Sunday, January 31, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 7-12

The plagues. Which, if you will recall, god has called down on Pharaoh for refusing to release the Israelites. Which god caused him to do.

Chapter 7

God comes back and tells Moses that he and Aaron are going to speak to Pharaoh again, and eventually Pharaoh is going to give in. He promises again to harden Pharaoh's heart and rain down plagues as punishment. After that, they Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD (v. 5). Somehow, I think Pharaoh isn't the only crazy boss in this book.

Moses is now 80, and Aaron 83, which isn't particularly helpful, as we don't know how old they were when this started. God comes to them again and says that Pharaoh is going to ask them for a miracle. They're to do the trick with the rod-as-serpent. They do, and Pharaoh calls up his magicians, who do the same trick, but luckily Aaron's serpent eats all the others.

God hardens Pharaoh's heart again, and then points it out to Moses. He tells him to go down to the river when Pharaoh is bathing and to smite the river so the water turns to blood, which will kill the fish and it will smell and nobody will want to drink it. He tells him to stretch out his hand and this will happen to all the water in Egypt.

Everything goes as predicted, and then for some reason, the Egyptian magicians also turn the waters to blood and nobody can drink. Pharaoh's response is to go into his room and sulk. The Egyptians dig wells all over, but can't find water. This goes on for a week.

So that's the first plague, the plague of blood.

Chapter 8


Jerry does have one useful thing to say about all of these plagues, that they are directed against specific Egyptian deities. If only all of his commentary could be that informative, rather than trying to justify his worldview. This particular plague is against the fertility goddess Heket, who was depicted as a woman with a frog's head. She breathed life into the bodies that her husband fashioned out of clay. So these frogs, normally a sign of fertility, were transformed by the Israelite god into a blight. See, now that's the kind of interesting historical fact that I want to get out of reading this book!

God tells Moses to go again to Pharaoh and threaten him with frogs, frogs everywhere. The magicians do the same thing. Why, exactly? Anyway, Pharaoh calls them to him and says that if god takes the frogs away, he'll let them go make their sacrifices. Moses, stupid fool, doesn't get it in writing, and asks when Pharaoh wants the critters gone. Uh, tomorrow? Moses goes and tells god about the agreement. Of course, Pharaoh forgot to say where the frogs should go, so they all just kind of die where they are, which stinks. Pharaoh renegs on his agreement, possibly of his own accord here.

His punishment is that Moses and Aaron are now to smite the dust of the land so it becomes lice. Gross! The magicians try this one, but aren't able to, so they admit to Pharaoh that it's the finger of god. Pharaoh's heart was hardened (v. 19), so it would seem god is acting upon him again. He just loves the punishment, doesn't he?

God tells Moses that he's to go to Pharaoh and threaten him again, or the next punishment will be flies, but only for the Egyptians. Goshen will be left alone. It happens, and the land is corrupted (v. 24). Pharaoh relents a little and says they can go sacrifice some sheep. Now it isn't good enough, because the Egyptians think sacrifices are an abomination (and really, who disagrees?) and they'll stone them. They have to go into the wilderness for three days. Pharaoh agrees, as long as they don't go too far. He even asks them to make a sacrifice for them. So Moses agrees to call off the flies the next day, but he's smarter now and Makes Pharaoh promise to hold to his promise, but still doesn't get it on paper. God does as asked, and Pharaoh again goes back on his word, this time of his own volition.

Chapter 9

God tells Moses again to go to Pharaoh, this time to threaten him with murrain (v. 3), which is an unspecified livestock disease. The Israelites will again be spared. Apparently, this was an insult to several Egyptian gods, and the Egyptian practice of animal worship, which of course most cat owners are familiar with. Pharaoh has his heart hardened for him, and all the livestock die.

God tells Moses and Aaron to go gather some ashes, then throw it in the air in Pharaoh's sight. The ashes will turn to dust which will raise boils on all the men and remaining animals (presumably the ones that didn't die). The magicians have no response to this, they can't even get up the boils are so painful. God hardens Pharaoh's heart again.

God tells Moses to go again and threaten Pharaoh with even more plagues, so the Egyptians will know there is none like me in all the earth (v. 13). This time he'll sent pestilence against the people. He says he has done this to Pharaoh as a demonstration of his own power, and to make himself more famous but Pharaoh has only exulted himself and refused to let the Israelites go. Prima donnas, these two.

So God says tomorrow he's going to send hail, so he'd better put the cattle (which he just killed, mind) in the barns and harvest the crops today. Some of the Egyptians have learned by now, and they do as they're told, but not all. And Moses stretches out his hands and brings forth the hail.

Is everyone out there familiar with the Milgram experiments, in which people in lab coats told participants to electrocute another 'participant' (who was really a collaborator), whenever they got a wrong answer, and they did, even when the other person complained about his heart condition, screamed, and ceased to respond? 26 out of 40 continued to the very end, administering 450-volt shocks, though all expressed discomfort at doing so. Moses has no compunctions here about unleashing all of these plagues on his fellow human beings. Just pointing this out.

The plague is more than hail, it's also fire, and it kills every man, beast, plant and tree, except in Goshen. Pharaoh calls them to him again and says he has sinned, the lord is righteous and his people are wicked. He asks them to ask god to end the plagues, and they can go. Moses still doesn't get it in writing and promises to go ask God to end the hailstorms. He also says he knows Pharaoh still isn't a true believer, and that even though the flax and barley have been destroyed, the wheat and rye weren't. Moses leaves and the storms end, and god hardens Pharaoh's heart yet again, and the people of Israel still aren't free.

Chapter 10

God sends Moses to Pharaoh once again. He tells Moses that he's mostly doing this to be remembered. As what, a mass murderer? It just occurred to me that Pharaoh is a lot like the movie Being John Malkovitch here. He's never in control of his own brain.

So Moses and Aaron go yet again and ask him how much longer he's going to refuse to humble himself in front of the lord, and to let the Israelites go. If he doesn't do it by tomorrow, the next plague will be locusts, which will eat everything the hail didn't kill. Pharaoh's servants are convinced, and Pharaoh calls them to him and tells them they can go but also wants to know who's going with them. Moses says they all need to be there. Pharaoh says only the men.

God tells Moses to call forth the locusts, and they eat everything. Then a powerful wind comes up and brings the locusts, which darken the land (an insult to the sun god, Ra), which eat everything green. Pharaoh calls them and admits that he has sinned against all of them. He asks them to get god to lift the plague. He does, and the locusts are swept into the sea. But god hardens Pharaoh's heart again.

God makes the darkness explicit and snuffs out the sun for three days. Only the Israelites have light. Pharaoh lets them all go, men, women, children, but no animals. Moses says they need the animals to sacrifice. God hardens Pharaoh's heart again. Pharaoh kicks him out, saying if he sees him again, he'll kill him. Moses says buh-bye.

Chapter 11

God isn't finished yet. He tells Moses that he's got one more plague, and this one will finally convince Pharaoh, and he'll not only let the Israelites go, he'll kick them out. He tells Moses to go to his people and tell them to borrow their neighbour's silver and gold. We are told that the lord favours the Israelites and especially Moses.

Moses says that god has told him he intends to go out at midnight and all the first-born sons in Egypt, from Pharaoh's kid to the maidservant. He's also going to kill the firstborn animals. The people of Egypt will cry, but not the Israelites, because they'll be spared. This will finally convince the people to bow down to him and send them away. He tells Moses and Aaron to threaten Pharaoh with even more monstrous deeds if he doesn't listen. And of course god hardens Pharaoh's heart. What do they tell Christians about this in Sunday school? Guess what, kids? Our god is a mass murderer of children! Just so he can be more famous! Of course Jerry has nothing to say on this except that it's a disaster for the Egyptians.

Chapter 12

God tells Moses and Aaron that he is resetting the calendar from today. In 10 days' time all the families of Egypt are to take a lamb, borrowing one if necessary. It's to be a pretty lamb, male, under a year, either a sheep or a goat. They'll fatten it for 4 days, then kill it on the last evening. They're to take the blood and paint the doors, then eat the meat. They can roast it, and spice it and eat it with unleavened bread. They may not eat it raw, or boil it. They have to leave it intact, and if they don't finish it, they have to burn the remains. They have to eat it in haste, dressed and ready to go. The reason: that night he's going to go through Egypt, killing all the first-born sons in the houses with unpainted doors. That's why Jews eat lamb at Passover! What a heartening story to tell your children!

He tells them to keep this day as a sacred feast. Afterwards, they're to eat unleavened bread for seven days, and to kick out anyone who eats the leavened kind. They have to have sermons on the first and last days, and no work except cooking can be done. He's very strong on the leavening part, going on for 4 verses about it before Moses cuts him off. Moses gives these instructions to the Israelite leaders.

God then does as he said he would, and all Jerry has to say about this mass slaughter of children is that the Pharaoh he has chosen as best fitting his biblical time frame, Amenhotep II, was succeeded by Thutmose IV, who was not his firstborn son, so it must be true, even though we don't know what happened to the firstborn, and he doesn't cite any other references to any of the other plagues.

The Egyptians cry, as anyone would, and Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron to him. He tells them to leave with their children and herds. They go taking their unleavened dough, and they 'borrow' their neighbours' silver and gold, and they also plunder. Then they leave.

Six hundred thousand people go, and they bake the unleavened bread. They had been there for 430 years, and people still celebrate that night.

God tells Moses and Aaron that no strangers can eat at the Passover feast unless they are circumcised. They have to eat everything themselves, no giving food to neighbours.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5

This is pretty clearly a labour dispute, as far as I can see. Moses and Aaron are kind of primitive labour organizers, Pharaoh is a classic bully boss, the Egyptians are his minions, and the Israelites suffer.

Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt and ask Pharaoh to let them take their people into the wilderness for a 3-day bush bash. Pharaoh says no because he doesn't believe in their god. I can't really say I blame him. If I was a boss, and my employees came along and said they needed 3 days off for a religious celebration that involved killing goats in the forest, I'd be like, sure, but you're using your vacation days and I don't want to know anything about it. They claim that if they don't get these 3 days, God is going to either send them a plague or kill them all, which is so not what God said to them in Midian. And all the bosses out there are like, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that excuse for why an employee needs a long weekend, I tell you, I'd be rich. Pharaoh says no, and tells them to get back to work. He points out that the Israelites are pretty numerous, and a labour disruption of this magnitude will have economic ramifications, so no. He tells his line managers not to gather straw for the Israelites to make bricks with, because apparently they're all brick-layers, but also tells them not to let the Israelits slow down production as a result, or to have any sympathy when they whine about needing to sacrifice for their god. Pharaoh sounds like the 'Bully Boss' from a book I read recently about crazy higher-ups.

