Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Genesis 22

Here we go, the infamous tale of the faux-sacrifice of Isaac.

This starts out because god decides to test Abraham. It doesn't give a reason, and it seems like Abraham and god have been on the same wavelength so far, so it seems a little out of the blue. God starts his test by telling Abraham to take his "only son Isaac." Um, Ishmael? He hasn't ceased to exist. Anyway. God says for Abraham to take Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering in Moriah.


Abraham asks literally no questions about this. He just gets up and takes Isaac and goes. That is so unbelievably fucked up. If you heard someone was going to kill their child based on voices in their head, that wouldn't alarm you? This, in fact, has happened based on people being told this myth is real. It is tragic and terrible and this does nothing for god to earn my respect. Besides, isn't god omniscient enough to know that Abraham is obedient or not without devising horrible, child-endangering tests? God is like a jealous girlfriend creating fake facebook profiles.

But Abraham thinks this is totally fine and goes to the place god told him to. He leaves his servants and takes Isaac and some wood for the burning. Isaac still doesn't know what's coming to him, and he asks why they haven't brought an animal to sacrifice. Abraham sidesteps having to tell his son that he is going to murder him by saying that god will provide. But then they get there and Abraham ties up Isaac and places him on the altar. No mention is made if Isaac resists. I think I would! Then, of course, when Abraham takes the knife to his soon, an angel appears and is all "No no no, don't hurt him! You passed the test!" and a convenient ram is provided.

Then god is happy and says that since Abraham didn't hold back his "only son" (sorry, Ishy), Abraham's offspring will be crazy numerous and prosperous. Except of course, god had already made this promise. Four times, in fact, by my count (Genesis 12, 13, 15, and 17). So this entire exchange was entirely pointless except for an extremely emotionally stressful event for Abraham and Isaac. Honestly, is there any way that Isaac doesn't emerge from this with serious issues? "Hey, Dad, remember that time you were going to kill me and burn me, no questions asked? Good thing god was just kidding!"

That is one fucked up story. And from what I remember from church and Sunday school, this is a very popular story and often used as a teaching point for trust in god. I do recall being distinctly uncomfortable that my parents would ever consider doing such a thing to me. Wouldn't you rather go to hell than kill your own child? Yeesh.

And last but not least, we get a quick bit of genealogy tagged on at the end. It lists the eight children that Abraham's brother has by his wife (including the father of Rebekah, who will appear later). It then lists the four children Abraham's brother has by his concubine. Cause, you know, traditional marriage.

What a depressing chapter of Genesis. God comes off worse than your crazy ex-girlfriend here, Abraham is a psychotic and possibly worst father ever at this point, and marital fidelity is for chumps.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Genesis 21

So god finally makes good on his promise that Sarah will bear a son to Abraham, even though Abraham is 100 years old at this point. The little baby boy, Isaac, is duly circumcised. Understandably, Sarah is thrilled that after all this time she finally has the baby that she wanted.

What happens next is a little less understandable (well, perhaps understandable but certainly not justifiable). She sees Hagar's son, Ishmael, playing with Isaac, and Sarah decides she wants both Hagar and Ishmael kicked out so as not to imperial Isaac's inheritance. Considering the whole plan with Hagar was Sarah's idea in the first place, this seems especially cruel.

Abraham is reluctant—Ishmael is as much his son as Isaac is—but god tells him that it will be okay, because Isaac is the one that god will use to fulfill all his covenants about the multitude of offspring. God does relieve a bit of Abraham's worry by agreeing to also give Ishmael a nation of descendants, so Abraham gives Hagar some bread and water and boots her and Ishmael out.

Hagar wanders around in the wilderness around Beersheba until her water runs out. Which was pretty inevitable because it's a freaking desert. Reasoning the likely end of this, she sets Ishmael under a bush and walks away so she won't have to watch her son die. While she is crying over all this, god sends an angel to tell her that he heard the cries of her and her son, and that he will make a great nation from them. Then Hagar sees a well and her and Ishmael go on to be happy wilderness dwellers. Ishmael even gets an Egyptian wife. So I suppose that totally makes up for being dismissed from your home for following orders and having the father of your son abandon all responsibility for you.

Then we switch gears back to Abraham. Abimelech (yes, the one who was tricked by the Sarah-is-my-sister routine) realizes that Abraham obviously has god's favor, so he wants to make a pact that he and Abraham will treat each other loyally. Abraham thinks this is a good deal, probably because he is still an alien in the land, and so they agree. Later Abraham complains about some of Abimelech's servants seizing one of Abraham's wells, and Abimelech takes care of it when Abraham gives him some lambs (seven, an auspicious number). It's a pretty boring story, honestly, but it explains why Abraham was able to live in relative peace as an alien with the Philistines.

Well, jealous mothers, thirsty babies, and plain old politics, there we have it for Genesis 21!