Monday, October 13, 2008

Genesis Chapter 24 v.26-66

Rebekah, it turns out, was actually the daughter of the son of Abraham's brother, so the servant praised god for making his job of finding a suitable wife for Isaac super easy. But the servant, knowing his place, only praises god with the moniker "the God of my master Abraham."

Rebekah ran home and told everyone about the nice man with the jewelry, and her brother Laban went out and brought the servant back to their place. They made dinner and put up the camels, but the servant wouldn't eat until he had told everyone what he needed to tell them.

The servant began by saying that he was Abraham's servant, and that the lord had blessed Abraham and made him wealthy. We, the readers, know exactly how Abraham became wealthy, and it was pimping, not godly blessings. But whatever. The servant went on to say that Abraham's wife Sarah had given him a child in her old age (long after she had procured wealth for him by telling rich men she wasn't married) and Abraham wanted a wife for his son from his hometown.

Then the servant told them all about his deal with god, that the first girl to answer his request would be the one god chose, and asked Rebekah's family if he could take her back with him.

Laban and Bethuel, Rebekah's brother and father, said that it was pretty obvious that god had made all this happen, probably because it sounded psychotic, and that she could go with him. The servant bestowed costly gifts upon the family, and stayed the night with them.

In the morning Rebekah's brother and mother didn't want to let her go. Give her ten days or so, they asked. But the servant would have none of it. They asked Rebekah, and Rebekah said, 'hell yeah, let's blow this popsicle stand!' or something, and they left. They took with them Rebekah's nurse and the servents 'men.' This is the first time the author mentions the servant having 'men.'

Rebekah's family blessed her, saying,
"Our sister, may you increase
to thousands upon thousands"

much like the ameoba, and

"may your offspring possess
the gates of their enemies"

so they can charge a toll and get rich.

They all rode back to Canaan, and when they got close they saw Isaac standing in a field. As he walked over to them Rebekah covered herself with her veil and they were introduced, and they got married.

The last line in this chapter is "and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Genesis Chapter 24 v.1-25

Abraham was getting old. He called for his servant that ran his household and made him put his hand under his thigh. Which would be grounds for calling a lawyer nowadays.

Abraham made his servant swear an oath to go and get Isaac a wife. But not from the dirty Hittites of Canaan, oh no. Someone from, shall we say, the old stock. Meaning: my own family.

So you had a son with your half-sister and now you want him to marry one of his cousins? Are you intending this as some kind of scientific experiment? No, that actually wasn't the argument. The servant was worried no one would want to follow him back to a strange, famine-prone land to marry some strange person they'd never met. The servant wanted to know, maybe he could take Isaac back if that were the case.

Abraham was adamant, no, don't take Isaac back there! The Lord god of blah blah blah has given this land blah blah blah. He convinced the servant that his god would send 'an angel' before him to make his task easier. You know, cause he was such a whiner. Moreover, if a woman wouldn't come back, that was okay too. It was a lax kind of oath.

Of course his servant agreed, then removed his hand and probably-hopefully-washed it.

So the servant (they don't bother ever giving this poor man a name) gathered together all the things he would need for his long journey to procure a wife, like gold and "good things" and camels. Maybe chocolate.

When he got to Abraham's home town it was evening, and he sat the camels down next to a well where all the village women were coming to get water. This is where the servant made a wager, like tossing the dice. Only with god, and in regards to people's lives.

He told god that he would ask a woman for a sip of water and if she gave him a sip and also got him water for his camels, the servant would take it as a sign that this was SUPPOSED to be the wife he sought. You know, why bother asking around and getting NAMES and things when you can just settle for the first affable female and blame it on god?

This is how we meet Rebekah. She was the daughter of Abraham's nephew, Bethuel. She fell for the 'let me have a drink of water' gag and even got water for the stranger's camels. He gave her some jewelry and asked her who she was, and if he could sleep at her house. I think the jewelry must've been nice because she told him her pad was crazy-swinging, with "plenty of straw and fodder" which I imagine was for the camels.

More on this next time. Same god-time. Same god-channel.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Genesis Chapter 23 v.1-20

This chapter is only about burying Sarah.

Sarah died at a hundred and twenty-seven. I'm guessing Isaac, her son, was about twenty-seven. Abraham mourned and then asked the Hittites, in whose land he was living, (secretly promised to him by god, but don't tell them! tee hee!) to buy some land or a cave or something, so he could bury his wife.

The Hittites told him to just pick wherever, that he was "a mighty prince" to them. Just pick the best tomb you can find, no one will tell you no.

Which is nice of them. Considering.

Abraham wanted to buy the cave that belonged to Ephron the Hittite, the one at the end of his field. Full price.

Ephron told him he could have it. AND the field.

Abraham said, let me at least buy the field from you. To bury my dead.

Ephron said, well, it's worth 400 shekels, but don't worry about it.

Abraham paid him the money--in front of all the witnesses--and the land was deeded to him. And he buried his wife there, and the land was his, paid for by him, in the land of Canaan, deeded to Abraham by the Hittites.

That's how it reads. The way it sounds, it's as if the author is telling his side of a disputed story. Like the Hittites said, you just came and took some land! And buried someone in one of our caves! Without even asking! And the author makes sure, no I'm going to put it in my book the way it REALLY happened, you guys ALL know Abraham asked for the cave! And that he even paid for it! Stop lying!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Genesis Chapter 22 v.1-24

"Some time later God tested Abraham."

I'll say. First god told Abraham to send one of his sons out into the desert. Now this.

God called on Abraham, and Abraham said, Here I am.

Oh, there you are. Yes. Take your "only" son Isaac (only one left with you, at any rate) to a place called Moriah. When you get there I want you to sacrifice him. As a burnt offering. To me.