So the managers to out and repeat Pharaoh's instructions, and of course there's a disruption in the production cycle, and because they're crazy, they beat them, then ask why the Israelites aren't producing like normal. The Israelites take this up the chain of command and ask Pharaoh why he's being so unreasonable, and explain how the Egyptians are making them go gather the straw. But Pharaoh, being a crazy bully boss, says the problem is they're lazy, and to make up for lost time they can't have three days off. The Israelite supervisors leave, after realizing he's nuts and on the way out they meet Moses and Aaron. They bitch at them that now Pharaoh is angry and might kill them. Moses doesn't have an answer, so he asks god why he's allowing this evilness to happen to his people and remonstrating him for not fulfilling his promise. Ah, the classic problem of evil: if god is all good and all powerful, there ought not to be any evil in the world, right? So either god isn't all powerful, or he isn't all good. Of course, Jerry would wimp out here and only say god created humans with free will, and if they do evil, it's their own fault. But he doesn't even adress this, because he would rather spend half a page explaining how Pharaoh is a pagan, which we knew already.

Chapter 6

God promises to fix Pharaoh, and reminds Moses of his covenant with the Israelites. He promises again to free them from the Egyptians and take them to Canaan. Moses tries again to convince the Israelites, but they aren't having it. God tells him to go to Pharaoh again, and Moses complains that his lack of speaking skills isn't leading to any results.

We then get yet another genealogy of the history of the Israelites since Jacob/Israel. We find out that despite god's decision in Genesis to limit the human life span to 120 years, Levi, Moses' father Amram, and Kohath, one of Levi's sons, all lived to be over 130. We also find out that Moses and Aaron's mother is also their father's aunt.

It all ends with god telling Moses once again to talk to Pharaoh.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3

Moses is in the field one day, tending to his father-in-law Jethro's flocks. Wait! In chapter two, his father-in-law was called Reuel! You can look this up for yourselves, by comparing Chapter 2 verse 18 and Chapter 3, verse 1. So either Moses is yet another unpunished polygamist, or this book is inaccurate. Jerry of course, is mum on the subject. Also, who knew all these hillbilly names were biblical? Have you ever met a Jethro with all his teeth?

I digress. Moses stops in his tracks when an angel appears in a burning bush. Ooh! Fake fire. Good thing this was thousands of years ago, because today's kids wouldn't be impressed. Moses is, though. Suddenly god is also in the flames. So was the angel his secretary, just checking to see if Moses was available, and then he put the boss through? Is this a conference call? He tells Moses to take off his shoes, because this is a holy place now. Picky, picky. Then he introduces himself. Moses hides his face out of fear of god. And rightly so. He still hasn't had any consequences for killing someone in chapter 2.

God admits he finally noticed the Hebrews' suffering, and he's here to take them away from the Egyptians and unto a land flowing with milk and honey (v. 8), in other words Israel. You see why I wanted this version? Milk and honey? Too bad only crazy and/or skeptical interpretations are available. He informs Moses that he's going to go to Pharaoh and take everybody away.

Moses might be easily impressed by special effects, but he's clearly had some legal training, as he asks god why the people should believe him. God's answer is that he will be with them and he'll reward his efforts. Moses is still skeptical, and asks what he should do if they ask what this so-called god's name is. God says to say I AM THAT I AM (v.14) sent him, which doesn't sound very convincing if you ask me. He adds, however, that Moses should say The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (v. 15) which is a much better beginning, I think. He promises this will work, then tells him to gather the tribal leaders together, tell them this story, and to go to Pharaoh and say they've met god and need to go into the wilderness for three days to make sacrifices. So, Pharaoh is like their wives? Instead of honey, the boys and I are going golfing for three days, or in my household, honey there's a debating tournament next weekend, they're going out to sacrifice stuff. And just like an abandoned wife, god is sure Pharaoh will say no. And then he'll smite Egypt, and then they'll be allowed to go. Should ladies who refuse their husbands' 'guys weekends' be afraid of the wrath of god? He also tells Moses that they won't go empty-handed, the women are to 'borrow' silver and jewels and gold and clothing from their neighbours and house guests and put them on their sons and daughters. 'Borrow' in the sense of 'we're just taking it to Israel! I promise to send it back by post!'

Chapter 4

Moses is still skeptical about his ability to convince the people, so god starts doing magic tricks. First, he tells him to put his rod on the ground, and it turns into a snake. Moses runs away. God tells him to pick it up, and it turns into a rod. Is this what those bizarre snake-handling 'Pentecostals' are doing? Oh, no, apparently the relevant passages are in Matthew and Luke, sorry.

God says that will convince them, but if not, put his hand on his chest. Moses does, and when he pulls it away, it's leprous. God tells him to put it back, and it's healthy. Finally, he tells them to take river water and pour it onto the ground. When he does, it will turn to blood.

Moses still isn't done arguing, and says he's not eloquent. God reminds him who make men's tongues, as well as disabilities, and says they'll practice together. Moses still wants him to send someone else.

Finally, god gets pissed off and says he'll use Moses' brother Aaron instead. So was the whole 'kill the male babies' gambit ended after Moses? Did Pharaoh's daughter plead with her father? Did their mother just send all her boy babies down the river, and did they just happened to get rescued? Or was the copy-writer napping? Anyway, god is going to use Aaron as his spokesman only Moses is going to tell him what to say. He's also going to use a rod to do signs (v. 17). Moses is finally convinced and gets Jethro's approval for the plan. Also, god comes along and tells him the people who were pissed off at him for killing that dude are now dead.

So Moses takes his wife and sons to Egypt and god says to him When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go. (v. 21). Now here is what Jerry has to say about that last line: "One must remember that God deserves the right to judge sin and the sinner whenever He desires. The sinner is subject to the wrath of God at any point in his life. God has the right to judge sin in any way He so desires the first time one commits sin. It is really the mercy of God that allows the sinner to continue to live." So who the fuck is Jerry or the Moral Majority to support the death penalty or oppose gay rights if it's all up to god? If he really believes what he says he believes, god will do all the punishing necessary, right?

God has further instructions: Moses is to say Israel is his son his firstborn, and he needs him to serve the lord, and if he won't let them go, god will kill Pharaoh's firstborn son.

But god can't even hold to his promises for one verse. At the inn that night, god tries to kill Moses. WTF? Fortunately, Zipporah is swifter on the uptake than me, and immediately understands this newest heavenly temper tantrum. She cuts her son's foreskin off and throws it at Moses' feet, calling him a 'bloody husband', which I'm just going to read as 'negligent bastard who nearly got us all killed'.

God leaves and goes to Aaron, telling him to meet Moses in the wilderness. Moses fills him in and they go together to the tribal elders. The people believe them and they pray together.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Exodus Chapter 2

The story of Moses' childhood. You'll be familiar with parts of it, but probably not all of it.

As you well know, Pharaoh had ordered all the male babies killed, but Moses' mother thinks he's too pretty to die, so she makes a little reed boat for him and floats him down the river. Because this is somehow better.

Luckily for Moses, Pharaoh's daughter comes down to wash herself and sees the boat. She instructs one of her maids to got and get it. On opening it, she cries for the poor thing and realises it's a Hebrew baby. Moses' sister, who has been hanging around this whole time, because she's obviously more compassionate than her mother, offers to get a Hebrew nurse for the child. So she gets her mom, and Pharaoh's daughter pays her to nurse him. It doesn't specify when, but presumably after he is weaned, his mother brings him back to Pharaoh's daughter, who adopts him. Now, David Plotz must be reading a different translation than me, or he didn't read thoroughly, because he says Moses wasn't raised at the court, but verse 10 seems clear enough to me: And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. Although perhaps that doesn't justify the whole Dreamworks 'Prince of Egypt' version. But neither does the The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella.

Anyway, it's a pretty thin verse to draw that whole story from, because next thing we know, Moses is an adult. He looks out one day and sees an Egyptian smacking a Hebrew around. He looks around and doesn't see anyone, so he kills the Egyptian and hides him in the sand. I don't think that was in the cartoon version. Was it in the Sunday school version? It was probably less cowardly. Of course, Jerry has nothing to say about this, because Moses is righteous, and righteous people can do pretty much anything, except be gay. Well, except Joseph.

The next day, Moses comes across two Hebrews fighting and asks them why they're at it. They basically tell him to fuck off, since he killed an Egyptian only yesterday. Whoops! He didn't look hard enough!

Pharaoh finds out, of course, and vows to kill Moses, who escapes into Midian. He sits down by a well, and the priest's seven daughters come along to water the flocks. Some shepherds chase them off, but Moses helps them. The girls go home and their father asks them how they're back so quickly. They tell him and he invites Moses for dinner. He ends up moving in and marrying Zipporah, one of the daughters. They have a son, Gershom.

After awhile, the king dies and the enslaved Hebrews cry, and god hears it and remembers them and his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Isreal. After what, 400 years? Why did he let this happen? We have no idea. Better late than never, I suppose, he had respect unto them (v. 25).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exodus, Chapter 1

Oh boy! The story of the Israelites' trials and tribulations in Egypt, aka the book of Moses, the supposed author of the book.

He isn't in chapter one, though. It's just scene-setting. The story has advanced several hundred years and as promised Israel's children have been fruitful and multiplied to the point where Egypt is now in a population crisis, specifically a Hebrew population crisis. The latest Pharaoh (none of them ever gets a name) is worried that there are too many of them, not enough of us. A reverse of Eurabia if you will. What would that be? Cohenic Cairo? Sorry. London, Ontario, Canada, where I grew up, is not exactly the Jewish-joke capital of the world, nor is Rotterdam, Holland, where I live now.

Anyway, he gives the people license to harass the Israelites, but the worse they treat them, the more of them there are. Kind of like Gaza? So they sort of kind of but not really enslave them, and make them build stuff and work the fields and they aren't very nice, but it still doesn't work. They breed like rabbits.

The king finally calls the Hebrew midwives to him and tells them to kill the baby boys but spare the girls. They don't, not because it's barbaric, but because they fear god. As long as no one kills the cute little babies, I suppose. Pharaoh notices, of course and asks them why they didn't obey his commands. They lie and say that Hebrew women are lively (v. 19) and the babies have always arrived by the time they get there. God rewards them for this with houses, and Jerry twists himself in knots saying that the reward is for fearing god, not lying, but for those of us who can just relax and accept that this particular deity punishes and rewards more or less based on which side of the bed he woke up on that day know that it's actually for lying to the big baddie. Anyway, the people continue to breed unfettered. Finally, Pharaoh gets fed up and, since forced sterilization hasn't been invented yet, tells everybody, not just the Jews, to throw their sons into the river and keep the daughters. Great plan! This is going to go over really well, I can just tell!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Genesis Chapters 47-50

Chapter 47

Joseph introduces his brother to Pharaoh, who, just as predicted, asks them what they do, and they tell him they are shepherds. They ask to graze their flocks in Goshen because the famine is bad in Canaan. Pharaoh tells Joseph to give them Goshen, and they can even herd his cattle.

