapphire pavement. Now enough of the visions, let’s get back to reality. Somehow we have to get through this desert and make it out the other side. Abihu and myself will do what is right as priest of the most high. I just ask you to do the same.
Nadab, son of Aaron
* * *
Leviticus chapter 10
I wanted to send my deepest condolences regarding Nadab and Abihu. This is a terrible terrible thing that has happened. I don’t know what else to say. The appalling accident that took their lives will haunt us all for a long time. They were dedicated men and fine sons, they served our God wholeheartedly and I cannot imagine what caused this tragedy. Yet something must have happened to mislead them. Moses tells me the enquiry is underway as I write. But more importantly I want you to know that my heart goes out to you and our prayers are with you. We will miss them both dearly.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This is a tough email to write. We looked into the case about your boys and it appears they took the law into their own hands. I know this sounds like madness, they were so dedicated when they began, they were there when the tabernacle was completed. They knew the ropes. There are specific rules about their job and it seems they flouted these. They did not take God seriously. I know you will not thank me for bringing this up, but I can’t help wondering if the calf incident influenced them in some way.
If there is anything I can do let me know.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Moses! I can’t believe you brought up the calf thing again! Will you never let it go! And at a time like this! It’s highly inappropriate. Highly! For goodness sake. Let Aaron grieve for his boys.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
I know you are angry with me, but you don’t have my job. Leadership is hard, I have to keep things on track. God is God and you cannot have it both ways. We are his chosen people, his mouthpiece to the world. We cannot have that honour and behave like spoilt children. I only bring up the calf incident to make the point that crimes come with consequences. Sometimes short-term sometimes long-term. It seem that this golden idol has cast a long shadow, that’s all.
By the way, don’t email me at this address if you want to tell me off. My wife reads them and may well come round and punch your lights out.
We are all grieving for these boys. Let’s lay them to rest and move on now.
* * *
Exodus chapter 14 & Joshua chapter 3
I’m writing this now and will get my servant to send it after I’ve gone. Thought you could do with a bit of encouragement from beyond the grave.
Some advice – people are a tough nut to crack. For one thing they’ll probably complain that you’re not me, and of course they’ll conveniently forget all the ways I drove them mad, and I’ll be hailed as a saint the moment I’m gone. But don’t be deceived. If you’re to lead this glorious rabble you’ll need nerves as steady as a pyramid and skin as thick as a camel’s backside. Leadership is no mug’s game!
So here’s what I think you should do. Impersonate me. Don’t worry about the voice or the limp or nervous ticks or the annoying habits, I’m talking about grander things here. Do some miracles early on. It worked for me. People need to know that you have the same credentials, so don’t go for subtlety. You need a big act of God. Now you don’t need the ten plagues, that was so last century. You won’t need that where you’re going, but the water miracle, that’s where you want to go. You see, when we hit crisis point back in Egypt, and it was do or die, all I could do was hold out my staff and command that water to part. And as you know God came through and the people were very convinced. Well, you’re going to need to cross the Jordan soon and I know it’s not the Sea of Reeds, but if you call on the power of God and part that water people will instantly make the connection. You will be the new Moses and they will follow you. No man can open up the sea, only God can; trust me, do the water miracle and they will know God is with you.
Remember though, you’re not me, you have very different gifts. You’re a warrior Joshua, a fighting man, I was never that, so you must be true to yourself. It’ll be tough at times because people will want you to be something else, but remain true to the man God has made you. It’ll also be tough because I have seen how competent and resourceful you are, but never be tempted to become self-sufficient. Never let your ego lead you, I made that mistake and I am paying for it now. When I cracked open that rock out of anger I sealed my fate. I didn’t listen to God. So never think you know better than him, never think you are wiser or more competent than you are. Stay humble. Humility is a man’s best friend, and ultimately it well make you more like God.
Strength and courage, my friend. It’s over to you now.