OT

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CHAPTER 1

  • 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

The very first verse in the Bible is sort of like a chapter “spoiler” — it tells you what is about to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. This will be made clear shortly.

  • 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

The conditions at the beginning of the world were thus: It was dark, there was nothing but water everywhere, and God’s spirit moved around in it. It doesn’t say that God created the water, for all we know it the water is “co-eternal” with God.

  • 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

In this verse God performed his first act of ex nihilo creation, or something from nothing. Now there was light to see, but water was the only matter which existed, with nothing in the water to see with the light, not even a surface with waves.

  • 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Next God performed his first act of judgment, he separated the light from non-light. All through the Sacred Scriptures God will repeat this same act of screening or filtering, more often with people.

  • 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Now it was Sunday night but there was no sun yet. All we had was a time when it was light, and a time when it was dark. That tells us God separated the light and darkness by intervals of time.

  • 6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

A firmament is a solid dome or vault, as shown in the image here. This dome was God’s second act of ex nihilo creation, created on Monday morning.

  • 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

The purpose of the solid dome was to divide the water that was, at that point, everything, into two separate reservoirs, upper and lower.

  • 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Only on Monday did God call the firmament or dome “heaven”. That is why verse one is not when God created the heavens and earth but only a chapter heading. Since heaven is identified as the solid dome, it also meant there was water “above” heaven.

  • 9-10 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Tuesday was a busy day. After heaven was created, God proceeded to create the Earth, by producing land and dividing the sea from the land. Only then did facts on the ground catch up to the first verse in the Bible. And God performed his first quality self-check.

  • 11-13 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

For the rest of Tuesday God occupied himself by covering the land with the first living things, in the form of vegetation. But this was before the creation of the sun, which now provides the energy for all life on Earth. On this first day, plants drew their life-giving power from the whole sky, which was brilliant with undifferentiated light. And God performed his second quality self-check.

  • 14-15 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

On Wednesday God started to decorate the firmament with lights. The lights were placed in the solid dome that covers the earth. Comets were provided to give “signs” (such as the passing of great kings). The stars with their familiar patterns revolved to mark the seasons.

  • 16-19 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

The sun and moon and stars were placed in the firmament, where they could move independently. This presumes the firmament is transparent, at least on the inside surface. And a curious thing has happened. Where before the light of creation was diffused over the whole sky only in daytime, now the light was confined to the sun during the day, to the moon at all times, and to the stars at night. And God performed his third quality self-check.

  • 20-23 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Thursday was when God populated the Earth with all the creatures which were not confined to the land. This included every creature swimming in the rivers and seas, as well as all the birds and bats and winged insects. God performed his fourth quality self-check, it is has become evident that God is working to an orderly and precise plan, with creation ordered by categories of habitat.

  • 24-25 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

On Friday God made all the creatures which were confined to the land and performed his fifth quality self-check. Wingless insects such as mites were created at the same time as the higher-order mammals such as apes and horses. This claim is in direct contravention of the progression of species asserted by Darwinism. And yet, God said, “Let the earth bring forth” the living animals, which is precisely the claim of abiogenesis, that non-living chemical evolution preceded the beginning of life.

  • 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Now God proposed to make human beings, and for the first time he used the plural, when he says “let us make man…after our likeness”. Some Christians take this to prefigure the Holy Trinity, yet even the doctrine of the Trinity asserts there is but one God. And God doesn’t begin to use the plural until the beasts of the earth are created. Obviously this means God proposed to make a hybrid creature which is like an animal, but also made to resemble God in some way. He said man was to be made after “our” likeness; that is, combining attributes of the animal kingdom with divinity. If the days are not taken to mean literal 24 hour periods of time, this interpretation allows for evolution to co-exist with creation.

  • 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Both male and female humanity reflects the image of God. As a spirit, God is not a “he” but an “it” with no physical gender. And since humans resemble animals in body, the image of God is reflected in mankind’s interior life. Man’s mind was made in the image of God’s mind. Our body may be either male or female after the fashion of animals, but our interior temperament, male or female, also reflects the image of the temperament of God, which has elements of both.

  • 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Here God authorized sex and the colonization of the planet, and he put man in absolute control of all the fish and birds and beasts of the earth, to do with as he wished, as long as he didn’t eat them, as indicated below.

  • 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

In the beginning, God did not authorize a meat diet for human beings. We were only permitted to eat fruits and herbs. And God said he gave man the fruit of “every tree”, but later amended this permission to mean every tree except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which he strictly forbade man to eat, and the Tree of Life, which he guarded with cherubim to prevent man from eating.

  • 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

In the beginning, all the animals were only allowed to eat vegetables, not each other. All the birds of prey with their sharp talons and all the lions with their fangs, only ate green leaves. No blood was shed anywhere on the whole earth. The lion lay down with the lamb.

  • 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

In the beginning, everything that God created, including human beings, was “very good”. This stands in stark contrast to the Gnostic view (which has bled into the Puritan view) that matter is intrinsically evil, and only the abstract things of the spirit are pure. No, God created matter and found it to be very good.

So concludes the “overview” account from Creation Sunday through Creation Friday which comprises Genesis chapter 1. In the next chapter, God rests on Saturday, and then we flash back to the important events of Creation Friday when, during a single twenty-four hour day, Adam is created, then the animals, which are named by Adam, and finally a female human companion is created for him.

CHAPTER 2

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By an oversight, the chapter and verse numbering convention which was imposed on the Bible centuries after it was written creates an unnatural break in the creation narrative, which actually continues a few verses into Chapter 2:

  • 1-3 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

When the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem, they were introduced to the concept of “evil days” which occured on the new moon and every seven days thereafter, when the moon was quarter waxing, full, and quarter waning. On those days, the Babylonians curtailed their activity, and this custom was more or less imposed on the captive Jewish population.

But members of the Aaronic priesthood in exile attempted to reconcile this practice with Judaism, claiming ownership of those “evil days” by reversing them and declaring them holy. The Babylonian Shapattu became the Jewish Shabbat, a day of total rest when no work was to be performed at all. The priests read the Sabbath back into their scriptures when they assembled the Torah from the Jawhist, Elohist, and Deuteronomist sources, and Genesis chapter one is the ultimate instance of that, a retrojection of the Babylonian tradition right back onto the time of creation itself. And within a few years the myth that Moses himself had written the entire Torah and Jewish scribes had faithfully copied it in an unbroken series was accepted by all, and not seriously questioned until the 20th Century.

  • 4-6 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens and every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

These verses mark the beginning of the Yahwhist contribution to Genesis, where the preceding material came from the Priestly source, and was actually a post-Exilic synagogue litany chanted by Jewish congregations to put them in the frame of mind for worship much like the similar group participation rituals at the beginning of the Catholic Mass. But I will proceed as though Genesis was inerrant and had Moses as the sole author to trace out the consequences of that “conservative” position. Genesis chapter 2 begins after Creation Monday, before he caused the Earth to be covered with green growing things. And it says God created the earth and heavens in just one day, not six.

  • 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

This verse has significance to the pro-life movement. Here the Bible is saying man doesn’t have a soul until he actually breathes air. Based on a chronology given by the Bible itself, which will be traced in a later post in this blog, Adam came into existence in the year 4,163 B.C.

The text of Chapter 2 also says the first living thing God created was man, and so we are presented with an inescapable dilemma. If we accept Genesis 1 as true that man was created on the first Friday, then the plants of Creation Tuesday and the birds and fish of Creation Thursday could not have been created on the days they were said to have been. If we accept Genesis 2 as true, then man was created on Monday before any other living thing, contrary to what it clearly says in Chapter 1.

  • 8-9 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The name of the garden was not “Eden”. It was not the “Garden of Eden” as is commonly supposed. Eden is a land, and the garden was planted in the eastern half of Eden. Mormons insist the Garden of Eden is in present-day Jackson County, Missouri, in the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area.  I once took three weeks of instruction from a manufacturer in Kansas City to learn how program a circuit tester they made, and I can assure you Kansas City is not Eden.

  • 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

Now there is a curious digression from the straight narrative of Genesis 2, and we veer into a little geography. The garden is the source of a river which divides into four streams. We never see this occur in real rivers except at their mouths, where they debouch into the sea.

  • 11-12 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

Josephus identified this river with the Ganges in India. Others associate it with a river in Iran that flows north into the Caspian sea, based on the description of gold and other resources given in the text.

  • 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

Josephus identifies this river as the Nile, and this leads to a serious problem. The source of the Blue Nile is Lake Tana in Ethiopia, nowhere near Mesopotamia. Of course, Bible inerrantists claim the geography of all these lands were greatly distorted by the Great (Noachian) Flood, just like Middle-earth after the fall of Numenor.

  • 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

The changed-land hypothesis has a problem because the rivers Hiddekel (Tigris), and Euphrates are well-known and extant on a flood plain that would have been the first to be modified by a global flood. In any event, this little geography lesson seems to be a strange insertion of irrelevant material which interrupts the bold flow of the Yahwhist source, which now resumes as originally scheduled.

  • 15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The first thing God did with the man was give him a job. He was to tend the garden. Presumably this was accompanied with extensive training, or perhaps the required skill set was built right into Adam’s mind from the gitgo.

  • 16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Along with his training, God gave Adam a Law consisting of a single commandment. He was never to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, because it was immediately lethal. This seems to be a little white lie on God’s part, because Adam did eat the fruit yet lived to be 930 years of age.

  • 18-19 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

There are between 1.5 million and 1.8 million named species in the world. Adam never finished the task of naming all of them, because the total number of named and unnamed species in the world could range as high as ten million, and there were many more species back in the Day before man really began to dominate the Earth and kill everything.

  • 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

God didn’t have a problem finding a help meet (a female beast) for every male beast, but when it came to finding a help meet for Adam, it was a real head scratcher. But finally God hit upon the solution! He would make something a lot like Adam, except it would be (wait for it…) female!

  • 21-22 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

When I was growing up, it was “common knowledge” that boys had one less rib than girls, and when we learned different, it was as traumatic as learning that Santa Claus wasn’t real. It was not until 1543 that Andreas Vesalius did what none before had dared to do: He simply counted the ribs. And he found in every instance their number was the same for man as for woman.  But it is a wonder he was not put on the rack.

  • 23-24 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

This teaching actually has a scientific basis. Human reproduction mixes the genetic information of both parents to produce a unique third person who is “one flesh”. But if Eve was essentially a clone of Adam, with only the gender changed, then all their children would be identical to themselves, and there would be no source for human variation.

  • 25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

And why would they be ashamed? They were on an extended honeymoon with no one else on the whole planet.

CHAPTER 3

 

  • 1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”Snake

Talking snakes. Now we are firmly in the genre of children’s fiction. But there are millions of people who believe this really happened, exactly as written. They can do this because the Book of Revelation identifies the serpent as the Devil. The snake is possessed by an evil spirit, they tell us.

  • 2-3 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

This is the first instance of a person adding to the Word of God. In chapter two, God merely said they may not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Here the unnamed woman says they weren’t allowed to even touch it. She is the Bible’s first legalist.

  • 4-5 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

The serpent’s story is that in the day they eat the fruit they won’t die, but they will attain the power of reason. God’s story is that “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The serpent is called a liar, but we shall soon see who is telling the truth.

  • 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Adam is right there with the woman, but it is the woman who is taking the initiative to investigate reality and verify the serpent’s story, to test whether God was telling the truth or pulling a fast one.  She is my role model.  After she has a bite of the fruit, she gives it to a passive Adam, who dutifully takes a bite as well.

  • 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Immediately after eating the fruit, they become fully human in the sense that we know now. Alone of all animals in the world, only human beings have awareness of our impeding doom. We know with certainty that someday, just like mayflies and redwoods and every other living thing in this world, we will not only cease to exist, we will not even know that we ever did exist. And that is the essence of the “Fall”… before that time we lived in the bliss of not knowing our mortality. We lived only in the eternal now like the beasts.

  • 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

The early conception of Yahweh was that he was a physical being, not a spiritual one, a deity who could walk and enjoy his garden.  He was not omnipresent, and it was possible to hide from him.

  • 9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

This version of God was not omniscient as well, or if he was, then he was toying with Adam and Eve by pretending not to see them, the way a mother would let a child think he was successfully hiding from her.

  • 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

Adam made the first confession of sin in history. But it was not a perfect confession, as soon becomes apparent. Yet Adam and the woman did not have moral culpability for disobeying God’s commandment not to eat that fruit, because it wasn’t until they ate the fruit that they knew it was wrong to disobey God.

  • 11-12 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

God began an investigation. Adam responded with an astonishing piece of footwork. He said, basically, the woman put the fruit in with a bunch of other fruit and I ate it unawares. It wasn’t my fault, besides, you’re the one who made this woman and gave her to me, I didn’t ask for a partner, let alone a defective one.  It was God’s fault, it was the woman’s fault, but there is one thing Adam is quite certain of, and that it was not his fault.

  • 13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

The woman’s defense is “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” But the serpent is innocent. Everything he said was true. They did not die in the day they ate the fruit, but some nine hundred years later. And their eyes were opened, and they became like gods with free will – the ability to know all the facts and choose accordingly.

  • 14-15 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

God punishes the serpent anyway, by removing his legs and causing him and all his progeny to go about on the belly. But if the serpent is really possessed by the Devil then God is punishing an innocent animal that is dancing to the Devil’s commands like a puppet. And God says there will be eternal warfare between the race of serpents and the race of men, with no choice in the matter for either side.

  • 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

The woman, who was certainly the leader in this misadventure, was placed into a subordinate position under her husband, and cursed with a painful and dangerous experience every time she gives birth.

  • 17-19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Adam, who previously ate whatever we put in front of his face, was cursed with the necessity to bust his ass for every scrap of food. All because they felt they were different from Yahweh in some vital way and tried to close the gap.

  • 20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Adamu called the woman Hava, which is rendered in our Bible as Eve.

  • 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

The first killing recorded in the bible was by God himself, when he provided furs for Adam and Eve to wear on their way out the garden gate.

  • 22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

God insisted that they leave his garden because they had indeed bridged a major gap between gods and men. Adam and Eve, in fact, were only one step away from becoming gods. The only missing ingredient was immortality, which would be conferred by the Tree of Life. That is a very important point. Some believe death only came after the fall, but in truth, Adam and Eve were already created mortal, otherwise God would not need to  create and then protect the Tree of Life.

  • 23-24 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Our translation says God posted cherubim to guard the way to the Tree, which retrojects the modern idea of angels into the text. Another translation says “winged sphinxes”.

CHAPTER 4

 

  • 1-3 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was aCain keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

Now Yahweh had cursed the very soil, which caused it to grow thorny weeds. Adam had to work his butt off just to put food on the table. When his first-born son Cain was old enough he pitched in with dad and helped out in the field like a good boy.

  • 4-5 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Adam’s snotty second-born son, Abel, preferred to just walk around the hills with his sheep, which could not even be eaten because Yahweh did not authorize a meat diet for humanity until after the Flood (Genesis 9:3). The only thing Abel could do with his sheep is offer them to Yahweh as a burnt holocaust. So Abel became the next person (after Yahweh made Adam and Eve some fur coats) to perform the act of killing. One day Cain brought to Yahweh, in good faith, some of the fruit of the ground he had managed to grow (despite the soil being cursed) to offer in thanksgiving, but Yahweh had no respect for his offering, despite Cain being the first-born and natural heir to Adam’s priestly ministry, because it didn’t involve blood at all.

  • 6-7 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

So Cain, scratching his head and trying to figure out the rules, decided to kill his brother.

  • 8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Of course Cain was angry. Not so much angry with Abel as angry with Yahweh, who seemed to favor the lazy, shiftless one who just watched sheep over the faithful son who helped his father provide for the family. So killing Abel was a direct attack on Yahweh. No more lamb chops for him!

  • 9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

This murder got the deity’s attention. Yahweh gave Cain a chance to confess, but Cain covered up and said he did not know what became of Abel.

  • 10-12 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

As punishment, Yahweh cast Cain out of the farming profession completely, telling the soil not to yield up anything for him. Never again would Cain get to pester Yahweh with his boring fruits and vegetables that didn’t involve blood and killing.

  • 13-15 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

At least Yahweh did not demand Cain’s life as a human sacrifice for Abel’s life as we do today with the death penalty. But it is not known what the mark of Cain actually was. Unless it were an actual written threat tattooed on his skin, it’s hard to see how the mere sight of this mark would deter would-be murderers.  And how do you take sevenfold vengeance for killing someone anyway?  It seems to me you only get onefold and the victim is dead and that leaves six more folds that you can’t do to him.

  • 16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

For the second time we see the consequences of defying God, which is to be scattered. As Adam and Eve were scattered from paradise, so Cain and his wife were scattered from the land itself.  Later at Babel humanity would be scattered.

  • 17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Well, who was Cain’s wife? Obviously it was his own sister, unnamed in the Bible. Fundamentalists who believe the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God assure me that the Fall was a gradual process that continues to this day, and early on, men and women still had most of the genetic perfection that was Adam and Eve’s state when they were freshly created by God. So there would not have been any defective recessive genes that would be expressed in the offspring of Cain and his sister. And Cain was not content to just build a Little House on the Prairie, no, he built an entire city called Enoch. Population three.