Joseph presents Israel as well, though in this chapter they're calling him Jacob again. Pharaoh asks how old he is, and he says 130 tumultuous years, unlike his ancestors, who had calm lives of up to 950 years. Then he blesses Pharaoh.

Joseph gives his brothers and father land in Ramses. Jerry flops around trying to explain this contradiction, since according to him, this is the real-time history of the world, and it should only be about 2500 BC, but the Ramses dynasty didn't start until 1319 BC. He says it's an anachronism, a modernization, a mistranslation, anything but the truth, that this isn't a very accurate book.

Anyway, he gives his family bread, but soon there is no bread and people are starting to die. Joseph gathers all the money he made selling corn to everyone and brings it to Pharaoh. What good is that going to do? It's like that movie recently where the world was going to end, but there was a spaceship that you could buy a ticket on for one billion dollars. What good was it going to do to have a bunch of Russian oligarchs in space? Besides better-quality vodka, I mean.

Sorry, I keep getting side-tracked. There's no money, because Joseph gave it all to Pharaoh. People come to Joseph and ask for bread, and right here Joseph becomes Chairman Mao. Rather than being charitable, he says he'll give them bread for their livestock. He does, but a year later they're back, and this time he takes their land and labour. So you see, now they're serfs. Then he orders them off the land and into the cities. So Joseph and Pharaoh now have control of the currency, the capital (livestock), the land, and the labour. They have complete control over anything that happens in the country. Is this what Jerry aspires to? Geez, no wonder the Pharaohs thought they were gods. The only people whose land he doesn't have is the priests, who have a contract.

Joseph lords it over everybody, saying he owns them and handing out seeds to them. He explains that they are now sharecroppers and will have to give 20% to Pharaoh. The people, mistaking power for morality, thank him and agree to the deal, because hey, he could have said 50%, right?

Israel, of course, is thriving. He lives there for another 17 years, until he's 147 and near death. He calls Joseph to him and makes him swear on his testicles not to bury him in Egypt.

Chapter 48

Israel's death scene redux. This time, Joseph brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Israel tells him the story of god appearing to him at Luz. He tells his son that Manasseh and Ephraim are his now, but that Joseph can keep any he has after this. I hope the Moral Majority is taking note here of what traditional family life entails: giving your kids to your parents on a whim.

Then the story gets even more confusing, because Israel suddenly asks Joseph who those two kids are. Is he senile here? Anyway, Joseph says they're his kids. Israel says to bring them, and he'll bless them. Israel is going blind, so he can't see them as he hugs and kisses them. Joseph holds Ephraim's hand in his right hand, and Manasseh's in his left and presents them to his father, and puts Manasseh's hand in his father's right hand. Israel reaches out and puts his right hand on Ephraim's head, and his left on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh is the first born. He blesses Joseph and the boys.

Joseph notices that his father's right hand is on Ephraim's head, and is displeased. He tries to move it onto Manasseh's head instead, explaining which is the first born. Israel says he knows it, but Ephraim's going to be more important, so that's the one who gets the better blessing, because Israel hasn't learned anything from his own history. He tells Joseph he's getting an extra portion in his inheritance.

Chapter 49

Israel, still refusing to die, predicts the future for his sons. Jerry has nothing to say about fortune-telling, though I have no doubt that anyone outside the messianic line who does it is not allowed into the Moral Majority or Liberty U. He tells Reuben he won't excel in life because of his early sex with his mother. How's that for a late fuck you from your dear old dad? He basically calls Simeon and Levi psychotic serial killers, which they are, and curses them. He praises Judah for his loyalty and says the others have to worship him now. He blesses him with wine and milk. Zebulun, whom we haven't heard much about, will live by the sea and make a harbour. Issachar will be a good worker. Dan will be a treacherous judge. Gad will be invaded, but will win at the end. Asher will be a baker. Naphtali will be pretty and speaks well. Joseph will have lots of kids and good land. Benjamin will be a plunderer. He asks to be buried in the cave Abraham bought, and he finally dies. In Egypt. Despite what god promised him before. Apparently, this is an accurate description of the state the Israelite tribes were in at the time: the Simeonites and Levites were a mess, Judahs tribe was strong.

Chapter 50

Joseph mourns and orders his father embalmed. He mourns the requisite 70 days it takes a body to mummify (but he's not a pagan!) and asks the Pharaoh to release him so he can take his father to Canaan. Pharaoh says no problem. They all go, and stop in Atad and mourn again for seven days. The people see this and change the name of the place. They contine on and bury him in Machpelah.

When Joseph goes back, his brothers worry he might hate them. They send him a message supposedly written by their father before his death saying to forgive them. Joseph cries, like he does every other verse. They all fall down before him and agree to be his servants. He explains that what they thought was evil was in fact good, and saved a lot of people. Who are now sharecroppers rather than landowners.

Anyway, Joseph promises to take care of them. Joseph lives to 110, and he meets his great-great-grandchildren by Ephraim, and also one of Manasseh's kids sticks around. Joseph has a much shorter death scene than his father, saying only I die, and god will visit you and send you back to Canaan. He asks them to take his body to Canaan, but he's buried in Egypt.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Genesis, Chapter 46

Israel sets off for Egypt. On his way, he stops to make sacrifices at the altar his father built, apparently because he remembers how much trouble Abraham caused there with his 'she's my sister' routine, and how Isaac wasn't even allowed to go. God calls him, and calls him Jacob, despite changing his name. He tells him to go to Egypt and he'll make a great nation there, and he'll return him to Canaan safely. Reassured, they all leave.

We get a packing list of every man who comes with him, along with two girls, Dinah and Sereh, daughter of Asher, son of one of his slaves. He needs a packing list, because there are 70 people in total. He sends Judah on ahead to scout out Goshen.

Joseph comes out to Goshen and hugs his father and Israel's response is now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive. (v 30) like, don't you want to catch up a little? Also, didn't god just promise to bring him back to Canaan?

Joseph tells his brothers he's going to get Pharaoh so he can introduce them all, so clearly Israel's desire to die is just histrionics and they're all used to it. He tells them he's going to tell Pharaoh they're shepherds and then Pharaoh is going to ask them about it, and they should be honest, even though the Egyptians think shepherding is an abomination. Oh, aren't cultural differences fun!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Genesis Chapters 42-45

Chapter 42

Israel/Jacob hears there is corn in Europe and he tells his sons to stop twiddling their thumbs and get down their and buy some. He keeps the youngest, Benjamin with him, but the other 10 go.

Joseph is still governor and his brothers kneel before him, because apparently money isn't enough anymore for our lovable egomaniac, he also needs worship. He recognizes them and is rude to them, but they don't recognize him, just like Shakespeare! Joseph also remembers his dreams, where the grain and the stars paid homage to him. He's not ready to forgive quite yet, though so he accuses them of spying. They go back and forth a bit, but Joseph has the last word and tells them they can't leave unless they agree to go get Benjamin. To ensure they come back, they'll have to leave one there. He keeps them all in prison for three days, where they admit their guilt over what they did to Joseph. Reuben, of course has to get an 'I told you so!' in. Joseph is listening to all of this. He cries, but still keeps Simeon back.

He fills their sacks with corn and secretly refunds the money they paid. They find it at the inn they stop at for the night. They take it as a bad omen from god.

They get home and tell their father what happened. Israel is reluctant to part with Benjamin, but Reuben says he can kill his sons if they don't bring him back. That sounds very satisfying: kill two grandsons, who are quite possibly your concubine's children, in exchange for your own son. Is this what the Moral Majority, brainchild of Jerry, thinks of when it lobbies for 'a traditional vision of family life'? Unfortunately it fails to convince Israel.

Chapter 43

The famine gets worse, and Israel asks his sons to go back to Egypt and get more grain. They remind him that they can't unless they bring Benjamin. He whines that they shouldn't have said anything about their remaining brother, but they insist that the disguised Joseph asked them if their father was alive and if they had any other brothers, and they were honest and didn't know what his demand would be.

Judah steps forward and says that Israel can also have his kids as insurance and points out that in the time they've spent arguing, they could have gone and come back. Israel finally yields and tells them to take along some presents, as well to double the money they're taking, because maybe the last time was just an oversight.

Joseph sees them and instructs his men to prepare a feast. They're afraid to go into Joseph's house, thinking he's going to enslave them. So they explain to his steward about the money, that it was still in the sacks when they got to the inn, which strikes me as dumb, because there's no way that's going to sound plausible.

The steward is more gullible than me, though, because he tells them not to worry, god restored their coffers, he still has the original coins. He brings Simeon out, and they go inside, wash their feet, take care of the donkeys, and get their presents out for Joseph.

They kneel before their brother again, who accepts the gifts and asks after their father. He sees his brother Benjamin, but is overwhelmed with emotion and has to run into his bedroom to cry. He composes himself and comes back. There's a little description of the eating arrangements: the brethren are in one room, Joseph in another, and the Egyptians in a third, because to eat bread with the Hebrews... that is an abomination unto the Egyptians (v. 32). The brothers are seated in birth order, and they fail to notice this, or that Benjamin gets five times as much as they do.

Chapter 44

Joseph loads his brothers up up with food, and the money yet again. He also tells his steward to put a silver cup into Benjamin's bag, because he isn't done fucking with them. He tells the steward to go after them and accuse them of stealing his divining cup. Jerry says the divining cup is a ridiculous notion of jiggery-pokery only practiced by the heathen Egyptians, because god just told the Israelites what was on his mind, and Joseph is only playing a role here. Heaven forbid a good Hebrew character be shown to believe in any pagan nonsense!

Anyway, the man does as he's told, and they're indignant, saying they have all this money, why would they want a stupid cup? They invite him to search their bags and if he finds it, he can kill that brother and enslave the rest. The steward says he only wants to enslave anyone found with the cup. They agree, and open their bags, and of course Benjamin has it. The brothers lament the loss of Benjamin, but reluctantly go back to Joseph

They fall to their knees in front of Joseph, who says of course he can divine. Judah asks him what he wants to hear, because they are righteous, it's obviously Joseph's servants' tomfoolery in action here. Joseph says they can leave Benjamin as his servant and go home. Judah asks to talk to him privately, and flatters him that he's as powerful as Pharaoh. He reminds him that he asked them about their exact family situation and that they didn't want to bring Benjamin but he insisted. Then their father was reluctant to send him, but they explained and the famine was bad, so he gave in. They appeal to his sympathy, saying Benjamin was their father's only remaining child from that mother, as Joseph is presumed dead, and this is going to kill their father, and he's also going to kill Judah, because he promised.

