Friday Bible Blogging Archive

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 41 to Genesis 50

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 41 to 50 are the final ten chapters of Genesis - my first book down. They bring to a close the stories of Jacob and Joseph.

Genesis, Chapter 41

Pharaoh had a couple related dreams, one where seven "ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows," and another where seven "thin ears [of corn] swallowed up the seven plump and full ears." His magicians and wise men couldn't interpret the dreams for him, but the cup bearer finally remembered Joseph, so he was brought out of prison. Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams - there would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of drought and famine. Because he had two related dreams, it "means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about."

Pharaoh raised Joseph up to the highest position in Egypt next to Pharaoh himself, and put him in charge of collecting grain to prepare for the famine. Joseph got married and had children. And after seven years, the famine hit.

Genesis, Chapter 42

Jacob was feeling the effects of the famine back in Canaan, and so sent all of his remaining sons except the youngest, Benjamin (from the same mother as Joseph), to Egypt to ask for grain. They still didn't know that Joseph had survived, nor that he had such power. In Egypt, they didn't recognize Joseph when they saw him, but he certainly recognized them, and gave them 'special' treatment. First, he jailed all of them for a few days. Then, he agreed to let all of them return except Simeon. If they returned with the youngest brother, Benjamin, then Joseph would let Simeon go free. He loaded them up with grain for their return, but also with their money so that they would think God was cursing them (i.e. that they would think their money never went to Joseph and that he would be angry with them). Once back in Canaan, the brothers told Jacob what had happened, but he refused to let Benjamin leave, lest he die like he thought Joseph had, "If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to Sheol."

Genesis, Chapter 43

The famine continued, and Jacob had to send his sons to Egypt once again to ask for food, this time with Benjamin. Joseph released Simeon as he'd promised, and again gave them special treatment without revealing his identity. He brought them to his house to eat with them, and amazed them by having them seated according to their ages. Joseph had to leave for a bit when he first saw Benjamin as he was overcome with emotion.

Genesis, Chapter 44

Joseph again gave his brothers grain, and this time planted a silver cup in Benjamin's sack. He had his steward stop them and 'find' the cup, upon which it was said that Benjamin would be taken as a slave. The brothers were distraught, and Judah even pleaded to take him as a slave instead, so that Benjamin could go free to keep Jacob from being heartbroken. Apparently, this was a test to see if they would betray Benjamin like they had betrayed him, and they passed.

Genesis, Chapter 45

Once Judah offered himself in Benjamin's place, Joseph could no longer hold back. He finally revealed his true identity to his brothers. They were understandably worried about how he would treat them given what they had done to him, but he told them, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God." He loaded them down with gifts to take back to Canaan, with instructions to get their families and Jacob and bring them back to Egypt so that they could settle in Goshen. Jacob was stunned when he heard the news, "Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die."

Genesis, Chapter 46

Jacob/Israel and his sons left for Goshen, with Jacob having a vision from God on the way. There was a long paragraph on genealogy, and then everybody arrived in Goshen, though they didn't get a chance to settle there, just yet.

Genesis, Chapter 47

After telling Pharaoh that they were shepherds, Pharaoh gave Jacob and his sons permission to settle in Goshen. Then came a scene that seemed a bit odd. Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Egyptian Pharaohs were supposed to be living gods on Earth. It seems a bit presumptuous to try to bless a god.

After that, Genesis began to focus on the famine and its effect on the Egyptians and Canaanites. First, "Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought." Once they were out of money, they traded their livestock to Joseph in exchange for grain. The following year, when they had nothing else left to trade for grain, they gave Joseph and thus Pharaoh all of their lands and gave themselves over to be slaves. Only the priests were spared this fate. Following that, Joseph gave the Egyptians seeds to sow, but from then on, they would be obligated to give Pharaoh one fifth of their harvests.

In the final few verses, Jacob made Joseph promise that when he (Jacob) died, that Joseph would have him buried with his ancestors, not in Egypt.

Genesis, Chapter 48

Joseph took his sons to meet their grandfather. In preparation for a blessing, Joseph put the older son on Jacob's right side, and the younger on his left. When Jacob went to bless them, he crossed his hands. When Joseph pointed out that he was switching up the older/younger sons, Jacob replied, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations." This was another of the things that seemed odd from a modern perspective. It's just so much magic - that the hand you use to bless somebody can make a difference. And there was also the patriarchy mindset - that the order you're born in should have some influence on your standing in society.

Genesis, Chapter 49

Knowing that his time was short, Jacob called together his sons to give them some parting words. He predicted their futures, calling out those sons that had done wrong (including Simeon and Levi who started the violence against the Hivites in Chapter 34), and praising those that had acted righteously. "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, blessing each one of them with a suitable blessing. " After that, he made the request to all of them that he be buried back in the field that Abraham had bought. And after that, "When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. "

Genesis, Chapter 50

Joseph and his brothers took their father's body back to Canaan like he had requested, then returned to Egypt. Joseph had to once again reassure his brothers that he carried no grudge against them. The chapter and the book closed with the children of Jacob, i.e. the twelve tribes of Israel, living in Egypt, seemingly setting the scene for what's to follow in the book of Exodus. The final three verses read, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.' 25 So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, 'When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.' 26 And Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt."


The Book of Genesis seemed to go through a transition. It began, not exactly with the most grandiose of prose, but with a very grand scale - the entire universe and everything in it. In the early chapters, it's topics remained large, like the Tower of Babel. Even when it was discussing a single family like with Noah, it was in regards to an event that wiped out every other living thing from the Earth. But then it transitioned to being much more narrowly focused on a single family at a time when there were entire nations. God underwent a similar transition. In the earlier chapters, God was very human-like, actually walking amongst people and talking to them directly. There was even a story with God eating. But by the end of the book, God was revealing himself in dreams. His most explicit revelation in those later chapters was as a talking burning bush.

