Sunday, December 31, 2006

Worshipping the Bronze Snake

I picked up a copy of the "Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible" (Tom Head, Que Publishing, 2006) from the local library the other day. All sorts of fascinating little tidbits.

Remember the bronze snake that Moses made in Deuteronomy 21:4-9? It eventually found its way to the Temple, where it became an object of veneration for the Israelites. During King Hezekiah's reforms, he smashed up this idol:
In YHWH's opinion [Hezekiah] was a good king; he kept to the standards of his ancestor David. He got rid of the local fertility shrines, smashed the phallic stone monuments, and cut down the sex-and-religion Asherah groves. As a final stroke he pulverized the ancient bronze serpent that Moses had made; at that time the Israelites had taken up the practice of sacrificing to it—they had even dignified it with a name, Nehushtan (The Old Serpent).
2 Kings 18:3-4

Was Isaiah Familiar with the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh?

I picked up a copy of the "Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible" (Tom Head, Que Publishing, 2006) from the local library the other day. All sorts of fascinating little tidbits.

Apparently (I say "apparently" because I realize there might be other factors at work here than how the book presents things) God expected Isaiah to be familiar with the Epic of Gilgamesh. You've likely heard at least a passing reference to this ancient Babylonian tale, which essentially is the Babylonian version of Creation and the Flood, etc, written, according to this book, about 2000 B.C. (but I'm always suspicious of dates prior to about 500 B.C. -- too much guesswork and assumptions needed in most cases).

According to page 56, the Epic of Gilgamesh says this:
Inanna tended the tree carefully and lovingly
she hoped to have a throne and a bed
made for herself from its wood.
After ten years, the tree had matured.
But in the meantime...
the demon Lilith had built her house in the middle.
But Gilgamesh, who had heard of Inanna's plight,
came to her rescue...
[and] Lilith, petrified with fear,
tore down her house and fled into the wilderness.

Isaiah 34:14 (The Message) says this:
Wildcats and hyenas will hunt together,
demons and devils dance through the night.
The night-demon Lilith, evil and rapacious,
will establish permanent quarters.

(It seems that most translations hide this "Lilith" as "night bird" or similar, but some offer the margin note of the literal Hebrew being "Lilith".)

Samson the Vow-Breaker

I picked up a copy of the "Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible" (Tom Head, Que Publishing, 2006) from the local library the other day. All sorts of fascinating little tidbits.

Samson, you'll recall, was dedicated at birth ...
to God as a nazirite, which means he must be kept away from unclean animals, corpses, fermented food and drink, and that his hair must never be cut. He violates most of his vows -- most notably in [Judges] 14:8-9, where he eats fermented honey from the corpse of an unclean animal....
(pg 104)

The Tanakh

I picked up a copy of the "Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible" from the local library the other day. All sorts of fascinating little tidbits.

One of the things I found interesting: you're probably familiar with the way the folks of Jesus' day referred to the Old Testament, as "The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings". In Hebrew, the "Law" would be "Torah", the "Prophets" would be "Nevi'im", and the "Writings" would be "Kethuvim". Taking the first letter of each word, you get "T.N.K.", and adding in some vowels, you get "Tanakh". This is the word used by adherents of Judaism to refer to what we call the Old Testament.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

You Have Rocks in Your Head


Rocks in the Head are Good for Balance 10/10/2003
Next time someone says you have rocks in your head, it might be a compliment, depending on where and how big. You have rocks in your inner ears that keep you from falling over. No kidding. Fish, birds, and mammals have tiny crystals of calcite, called otoliths, that are a key ingredient in the sense of balance. This means that we all have tiny chunks of limestone in our heads.
  • How They Work: Because rocks have inertia, they resist motion when moving forward, and they fall in a gravitational field. The otoliths rest against tiny hair cells in a part of the inner ear called the utricle (in mammals, just below the semicircular canals). When you move or turn over, the hair cells sense the shearing motion of the otoliths, and report the information to the brain. This sense works in conjunction with the eyes to help you know which way is up, how fast you are moving, and which direction you are turning. A good explanation, with illustrations, can be found on the website of a clinical otolaryngologist,
  • Dr. Timothy C. Hain.
  • What They Look Like: Otoliths are microscopic. Fish have one large oblong otolith resting on a bed of hair cells in the macula (the gravity-sensing organ), whereas mammals have many smaller, irregular ones, called otoconia, surrounded by hair cells. Sometimes referred to as “ear dust,” the otoconia are too small, 30 microns or shorter, to be seen without a microscope. They are made up of calcium carbonate in a protein matrix. They form early in the embryo and are maintained throughout life. Some of the vertigo that ails seniors is due to shortage or accumulation of otoconia. Normally, debris is thought to be reabsorbed and new otoconia regenerated, but there is much still to be discovered about this sensory mechanism. In fish, the otoliths are also part of their sense of sound.
  • What’s New: Scientists just found an enzyme essential for proper otolith development. In the Oct. 10 issue of Science1, Sollner et al. found a gene they named Starmaker that when mutated, causes zebrafish to produce irregular stones with sharp edges instead of the smooth, oblong otoliths produced in normal development. This is partly because it switches the biomineralization process to produce aragonite instead of calcite, a different crystal form of calcium carbonate. (Some animals, like amphibians, actually use aragonite in their otoliths.)
    Donna Fekete, in a review of this paper in the same issue,2 has illustrations of these little rocks in the utricle and describes how they work. She says that the discovery may lead to improved medical treatments for vertigo and more: “In humans, mutations of a related protein have been linked to congenital deafness and defects in tooth mineralization,” she notes. In other words, the proteins that guide otolith development are also essential for hearing, and are involved in producing the other gemstones in our head – tooth enamel.