After Enoch came:

Irad

Mehujael

Methusael

Lamech (husband of Adah and Zillah)

Adah bore Jabal, father of tent-dwelling herdsmen.

Zillah bore Tubal-cain, blacksmith, and brother of Naamah.

Lamech confessed to his two wives that he, too, killed a young man, and boasted that God would punish anyone who avenged themselves on him eleven times worse than the recompense promised by the mark of Cain.  That means after God killed the victim onefold, there would be TEN folds remaining that he wouldn’t get to do, not just six.

  • 25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

Adam, created in 4,163 BC, was 130 years of age when he begat Seth, according to Genesis 5:3, so this joyous event occurred in 4,033 BC. Assuming Eve was popping out girls at the same rate, the world now had eight people: Adam, Eve, Cain, Mrs. Cain, Li’l Enoch, Seth, Mrs. Seth, and the widow Mrs. Abel.

  • 26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

Seth was 105 years of age when he begat Enos (or Enosh), according to Genesis 5:6, so this brings the chronology up to 3,928 BC.

GENESIS 5

What follows in chapter five is a straightforward geneaology of the patriarchs ending with Noah’s triplets, Shem, Ham, and Japeth:

  • 3928 BC Enosh to Kenan (Gen. 5:9)
  • 3838 BC Kenan to Mahalalel (Gen. 5:12)
  • 3768 BC Mahalalel to Jared (Gen. 5:15)
  • 3703 BC Jared to Enoch (Gen. 5:18)
  • 3541 BC Enoch to Methuselah (Gen. 5:21)
  • 3476 BC Methuselah to Lamech (Gen. 5:25)
  • 3289 BC Lamech to Noah (Gen. 5:28)
  • 3107 BC Noah to Shem (Gen. 5:32)

When Enoch was 365 years old Yahweh took him somewhere way the hell out of the Middle-east.

Methuselah lived 969 years and died in the same year as the flood, which was 2507 BC. Maybe he died IN the flood.

 GENESIS 6 

  • 1-2 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and nephilimdaughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

Some say the “Sons of God” who had sexual intercourse with the “daughters of men” were actually angels, or demons, or angels who became demons after getting laid. But loyal angels would never have sex with women, and fallen angels would never be called sons of God. When the Sons of God knew the daughters of men, this was simply members of the clan of Seth marrying outside of their clan and forsaking the original religion.

  • 3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

God said this in 2227 BC, when there was 120 years left before the Great Flood.

  • 4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Much demonology can be traced to a sloppy reading of Genesis 6:4. In the Hebrew the word used for giants is Nephilim and some versions of the Bible simply carry that word over without translation. Somewhere along the line, people got it into their head that the Nephilim were the offspring of angels and men. But a closer look at the verse reveals the clause “and also after that” which separates the Nephilim story from the sons of God story. The final piece of evidence is the appearance of the word Nephilim again in Numbers 13:33, rendered in English as:

And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.

Unless the Nephilim had their own Ark, they would have all been swept away with the flood. So Nephilim is just your run of the mill generic giant, not a demigod or union of divine angel and mundane human flesh. They were the Jewish equivalent of our modern Sasquatch myth.

Besides, angels are spirits, and they only rent bodies like a tuxedo for specific tasks, such as wrestling with Jacob. So we must conclude the “Sons of God” were merely the line of Seth, who pre-figured the Hebrews, who in turn pre-figured the Church. They preserved a reverence and awe of Yahweh and the ordinances of worship inaugurated by Abel.

The “daughters of men” referred to everyone else, in the line of Cain, who had long been estranged from God and knew him not.

This process continued until only Methuselah, Noah, and Noah’s immediate family remained faithful among the Sons of God. Upon the death of Methuselah, God sent the flood, but saved eight persons, including Shem, whose line produced Abram. We can trace a continuous, blessed remnant from Adam to Christ.

  • 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

What tipped God over into this viewpoint? Perhaps it was when Lamech, the great-grandson of Cain, boasted to his wives of murdering a man rather than showing any remorse.

  • 6-7 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

The theology of Genesis has Yahweh existing in linear time with the rest of us. He doesn’t know how the future will pan out, and when things go sour, he feels regret at having chosen that course of action. This Yahweh bears little resemblance to the ineffable, omniscient, eternal God that is asserted to exist by theologians today.  And the Genesis God is going to take out his anger at man’s naughtiness on the animals too.

  • 8-10 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Isaiah said our own righteousness is like a filthy rag to God. Apparently Noah’s rag was the least filthy one in all the world, like a lazy bachelor getting ready for a job interview and putting on his cleanest dirty shirt. Noah was of the line of Seth, the “sons of God”, and neither he nor his sons intermarried with the line of Cain, and they practiced with perfection the ritual animal sacrifices established by Abel.

  • 11-13 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

It had become a dog-eat-dog world. Even the animals killed each other for food now, when they were supposed to just eat green leaves. So God decided to meet violence with violence. He would kill everyone except Noah and start all over, and see if that nipped violence in the bud. It was worth a try.

  • 14-17 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch, And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

God told Noah to build an ark with roughly the same displacement of a US Navy fast combat support ship like the Sacramento class oilers. Noah was told to use an unknown material called “gopher wood” but the text could refer to all the times Noah ran out of lumber while he was working and told his sons to “go for wood.”

  • 17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

After the so-called “Fall of Man” God himself cursed the land, but now he acted surprised when all of creation demonstrated the brokenness of the very curse he cursed.

  • 18 But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.

God proposes to enter into the first of four covenants he will contract with mankind. The Noahide Covenant would cover Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their three wives, and by extension all of mankind, since according to the Biblical narrative we are all descended from these eight people.

  • 19-20 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

In Chapter six, God tells Noah to take into the ark a male and female representative of every beast of the earth and every bird. In Chapter seven there will be a change of plan. God will tell Noah to take seven of each species of bird, and seven of each clean beast.

  • 21-22 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.

Now we have a problem. Elephants for example (and there are two vastly different genera, Asian and African) eat low density food such as hay, and the four elephants on the ark would have required a total of about 50 tons of food for the duration of the flood. The ark itself, with three levels, and many rooms (to keep the birds from eating the bugs) and many interior wooden struts to prevent the bulkheads from caving in would have only had about three thousand tons of available cargo capacity before it sank. And there are between five and seven million species of animals.

And that completely disregards the problem of whether any species is genetically viable after reducing it to only two members.

 GENESIS 7 

  • 1 And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

Noah was reckoned by God as righteous, despite the absence of the Mosaic Law by which167875 to measure that righteousness. Thus it is possible for man to please God without the Law or Christ, because Noah did it.

  • 2-3 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

This is where God amends his original commandment for Noah to gather animals by twos. Now he wants clean animals and birds to be loaded into the ark by sevens. This is a problem because as St. Paul says much later, no animal is unclean in itself. But there are animals which are ritually unclean according to the Levitical laws, which come much later than Noah. Clearly, what we have with this sudden obsession with sevens and ritual purity is a retelling of the Noah story by the post-Exilic priesthood writing during the Babylonian Vacation, and sometimes the seams between the original source material still shows.

  • 4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

And oh, by the way, Noah has seven days to round up the extra five animals of the clean species and the birds, because that’s when the Flood is scheduled.  He better giddyup.

  • 5-7 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.

Up to this point, Noah did everything that God told him to do, but in the very next two verses, Noah clearly disobeys God:

  • 8-9 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, there went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

No, that’s wrong, Noah! God changed his mind and said seven of the clean beasts and fowls, and two of everything else. Apparently Noah thought the last-minute change by Yahweh was silly, so he went back to the original plan, and loaded the ark with the animals he already had, whether they were clean or unclean.

  • 10-12 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

When the Earth was created, the firmament (heaven) divided the waters above from the waters below. Now a set of windows were opened in this solid dome, which allowed all the waters above the earth to drain out. Additionally, all the waters below the Earth bubbled up to the surface.

  • 13-16 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

These verses are a pure repetition of verses 7-9, affirming that they went in “two and two of all flesh” rather than by sevens for some of them.

  • 17-20 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

When the flood came, the waters prevailed to the top of the highest mountain, plus another fifteen cubits (23 feet) above that. Mount Everest is 5.5 miles above sea level. The Earth has an area of 200 million square miles. This means the Flood required 1.1 billion cubic miles of water. This is not a problem, because the water was pre-positioned during Creation. The problem comes later, explaining where the water went.

  • 21-23 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

The strata where we find fossils of dinosaurs are explained as layers of mud laid down by the flood, and the progression of animals, where we find the highest-developed animals higher in the strata is explained by the mechanism of animals competing for the high ground, the weaker and less successful animals would have had to settle for the flats and they would have been buried first. There is a big problem right there: At a certain level of the strata, we find trilobites. And they have the same frequency no matter if they are dug up in Kansas City or in Spokane or in Australia. People who compress 300 million years of evolution into as many days fail to see the implication of that: the antediluvian world must have been wall-to-wall trilobites, let alone chock full of all the other animals we find.

  • 24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

The flood lasted one hundred fifty days in Genesis 7:24, forty days in Genesis 7:17, and ten months in Genesis 8:5.  Take your pick.

 GENESIS 8

  • 1 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters
    Ararat

    Mt. Ararat, resting place of the ark.

    asswaged;

Big problem here. The atmosphere can only hold about an inch of water in suspension as water vapor. More than one inch of water can be evaporated away if the saturated air is transported elsewhere by wind (and this works in reverse, more than one inch of rain can fall in one spot if saturated air masses are transported in by a storm), but since the whole earth was covered by water in the Flood, there was nowhere for it to go. There is simply no way to evaporate 1.1 billion cubic miles of water. Fundamentalists do their hand wave and suggest that it all went underground into the aquifer, and perhaps the seas are larger now. But that still leaves a lot of water to account for. Other believers suggest that the mountains were only about a thousand feet high back in that time, and they’ve grown since then, but they do not offer the geological evidence to support that.

  • 2-3- The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; and the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

James Irwin, the eighth person to walk on the moon, led a number of expeditions to find Noah’s Ark on these mountains, to no avail. Sometimes you see pictures where they say, “We found a piece of Noah’s Ark sticking up out of the snow, but when we tried to get back up there in July to verify it the Turkish authorities denied us permission.” Or there is tribal warfare that makes it too dangerous. It’s always something. Grand Conspiracy Theories always have a reason why there is no evidence. This plants the modern day search for Noah’s Ark firmly in Art Bell woo woo territory with UFOs and Bigfoot. In the Great Depression they chopped up a lot of railroad ties for firewood. Imagine tribesmen finding a whole ark full of firewood up at the timberline of Ararat. They’d have burned it all up in short order, long ago.  A man gets cold herding goats and sleeping in the 2000 meter hut.

  • 5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

Mt Ararat is the highest mountain in the Middle-east but the Himalayas are much higher, and they would have been exposed by the receding waters long before Ararat.

  • 6-7 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

Mr. Raven went out and got lost, but Mrs. Raven stayed on the ark, so I wonder how we got ravens today.

  • 8-9 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

Mrs. Dove went out, but had to come back because there was nowhere to land with trees. Noah waited a week.

  • 10-11 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

Mrs. Dove came back with evidence of vegetation. Noah waited yet another week.

  • 12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

So Mrs. Dove went out again and never came back. Good luck for her finding Mr. Dove, who stayed on the ark.

  • 13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

Noah saw the ground was dry on January 1st.

  • 14 And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried.

Whoops, no, now it says the ground was dry on February 27th.

  • 15-17 And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

That’s discipline. After months on the ark, feeding the animals and scooping their poo, Noah and his family waited for permission from God before leaving the smelly thing.

  • 18-20 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Now if Noah took the animals in “two and two” as the earlier text indicates, there would be no spares to sacrifice to God. And even if he took them by sevens as God suggested (but Noah didn’t do, see chapter 7), perhaps four females and three males, and only sacrificed a few of these, it seems that God put the ritualism of animal sacrifice at a higher priority over genetic diversity.

  • 21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Creation was cursed after Adam’s “fall” but here God has reversed his sentence. Creation is no longer cursed on account of man. Neither will God destroy every living thing.

  • 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

If God is true to this vow, then there never can be an end to the world.

 GENESIS 9

  • 1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

God repeats the blessing that he gave Adam and Eve to fill the Earth with progeny, tumblr_m6eqechqa71r5d22to1_1280because Noah’s family represents a reboot of humanity.

  • 2-3 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

And God for the first time authorizes a meat diet for human beings, and presumably animals too, since he only allowed them to eat vegetables before, and everyone obeyed God in this to the letter, because they were so obedient (sure, that’s why God sent the flood). Maybe God thought a change of diet might mellow out the humans. This was welcomed especially by women, who run with a 15% iron deficit, relative to men, due to menses, nursing, and childbirth. But this meat diet had to be phased in gradually, otherwise entire species would be wiped out, since at this point there were only one breeding pair of each one, especially after five of the “clean” animals were all barbecued as a kind of incense to God.

  • 4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

This is the first ceremonial commandment given by God since the Garden of Eden (when he forbade consumption of a certain kind of fruit), a prohibition on consuming blood. And since it is given to Noah’s family, it is interpreted to be applicable to all humans, unlike the prohibition of pork at Sinai which is only given to the Israelites.  It is based on a primitive understanding of how life works.  They thought the blood was the life of an animal.

  • 5-6 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

This is the first moral commandment ever given by God, an explicit prohibition of murder. And it establishes the penalty of death for murder, which is still in use today, even after Calvary.  In this day and age, two thousand years after Christ atoned for the sin of murder with his own life, men must atone for their sin of murder in the own blood, at least according to the Christians who favor the death penalty.

Thus the six laws which Jewish rabbis assert were given to Adam and Eve were modified (death penalty for murder) and completed with the seventh law against eating animals with blood (newly applicable under the carnivorous diet) and we received the complete seven Noahide Laws which are binding on every human being.

  1. Idolatry is forbidden. Do not entertain the thought that there exists a deity except the one Creator. Do not make images of these alleged deities.
  2. Incestuous and adulterous relations are forbidden. People must not copulate with close kin or with others of the same gender.
  3. Murder is forbidden.
  4. Cursing the name of God is forbidden. Acknowledge the existence of God and do not blaspheme against him.
  5. Theft is forbidden. Do not commit fraud or even covet the possessions of others, which leads to thoughts of stealing.
  6. Eating flesh removed from a living animal is forbidden. Eating flesh with the blood still in it, or eating blood itself (the delicious Filipino dish I often make called dinuguan for example) is right out.
  7. Mankind is commanded to establish fair laws and just courts, and is forbidden from giving false testimony.
  • 7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

God commands Noah’s family to be fruitful and multiply one more time. The entire Noah narrative could use some editing to tighten it up.

  • 8-11 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

God amends his original promise never to end the world. Now he says he will never end the world by flood again. That leaves him some legal wiggle room to end the world by asteroid or fire. At least the covenant is one way, with God promising something without requiring quid pro quo on the part of humans or animals to maintain it.

  • 12-14 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud

We now understand that rainbows work by the alteration of the velocity of light in droplets of water, which results in a Fourier transform and sorts the random photons of white light by color (frequency). If the rainbow never appeared until after the flood, as seems clear here, then it must not have ever rained before on Earth.

  • 15-17 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

God apparently needs the rainbow to jog his memory. He says the sight of a rainbow will cause him to remember his covenant never to destroy the Earth by water.

  • 18 And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.

This is saying that Noah had no more offspring, and everyone is descended from one of these three sons. Some people think the three so-called “races” of mankind, Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoloid, started at this time. The Mormons, in fact, call dark skin the “curse of Ham” based on a curious incident that follows:

  • 20-22 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

Noah got drunk and passed out without his robe on, and Ham walked into the tent and accidentally, through absolutely no fault of his own, saw his father naked.

  • 23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

Ham’s two brothers, based in the warning given by Ham, then cover their father up without seeing him naked. It could have been any one of them who stumbled into the tent first, it was just the luck of the draw.

  • 24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

This is the strange part. Noah woke up, found himself covered with a garment, and somehow remembered that he had passed out naked. He put two-and-two together, and somehow realized that Ham must have seen him naked, then told his brothers, then Shem and Japeth covered him up without looking.  Alternatively (and this makes far more sense) he woke up with a sore bottom and figured out that Canaan must have sneaked himself a piece of Noah hide.

  • 25-27 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

So what does Noah do? He curses Canaan, the youngest son of Ham and sentences him and all his descendants to a life of slavery to his uncles all because his father accidentally saw him naked, which seems an over-reaction, but then again, if the date-rape theory was correct, Noah might have had a better case.

  • 28-29 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.

The flood was in 2507 BC. Noah lived another three hundred fifty years, until 2157 BC.

GENESIS 10-11

Chapter 10 is mostly begats that don’t go anywhere, so I will pretty much gloss over this. It consists of the names of the sons and grandsons and great-grandsons of Noah, each oneMetropolis-new-tower-of-babel of whom is the “George Washington” of his own nation, ranging from Ethiopia to Yemen to Russia. Nimrod gets a nod as the founder of Babel. Asshur built Nineveh in Iraq and the cities of Rehoboth and Calah. One gets the impression that Noah’s family didn’t like each other very much, they seem to spread way the hell out early on. My objection here is the same with the situation with Cain. Three or four generations out from Noah the Earth might have had enough people to form a clan in a single village. But the Scriptures are talking about these gentlemen building huge cities.  This sort of thing is common in other forms of fiction.