Chapter 45

Joseph sends everyone except his brothers away, then reveals his identity to them. He cries so loudly, the servants waiting in the hall can hear him. His brothers are wary. He tells them they don't have to worry, because god sent him ahead to save their lives and lineages. He explains how he's the Pharaoh's right-hand man. He tells them to go get their father, and he'll let them live in Goshen, and he'll feed them, because there are five years left on the famine.

He ends his soliloquy by hugging Benjamin and kissing the others. The word spreads around Egypt. Pharaoh gives Joseph his blessing to bring his father, which would seem like something you'd ask for beforehand, and promises them the best land and herds.

Joseph gives them provisions and clothing, and Benjamin gets 300 pieces of silver and 5 changes of clothes, because no on in Genesis ever learns not to play favourites. He sends gifts to his father and they leave with is blessing.

They go back to Israel and tell him their brother is still alive and he's the governor of Egypt. Israel faints. They tell him the story, and when he sees the gifts, he believes them and he agrees to go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Genesis Chapters 40 & 41

Chapter 40

Joseph is still in prison when the Pharaoh's butler (who is apparently more like a wine steward) and baker are thrown in with him. The captain of the guard puts Joseph in charge of both of them.

One night, each of them has a dream which causes him to be sad. Joseph sees them in the morning and asks why their faces are so long. They explain about the dreams, and how they have no idea what they mean. Joseph has learned something in Egypt: people never want to hear about your dreams, but they are more than happy to tell you about their own, especially if they think you can interpret them. He asks about them.

The wine steward says he dreamed he was back at Pharaoh's house in the vineyard, standing in front of three banches heavy with grapes. He pressed the grapes right there and gave the juice to Pharaoh. Joseph says within three days, Pharoah will lift up thine head, and return thee unto thy place (v.13). He asks the steward to remember him when he's restored and get him out of prison.

The baker loves Joseph's interpretation, so he tells him about his dream: he was carrying three baskets on his head. There were some baked goods in the topmost one, but the birds ate them. Joseph's interpretation is less cheery: within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee (v.19).

It just so happens that three days hence is Pharaoh's birthday. He does indeed put the steward back in charge of the wine, and hang the baker. In a perfect example of gratitude being the shortest-lived emotion, the steward doesn't hold up his end of the bargain.

Chapter 41

It's two years later and Pharaoh dreams he's by the river when suddenly seven fat cows emerge and start grazing in a meadow. Then seven lean cows emerge and mingle with the first ones. The lean cows eat the fat cows, at which point Pharaoh awakes, no doubt in a cold sweat, worried about cannibalistic bovines and the risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob now.

He then has a second dream: one stalk of corn produces 7 plump ears then seven thin ears. The thin ears devour the plump ears. He wakes up again, no doubt wondering what the hell is going on with his crops.

In the morning, he calls all the magicians and wise men of Egypt to him, and tells them about his dreams, but no one has any idea what they could mean, and Freud won't be born for another 5000 years or so. The wine steward finally remembers Joseph. Pharaoh sends for him and tells him what happened.

Joseph says that the seven fat cows and seven ears of corn represent seven years of plenty. The lean cows and thin corn represent seven years of famine. Now, I'm thinking the magicians and wise men all knew this too, but didn't want to take the risk of incurring Pharaoh's wrath. Fortunately, Pharaoh doesn't send him straight back to prison, but takes his advice: hire a man to save one-fifth of the harvest for the next seven years and store it for the famine. Pharaoh not only hires him, he makes him his second in command. He gives him a ring and nice clothes and other jewellery. He even gives him his own chariot. He gives him an Egyptian name, Zaphnath-paaneah, and a wife, Asenath.

Joseph goes out for the next seven years and does his job of storing food in the cities. He also finds time to father two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Then the good times come to an end.

The seven years of famine begin, and only Egypt has bread. The people come to Pharaoh for aid and he sends them on to Joseph. The famine is world-wide and Joseph sells the stuff he saved to all comers. No doubt at a steep premium. No mention is made of what happens to those who can't afford it, the only word used is sell.

So what exactly is the purpose of this famine? And has anyone else noticed that god was pretty crafty in his wording of his post-flood promise? He hasn't killed every living thing by drowning, it's true, but he has since rained down fire and brimstone and caused the crops to fail. But hey, we got rainbows!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Genesis Chapter 39

We're back on Joseph, who has been sold to Potiphar, who according to my bible, is the captain of the Pharaoh's guard, but according to other translations, he's also a eunuch, which makes what happens in this chapter more understandable.

Joseph flourishes as Potiphar's slave, supposedly because the lord is with him, but I suspect at least part of it is that he's stopped tattling and telling everyone about his self-serving dreams. Anyway, pretty soon Joseph is the chief overseer, and Potiphar trusts him so much that he knew not aught he had, save the bread which he did eat (v. 6) which explains how a slave can become a prosperous man (v. 2): he's robbing him blind. Verse six also tells us Joseph is a studmuffin.

Unsurprisingly, Potiphar's wife notices him and orders him to sleep with her. Not that I blame her, what with her husband being a eunuch, but if she gets pregnant, isn't he going to figure it out pretty quickly? Joseph refuses, saying Potiphar trusts him, and it's a sin. She keeps at it, trying to wear him down, and of course it doesn't work. Who wants to be badgered into sex? Finally, one day when all the other men are out, she tries to tackle him to the ground which he so isn't into, and he runs away, but leaves his coat in her hands. Like many a woman scorned, she takes the coat to the other men and tells them Joseph tried to rape her. She tells Potiphar the same story, and he gets angry. He puts Joseph in prison. God intervenes again and makes the warden like him. Soon Joseph is the head of the prisoners and it prospers.

Now, this is pure speculation, but is anyone else's gaydar pinging here? Joseph wears a girls coat. Then he is the first man to refuse sex, after we've seen other men engage in incest, adultery, prostitution, sex with slaves and polygamy. Then he's the only man in the house. Now he's in prison, happy as a clam. Anyone else get a vibe?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Genesis Chapter 38

Holy shit. This is quite possibly the most insane chapter in this entire book, and trust me, having read it in detail, that is saying a lot. Your Sunday school probably used this chapter to teach you all about the sins of masturbation, birth control and abortion, but he or she probably didn't tell you the whole story, unless he or she is one sick puppy.

This particular chapter is an interlude about Judah, Israel's fourth son, and a direct ancestor of Jesus. Judah takes a walk one day, and sees a pretty Canaanite girl called Shuah. It's possible he marries her, or he just has sex with her. The result is a son, Er. Then they have sex again, and the result is Onan. If you're familiar with the term Onanism, you know where this is going. Finally, she has a third son who is called Shelah.

Judah finds a wife for Er called Tamar, but before she can get pregnant, Er does something wrong and god kills him. For those of you keeping track at home, this would be his second killing of an individual, Lot's wife being the first. Bonus round: what crimes do not warrant a heavenly death penalty? Which one did? Read through to the end to find out.

Judah said unto Onan 'Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother (v. 8). Now, before his death, Jerry promised to dedicate the rest of his life to preventing homosexual marriage, because it's against the bible. But here we have a quite clear proscription as well: if a married man dies without issue, his brother must marry his wife. For the bible's other teachings on marriage, see here.

Onan isn't too thrilled at the idea of his brother's sloppy seconds, and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother (v. 9). Now, this verse is the one that supposedly condemns masturbation, birth control and abortion all in one go. Jerry is oddly silent. But just reading it, it seems pretty clear that Onan wasn't masturbating, he just pulled out early because if Tamar got pregnant, Er would get credit for the baby. So as an argument against birth control, fair enough, but self-pleasure is still in-bounds as far as I can see.

Anyway, god, turning into a right serial killer in this chapter, kills him.

Judah tells Tamar to go home and wait for his final son, Shelah, to come of age, and she goes.

One day, Judah goes out to shear his sheep. Tamar hears that he's going out and puts on a veil and sits outside, apparently because Shelah is now grown and hasn't married her. Maybe he thinks she's bad luck? I wouldn't blame him.

Judah sees her and thinks she's a prostitute, so he asks her to have sex with him. She asks him what she'll get in return. I think this would be the part where she actually becomes a hooker. Anyway, he promises her a kid from his flock, and she asks for a deposit, his signet ring, a bracelet and a staff. They have sex and she gets pregnant. Then she goes home and puts her widow's clothing back on.

Judah, meanwhile, tries to send the goat down, but can no longer find her. So, prostitution is the world's oldest profession, and ripping clients off is the second oldest. His messanger asks where the harlot went, and they tell him that particular corner has never been frequented by ladies of the night. Judah insists they find her lest we be shamed (v.23) as if the shameful thing here is failing deliver a goat you promised to a prostitute you had sex with.

A few months later, Judah finds out that his daughter in law has been turning tricks and is pregnant. He orders her brought to him and burned. Fortunately, Jerry does not use this passage to call for the immolation of whores.

Tamar is a smart girl, however, and shows up with his stuff, saying he's the father. Judah acknowledges that the ring, bracelet and staff are indeed his, and that he is the one in the wrong, because he never gave her to Shelah. Then he stops having sex with her. Aw, what a guy!

The result is twins, and in the most monstrous description of birth yet, one twin puts his hand out and the midwife puts a scarlet thread around his wrist to show which one came out first. But he pulls his hand back in and the other one comes out. The twins are called Pharez and Zarah.

So, in one chapter that's two murders by a displeased deity, a daughter in law who prostitutes herself to her father in law, a father who visits hookers and a father in law who threatens to throw his hooker daughter in law on the auto-de-fé. What do you think: is this the most fucked-up chapter, or does the title belong to chapter 34 (Dinah is raped and her brothers convince the Hivites to get circumcised, then kill them) or even possibly chapter 19 (crowd of drunken men wants to rape a couple of sexy angels, Lot, to placate them, offers up his daughters, god destroys city, Lot's wife turned into salt, his daughters get him drunk and have sex with him). Actually, it seems a close race between chapters 19 and 38.

Finally, the crimes which do not merit a divine death sentence: eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Adam and Eve) fratricide (Cain), murder (Lamech), nude drunkenness (Noah), lying, casting your son into the desert (Abraham), beating your servants (Sarah), offering your daughters to a drunk, randy crowd, lying about their virginity (Lot), getting your father drunk and raping him (Lot's daughters), public sex (Isaac), polygamy (Esau, Jacob), pretending to be your brother, stealing your brother's birthright (Jacob), lying to your daughter's bridegroom about which daughter he actually had sex with, then fooling him into working for you for free for 7 years (Laban), icon stealing (Rachel), rape (Shechem), mass murder (Simeon and Levi), having sex with your stepmother (Reuben), cross-dressing (Joseph), selling your brother into slavery (Israel's other sons, except Reuben).