Two things: god is like one of those tigers that gets a taste for human flesh or something--you know, lambs aren't good enough anymore. Also, it seems like he just phones in every now and then to say the most insane shit imaginable. Like he's a prank caller.

Well, Abraham got everyone up the next morning. They cut wood for the offering fire. They loaded down a donkey with it. He and some servants, and of course the 'offering' set out for Moriah.

They traveled for three days before they saw the place in the distance. Abraham told the servants to stay with the donkey while he and Isaac went to go worship. Back in a jiff. This won't take long.

Abraham then made Isaac CARRY THE WOOD for his own offering, while Abraham carried "the fire" and his knife. They set off.

Isaac started thinking. Wood: check. Fire: check. Knife: check. Animal for slaughter. . . .

He asked his father where the lamb was. What lamb? The one we're going to sacrifice. Oh, that lamb. Well, Isaac, god. . . told me. . . that. . .he'd take care of everything. God told me he'd provide it. Yes, that sounds like something he'd say.

They continued on.

When they reached the place for the altar, Abraham built one, and piled the wood and got it all ready, then bound Isaac and laid him on the altar.

Isaac was probably thinking, I had a feeling this god you worshipped had a screw loose.

Well, Abraham was about to slit his son's throat when god called him off. I imagine him pointing and saying, "gotcha!!"

Wow, Abraham. I didn't think you'd do it. Geeze. You're hardcore. But you don't have to. I just wanted to see if you would. Thanks for playing.

So there was a ram caught in some bushes nearby and Abraham sacrificed it instead.

After this an angel called down and said, god says that because you were really going to do what he said he is going to make your descendants numerous, like the stars in the sky! And your offspring will be blessed!

And Abraham said, Yeah, you said that BEFORE this stupid joke you just played. You said you were going to do that BEFORE you made me think I had to kill my kid. So what the hell is different now?!?! Are you psychotic?!?!

He and his servants, and Isaac (who was probably a bit shellshocked) went to Beersheba. And they stayed there.

After this beautiful story, in the same chapter, the author wants us to know that Abraham found out that his brother Nahor had some sons. Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel. Okay, great.

One of them, Bethuel, was the father of Rebekah. In total Nahor had twelve sons: eight from his wife Milcah and four by his 'concubine' Reumah.

One more thing: I first heard this story when I was a kid, in Sunday School. Look how pious Abraham is! Wow, he must've really loved the lord! THAT's why he was made the father of nations.

I remember thinking, 'god's kind of an asshole? Right?' And now I know that god had been promising to make Abraham the father of nations BEFORE this. That it seems to me that god just got bored one day and decided to toy with Abraham. Like a cat and mouse thing. I'm pretty appalled that this is one of the stories in this 'holy' book. I'm more appalled that it's frequently taught to children.

"Remember, kids, there's a god that loves you very much. But if he asks your father to kill you and burn your body, your father had better do it! Have a good week!"

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Genesis Chapter 21 v.1-34

So one day, right when everyone least expected it, Sarah gave birth to a son. She was pretty happy about it, and so was Abraham. God finally got around to doing what he'd been promising for a long time. Or he lost a bet.

They named the child Isaac, and circumcised him just like they were told, and when he was weaned they had a party. Don't know if there were pony rides. Probably.

Sarah got a little antsy about Ishmael and "that slave woman" being around, and told Abraham to get rid of them both. So write Sarah's name down in the 'asshole' column. Abraham was pretty torn up about it, Ishmael was his son after all, and judging from the former story of Sarah actually BEING his sister, I'm guessing Ishmael got a better mix of genes. But god told Abraham not to worry about it. Being lost in the desert, that kind of thing builds character, makes a man out of you. Go ahead and send them away, I'll take care of things. Abraham did what god said. He loaded Hagar down with provisions and sent them both on their merry way.

Well, they ran out of food. Then they ran out of water. Turns out the latter is pretty important to have in the desert. Hagar laid her son down under the shade of a bush and went and sat by herself so she didn't have to see him die. She started to cry.

God asked Hagar why she was crying. . . God always asks Hagar stupid questions. She's good, though. She never replies, "Hello? Omniscence? Why must I spell it out for you? Are you drunk again?" God told her to get her son up from under the bush, because Ishmael was going to be a great nation. A nation of very, very thirsty people. Ah! Lo, and behold, she suddenly saw a well. Of water. It's maaaaaaagic.

Ishmael grew up and became an archer, and his mother got him a wife from Egypt.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

Abimelech (remember him?) and Abraham were working on a mighty good little treaty, the one where they each swear allegianc to the other, and there might be some spitting into handshakes and secret decoder rings. And Abraham mentions this water well that he says Abimelech's servants had taken over. And Abraham gives Abimelech some ewes to make sure he knows that the well really did belong to Abraham. And after that he goes home and plants a tree near it. And stays there for a long, long time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Genesis Chapter 20 v.1-18

Abraham was at it again.

He and Sarah moved into Gerar, ruled by the king Abimelech, and Abraham told everyone Sarah was his sister. Abimelech sent for Sarah and "took her" as a wife.

Then one night Abimelech had a dream about the Hebrew god, which may have been a surprise to him, and god told him that he was "as good as dead" because the wife he had just taken was already married. Then I imagine god said, Nyah! or Gotcha! and pointed.

Abimelech replied, What?!? I didn't even touch her! And HE told me she was his sister! How are you going to punish me for something I didn't know?

God, for once, saw the reason in this. Yeah, yeah, I know, but the man is a prophet. So return his wife to him, and he will pray for you, and then you'll be okay. But you have to give him back his property, understand?