GENESIS 11

  • 1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

Noah’s descendants might have wanted “distance” from each other at first, but they all spoke the same language.  The narrative seems to backtrack a bit, and shows the descendants of Noah before they all split up.  As a single clan they went to the Tigris-Euphrates valley, which is south of Ararat, but the text has them coming from the east.

  • 2-4 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

So early on they decided to band together, because they knew they would be invincible if they were united.  But they had their work cut out for them.  They had just come down from a 17,000 foot mountain that wasn’t anywhere near heaven, and now they wanted to build a tower on a flood plain that would go higher.  Bricks and mortar weren’t going to cut it.  The biggest thing still standing is the Great Pyramid in Egypt, 455 feet tall, which qualifies as a small hill in Washington State.

  • 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

The omniscient, omnipresent God had to come “down” from heaven to see what was going on.

  • 6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

So Yahweh came down from heaven to see what was going on, and it actually seemed to worry him, because if they could do this mighty work, then “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” This was the same thing that bothered Yahweh about Adam and Eve having access to the Tree of Life in their awakened state. They would be godlike, in that they would be free of restraint. Yet there is something inside each of us that yearns to be free of restraint.  And there is something in God that freaks out when we try.

  • 7-9 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Apparently it suits Yahweh to see humanity disunited, mutually unintelligible, fearful of one another, and therefore always at war, shackling us with the restraints of one man restraining another. A humanity that is united by a common tongue, a common set of laws, a common belief does not suit him at all. So once again, just as he scattered Adam and Eve from paradise, and scattered Cain from the agricultural profession, now he scatters all of humanity from our brief flirtation with world government and begins the dreary cycle of human history that we all know too well. But in the end, all he achieved by this was a short respite. English is the universal language. The scientific method works inexorably to standardize belief. Only instead of a Tower of Babel, we have a Network of Babel spanning the globe, and we really have reached into heaven.  Voyager 10 has even escaped the solar system.

  • 2,607 B.C.E Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood

This creates a small kink in my timeline (the Bible’s fault, not mine) because Noah was exactly 500 when he begat Shem, and the flood was when he was exactly 600, which makes Shem 100 at the time of the flood. At the time when he begat Arphaxad, “two years after the flood” Shem would have been 102 years old. For the purposes of chronology, I use the ages, and the auxiliary information like the two years I discard if it introduces an error to the math.

  • 2,507 B.C.E.And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah…
  • 2,472 B.C.E.And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber…
  • 2,442 B.C.E.And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg…
  • 2,408 B.C.E.And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu…
  • 2,378 B.C.E.And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug…
  • 2,346 B.C.E.And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor…
  • 2,316 B.C.E.And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah…
  • 2,287 B.C.E.And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran
  • 31-32 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Haran is on the road from Damascus where it forks to go to either Ninevah or Ur. Today the town is found inside the border of Turkey. In the Islamic tradition, Terah’s occupation was idolmaker, and Abraham was instinctively repulsed by the attempts of his father to represent gods by carven images and sell them. Perhaps he already had befriended Yahweh at this time. Yet it seems possible that Abraham’s loyalty to his father overrode the call of Yahweh in Genesis 12 to journey to Canaan as long as Terah lived. The journey was not made until Terah died and was buried.  This little detail inspired a couple of pages in Terminal Cruise.

 

THE TREE OF LIFE

mryuck

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” – God

Adam lived 930 years after eating the forbidden fruit.  How are we to understand this? Let’s analyze the possible penalties for disobeying God on this point:

If Adam’s death 930 years after eating the Fruit was the direct (albeit delayed) result of eating it, that means Adam was created immortal, and eating the Fruit not only removed this immortality, but God acted in such a way that Adam couldn’t gain eternal life back himself.  God said Adam had become able to discern good and evil, and he barred the way for him to eat of the Tree of Life, which would have resulted in him re-acquiring the immortality that was removed from him.

The biggest problem with this scenario is the Tree of Life itself.  If Adam was created immortal, he didn’t need to eat from it, and if immortality was stripped from him, God needed to bar the way to the Tree of Life lest Adam reverse the penalty and re-acquire immortality.  So the Tree of Life is an entirely redundant plot device, and perhaps worse than redundant, for it forced God to quickly intervene before Adam thought of resorting to it after the fall.

The alternative is that Adam was not created immortal, but needed to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life as a health maintenance activity, sort of like eating free range chicken and organic lettuce.  In this scenario, God is a liar when he said the fruit would result in his death, because Adam was already doomed to die from his creation (else why the necessity for a Tree of Life to stave this death off?).    What God really meant to say was that he personally would kill Adam by denying him access to the Tree of Life in retaliation for eating the fruit.

In both scenarios, God’s statement that Adam would die “in the day” that he ate the fruit was also a lie.   Believers twist the scriptures to fix that, by changing a “day” to mean a thousand years, or saying that Adam died a “spiritual death”.  Spiritual is a modifier that makes words mean other than what they are supposed to mean.   For instance, one time the Jehovah’s Witnesses said Jesus would come back in the year 1975.  But he didn’t really come back.  He came back “spiritually” though.

THE BOOK OF JOB

godvsatanJob is the story of how God cut a no-bid contract with Blackwater CEO Satan to lay some progressively greater hurt on the man until he squealed and cussed God out. It was a test of faith.

So first Satan sent in  a platoon of Sabeans to take Job’s asses and oxen and kill his servants. Next Satan dropped some napalm which took out all of Job’s sheep and even more servants. Then Satan sent in three platoons of Chaldeans to take all his camels and kill the servants tending those. Finally Satan sent an air squadron of angels to buzz Job’s flimsy little house at supersonic speed.  The shockwave flattened the dwelling and killed all of Job’s children.

But Job just shrugged and said he came into the world with nothing, and he would go out of the world with nothing. So Satan tried chemical warfare, which raised big ugly boils on Job. That didn’t do it. Then some of Job’s “friends” came along and counseled Job to curse God, but he wouldn’t do it. But he did go into a long diatribe about his miserable lot in life which would have made some great lyrics for the 12-bar blues:

“Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley.
Ohhhhh, let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley.
The Lord done turned his back on me, the words of Job are ended.”

Finally God himself showed up and outlined Job’s ignorance of the physics behind a planet and its biosphere operating as a thermodynamic engine.

The point of the story, as it turns out, is that God had to make certain engineering compromises when he created the Earth, and sometimes, unfortunately, human beings get their tit caught in the wringer.  If God answered a prayer that there be no more hurricanes, for example, then the infrared thermal photons in the ocean would never be transferred to land and ejected into the night sky, so the oceans would heat up, altering the world’s climate and killing the fish.   If God answered a prayer that there be no more earthquakes, then erosion over deep time would bring all the mountain ranges down to the level of swamps, there would be no more arable land, and many species would go extinct, including man.

And Job goes, “Nevermind!”

SUNDAY SCHOOL ALWAYS SKIPPED THIS PART

weirdJUDGES 19:22-29

Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing.  Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go.

At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel.

BROTHER-SISTER LOVE IS SO FICKLE!

leia_luke_kissThen Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.  But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

“Don’t, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing.  What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.”

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.  Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

(2 Samuel 13:10-15)

ZERO EQUALS FIVE FOR EXTREMELY LARGE VALUES OF ZERO

Simpsons_Movie2 Samuel 6:23 Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.

2 Samuel 21:8 But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite…

MOUNT SINAI

7-2_tabernacle-dayPreviously Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and his two boys to live with his father-in-law Jethro, and now Jethro had taken them to catch up with Moses. When he got there, he noticed that Moses was spending all day judging the miscreants of the Israelites, and his caseload was killing him. Jethro advised that Moses delegate authority to minor judges, and Moses found this to be sound advice.

Exod.18:25-26 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.

About two months after leaving Egypt the people came to the foot of Mount Sinai near the southern tip of the triangular peninsula. Moses went to the summit, where God announced that the Israelites had been chosen to be his priestly people. They would be a race of priests among the human race, participating in the ritual sacrifices, just as the Aaronic priesthood would be super-duper priests among the Israelites themselves who would perform the actual sacrifices. Moses went back down and told the people that’s what God had in mind. And he told them to get ready, and not have sex for three days, because on the third day God was going to land on Mount Sinai.

And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

But something had happened to God in the years since he used to walk in the Garden of Eden, or have a picnic with Abraham. He didn’t want the people to come too close to him anymore.

“Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them.”

Then God spoke to Moses the Ten Commandments (orally before committing them to stone):

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Catholics traditionally use the restatement of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy chapter five as the template for the Ten Commandments which they teach Catechumens. It more clearly states the precept of not coveting another man’s wife as separate from not coveting his earthly goods. In order to maintain the number ten (because Exodus itself, in chapter 34, calls them the ten commandments), the first two commandments are merged into one, to read “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Thus, Catholic catechisms often will not state the commandment against making graven images because it’s “covered” by saying have no other gods. Anti-Catholic Protestant sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists jump on that omission, claiming that Rome “changed the Bible” to allow devotions using Marian statuary, but that is not precisely true. Catholic Bibles retain the original text.

TO THE SINAI

Now Pharaoh told Moses to take his people and flocks and herds out from his people and go serve jindo-island-miracle-141God on religious leave. What he had in mind, of course, was merely a temporary leave of absence, and he was counting on them coming back to make more bricks later. That is why the Egyptians “lent” them jewels of silver and gold, and clothing for the trip. The assumed the Hebrews would come back within the week and give them all back.

So a great multitude went into the desert on foot, six hundred thousand adults, and all their children, and their animals. This crowd was not pure Hebrew, but included those of mixed ancestry, half-Hebrew and half-Egyptian. They were in such a big hurry that they had to eat unleavened bread, because there was never time to let the bread rise, and that is in fact what the feast of unleavened bread commemorates, the necessity to make do when responding immediately to God.

The entire span of the House of Israel in Egypt was four hundred thirty years to the day, bringing us to the calendar year 1,497 B.C.E.

God himself led the Chosen People out of Egypt. He went concealed inside a moving pillar of smoke during the day, and at night this was seen as a pillar of fire which gave them light to see. He did not go straight to Canaan to show them the land of the Philistines, which he promised them, because he knew they would chicken out when the saw Philistine chariots, and scurry back to Egypt.

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, to honor the oath the House of Israel swore to Joseph to take his bones with them when God delivered them from Egypt.

The Red Sea separates Egypt from Saudi Arabia, and at the Sinai Peninsula it divides into two long fingers of water that resemble the eye stalks of a snail. In ancient times the left eye stalk terminated at what is now Lake Timsah, or Crocodile Lake. Timsah Lake and the Bitter Lakes are in the ancient depression of this old seabed. Perhaps the land has risen a bit, or the sea level has fallen. But so nearly flush with sea level is this whole area that a simple ditch dug in the 1800s, with no locks, was sufficient to link these lakes with the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to create the Suez Canal.

Soon after fleeing Egypt, God led the people to make their first encampment on the west shore of this extension of the Red Sea, just south of Timsah Lake. When it was obvious the Hebrews were not coming back to make bricks for Egypt again, nor to return the jewelry and clothing they “borrowed”, the Pharaoh took his charioteers and went out after them.

The tide went out, and the stretch of land between Lake Timsah and the Great Bitter Lake became mudflats that were dry enough for those who go on two and four feet to cross to the eastern shore, but those who went on chariot wheels had a little bit of trouble. Pharoah and his Egyptian cavalry got stuck in the mud. They could not escape before the tide came in and drowned all of them.

Then Moses broke out into song:

I will sing unto the LORD, For he hath triumphed gloriously:

The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and song,

And he is become my salvation:

He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation;

My father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea:

His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.

The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone…

There is a tradition in the Talmud that the angels of heaven started singing this song too, thinking it would please God, but God told them, “What the hell are you doing? My children are drowning and you want to sing about it?”

OPERATION MANNA

lancasters-holland-operation-mannaOn a Friday, one full month after leaving Egypt the Hebrews came to the Desert of Sin and there was no food. On Saturday the people started to murmer, but God sent a bunch of quail that evening. Overnight God left on the ground white flakes of bread from heaven called manna which translates literally as “What is this?” For six mornings the people could gather manna, until about noon when the sun grew hot and melted it away. He told them to eat it all and leave nothing for the next day, but some of the people didn’t trust Moses, and they squirreled some manna away, but it got rotten and wormy, and pissed off Moses. On Friday he said leave some manna because the next day would be the first Sabbath of the Lord, a day of complete rest, when there would be no new manna to gather. Overnight into Saturday morning the manna they stashed away miraculously did not become rotten, so they had some to eat all that day.

Some of the people didn’t observe the Sabbath and tried to look for manna, but there was none, just like Moses said, and he was pissed off that they broke the Sabbath, but it was a new ordinance so it took a little bit to get used to. The people all stayed in their tents the following Sabbath.

The people ate this manna for forty years, for the entire time they wandered in the desert of the Sinai peninsula. Moses told the people to put a little bit of manna in a time capsule so their descendants could see what they had to eat. This ended up being placed in the ark of the covenant.  In five hundred years they will open one of our time capsules and find Pop Tarts.

The next order of business was water. God told Moses to strike a rock in Horeb, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

After that came the first test of arms for the Israelites, in the form of an attack by the Amalekites. Joshua was chosen by Moses to lead men into battle against them, while he stood on a hill with the rod of God in his hand.

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

When Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held up his arms for him, until Amalek was defeated. God told Moses to write in a book that he would utterly put out the rememberance of Amalek from under heaven. Which Moses promptly did. Then Moses built an altar to God and dedicated it by saying, “Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Which exactly contradicts what God just told him, that he would wipe the remembrance of Amalek from the annals of the Earth!

SAMMAEL, THE ANGEL OF DEATH

Moses made one last prophetic utterance to Pharaoh: Angel_of_Death_by_Efra270

All the firstborn of the land were to die at midnight. The firstborn humans, the firstborn of the beasts, and even the firstborn of the Pharaoh himself. But all the children of Israel and their beasts were to escape this judgment. And when Pharaoh’s servants came to Moses and bowed down before him, begging him to take the people and leave, only then would Moses go.

On this night the children of Israel would become an independent nation. It would be, essentially, their “Fourth of July”. God told them it would be New Year’s Day for them, and he described the Passover Ritual, which involved each family killing a lamb without blemish, marking their front door with the lamb’s blood in a Sign of a Cross, roasting the lamb, and eating it in haste while Sammael, the Angel of Death, passed over the land of Egypt smiting the firstborn of every house where there was not a token of blood on the front door.

“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.”

The lamb was to be killed without breaking any of its bones, foreshadowing Christ as the ultimate Paschal Lamb. Pascha in Aramaic, based on the Egyptian “Pesach” which essentially means coup de grace. This tenth plague was the final straw that broke Pharaoh’s back. Because:

…it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharoah that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead…

NINE PLAGUES

Now we arrive at the sequence of plagues in Exodus.

Each cycle begins with God telling Moses to request a few days of religious leave for the Hebrews, and if the religious leave is not granted, Moses will do something with his wizard’s staff to change Pharaoh’s mind. More often than not, Pharaoh’s court wizards were able to duplicate the plague on a small scale, so Pharaoh was not impressed and denied the religious leave.

The first plague was to turn the Nile River into blood, forcing the people to dig wells nigh to the river to drink. Pharaoh’s magicians were able to turn a bit of water into blood as well, so Pharaoh did not give in.  Today our scientists are unable to synthesize an oxygen-carrying substitute for blood, so the Pharaoh’s tricksters were rather clever.

The second plague was a great swarm of frogs that would cover every square inch of Egypt.

It's raining frogs, Hallelujah!

It’s raining frogs, Hallelujah!

Pharaoh’s magicians were also able to make frogs (something our scientists cannot do today), but they could not remove the frogs, so this time the Pharaoh said he would grant the religious leave if Moses made the frogs go away. Moses made the frogs go away, and Pharaoh went back on his promise and did not grant religious leave.

The third plague was lice, and Pharaoh’s magicians could not duplicate the plague, but Pharaoh still did not let the Hebrews go on religious leave to worship YHWH.

The fourth plague was a swarm of flies that only came upon the Egyptians but left the Israelites alone. Pharaoh begged Moses to remove this plague, but after Moses did, he refused to grant the religious leave.   At this point Moses should have resolved not to remove any plague until after Pharaoh granted the leave.

The fifth plague was a disease that exterminated all the Egyptian livestock but left the Hebrew livestock standing. Pharaoh still refused to let the Hebrews go, and in fact he obviously took some of the Hebrew livestock because the Egyptians had cattle again by the seventh plague (unless his court magicians conjured up some cattle).

The sixth plague was a skin disease. Pharaoh’s magicians could not heal themselves, let alone anyone else afflicted in Egypt. God forced Pharaoh to “hardened his heart” so did not hearken unto Moses, because God had a very expensive array of fireworks and he didn’t want Pharaoh to ruin the show by giving in too soon.

The seventh plague was giant hailstones that killed any people or cattle standing outdoors. None of the hail fell on the Hebrews. Pharaoh admitted his guilt, Moses caused the hail to stop, then Pharaoh went back on his word yet again. We’re starting to see a pattern here, even if Moses didn’t.

The eighth plague was a swarm of locusts that ate every green thing in Egypt. Again, no religious leave was granted.