    1Christian Sollner et al., “Control of Crystal Size and Lattice Formation by Starmaker in Otolith Biomineralization,” Science Magazine 25 June 2003; 10.1126/science.1088443.
    2Donna M. Fekete, “Rocks That Roll Zebrafish,” Science Magazine 25 June 2003; 10.1126/science.1091171.
    Did you know this? Did you know that you have limestone in your ears? Did you know it is essential for you to stand and walk? This is amazing stuff. Consider that it is not just dust collected from a cave or wherever, but it is carefully manufactured by proteins and enzymes, that are in turn directed by the DNA code. The result are beautiful hexagonal crystals of calcium carbonate: little gems in your head. They reside in a fluid in your inner ear, enmeshed in a forest of hair cells that can sense every move they make. Then there are the lovely crystals in your teeth – that’s another amazing story, for another time.
    Everywhere they look, scientists find complex systems of interrelated parts. Slight mutations often cause complete loss of function, sometimes in several apparently unrelated systems. Without these rocks in your head, you would wobble dizzily like a drunken sailor and have a hard time just standing up. When they work, as they usually do, they work very, very well.
    The rocks are actually the simplest part of the system. The sensory apparatus that reports each movement, and the brain software that continually monitors and interprets the signals and sends the necessary messages to the appropriate muscles for rapid response, is mind boggling in sophistication. How could such things evolve without intelligent design? Get real! Whether it’s in a fish darting in the water, or an eagle dive-bombing on its prey, or a cheetah in pursuit of a gazelle, the hardware and software to accomplish such things surely overwhelms any man-made imitations, and yet we get all excited when Sony builds a robot that can walk upstairs (slowly) without falling over (sometimes). It’s time to give credit where credit is due.
    Think about these tiny gemstones the next time you watch the Olympics, and see a champion gymnast do a complex routine on the balance beam. When she nails that double-twisting dismount, stand up and cheer – not just for her, but for the Creator who thought of a good use for rocks in the head.
  • Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    New Pyramids and report that new pyramids, twice the size of the Great Pyramid at Giza, have been found in Europe.

    And The Register says, "Nope".

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    A Message to Religious Leaders

    Jeremiah 23:
    "Doom to the shepherd-leaders who butcher and scatter my sheep!" YHWH's Decree. "So here is what I, YHWH, Israel's God, say to the shepherd-leaders who misled my people: 'You've scattered my sheep. You've driven them off. You haven't kept your eye on them.'"
    "I know what they're saying, all these prophets who preach lies using me as their text, saying 'I had this dream! I had this dream!' How long do I have to put up with this?"
    "But don't go around pretending to know it all, saying 'God told me this...God told me that....' I don't want to hear it anymore. Only the person I authorize speaks for me. Otherwise, my Message gets twisted, the Message of the living YHWH-of-the-Angel-Armies."
    I'm telling you: Quit the 'God told me this...God told me that...' kind of talk.

    A Message to Political Leaders

    Jeremiah 22:2ff:
    Listen to what YHWH says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David's throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is YHWH's Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don't take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!

    To Know God

    Jeremiah 22:16
    He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
    and so all went well.
    Is that not what it means to know me?"
    declares YHWH.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    You Make Me Hate My Brother

    Joel Turtel has an interesting article over at American Daily that concisely contrasts arguments for Big Government with those against. Here's one of the arguments:

    [The government says] "You must pay 50 percent of your salary in state and Federal income taxes to support all our entitlement programs. You are morally responsible to help the poor, unwed mothers, college students, corporations who want tax breaks, big farmers who want farm subsidies, and Mexican illegal aliens who insist on free medical care."

    "By what right," I replied, "do you force me to be my brother's keeper at the point of a gun? Why do you think you have the right to rob me to give unearned handouts to people who will vote for you? You turn compassion into compulsion and make me hate my brother."
    This is so spot-on, that "forced compassion" leads to ill-feelings toward those recipients of that compassion. I found that very interesting.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Hydroplate Theory

    UPDATE: I've just now noticed that most of my images have disappeared (my mistake), so rather than recollect/restore them I'll just suggest you look at the pix on this page in the original:
    /End of UPDATE

    There's an online book (, from which all illustrations below have been taken (apologies that the right-side of the pix are chopped off; go see the originals at the link above)) that presents a "Hydroplate Theory" for the current structure of the earth's surface. I find it fascinating, and although not everyone will want to read the whole book, you might find looking at a few pictures to be interesting.