As soon as Abimelech woke up, it seems, he sent for all his advisors and told them about his dream, and they got all scared. Then he sent for Abraham.

Abimelech asked Abraham what the hell he ever did to him that he would play this cruel prank and because of it bring down the wrath of his god upon the king's head.

Abraham replies that he thought he would be killed if he didn't, and BESIDES he says, "she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother".

Any of you readers know that? That Abraham and Sarah were half-siblings? Cause I didn't. Ewk.

So Abraham explained that he had a habit of doing this sort of thing in foreign places, and that Sarah had always gone along with it. She was a good sport.

Abimelech, who wanted Abraham to pray for him to his stupid deranged god, gave Abraham all sorts of lovely gifts, like money and cattle and sheep, and male and female slaves, and also gave him back Sarah, and told him to live wherever he wanted to on his land. Just call off your god.

When Abraham prayed to god about Abimelech, god healed all the women in the king's household, who apparently had had their wombs closed up due to Sarah being there under false pretenses. Ah, a happy ending.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Genesis Chapter 19 v.1-38

Last chapter had god appearing to Abraham on the way to Sodom, and he had two henchmen with him. This chapter follows the journey of just the two henchmen into Sodom. I don't know what to make of that. Maybe god got lost and the angel-henchmen just went without him. Anyway, here we go:

The two angels got to Sodom that evening, and Lot saw them come in because he was sitting at the front gate of the city, for some reason. He asked them to come to his place, and wash their feet, and stay the night, and they could leave early in the morning, you know, before the crazies got up and going.

The angels told him they wanted to stay in the town square for the night.

Lot, imagining disaster, asked them again, beseeched even, that they stay with him. Finally the angels acquiesced.

So they ate dinner together, god knows what they talked about:
"so. . .sodom. seems nice."
"yeah. . . i guess. . ."

Before they all turned in for the night, men from all over the town came by, young and old, to ask Lot if their guests wanted to participate in any of the number of orgies they had planned for that night. Which I suppose is considerate. Not like they had tv. They told Lot they wanted to have sex with these newcomers. Kind of like a welcome wagon.

Lot went out and shut the door behind him, and told the randy townsfolk that they shouldn't "do this wicked thing." Sex with angels?!? Come on, it'll be great! No, replied Lot, I don't even think they can. They're angels. Aw come on! They replied. (I'm taking liberties here.)

Finally Lot offered up both his unwed (so I assume, teenaged) daughters for the orgies, saying, "'Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them'" but the angels are off limits, because they are under my protection. You know, unlike my daughters. It'll save me having to give the whole birds and bees lecture, anyway.

The randy townsfolk told Lot to step aside, and took offense at him calling their well organized orgies "wicked." Here's this guy that isn't even FROM here, and he wants to tell us how to live! And won't let us explore our sexuality with his angel buddies! Pshaw! He needs to get laid!

In this manner they cajoled and pressured Lot, and even thought about a plan to break down his door. While this was going on, the 'men' (I suppose they mean angels) pulled Lot back inside the house and shut the door, then handily afflicted the randy townsfolk with blindness (one could say they were on their way there, the dirty beggars!) so that they "could not find the door."

The angels explained that they were in Sodom as sort of a fact-finding mission of sin, and that the outcry against the sin seemed to be in order, so Lot should get together his family, etc. and get the fuck out of dodge. Cause Sodom was going down. And not in the way the randy townsfolk thought.

So Lot told his family, and even told the men who were pledged to marry his daughters (I don't think he told them about offering their brides-to-be up for a gang rape, do you?) but those guys laughed at him.

So it was Lot, his wife and two daughters, who still hesitated to leave, but the angels led them out of the town anyway. The angels (hitmen, I guess) told the four the keep going, and don't look back, and don't stop until you get the the mountains.

Lot looked at the far away mountains and asked the hitmen if he couldn't just stop at that small town, much closer. His knees were giving him trouble lately. The angels said that would be okay.

Lot reached Zoar, the little town, right after sunrise, and that's when "the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah". So god destroyed the cities, everyone in the cities, and even all the vegetation around the cities. And, as an afterthought, the author tells us that Lot's wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.

Abraham went out to the hill the next morning and saw the rubble and the smoke pouring from the two cities. He had saved his nephew for a second time.

So Lot and his daughters went into the mountains and lived in a cave. My thinking is that Lot was very crazy by this time. And who can blame him? His daughters, it transpired, were crazier still.

So there they were, living in a cave, and one day one of the daughters says to the other, Not really 'raining men' around here is it? What are we going to do for children? Lie with our father??!? Then I'm sure they laughed mightily. But after a while, when the crazy set in, it didn't seem like a bad idea after all (eugh!).

So they got Lot drunk on wine, cave wine I guess, and they both lay with him, and they both became pregnant. The author wants us to know that Lot had no idea what was going on because he was passed out drunk. And so begins the old saw about people living in the mountains committing incest, I suppose.

The author doesn't mention what Lot did when he found out his daughters were pregnant, nor who he thought the father was, but the two daughters both had sons, and their lineages became the Moabites and the Ammonites "of today." So if you're a member of either of those nations, reading this story would probably piss you off.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Genesis Chapter 18 v.1-33

Abraham was hanging out by the trees of Mamre in the afternoon and the lord appeared to him. The lord had two dudes with him. The lord is kind of like a mob boss that way.

When Abraham saw the trio he hurried over and bowed low, saying, hey stop a while, let me provide you with food and water and then continue on.

God said, sweet, that sounds nice. God, as I have commented before, seems to be a sucker for food and drink.

So Abraham told Sarah to get cracking on some good bread while he ran out and picked some choice meat from his flock. His servant prepared this calf, and Abraham took it and some curds and milk to the god squad who were waiting. They ate and Abraham stood nearby, in the customary waiterly position of a gentle host.