The feel of the book transitioned in parallel with those two points discussed above. The first few chapters of Genesis are very, very obviously not literally true. Aside from their conflict with our modern day understanding of the universe, they just feel mythical. But the later chapters feel a bit more believable. There's still magic and superheroes, but the basics of the story feel like they could have been based on actual events (unfortunately, there's still no evidence for those stories, so there's no way of knowing just how much truth there is to them).

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 31 to Genesis 40

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleAlong with continuing the story of Jacob, chapters 31 to 40 of Genesis include the start of the well known story of Joseph of many colored coat fame, though the NRSV translates it a little differently. Also included is the brief story of Onan, which was the inspiration for the term, onanism.

Genesis, Chapter 31

With tension building between Jacob and Laban, Jacob decided to leave and return to his home country. He left suddenly, without warning. His one wife, Rachel, stole her father's household gods on the way. Laban caught up to them on the road a few days later, and was angry about the gods being stolen. Jacob allowed him to search for them, but Rachel had hidden them in the saddle of her camel. When Laban came to her, she said, "Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me." After that, Laban and Jacob made their peace, made a covenant between them and sacrificed some animals to their gods, and then Jacob was on his way.

Genesis, Chapter 32

As he approached his homeland, Jacob worried about how his brother, Esau, would greet him. So he sent some of his servants ahead with a gift for Esau, "two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys," spacing them out so that Esau would get gift after gift after gift.

One of the stranger stories I've read in Genesis took place at the end of this chapter. After sending his wives and children on, Jacob spent the night by himself, "Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak." When the man saw that he was going to lose, he knocked Jacob's hip out of joint. When day was breaking and Jacob had the upper hand, he told the man, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." After asking Jacob for his name, the man responded, "You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed." There was a bit more exchange where Jacob asked the man for his name, but the man wouldn't tell him.

So once again, this part of the Bible presents a very anthropomorphic god - one who physically wrestled with someone. And not only that, the man was able to overpower God.

Genesis, Chapter 33

This was a short chapter. Jacob and Esau reunited, and it was a happy reunion.

This chapter had more of a just-so aspect that I haven't discussed much yet - place names. Sprinkled throughout what I've read so far are little statements of, 'so and so did such and such, and that's why the place is called what it is to this day'. For example, here's verse 17 of this chapter, "But Jacob journeyed to Succoth [meaning booths], and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth."

Genesis, Chapter 34

While out and about visiting women of the area, one of Jacob's daughters was seized by "Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region", who raped her and wanted to take her for a wife. The Israelites were understandably outraged, but met with the Hivites. Apparently acting 'deceitfully', they agreed to go along with the Hivite request only if all of the Hivite males would become circumcised. "Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people." While the Hivite males were still recovering from their procedures, two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, went in and slaughtered them all. Then, the rest of Jacob's sons went in to plunder the city, taking all of the women, livestock, wealth, etc. Simeon and Levi were at least called out for their violent ways, but it was because of their tactical mistake, "my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household." But still, this was a pretty horrible act committed by all of Jacob's sons, who instead of trying to right the wrong committed by their brothers, went in and plundered instead.

Genesis, Chapter 35

This chapter involved more moving around and more genealogy. A couple notable occurrences were the death of Rachel during childbirth, and one of Jacob's sons sleeping with one of Jacob's concubines.

This chapter contains a separate account of Jacob earning the name, Israel. "God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10 God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.' So he was called Israel." I guess this came from a different tradition than the one where he wrestled with God.

At the close of this chapter, Isaac died, with only 2 verses devoted to his death and burial.

Genesis, Chapter 36

This chapter was devoted almost entirely to genealogy. About the only 'action' was Esau moving to a new land "For their possessions were too great for them to live together; the land where they were living could not support them because of their livestock." And of course, since Esau's alias was Edom (see Chapter 25), his descendants became known as the Edomites.

Genesis, Chapter 37

Chapter 37 starts the story of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or rather, as the NRSV translates it, Joseph and his "long robe with sleeves". It's not quite as glamorous, but probably more accurate. Joseph, being the youngest son [correction - second youngest], was Jacob's favorite. In addition, he had dreams that foreshadowed him ruling over his brothers. For those reasons, his brothers became jealous of him and plotted to kill him. At the last, they decided to sell him into slavery, instead. Only one brother, Reuben, disapproved of what they had done. To cover their tracks, the brothers took his long sleeved robe, soaked it in goat's blood, and told their father that Joseph had been attacked and killed by a wild animal.

Genesis, Chapter 38

Here is a slight interlude from Joseph's story to focus on one of his brothers, Judah. This chapter is notable as being the inspiration for the term onanism. "Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death." So Judah told his other son, Onan, to "Go in to your brother's wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother." Onan wasn't too keen on making children that wouldn't be counted as his, so he 'pulled out', and "spilled his semen on the ground". This angered the Lord, so God put Onan to death, as well. So from this chapter, wasting semen without attempting to impregnate a woman, whether as coitus interruptus or as masturbation, has been termed onanism.