And those that do: having evil thoughts (the flood victims), 'grievous sin' (the people of Lot whom, if you will remember, god planned to kill even before the near angel rape), looking back at Sodom (Lot's wife), wickedness (Er), failure to complete the sexual act (Onan).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Genesis Chapter 37

Ah, here we are at the story of Joseph, which many of you will be familiar with because your high school put on at least one performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat while you were there.

Joseph is 17 when this particular incident happens, and he sounds like a pain in the ass Joseph brought unto his father their evil report (v.2). In other words, he tells on them. We all love tattletales, right? For this, and the fact he's Rachel's son, Israel loves him best and he made him a coat of many colours (v.3) which even Jerry admits is 'a garment worn by the daughters of kings' or 'a ceremonial robe draped about statues of goddesses.' In other words, either his father is dressing his 17 year old son in girl's clothes, or Josesph is a big old biblical queen.

Now this favouritism shown by Israel does not go unremarked by Joseph's 11 brothers. They're not even civil to him. But it doesn't stop Joseph from wanting to tell them about his dream. I think we can all agree that the only thing more irritating than a snitch is someone who wants to tell you about his dreams. And what was said dream: well, they were all binding the wheat when suddenly, the sheaves become animated, and the brothers' sheaves all gathered around Joseph's sheaf and made obeisance to it. I amend what I said before: a snitch is annoying. A snitch who wants to tell you about his dreams is really annoying. A snitch who wants to tell you about his self-serving dreams deserves what he gets, even if he is only 17.

Anyway, this dream does not endear Joseph to his brothers and makes them hate him even more. But Joseph still isn't done. He then tells him another dream, where the sun, moon and 11 stars all pay obeisance to him. He describes it to his father, who has finally had enough and rebukes him.

One day, the brothers go out to tend the flock and surprisingly, do not invite Joseph, but Israel sends him anyway. While he's on his way, he meets a man who tells him his brothers went somewhere else. So he heads over. His brothers see him and while he's still out of earshot they conspire to kill him and throw him into a pit and tell their father an animal got him. Okay, he might not deserve that, but a circle booting wouldn't hurt. Fortunately, Reuben, who was last seen having sex with his stepmother, convinces them not to kill him. Instead, they take off his drag and throw him into a pit. They sit down at the top for lunch and see a caravan of Ismaelites passing by on their way to Egypt. Judah, the fourth son, suggests selling him to them. So they sell him for 20 pieces of silver.

Reuben must have left at some point, because he comes back and finds the pit empty and tears at his clothes in remorse. They kill a goat and dip the coat in its blood, then present it to their father who blames a wild animal. Israel dresses in sackcloth and goes into mourning. Joseph, meanwhile, is sold to an official in the Pharoah's house in Egypt.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Genesis Chapters 35 & 36

Chapter 35

God tells Jacob to go to Bethel and build an altar. Jacob tells his household to put away their strange gods (v.2), which of course would be the pagan idols they still worship, take showers, and put on clean clothes, because he has decided the god who answered his prayers when he was in distress is the one true god. Is that clear to everyone? Jacob basically opened the heavenly phone book and called all the gods in it, then chose the one who rang back first. So they give him all their false idols and earrings, and he buries them under an oak tree and they leave. On the way, the terror of god was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. What this terror might involve is not explained, but we do know that he has promised not to murder us all by mass flood, but not to refrain from using fire and brimstone (ch. 19) or sealing the wombs of all the women (ch. 26) or he may have a new form of terrorism. It's not clear.

Jacob builds an altar in Luz and changers the name to Elbethel. Rebekah's nurse dies. God comes along again and gives Jacob a blessing. Then he changes his name to Israel, though everybody still calls him Jacob. Israel builds a pillar in that spot.

Rachel is pregnant and goes into labour on the road, which is never fun. She has a boy, of course, and names him Benmoni, meaning 'son of my pain', but Israel changes it to Benjamin, meaning 'son of my right hand' (v. 18). Israel sets up a pillar on her grave, then keeps going to Edar.

Once there, his son Reuben has sex with his concubine Bilhah, who is what his stepmother? Israel knows but nothing is said.

Israel finally arrives in Mamre. Isaac is still there, aged 180, and he dies. Israel and Esau bury him.

Chapter 36

Another genealogy. Yawn. There are some inconsistencies, indicating that perhaps even the copyists who wrote this out time after time didn't like doing it very much, either.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Genesis Chapter 34

This is not one of the chapters your Sunday school teacher told you about, unless he or she was a twisted sadist.

Jacob's only daughter Dinah goes out to see the daughters of the land (v.1). Apparently she was between the ages of 12 and 14, and was possibly going to the tent where menstruating or recently post-partum women hung out until they were 'clean' again, which makes what follows an even greater sin in the eyes of the ancient Israelites. On the other hand, it's possible she was going out carousing with the heathen Canaanite girls, and this is a cautionary tale to good Christian girls today about the dangers of getting too close to the enemy.

Shechem, a Hivite prince, sees her and rapes her, but in what strikes me as a case of biblical fudging not all that different from Luke and Laura on The Guiding Light, he falls in love with her. He asks his father to arrange a marriage with her. The father, anxious pretend to form an alliance with Jacob, but really to gain control of his land and livestock, goes to find him.

Jacob, meanwhile, hears about the incident and tells his sons about it. They're angry, but not for their sister, for their own pride, so they're in no mood to make deals when Hamor the king shows up to ask for Dinah, and with their other daughters, in a trade alliance. Shechem asks for their forgiveness and says he'll pay any price.

Jacob's boys decide to lie and tell the Hivites they can't agree unless they get circumcised, but if they do, no problem. Hamor and Shechem are happy with the deal and they go to tell their people about the deal and find a mohel (circumcisor). So they all get circumcised and while they're still recovering Simeon and Levi come along and kill them all and take Dinah home with them. The others get in on the act and take all the livestock, the money, the wives and the kids.

Jacob tells them this won't be good, as their numbers are smaller than those of the Canaanites and Perizzites, who will now attack, but Simeon and Levi ask if they should have just let them treat their sister that way. What we never do find out is how Dinah feels about all of this, because we will find out in Deuteronomy that non-virgins cannot marry, even in cases of rape, so basically she's going to end up an unmarried girl in her father's house, then when he dies, she'll get passed on to one of her brothers and probably treated like a servant.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Genesis Chapters 28-33

Chapter 28

Isaac commands Jacob not to take a wife from among the heathen Canaanites, but rather to go back to Padan-aram, where Rebekah is from and marry one of his uncle Laban's daughters. He also blesses him, and passes along the blessing god gave to Abraham.

Esau observes all of this and goes to his uncle Ishmael and adds one of his daughters to his harem. Lots of cousin-marrying in this book. It's almost like they're hillbillies or something.

Back to Jacob, who camps in the desert, using stones for pillows, which sounds like fun, and dreams of a ladder to heaven, with angels going up and down. Rock pillows will do that to you. God is at the top, and he repeats the promise he made to Abraham and Isaac: you'll inherit this land, you'll have lots of offspring, yada yada yada. He promises to stick around until it happens. This apparently is where the expression 'Jacob's ladder' comes from.

Jacob wakes up and thinks this must be the gate of heaven, and he's afraid. So he stacks up the rocks and pours oil over them, which apparently is a pagan ritual. He names the place Beth-el and vows that if god fulfills his promise, he'll keep this stone as a place of worship and give one-tenth of his wealth to him. So begins tithing.

Chapter 29

Jacob comes to Haran and sees a well with a stone on it. He asks the shepherds where he is and they confirm it. He asks if they know Laban, and they do, and he asks how he is, and they say fine, and that his daughter Rachel is coming with some sheep. He tells them to water the sheep, like who does he think he is, walking up to a bunch of strangers and imposing his farming methods on them? and they say to wait until all the sheep have arrived. As they're talking, Rachel arrives. Jacob, clearly showing off for the girls, rolls the stone away and waters the flock. Then, apropos of nothing, he kisses her and bursts into tears. Oddly, she does not reject him right then and there.

He introduces himself, which I would have thought should be the first thing to do, and she runs back to tell her father. Laban comes out and hugs him and bring shim back, where he stays for a month.

Laban asks Jacob to work for him, and asks how much he wants to be paid. We then get a horse-trader's assessment of his two daughters: Leah is cute, but Rachel is hot, so Jacob offers to stay for seven years if he can have Rachel at the end. Laban agrees Jacob is a good match, so Jacob stays on and they seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had to her (v.20), which I think is the most romantic thing the bible has said to date.

Of course, Jacob goes and ruins it all in the next verse with his quite obnoxious demand, give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled (v.21), and rather than telling him to say the magic word, Laban throws a feast and brings him... Leah! But Jacob doesn't notice what with the feasting and the wine and the dark and the horniness after 7 years, until morning. He asks his uncle what the hell happened, and Laban explains that in their country, the youngest daughter can't be married before the first. He tells him he can enjoy the next week for a honeymoon, but he'll have to stay another seven years if he wants Rachel as well. How hot is she going to be after 14 years of this? But Jacob does it and he marries Rachel as well, finally, and loves her more than Leah, which so isn't going to turn out well, which he should know after his own experience where his mother liked him better and his father liked his brother.

Jerry finally notices that someone in the messianic line is a polygamist, but it's okay! It isn't outlawed until later!

Anyway, god, loving the irony of this second Jerry Springer episode, makes Leah pregnant and Rachel barren, because he's the only one who's allowed to have favourites. The resulting son is Reuben, and Leah thinks he'll bring her and Jacob closer together. Oh, sweetie, if I had a nickel for every woman who has tried that and failed, I'd live in a much nicer apartment. She has another son, Simeon, so obviously Jacob doesn't hate her too much, then another and another, finally goes into menopause.

Chapter 30

Rachel proves herself to be Jerry's kind of woman, one whose entire identity is wrapped up in her children, or lack thereof. She gets jealous of Leah and tells Jacob to give her kids or she'll die. Jacob gets pissy and says it isn't him, it's god. Well, that and his reserves are probably depleted by impregnating Leah so much. She has the brilliant idea of giving her handmaid Bilhah to Jacob, because that worked out so well with Sarah and Hagar and Ishmael, but Jacob will screw anything, rather like Abraham.

So Bilhah conceives a son, which Rachel claims as her own, whilst admitting it is a blessing and a curse at the same time so she calls him Dan. Bilhah has another son by Jacob, who Rachel also claims him and calls it a triumph over her sister, and calls him Naphtali.

Leah is in menopause, but isn't willing to give up the baby tower-building, so she gives him her handmaid, Zilpah, and they have a son together, then another one. Unlike Hagar, we never hear how these slaves feel about being part of an arms race, but I'm thinking Margaret Atwood captured it pretty succinctly in The Handmaid's Tale. Leah declares herself the winner.