The ninth plague was a darkness in Egypt so thick that the Egyptians could not even see each other across the room, while the Hebrews all had light in their household. The Pharaoh was weakening now. He told Moses to go ahead and take his religious leave, only leave all his cattle and sheep behind. But Moses said no can do, because they needed the cattle to make a sacrifice to the LORD, and they needed all of it to provide a better selection. Pharaoh refused to let him take the animals, and he told Moses that he didn’t want to see his face ever again. The next time they met, Moses would die. Moses said Pharaoh spoke true, he would never see the face of Moses again.

THE HEBREWS WORK, THE MATH DOESN’T

After Moses and Aaron spoke to the people and got them on board with God’s plan to rescue mudbrickthem, they went to Pharaoh. Baby steps. All they wanted at first was three days off for the people to go into the desert and hold a feast to the LORD. Not only did Pharaoh tell them no, he punished the Hebrews for even trying to get three days off by telling his taskmasters not to deliver straw to the Hebrews for their bricks. From that day forward, the Hebrews were to gather their own straw for their bricks, but they were also required to deliver the same number of bricks every day that they did when the straw was given to them.

“Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.

The Hebrews complained to Moses, and Moses complained to God that so far his mission had only made things worse for the Israelites, and God hadn’t delivered the people from slavery at all.

God answered that he was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, though they did not know him as YHWH but as God Almighty. And he remembered his covenant with them to make of them a great nation in the land of Canaan, and the time was come for God to take the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and lead them to that promised land.

“And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

Exodus then diverges into a family record of the sons of Levi: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari, and Levi died at the age of 137 years. Then Korath begat Amram, who married his aunt Jochebed, and Korath died at the age of 133 years. And Amram was the father of Aaron and Moses, before he died at the age of 137 years. Even considering that Moses was eighty years old at this time, there are not enough generations listed to fill the 430 years between the time Levi moved to Egypt with his father Jacob and the Exodus. That 430 years is called out in Exodus 12:40. The forefathers of Moses would have each had to have lived at least 180 years to make the math work.

 

THE BURNING BUSH

One day when Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, 24c9ca2d5d8c116c6806c40ef272cd0822fecba1c75f25bed32ae88391d26768Jethro, he came to the Mountain of God, Mt. Horeb. “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

In the beginning God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke with Cain and Noah and Abraham and wrestled Jacob but by the time of Joseph he was only appearing in dreams. Now he appears to Moses only as the “angel of the LORD”, which is not an angel with wings, but an avatar of God, a kind of probe. God has isolated himself from humanity by a layer where a symbol (in this case a burning bush) represents his divinity.

God identifies himself as “I AM THAT I AM”. This is not his name, but what he does every moment: He exists. God’s essential activity is being. And he commissions Moses to represent God to Pharaoh as God puts his plan into action to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.

But Moses, ever the pragmatist, doubts God and fears that the Pharaoh won’t listen to him, and the Israelites won’t believe him. So God teaches Moses a few magic tricks to use as a passport. But Moses still wants to wiggle out of his mission, and God starts to get angry. Finally God says Moses can let his brother Aaron tag along to do all the actual talking to Pharaoh and the people.

In our journey through the odd corners of the bible we enter the book of Exodus, chapter 4, and find our first “jump cut”. If the bible was a movie, this would look like a scene that had been caught in the gate of the projector and melted, and the theater had to cut out the ruined part and splice what was left over together.

Moses picked up his wife and kids, and started down to Egypt, and when it got dark, they stopped at an inn. Then, abruptly (the fragmented jump) it gets weird:

On the way, at a night lodging, Yahweh met him — and was ready to kill him. Zipporah took a flinty stone, cutting her son’s foreskin, and touched it between Moses’ legs. She said, “Because you are my blood bridegroom.” Yahweh withdrew from him.

So what just happened? Moses was a henpecked husband who didn’t even stand up for himself when Yahweh came to kill him. Zipporah, his wife, wouldn’t allow Moses to circumcize the baby. More than eight days had passed, and Yahweh came looking for Moses to kill him for being late. Zipporah did some quick thinking, did the bloody deed, and then smeared the blood all over her husband’s business. This was sufficiently gory for Yahweh, who backed away going, “Oooooooooo-KAY!!”

A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Moses died at the age of one hundred twenty, at the very end of the forty years of the Israelites wandering in the Wilderness, which means that the Exodus occurred when he53505c50e950b.preview-620 was eighty years old, in 1497 B.C.E, so Moses was born in 1577 B.C.E, about three hundred fifty years after Jacob and his clan moved to Egypt to be with Joseph.

The Israelites had grown in population to rival that of Egypt itself, which led to the Egyptians putting the Israelites to hard labor. The Egyptians feared the Israelites would unite with Egypt’s enemies and overthrow them, sort of like what’s going on today in Gaza and the West Bank, but with the shoe on the other foot.

Pharaoh told the professional midwives to slay the infants of Hebrew women as soon as they saw it was a boy, but the midwives refused to do that, and their excuse was that the Hebrew women popped their babies out before they could even get to them.

So Pharaoh extended his orders from the midwives to all his subjects, ordering them to slay every Hebrew boy-child, but to allow every Hebrew girl-child to live. And that wasn’t very smart if he was trying to limit the Hebrew population, it should have been the other way around, because theoretically one fellow with one ejaculation could make 400 million mothers.

During this time a couple in the tribe of Levi bore a son, and hid him for as long as they could. When that was no longer feasible, his mother made a little boat, and put the child within, and let it float in the Nile. And the daughter of Pharaoh found it. She remembered her father’s command to kill all the Hebrew children, but she had compassion on the babe and kept it, and gave it to a servant to nurse, and later the baby became her official son. She named him Moses.

Later when Moses was grown up, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. At some point in time Moses came to understand he was not really an Egyptian but a Hebrew, and now one of his kinsmen was being assaulted. He slew the Egyptian and buried him, thinking that no one saw it, which very well may have been the case. But the Hebrew he saved had a big mouth, apparently, and word got around, and Moses became known as an “Egyptian” who kills other Egyptians. And word of this even got up to Pharaoh, who sought to have Moses executed. Moses in turn heard that Pharaoh was looking for him and fled to the land of Midian, where he met a girl named Zipporah and married her.

“I have been a stranger in a strange land.”Moses, grokking that actions have consequences.

Finally the collective moaning of the children of Israel in bondage rose all the way up to heaven. God remembered his covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and he cooked up a plan to release them.

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(Kudos to Spiritualidude for pointing out an error in my reasoning, which reduces the imperatives to fourteen rather than fifteen)

There are fifteen fourteen commandments.   Seriously.   This is apparent to anyone with a three digit IQ who actually reads the Bible and counts the imperatives delivered by Moses rather than simply goes by the tradition of men that there are just ten.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
  3. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.
  4. You shall show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  5. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  6. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  7. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
  8. The seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work
  9. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
  10. Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you.
  11. You shall not murder.
  12. You shall not commit adultery.
  13. You shall not steal.
  14. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  15. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor your neighbor’s house, nor his field, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

By the way, any Christian taking a two day weekend off from work is violating imperative number seven.

EXODUS 34

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Everyone is familiar with the Exodus 20 version of the Ten Commandments from Sunday school, or Catechism class, or possibly from reading them hanging on the courtroom wall when serving on jury duty. And many people know that Moses got angry at the Israelites for making a golden calf when he was up on Mt Horeb getting the first version of the Ten Commandments, so the threw the tablets on the ground in anger and broke them into pieces.   And some people know that in Exodus 34 God had Moses make another pair of tablets so he could write the Ten Commandments on them again.  But very few people know that this second version of the Ten Commandments is very different from the first one!

So to enlighten those Christians who don’t actually read the Bible, like we atheists do, but cherry-pick verses to make points, I’ll post the relevant verses from Exodus 34, and when they differ from Exodus 20 I’ll put that in bold text.  This will be, I think, quite an eye opener.

[1] And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest…

I. [14] For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God…

II. [17] Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.  (Before it was graven images, but Aaron made a molten calf and skirted that law on a technicality).

III. [18] The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. (Christians do this all the time, right)

IV. [21] Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest.

V. [22] And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. (Christians do this all the time also, right)

VI [23] Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel.

VII. [25] Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven;

VIII. [N]either shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning.

IX. [26] The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God.

X. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.

[27] And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

[28] And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Now the next time the Christians demand we post the Ten Commandments in the public sphere, you know which one to use.

 

SOLOMON

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After David’s son Solomon ascended to the throne, he unwisely came to love many foreign women, contrary to the commandment of Yahweh.

King Solomon unwisely had seven hundred wives with the stature of princess, and he had three hundred concubines. Most of these women were the daughters of foreign kings and noblemen, and using their sexual power they enticed Solomon’s heart to unwisely follow after strange gods.

Solomon unwisely adored the goddess Astarte and Milcom the god of the Ammonites.

Near Jerusalem, Solomon unwisely built a shrine to Chemosh, god of Moab, and to Molech another god of the Ammonites.

Solomon unwisely built a shrine for each one of his foreign wives who sacrificed to other gods, all to please them.

Solomon unwisely murdered his half-brother Adonijah for asking his mother Haggith to request Abishag the Shunamite, the young girl who was forced to try to revive David’s virility, to be his bride, even though Solomon promised Haggith that he would grant any request she made.

Adonijah was cut down in the sanctuary of the temple where he fled for safety, mistakenly hoping that the awesome holiness of the site would be wisely observed.

When Solomon had reigned as king over the whole House of Israel forty years, he died and was buried in Jerusalem. His son Rehoboam succeeded Solomon as king at the age of forty-one. And it was written in the chronicles of the kings of the House of Israel that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived.

KING DAVID

David served for a time in the house of King Saul, but for ten years David was little more than a refugee fleeing before the wrath of the king when it became widely known that7077483487_612e127317 Samuel had withdrawn the divine mandate of kingship from Saul and had bestowed it upon this youth. Saul had lost the moral authority to be king (by not killing all of the Amalekites, which was immoral because God said so), but he retained the actual power of kingship until his death in battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa.

Upon the death of King Saul in about 1011 BCE, David was consecrated king of Israel on the strength of his selection by Samuel, but this was recognized only by the tribe of Judah and the city of Hebron.

Ishbaal, son of Saul, was anointed king over the rest of Israel, and for seven years the land was torn by civil war between the allies of the house of David and the allies of the house of Saul, but the house of David gradually prevailed. When David’s power in Israel was unchallenged, all the tribes of Israel came to him in Hebron and offered fealty to David as their king. And David was thirty years of age when he became King of the whole House of Israel.

Then David moved against the Jebusites, and captured the city of Jerusalem after defeating them in 1004. To Jerusalem David moved his wives (plural), concubines (plural), sons and daughters, and built the city up as the capital of Israel.

Then David defeated the Philistines at Baal-perazim, and again in the valley of Rephaim from Gibeon to Gezer. Of the Moabites David demanded tribute after defeating them, and he also defeated Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and the Arameans of Damascus who aided him.

After David’s victory in the Valley of Salt, the Edomites became David’s subjects as a close commonwealth of Israel rather than merely tributary to it, as befitting their origins as the descendants of Esau, twin brother of Israel.

When David invaded the the land of the Geshurites, the Gezrites, and the Amalekites he left no man or woman alive. When he conquered Rabbah and Ammon, and put the people of those cities under saws and harrows and axes of iron and made their dead bodies pass through a brick kiln.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of a loyal officer named Uriah, and tried to cover it up. When this sin was in danger of being exposed, David him Uriah killed on the battlefield by other officers in order to obtain Bathsheba as his wife.

When David was on his death bed he shivered all the time. They piled blankets on him, but he was still cold. So finally they rounded up a virgin to crawl into his bed to give him heat, which she promptly did. But it was strictly business. The noble and kingly King David was a man with a very strong will, who never once took advantage of the situation. Sure.

“And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.”

Sure.

David’s wife Bathsheba was nearby, what was wrong with her body heat? At any rate, it is perks like deathbed virgin heating pads that has inspired men to become kings throughout history.

David revived enough to make his final words a command for David and Bathsheba’s son Solomon to whack Joab, because David was exceedingly wroth with Joab for whacking his son Absalom. Solomon had Joab whacked in the Temple of El.  David also broke his promise to Shimei not to kill him, and arranged to have him murdered.  

In 971 BCE David died at the age of seventy, after reigning in Jerusalem for thirty-three years.  David’s harem of forty women also passed to his son.

And it was written in the chronicles of the kings of the House of Israel that King David did right in the eyes of Yahweh, that David was a man after Yahweh’s own heart, that he was an angel with a heart perfect with Yahweh, and that evil had not been found in David all his days!

Sure.

OBADIAH

Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, with only 21 verses. The prophet may not have actually been named Obadiah. That word means “Servant of God” and in Arabic the same title is Abdullah. A tradition in the Talmud is that Obadiah was a convert to IMG_03001Judaism from the Edomites, so it is poignant that he chose to direct his invective against his native people.

The Edomites were the descendants of Esau who were the Jews’ first cousins, sharing Isaac for a forefather, just as Arabs are Jews’ second cousins because they share Abraham for a forefather.

The Edomites were a tiny nation that lived along the cliffs and mountaintops of the arid land south of the Dead Sea, all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. There was very little in the way of arable land, so the Edomites made their living supporting (and controlling) the main caravan route between Egypt and Babylon that passed through their whole land.

Throughout most of the history of Judah, Edom was controlled absolutely from Jerusalem as a vassal state, much like the way Syria controls Lebanon today.

Among the heathen great powers Edom was held of no account. Obadiah said that the high elevation of their dwelling place in the mountains of Seir had gone to their head a little bit, and they have puffed themselves up in pride.

“Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.”

In 597 BCE Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem, carted away the King of Judea and installed a puppet King. The Edomites helped Nebbie loot the city, and that is why Obadiah, writing this prophesy around 590 BCE, is so bitter.

“In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.”

Objectively, it is difficult to blame Edom for joining in the fun a little bit after centuries of rule by Judah. Still, Obadiah says they should have remembered that blood is thicker than water.

“Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity.”

Never mind that other prophets were saying that the sack of Jerusalem was God punishing Judah for disobedience. Edom should not have helped God punish Judah, and for doing that, Obadiah said God will wipe out the house of Esau forever, and not even a remnant would remain.

Unfortunately he didn’t tell Amos, who said in Amos 9:12 that a remnant of Edom would remain to be possessed by the Messiah, along with all the heathens. Edomites were too closely related to Judah to be called heathens even if Obadiah was angry with them.

Obadiah said the Edomites’ land would be possessed by Egypt and they would cease to exist as a people. But the Day of the Lord was at hand for all nations, and someday the Jews would return from their exile and possess the land of Edom.

“But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”

After the thirty-one year period in the 20th Century from 1914 to 1945, which was a great depression sandwiched between two world wars and probably as close as anyone ever wants to come to a “Great Tribulation” or “Day of the Lord”, Obadiah’s prediction that the Jews would possess Edom came partly true. The western half of Edom is the Negev desert all the way to Eilat, all part of modern Israel. The eastern half is possessed by the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan.  But all this is lost on the Edomites, who have been safely and cozily dead for thousands of years.

JONAH

Jonah is a short story, completely fictional, which was written by a liberal during a time following the Babylonian Exile when proto-neocons were promoting Jewish exceptionalism.animal-facts-whale The moral of the story is that salvation is available to everyone, not just the people of your own little group. This moral is lost on the fundies, who prefer to focus on the whale part, and insist it really happened as written, and was not merely a plot device to keep the story moving along.

The plot of Jonah is simple. God tells Jonah to go to the Assyrian (in what is modern day Iraq) city of Ninevah and preach repentance, for the end is nigh. Jonah freaks out, tries to get away from God on a ship, but God follows him out into the Med and rocks the ship with a storm. Jonah admits to the ship’s captain that he offended his God, so they toss him into Davey Jones’ locker and immediately the storm abates. A giant whale comes along, swallows Jonah, and steams all the way around Cape Horn, up into the Persian Gulf, and spits him out on the banks of the Shaat-al-Arab between Iraq and Iran in only three days.

Now God tells Jonah again, go and preach repentance unto Ninevah, or he’s gonna nuke it in forty days. Jonah complies this time, and to his great surprise the people of the city put on sackcloth and pour ashes on their heads and repent of their wickedness just like Jonah told them to do. And that pisses Jonah off exceedingly, because he was really there just to see the fireworks.

So he goes off in a huff and pouts. Then God comes to him and says:

JONAH 4:11 “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”

This was one of the rare instances in the Bible where God is being funny, and it turns out he has a sarcastic wit. He’s saying, in essence, “Even if you hold the lives of more than a hundred thousand children as nought, think of all the cattle that would be lost!”

RUTH

The book of Ruth reads like a charming short “novella” something along the lines of the book of Jonah. Those two books even share the plot device of non-Jews demonstratingruth 1 faithfulness. Ruth remains with Naomi. The Ninevites repent of their abominations. But the Jews definitely considered the book of Ruth to be historical. They included it in the prophetic histories section of the bible immediately following the Torah, from Joshua to 2 Kings, while Jonah was put in with the minor prophets. Isaac Asimov gives the authorship of the book of Ruth a late date, placing it after the return from the Babylonian Vacation as a matter of fact.

