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.