After Onan's death, Judah told the widow, Tamar, to wait on his other son, Shelah, to grow up and be old enough to marry her. This is where the story really begins to get interesting. Several years later, after Judah's wife had died, he went to Timnah to have his sheep sheared. Tamar heard he was coming, and also realized that she hadn't yet been married to Shelah even though he was old enough, so she went to a town on their way to meet them. Because "she had covered her face", Judah mistook her for a prostitute and propositioned her. He promised her a goat as payment, and for collateral until she actually got the goat, he gave her his signet, cord, and staff. After the deed was done, she left that town and returned home. When Judah sent a friend with the goat, she was nowhere to be found. Judah decided to cut his losses and let the 'prostitute' keep his things.

Three months later, there was a rumor that "Tamar has played the whore" and become pregnant. Judah called for her to be burned until she presented him with the signet, cord, and staff. Judah responded that "She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah", and he never slept with her again.

When it came time for her twins to be born, when the first stuck his hand out, a red thread was tied around it. But then, he pulled his hand back in, and the other twin came out first. They were named Perez (meaning breach) and Zerah (meaning brightness).

Genesis, Chapter 39

Chapter 39 got back to Joseph's story. He was sold to "Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian". Joseph did such a good job that Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife was taken with Joseph, and continually tried to seduce him. After repeatedly getting turned down, she finally framed him and had him thrown in her husband's prison. But "the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer." The chief jailer put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners, making his life about as good as it could be while still being locked up.

Genesis, Chapter 40

At one point, Pharaoh became angry with both his cup bearer and baker, and had them thrown into the same prison Joseph was in. "One night they both dreamed -- the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison -- each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning." Through the Lord, Joseph was able to interpret their dreams for them - that the cup bearer would be pardoned by Pharaoh and released in three days, while the baker would be condemned and hung, "and the birds will eat the flesh from you." Joseph asked the cup bearer to remember him once he was released. The future came to pass just as Joseph had predicted, but the cup bearer forgot about Joseph, and Joseph remained in prison.


I find myself jumping between different mindsets when reading these chapters. At times, I'll imagine that these people were real, and try to imagine what might have been happening in reality to make them think that they were interacting with the divine. Other times, I'll imagine that they were real but that the story had been passed on many times, and try to imagine what might have caused the legend to grow to what it became. Other times, I'll just read the story as entirely legendary without trying to think up historical inspirations.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 21 to Genesis 30

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleThe stories in Chapters 21 through 30 of Genesis are fairly well known, but not as familiar as the stories from the beginning of the book. Probably the mast famous (infamous) story from these chapters is the one where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (Chapter 22).

Genesis, Chapter 21

This chapter started out with Sarah having a son just as the Lord had promised, and Abraham named the son Isaac. Somewhat paralleling Chapter 16, Sarah again had Abraham exile Hagar, this time because Sarah didn't want Isaac to share his inheritance with Ishmael. Abraham was at least upset at Sarah's demand, but God himself told Abraham, "whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you." So Abraham sent her away with nothing but "bread and a skin of water". After wandering in the wilderness for a while and being on the verge of death from starvation and dehydration, God finally "opened her eyes" so that she could see a well. Then, in two short verses, it says that God stayed with Ishmael as he grew up.

That entire set of verses seems so callous to me. First, there's Abraham's abandonment of his own son. And God's only justification to Abraham of why it was okay was "it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you," as if carrying on the family name is more important than caring for your children. Then there was the manner in which he exiled her, kicking her out in the wilderness, without enough supplies to survive. Sure, God eventually came along and saved them, but it was only after they'd suffered enough to be on the verge of death. And the way God saved her was that he "opened her eyes". Is this implying that God was closing her eyes to the well before? That God was the one causing her suffering?

After that, King Abimelech made a pact with Abraham since Abimelech recognized that Abraham was blessed by God. There was a little bit of arguing about wells, during which Abraham gave Abimelech livestock, including seven ewe lambs "in order that you may be a witness for me that I dug this well."

Genesis, Chapter 22

This chapter will always hold a bit of special significance with me, because it was when listening to it one Sunday at church that I realized I was on the path to leaving Christianity. This chapter contains the story where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham took a small trip with Isaac and a few men to the land of Moriah. Once he saw the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, he told the men to stay behind, while he and Isaac went on. He even had Isaac carry the fire wood that was going to be used for the burnt-offering. When Isaac started to get suspicious and asked where the lamb was that they were going to sacrifice, Abraham lied and told his son that God would provide the lamb. Once they reached the mountain top and built the altar, Abraham bound up Isaac, and had the knife in hand, poised to kill his own son. It was only then at the last second that an angel of the Lord stopped him and revealed a ram caught in a thicket that he should sacrifice instead.

This story was supposed to show Abraham's utter devotion to God, "Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore." But when I was sitting there in the pew that Sunday years ago, I thought to myself that this story would have been much better if Abraham had refused God's command. It would have shown true love and devotion to his son to go up against impossible odds trying to defy a god. As it was, it was a horrific story. Thankfully, it's almost surely just a myth, but just imagine it from Isaac's point of view if something like that had actually happened, to be tied up by your father, and to see him coming at you with a knife.

One final point on this story, after God promised to make Abraham's descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore, he then promised, "And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies..." It just struck me as a bit violent. It was also in keeping with the theme I mentioned last week, that God in Genesis seems very provincial. If God was the creator of everybody, that would presumably include Abraham's enemies. Why would a creator be so uncaring of those particular people, allowing them to be conquered?

The chapter closed with a bit of genealogy listing the children of Milcah, both those of his wife and those of his concubine. This theme of multiple wives and concubines seems to be pretty common.