Leah's first son Reuben is a farmer, and one day he finds mandrakes in his fields. Jerry informs me that mandrakes were thought to be an aphrodisiac and an aid in conception, so that's why this incident is important. Rachel asks Leah for some of he mandrakes and Leah retorts that she has their husband's heart, why does she need mandrakes, too? Rachel says Leah can have Jacob that night if only she can have the mandrakes. I'm waiting for this to be a plotline on Big Love.

Jacob comes home from the fields and Leah comes out and tells him he has to come with her, because Rachel traded her night for mandrakes. Jacob isn't particular, so he comes home with her. The result is the fifth son, because apparently sons with handmaidens don't count in the line of descent, only for sheer numbers in arms races, and calls him Issachar. Then she has a sixth son. She praises the lord and fools herself into thinking this is going to convince Jacob to stay with her forever. Her final child is Dinah, a girl.

God remembers Rachel and finally she has Joseph, but vows that she'll have another.

Jacob finally decides he's tired of living in Padan-aram so he asks Laban to let him go home. Laban asks him to stay, because god has shown him favour as a result of Jacob's presence. He asks him to name his price. Jacob says he's done his bit, his uncle is now rich in cattle, and now he wants to strike out on his own. Laban asks what Jacob wants. He promises to feed and keep the next day, and while he's doing that, he'll take all the speckled and spotted animals from Laban's flocks. Laban agrees, then takes all the same animals out of his flocks that same day, proving that it doesn't take much to be smarter than Esau.

Jacob doesn't say anything, but apparently acting on superstition, he makes white streaks in some popular, hazel and chestnut sticks, and piles them in the water troughs, so that when the animals come to drink, they'll see the branches and bear streaked and spotted offspring. I am not making this up. It is right there in verses 37-41 of Genesis, and it works. Try it for yourselves.

Jacob takes his new flock and keeps up the branch trick with the strongest animals, until he has all the strong animals and Laban the weak. Finally, he's rich in cattle, slaves, camels and asses.

Chapter 31

Laban's sons notice that Jacob now has all the good animals, and Jacob himself notices that Laban won't look him in the eye anymore. God tells him to go back, and he'll stay with him. Just like he stayed with him for all that time Rachel was trying to get pregnant. Jacob tells his two wives what's up with their father, and what god said, and reminds them how loyal he's been to Laban, and how poorly he's been treated in return. He confesses that's why they now have all the good cows, and that god has also told him to go home.

Rachel and Leah mostly want to know if their entire inheritance is now gone, because obviously they know they can't trust Jacob as long as there are slave girls around, but they do agree to go.

So they mount their camels and Jacob gathers the cattle and the goods, and while Laban is shearing the sheep, Rachel steals the pictures from the house, though not the kitchen sink, and they ride off, but not for long.

Laban finds out on the third day that Jacob and company have left, and a seven-day camel chase occurs with all his kinsmen Somewhere on the way, God appears to Laban in a dream and tells him to be neither mean nor kind to Jacob. They finally catch up to them near mount Gilead. Jacob has stupidly made camp for the night, and Laban comes in and asks him my he left in the middle of the night and kidnapped his daughters at swordpoint? He seems most insulted that Jacob didn't let him throw a good-bye feast and say goodbye to his kids and grandkids. Apparently this lack of courtesy means he can now harm him, but god has told him not to be angry or nice here. So now he's here to say that he understands Jacob wants to go home but there's the small matter of stolen property.

Jacob says he was afraid that Laban would take his wives away. Hey, at least he didn't pull the sister racket! He tells Laban to go through his luggage and take anything that belongs to him not knowing Rachel stole the icons. So Laban goes through Leah's tent, then the servants, and finds nothing, but finally he goes into Rachel's tent. Rachel has cleverly hidden the icons in the camel saddles and sat on them, so Laban doesn't find them. She tells her father that she can't stand up because she has her period, knowing he won't go near her.

Jacob and Laban argue and Jacob asks what he's done wrong, what Laban has found after ransacking his tents. He taunts him to say it in front of all their kin, so they can be the judges. He points out his twenty years of service, that the sheep haven't miscarried and he hasn't eaten the rams that he hasn't charged him for the losses, that Laban has stolen his time, and Laban has cheated him over and over again, and god saw it all but only rebuked him the other night.

Laban says Leah and Rachel are his and by extension so are their children, as well as the cows, so what can he do to all that is his?

He proposes a pact. Jacob takes a stone and starts a pillar, and tells his kin to do the same, and they all eat on the resulting pile. Laban wants to call the pile Jegarsahadutha, but Jacob prefers Galled and can you imagine how fun family dinner must be in this house, with the arguing over what to call a pile of rocks, and whose property the women are, and who bred the cattle how? Gawd.

Laban calls on god to watch over things when they aren't together, and says he doesn't want Jacob taking any further wives, as if four isn't enough, and says that in exchange he won't cross the border formed by the rock pile, nor will Jacob. Jacob agrees and sacrifices an animal and then they feast and Laban goes home.

Chapter 32

Jacob sets off and meets some angels. He asks them to go to Esau and tell them what he's been up to and that he's on his way. They do, and come back to say Esau is on his way to meet them with 400 men. Jacob is afraid and divides his people into two, on the theory that Esau can only fight one contingent. He asks god for safe passage. He camps for the night and chooses some goats, sheep, camels, donkeys and cattle and gives them to his servants with instructions to meet Esau and tell him this is a tribute. He sends out two more servants in different directions with the same orders. He figures this should appease Esau. Then he sends his wives and sons along, too. Then Jacob is alone except for a man, whom he wrestles all night.

Finally, Jacob wins despite his dislocated 'thigh', which might be his hip, or his penis, which I will find out when my uncensored bible arrives. The man asks for mercy, but Jacob says not until he blesses him. The man asks who he is, and he says Jacob, and the stranger says he's no longer Jacob, but Israel, because he has power over god and man. Jacob asks who he is, and why he wants to know who he is, but it's a secret, so the man shuts him up with a blessing.

Jacob calls the wrestling ring Peniel, because he saw there. Finally, the pain in his thigh catches up to him, and apparently that's why Jews don't eat the sinew of the thigh, which I did not know.

Chapter 33

The copy editor must have been on holiday that week because suddenly Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah are there, and Esau is within sight. Jacob lines them up in order of importance: handmaids, Leah, Rachel, himself, then goes to the front and bows down before his brother.

Esau hasn't gotten any smarter in the past 20 years, so he runs up to his brother and kisses him. He sees the harem and asks who they are, and Jacob says they're the children god has given his (Esau's) servant. The handmaidens bow, then Leah, then Rachel. Esau asks about all the other people he met, and Jacob says they're presents. He urges them on Esau, who refuses, because he's got enough, thanks to god. Jacob says he's found Grace in Esau's sight, and begs him to take the loot, and flatters his brother that he looks like God, which he ought to know, since he just saw him. Finally, Esau agrees and Jacob asks to go home, and Esau offers to go first. There is some discussion about driving the stock too hard and Esaw asks to leave some of his slaves with Jacob who says god will help him. Esau goes back to Seir, and Jacob to Succoth then to Shalem where he pitches his tent and buys a field and builds an altar.

Genesis Chapters 26 & 27

Chapter 26

There is a famine in Canaan, so Isaac goes to Gerar, the capital of the land of the Philistines. God tells him not to go to Egypt like his father. He renews his promise that Isaac's descendants will inherit the land.

Eventually, the men of the place notice that Isaac has an attractive wife. Demonstrating that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Isaac says Rebekah is his sister. The ruse is discovered when the king looks down one day and sees them 'sporting' (v. 8). Now, at Jerry's school, Liberty University, students aren't even allowed to sunbathe lest they tempt each other into sin, but of course Jerry is willing to overlook public nookie if you're in the messianic line. The king confronts Isaac and asks him why he said she was his sister when she's clearly his wife. Well, if you were fooled by it the first time... Isaac explains he feared for his life. The king counters that someone could have had sex with Rebekah and got them all in trouble. He tells everyone to leave them alone.

Isaac plants crops and gets a hundredfold return on his investment, thanks to god. He becomes powerful, with servants and flocks and herds, and the Philistines are envious. They block his wells and the king asks him to leave.

So he leaves and pitches his tent in a valley and unblocks the wells. This causes tension with the local herdsmen, who tell him it's their water. He calls the first well Esek, or tension, and the second one Sitnah or enmity. Finally he digs a third well and calls it Rehoboth, which means plenty of room and the fighting ends. Nevertheless Isaac goes on to Beer-sheba. God finds him that same night and renews his promise. He builds and alter and digs yet another well.

The king comes and finds him and proposes they make a pact of mutual non-aggression. They seal the deal with a meal and the king leaves in the morning. The slaves come back and tell him they've found water. Lots of concern about water in this chapter.

The last two verses are about Esau, Isaac's son. We find out he married two women, Judith and Mashemath, and Jerry doesn't hesitate to call them heathens and evidence of Esau's spiritual depravity, after ignoring all of Abraham's transgressions with the servants. Isaac and Rebekah do not approve of their daughters-in-law. Sigh. In-law troubles.

Chapter 27

Isaac is now old and going blind, and he calls his son Esau to him. He asks him to kill a deer and make a stew for him. Remember that in Chapter 25, Esau was Isaac's favourite, despite his selling his birthright and polygamous marriage to heathens. He promises him a blessing in return.

Rebekah overhears the request and after he leaves, she goes to Jacob and tells him to kill two of his goats and she'll make a stew so Jacob can bring it and get the blessing while pretending to be Esau. Jacob points out his brother is hirsute and he is smooth, so Isaac will surely know something's up and he'll be cursed. Rebekah tells him the curse will be on her. So he goes and kills the kids and brings them back. His mother takes one of Esau's garments and tells Jacob to put them on, then she covers his hands and neck with the goat skins. This is a lot to do for a simple blessing.

Jacob takes the stew in and his father asks him who he is. He says Esau and he brought the stew. Isaac asks how he did it so quickly, and Jacob says god helped him. Isaac isn't convinced and asks to feel him to make sure he's really Esau. Isaac says he sounds like Jacob but is clearly Esau. He asks if it really is Esau, and Jacob lies bald-facedly that he is indeed. Finally he agrees to eat the stew and give the blessing.

When Isaac finishes, he tells his son to come closer so he can kiss him. He smells the clothes and Isaac gives his blessing that he'll inherit the country and its people.

Esau comes in just after the scene with his venison, and aks for his blessing. Isaac asks who he is, and he explains. Isaac says he already ate, so who was the person before? Because he already gave his blessing. Esau begs him to bless him as well, but Isaac figures out it was Jacob and the blessing is gone.

