Exodus

January29

Moses, continued. I’m going to bang this epic one out in one fell swoop.

Moses grows up. One day he goes out to visit his own people, and apparently for the first time, sees how hard they have it. He sees an overseer beating a Hebrew slave and, checking to make sure no one’s looking (which shows complete intention and awareness of what he’s doing), he kills the overseer. Everyone finds out what he did anyway, and Pharaoh tries to kill him.

So Moses runs off to Midian, which is a huge hike across the Sinai peninsula into Saudi Arabia. He hooks up with Zipporah, daughter of the local priest, Jethro (or Reuel, the text can’t decide), and just hangs out, tending sheep, for a long time. Which is a very different world from the cosmopolitan, herder-detesting culture he grew up in.

The Hebrews still ain’t having any fun. They call out to God and God decides it’s time for action. God appears to Moses in a burning bush and tells him he’s going back to Pharaoh to get his people out of Egypt. Moses isn’t thrilled and doesn’t think anyone will believe him about the whole God thing, so God gives him signs – his staff can now turn into a snake and his hand can go leprous and back. Fun! Also, God reveals God’s own name – YHWH, something like “I am who I am.”

Moses takes his wife and son (or sons, kinda unclear here) and heads out for Egypt. On the way, God tries to kill him. Cause – wait, whaa? Zipporah grabs a sharp piece of flint and circumcises their son right then and there and touches the foreskin to Moses’ wang. God backs off. I have no idea. Although this is a good example of how important the rules are going to be. If you’re not circumcised, you are out of the club. This isn’t a God of universal grace at this point, this is a God who is building a serious, sustainable national identity that has to resist any outside influences or the whole message might get lost. It’s gonna get hardcore.

Moses hooks up with his brother Aaron, who is going to do more of the talking. Moses is worried about some kind of speech impediment or maybe he’s just terrified of public speaking like a lot of us are, so an exasperated God offers this as a compromise. I imagine it’s super hard to take on a freaky scary mission from God. Anyway, they get their people on board with the plan, and they confront Pharaoh, quite possibly a new Pharaoh by now, and ask for an animal-sacrificing holiday in the wilderness. In fact, this is ALL they ever ask for. Not complete freedom from bondage. Course Pharaoh may not buy this, “We’ll take a trip and come right back” business anyway. Pharaoh, in fact, is a bit offended and the impertinence and makes the slaves’ labors freakishly harder. “Thanks, Moses!” say the Hebrews.

Moses and Aaron go back to Pharaoh and do the staff/snake trick. Pharaoh gets his magicians do to the same thing, although Aaron’s staff-snake swallows up the magicians’ staff-snakes. Pharaoh isn’t too impressed, so God unleashes a series of plagues on Egypt, through the prophets. Pharaoh is too proud and stubborn to relent, and even when he sees something that convinces him of God’s power and agrees to let the slaves go, he backtracks the second the plague ends. Over and over. At the same time, it also reads as though God is purposefully making Pharaoh “hard-hearted” in order to be a bigger show-off. Either way, this here is the formative event of the Hebrew people, so shit’s gonna get REAL. Here come the plagues:

1. The Nile turns to blood. This is the lifesource of the whole country, the thing that formed so much of their religion and philosophy, and that everyone depends on. So, a big deal. The Egyptian magicians are able to mimic this sign as well.

2. Frogs everywhere. Again, the magicians can do it. But at this point, Pharaoh does his first relent and backtrack.

3. Gnats.

4. Flies.

5. All Egyptian livestock sicken and die.

6. Boils on the skin of the Egyptians and their animals (assuming there’s any left).

7. Crop-destroying hail.

8. Locusts, to finish off any remaining plants.

9. Complete darkness.

10. And then there’s the killing of all the Egyptians’ firstborn boys. A disturbing turnabout from the story that opened this section, which was the killing of all the Hebrew baby boys. God uses a big, dramatic, ritualistic setup before the night this happens. It’s like all the Passover laws and traditions to come were retroactively inserted straight into the narrative. Or not. I can’t prove that. Anyway, the Hebrews are told in great detail to kill a lamb and smear its blood on their doorframes. That night, God comes to kill everyone’s firstborn sons, but passes over the houses with the blood. And thus, lives are redeemed with the blood of an innocent sacrifice. Ooooh! Theme to come! Anyway, it’s morbid and depressing when everyone in Egypt wakes up that night wailing.

