I guess it came to pass that The Great Sun God’s Chosen Ones were taken from the Holy Land and delivered into slavery. This had happened 38 times in their history so they knew the drill.

"Here's the mud. There's the straw. Go make some bricks for that pyramid and be quick about it because Pharaoh dies in 38 years and this one needs to be bigger than the previous pyramid to hold all his golden treasure for the afterlife. Yeah, well, I'm not paid enough shekels to care that a massive pyramid is a neon sign to future tomb robbers. Take it up with the pyramid architect. He's that green fellow over there in the silver jumpsuit. He calls himself Moff Zwebigian from the Safdie galaxy."

All too soon the straw gets taken away and the brick quota is doubled. Signed, ratified union contracts are revealed to be not worth the clay they're cuneiformed on, especially when you're a minority slave population suffering under the yoke of a despotic, absolute monarch treated by his own people like a living god. Naturally the whipping begins.

But faster than you can say "Nebuchadnezzar the Second" three billion times, the Great Sun God’s Chosen Ones were delivered from slavery.

The wait began all over again for a new oppressor. What was taking them so long?

All the tribal elders gathered around the sacred shem horn. They blew it a few times and listened. But they heard no one coming. The head elder ask the other elders the sacred question:

"Say, ummm, any sign of an invading army that will take us away and put us to hard work so we might toil under the boot of a pagan king for hundreds of years and then, through the power of the Great Sun God, we rise up, cast off our chains, put our pagan oppressors to the sword, ravage their women a good bit, re-conquer the Holy Land, and then fall from our Lord's grace because we start worshiping foreign gods or we get a king who takes one too many foreign wives. Anyone hear any of that coming?"

"No," answered Joffa the Elder.

"Oh."

So the elders waited around for a couple weeks but still nothing came. They grew restless. If an army didn't come along soon, the people would tear the elders from office and put elders in charge who claimed to know how to attract really vicious oppressors like those Philistines. Now there was a people who knew how to maltreat The Great Sun God’s Chosen Ones.

I guess I have to explain here that The Great Sun God’s Chosen Ones didn't like being put into bondage, per se. No one does. It's just that when the Chosen Ones were enslaved, eventually God would come to the rescue and the pay off would be great. It's sort of like young couples who keep breaking up because the short period of reconciliation is so much more pleasant than the daily relationship grind. You know, the nagging, the going out for brews with the boys to get away from the girlfriend, being made to feel guilty for buying new chrome rims for your car when you should have taken your girlfriend to the Bon Jovi concert instead. That sort of thing. Anyway, The Great Sun God’s Chosen Ones always got a bigger holy land, a new temple, and sometimes a spiffy ark out of the deal. But nothing had come by in the last bit.

The people cried out to the elders.

"Come on, do something! The last temple the Lord gave us is in pretty shabby condition. We want a new temple! This time, one with private club-level alter boxes, a retractable copper dome, and maybe a four-star inn attached."

The elders were gridlocked by a budget crisis. The lottery grants for temple building had all but dried up. And the chance of an effective invasion was looking pretty slim as The Great Sun God had helped His Chosen Ones put asunder any effective opposition in the Holy Land. The Babylonians, the Philistines, the Hittites, the Kickites, and the StompOnHisWindPipeites had enough bloody noses over the last few centuries to know the long term futility of making war against a people whose future was predestined by an omnipotent god. About the only pagan people left were the Phoenicians and they lived on boats. So that was no option. The elders didn't think a desert people could handle so much water all at once and no one really knew how to swim.

Things were looking grim until Joffa came up with an idea.

"How about if we told the people that the next enslavement won't come for a very long time."

"What are you talking about?" cried the other elders. "We already have our bags packed. We'd hate to have to unpack them only to repack them 230 years later. Someone summon a guard and have Joffa's hands removed."

"Always with the hand removing," Joffa thought and mentally kicked himself for not picking up the elders that revised edition of Robert's Rules of Order last time he was in Smyrna. Hand removal had gone out with pouring molten bronze down the throat of any sitting speaker who allowed debate to continue without quorum.

"Wait, just hear me out," Joffa shouted to the other elders. "What if we tell the people since the enslavement won't come for such a long time, the eventual payoff -- which compounds daily and is sheltered in a tithe-deferred Registered Repression to Salvation Plan -- will be so great it could only be eternity."

Eternity.

The other elders liked the sound of that. At least it sounded better than recent suggestions by some of the back bench junior elders to develop an amending formula for their holy book and start imposing term limits.

Joffa now had the other elders' attention.

"Go on," they said. "We're listening."

"We'll tell them that from the House of Moe will be born a messiah! On the back of a donkey he will ride in and deliver his people but not before being sacrificed by the enslavers. In dying he will have done a far far better thing than he has ever done before. He shall win his people eternity."

The elders sat in silence for a bit and contemplated Joffa's idea. It sounded good. Maybe a little too good. Parts of it sounded like he stole it from a book, like one of those Canaanite One Minute Sacred Mysteries that were all the rage a few years ago.

"We like the idea," they said. "But who are we going to get to be the patsy?"

"The patsy?" Joffa asked.

"You know, who's the clown who's going to get snuffed? A eunuch?"

"Well, no," said Joffa. "We won't actually have to choose anybody. This is the beauty of it. If we word our prediction generally enough, someone quite independently of us is going to get it into his head that he's the messiah. Unintentionally, he's going to do all our dirty work."

"Oh we get it. The old-bait-and-self-fulfilling-prophesy switch. We like it, Joffa. It's pretty airtight except for the House of Moe. Why not predict he'll come from the House of David? The House of Moe is an unassuming lot. Now those House of David types, they're pretty smug bastards."

"What say we put it to a vote," suggested Joffa.

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