Genesis, Chapter 23

Sarah finally died at the ripe old age of 127 years old. Apparently, she and Abraham were no longer living together, because the previous chapter put Abraham in Beersheba while Sarah died while living in Kiriath-arba. One of the things that struck me about this was where the Biblical authors decided to focus their attention. I mean, in the previous 22 chapters leading up to this one, the book of Genesis hasn't been particularly detail filled. The first creation story, describing the creation of the entire heavens and earth and everything in the universe, took place in just one chapter. This was a whole chapter devoted almost solely to Abraham haggling with the Hittites over the cost of the land to bury his wife. It just seemed a bit odd.

Genesis, Chapter 24

In this chapter, Abraham sent his servant on a journey to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac from his kindred as opposed to the Canaanites. To bind the servant with an oath, Abraham told him to "Put your hand under my thigh 3 and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth..." There's actually a bit of a question on what this means. According to, some people think this is translated accurately and it really does mean his thigh. Other people think instead of the thigh, it means the 'organ of circumcision'. That's because an oath had to be sworn while holding something sacred, and a circumcised organ was considered sacred.

The rest of the chapter told of how the servant found Rebekah. Nothing too noteworthy here - he asked God for a sign (a pretty mundane one at that), and God gave him the sign that Rebekah was the girl for Isaac. He paid her family the appropriate gifts and took her back to Isaac. "Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death."

Genesis, Chapter 25

This chapter started with a very brief description of Isaac taking another wife and his descendants through her. That section ended with what has been the standard tradition through what I've read so far in Genesis - where one son is promised his father's entire inheritance, and all the other children, especially those of the concubines, are sent off, this time with gifts.

A brief mention was made of Abraham's death and burial alongside Sarah, before getting into more genealogy, including a very brief mention of Ishmael's death.

After that, the chapter began the story of Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. The start certainly seemed mythical - they were struggling against each other already in the womb symbolizing the struggle that would come later, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger." Esau, the elder of the twins, was described as very hairy and "a skilful hunter, a man of the field." Jacob was described as "a quiet man, living in tents." Esau was Isaac's favorite, while Rebekah favored Jacob.

The close of the chapter was the story of how Esau gave away his birthright to Jacob. Coming in from the fields extremely hungry, he found Jacob with a red stew. After Esau asked him for it, Jacob only agreed to share if Esau would give away his birthright. Esau, being impetuous, declared that since he was about to starve anyway, he had no need of a birthright. This story was also where Esau acquired the alias, Edom, which means red, in reference to his request for the stew.

Genesis, Chapter 26

Chapter 26 began with some strong parallels to Chapter 20, where just like Abraham, Isaac went to Gerar, and told King Abimelech that his wife was actually his sister. This time, however, nobody married Rebekah. They were found out when Abimelech "looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah." After that, Abimelech warned his people not to marry Rebekah, and Isaac settled in the land. However, after becoming too successful, the Philistines became envious and King Abimelech sent him away.

This was followed by some more parallels to Abraham's story, with Isaac arguing with the Philistines over some wells. After that, in a brief blurb of only three verses, Isaac was visited by the Lord and told that he would be blessed, so he made an altar at the location to commemorate it. This was followed by another parallel to Abraham, where Isaac made a pact with King Abimelech.

The chapter closed with Isaac marrying two more women.

Genesis, Chapter 27

This chapter contains yet another story from the Bible that appears odd from a modern perspective. Isaac was old and blind, and knew he was not much longer for this world. So he called his favorite son, Esau, and told him to go out hunting to catch him some of the wild game that he (Isaac) liked to eat, and that he would bless Esau upon his return from the hunt. Rebekah overheard this, and decided she would use this information to help her favorite son, Jacob. She made the type of "savoury food" that Isaac liked, and put furs on Jacob to mimic his brother's hairy skin. Then she told him to go into his father's tent and pretend to be his brother to get his blessing. The plan worked, and Jacob stole Esau's blessing. When Esau showed up at his father's tent, both he and Isaac realized what Jacob had done, but it was too late. When Esau asked for a blessing of his own, Isaac told him that he had no blessing left to give, "Your brother came deceitfully, and he has taken away your blessing." Esau was understandably upset about all this, and started talking of killing his brother once he got a chance after Isaac died. Rebekah heard of his plans, and sent Jacob away, not to return until Esau had calmed down.

There were a few points about this story that struck me. First was the deceitfulness from one of the heroes of the Bible, Jacob. In fact, in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) that I have, they specifically likened this story to the trickster motif.

What struck me more, though, was how somebody could steal somebody else's blessing. It really seems like magic, like Isaac only had so much power, and he used it all up on Jacob, leaving nothing for Esau. But what's really strange from a modern Christian perspective is that Isaac asked God to bless Isaac. Was Isaac so powerful that he could demand God to do things? And shouldn't God have known of the deception? It seems a bit silly to think that a few furs and old clothes would have been able to fool the Almighty into giving you a blessing that belonged to somebody else. Or if God was the one doing the blessing, then why would it have mattered how many people had been blessed previously? Shouldn't God have had the power to bless as many people as he wanted?

Genesis, Chapter 28

Due to Rebekah's comment to him in the close of the previous chapter, Isaac sent Jacob away to find a wife that wasn't a Canaanite, but rather "one of the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother." I response, "when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac," he went and took another wife, one of the daughters of Ishmael.

One night during his trip, when using a stone as a pillow, Jacob had a dream where he was visited by the Lord, and received God's promise that he would be blessed. So Jacob "took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it," and called the place Bethel.

The part of this story that struck me was Jacob's reaction to the dream, "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God..." His acceptance of God was contingent on God first being good to him. This is certainly counter to what I'd been taught many times, that you shouldn't put the Lord to the test. And reiterating a point I've written in previous entries, by saying that "the Lord shall be my God," it seems to be implying that there are other options, that perhaps there were other gods Jacob could have chosen.

