Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Genesis 24

I'll be honest, I've been delaying this post because this chapter is just so damn long. But it must be done! Besides, there are some gems in this one.

Right off the bat, Abraham is demanding an oath from his servant that requires the servant to put his hand under Abraham's thigh. I thought that was weird to begin with, but when I went to try to find the origins of that symbolism, I found that it might actually be swearing by Abraham's testicles. Just imagine the face I am making right now (Abraham is "advanced in years" at this point, too).

Anyway, the oath that Abraham wants is that Isaac won't have to marry a nasty Canaanite. Because even though Abraham is totally okay with stealing all of their land, he definitely would not be okay with one as an in-law. So he sends his servant back to their home land to find a wife for Isaac.

The servant apparently has no idea where to start, because he takes some camels to a well and tells god that he is just going to consider whichever girl offers to water the camels The One. Funny how people in the OT get to pray like that, but nowadays it's all "god works in mysterious ways." Seems like a really shitty way to choose your master's new wife, but what do I know.

So Rebekah, who is incidentally Abraham's brother's granddaughter and therefore Isaac's cousin once removed, is the lucky girl. Also fair to look on and a virgin (cause god would never saddle Isaac with an ugly slut, obviously). She waters the camels, so the servant gives her money and bracelets and asks if he can stay at her father's house. Rebekah is happy to offer, and her brother, Laban, prepares a place and welcomes the servant to stay. It specifically says he does this "as soon as he had seen the" gifts given to Rebekah. Seems a bit materialist but sure. Now the servant tells the whole story that we've just read to Laban (part of the reason this chapter is so damn long, and it bothers me as a writer because it's poor storytelling).

Laban and Bethuel (their father) immediately agree that it is clear god has chosen Rebekah for Isaac. The cynical side of me wants to say this has far more to do with the evident wealth and prosperity of Abraham's family than any true devotion on their part. Women are best used to turn a quick profit, amirite? The servant gives them more presents and wants to take Rebekah right away. Rebekah's mother does want her to stay for a few more days, but the servant insists. Surprisingly, Rebekah's mother and brother say that it is up to Rebekah. That's something, at least!

Rebekah chooses to leave with the servant, and she gets a blessing and takes some maids and goes. They travel to Negeb, where Isaac lives, and when Rebekah sees him in the field she veils herself and goes to him. Isaac takes her into his dead mother's tent. He "takes" Rebekah, she becomes his wife, and he loves her (interesting order there). And this helps him get over Sarah dying, which is actually one of the more reasonable things about this whole thing.

This is Genesis's idea of a love story, and honestly it could be a lot worse. Rebekah is given just a smidgen of agency, Isaac seems to be kind, and only one guy had to touch wrinkly old man balls.

Until next time!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Genesis 23

After the excitement of the last chapter—unquestioning child slaughter!—this one is a bit of a come down. And a downer.

The entire chapter is only about the death and burial of Sarah. Although, somewhat predictably, it seems way more focused on Abraham.

Sarah dies (aged 127), and Abraham needs somewhere to bury her. Since he is still a stranger, he doesn't have anywhere to bury her. I'm not sure how he ended up surrounded by Hittites, since last we heard he was cozy amongst the Philistines, but that's where he seems to be now. Anyway, he pleads for a place to bury Sarah. The Hittites are all in awe of him (they call him "my lord" and "mighty prince") and offer him the choicest of their burial places.

Abraham decides he wants a certain cave of Machpelah, owned by Ephron, and declares that he will pay full price for it. Ephron hears this and says that he will give Abraham not just the cave but the whole damn field for free. Abraham insists on paying a fair price. Ephron insists that the field is only worth 400 shekels and is a trivial matter. Abraham pays the 400 shekels and buries Sarah in the cave.

Yes, that's really all that happens in this chapter. It's astonishingly pointless. I guess it's a good story about doing fair business and not taking advantage of the bereaved? There are certainly some people today who do that. If only we could all be a little more like Ephron.