Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Genesis 17

This chapter brings us more covenanting! Huzzah.

God comes to Abram again and tells him about how Abram's offspring will be "exceedingly numerous." As far as I can tell, this is at least the third time. Does god think that Abram is overly forgetful? Or maybe god is just losing track of who he's told what; after all, if your experience of time is infinite, pinpointing individual moments has got to be something of a challenge!

So God renames Abram to Abraham (according to the footnotes, this is a change from "exalted ancestor" to "ancestor of a multitude") and Sarai to Sarah (no illuminating info for this name change, although some Googling tells me it is "my princess" to "princess"). This, however, is not a big enough symbol of the covenant. No, god also drops the little bomb that every male has to circumcise the flesh of his penis.

I can only imagine what the reaction to that announcement was! No, wait, scratch that, I can picture that it was probably almost exactly like this:

"I don't think I have extra..."

As an interesting note here, god specifically calls out that this circumcision business is required of both Abraham's descendants but also all of the slaves of his household, both the ones born into his house and the ones he buys. Again, a straight up endorsement of slavery (and slave-trading) from a book that some want to use as a springboard of moral authority.

God tells Abraham about the son that he will have, although Abraham is a little skeptical, given that he is 99 and Sarah is 90 at this point. He suggests that Ishmael could be the one through which god fulfills the covenant, but god insists that Sarah will have her own son, although he does consent to toss Ishmael a blessing in the form of fathering 12 princes and a great nation.

Abraham then goes and carries out the circumcision. Yikes. That had to be a bad day in the household!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Genesis 16

This chapter brings us the tale of the birth of Ishmael. Am I the only one that cannot stop thinking "Call me Ishmael" every 2 seconds while reading this chapter?

Sarai, Abram's smoking hot wife, still hasn't given him any kids. She's starting to worry about this, so she tells him to impregnate one of her slaves, Hagar. (So glad this isn't how we have to deal with infertility today!) Abram doesn't seem too upset by this idea (totally in line with his traditional marriage), so he gets it on with Hagar, who gets pregnant. In a shocking twist, Hagar has now lost respect for Sarai, since she is going to give Abram children. How did Sarai not see this coming? So she freaks out on Abram about it. I'm really glad we haven't given up on keeping the "women are crazy" motif going strong.

So Sarai ends up mistreating Hagar (after Abram reminds her that Hagar is, after all, Sarai's slave). Hagar then runs away, but an angel finds her and tells her to go back. He also promises that her offspring be uncountable in magnitude, but on the other hand, her son is going to be an ass. Literally, "he shall be a wild ass of a man." That's not the most reassuring of promises to my mind, but she ends up going back and giving birth to Ishmael. The lucky father is 86! I suppose it should not be surprising that biblical men, unlike those in present day, are fertile babymaking machines even when they're old.

This chapter also is one of the first times we start looking at slavery from the biblical POV. Clearly, it is a generally accepted practice at the time. God doesn't seem to mind at all that Sarai has one of her slave girls raped in order to produce children, nor does he give a shit that Sarai proceeds to mistreat said slave. In fact, when the slave escapes, she is found by an angel and commanded to return to her mistress! So far, god seems pretty down with slavery.

All in all, I find this chapter pretty disturbing in a lot of ways.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Genesis 15

The subtitle for today's chapter is "God's Covenant with Abram," which at least sounds a little more exciting than some of the previous ones. (I'm still impressed with how boring they managed to make the Battle of Siddim.)

God comes around to congratulate Abram and say again how awesome things are going to be for him. Abram points out that, so far, that doesn't seem to be the case, because he still doesn't have any children. This is pretty justified, in my opinion, and god seems to think so too, because he doesn't get mad at Abram. Instead, he takes him out and shows him the stars and we get yet another metaphor for how numerous Abram's descendants will be. It's funny how god is sometimes totally okay with people questioning him and sometimes it's The Worst Thing Ever.

Abram is still a little skeptical at this point, so god tells him to bring a bunch of animals and sacrifice them. Abram cuts them in half and guards the carcasses. This seems a little gruesome to me, but apparently is traditional. And frankly, gruesome doesn't seem to phase the OT god.

Once night comes around, god delivers a promise to Abram. He says that the descendants of Abram will be slaves in a land not their own, and they will be oppressed for 400 years. But it's okay because after that, god will judge the people oppressing them and things will get good for Abram's line. Abram himself is promised an easy death after a long life. And then they will come back after 4 generations, which allows time for the Amorites' iniquity to become "complete."

There are so many wtf things about this covenant. Four hundred years of oppression?? That's all fine for the people around at the end of it, when god apparently will get around to rewarding them, but what about all the people who will be born, live, and die in misery? Sure, heaven, I guess, but that's seems like a fantastically shitty deal to me. Especially because it's unnecessary. God is omniscient and omnipotent, so he's just showing off his puppet mastery here. He knows that the Amorites are in iniquity because he made them that way. So why the four generation wait? Why the 400 years? It just seems like god is creating some cosmic play, using the lives of real people as fodder. I find it vaguely sickening.