"'Where is your wife, Sarah?' they asked him."

He told them she was in the tent. Still making their bread I suppose. God replied, oh yeah, I will be back a year from now, and she will bear you a son. Sarah was listening at the door of the tent, and when she heard this, the third or fourth promise that god was going to give her a kid, she laughed to herself. She was past childbearing age, and had waited a long time for it, and now god was mentioning it again, and she thought, great, I don't have ENOUGH problems already with my arthritis!

God asked Abraham--not Sarah--why Sarah had laughed at the prospect of a child. He wondered aloud to Abraham if there wass anything too hard for the lord to be able to do. Then reassured him that she will indeed have a son in a year.

Sarah said, I didn't laugh!

God said, oh yes you did!

As god and his posse were walking away, and Abraham was walking with them to see them off, god wondered aloud whether he should tell Abraham what was going on and why he was here. This sounds like an incredibly patronizing thing to do, but okay. He figures after all that he should give Abraham the low down.

They are standing on the hill looking down at the city of Sodom and god tells Abraham that there's an outcry against the city, and its sister city Gomorrah, about the sin that was happening there. It was distressing people, I guess. God says he is going to the cities to see what all the fuss is about, and if people were exaggerating the sinfulness.

His henchmen start to leave but Abraham stays with the lord and says, but would you destroy the entire town just for a few wicked idiots? What if there are 50 good people there? Will they be treated the same as the criminals? Surely not!

God replies, all right Abraham, if I find 50 righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the whole place.

Abraham pushes it a bit further. What if there are 5 less than 50?

God says, I will spare the place for 45 good people.

This continues, the haggling, until finally Abraham reaches the number that is apparently god's threshold for righteous outweighing evil: 10. If there are ten righteous people in the city of Sodom when he goes to visit it and view the wickedness for himself, he would not destroy the town.

So god went on his merry way, like an IRS agent of sin come to repossess the town of Sodom, and Abraham went back home thinking he may have saved his nephew Lot's family, who lived in Sodom. Again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Genesis Chapter 17 v.1-27

The way I picture this next scene is that god is an alcoholic. He's been on a long bender--which for a god is years and years. Suddenly he remembers that he made a covenant with Abram about children. He decides to go and talk to Abram about it, and add a few more (drunken) stipulations. . .

When Abram was 99, god came to him again and said, oh yeah, the covenant. I really will increase your numbers! Lemme prove it to you!

So Abram was prostrate and god said, now you're name's Abraham, because I am totally gonna make good on this covenant thing. The masala was excellent! You will be the father of many nations, and you will be fruitful.

And Abraham nee Abram probably thought, well, I know *I'm* fruitful, it's Sarai that can't have kids. . .

God continued, saying, so this is our covenant, and I want it to be a promise that if I make good on this increasing of your numbers thing, all your descendants will also follow the covenant and have me as their god. You can have all of Canaan, even though there are other people living there now, you will eventually have it, and the whole land will have this covenant with me, and I will be their god.

What's the catch? Abraham is thinking.

God said, yes, so the covenant will be that you and all your male descendants and all the male people around you will be circumcised.

So . . .everyone? Even my servants? Even my slaves?

Yes. Every male that's around you at some point. If they aren't circumcised, you will have broken my covenant, and the uncircumcised guy needs to be cut off from all the circumcised ones, because he is officially not part of the club.

So you told me you'd make me fruitful, and that I would have many descendants, and made a covenant with me and we had some tasty masala. . . but now you say you won't do it unless I cut off my foreskin? How does your lord wish I should broach this subject with the males in my household that maybe don't even believe in you?

Oh, and Sarai, god continued, you shouldn't call her that anymore, she's Sarah now. Surely, I will give you a son by her. This time I'm totally for real. She will give birth to kings!

What, right away?

Kings I say! Yes! And Abraham began to laugh because god had waited a good while for this child thing: Abraham was now almost a hundred years old, and Sarah was 90! He looked up and said to god,

"If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!"

Which I found really sweet. I never knew Abraham cared one way or the other about his firstborn.

God told Abraham, don't worry, Ishmael will be fine. He won't be the one to carry on my covenant or anything, though: I'm reserving that for you and Sarah's kid, whom you should name Isaac, I like the ring of that. But Ishmael will be the father of many rulers. Twelve. Twelve is a good number, right?

So, this time next year, Sarah will bear you a son, and don't forget to call him Isaac and circumcise him at 8 days old, and don't forget to get all the males of your household to also get circumcised, I'm sure you know a guy that can do it.

So Abraham did as he was told, and he was 99 when he was circumcised, and Ishmael was 13, and they were both circumcised on the same day, as were all the males in his household, which the author wishes us to know included "those born in his household or bought from a foreigner."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Genesis Chapter 16 v.1-16

Sarai was getting impatient with the whole childbearing thing. It had been about ten years since the covenant with Abram and the delicious masala that surely followed. Sarai had this idea that Abram could father a child with her maidservant, Hagar, and the whole family making business could get a jump start.

I'm pretty sure she didn't consult with Hagar on this matter.

Abram thought it was a pretty good idea for whatever reason, and made Hagar his wife. So now he had at least two wives. And Hagar, not being barren, became pregnant. So this clinches that Sarai was the one shooting blanks, I suppose.

Well, Hagar was a little disappointed about the pregnancy thing. Maybe she was working on her degree and this got in the way of her studies. The author says she 'began to dispise her mistress.' So I take it even though Hagar was now a wife, she still had to work for Sarai. Doesn't seem to be a good deal.

Sarai complained to Abram about Hagar's attitude, and Abram said, I don't care what you do, she's your maidservant, your problem. So Sarai 'mistreated' Hagar (?) and Hagar said, fuck this I'm leaving.