One piece of evidence for a late date is that the author, when describing the beginning of Naomi’s journey, says, “Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was” and does not specify an exact town in Moab. A novelist would have just thrown a dart at a map of Moab and used the name that came up. A contemporary of Naomi would have known the name of the town. But a historian of a period much later would have not used a name of her town if he did not know it.

But the key piece of evidence used by Asimov is encoded in the message of the book itself. Ruth was a Moabitess who became Jewish by conversion. The Moabites were sometimes the enemies of the Jews, and they were definitely treated as second-class citizens.  But the Law of Moses permitted them to glean from the fields after the harvest, which is what Ruth did to support her mother-in-law Naomi.

During the course of the story Boaz becomes impressed by the faithfulness of Ruth, falls in love with her, and actually marries her. This goes absolutely counter to the prevailing ethos in the aftermath of the exile, when the Jewish leaders were trying to encourage “pure” marriages to prevent the demographic annihilation of their people. The author of Ruth, then, was a “liberal” who wrote a beautiful and compelling editorial piece speaking out against racism and ethnic supremacy. He (or she!) ends the “article” by highlighting that Ruth was genetically (if not legally) the great-grandmother of King David…and thus also the ancestor legally (if not genetically) of Jesus the Christ.

A Ruthless Boaz would mean no Jesus.

Often when lesbians wed (as they are wont to do these days) they exchange nuptial vows taken from the Book of Ruth, where she says to Naomi: “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God . . .”

JUDGES

After the death of Joshua, the House of Israel had no formal ruler, but for the next Samson_Delilah_Biblecentury a number of major and minor judges found themselves in positions of leadership over one or more tribes as the Immigrants continued to fight an insurgency among the people they had conquered.  The judges were little more than chieftains, with very few having authority beyond his or her own tribe.  They were emergency dictators appointed to meet a crisis, much like Lucius Sulla or Julius Caesar, and when the crisis was over they were expected to stand down.  Some of the Judges reigned concurrently, but none of them ruled all of Israel until the time of Eli and his son Samuel, just before the coming of the monarchy.

Othniel, of the tribe of Judah, delivered the people from the rule of the Edomite king Cusham-rishathaim after he had subjugated the House of Israel for eight years.

Ehud, from the tribe of Benjamin, on the occasion of delivering the tribute of the Israelites to Eglon, reigning king of Moab, said to the king, “I have a private message for you.” And Eglon caused all his servants to depart. Then Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you,” and that message was in the form of a long dagger which was thrust into the king’s belly. And after that, Ehud escaped to rally the House of Israel to slay ten thousand Moabites and bring all of Moab under Israelite subjugation for eighty years.

Deborah was the only female judge, and a prophetess. Together with Barak, son of Abinoam, with ten thousand Naphtalites and Zebulinites, Deborah defeated the Canaanite army, but its general, Sisera, was slain by a Palestinian woman named Jael who drove a tent peg through his temple with a mallet.  Girl power!

Gideon, from the tribe of Manasseh (together with only three hundred hand-picked soldiers) delivered Israel from the oppression of the Midianites, who would invade like locusts during harvest time and decimate the crops, leaving almost nothing for the children of Israel to live on.

And Gideon had seventy sons, for he had many wives, but Abimelech, Gideon’s bastard son by his lowly handmaiden, had all of his brothers put to death save one, named Jotham, who escaped. And Jotham went to the city of Sechem and publicly laid a curse on Abimelech, who had declared himself the first king of Israel.  After Jotham’s curse the House of Israel went into a state of rebellion for three years that ended only when Abimelech laid siege to a certain tower in the center of the city of Thebez where the women and children and old men had fled during the siege. There a woman cast a millstone down upon the head of Abimelech and gave him a mortal skull fracture. And with his dying breath Abimelecth ordered his armorbearer to run him through with a sword, lest men say ever afterward, “A woman killed him,” which to a patriarch was a fate far worse than death by slow torture.

Following the traditions of the pagan gods of the land of Canaan, Jepthah the Gileadite vowed to his own God to make a human sacrifice of whoever was the first one to meet him when he returned home following the defeat of the Ammonites. After Jephthah laid waste to the twenty cities of Ammon, he returned home, and was met in his front yard by his only child, his daughter, who came out of the house playing tambourines and dancing. And Jephthah, true to his vow, sacrificed her to Yahweh.

Everybody already knows the story of Samson from the movies, so there’s little point in covering it again.  But it seems likely that Samson was a kind of proto-Hercules, or proto-Superman, entirely fictional, like Jonah or Job, but retrojected into the text during the Babylonian Vacation and given the title of judge.  Recently I have been assured by rabidly pro-Zionist commentators in a political blog (http://2164th.blogspot.com/) that Israel retains the “Samson Option” in her toolkit together with her nukes, and if the United States, through inaction, allows Muslims to overrun the Holy Land, Israel will bring down the temple of our own civilization as well.  E equals M C scared.

JEREMIAH 33

In Jeremiah 33:7 the prophet Jeremiah predicted the return of Judah from captivity in Babylon and their restoration to their prior state, but he went one further and predicted lol_jesus_3the return of the ten lost tribes of Israel, the northern kingdom, from their captivity as well.

The problem with this (and it is a big problem) is that intermarriage and a deliberate policy by the conquering Assyrians to eliminate the tribal identity of their subjects has totally destroyed most of the components of the northern kingdom. They are truly scattered. Only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi (including the Coens, or Kohanim, direct descendants of Aaron) remain more or less intact, and these have been absorbed in turn into the construct we call “Jews”.

Jesus appointed the twelve apostles to “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28; Lk 22:30).

Christ’s authority as Messiah needed to be established in the context of the fulfillment of a variety of Jewish scriptures pointing forward to him, including the symbolism of twelve apostles representing the original twelve tribes. But this was solely metaphorical, since the twelve tribes no longer existed as intact and ongoing concerns even in Christ’s time.

For that matter not even the Jews comprise a tribe any longer, because a tribe is a cohesive unit larger than a clan that lives in a certain geographic area. When the Jews were dispersed worldwide in onesey-twoseys following the burning of Jerusalem in 70 AD and Masada in 132 AD, the Jewish tribe ceased to exist. Their spoken language, Hebrew, disappeared from the face of the earth (but lived on in written form in the scriptures) and had to be reconstructed from scratch by the Zionist project, and who knows if they got it right?

We can look at how Christ interpreted the other scriptures to derive his concept of how Israel’s restoration related to his kingdom. In many ways, Christ’s hermeneutic was so loose and fastened on such shaky points it would shock modern students. I’m thinking of his defense of the afterlife by pointing out the use of the present tense when God is called “The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob”. Or his use of the “Ye are gods” passage in Psalm 82 to defend against the charge of blasphemy.

With these insights into Christ’s skills as a rabbi (which is not surprising, really, since he was a wandering preacher and faith healer with no formal education), we can well imagine that he would call a small movement within Judaism (The Way) a full restoration, in the same way he declared that John the Baptist was really Elijah come again.  And Christians, who worship Jesus as God incarnate, never stop to look at what’s really going on here.

LEVITICUS ON LOVE CRIMES

Leviticus chapter 18 is comprised of all the laws governing sexual relations and they were largely targeted at males, because females were basically under the thumb of their father until they moved directly under the thumb of their husband, so there wasn’t much 5o7tcopportunity for us’uns womenfolk to step out anyway.

First of all, incest was forbidden. One may not have sex with one’s mother, the wife of one’s father, or one’s sister whether she was raised at home or abroad. Sex with a granddaughter, a half-sister, or a step-sister was forbidden as well.

Sex with an aunt, the wife of an uncle, a sister-in-law or a daughter-in-law was also not allowed. Sex with a woman having her period, or sex with another man’s wife was unlawful.

A three-way with a woman and her daughter was right out.  But that didn’t stop Jimmy Swaggart from asking his hooker to get her daughter to tag along.

Leviticus did not forbid visiting a harlot but it did forbid the practice of sacrificing to devils after visiting a harlot (presumably to ward off venereal disease). Neither did Leviticus ever say that sex outside of marriage was forbidden.

Male homosexuality was explicitly forbidden: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” The corollary, that womankind shall not lie with womankind as with mankind, was not mentioned. The men of that tribal society probably had no clue that lesbianism existed. Sex with animals was specifically forbidden for both men and women, however, so the dodge that, “Well, Moses MEANT to include gay women in the prohibition against homosexuality” doesn’t work.  The first time lesbianism is mentioned is in Romans 1:26 when Paul calls it unnatural, but then again he calls long hair for men unnatural, which is kind of silly, because if a man goes native his hair naturally gets long.

Leviticus did not say that it was forbidden to have sex with the daughter of one’s father’s sister or brother. So it was (and is) lawful to marry a first cousin.

Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebekkah, who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebekkah’s brother. Jacob ended up marrying two of them, both first cousins, Rachel and Leah. Eleazar’s daughters married their first cousins. God even commanded Zelophehad’s five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family.

It is precisely to prevent the accumulation of wealth in families (and thus threaten the temporal power of the Papacy) that Pope Gregory I made cousin-marriage forbidden for all Roman Catholics.

Before the Civil War, no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal.  US prohibitions against cousin marriages predate modern genetics. The USA is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. About twenty percent of all couples worldwide are first cousins. About eighty percent of all marriages historically have been between first cousins.

The incest taboo actually has an internal basis, many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines, like between brother and sister, or son and mother. But the further away a potential mate is from your own genetic inheritance, the less likely you will run across them in everyday life and have the opportunity to get with them. So first cousins represent a sort of optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

Besides, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein both married their first cousins, so it must be a smart thing to do.

No, I don’t want to marry my cousin.

PARTING WORDS

Jacob was on his deathbed,  so he gathered his sons around to say his last words to them.p10

Reuben, the firstborn, was told that he would not excel, because he took liberties with Jacob’s concubine.

Simeon and Levi were the violent sons. Jacob said they would be divided in the land and scattered in Israel. The tribe of Simeon would be completely surrounded by Judah, and the Levites will indeed be scattered throughout every tribe. They become the priestly tribe, but not on the merits of their father Levi.  Jacob was a pretty good prognosticator, but then again today anyone could write a biography of Abraham Lincoln and have him predict that Windows 8 would be a stinker.

Judah received the main Blessing, the one Jacob stole from Esau. This was the right to rule all Israel. Down his line would be the line of kings, the House of David, ending with the King of Kings.  At least, this is the story the descendants of Judah, who got to write the Bible, tell us.

After Jacob blessed all his sons he commanded them to bury him with this fathers in Hebron, and then he died, one of the most vivid characters in sacred scripture.  A great nation had been raised up to Abraham, the children of Israel, and all of them kept the covenant of Abraham even as they lived in exile from Canaan. They rejected the false gods of the neighboring peoples and worshiped El Shaddai alone.  On account of the faithfulness of the House of Israel, Belial had no valid grounds to call for the destruction of the whole human race for their unfaithfulness. Thus was the oracle of El Shaddai fulfilled when he said to Abraham, All the earth shall find blessing in you.

Joseph commanded his servants to embalm Jacob after the manner of Egyptian royalty. Jacob becomes a mummy. And Joseph was granted leave by Pharaoh to bury his father in Canaan.

After Jacob had been laid to rest and everyone returned to Egypt, the brothers of Joseph began to fear that Joseph would remember the evil they did to him and hold it against them, now that their father was gone. But Joseph assured them it was all God’s plan to save many people from the famine.

And Joseph lived in Egypt until he attained the age of one hundred ten years, and when he was near death he prophesied that God would bring them again to Canaan from out of this land, and carry his bones with them. Then he died and was embalmed in a casket in Egypt.

Later in the book of Exodus, Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straightly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

Finally, in the book of Joshua, And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

And of course, Shechem is near modern day Nablus in the West Bank, so the shade of Joseph suffers many indignities today, as shown above.

REUNION

When Pharaoh heard that Joseph’s brothers were come to Egypt, he was greatly pleased. He gave them enough wagons to make the move to Egypt from Canaan, fully provisioned, and reinforced Joseph’s order to return quickly.1de0376da6034e1ac1ff714817a4ff55

When the brothers returned to their father and told him Joseph was alive, Jacob refused to believe it at first. After all, Joseph could have sent word long before this. But when he saw the big wagon train that Pharaoh had provided for the move he dared to hope, and made his decision to go south.

When Jacob saw Joseph again, the son he had believed to be dead, Jacob and Joseph both wept, but it was tears of joy, and Joseph’s brothers could hardly bear to look at them for the raw emotion they knew the two of them were feeling.  Joseph never told his father that he had been sold into slavery by his own brothers, because it would have killed the old man to hear it.

After the reunion, Joseph escorted his father and his five eldest brothers to visit Pharaoh in his court. And Pharaoh asked them their occupation. They answered that they were all shepherds, they and also their fathers before them. And they asked of Pharaoh to stay in the land of Egypt because the famine had struck Canaan and there was no fodder to raise animals there.

But shepherds were ritually anathema to the people of the major cities along the Nile, so Pharaoh gave them leave to range over all the province of Rameses instead, also called the region of Goshen, along the easternmost fork of the Nile delta.

Then Joseph escorted five of his brothers to visit Pharaoh in his court. And Pharaoh asked them their occupation. They answered that they were all shepherds, they and their fathers before them. And they asked to stay in the land of Egypt, because the famine had struck Canaan, and there was no fodder to raise animals there. But shepherds were anathema to the people of the major cities along the Nile. So Pharaoh gave them leave to range over all the land of Goshen, on the easternmost fork of the Nile delta.

As the famine continued, all the money that existed in the land of Egypt had been brought into the house of Pharaoh from the sale of grain. When the citizens had no more money, Joseph took their livestock in payment for more grain, just enough for the people to eat. When he had all their animals, he fed them from his stores of grain. And the next year the people came for more grain, but they had no money and no livestock, so they sold Pharaoh all their land, except the priests who were allowed to keep their land.  Joseph organized the people into a state-owned agricultural workforce, and set them to work on land they did not own, using state-provided seed corn, and 20% of their increase was a tax to Pharaoh.

Then Joseph brought forth his father Jacob to meet Pharaoh, who asked his age. Jacob answered, “The years of my pilgrimage in this world are a hundred and thirty, yet too short and too hard has my life been, and I have not come close to attaining the years of my father Isaac and his father Abraham.” And he blessed Pharaoh and departed from him.

Jacob, also known as Israel, lived in Goshen another seventeen years, and during this span of time Jacob made Joseph swear an oath not to bury him in Egypt when his life was ended.  For Canaan, not Egypt, was the land promised by God to Abraham and his heirs.

THE FAMINE

Jacob and his people ran out of corn, and his sons just stood around looking at one another.  Then Jacob said, “I heard they still have corn down in Egypt. So get down there Joseph brothers reunitedand buy us some, geniuses, before we starve to death.” And the ten older ones went, but Jacob kept the youngest one, Benjamin, at his side to keep him safe.

So Joseph’s brothers came before him in Egypt, but Joseph had disguised his appearance and voice so they wouldn’t know it was him, and there was an interpreter standing there to translate Hebrew into Egyptian, even though Joseph understood every word. And so it was that his ten brothers bowed before Joseph, just like in the dream he had years before.

Joseph accused them of being spies. They tried to deny it, but Joseph persisted, and he got them to spill out that their father was an old man, and they had a younger brother who was still with him and another brother who was gone. And Joseph still maintained they were spies, but if they went back to Canaan to fetch the youngest one, then Joseph would believe their story. One of the brothers, meanwhile, would rot in jail as surety for the deal.

And they talked amongst themselves in Hebrew, supposing that Joseph could not understand. Reuben said it was bad karma for selling Joseph to the Ismaelites. Joseph found a private place and wept so it wouldn’t spoil the drama he was creating. When he returned he took Simeon and had him handcuffed before their eyes. The rest of them were given full sacks of corn, and as an added attraction, all their money was restored to them in the top of the sack, but they didn’t discover this until they were a day’s ride away.

When they told all this to Jacob, it was too much. Jacob counted his son Simeon as lost, and refused to send Benjamin down with Reuben to prove their story. But hunger argued with Jacob as the famine continued. When they had eaten all the corn they bought the first time, Jacob told them to go and get seconds. But Judah reminded his father that the Pharaoh’s lieutenant said unless Benjamin came along, they would not see his face again. And Jacob complained that his sons all had a big mouth. Why did they have to go and tell this guy they had a little brother anyway? But all that was water under the bridge. Judah, the one who stood to inherit the Blessing from Jacob, offered to forfeit this Blessing if he did not bring Benjamin back alive.

When they came before Joseph with Benjamin in their company, Joseph ordered lunch for all of them at his own villa. His brothers tried to explain they didn’t know why the money was found in the sacks, but they brought double money this time in case there was a mistake.

Joseph told them fear not, he was paid, so it was their God, and the God of their father who put the treasure in their sacks. And he brought Simeon out to them, free. But when Joseph saw his little brother Benjamin, his only full brother, enjoying himself in the banquet he could not restrain himself. He went into a side room and wept in his joy, and also in anguish for the years he was apart from his cherished playmate. Then he washed his face and went back out to be with them.

Now Joseph pulls the trigger on the final part of his design. He has his majordomo fill his brother’s sacks with corn once again, and put his special silver dream interpreting cup in the sack of the youngest boy, Benjamin. And when his brothers were on their way home, he sent his majordomo and some other men to overtake them and accuse them of taking Joseph’s cup.