Pharaoh kicks them out (although, curiously, still only speaking about letting them go to worship God like they asked), with the enthusiasm of all Egyptians behind him. Moses packs up Joseph’s bones. The Israelites ask their neighbors for gold and silver on the way out, and they get it. They pack up their unleavened bread, because they knew they had to be ready to go and not wait for any yeast to rise. In the future, anyone with yeast in their house during Passover will be cut off from the community. Also, any strangers who want to celebrate the meal with them will have to get circumcised first. (I’m gonna just say that other than the copious wine, the menu for a Passover seder does not make this seem worthwhile.) Also, the Hebrews’ firstborn sons belong to God know, but parents are instructed to buy them back. God’s just being symbolic.

God leads them all out of Egypt, but doesn’t take them directly to the promised land, as they don’t seem to be up for an immediate battle (cause, you know, there are already PEOPLE in the promised land and they’re going to feel about Israel the way Native Americans are going to feel about Pilgrims). God guides them as a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.

They camp by the Red Sea (or some other body of water called the “sea of reeds”). Pharaoh changes his mind about the whole thing, maybe because they still never talked about leaving¬†forever, and chases after his slaves. The Israelites are trapped, but God parts the waters of the sea with a strong wind until they are like two walls the people can pass through. When the Egyptians follow, the waters fall in on them and swallow them up. The people of Israel sing a happy song, the earliest portion of which may be the verse Moses’s sister Miriam sings at the end.

Thus concludes the most dramatic, important event in Israel’s history, and our first big taste of the salvation theme.

Next up: Whining in the Desert

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Weekend of Fun and Puking

January27

I was in a land without internet but with lots of great food last weekend and needed some time to recover. In fact, being at Grandma and Grandpa’s was so exciting for Miss A, we brought her back puking. I don’t know, it seems to be over now, and she’s at school, but it was not a pleasant four-hour car ride. I dare say she would tell you it was all worth it, as she had the time of her life running after her three big boy cousins and getting oodles of attention.

It’s amazing how sickness totally transforms my attitude toward her. She could have been a total turd not an hour before, but as soon as that fire goes out of her eyes and she stares off in hopeless misery, I want to buy her a pony. Any other night I might get cheesed at being woken up at 1 am, but when she’s hurling, I’m happy to sleep in a chair with her for hours.

(Also, my husband is my total hero, as watching her hurl made me have to hurl, and I had to abandon him to all the gross stuff so I could run away and try to calm down.)

She was herself enough this morning to dump her cereal and my glass of water on the floor, so all that sympathy is out the window.

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Moses

January22

The kid and I spent last weekend with my folks so Andrew could have an exciting bachelor weekend at home. As far as I can tell, he rearranged some office furniture, played video games, watched TV, and didn’t shave. Sounds like heaven. Audrey was thrilled to be with her grandparents. Every five minutes brought an excited “Hi, Poppy! Hi, Grammy!” out of her.

So, Bible-wise, I read Job while I was there. Too many of these stories are making me cranky. Again, I know the point is not to make me happy. It’s just so strange to put yourself in the ancient theological mindset. The God they’re dealing with is not the one we tend to talk about today. Ours is usually a warm, self-help guru, who happens to love all the things we love and hate all the things we hate. The ancient biblical world has a God who doesn’t interact with most people individually, who seems to prefer some over others, and usually rewards loyalty and punishes misbehavior during their lifetime, as there is no afterlife.

Anywho, let’s read Exodus.

Many many generations have passed since Genesis and the current Pharaoh has no loyalty to Joseph or his descendants. In fact, Pharaoh is rather threatened by the number of Hebrews hanging around (my Bible commentators guestimate about 2 million at this point). Huh, this is the first time I think I’ve seen the word “Hebrew” in the Bible. Not sure of its origin. So Pharaoh decides to enslave them all, and is pretty brutal on them. To help curb numbers, he orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all boys when they are born, but to let the girls live (Logically, you’d want to do the reverse, but I suppose males are more threatening). The midwives, Shifra and Pua – and you know this is a big deal for women to be called out by name in the Bible – do no such thing, as they “fear God,” and when the Pharaoh interrogates them, they claim those Hebrew women just labor too fast and the kids are born by the time the midwife shows up. (If there are 2 million Israelites, there’s gotta be more midwives, but maybe these two are singled out for some reason.)

So Pharaoh just orders his peeps to throw all the newborn Hebrew boys into the Nile. Yeesh.