So then god sends a smoking fire between the pieces of the dead animals and delivers the promised covenant. He promises to give the land of a bunch of different people (Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, etc) to Abram's descendants. God is apparently quite the racist. I know this is the OT god and such, but are we seriously to believe that this is the same god that cares about all of humanity? Cause right now it just seems to be one petty tribal god promising his particular tribe that one day they'll be the ones on top.

That's all for the great covenant of Abram...tune in next time to see how it plays out!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Genesis 14

Two posts in a week! I'm getting far too regular, I think it is almost time for me to let this blog go defunct for two years again...

Today's chapter isn't very exciting in any way, which is a little odd since it talks about a battle involving nine kings. That sounds like it should be epic, but it was merely mindnumbing. The bible that I am using has all the longer names spelled out in some form of phonetic notation that actually just makes them seem even longer and more confusing. There are several of these names jammed into one sentence, which makes the eyes glaze over a bit.

Some kings are rebelling against some other kings, and it ends up five kings on one side and four on the other. Didn't the ancients know that too many kings spoil the region?? I can only imagine how tiny their kingdoms were.

The reason that this battle is even mentioned at all is not because it's significant that all these kings (including one who might be Hammurabi, apparently) were fighting, but because the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah lost (they really just have the worst luck, eh?). Lot, if you remember, was living in the plains near Sodom, so he ends up getting captured. Luckily, someone escapes and lets Abram know.

Obviously, Abram isn't just going to let Lot be carried off after all the trouble he took to never have to see him, so he takes 318 men and goes and defeats the army that just won the battle. Yeah. The five kings who just whooped the ass of four other kings goes on to lose to a shepherd with a couple hundred men. I guess their kingdoms/armies are even smaller than I thought!

When Abram returns with all the shit he re-captured, the king of Sodom is pretty happy about it and blesses Abram. Abram gives a tenth of it to the king, but the king tries to make Abram keep all of the goods (he's happy to take the people). Abram says he doesn't want the king to be able to claim to be making Abram rich, which I think was a pretty good call on his part. I've read enough fantasy to know that you don't want to end up in debt to a king.

All in all, I think they managed to make what could have been an interesting story way, way more boring than it needed to be. Although I did get a good laugh out of Chedorlaomer. King Cheddar!

This is what you get when you Google King Cheddar...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Genesis 13

On a random note, I think it's totally awesome that my bookmark is still in the right place even after moving across the country!

Anyway, on to Abram and Lot!

Last we saw them, they were getting kicked out of Egypt for running a scam on the pharaoh. Pharaoh can't have been too pissed, though, because he let them take all of their things. Apparently, that was a lot. Both Lot and Abram are established here as being wealthy dudes—lots of livestock and precious metals. Guess that stuff about rich men and needles comes later, eh?

Because they were both so rich, they were having trouble living together. Herders getting into fights all over the place—in my mind this is like Slytherin vs Gryffindor right before a Quidditch match. Abram, being a relative decent dude, offers Lot first pick on which side of the land he wants, and Abram will take the other. Where are all the people who actually live in these lands? How can these guys have so much livestock that they seemingly have to settle in different countries? Weird.

Anyway, Lot thinks he sees a good deal and takes the plain of Jordan, to the east. This is probably not a good idea in the long run, since Sodom and Gomorrah are over there and, spoilers, I'm pretty sure they'll feature negatively at some point. For now, all it says is that they haven't been destroyed yet and that Lot settles his tents near Sodom, whose people are ominously described as "wicked [and] great sinners against the Lord."

Abram heads over to the land he got left with (turns out to be Canaan), and god shows up and tells him that someday, all the land will be his. I guess this is in return for him being fair and giving Lot first choice, but it seems like a big middle finger to Lot to have this come right after he settles his own land. Here we get the metaphor of Abram's descendants being as uncountable as the dust of the earth. I foresee more of these in our future. God tells Abram to walk around the land and get used to the idea that it will all belong to him and his descendants. Abram must think that is cool because he builds yet another altar. Seriously, how many of these things is he leaving in his wake?

And that's it for Genesis 13. It's not the most thrilling chapter with which to make my return, but I'm happy to be back and blogging!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I'm So Tech Savvy

I finally figured out how to transfer this blog to my new account! (Necessitated by a name change--yes, the estranged husband became the ex-husband. I've been happily dating someone new for over a year a half now, though!) And we're back to lovely San Diego, thankfully.

Which means more fun adventures through the Bible. Holy shit do we have a long way to go! Stay tuned to continue our romp through Genesis...