    The basic jist is that prior to the Flood there was a vast underground reservoir about 10 miles below the surface of the earth, and about half a mile deep. There were pillar-like supports dividing this reservoir into interconnected chambers and providing support for the crust above it. During the 1656 years between the Creation and the Flood, tidal forces (from the moon acting on these underground water chambers, just as it acts on today's oceans) caused daily stretching/compressing cycles on these pillars that built up heat and pressure, and that caused partial melting of these pillars allowing iron and nickel to sink to their bottoms while quartz remained nearer the top.

    Eventually, in Noah's day, the pressure got so great that some micro-fractures opened up on the surface of the earth. These micro-fractures rapidly spread around the globe (in a matter of hour), causing the beginning of the world-encircling mid-oceanic ridge.
    Break-Up of Crust

    Ocean Floor

    Continental Margin

    The sudden release of this pressurized water was even stronger than you'd think, because of some interesting physics that take place with water under certain pressures and temperatures, and when the fountains of the deep blew, they blew catastrophically.

    Rupture of Crust

    Water jets

    The rift quickly eroded, and the eroded portions of the crust formed huge deposits of sediments that quickly buried many organisms, later to become fossils, and that got blown into space to become our modern-day asteroid belt,asteroids, meteoroids (composed largely of iron and nickel), and comets (, and that blasted craters in nearby planets and moons.

    As the heavy overlying crust was eroded away, the underlying pressure forced the remaining crustal plates up; the continents sitting on those plates, lubricated by a still-remaining water layer, slid down the slopes thus created, away from the upraised ridge.

    Continental Drift

    They traveled rapidly, and then came to a rather abrupt slowdown at the end of their trip, causing all sorts of continental crunching and folding and uplifting, giving form to our modern-day folded and up-turned mountain ranges.
    Birth of Mid-Atlantic Ridge

    The newly exposed thin crustal plates now allowed all sorts of incredible volcanism to burst forth, spewing forth millions of cubic kilometers of lava, giving rise to the vast volcanic deposits we see on the Earth's surface today.

    As the continents were compressed by their sudden stop, they thickened (trading thickness for breadth), and rose up out of the flood waters while sinking down to the newly-evacuated underground chambers, choking off further flood-waters. Water rushed off the newly-exposed land into the newly widened space between continents, creating vast sheet-erosion of freshly-laid sediments at first, and then slowing down to a vast "trickle" carving canyons and valleys. Trapped lakes later breached natural dams, causing further erosion (such as the Grand Canyon by the sudden drainage of two vast lakes East of the canyon), or died a slow death of evaporation, leaving great salt flats such as the Salt Flats of Nevada and the Great Salt Lake of Utah.

    In the early years after the flood, sea level was much lower than at present, creating land bridges for humans and animals to cross into islands and continents now separated by water barriers. As the continents sank into the underground chambers over the course of several centuries, sea level "rose" to its present level, drowning those land bridges.

    The incredible amounts of warm water, leading to high rates of evaporation, combined with the cold atmosphere from all the volcanism and debris and re-radiation of solar heat from so much water reflecting it, and cloud cover preventing solar heat, would have caused centuries of heavy snow, resulting in an "ice age".

    All-in-all, a rather fascinating theory that accounts for a lot of observations.

    And You Thought Abe Lincoln was a Good Guy...

    As a kid I considered Abraham Lincoln to be my favorite U.S. president. I know many such folks consider him likewise. Over the past few years however I've begun to realize that ol' Honest Abe was actually one of the worst things that could have happened to these United States of America.

    This article at provides a quick overview that might entice you to rethink your position regarding Lincoln. Here's a snippet to get you started:
    Boritt does not deny that Lincoln was a non-believer. "He would not join a church, could not embrace the Christian conception of sin and redemption, kept mostly silent about Jesus, and showed no inclination to build a personal relationship with God," he writes in Newsweek. He "rejected, even ridiculed" the Calvinism of his parents. But Lincoln was a master politician, once defined by Murray Rothbard as one who is "a masterful liar, conniver, and manipulator." There has never been anyone better at it than Lincoln.
    Nearly every one of Lincoln’s major claims in the Gettysburg Address is not only false, but exactly the opposite of the truth.
    Lincoln of course did not believe in equality of the races at all. He clearly stated his opposition to it many times, spent his entire adult life advocating "colonization" or deportation of blacks; and supported the Illinois Black Codes and other laws that would deny blacks any semblance of citizenship. He also was behind the "Corwin Amendment" to the Constitution that would have enshrined slavery in the Constitution forever.
    The article also points out that our current understanding of a nation known as the United States of America is totally foreign to the founding fathers' understandings, which was that of a collective of several states in America, united. Some good reading, that only takes five or ten minutes to read. I suggest it.