One little boy has managed to be kept hidden for three months, but his mom knows it can’t last. So she builds a little boat and puts the baby in, resting it in the Nile among the selfsame reeds its made of. The baby’s big sister watches to see what will happen.

Pharaoh’s daughter comes by with her attendants and finds the crying baby. She knows right away he’s a Hebrew baby and feels sorry for him. The baby’s sister asks the princess if she should fetch a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her and the princess agrees. Thus, the baby’s mom gets to take him home and care for him for pay until he’s weaned, and then he goes to live in the palace as the princess’ son. She names him Moses (“to lift out’).

I read more than that, but I’m too tired to keep writing.

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Job

January19

We’re headed to the nonstop carnival of pain that is Job. My chronological bible sandwiches Job between Genesis and Exodus. It’s a guess, but scholars seem to think it belongs somewhere in the most ancient parts of the story, as the descriptions of the characters’ lifestyles seem to fit that time.

I’m not summing up 5 pages a day at this point. I took a couple of days to read 40 pages and I’ll give it to you all right here, because it’s mostly the same song on repeat.

Job is a wealthy, happy, wonderful guy who gets on great with God.

One day, God gets together with the heavenly court or angels or whatever they are. The Hebrew is “sons of God,” which were the same creatures doing human women not long after creation and making giant hero babies. I wonder if angels are always male. We meet “the Satan,” or the Accuser.

God: Where ya been?

Satan: Patrolling Earth, watching stuff.

God: Have you seen Job? He’s da bomb and he loves me.

Satan: Sure he does. You’ve given him everything. Take it away and see how far that love really goes.

God: Oh yeah? Let’s see. Do anything you want with his stuff.

Next thing Job knows, he’s being informed all his livestock have been stolen or destroyed, all his employees killed, and a house collapsed in on all ten of his children. Job is distraught and falls down, praying, but doesn’t blame God.

Back with the “heavenly court.” Just to note, I haven’t really read anything speaking of “heaven” per se. Just so you don’t think this fluffy cloud locale is a given at this point. We’re really still talking about a meeting of God and “sons of God.” Ah, “And the Satan came with them.” So we wouldn’t call Satan a “member” of this group, then.

God: Whatcha been doin?

Satan: Patrolling Earth. Watching stuff.

God: Seen Job? He’s still a totally great guy, even though you egged me on to hurt him for no reason.

Satan: Pshaw. His own skin was safe. That’s all people care about. Take away his health and he’ll trash you good.

God: Fine. Do whatever you want to him, as long as you let him live.

Which is even worse than it sounds, because after Satan strikes Job with boils over his entire body, he soon wishes for the sweet release of death God didn’t grant.

But before he can say anything negative, Job’s three friends come by to make him feel like total crap on top of the total crap he already feels. And the whole rest of the book goes like this:

Friend: You must have done something wrong. Repent and you’ll be fine.

Job: Yah, no, I didn’t, and if I did, I need God to tell me what the hell it is so we can deal with it.

Friend: You don’t get to tell God what to do. See how much you suck? Repent already.

Job: I DON’T KNOW WHAT FOR.

Job continues to bemoan his existence, beg to come before God to plead his case, and respond to these yayholes come to “comfort” him. For 31 pages. We mention “Sheol” a few times but, like before, the afterlife is no “life,” it’s just a kind of nonexistence. Job does have one moment where he asks God if the dead could ever live again because, if so, he would have hope through all this. But the only worldview the people in this story seem to have at this time is that bad people have bad lives and good people are rewarded. That’s why the friends are convinced Job did something wrong, and why Job feels so wrongly messed with.

God finally responds with an onslaught of questions: Have YOU ever made the sun rise? Can YOU make lightning strike wherever you want? God even gets sarcastic: “But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created!” God also quizzes him about Behemoth and Leviathan, which no one seems to be able to identify. The notes here say maybe they were earthly creatures, maybe mythical sea beasts. Leviathan can breathe fire FYI, so maybe we’ve got a dragon here. Who knows.

Job takes back everything he said. I don’t really know why, or if there’s a lesson to be taken. All of his feelings are totally valid, and if you can’t talk openly to God, well then who? God gives Job everything back but twice as much. He gets ten more children. I guess we’re supposed to feel better about this, but those were a lot of lives taken out at the beginning for one experiment on one guy. The commentators of my bible would tell me that I can’t place some Law of Absolute Fairness above God and expect God to comply; rather, God is the standard and whatever God does is fair and right, whether we get it or not. Course if you were to try to figure out What is Right based on the actions and laws of God as depicted in the Bible, you could pretty much get away with anything. While simultaneously breaking others of God’s standards, probably. Now I’m babbling and have no idea what I’m talking about. Over and out.