Hagar was from Egypt, so when she ran away, that's the direction she took. She was sitting beside a well at the roadside when god sent a messenger to her. The messenger asked her where she was going.

Hagar probably shrugged and said, well, my mistress, who gave me to her husband for conception, was being generally crappy and insensitive to me so I left.

The messenger told her to go back and endure it. And made the now-familiar promise to Hagar that god would increase her descendents.

The angel/messenger told her that her kid would be called Ishmael, but that he was going to turn out to be a right bastard. I guess that made Hagar feel better somehow, because she said, well, god does pay attention to people other than Abram.

She returned and bore Abram a son and they named it Ishmael.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Genesis Chapter 15 v.1-21

(Abram was smoking something good.)

He had a vision that god was telling him
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
you very great reward."
But Abram had a beef about having no heir, and told god as much. And god again said he would have as many children as stars in the sky. Also, that he would have a son of his own that would take over. And Abram believed this. For some reason.

God reminded him that he brought him out of Ur and sent him to this land for it to be his. You know, the land that had the famine when Abram first came. Which, if I were Abram, I would've brought up, but whatever.

Abram said, yeah, but how can I know that I will have this land? The land that had the famine when you first sent me here?

And God said, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."

Well, when god tells you to bring him some livestock, by golly you better do it.

Abram, knowing, apparently, what god was about, brought the animals and cut all the big ones in half. And didn't let any vultures or anything eat them. And then as the sun was setting, he fell into a deep sleep (that was probably no small amount of work) and "a thick and dreadful darkness came over him." I like that line.

So the lord told him that his descendants would be "strangers in a country not their own" and they would be slaves, which sucks, but god would punish the enslavers, and anyway afterwards they would have lots of neat stuff. So that's okay, I guess. And god also said that Abram would live a long life and that after four generations his descendants would come back to this land (hoping there's no famine). Apparently because of the sin of the Amorites.

So the sun set, and darkness fell, and a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and went between the animal pieces. Which, I'm told by the footnotes, was a common practice in that day to seal a deal with someone. Well, to pass between pieces of slaughter, not to appear as a smoking firepot. I think.

So that's the covenant with Abram, that he will not only have descendants, which was dubious to begin with, but that the land from the Nile to the Euphrates would belong to all his descendants. This, the author explains, is the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites. So where all those people are gonna go is anybody's guess.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Genesis Chapter 14 v.1-24

There was a war where Abram settled, because of a rebellion of a people against King Kedorlaomer. King Kedorlaomer ganged up with other kings: Amraphel, Arioch and Tidal, and warred against King Bera (of Sodom), King Birsha (of Gomorrah), and King Shinab, Shemeber and Zoar. Okay:

Side A: Kedorlaomer, Amraphel, Arioch, Tidal

Side B: Bera, Birsha, Shinab, Shemeber, Zoar.

Side B all joined up in the Valley of Siddim (where the Dead Sea is) and rebelled against the rule of King Kedorlaomer. Maybe the economy sucked, who knows.

Not only did Side A squish the rebellion, they then got on a tear and defeated the Rephaites, the Zuzites, the Emites, and the Horites, and conquered the whole land of the Amelekites and the Amorites.

So when the stand off happened in the Valley of Siddim between the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, and other places (Side B) and King Kedorlaomer and his posse (Side A), Side B had to retreat after getting their asses kicked, and some of the men fell into the tar pits that were thereabouts.

Side A ransacked everything they could carry from the cities Sodom and Gomorrah (which, I believe, overlooked the battlefield) including Lot and his household. Silly Lot. You picked the wrong place to live, buddy!

Someone who escaped told Abram and his allies (when did Abram aquire allies? I don't know) that his nephew was now a POW.

Abram gathered up his "318" men in his household and, one assumes, his allies, and they all followed the pillagers. During the night, Abram divided the forces up to attack and got the jump on Side A. He got back Lot and everyone with him, and all the goods they had with them, and futhermore routed Side A and sent them packing.

When Abram got back, the king of Sodom came back, and some other king blessed and anointed him, and recieved a tenth of everything Abram had for his trouble.

The king of Sodom asked Abram to keep all the goods he had recovered and just return him his people, but Abram refused, saying that he would accept nothing from the king of Sodom, because he didn't want to be beholden to anybody. (Just the Phoaroh, I imagine). But he did ask that his allies get a share for fighting with him.

Does this story perhaps have something to do with why the author feels the men of Sodom sinned greatly against god? Is it that they were thought cowardly or weak because they didn't win the rebellion? That because of that weakness Abram had to get off his fat ass and go rescue his nephew? I think it does. But I'm not a biblical scholar by any means.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Genesis Chapter 13 v.1-18

Abram and Lot and Sarai (very rich from the prostitution racket) came out of Egypt and moved back to the very place where god had sent Abram earlier. I'm assuming the famine was over at this time.

Living close together, Lot and Abram's huge flocks probably got a little confused and there were quarrels between the shepherds.(My sheep! No! My sheep!) So Abram told Lot to find some other place, he didn't care where. You take the low road, I'll take the high road and all that jazz.

Lot saw the plain of Jordan and decided to take that for himself. The description of the land is that of a paradise. This was before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, according to the author, so Lot pitched his tents near Sodom. Abram stayed in Canaan.

There is a strange aside where the author wishes us to know that "the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord." Ah, we're supposed to shake our heads and say, those rascals. What were they doing? Was it just the men? Who else was there? What about Gomorrah?

That's all there is. The author says that when Lot leaves, god tells Abram that all the land he sees will be his, and his offspring will be many--even though his wife is barren, I suppose. So Abram moved his tents near some big trees and built another altar. (Altar 3.)