Genesis, Chapter 29

Chapter 29 begins the telling of Jacob's relationship with Laban. It started with Jacob meeting Rachel, the daughter of Laban. This story had an air of legend about it. There was a well covered by a big stone. The shepherds of the area would get together to move the stone out of the way to get access to the well. When Jacob saw Rachel approaching with her livestock and asked a few shepherds about moving the stone so that she could water her animals, they said they'd have to wait for more people to show up - presumably because it was too heavy for the few of them there. So Jacob went and moved the stone by himself, demonstrating a feat of superhuman strength.

After the story by the well, Jacob went on to actually meet Laban. Jacob agreed to work for Laban for 7 years in exchange for the marriage of Rachel at the end of his service. However, unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban gave him Leah on his wedding night. Presumably due to her veil and then the darkness, Jacob didn't realize he'd been tricked until the next morning after he'd already consummated the marriage. After being confronted, Laban agreed to give Jacob Rachel as well, but only after Jacob finished out his week with Leah (a honeymoon week?), and only if Jacob agreed to work for Laban for another 7 years. Jacob agreed, got Rachel, and consequently stayed in the service of Laban.

The chapter closed with God blessing Leah because she was unloved and giving her three sons while making Rachel barren.

One thing that struck me about this chapter more so than the previous chapters I've read is the mindset of women as property. Jacob negotiated with Laban on which daughter he was going to marry. There was no mention of either Rachel or Leah's wishes in the matter.

Genesis, Chapter 30

The beginning of this chapter continued the childbearing from the close of the previous chapter with almost a competition between Rachel and Leah. First, when Rachel realized that she was barren but saw Leah giving Jacob so many children, she gave Jacob her maid so that Jacob could have children with the maid. Leah countered by giving Jacob her maid. After that was some bickering between Rachel and Leah, with Leah birthing more children, and then finally, Rachel conceived and gave birth to a child of her own.

After all of that, Jacob approached Laban, saying that he was ready to return to his homeland. But first, since he had spent so many years working for someone else, he needed an opportunity to build up his own household. They made a deal that Jacob could keep "every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats" from Laban's flocks. Being a bit sneaky, Laban went and "removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons" three day's journey from the flocks Jacob was in charge of. But that didn't faze Jacob, because he had a plan on how to make the livestock give birth to striped, spotted, and speckled babies. He took "fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them", and then set those in front of the livestock when they were breeding, which in turn affected the appearance of their babies. Of course, this makes no sense from a modern perspective, but the ancient writers of Genesis had no understanding of genetics and wouldn't have questioned this story.

Jacob did another practice that makes sense if you assume that the branches had the effect the Genesis writers claimed - he only put the sticks out when the strongest of the flocks were breeding, but not when the weaker ones were. That way, he got the offspring of the stronger animals, while Laban was left with the offspring of the weaker ones.

In the last verse of the chapter, we learn that thanks to his creative breeding practices, Jacob became a very wealthy man.


After sharing my impressions of the Bible in the previous two installments of this series, I don't have much to add this time. These stories don't present a very grand portrayal of Yahweh, and it's pretty clear that what I've read so far is a collection of legends, not an actual history nor metaphors with profound meaning (though some of the stories do have meaning a bit deeper than face value).

I noticed that this week's entry was a bit longer than the previous ones, because I gave a bit more of a synopsis for each chapter. I'll try to be briefer next week.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 11 to Genesis 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleToday's entry contains several familiar stories from the Bible, such as the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and God's covenant with Abraham.

Genesis, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 started with the Tower of Babel story. This is another of the odd stories from the beginning of Genesis. First, it starts off by describing all the people of the time as having a single language, when the previous chapter described people having different languages. Then, it described them building a tower that could reach the heavens. Like the first creation story, this seems in line with a view where the world was flat and covered by an actual dome. Verse 5 describes God coming down to see the city. This is in line with a physical god who actually travels from place to place. It's also counter to most Christians current belief in an omniscient god - why would he have to come down to get a closer look if he was already all knowing? And then, in verse 7, there's language indicating that the Lord is one of multiple gods, "Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech." And like many of the chapters I've read so far, this has the feel of a just-so story, explaining why there are so many languages in the world.

Most of the rest of the chapter was genealogy. The last few verses introduce Abram and Sarai and a few of their relations.

Genesis, Chapter 12

This is where the story of Abram/Abraham really gets started, where God calls Abram to leave his home country and promises to "make of you a great nation".

When Abram arrived at the land of Canaan, God promised "To your offspring I will give this land." This seemed a little odd, since the Canaanites were already living there. I guess this is just part of the Canaanites' punishment for what Canaan did all those years ago in Chapter 9.

But Abram hasn't been given Canaan, yet. That's a promise for the future. In this chapter, due to a famine, Abram took his family to Egypt. Upon his arrival, out of fear that the Egyptians would kill him to steal his wife, Sarai posed as his sister. The Egyptian pharaoh, impressed by her beauty, took her for a wife. So, after being lied to about her availability, the pharaoh and his house were punished by God with plagues for taking Abram's wife. This seems rather harsh - punishing someone for something he didn't even know he was doing wrong, and then punishing others close to him for a 'sin' they had nothing to do with.