 

 

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Go Go Go Joseph

January16

Whoops. Missed a day o’ Bibleblogging. So I’m going to sum up 20 pages of the story of Joseph in, like, less than that. I will remind myself I don’t need to cover every detail. If you need that, see Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Joseph is a great story. He’s our first completely likeable hero. The worst thing he ever does is be an arrogant teenager. So, you know, a teenager. And the story is just a perfect Hollywood plot. You gotta love this one.

Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob gives him a fancy robe, and Joseph has prophetic dreams about ruling over his brothers. He’s also a tattler. These things piss off his brothers. They decide to kill him. Then they hedge and go with throwing him in a hole. You know, cause a long, drawn-out death is so much more humane. Reuben’s not totally on board with this, but isn’t around when the rest of the guys pull Joseph out and sell him as a slave to some Ishmaelites heading into Egypt.

They tell Jacob that Joseph has been attacked by a wild animal and Jacob says he will “go down to Sheol” in grief. Sheol is sort of a vague underworld-y place, kind of like Egyptians might have, I think. I’m not really sure if this is our first mention of the concept of the afterlife, or if it’s more a figure of speech, as many translations render it “go to my grave mourning.” I only bring it up because I’m very curious about the biblical references to the afterlife, as I’m given to understand there’s a lot less clearly stated about heaven and hell than we’ve been telling ourselves the last few centuries. So…we shall see…

We pause this narrative to tell an anecdote from the life of Joseph’s brother Judah. Judah has three sons. The first one dies, leaving a childless widow, Tamar. The law (stated later in Deuteronomy) says she then has to marry the next son, and their first child will be heir to the dead guy. It’s weird, but it’s a way of protecting an otherwise screwed widow. Women who don’t belong to anyone don’t fare well at this time. Tamar marries the next one, who has no interest in this arrangement, and continually “pulls out” when they have sex, so there will be no child to take his inheritance. God strikes him dead. (This story is traditionally used to rail against masturbation, but you see that wasn’t the problem.) Judah is too nervous to hand over his third son, so Tamar takes matters into her own hands. She disguises herself as a prostitute, sleeps with her father-in-law, and gets pregnant. Judah, finding out his daughter-in-law is knocked up, gets ready to have her killed, until she shows that he’s the father. He relents and says that she acted more righteously than he did. And they all live happily ever after, becoming ancestors of David and Jesus. Now back to Joseph.

Joseph becomes a slave in the household of a dude named Potiphar, and Joseph is so awesome at what he does that his master notices God is with him and has him running the whole joint before long. All goes great until Potiphar’s wife gets the hots for Joseph. He shoots her down (“It would be a great sin against God.”) and she cries attempted rape.

Joseph is thrown in prison where he successfully interprets the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, always giving the credit to God. It’s interesting how God doesn’t talk to Joseph directly, like with the three previous generations, but Joseph has this easy, complete confidence in their connection. Anywho, a couple years later (and it had already been a bunch), one of those prisoners, since freed, tells Pharaoh about Joseph. Pharaoh’s been having bad dreams. Joseph is sprung and cleaned up and tells Pharaoh his dreams foretell seven years of abundant crops in Egypt followed by seven years of famine. So he’d better have a game plan. Pharaoh’s so impressed he makes Joseph his second-in-command, which is maybe the biggest promotion anyone has ever gotten. Also, he gets a wife and has two sons.

Joseph manages Egypt through the bumper years and doles out the stored grain during the famine. One day, among all the hungry foreigners starting to show up to buy food, Joseph meets his brothers (sans Benjamin) who don’t remotely recognize this clean-shaven tarted-up Egyptian. Ooooooh, juicy. He harasses them for familial information and makes them sweat a bit. He sells them the grain they want, but takes Simeon prisoner until they come back with Benjamin (Joseph’s only full brother and too young to have been involved in all the original drama). It’s all to prove they’re truthful and not spies, he tells them. They do so only when they’ve run out of grain again, as Jacob has no desire to risk precious Benjamin for Simeon. Judah begs to take all the risk and blame on himself for the kid’s welfare.

When they all return to Egypt, Joseph feeds them well (though Ben gets 5 times as much as the rest) and sends them on their way with grain, but not before he plants his personal silver cup on Benjamin. When Ben is “caught” with the cup and Joseph says he’ll enslave him, the brothers lose their shit. Judah makes an impassioned plea for Benjamin, this other favored child of their father, and it’s a beautiful reversal. This time, Judah begs to be taken as a slave in Benjamin’s place, so his father will not die of grief.