Esau bitches a bit about his brother's cunningness, but Isaac says he's now in charge and he's already given him the slaves, vineyards and fields. He asks what Esau wants.

Esau points out that surely his father has more than one blessing to give? Isaac promises him the fatness of the earth (v. 40), and that he'll live by the sword as a servant of his brother, but eventually he'll break free and be in charge.

Esau hates his brother, and really, who can blame him? He vows vengeance as soon as he's out of mourning for his father. Rebekah hears about it, because there is no privacy in a tent, and calls Jacob to her. She tells him to go to her brother Laban until everything blows over. She complains to Isaac that Esau's wives are tiresome and she doesn't want Jacob marrying any heathens.

Whew. Brothers have pretty tense relationships in this book. Cain kills Abel, Ham becomes his brothers' servant, Ishmael is banished so Isaac won't have to share his inheritance and now Esau only gets a lame pity blessing after his brother steals the real one. So is Jacob the first biblical con artist, or does he just seize the day? Is Esau's problem that he's just kinda dumb, selling his birthright for a bowl of soup? Is Rebekah Machiavellian?

Genesis Chapters 12-25

We are introduced to Abram and his wife Sarai (which has presumably evolved into Sarah), who was barren, at the end of Chapter 11. At that point, they were on their way to Canaan, presumably to finish the job the Japhetic Romans started and conquer the Canaanites for once and for all.

Chapter 12

God promises Abram that if he moves to Canaan, he'll make of thee a great nation, and I will bless the, and make thy name great (v.2). Isn't that exactly why he scattered the people of Babel? Jerry does accept that this is ironic, but justifies it by saying that now it's god's decision, not some selfish humans, so it's okay. What he does not find ironic is the labelling of the Canaanites as wicked sinners. By the winners. Who generally write history. I'll shut up about that now.

Abram goes, of course, with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, and when they finally arrive, god promises him the land, and he builds an altar. Then he... promptly moves to a mountain near Bethel, where he builds another altar. Unfortunately, there's a famine there, so he heads further south to Egypt to ride it out.

Once he gets to Egypt, he turns to his 65 year old wife and says that since she's such a hottie, they Egyptians might kill him if he says she's his wife, so she'd better say she's his sister. Since she his half-sister, that isn't really a lie, it just isn't the full truth. Apparently, Jehovah's Witnesses use this verse to justify something called 'Theocratic War Strategy', whereby they lie when they think they're protecting the truth from god's enemies, even while under oath in court. Don't trust a Joho, especially if he thinks you're his enemy, I guess.

Getting back to the story: the Egyptians, who are clearly hard up, do indeed find Sarai pretty tasty, and she is added to his harem. Pharaoh, who never gets a name, does compensate Abram with sheep, oxen, asses and servants, and Sarai gets asses and camels. But he leaves out god, who punishes him with the plague. For believing Abram. Who lied. What was he supposed to do, go to the civil records office in Ur and ask if there were any marriage certificates issued to Sarai? It's not like there were fax machines then. Pharaoh does the honourable thing and gives Sarai back, and they leave.

Chapter 13

Lot, Abram and Sarai go back to Canaan, but conflict quickly develops because now they're too rich, and there isn't enough room for everybody's herds. Abram is generous and offers Lot his pick of the grazing lands. Lot choses the plain of Jordan, which also happens to contain Sodom and Gomorrah, so we know this isn't going to end well for Lot.

Abram continues along as a farmer and Lot moves to the city, where the men are wicked. Isn't that pretty much the view of every country dweller, even today? I remember I was sitting in front of a woman from London on a train to Toronto once, and she was fretting about having her purse stolen while she shopped. Because daytime purse snatchings are so common in the Big Smoke. Surprisingly, Jerry is demure in is characterization of Sodom, saying it is only known for moral wickedness.

God reaffirms his promise of Canaan to Abram, a promise he has clearly not fulfilled, given the conflicts in that region, from the Crusades to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abram moves once again to the plain of Mamre, and builds yet another altar.

Chapter 14

Rebellion! Five cities revolt after 12 years of servitude. Eventually, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah are eventually deposed and their allies flee to the mountains. Yet another reason to call them sinful, no?

So the other army marches into Sodom and Gomorrah and takes all the food, as conquering armies are wont to do, and also take Lot.

One member of Lot's household does manage to escape to Mamre and get word to Abram, who gathers his trained servants (v.14), which I guess means private army, and goes after the raiders. He catches up to them in Hobah and gets the captives back, as well as the goods.

The king of Sodom creeps down to meet him, and another king provides a feast. Jerry thinks that because he's the priest of the most high God he's a fellow Christian but I think that adjectival phrase there indicates polytheism yet again. Anyway, they all bless each other and god and Abram gives them tithes. The king of Sodom tries to do a deal with Abram: give him the people, and Abram can have the loot. Abram refuses, because he's a good Christian, and because he doesn't want to owe them anything.

Chapter 15

After the events of the preceding chapter, God comes to Abram and promises him a reward. According to Jerry, his reward is that he'll have children and they'll be the rulers of Canaan. Abram believes him but asks how he'll know that he'll inherit it. God then tells him to sacrifice a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove and a pigeon and to sacrifice them. He kills the animals, but drives the birds away when they try to come down for their share. What a weird way to find out you're going to inherit land.

Abram goes to sleep after the hard work of killing things, and receives a prophecy that his heirs will be exiled in Egypt for 400 years, but he'll judge the Egyptians and they'll come back rich after four generations. He then lists the Abrahamic peoples that will live in Canaan after the exile.

Chapter 16

Ten years have passed since the end of the last chapter. The now 75 year old Sarai is still childless. So she has the brilliant idea that Abram should have a child with her maid Hagar. Does this ever end well?

So Abram does, and Hagar gets pregnant, because all cases of infertility in the bible are on the female side, natch, and the result is Ishmael. Oh, and Hagar now hates Sarai. Well, who wouldn't, really? Sarai gets jealous of course, but Abram reminds her that Hagar is a slave and she can do what she wants to her. Sarai dealt hardly with her (v.6) and she flees.

An angel finds her sitting by a fountain in the wilderness and asks her what's up. She explains that she's left. He tells her to go back and submit and he'll give her children without number. He explains the first one will be Ishmael, and he'll be feisty and won't get along with anyone. Oh, and he'll be the forebear of the Arabs, which is pretty fucking convenient for old Jerry, who says Abram's 'act of the flesh' is the beginning of the Israeli-Arab conflict. No, I'd say it's more to do with letting them plunk down there at the end of WWII without thinking about the current inhabitants, not a biblical sex act. But this lets any modern foreign policy off the hook so Jerry goes with it.

So Hagar goes back and has Ishmael when Abram is 86 years old.

Chapter 17

Abram is now 99 years old and god comes along and asks him to go for a walk. He promises him yet again that he'll provide children for him, which causes Abram to fall on his face. Who knew the bible had slapstick bits?

God then changes his name to Abraham, because of all the nations he's going to father. He promises that this covenant will extend to his descendants, which as far as Jerry is concerned, means the Jews are still entitled to it. Well, that should settle it!

He then tells Abraham that his end of the bargain will be to circumcise himself and all the boys in the tribe, even the slaves, will also be circumcised when they're 8 days old. Seems like a good deal to me, if only god would hurry up and hold up his end of the bargain. Finally, he says that any boy that isn't circumcised will be exiled, not that they'll have much choice at 8 days old.

Moving right along, Sarai will now be called Sarah, because she, too, will be blessed with a son who will found many nations. At age 89. Jerry chalks it up to supernatualism, which he pretty much does any time something impossible happens. Abraham falls over again, this time laughing at the idea of a 90 year old and a centenarian having a kid. It also fails to explain why Dutch people have Sarah and Abraham parties when the person is turning 50.

Abraham asks why he can't make Ishmael his heir, but god says Sarah is really going to have a son, who will be called Issac and the covenant will be with him.

He doesn't neglect Ismael however, promising he will also have kids 12 princes to be exact and he will have a great nation as well but the covenant will be with Isaac who will be born n a year. Exeunt god.

Abraham then goes home and takes his son Ismael and all the boys in the house, whether servants or slaves and himself and they all get circumcised. What thing to do together as a family.

Chapter 18

Abraham is snoozing in his tent door one hot day when god appears again with two angels, though here they appear as men. Abraham comes running out to meet them and asks him to stay, wash their feet and rest up. He proves hospitable, offering them food and to stay until they are ready to leave.

He goes inside the tent and tells Sarah to make cakes for their guests, then runs out to slaughter a calf, which he brings back with butter and milk and serves them under a tree.

They ask after Sarah who has stayed in the tent. God promises to give her a child. Sarah overhears, and laughs because she is long past menopause and asks herself whether she's going to have sex with Abraham or what. One would hope so, her being 90 and all. God hears her laugh and asks why, after he promised?

He points out that as god, nothing is too difficult then promises to come back later and give her the promised son. She denies laughing, but he insists, which is rude on the part of a guest, even if you are god.

The men stand up to leave for Sodom. God considers not showing Abraham what he's about to do seeing as he's going to be so important in world history, and because he might send out his personal cavalry again to stop him. He resolves to go to Sodom and Gomorrah and see how sinful they really are.

They turn to leave but Abraham blocks their path and asks if they're going to destroy the righteous with the wicked? (v. 23). He asks if they couldn't spare the city for the 50 righteous men that are inside and asks Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Yes and no would be the answers, Bob.

God promises not to destroy the city if he finds 50 righteous men, or even 45. He keeps agreeing until the final figure is 10 righteous men who will save the city. Abraham goes back to snoozing outside his tent and the men leave.

Chapter 19

The two angels go on to Sodom and are greeted at the gate by Lot. He invites them to stay with him, to wash their feet and leave in the morning, but they decline, saying they prefer to stay on the street. But Lot is persistant and insists they stay with him and he makes dinner, but they don't eat.

But the men of the city can smell the catnip from miles away, and they gather outside and demand the angels so they can have sex with them. Jerry calls this 'unspeakable depravity' and cites all the other biblical passages that condemn homosexuality (there are 4 other instances). Here's a rebuttal. When the bible starts calling on us to be tolerant and generous, I'm going to keep a similar tally.

Lot goes to the door and asks them not to rape the angels. Instead he offers his two virgin daughters, and tells them to do as they see fit with them.

The men threaten Lot and try to break down his door, but the angels pull him back and blind the men outside so they can't find it. They ask who else is in the house, and tell him about their plan to destroy the city. So Lot goes to his sons-in-law and tells them what's about to happen. Yes, that's right. He lied about his daughters being virgins. But the sons in law don't believe him which makes one wonder what Lot has been up to for all these years.