I'll mention here that when I read the notes in the back of The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb, I learned of an interesting if somewhat questionable interpretation of this story and of Sarah's barrenness. As put forth by Savina J. Teubal in her book, Sarah The Priestess, these are vestiges of a prior tradition. Sarah was a priestess in a matriarchal tradition. She was childless not because of infertility, but because priestesses were barred from having children. Further, her marriages with the kings they visited with were a type of hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. According to Teubal, these stories were modified as authority was transferred to a patriarchal tradition. You can read more about that theory, along with other interpretations, at My Jewish Learning - Sarah in the Bible.

Genesis, Chapter 13

After leaving Egypt, Lot and Abram went their separate ways. Their flocks and possessions were just so great that "the land could not support both of them living together". Abram stuck to Canaan, while Lot went to the plain of Jordan and settled near Sodom.

I was struck by one verse in this chapter, in how it relates to those people who argue that the creation story of Genesis was dumbed down because primitive people wouldn't have been able to understand the true history of the universe. One of the parts of this argument as I commonly hear it is that primitive people wouldn't have been able to comprehend how ancient the universe is. But just consider verse 16 from this chapter, "I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted." If Yahweh could have used a metaphor like that here, why not in describing how old the universe is?

Genesis, Chapter 14

This chapter began with a description of fighting between different kings, leading to Lot being taken prisoner. Once Abram learned of his nephew's predicament, he took 318 of "his trained men, born in his house" to rescue him. The rescue was successful, and they even returned the King of Sodom's possessions to him. This supposedly wicked king then graciously offered for Abram to keep all of the goods and just return the people, but Abram refused "so that you might not say, 'I have made Abram rich.' "

Genesis, Chapter 15

In this chapter, God promised to Abram that his descendants (and not his slave) will inherit the promised land, but not after spending 400 years "in a land that is not theirs". This chapter also had a bit of animal sacrifice, cutting in half a 3 year old heifer, a 3 year old goat, and a 3 year old ram, and also sacrificing a turtle dove and a pigeon. I know I'll get to read much more about animal sacrifice in Leviticus, but these parts just make no sense from most modern Christian perspectives. Of what possible use could animal sacrifice be to an omnipotent, omniscient god? And why would animals be forced to suffer? To me, these parts just make it more clear that the stories come from more primitive sources.

Genesis, Chapter 16

When Sarai couldn't have children, she convinced Abram to take her slave-girl, Hagar, and conceive a child with her. But once Hagar was pregnant, she got a little haughty with Sarai, so Sarai chased her off. In the wilderness, an angle came up to Hagar, told her to return to and submit to Sarai, and prophesized that her son, whom she shall call Ishmael, will have a bit of a rough time, but also that she would have plenty of descendants. Actually, the wording here was, "The angel of the Lord also said to her, 'I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.'" I found that a bit interesting, because it was the angel promising to multiply her offspring, not God himself.

And what does this chapter have to say about traditional marriage? That it's okay to marry more than one woman if the first one can't give you children?

Genesis, Chapter 17

This is where God made the big covenant with Abram and renamed him Abraham (Abram translates as exalted ancestor while Abraham means ancestor of a multitude). God promised that Abraham would be a father of nations and kings, gave Abraham and his offspring the land of Canaan, and demanded that "Every male among you shall be circumcised." God also renamed Sarai as Sarah, and promised that she would have a son who shall be named Isaac. Further, even though God would ensure that Ishmael would be blessed and made a great nation, it was Isaac with whom God was establishing this covenant.

In the discussion of circumcision, the bible made mention of "all the men of his house, slaves born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner". I know I've heard of people saying that slaves in the Bible were really servants, but this discussion of buying them as property puts to rest that claim.

Genesis, Chapter 18

At the start of this chapter, God and a couple of his friends (angels, maybe? or maybe other gods from an earlier version of the myth?) came to visit Abraham. This is another of those locations where God was presented in a very physical manner. Not only did Abraham talk of them washing their feet, but he had Sarah and his servants prepare a meal for them, "and he stood by them under the tree while they ate."

Then God promised that Sarah would have a son. Sarah, being an old woman past menopause, was a bit incredulous, but God called her out and insisted that she would have a son.

From there, the chapter moved on to the start of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. There were a few strange aspects of that. First was God discussing with himself whether or not to tell Abraham of what he was about to do. It almost reads like this was originally a conversation between the three gods, but has been massaged to make only the Lord speaking. But when he told Abraham of what he was planning to do, he said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! 21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." This certainly doesn't sound like the omniscient God that most Christians believe in. He only heard of what was happening in the cities due to the outcry, and he was going to investigate in person to see if it was really true.

Next comes the somewhat famous exchange where Abraham tries to defend Sodom. He began by saying, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?", to which the Lord replied that he would forgive the city for the sake of fifty. Abraham continued going by lower and lower increments, until he got God to agree not to destroy the city for the sake of ten righteous. This story had the sense of Abraham being clever, getting a god to change its plans (almost like a trickster character). And that shows a god that wasn't sure of himself, since he was able to be persuaded.

Genesis, Chapter 19

When the two angels arrived in Sodom, they were met by Lot, and upon his urging, went to spend the night in his house. Next comes the infamous scene, where "the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man" came to Lot's house and demanded to have the two angels so that they could 'know' them. And what was Lot's heroic response? "Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please..." But since Lot was a foreigner, his interference angered the Sodomites, and things were about to get really ugly when the angels dragged Lot back into the house and afflicted the Sodomites with blindness so that they couldn't find their way in. The angels then told Lot what they were going to destroy Sodom, and for him to get any relatives out the city. This included his sons-in-law who were engaged to his daughters (one wonders if they were a part of the angry mob outside his house), but the sons-in-law didn't believe him.

