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.