And Judah said, “Why the heck would we even think about doing that? Recall that we returned the money that we found in our bags and came all the way back from Canaan with it. Why would we now steal silver out of your master’s house? Search all of us, and whoever has it dies, and the rest of us will become your lord’s slaves.”

So the majordomo searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. Busted! So they all returned to Joseph’s house to face judgment. They stood ready to become his slaves, all of them. But Joseph declared his justice. Only the one who had the interpreting cup would be his slave, the rest could go free with a clear conscience back to their father.

Judah begged to allow himself to be held in slavery in place of the boy. He dreaded to see the horror that would be on Jacob’s face should they return without Benjamin, and it would probably kill him.

Now Joseph could bear to continue his charade no more. He ordered all the Egyptians to leave, so there was only the sons of Jacob present when Joseph revealed himself as their brother. “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” This stunned all of them to silence.

So Joseph bid them all to draw near, and he said, “I am Joseph, whom you sold to Egypt. Don’t be angry with yourselves, for God sent me here to save your lives. Now I am a ruler throughout the land of Egypt. So go and fetch my father, and return quickly! You shall live in Goshen, you and your children and grandchildren and all their animals, and I will feed you, for there is yet five years left of this famine.”

And there was a big group hug, and much weeping, but this is not the emotional climax of this great story, for that is yet to come when Joseph meets his father.

JOSEPH

Meanwhile the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the guard in the house of Pharaoh. Eventually Joseph became the chief servant in the house of his Egyptian lord, responsible over the whole household and everything in it…except the Lady of the house.potiphars-wife-joseph

Joseph was a good looking man. The lord’s wife repeatedly tried to get him to bed down with her, but Joseph respectfully declined, refusing to betray his earthly lord and show contempt for Yahweh. One time she grabbed a hold of his second coat and begged him to sleep with her, but he abandoned the coat in her hands and fled naked outside. She screamed to the other servants, “He entered the room to rape me! But when I screamed he ran outside and left his coat in my hands.”

And she repeated the story to the lord of the house when he returned, showing the coat as evidence. Joseph was unjustly thrown into prison, to embark on a new chapter in his life. Step by step he approached the time when his earliest prescient dreams would come true, and his brothers would bow before him.

One time Pharaoh’s butler and baker pissed him off, so he threw him into the dungeon with Joseph, which was very sad, but one night they both dreamed strange dreams and there was no one to interpret them, which made them sad enough for even poor Joseph to notice. He started talking to them and discovered the problem. Master of dreams, Joseph fancied himself, though the real power to interpret them belonged to God alone. Joseph served only as a channel of God’s oneiromancy, so they related their dreams to him to see what Joseph would say.

The butler dreamed of a vine with three branches which budded, and blossomed, and brought forth grapes. He crushed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh’s hand. Joseph said the dream meant that in three days Pharaoh would restore the butler to his old job, and all would be forgotten.

The baker’s dream was that he had three baskets on his head, full of pastries. And birds came and ate out of the topmost basket. Joseph said the dream meant in three days Pharaoh would hang the butler by his neck until dead, and birds would come and eat from his flesh.

And everything came true just as Joseph said. In three days, the baker was executed, and the butler was restored to his former office. And the butler forgot all about Joseph for two years.

At the end of that two years, Pharaoh was troubled by two dreams that he himself had. In the first one, seven skinny cows came up out of the Nile and ate seven fat happy cows that were feeding in a meadow. In the second dream, seven dessicated, sickly ears of corn devoured seven full, ripe ears of corn. And none of the wise men and magicians in Egypt could figure out what the dream meant.

Then the butler remembered Joseph, and told Pharaoh there was a Hebrew in the dungeon who interprets dreams, and he seemed to be pretty good at it. So he sent for Joseph, who was shaved and cleaned up and fitted with new clothing, and when he came before Pharaoh, he listened to the sovereign relate his dream.

“The seven fat cows and seven full ears are seven years of plenty in Egypt,” Joseph said. “They will be followed by seven years of famine so severe that the first seven years will be forgotten. So important is this dream, that God sent essentially the same dream twice. So what you need to do, O Pharaoh, is set a minister over the harvest, to set aside a portion of the corn in the fat years, and store it against the seven years of lean times which are to come.”

Pharaoh was so impressed he made Joseph that minister, and renamed him Zaphnath-paaneah, and gave him the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On, Asenath. And Asenath bore unto Joseph two half-Egyptian sons, Ephraim and Manessah. Life was good for Lucky Joe. He was accorded great honors, given a chariot, and assigned a stature second only to that of Pharaoh himself.

During the next seven years, Joseph served as the minister of Pharaoh, gathering a portion of the harvest, storing it up in the cities, and so great was the harvest that he lost count of all the corn. Then the seven years of plenty were ended, and famine struck all over the known world, but in Egypt people still had corn bread because they drew down Joseph’s stores. And word of this spread throughout the world, and supplicants came from all over, seeking to buy corn from Egypt. The alternative was to starve.

In seven years the famine would be over in Egypt but it would continue in Canaan for a long time. And this would, in due course, result in the mass emigration of the entire House of Israel to Egypt. Fortunately for Jacob, he had a friend in the court of Pharaoh, yet he knew it not.

TAMAR

The story of Tamar is one of those overlooked corners of the bible…because it is a storysensual female eyes, Arabic style about a very strong woman. Essentially, Tamar was a proto-Ruth, but more edgy. She was a Canaanite woman who nonetheless became an ancestor of Jesus Christ and the mother of an heir of the Blessing.

Tamar was married to Er, the firstborn son of Judah, who was the fourth-born son of Jacob. But Er pissed off the Lord somehow, and God had him whacked. Then by Hebrew law, the second son Onan was required to marry her, which he did. But he wasn’t pleased with the thought of just being a stud for Tamar, so at the height of his passion he withdrew from her and let his seed spill on the ground. Somehow this part of the story has been mangled to the point where “Onanism” is a word meaning masturbation, but it was really coitus interuptus instead.

The Lord didn’t like that either, so he in turn whacked Onan. Judah told Tamar to hang out for a few years until his third son, Shelah, was old enough to give it another go. But when the time came, Judah balked, probably because he thought Tamar was really jinxed.

But Tamar was not to be denied. She dressed like a whore and seduced Judah himself, for the price of one sheep. He didn’t exactly have the sheep with him at the time, so he gave her his bracelet and signet ring and staff as collateral until he could go get the animal. Then they went to it. Judah did not know he was making love to his own daughter-in-law.

Later when he tried to send the sheep to her, she could not be found. Tamar had removed her hooker clothing and put on the clothing of a grieving widow.

Nine months later she had twin boys, Peretz and Zerah. But a report made its way back to Judah that Tamar had played the harlot, and even conceived a child through her prostitution. Judah said bring her out to be burned alive. Tamar, in her own defense, said the father of her children left only these tokens on the bedstand: A bracelet, a signet ring, and a staff.

Judah cleared his throat, hemmed and hawed, and quietly acknowledged her sons as her own. And Peretz was numbered in the line of Messiah.

THE COAT OF MANY COLORS

Jacob, also known as Israel, took over the religious life of the people attached to him. He had them bury their images of pagan gods and consecrated a holy place at Beth El where he wrestled with the Elohim one night. There are many details of the proto-Judaism5_coat-of-many-colors practiced by Jacob that are lost, it is not until Sinai that the laws and ordinances are written down, which transmitted them to the future intact. Before that time they had only an oral tradition, enforced by the authority of the reigning patriarch.

From Beth-El, Jacob traveled to Beth-lehem, where his beloved wife died giving birth to son number twelve, Benjamin. And she was buried in the tomb which still exists today, in Israeli-occupied West Bank territory, surrounded by a concrete wall and watchtowers.

One scandalous incident of note happened in this time: Jacob’s oldest son Reuben lay with his father’s concubine Bilhah. This was a first-magnitude faux pas but nothing seems to have come of it.

Isaac died at the age of 180, in the year 1,937 B.C.E. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Isaac appears to have been only a transitional figure in the Bible, a curiously passive character. He was fodder for a near-sacrifice, and merely aped his father’s ways when he passed off Rebecca as his sister. Blind in his old age, he was easily manipulated into giving the Blessing to his younger son favored by Rebecca rather than Esau, his own favorite.

After assisting Jacob in burying their father, Esau took everyone in his household south into the Negev desert and founded the nation of Edom, which existed from the southern border of Judah all the way to the seaport of Eilat, while Jacob stayed in Canaan. The land was too arid to sustain the livestock of both parties. Because the Israelites and the Edomites had the same grandfather (Isaac), they were first cousins. The Ishmaelites and Israelites have the same great-grandfather (Abraham) so they are second cousins.

Joseph had many dreams about the future that came true. One time he told his brothers he dreamed they would someday all fall prostrate before him. That, combined with the fancy long-sleeved coat of many colors his father Jacob gave to him convinced his brothers that Joseph intended to rule over them, and they began to hate him. The hate grew stronger every day.

One time Jacob sent Joseph to the fields to check on his brothers, to make sure they weren’t being lazy. They saw him coming and determined to kill him. His oldest brother Reuben took pity on him and threw Joseph in a pit instead, hoping to rescue him later.

The other brothers saw an Ishmaelite caravan passing by and sold Joseph as a naked slave to them. They killed a goat, dipped Joseph’s coat in blood and told their father that they had found the blood-soaked coat. They never lied outright to Jacob, but they let him imagine that a wild animal had killed his favorite son.

When Joseph was stripped of his coat, he embarked on a new chapter in his life. To a Christian, Joseph’s coat represents the things Jesus asks his followers to discard in order to focus only on him.

DINAH

When Esau drew near with his four hundred men, Jacob put the eleven children with their four mothers, then passed in front of them and bowed to the ground seven times before230477_120278521455232_1334041182_n standing face to face with his brother. Esau embraced him, and kissed him, and they wept. So that whole feud was ended.

Jacob introduced his children and their mothers to Esau, and begged his brother to accept the gift of herd animals he sent him, “Because God has dealt graciously with me, and I have enough.”

Then after a short discussion, Esau agreed to go on ahead because Jacob had children and young animals who could not travel very fast. So they parted with good feelings between them, because blood is thicker than water. But the next time Jacob and Esau meet in the scriptures it will be to bury their father Isaac.

Now Jacob had one daughter, named Dinah, and when Shechem the son of the local governor saw this girl he seized her and either raped her outright, or at the minimum broke through her reserve and had premarital sex with her. But he came under the power of Dinah’s charm. Shechem fell in love with Dinah, and vowed to make her his wife. And Hamor the father of Sechem came to Jacob and his sons and said, “The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us.”

Jacob let his sons do the talking in this incident, because he was upset that his only daughter had been defiled. His sons said to Hamor that it was impossible to allow Dinah to marry one who was uncircumcised. But if every male in Hamor’s kingdom were circumcised, then intermarriage was possible, because then they would be a single people.

This pleased Hamor, and particularly his son Shechem, who was every bit as smitten with Dinah as Jacob had been with Rachel. So Shechem was the first one to submit to circumcision. Then Hamor and Shechem went to the men of the city and told them all the daughters of Jacob would be available for marriage if they just did the same very small ritual of circumcision that Shechem had submitted himself too. If they only knew that Jacob had only the one daughter, Dinah, they undoubtedly would not have agreed. But they went ahead and did it.

And three days later when the defenders of the city were immobilized by pain from inflammation, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi came to the city and slew all the males of fighting age, including Hamor and his son Shechem, and they took their sister Dinah away. Then the other sons of Jacob sacked the whole city, took all their animals and children and wives and everything that was in their houses.

That was pretty good handiwork for boys. Simeon and Levi were 13 and 14 at the time, and they were the oldest ones, except for Reuben!

Jacob was far more circumspect. He was one who understood the consequences of actions. Jacob complained to Simeon and Levi that the worst thing the local Canaanites feared was being cut down one by one, so they will no doubt band together and wipe out Jacob and his entire household as a result of this incident. And his sons are astonished that their father would hold the honor of Dinah of such little account. The vengeful spirits of Jacob’s older sons will come into sharp contrast with gentle Benjamin (who is yet to be born) and especially Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his brothers, but whose only revenge is to craft a dramatic and heart-warming family reunion.

WRESTLING WITH THE HOLY

Out of the Laban frying pan, into the Esau fire.images

After Jacob crossed the river Jordan, he sent messengers ahead of him to meet his brother Esau and mention that he had a lot of oxen and asses and flocks and servants and hint that he could smooth over any hard feelings Esau might still have over losing his blessing.

The messengers returned to him saying that Esau was coming out to meet him with four hundred men. This worried Jacob to no end. He divided his caravan into two halves, in case Esau smote one, the other might escape.

Jacob prayed a humble prayer to his God for deliverance, and then set aside a portion of his herd as a gift to Esau. Two hundred and twenty goats, two hundred and twenty sheep, thirty camels, fifty cattle, twenty asses, and ten foals, which he sent with his servants to deliver to Esau.

They left Jacob alone, and he ended up wrestling a nameless being all night.

Some rabbis suggest that he wrestled with Michael, or even Sammael, the angel of death. Surely it was not Yahweh himself, for why would he fear the coming of the dawn like a vampire or wrestle a mere mortal man to a draw?

Could it be that Jacob is not wrestling with God or an angel at all, but his own mortality? In his dark night of the soul, with deadly Laban behind him and deadly Esau before him, Jacob took command of his own fate with sheer dogged persistence, not letting go of his quest for “life, and life more abundantly” even in the face of crippling pain, symbolized by the breaking of his thigh. “I won’t let you go until I have your Blessing,” he insists. He is rewarded with a new name. Passing through this great trial, the old man Jacob Heelclutcher falls, while the new man Israel Godclutcher goes on.

Everyone who comes up against Israel and his descendants ends up going away…permanently. You still see the Israelis around four thousand years later. You don’t see the Hittites and Amalekites and Nazis around anymore. Palestinians take note.

BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY

As the years wore on, Rachel told Jacob that if she didn’t conceive a child for him, she was going to die. And this pissed off Jacob, because she was asking him to do what God aloneag1iaWJsZS1saWJyYXJ5cg8LEgdQaWN0dXJlGKvsNgw could do. So Rachel resorted to surrogate mothers. The first one was her maid Bilhah. She authorized Jacob to impregnate her, and Bilhah bore Jacob a son named Dan and another one named Naphtali.

And Leah began to suspect that she was finished bearing children, so she authorized Jacob to impregnate her maid Zilpah, and Zilpah bore Jacob a son named Gad and another one named Asher. Then Leah tried her luck with Jacob once more, and she conceived and bore a son named Issachar, and later another son named Zebulun and a daughter named Dinah. Finally God allowed Rachel to conceive a son of her own, and she produced Joseph.

Now Jacob asked Laban to release him from service, so he could return to his own place. And Laban knew that God had greatly increased his herd for the sake of Jacob, and asked what shall be his final payment. Jacob suggested that they divide the flock such that Jacob received all the speckled cattle and all the spotted goats and sheep, leaving Laban all the rest. And this sounded like a good plan. “Make it so, Number One.”

So Jacob took his portion about three days ride away, then he returned to keep feeding and tending Laban’s flock, because it was not yet time to quit. And while the herd was drinking, Jacob whittled some green sticks so they they appeared with white stripes in them, and he set these sticks into the ground. And when Laban’s unspeckled cattle and sheep and goats conceived near these rods, Jacob reasoned, they would bear calves which would be speckled.

There is no scientific basis for this procedure, of course, but God could have interfered with the genetic “allele frequencies” to favor Jacob, whatever he did. That Jacob provided the physical action of making and posting the sticks shows that humans are to cooperate with God’s grace. “God helps those who help themselves” the cliche goes.

And to add insult to injury, Jacob did this stunt only when the stronger animals conceived, but withheld his sticks when the weaker ones conceived. Thus Laban’s flock of unspeckled cattle, white sheep, and spotted goats dwindled in numbers and became enfeebled, while Jacob’s herd grew in numbers and strength. Apart from Jacob’s fourteen years of service for the hand of Leah and Rachel, he served Laban another six years, building his herd in this way. Thus Jacob is revenged a hundredfold for Laban’s trickery, but no guilt can be laid at Jacob’s door.

But the dwindling of Laban’s herd caused his sons to grumble, and Laban wasn’t so happy when he saw Jacob’s face anymore. God told Jacob that he was the God of Beth El, where Jacob annointed a pillar, it now it was time to depart for the land of his father. He told this to Leah and Rachel, and they agreed to depart with Jacob, without telling Laban.

And Rachel decided to grab her fathers idols and take them along with her as a final departing blow. When Laban found out his daughters and his idols were gone, he pursued for a week. During the chase, God tried to warn Laban off attacking Jacob, and Laban said he would consider it.

When Laban caught up to Jacob there were hard questions. Why did he just take off in the middle of the night with his daughters, not even a word of warning. Laban had a big party planned, and Jacob ruined it. But nevertheless, even if Jacob felt he had to go right away because he missed his parents, which was understandable, why did Jacob have to steal his gods as well? That is without excuse.

But Jacob knew nothing of Rachel’s theft, and he bid Laban to search his caravan all he wanted, and death to anyone hiding them.

So Laban searched everyone’s tent, not excepting the tents of Jacob and Leah and Rachel. And they were really in Rachel’s tent. She was sitting on them. And she said, “Forgive me father if I don’t stand up, but I’m having my period right now. You know how it is.”