At daybreak, the angels took Lot, his wife, and his daughters out of the city. The angels told them to flee the plain entirely, but Lot convinced the angels to let them instead escape to the city of Zoar. The angels had also given a warning not to look back. Unfortunately, Lot's wife did look back as the Lord was raining "sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven" onto the plain, at which point she promptly turned into a pillar of salt. It's possible this is a just-so story to explain the creation of Mount Sodom, which is made up almost entirely of rock salt. Otherwise, it's an odd punishment.

After this destruction, Lot settled with his daughters in a cave in the hills. They must have been out in the middle of nowhere, because there were no men for the daughters to marry. So instead, they got Lot drunk and slept with him to become pregnant (each on a different night, because apparently a father daughter threesome would have just been too weird). Their sons were named Moab, "ancestor of the Moabites to this day", and Ben-ammi, "ancestor of the Ammonites to this day".

Genesis, Chapter 20

Chapter 20 gets back to Abraham. In Gerar, Abraham and Sarah pulled the sister stunt again, and King Abimelech of Gerar took Sarah as his wife. This time, at least, God used his power to prevent the king from touching Sarah and sinning, and warned him in a dream of the dangers. So Abimelech gave Sarah back to Abraham, and when confronted, Abraham defended himself in part by saying that it wasn't a complete lie because Sarah was his step sister. To make amends for his unwitting sin, Amibelech gave "sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves" to Abraham along with 1000 pieces of silver and permission to settle anywhere on his land. And then, in the final two verses, it came out that "the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife", so Abram prayed for Abimelech, his wife, and female slaves to be healed, which God did. Just like in Chapter 12, this seems a harsh punishment for somebody who had no idea that they were doing wrong.


The thing that struck me most reading these chapters was that Yahweh looks to be a very provincial god. From a modern Christian perspective, God is supposedly the creator of the heavens and earth, of all the stars and planets in our galaxy, and the countless other galaxies in the universe, and maybe even entire other universes. Yet here he is in these chapters, walking around to different cities to see for himself with his own eyes how their citizens are behaving. And the whole concept of picking one man to make a covenant with, and then following him around just seems so small. I mean, he's taken this interest in Abraham and his descendents, but seems to show almost no interest in the other peoples. Heck, he basically just ignores the Canaanites when he promises their land to Abraham. But if I try to imagine what the myth might have been like long ago, it would make more sense if Yahweh was one of many gods, and that this particular god chose one person to make an allegiance with. Because in that scenario, there would have been other gods concerned with other peoples. It wouldn't have been the creator of the universe focusing on one guy while ignoring everybody else.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Bible Blogging - Genesis 1 to Genesis 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleThis week's entry covers the first ten chapters of Genesis. This includes some of the best known stories from the Bible - the seven day creation story, the Garden of Eden creation story, temptation, Cain and Abel, and Noah's Ark.

Genesis, Chapter 1

This is the famous seven day creation story, the first of two separate creation stories in Genesis. I've already covered it in detail in the essay, Problems With Day-Age Interpretation of Genesis (also available as a blog entry if you want to comment on it). I also discussed it in my review of an old book, God- or Gorilla, in the sections on Chapters 24 & 25 and Appendices, Part I. Of course, a literal interpretation of this story is completely counter to what we have learned of the true history of the universe, and as discussed in the above links, figurative and allegorical interpretations don't do much to save the accuracy of the story.

If you step outside of a modern perspective and read this story on its own, it seems to be describing a much different world than what we know to be the case. This is discussed in detail at It looks as if the ancient Hebrews believed the land was more or less flat, surrounded by an ocean. The sky was an actual discrete physical dome above the Earth. Stars were points of light embedded in the dome. Above the dome was water (hence the blue color, and why rain would fall from the sky). It is an interesting, if incorrect, view.

Genesis, Chapter 2

This was the second creation story in the Bible, the one that took place in the Garden of Eden. This time, God created Adam first (out of clay), and then created all the animals, letting Adam name them. This had a feel of a just-so story, on how all the animals got their names. There's also the line about Eve being made from one of Adam's ribs, giving rise to the false belief that women have one more rib than men.

Genesis, Chapter 3

This is the chapter where the serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the type of fruit is never actually specified). This is one of those stories that is just weird when you think about it too much. A god creates people, and tells them not to do something. But apparently, they don't yet have any conception of right and wrong, as evidenced by the fact that they're unashamed to run around naked. So when they do commit an action that's wrong, not knowing that it was wrong beforehand, they get punished for it, and punished rather severely. And then, in verses 22 and 23, it's shown that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden not because they've eaten the forbidden fruit, but because they might next eat from the tree of life and become like the gods.

This chapter shows a very physical god, that Adam and Eve could hear walking in the garden. This chapter also has a bit of the just-so feel, in explaining why snakes don't have any legs.

Genesis, Chapter 4

This chapter contained the story of Cain and Abel, which I'm sure most people know. As is often pointed out in discussions of this chapter - who was Cain afraid of, when his parents were supposedly the first two people?

There's yet again a just-so aspect, in verses 20 to 22, explaining where different groups of people came from. For example, "Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock." For someone trying to literally accept the Bible as a whole, these three verse do seem a bit odd, since supposedly everybody but Noah's family is going to be killed in just a few more chapters.

Genesis, Chapter 5

This was one of those genealogy sections that I just skimmed through, listing the descendants of Adam and their life spans. The only thing that stood out was Enoch. Every other person mentioned went something like, "Thus all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died." Always ending with, "and he died." But for Enoch, it went, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him." Although nothing else is mentioned of Enoch in the Old Testament, extra-Biblical sources (such as The Book of Enoch) have Enoch being taken directly to heaven without ever dying.