Genesis Chapter 12 v. 1-20

When Abram was 75 and living with his father in Haran, god told him he needed to leave. This sounds similar to when you're in the military and you get your orders. Except when god tells you to go, the place he sends you doesn't necessarily have food, and isn't necessarily unoccupied. The place is usually just filled with promises which god may or may not get around to fulfilling--he is a busy guy, after all.

The promise sounded pretty good at the start:

"I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you."

Hey, Abram's thinking, sounds like a pretty sweet deal!

Yeah. So he left his father and took his wife Sarai with him, and his nephew Lot, and they traveled to this land where god told him to go. They went "as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem," which is quite a ways I imagine.

At that time the Canaanites were living there, but god told Abram that he and his offspring could have it. Which may translate to having a note from your parents. So Abram built an altar there. And that was probably the first sign the Canaanites had that trouble was brewing for them.

Abram pitched his tent to the east of a town called Bethel and celebrated by building yet another altar. God loves that smoky flavour. After building that altar, Abram continued on.

"Now there was a famine in the land. . ." Always a catch, isn't there? Joke's on you Abram! The land is yours but good luck *eating* off it! Oh, wait, I mean. . .I wanted to test your faith. That's it.

So, since he was hungry--I mean, impious--Abram went to Egypt to live, where there was food. Crossing the border, he told his wife that she was very beautiful. She probably blushed and said, oh, you, to which he replied, probably the Pharaoh will want you as a concubine, so say you're my sister. But I'm not your sister? I can see her eyeing him sideways.

I know, but he's going to have you as a concubine no matter what, and if you're my sister he won't kill me for the pleasure.

Can we just go back to the famine, please? This is sounding a little. . .I dunno. . . unholy?

No, no, I'm hungry. It's okay, dear. They'll feed you well in the harem, I promise.

Okay, so, because she said that she was Abram's sister, after the Pharaoh made her his fuck toy, he made her "brother" Abram into a wealthy man. I don't know how many sacred texts you have that involve a husband pimping out his barren wife, but this is rather shocking to me.

Who is god mad at for this adultery? The knowing perpetrators? The mastermind behind the ruse? No. God is mad at the Pharaoh. For not knowing something because he was being lied to by god's people.

Okay, so, bastard, right? God's acting a right bastard. He curses the Pharaoh's household for this!! They all got "serious diseases"!! So Pharaoh figures something's up. No disease *before* Sarai came. . . *Afterwards*. . . heeeeey. So he summons Abram. Says, "What the fuck?!?! Why didn't you tell me! I don't like committing adultery! I don't mind murder so much, but. . .Just get the fuck out!" So Abram--now a very rich man (and fat, I imagine)--takes his barren whore wife Sarai and leaves Egypt.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Genesis Chapter 11 v.1-32

"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech." Way to contradict yourself, god. You said in the earlier chapter that peoples spread out, "each with its own language."

The people who settled in the plain of Shinar decided that they should build a huge tower made of mud bricks and tar, so that "we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered." So the people after the flood were concerned about losing touch with loved ones, and, it seems to me, their response was to make a huge meeting area where people could come to meet up. Nothing in the text besides them wanting to be well-known (which would only facilitate their cause of keeping people in touch) describes them as being selfish or sinful.

I might also add that, contrary to what I was taught in sunday school, no mention is made of the people wanting to be as powerful as god or build the tower high enough to reach heaven. Just that they didn't want to be scattered, and they wanted some sort of notoriety.

Well, god "came down" to see the city one day and saw the tower. Throw all your ideas about omniscience out the window for the old testament, I suppose. God decides that people can accomplish a great many things in cooperation with each other, and this is made easier by them all having the same language. He decides he doesn't like this, so he "confuse[s]" their language.

Well, it worked. The people "stopped building the city." (Tower? City? Synonymous?) The name of the city was Babel, and god confused the language and then scattered the people over the face of the whole earth. Which is a little ironic, given the people's reason for wanting the build the tower in the first place.

This story really highlights how much of a bastard this god of old was. No offense implied, but when someone acts like a bastard, call them a bastard. I don't think you should be able to apply only good epithets to god--if your perception of how he acts sometimes fits the human idea of mercy, for some reason you're allowed to apply that human idea to god, but if he acts like he's got a chip on his shoulder, you're supposed to just call that 'mysterious.' Bollocks.

I remember having this story explained to me as pride going before a fall, etc. I don't read pride into what they were doing. I think if god still had his way, this whole internet thing would've been nipped in the bud a long time ago. Can't have people thinking they can accomplish anything, for goodness sake.

Anyway, the rest of the chapter sets the scene for our new main character: Abram.

The previous chapter's lineage is repeated here, from Shem to Peleg. The author goes on from there to say that Peleg had a child named Reu. And Reu was 32 when he fathered Serug. and Serug was 30 when he fathered Nahor. And Nahor was 29 when he fathered Terah.

Here's the story of Terah.

Terah had three sons, Abram, Nahor and Haran. Haran was the father of Lot, but he died in Ur while his father still lived. It doesn't say how.

Abram married Sarai (who was barren) and Nahor married Milcah who was his niece (Haran's daughter).

Terah took Abram, Lot and Sarai and set out from Ur to go to Canaan. Got sidetracked in Haran (a place apparently spelled differently than the name of the guy Haran in Hebrew) and settled there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Genesis Chapter 10 v.1-32

Another list chapter, subtitled "Who's your daddy?":

Japheth had sons, one of whom was Gomer, who had sons Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmath. I feel like I'm reading the cast of characters for a Dungeons and Dragons Tournament. Japheth also had a son named Javan, who had Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim (I think it's a whole people named, not some bad-ass with 'the' in the front of their name) and the Rodanim. The author wants us to know that these are the maritime peoples, who spread out, presumably by boat, "each with its own language."