Periods are double-icky to the biblical patriarchs, and those who first heard this story no doubt chuckled with mirth mixed with revulsion. Rachel was having her period on Laban’s stone gods. Serves him right! It was sufficiently icky to Laban that he never required her to stand up so he could search beneath her.

Now Jacob had finally had enough of Laban, and he let it all pour out. “You’ve searched all my stuff. If you found anything of yours set it here in the open so that all may judge. No? Twenty years I served you, Laban. Not once did I eat one of your rams. If any animal was torn by beasts, I absorbed that loss myself rather than pawn it off back on you, because I took my responsibilities as a shepherd seriously. Through drought and cold sleepless nights I served you without grumbling, even when you changed my salary ten times. Surely if the God of my fathers was not with me I would have nothing now, but he is a God of justice and he preserved me.”

So Laban was moved to release his daughters and animals and create a covenant with Jacob. Jacob agreed never to take another wife than Leah and Rachel, and Laban agreed to stay on the Jordanian side of Mount Gilead. And so ended Jacob’s first extended trip abroad.

LEAH AND RACHEL

Jacob left Beersheba and journeyed toward the house of his uncle Laban. When he arrived at the place called Bethel, or Beit El (a place of God), Jacob lay his head down on the Stone of Scone (currently located at Edinburgh Castle) and fell asleep.

Drilling+Cousin

Jacob had a dream. And in it, there was a ladder from heaven down to the earth, and the angels of God were seen going up and down this ladder. At the top of the ladder, Yahweh stood there and told Jacob that the land he was camping in already belonged to Jacob. God gave it to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham and Jacob’s father Isaac, and it would be the land of Jacob’s many descendants. All the families of the earth would see themselves blessed in Jacob and his progeny. God promised that he would always be with Jacob, and that he would make his Divine vow concerning this land into reality.

Jacob awoke and he was in a state of religious awe. This place, he knew, was where Yahweh, the God of his father, had stood. Therefore he turned the stone pillow he laid on into a pillar, and poured oil on it, and consecrated it, vowing that if God brought him safely to Laban’s house, and back to his father’s house in peace, then Yahweh would be his God too. And he would give a tenth of his increase back to God.

Then Jacob continued his journey, and came into the land of his family on his mother’s side, inquiring after Laban. And soon he saw his first cousin Rachel, bringing along her father’s sheep. He ran up to her and kissed her, and wept, and said he was the son of Rebekah. Rachel ran to tell her father, and Laban welcomed Jacob into his house, where he spent a month doing some odd jobs for him.

After the month had passed, Laban asked Jacob what he thought a fair wage would be for all the help he was doing. By this time Jacob had the hots for Rachel, and he said he would serve Laban for seven years in return for the hand of Rachel in marriage. Laban was agreeable to this, because Jacob was a better choice than giving her to another man, he deemed.

So much did Jacob love Rachel, that it seemed the seven years just flew right by. Then when the time was up, he went to Laban to pick up his wife. There was a huge wedding feast, and Jacob was plied with much wine, and at the end of the night Jacob staggered into his tent to tear off a piece, and he seemed to be happy. But in the morning when he woke up, he found out it was just Leah, the older sister, in bed with him. Leah had pretty eyes, sure, but she was a little older and, at least to Jacob somewhat less beautiful. Jacob was so shallow. But a deal’s a deal, darnit.  Laban had pulled a switcheroo!

When Jacob complained, Laban explained that it was the custom in Haran that the younger daughter must not be married before the elder one. But he would make it right. All Jacob had to do was serve Laban for another seven years tending his flocks, and he would get both of his cousins for wives. And this he did do, a total of fourteen years, for the hand of the cousin he truly loved. Meanwhile he did not go celibate, he did make love to Leah,  who after all was still his wife fair and square. She conceived sons for Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.  And Judah would inherit the same Blessing that Jacob finagled out of Isaac.

When he finally consummated his wedding to Rachel, nothing came of it for a very long time. God had closed Rachel’s womb.

THE BLESSING

In his dotage Isaac grew blind, and he knew he would soon die. So he told his eldest (and favorite) son Esau to go round him up some fresh venison, fry it up good, and then he would receive Isaac’s blessing before he died.etwog23

Rebekah heard all this, and she made her move to advance the cause of her favorite son Jacob. She told him to get a couple goats, and she would fry them up fast and pass them off on Isaac and that way Jacob would receieve the blessing. But Jacob objected that the plan wouldn’t work, because Esau was a hairy man and he was smooth as a baby’s bottom. His father would feel the difference, perceive that Jacob was a deceiver, and deliver a cursing rather than a blessing. But Rebekah had already thought of that, and she told Jacob to do as his mother said.

When he came back in with two kids, Rebekah started cooking them, together with some bread, and meanwhile she fetched some of Esau’s clothes and fitted them on Jacob, and she put the skins of the goats on Jacob’s hands and on the back of his neck.

Jacob took the food and delivered it to Isaac, but Isaac was suspicious because Jacob didn’t talk like Esau and the food was ready so quickly. Jacob insisted that he was Esau, and said the LORD brought the deer to him. Isaac was still suspicious, so he told his son to come near so he could feel it was really Esau.

There was the test of the food. Jacob passed.

There was the smell test. He had to kiss his father, and Isaac smelled Esau’s sweaty clothes and it was enough. Isaac said:

God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

And so it was done. Needless to say there was an embarrassing scene later when the real Esau came in with fresh venison. But it was too late. Bilbo had already made off with the precious Ring, leaving Esau to say, “Where did he go? Cursed Bagginses, we hates it! Hates it forever!”

And in Esau’s great wrath he forgot basic principles of operational security. He started mumbling about planning to kill Jacob, and a report of this got back to Rebekah through servants. Or if Esau said these things only in his heart, then a report got back to Rebekah through God himself. They had a relationship, you see. It was God who told Rebekah that the elder would serve the younger. Mother and son held a quick huddle, and Rebekah told Jacob to flee to uncle Laban.

This narrative seems written to elicit sympathy for Esau, but God is selecting for cleverness and foresight. The chosen people would need these qualities when they lived among their enemies in Egypt and Canaan.

JACOB

All his life Jacob would struggle for life, and life more abundantly. And this struggle would begin in the womb, when he jockeyed for pole position with his brother Esau. God would tell Rebecca why: “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall beot_gen_25_jacob_esau_opt separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Now Esau won that struggle, and emerged from Rebecca’s womb first, but Jacob’s persistence was seen in that he was gripping his brother’s ankle on the way out, announcing from the first moment that he was a survivor. The twins Esau and Jacob were born in 2,057 B.C.E.

Just as Abraham’s favorite was Ishmael, though the Blessing went to the younger boy Isaac, so Isaac’s favorite is Esau, though the Blessing went to the younger boy (by mere moments) Jacob. And this seems to be a pattern. God favored Abel’s offering over his older brother Cain’s offering.

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. Esau was an extrovert, Jacob an introvert.

Esau derived his own Blessing, his own “life and life more abundantly” from the things of the world which he was able to obtain by his own efforts. Jacob, as the more interior man, would never be able to compete on those terms. Yet he was a survivor. He would contrive to obtain more life by tapping into a Divine Source. And the first step was to get the Birthright, which entitled the first-born son to a double-share of the inheritance.

They were twins but as things stood, Esau was the older man, by a matter of seconds. By some misfortune, Esau found he could not always depend on his own efforts and skills to maintain his life. He came in from the field famished, near death and begged Jacob for some food. Jacob provided some bread and lentil soup, but the price was that Esau assign his birthright to Jacob under oath. And Esau was more than willing to do it, so close to death was he.

Later, in the New Testament, Paul would teach that if a man does not help his brother in a time of need, he has become worse than an unbeliever.

As it turned out, Esau just needed a little help that one time, and for the rest of his life he would do well for himself. So he left Jacob with a full stomach, and almost convinced himself the Birthright was nothing much anyway.

We are now officially halfway through the Book of Genesis. Except for a brief foray in the next chapter where Isaac tries his father’s tired old “she isn’t my wife, she’s my sister” schtick, the entire second half is the story of Jacob, from his birth to his death, plus the wacky adventures of some of his kids.

REBEKAH

Sarah died at age 120 and Abraham purchased land containing a cave, a Patriarch_tombfield, and trees. This eventually is where Abraham is laid to rest, as well as his son Isaac and wife Rebecca, and his grandson Jacob and wife Leah. The site is shown in the picture here, and it is the second holiest site in Judaism after the Temple Mount.

Even Christians and Muslims revere the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and Arabs have joint custody. Abraham, after all, is their exalted father too.

Abraham charges his oldest servant to find his son Isaac a wife from among Abraham’s own people in Mesopotamia. By chance he ends up at the very house of Abraham’s original clan, and by a sign, Abraham’s servant focuses on Rebekah as the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife.

…behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.

Rebekah was Abraham’s great-neice, and therefore Isaac’s first cousin once-removed. The servant tells of his master and his errand, and showers everyone with precious goods.

And they called Rebekah, and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will go.

And by this acceptance, Rebekah takes her place in the great story that Yahweh has set into motion when he inserted himself into human history and called Abraham out of Mesopotamia. And she does not assent on the basis of Isaac’s character, which remains unknown to her, but on the basis of how Abraham’s servant presented himself to her at the well when they first met: courteous, humble, and devout.

The gold and jewels were obligatory, but Rebecca was deciding on a hunch. This servant was a good man. Therefore his master must be a good man. And the son of that man must be a good man as well.

Contrast that with God’s servant Pat Robertson, who does nothing to recommend the Lord to people who do not know him. Rather, the Lord we prefer not to know is known to us by how we know Pat.

And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

That’s Isaac for you, he loses his mother Sarah, but Abram essentially provided him with another mother to love, and he draws his comfort from that. One can almost imagine Rebekah going, “Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into here?” with just a twinge of regret. But she had assented to the journey. She was committed.

WOULD A COW LICK LOT’S WIFE?

Now the two holy ones who were with Yahweh at Mamre arrive at Sodom. The investigation is over, and the LORD has ordered weapons Red and Free on that city and also the neighboring town of Gomorrah. But he wants to rescue Lot and his family before the Lot's wife - 1airstrike.

The two angels were intercepted by Lot at the city gate, and escorted through the streets to his house where he ministered to them in much the same way Abraham had ministered to them and Yahweh. They were willing to stay out in the street all night, but Lot insisted, and they agreed to accept his hospitality.

This hospitality was soon contrasted with the contempt demonstrated by all the male residents of the city, who crowded around Lot’s house and wanted nothing more than to rape the two angelic beings, who were no doubt specimens of astonishing male beauty.

Lot was horrified. So important to him was his oath of hospitality that he was even willing to offer his own daughters to quench the crowd’s sexual fire, so long as they put all thought of molesting these two divine visitors far from their mind. He even told them they were virgins, even though in reality they were both married and everyone knew it. This defiance only infuriated the crowd all the more, and they threatened to treat him worse than they wanted to treat his two guests. But the angels pulled Lot back into the house and flooded the area with a burst of light so intense that everyone in the crowd was rendered blind.

The angels had seen quite enough. God’s judgment was well-founded. They told Lot to gather his kin and all his goods and get out of the city, because it was about to be nuked. Lot tried to convince his son-in-laws, the husbands of his daughters, to leave wi 

HAGGLING WITH GOD

One time it was hot and Abraham was taking a nap in his tent. He stirred awake and saw Yahweh with two sidekicks standing outside. Abraham ran out there, bowed to the300px-Tissot_Abraham_and_the_Three_Angels ground, and begged them to stay long enough for him to bring refreshments. Then he told his woman to hurry up and make three cakes while he went out and fetched a calf for his servant to fry up real quick to be served with the cakes, and some butter and milk. And Abram stood there and watched them eat. Yahweh told Abraham that the next time he came around, Sarah would have a son.

Sarah laughed to herself when she heard this, and said, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (this being the days before Viagra). It was one thing to have Abraham laugh when promised this, but now Sarah too? Yahweh complained about this, and Sarah realized with fear that this was the Creator of heaven and earth she was laughing at, and she denied laughing. “Did not laugh!”

“Did too!”

Then Yahweh and his two companions started walking towards Sodom, and Abraham went along with them. They were great friends, you see, God and Abraham. And the LORD was a little troubled, because he was investigating whether or not he should destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and he debated with himself whether he should hide this thing from Abraham, because it might come across to Abraham as an injustice. For I know him, the LORD thought, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment…

Finally God told Abraham what he intended to do, if the reported wickedness of the cities turned out to be true.

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

What follows is an astonishing episode of negotiation, where Abraham dances right up to the edge of God’s forebearance. God agrees that if he can find just ten righteous men in Sodom, he will spare the whole city on their account. Abraham was concerned for the safety of his nephew Lot, but this was also a case of man reining in the apparent bloodthirstiness of God.

So in a way, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was also a test of Abraham, to see his qualities of “justice and judgment”.

And it is also a test of the qualities of justice and judgment of the reader, depending on whether they see Abraham or God as the hero of the story.
th him, but they thought he was nuts.

Time grew short. The angels took Lot’s hand, and the hand of his wife, and the hands of his two daughters, and whisked them far from the city so they would be well outside the Nuclear Damage Avoidance Zone. The angels told them to keep running for the mountains, “and whatever you do, don’t look back!”

Of course, the first thing Lot’s wife did was look back to watch God zap the two cities, and she became a salt lick for cattle.

In the area around the Dead Sea there are strange formations of crystallized salt. No doubt one of these salt pillars suggested this story to the author.

Lot and his two daughters spent some time in a cave until the danger was clear. His two daughters thought that the entire earth had been destroyed in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah had been. They thought their old father was the last man remaining on Earth, and it was up to them to continue the human race. So over two consecutive nights, they contrived to get Lot drunk, and lay with him. One became the mother of the Moabites, and the other became the mother of the Ammonites, which were traditional enemies of the people who would be reading this story. A nice little scandal to wrap up the tale. Of course, the Moabites and Ammonites probably had a different story about the founding of their country, but no matter.

CALL ME ISHMAEL

“Off you go, Hagar, you and the boy. One bottle of water oughta do ya.”

The Jundland Wastes are not to be traveled lightly.

The Jundland Wastes are not to be traveled lightly.

Isaac was born in the year 2,117 B.C.E. and circumcised on the eighth day according to the commandment of God. Not only did the aged Sarah give birth to him, she nursed him as well, but on the day when Isaac was weaned and Abraham held a large feast in honor of the occasion, Sarah decided the tent wasn’t big enough for two sons of Abraham. She insisted that her husband send Hagar and Ishmael packing.

Abraham was inconsolable, but he knew who wore the pants in that family.  God assured him that he would make a nation of Ishmael because he was his seed.  So Abraham, totally relieved that he wouldn’t have to reach too deeply into his worldly goods to give his eldest son a head start,  gave Hagar exactly one bottle of water and a little bread and sent her off into the Negev desert outside of Beersheba, a waterless moonscape depicted above.

GENESIS 21:14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

Very soon, strangely enough, they drank all the water in the bottle, so Hagar hid the child under some sagebrush and went about fifty yards away to cry. She did not want to see the death of her only child. But God heard her crying and sent a ministering angel, who promised Hagar that God would make of him a great nation. And she was led to a nearby well of water.

God sent an angel to point Hagar and Ishmael to a well of water when Abraham, who knew where all the wells were located in Canaan, could have done the same thing and saved the angel a trip.  But that would have been pure socialism from the mouth of hell. Instead, Ishmael and Hagar lived in the wilderness under God’s care (today they would just use EBT cards), and the youth became an archer. When he was of age, Hagar obtained a wife for him out of the land of Egypt.

THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT

Abram and his wife were full of years, but childless. God told his human friend in a vision that he would receive a great reward, but Abram was puzzled, because he had no blood 182heir, and so he had designated his steward Elizer of Damascus to inherit all that he had when he died. God assured him that his heir would be the fruit of his own loins. They went for a walk, and when it was night, God asked Abram to look at the stars and see if he could count them. So shall his descendants would be.

There are only about 6,000 stars visible to the unaided human eye but Abram got the idea. He trusted that God would do as he said, and God laid this trust to his account as righteousness. God agreed to reward Abram in this way, and Abram agreed to worship only God and trust that he would always do what he said he would do. This was the basis of the first covenant between God and man alone.

Just as the covenant between God and all the living creatures of Earth was marked by the sign of the rainbow, the Abrahamic Covenant was marked by a very strange ritual where Abram took a cow, a goat, a ram and split their carcasses in two. Then a floating barbecue and a floating torch passed between those pieces.

Evangelicals today have a doctrine that says a person must accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior or they will burn in hell for all eternity. This leads to some difficult questions, such as, what about Abram? He never accepted Christ, but God took his trust that he would grant him blood heirs to qualify as righteousness. Jesus attested that Abram (Abraham) was in paradise in his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In reply, these Evangelicals claim that Abram’s faith was in a future Savior. He looked ahead in time to the Messiah, just as all the other Old Testament saints did (say the Evangelicals), where we look back.  The CoJCoLDS does this all through the Book of Mormon.