In the morning, Lot wakes his wife and daughters and they leave with god, who tells them not to look back until they get to the mountains. Lot whines a bit that the mountains are far and he's frail, and he'd rather just go to the next city, and god says what the heck and lets them go there instead. He tells them to hurry, and they arrive in Zoar at sunrise.

Meanwhile, god is enacting yet another mass murder, but not one by flood, so he isn't breaking his promise from after the flood. He burns it instead in a shower of fire and brimstone.

Sadly, Lot's wife looks back and becomes a pillar of salt. Just for looking back on the place she lived her whole life? Ouch.

Now we're back with Abraham, who wakes up and looks over at Sodom and Gomorrah and sees only a smoking mess, but Lot does eventually make his way over. He leaves quickly, and goes into the mountains with his daughters and lives in a cave, even though he's afraid.

Lot's daughters, meanwhile, have somehow decided their father is the last man on earth, so they'll need him to help them repopulate it. Jerry has absolutely nothing to say about the kind of fucked-up family values this demonstrates of course. So they conspire to get him drunk and rape him while he's in a blind stupor. They do this two nights in a row, and they both get pregnant, and again, Jerry is mum. The first daughter has a son called Moab and the second has a son Ben-ammi. Both boys go on to found tribes.

David Plotz has some excellent points about this passage, namely, how do you teach it in Sunday school. Also, this has all the makings of a classic Jerry Springer episode.

Chapter 20

Abraham gets itchy feet again and goes to a place called Gerar. Sarah goes with him, and despite being over 90 years old and having admitted two chapters ago that she's post-menopausal, he again asks her to lie and say she's his sister so no one will kill him and steal her. And again the king of Gerar adds her to his harem. This time god goes to the king in a dream to tell him Sarah is already married and threatens to kill him. The king points out he hasn't even touched her, thus thwarting yet another mass murder because Abraham lied. God says he knew that he didn't know about the ruse and stopped him touching Sarah. Why threaten him with death, then? He tells the king to send her back and tells him he'll only kill him if he doesn't.

The king tells all his servants, then calls Abraham in to rebuke him for lying. Abraham says he didn't think they were godly, so they'd kill him for his hot 90 year old bride. He also explains that technically, he didn't lie, because he and Sarah have the same father, though not the same mother. So does this mean their father was a polygamist? He continues that he made the deal with Sarah when they left home.

To make up for his 'crime' the king takes sheep, oxen and slaves and gives them to Abraham along with Sarah. He also invites him to stay and explains to Sarah he has given Abraham a thousand pieces of silver. Abraham prays, and god, who works quickly, restores fertility to the women of Gerar, whose wombs he had closed in exchange for believing Abraham's lie, which he already admitted wasn't a sin. Sigh.

Chapter 21

Sarah finally has the long-promised Isaac, after a visit from god. Abraham names him as instructed and circumcises him at 8 days. Sarah regrets laughing and suckles her baby and Abraham has a feast on the day he's finally weaned. Sarah glances over and sees Ishmael laughing and her jealous feelings are stirred up again. She commands Abraham to cast Hagar and her son out, and to leave Ishmael out of his will, even as co-heir. Abraham doesn't want to, but god reminds him what Isaac will be, and also promises Ishmael will have his own people. So Abraham sends them away to Beer-sheba with a bottle of water and some bread. He puts both the bread and the boy on Hagar's shoulder, despite the book telling us numerous times that Ishmael is at least 13 years old, so it's no wonder she casts him under a bush as soon as the water runs out. She sits down a ways away, because she doesn't want to watch him die, but god hears him and sends his angel to ask what's wrong. The angel promises to watch out for Ishmael, and Hagar suddenly sees a well, so she fills the bottle and gives some to her son. Ishmael stays in the wilderness and becomes an archer and his mom finds him an Egyptian wife.

In a total non-sequitur, we suddenly go back to Abraham, who is being visited by the king he lied to before. He's heard about his relationship with god and wants him to swear he'll deal with him honestly, as he has been. This despite Abraham's earlier dishonesty. Abraham promises, then rebukes him about a disputed well, and the king swears this is the first he's heard of it. So Abraham gives him sheep and oxen and they make a covenant. Geez you really get a sense of what was important to the Israelites in this book, don't you? So they make a covenant, and Abraham goes and gets some sheep. The king is confused, but Abraham explains the sheep are his witness that he dug the stupid well. So they name the place Beer-sheba and the king leaves and Abraham plants a grove. Now suddenly it's the land of the Philistines.

Chapter 22

God seemingly renegs on his promis that Isaac will be the father of nations when he tells Abraham to take him into the land of Moriah and sacrifice him. Oh, and burn him as well. Abraham is enthusiastic about the idea of infanticide, and takes the boy to the designated place to sacrifice him. They build the pyre and Isaac asks where the lamb is, and Abraham says God will provide one. He binds his son to the pyre and he's standing there with the knife in hand when an angel stops him and tells him it was just a test of faith. Well played, god. Good thing you didn't get held up in traffic or anything.

Abraham looks up and sees a ram caught in the bushes. He offers it instead and names the place Jehovah-jireh. Jerry has nothing to say about this episode except that it was a test. A gruesome, capricious test, and an extremely poor example of family values and divine wisdom, I'd say.

But Abraham and Isaac don't seem to mind, as the angel renews god's promise that Isaac will be the father of nations. So they head down to Beer-sheba, because apparently Abraham is wandering again.

We get a brief story about Abraham's brother Nahor, whose wife has 8 kids. Bethuel, the youngest, has Sarah. Nahor's concubine also has 4 kids by him, but of course Jerry doesn't condemn the fact that this is either polygamy or extra-marital sex, because these are the good guys.

Chapter 23

Sarah dies in Kirjatharba, the land of the Heth, or Hittites. She lived to be 127, apparently the oldest woman in the bible, a complete reversal of normal human lifespans.

Anyway, Abraham asks the people to give him a place to bury her and they tell him anywhere is fine. He asks for the cave of Machpelah, which is now the Cave of the Patriarchs in Israel, and still a bone of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The owner of the land, Ephron, gives it to him, but Abraham wants to buy if from him. Ephron says it's 400 shekels, but to forget about it. Abraham insists on paying for it and gets deed to the land.

Chapter 24

Abraham is feeling poorly, so he makes his servant swear on his testicles that he won't let Isaac marry a pagan Canaanite girl. Yes, even Jerry concedes that put thy hand under my thigh (v.2) is a euphemism for penis. He tells the servant to go back to Ur and find a nice girl for his son. The servant asks what to do if the girl doesn't want to come to Canaan, should he bring Isaac with him? No, Isacc needs to stay there because god promised this land to them. So the servant swears on Abraham's member not to take Isaac to Ur.

The servant leaves with 10 camels and goes to Nahor in Mesopotamia, which isn't were Abraham is from, but okay. He sits the camels down by a well in the evening, when the women come to fill their jugs. He decides that the right woman will be the one who gives him and the camels water when he asks for it.

Rebekah immediately appears. She's very pretty and a virgin to boot. The servant literally runs over to her and asks for some water. She's amenable, even though carrying water is a laborious task and he's making it take even longer and hey, why can't he draw water for his own damned self? She also offers water to the camels, because she's nicer than me, and the man wonders if she's the right one. So he pulls out an earring and some bracelets and asks who she is, and if they can stay at her father's house.

She says she's Bethuel's daughter, and sure, they have room. The servant bows down and praises the lord. Rebekah runs off to tell her mother's house what's going on. Her mother's house. Indicating her father lives somewhere else. Indicating polygamy. Which Jerry ignores.

Anyway, Rebekah's brother Laban comes back to the well and talks to the servant. He asks him why he's lingering outside, as the house is ready. The man comes in, stables the camels and washes his feet. They feed him, but he refuses until he's told them what his mission is. He says he's Abraham's servant and Abraham is a rich man. He says Sarah has had a son, and he will inherit all of Abraham's wealth. He continues that Abraham made him promise that Isaac wouldn't marry a Canaanite, so he has sent him back to his father's house to find a wife among his kin. Long story short: Rebekah is the woman of his dreams for Isaac. So he gave her some jewellery, and now, can he take her back to Canaan for Isaac?

Laban and Bethuel, in a brilliant display of fatherly and brotherly concern, tell him that if god says it, it must be true, so go ahead and take her. The servant converts to Judaism right there nd gives them all jewels. They eat some more and party down and in the morning the servant wants to go home. Rebekah's mother and brother ask for 10 more days, but the servant is impatient. Finally, they think to ask Rebekah what she wants, and she says to go with the servant. So Rebekah and her nurse leave with Abraham's entourage with their blessing.

Isaac comes home and goes out to the field to meditate. He looks up and sees the camel train. Rebekah looks up and sees him and gets off her camel. She asks the servant who he is, and he says Isaac, so she covers herself. The servant tells Isaac about his adventures and he takes Rebekah to Sarah's tent, even though Sarah died in the last chapter, and they get married and Rebekah is a comfort after his mother's death. Now, a good copy-editor would have put this chapter before the last one, so as to avoid confusion, but apparently they didn't have those back then.

Chapter 25

After Sarah's death, Abraham takes another wife. Or rather, concubine. Even the sincere Christians don't really know. Anyway, her name is Keturah, and even though Isaac has always been referred to as Abraham's only son, she has 6 more. This also despite all the help he apparently needed to father Isaac. Maybe Sarah was just exhausting.

Anyway, despite these last 6 sons, Abraham still leaves all his property to Isaac. That isn't going to cause any resentment. He also sends them away with gifts before his death.

Finally, Abraham dies at 175. I had no idea that the expression gave up the ghost (v. 8) was biblical. You learn something new every day. Isaac and Ishmael, apparently back from the wilderness, bury him in the cave of Machpelah, which he bought two chapters ago, and which is still contested. God then blesses Isaac.

We find out the names of Ishmael's 12 sons, who become princes, and that he lived to be 137.

Isaac married Rebekah at age 40, and it turns out that she is also barren, until Isaac prays. Then she conceives twins. Even in the womb, they struggle, so she asks god why. He explains they're going to found two nations, but one will be stronger than the other. He also says it's going to be a reversal of sorts: the older brother will become the younger one's servant.

Rebekah goes into labour, and the first is Esau, red all over like a hairy garment which is pretty mean about a baby, then the brother comes out and takes his brother's heel, so he is Jacob.

Like many twins, the boys grow up opposites. Esau is a hunter, Jacob a city boy preferring the tents. Isaac loves Esau because he likes venison but Rebekah prefers Jacob.

Jacob is a soup-seller and one day Esau comes in hungry from the fields and asks him for a bit of it. Jacob says he'll give it to him in exchange for his birthright. Esau thinks he's literally going to die, so his birthright isn't much use, so he agrees. I wonder if my siblings would do the same? Quite possibly. So he agrees and gives it to his brother.