Ham had sons (Virginia was his daughter? -badum-ching)one of whom was Cush. Cush had Raamah, who then had Sheba and Dedan. Cush was also the father of Nimrod, who was a really great hunter. So much so the author alludes to a saying they apparently had, "Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord." Oh, THAT Nimrod. Wow, you must be VERY proud. No word yet on what circumstance called for such a saying. Maybe it was a pick-up line?

Nimrod had a kingdom whose centers were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh. (This part feels like if someone from 2000 years in the future came back and I sang the 50 states song to them. They'd give us a blank look, wouldn't they?) Then he went into Assyria--hey I know that one!--and set up Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen.

Another son of Ham (mmmmmm) was Mizraim, who was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphutuites. . . Parasites. . .Calisthenics. . . Eurypterids. . .zzzzzzz
Oh! the Casluhites "(from whom the Philistines came)" well that rings a bell.

The other son of Ham was Canaan, who had Sidon, and was the father of the Hittites, (the Hittites I learned about in high school world history were the first to smelt iron in that area) Jebusites, Amorites, Gigagigantors, Hivie-skivies, Arkanes, Sincopatics, Aardvarks, zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Ugh. Where were we? Wow, sage spiritual advice in THIS chapter, let me tell you. But we take the good with the. . .lists of people long dead, I suppose.

Later, the Canaanite peoples were scattered, and the borders of the land reached right from Sidon to Gerar! Which is . . big? Small? This was surely more poignant 2000 years ago. Well, that's maybe giving it too much credit. But "these are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages"--note that languages is plural.

Shem also got busy. He "was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber." Shem had Arphaxad, who was the father of Shelah, and Shelah was the father of Eber. Eber had two sons, one of whom was Peleg, in his time the earth was divided. His brother was Joktan, who had a whole bunch of kids, and they lived in the "eastern hill country," where they filmed episodes of Hee-Haw.

Wow, that's a helluva genetic bottleneck, did all these cousin-kissers end up growing thumbs out of their forehead? --Oh, I forgot. God is magic. And the authors were under the impression that people, like amoebas, could reproduce endlessly from a few organisms and build a mighty fine empire. What am I saying? They didn't know about amoebas.

From these sons, the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Genesis Chapter 9 v.1-29

God blesses Noah and says, be fruitful and multiply, and Noah says, 6 times 6 is 36!

Ah, it's an oldie but a goodie.

God also mentions that this is when animals become afraid of man. Which makes sense. God probably told them all it was man's fault all their kinfolk had to get wiped out. So animals hold grudges. Good to know.

God tells man not to eat animals which are still alive. "Lifeblood" and all that. And then:

"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for in the image of God
has God made man."

Okay, I was following until that last part. So man is imbued with certain god-like attributes because he was made in god's image? Answers the whole capital punishment question I suppose.

God establishes his covenant with Noah, saying that he won't destroy the earth again with a flood. "I'll use FIRE! Hahaha! --no I'm just kidding, don't look at me like that, Noah." This is the second time we hear about it, but maybe they wanted to make sure it was heard. Or maybe, like Friedman says, Genesis started out as a few books and they were compiled into one.

God tells Noah that the rainbow is now a symbol of this promise, that however mad god gets, he won't send a flood. He does not, however, mention anything about nuclear bombs.

Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth came out of the ark, and Noah, being a man who has his priorities in the right place, planted a vineyard. Skip to later when Noah drank the wine, he got sloshed and passed out, naked, in his tent.

Ham walked in and probably went, "Ahh!" and walked out again. Told his brothers about it.
"Hey, guys, uhhhh. . .Dad's drunk and passed out in his tent."
"Well, he's uhhh. . . Forgotten where he put his pants."

The two brothers Japheth and Shem walked in backwards with a garment to lay over their drunk dad, and were able to accomplish this feat without seeing the dirty nakedness. Which is yet another unbelievable tale.

Noah woke up, "nnnnnnn. . . Hey! My pants are gone!" and proceeded to curse Ham (and, by extension, small-radio operators) and all his kids and grandkids, etc.

This doesn't confuse me at all. Noah was obviously very attatched to those pants and mistakenly believes Ham has stolen them.

He makes all the people of Ham's nation slaves to the nations of his two brothers. Ham's nation was called Canaan. Yes, you heard it correctly. Slaves. Ah the bible, as ever completely unapplicable to today's egalitarian society.

A note here: I remember hearing about this story and thinking there must be more to it, surely Noah wouldn't just curse a whole group of people for having, it seems accidentally, seen him naked. What does he have a gold doo-dad or something? Is nakedness in and of itself a sin?

I suppose so. And even though it was drunk Noah that did the sinning, Ham suffers for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seems about as fair as real life.

After this heartwarming incident, Noah lived 350 years and died at the ripe old age of 950 years.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Genesis Chapter 8 v.1-22

"God remembered Noah". The author explains that god sends a wind that blows over the earth so that the waters recede. Well, that makes sense.

After 150 days the water was lower, and on the "seventeenth day of the seventh month" the ark foundered in the mountains of Ararat. So they're sitting in a boat in the mountains. By the tenth month they could see the tops of all the mountains.

The time lapse is confusing here. There is mentioned months and days, 150 days, 40 days, which month it was. It confuses me a bit. The waters receded after 150 days, but after 40 days Noah sends out a raven? Is it 40 days after the waters have receded? How much time was actually spent on the ark? And furthermore, what does it matter?