But this idea is not found in the text without seriously mangling it. Abram had no need to anticipate a future Savior. God already told him that he was his shield. The concept of a future Messiah did not appear in Judaism until their line of earthly kings had come to an end. It was a wish for the return of the “golden age” of David and Solomon, a time that was probably a  lot less rosy in reality than the ones looking back might have guessed, which is true for all the Good Old Days.

As for Abram, the head of a large nomadic clan and possessor of great riches, he was already living in the golden age as far as he was concerned. Abram did not pine away for “salvation” or an afterlife. He had lived a full and blessed life, he accepted that he was mortal, and the only thing left that God could offer him was that his name and his DNA would be carried into the future by a people who would live in the land of what could be termed “Greater Israel”, which was to extend from the east bank of the Nile to the west bank of the Euphrates.   And this he received, in spades.

After Ishmael was born, God demonstrated that he keeps his promises. So he came to275fca38d807b305ec3d6a1578a76142c30b9795c8c1422871fb8581b563f323 Abram and initiated Part B of the ritual to establish the covenant with him. This involved a name change. Where Abram meant “exalted father” and was heretofore an ironic name, now God changed his name to Abraham, which means “father of many nations”.

But the important transition that occurs here is that the ritual of circumcision is instituted. Before this time, Abraham’s worship of God was of the character of a personal devotion. Setting aside Hagar’s interlude with God, which was a special case to ensure Ishmael would be in Abraham’s household, all of the human-divine interactions had occurred solely between Abraham and God. Sarah followed Abraham because she loved him and was his wife, but one could imagine that she was humoring him when he made pillow talk about Yahweh speaking to him. Ishmael looked up to his father. His servants followed him because they were either owned by him, or at least employed by him.

But now, with the introduction of the ritual of circumcision, the worship of Yahweh became corporate worship. And this proto-Judaism was something that would be embedded in the culture, rather than a creed adopted by choice, for baby boys would be circumcised when they were eight days old, and anyone who was not circumcised was to be cut off from the people, no pun intended.

There is, actually, an evolutionary benefit to circumcision. No longer protected by the foreskin, the glan of the penis is chafed day and night by clothing, and the brain responds by reducing its sensitivity to the 4,000 nerve endings there (which women, by the way, with our 8,000 nerve endings in much smaller real estate, chuckle at in the ladies’ loo). It turns down the “volume”. This results in the ability of a man to last somewhat longer during intercourse before making that funny noise that means it’s all over. And that, in turn, means a happier lady who is less likely to sleep around on him.

God told Abraham to rename his wife from Sarai to Sarah, and promised that she would bear him a son as well. And that was too much for Abraham. He fell on his face and laughed, and God stood there and took it. Perhaps there were complex emotions at play, the emotions of a new father, a father who only became a father near the end of his life. Abraham came to his senses and began to fear that God was going to have Sarah bear his son because something bad was going to happen to his first son.

And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!

One cannot blame Abraham. After all, Ismael, now thirteen years old, was the son he actually had, and not the son who was yet to be. Ishmael was Abraham’s legal son, because Hagar was his second wife. God insisted that Sarah would bear him a son, to be named Isaac, and he would establish a covenant with him and his sons after him. One can imagine Abraham hearing these words but not fully grasping them. He was near the end of his life, and God was telling him that after Abraham was gone he was going to continue his dealings down the line of his younger son, who was yet to be.

It is tempting for the descendants of that younger son, who kept the history and the genealogy, to turn back and denigrate Ishmael, to paint him and his seed as somehow naturally wicked because God chose Isaac over Ishmael. But Abraham, as father of both, stands in the breach between both sides. As for Ishmael, God assured Abraham that he would be fruitful indeed, and become the father of twelve princes, and God would make of him a great nation as well.

MELCHIZEDEK

 

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GENESIS 14

  • 1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
  • 2 That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.
  • 3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
  • 4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
  • 5-6 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mount Seir, unto El-paran, which is by the wilderness.
  • 7 And they returned, and came to En-mishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar.

Did you get all that?  Sometimes the names in the Bible are pretty funny. Just now on Twitter I parodied this by writing, “He who spaketh unto Ephtshpareht, Maigollygoshgolah and Amog in the days of Najobullahdongblod (Hezekiah 19:3)” because I distinctly fall short in the reverence department.  But passages like this, crammed with unfamiliar names, are what make the Bible about as hard to digest as Tolkien’s The Silmarrilion.

  • 8-12 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim; With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five. And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain. And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Anyhow, there’s these ruffians led by King Chedorlaomer who sacked Sodom and Gomorrah, and they took Abram’s nephew Lot captive.  Sometimes I think the trauma of being sacked are what made those famous towns become ancient homosexual meccas. And since Sodom had become a giant discotheque for the boys, maybe all the gay girls took their U-Hauls over to Gomorrah and defended themselves like proto-Amazons.   The Bible doesn’t say, but then again, the Patriarchy couldn’t afford to say that.

  • 13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eschol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.

Only one of Lot’s servants escaped to tell Abram. Shades of Moby Dick.  “Call me Ishmael”.

14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

Abram had over three hundred able-bodied men which he armed and led into battle to get back all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as rescue Lot and all of his goods.

  • 15-16 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

If the Bible was a movie, this would be the first set-piece action scene, something that would be included in the sneak previews. This was the first time that God took sides in human conflict, a practice that continues today, such as when George W. Bush said that God told him to invade Iraq. Abram with his three hundred did what it would take an army of many thousands to do.

  • 18-21 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.

Melchizedek accepted a tenth of Abram’s servants but allowed Abram to keep the tithe of goods. This seems to indicate a manpower shortage in that time. Mystery surrounds this Melchizedek figure. He was a priest of Yahweh, but nothing is known about his order. Catholics see his bread and wine oblation as a foreshadow of the Eucharist. Christians in general believe Psalm 110:4 prophesies of Christ when it says The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

In the New Testament, in Hebrews 7:3, it says of Melchizedek: Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. This seems to imply that he is immortal.

Dead Sea Scroll 11Q13 sees him as an angelic being, sort of a tax collector for God, and indeed he accepts a tenth of Abram’s spoils. The second book of Enoch says that Melchizedek was born of a virgin and was preserved from the flood by being taken to the Garden of Eden, which presumably had a force-field bubble around it to stay the flood waters. And when he was there he probably ate the fruit of the Tree of Life, which explains why he was still around in the time of Abram.

Some denomination go further and say that Melchizedek is the pre-incarnate Son of God. But in Hebrews, Paul is comparing the Aaronic priesthood, which is based on genetic descent from Abram through Aaron and the tribe of Levi, to a priesthood by divine appointment. Melchizedek has no pedigree in the Bible, no chain from father to son. And that is what Paul was alluding to when he said “without father, without mother”. He says that Christ was appointed High Priest in the same manner, without regard to descent, although Christ can claim descent from Abraham through his mother. And in Christ, the baptized are appointed to a priestly ministry as well, through conversion, after being drawn to faith by God, without regard to their status as Jew or Gentile. Paul implies that this Melchizedek priesthood is the superior one. After all, Abram tithed to him, not the other way around:

  • 22-24 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Abram insisted that Melchizedek take the tithe of goods too, not just the servants, and for himself he only accepted the full bellies of the men in his army, and some booty for three of his lieutenants. Abram was not a greedy man.  And in that sense, he was worthy of being a role model.  Later when he tried to kill his son, not so much.

ABRAM

Until this time, we have just been reading little episodes, a sort of “coming attractions” for the rest of the book of Genesis. Now we are come to the single narrative that will take us all the way to the settling of the Israelites in Egypt and a happy ending. And the Abraham joke atheist bible comfortable close shave phillipsbouncing ball I will follow is the Blessing which originated with Adam and now rests in the person of Abram, a Chaldean who has grown disgusted with the variety of (to him) meaningless religious practices in his city of Haran.

  • 1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

This is the Creator calling Abram, and Abram responds by leaving home as El Shaddai said, believing in the divine promises sight unseen. Many years later, he will be held up by St. Paul as the very model of faith. Jesus would disparage the claim that certain haughty and unruly people made that they were children of Abram by blood, saying that God was able to raise children unto Abram from stones. Paul in turn would assert that everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, who responds to God in faith is considered a child of Abraham.

  • 4-7 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

The fact that Abram marked this spot makes me think that it was here that Yahweh first appeared to Abram in person rather than just a voice. And this seems to a very different God than the one who appears later to Moses as a burning bush or a pillar of fire or hidden in thundering clouds. That God makes Moses’ face glow with light just by talking to him.

  • 8-10 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south. And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

Abram has got to be scratching his head at this point. God told him to leave Harah to see this wonderful land that he will give to him and his descendants, but so far all Abraham has seen is desert, and he has to move his herds and people down to Egypt just to keep body and soul together.

GENESIS 13 

  • 1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.

South of Egypt is Ethiopia. Or maybe the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Perhaps what the text really means here is that Abram went out of Egypt into the south of Canaan, so there’s a bit of missing text.

  • 2-4 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

Bethel is about twelve miles north of Jerusalem where Abram had constructed an altar to God just to the east of town on a hilltop. How did he know how to build that, and why? Abram was part of the unbroken tradition of the Sons of God from Adam through Seth and Noah all the way down to Abram himself. Today Bethel has been settled by about 500 Palestinians and is called Beitin. There is a new city of Beit El, home to about 5,000 Jews just to the northwest.

  • 5-7 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

Lot went with Abram, and he had large flocks and herds and servants and camels and tents, and it was apparent that the land, rich though it was, could not support both teams. Some of Abram’s cowboys were getting into tussles with some of Lot’s cowboys.  So they had to split up, thus:

  • 8-11 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Lot saw the well-watered valley of the Jordan, which was as green, Lot deemed, as the garden of Eden. So he chose the road to the right, and dropped down out of the hills into the big valley where the Jordan River loops and bends on its way to the Dead Sea. There Lot parked his tent in the suburbs of the infamous city of Sodom.  Later, Lot moves inside the city limits.

  • 12-17 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly. And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

Abram stayed in the hill country and the plains nigh to the Mediterranean Sea. This was the land of Canaan, promised to him by Yahweh, who said to Abram that everything he could see to the north, south, east and west of here would someday belong to him and his descendants. And he bade Abram to take a walking inspection of his new digs.

  • 18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.

When Abram had checked out the land as he was told to do, he built his second altar to God in Hebron, which is another West Bank town populated by Palestinians. Arabs, too, are the children of Abram by blood, not only the Jews. Their presence in the Holy Land fulfills God’s promise to give this land to Abram’s seed every bit as much as the presence of Israelis does. Some Christians, in order to cut out the Muslims, have told me the promise and the land deed only tracks with the Jews because they had the Blessing. But if that was true, then only the tribe of Judah would have been entitled to land in Canaan, not the other eleven tribes, because the Blessing passed from Jacob to Judah, and ten generations later to King David. No, the Blessing was essentially the right to rule.

GENESIS 12

  • 11-13 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: isaac_rebekahTherefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Abraham didn’t trust Yahweh to keep him safe from anyone who might want to take his supermodel wife.  So he told her to make sure everyone knew Abram was her brother. She wouldn’t exactly be lying either, they had the same father (Terah) but different mothers.  And now you know where they get that idea in the Bible Belt.

  • 14-17 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

When Abram and Sarai got to Egypt, the sons of Pharoah all said, “You gotta see this Sarai chick, Pop, she’s a real looker,” and Sarai was brought into the household of Pharaoh to be wooed as his wife. As part of the wooing process Pharaoh loaded her “brother” Abram down with a lot of material goods. But Yahweh did a sort of trial run of the Ten Plagues, and sent some plagues to plague Pharaoh before he could lay a hand on Sarai.

  • 18-20 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

Close call there. This first adventure didn’t really reflect all that well on Abram. He didn’t trust Yahweh to protect his life from the Egyptians, and he lied to Pharaoh and put his wife in the position of being forced to give her affections to a man who was not her husband. I really hope that Abram learned his lesson this time and never does this thing about calling his wife his sister ever again. And I hope when he has kids he tells them never to do it either.


 

Many years later Abraham (as Abram came to be called) went on another road trip to the Sinai, and when he got there he did that “Sarah is my sister” thing again (Sarah being what Sarai came to be called). And instead of Pharaoh, this time it was Abimelech king of Gerar who took Sarah into his household. But soon after he did, God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Dude, you’re a dead man walking. Sarah is another man’s wife.”

And King Abimelech said, “Whoa, Lord, I never touched her, and anyway that old guy said he was just his sister, and she even went along with it and said, yeah, that’s it, he’s my brother. I’m innocent I tell you! Besides, she’s a hundred years old if she’s a day!”

And God said unto him, “Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, he just likes to play this ‘wife-sister’ practical joke every twenty years or so.”

When Abilemech took Sarah back to Abraham he had some hard questions, but Abraham defended himself by saying that she was, after all, his half-sister, the daughter of his father, but not the daughter of his mother. So like Ben Kenobi, he did tell the truth after all, from a certain point of view.  Incest. Later in Leviticus 18:9 God puts the kibosh on that practice.

Of all the passages in Genesis up to this point, this chapter, from the Elohist (E) source, strikes me as the one that should have been put on the chopping block when Ezra the Redactor (R) compiled all of the documents into the Torah, and not because Abraham looks like he’s too stupid to have learned from his close call in Egypt, and not because Abraham has to admit to a sexual practice that is condemned later by the Law of Moses.

It’s because nine months after sleeping in the house of King Abilemech, Sarah gives birth to Isaac!


 

When the son of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, was over sixty years old, he emigrated to Gerar, whose king is named Abimelech. This king has a friend named Ahuzzath and captain of the guard named Phichol. Back about nine months before Isaac was born, Abraham saw a king of Gerar who was also named Abimelech, and by an amazing coincidence, that king also had a friend named Ahuzzath and captain of the guard named Phichol.

Nine months before Isaac’s mother became pregnant with Isaac she was a real hottie, only ninety years old and many years past menopause, and Abraham was afraid that someone in Gerar would try to kill him so they could scoop Sarah right up. So Abraham told everyone that Sarah was his sister. This didn’t work out too well, just like it didn’t work very well when Sarah was very young and Abraham took her to Egypt and tried the same trick.

He must have told Isaac about this trick, because Isaac grew worried that the Philistines will do him in so they can bag Rebecca, so he tells everyone in Gerar that his wife is really (wait for it….wait for it…) his sister!

The difference is that Abraham was smart enough never to be caught fondling his sister. Not the case for Isaac. Abimelech discovers Isaac snuggling with Rebecca (which is very cute, in a way, see picture above) and the king goes, “Aha! That’s not your sister, that’s really your wife!”

Now the last time when Abraham tried this stunt a second time, the wombs of all the women in Gerar were closed up as a “plague” to punish Abimelech for allowing himself to being deceived by Abraham’s lie, but the Lord told him if he begged Abraham to pray for him, he would be forgiven for believing the lie and the plague would be removed. This time, Abimelech didn’t even want to start down that road. He decreed that if anyone ever touched Rebecca in an inappropriate way, they would be put to death.

All this Bible stuff is of course rated G for kids.

HAGGLING WITH GOD

One time it was hot and Abraham was taking a nap in his tent. He stirred awake and saw Yahweh with two sidekicks standing outside. Abraham ran out there, bowed to the300px-Tissot_Abraham_and_the_Three_Angels ground, and begged them to stay long enough for him to bring refreshments. Then he told his woman to hurry up and make three cakes while he went out and fetched a calf for his servant to fry up real quick to be served with the cakes, and some butter and milk. And Abram stood there and watched them eat. Yahweh told Abraham that the next time he came around, Sarah would have a son.

Sarah laughed to herself when she heard this, and said, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (this being the days before Viagra). It was one thing to have Abraham laugh when promised this, but now Sarah too? Yahweh complained about this, and Sarah realized with fear that this was the Creator of heaven and earth she was laughing at, and she denied laughing. “Did not laugh!”

“Did too!”

Then Yahweh and his two companions started walking towards Sodom, and Abraham went along with them. They were great friends, you see, God and Abraham. And the LORD was a little troubled, because he was investigating whether or not he should destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and he debated with himself whether he should hide this thing from Abraham, because it might come across to Abraham as an injustice. For I know him, the LORD thought, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment…

Finally God told Abraham what he intended to do, if the reported wickedness of the cities turned out to be true.

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

What follows is an astonishing episode of negotiation, where Abraham dances right up to the edge of God’s forebearance. God agrees that if he can find just ten righteous men in Sodom, he will spare the whole city on their account. Abraham was concerned for the safety of his nephew Lot, but this was also a case of man reining in the apparent bloodthirstiness of God.

So in a way, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was also a test of Abraham, to see his qualities of “justice and judgment”.

And it is also a test of the qualities of justice and judgment of the reader, depending on whether they see Abraham or God as the hero of the story.

THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD OF HOSTS

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Moses was dead, but the real grunt-work of carving out a holy land for the chosen people was just beginning. Joshua was appointed to replace Moses as the leader of the Israelites. On the plains of Jericho before battle was given, the following scene took place:

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.’

No one knows who this Captain of the host of the Lord really was. He was at least as holy as the burning bush, because the voice in the burning bush told Moses to take off his shoes too. He was holier than a mere angel, since Joshua worshiped him and did not receive the same rebuke St. John received from an angel he tried to worship in Revelation 19:10. At the same time he was not the LORD of Hosts Himself, for what sovereign calls himself his own subordinate officer?

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