Genesis, Chapter 6

This chapter started with a little hanky panky going on between angels and mortals, "when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them."

Then the chapter jumped into the story of Noah. Of course, this is the Hebrew variation of the Mesopotamian Flood Myth. Earlier versions include Gilgamesh and the even older Sumerian creation myth.

And of course, there is no way that the flood story is plausible. But rather than spending a lot of time critiquing that here, I'll just link to this article on the TalkOrigins Archive, Problems with a Global Flood, Second Edition.

The Noah story in the Bible starts with one of the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition that I consider to be one of the worst, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually." On a whole, people are not bad, and it gives people needless guilt to be constantly told that they are so, especially if they believe that the message is coming from their creator. That's not to say that people never do bad things, but there are lots of examples of benevolent actions to balance the scales, and in my opinion, to actually tip the scales in favor of people being more or less good. We just wouldn't have survived as a social species without cooperation and good deeds.

So far as of this chapter, God has only instructed Noah to take two of every kind of animal.

Genesis, Chapter 7

At the start of this chapter, God instructed Noah to take "seven pairs of all clean animals" and "and a pair of the animals that are not clean", not just the pair of every animal that he'd instructed just a few verses before.

Then the floodwaters came - forty days and forty nights of rain and fountains bursting forth from the deep. "21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died."

Now, I know most people don't stop and think too much about this story. Children's books show Noah, his family, and the elephants and giraffes surviving happily on their boat. But just stop and imagine if something like this had actually happened. Think of all the newborn babies, toddlers, precocious seven year olds, expectant mothers, new mothers, proud fathers, newlyweds. Think of the puppies and kittens and baby koalas and cute cuddly polar bear cubs. Think of the hawks and eagles and their fledgling chicks. Think of the ants, and frogs, and freshwater fish. Think of all the life on the entire planet save one boatload full. And now think of them watching the floodwaters come, the fear they felt as they kept climbing to higher ground, wondering when the rising waters would stop. The terror when they finally realized that the waters were going to swallow them, and there was nothing they could do about it. The desperation of trying to save their children, of looking for something, anything, to keep them afloat and keep them from drowning.

Now, I know this story never actually happened, and a good chunk of the Christians in this country don't take it literally. But it really does present a tyrannical monster who caused suffering on an almost unimaginable scale.

Genesis, Chapter 8

The flood waters finally receded, and when a dove finally came back with an olive leaf in its beak, Noah knew the flood was over. So what was the first thing Noah did when got off the ark? He built an altar and slaughtered "of every clean animal and of every clean bird" (when so many species were already on the verge of extinction). Imagine the rivers of blood. And then he burned them, creating a "pleasing odour" to the Lord, who decided that maybe he wouldn't cause a planet wide massacre again.

Genesis, Chapter 9

This chapter wrapped up the flood story with yet another just-so story, explaining where rainbows come from. They are, apparently, God's promise "that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

This chapter also contains the curse of Canaan (also known as the curse of Ham), which was apparently a justification for how the Hebrews would treat the Canaanites, but it's a bit of a bizarre story. Noah had made himself a vineyard, and went and got drunk off of his wine. He got so drunk he passed out naked in his tent. His son, Ham, noticed that he was naked, and went out to tell his brothers. The two other brothers cover up their father with a blanket, apparently walking into the tent backwards so that they wouldn't see him naked. Now, the Bible is not very detailed in the recounting of this story, but I can just imagine something like this happening. A guy gets too drunk and passes out in an embarrassing manner, and one of his sons finds him and goes off snickering to share it with his brothers. The brothers, being a bit more mature, cover up their father instead of just laughing along. But then the story goes off the rails of what you'd expect for a reasonable reaction. When Noah finally came to, he was furious with Ham for pointing out the situation to his brothers, and called down a curse on Ham's son, "Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers." Not only is it a huge overreaction to make someone a slave for being laughed at drunk and passed out, but he punished the son instead of the father. And Noah was supposed to be "a righteous man, blameless in his generation."

And just for the record, this is the first, though certainly not the last, mention of slaves in the Bible. And note that it's to condemn somebody to slavery, not to condemn of forbid the practice itself.

Genesis, Chapter 10

This was another genealogy section, listing the descendants of Noah. Again, it seems like a just-so story, explaining where all the different peoples came from. For example, "These are the descendants of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations." I found that mention of "with their own language" to be interesting, since this seems to be an attempt to explain where all the different languages of the world came from, but I know that there's another story coming up soon with the Tower of Babel that attempts to explain the same thing.


So, after reading the first ten chapters, I can say that even after this little bit, I definitely have a different impression than when I read the Bible as a believer. I don't see it as a coherent work written by a single author. It seems to be pretty clear that it's an amalgamation of many different stories, sometimes even seeming to be combining different versions of the same story. It reminds me of papers, proposals, and school projects I've seen where someone cuts and pastes from the input of a few people to make the final product, still leaving rough edges between the snippets.

So far, I don't foresee this exercise doing anything to win me back to religion. In fact, reading the Bible with clear eyes is probably doing more to reinforce the fact that it's not a divinely inspired book. I know many of my comments throughout this project are going to be pointing out absurdities and oddities, but I do still find parts of the Bible interesting. It's a bit like reading about the labors of Hercules or the exploits of the Hero Twins in the Popol Vuh. The difference is that I'm not surrounded by a society that believes two young Mayans fed Seven Macaw poisoned meat and then buried him forever. It's because so many people do take the Biblical myths seriously that I'm going to be a bit more critical with it than other mythologies.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Selling Out