Anyway, at some point Noah sends out a raven and it flies back and forth. Apparently the raven idea was a bust because then he sends out a dove. The dove comes back. So Noah waits seven days and sends it out again. This time the dove brings a "freshly plucked olive leaf!" Which is a neat trick. I can't even get my dog to fetch a ball. So Noah knew this meant the flood was over because olive trees only grow at low altitudes. Like, not in the death zone.

He waits seven more days and then sends the dove out again, and this time the dove buggers off.

So "the first day of the first month of Noah's six hundred and first year" the flood was over. Although, now they were the only humans, they could've made up their own calendar and said that they were 30 instead of 601. But whatever. This was the day Noah saw that the ground was dry, and in the next sentence the author says that actually after the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was dry. So the times contradict a little here, too.

God told Noah to come out of the ark, because god is apparently a micro-manager, and Noah and all the animals came out and probably stretched their legs a little, wobbled their heads around like you do after a long voyage. God told them all to multiply so that the earth would have animals and people on it. This doesn't sound like a fool-proof plan, but okay. Genetics didn't really happen until Mendel anyway.

Noah's first task after having to build an enormous boat and watch god psychotically wipe out all the people on the planet, then sit in the boat with all the stinky animals and his whole family probably yakking it up all the time, was to go make a sacrifice to god, thanking him. I'm thinking Noah was feeling pretty sarcastic about this, but that's just me. And, kind of like a child when cookies are baking, god is pleased by the smell of the barbeque (burnt offering), and decides he probably shouldn't wipe out the planet whenever he feels like it. Maybe he was too harsh.

He tells Noah as much. And Noah probably says, "You think?!?!?!"

"Never again will I curse the ground because of man." I will let man do it. He's perfectly capable of destroying things of his own accord. Why should I get my fingernails all dirty? More burnt offerings please! Mmmmmm. . . Laaaaaaamb. . .

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Note on the Death Zone

Noah and his family and the animals on the ark are said to be atop floodwaters that are at least 20 feet taller than the highest mountain. This is probably for the sake of sounding believable (stifled laugh there), because already, for some reason, the dimensions of the ark have been described, and the author wants to make sure the story is cohesive.

The thing that the author(s) didn't know was that when you go very high up into the atmosphere, like when you're climbing Everest, you run out of oxygen. This is why some climbers (pansies) take oxygen tanks with them, and the others take their sweet time acclimitizing to the rarefied air.

The 'death zone' is the term used by mountaineers to refer to any height above 8,000 metres, or 26,250 feet, above sea level. The summit of Mt. Everest is 8,848 metres above sea level, or 29,028 feet. The reason for giving these altitudes such a buzz-killing name is that the air pressure is much lower and therefore your blood will only be partially saturated with oxygen. Your body will try to compensate for lack of oxygen by ramping up the production of red blood cells and increasing frequency of breathing and heart rate. This acclimitization should happen over a long period of time, and I think that forty days and nights would be a pretty good length of time for it.

The only problem is that humans (and many other animals) cannot live in the death zone (imagine that!) for very long. Your digestions shuts down, and you can't sleep, and all your bodily functions slowly deteriorate and then you die.

In contrast, the summit of Mt. Ararat is only 5,137 metres,16,854 feet, high. Twenty feet taller than this would be a walk in the park as compared to twenty feet above Everest. And it's likely that the author knew about Ararat, and unlikely they knew about Everest.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Genesis Chapter 7 v.1-24

So god told Noah to go into the ark with his whole family, which consisted of his wife, his three sons and their wives. Eight people. And god tells him also to take seven clean animals with him, and all the other animals should just be paired. Guess he changed his mind about the whole "two of every kind" thing. Oh, and seven of every kind of bird.

Seven days is all Noah has left before he knows the world will be destroyed. A whole week. Do you think he was busy doing all those things he'd put off doing, or do you think he just sat in his bedroom and stared at the wall? Cause I would've done the latter.

That's the thing, too. God didn't give Noah a chance to save humankind, didn't give him a chance to warn anybody, didn't tell him he could even divulge this information. Just, "I'm going to kill everything. Everything except you. Do you feel special now?" Must've been a depressing week for Noah, listening to people in the marketplace looking forward to the next season, or families planning for weddings that would never take place. Watching mothers carrying around their sons or daughters in their arms, whose futures are now just a short, watery doom. Or even little things like, "I'll pay you back next week." Nope. No you won't.

This is what really bothers me about teaching this particular story to children. Talk about desensitization.

"Noah did all that the Lord commanded him." Yeah, well, not much of a choice, is there?

So Noah was six hundred years old when he went into the ark with all the animals that didn't really fit and his whole family of sons and daughters-in-law. "On the seventeenth day of the second month" (that's unnecessarily precise) the whole world flooded from the bottom and the top. It rained for forty days and nights.

I'm assuming Noah didn't take any fish or waterfowl with him on the ark. That would just be stupid. But the author, for the fourth time now, talks about all the animals on the ark with him. And "Then the Lord shut him in." Presumably saying, "See you when everything you've ever known is dead and gone. Have fun!"

For forty days the waters increased, and Noah and the ark went up, up, up, and everything that had been land dwelling was totally and utterly f*cked. And after forty days, when the ark was at least twenty feet above the high mountains, the waters and the rain stopped.

The flood lasted (after that, I imagine) for a hundred and fifty days. That's about five months. I'm not sure what calendar they were using at that time, but it was almost half a year. At least two seasons of hanging out on a big boat with no one to talk to except some animals and your family. Noah probably spent a lot of time tending the animals.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A new year

It's been a little while since I've been able to get time away to read the bible, let alone make sport of it. I intend to pick up where I left off, though, and hopefully continue for quite a while (it's a long book!) and not stop and start.

Thanks for any of you that actually care about it.