Joseph bursts into tears and reveals himself. It’s major emotional craziness in that room, and all is forgiven, as Joseph says that the brothers’ crime was God’s way of sending Joseph ahead to save them all. He sends them to fetch Jacob and they all live in a lovely part of Egypt for a long time. By the time the famine is through, the entire population of Egypt (sans priests) has had to sell their land to the government for food. They all become tenant farmers and such but, hey, at least they’re not dead.

Jacob hits his deathbed and blesses/curses his sons according to their individual characters. Reuben loses his firstborn privileges for doing his dad’s wife. Simeon and Levi are trashed for being murderous nutjobs. Judah is told a line of rulers will come from him. Joseph’s sons are blessed, the younger before the older. When Jacob dies, they allow him to be embalmed, then take his body to the cave Abraham bought for Sarah to be buried.

When Joseph is dying a long time later, he tells his family that God will take them out of Egypt someday and back to the promised land. He makes them promise to take his bones back with them.

And we’ve gotten through Genesis, people!!!

 

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Jacob Continued

January13

Jacob decides he wants to take his huge family and amassed wealth of livestock and head home. He and Laban agree to a settlement of flocks in which Jacob gets the speckled sheep and goats and black sheep. Laban tries to screw him over by putting those animals in his sons’ care but Jacob, following what may have been curious folklore, ensures the leftover animals still produce speckled offspring by putting patterned bark in their drinking water so they would be looking at it while they mated. Point being, Jacob does a great job of breeding himself some great animals, while Laban gets the short stick.

Laban and his sons start to get a bit cheesed with Jacob and God tells Jacob to go. Jacob talks to Rachel and Leah about it, and they totally agree that their father has kind of sucked, and Jacob can go ahead and do whatever God says. So they sneak out and head for Canaan and home. Rachel lifts her father’s household idols before she goes.

Laban and company catch up to Jacob’s family, though God warns Laban not to mess with Jacob. He chastises Jacob for sneaking away, saying he would have thrown them a party and kissed his daughters and grandkids goodbye and, hey, why on earth did you steal my idols, yo? Jacob says if any of his people stole anything, they will die. Dude, don’t SAY stuff like that. But Laban fails to find the idols, as Rachel has hidden them in her camel saddle and pulled the Aunt Flo card about getting up.

But Jacob and Laban make peace and part company. Then Jacob meets some angels for a split second but we get no more info on that.

Jacob sends a message ahead to brother Esau, hoping for a friendly encounter. Word comes back that Esau’s coming to meet him with an army of 400 men. Jacob prays hard and sends a crap ton of presents ahead of him to Esau. Then he takes his family over the next river and comes back to camp alone. A man comes and wrestles with him till dawn. Whut? Yeah. The man sees he’s going to lose, so he magically dislocates Jacob’s hip and demands to be let go. Uh, dude, you started it. Jacob says, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man changes his name from Jacob to Israel (“God fights”) “because you have fought with God and with men and have won” and he blesses him. So curious. What on earth do we make of this?

Jacob and Esau finally meet up and everything’s okay. Sometimes 20 years will do that. Esau says he’ll lead the way home, but Jacob sends him on ahead and promises to follow. He doesn’t though. He travels on and settles outside a town called Shechem, where he buys a plot of land from Hamor, the local king, I think.

Hamor’s son, also called Shechem, rapes Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Then he “falls in love” with her and tries sweet talk. Nothing here about how that goes over, but the next thing we know, he’s telling Daddy to go get that girl as a wife for him. Hamor and Shechem go begging Jacob and his sons for Dinah, and for everyone to be one big happy intermarrying bunch of people. Jacob’s sons, horrified at what’s gone down, pretend to agree to this – with the caveat that all the men in Shechem get circumcised first. They all agree! And while the men of the town are nursing their penises, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, full brothers of Dinah, slaughter each one. They take Dinah back home, which means they must have handed her over to her rapist already in order to take vengeance. Yeah, it’s all for her, huh, guys?

The other brothers hit the town to ransack it, taking all their livestock, possessions, and women and children. Jacob is horrified – at how it will look and the effect it will have on the family’s future. The guys respond with, “But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?”

Oh, there’s so much to pain one about this story. It’s just gruesome.

God tells Jacob to move to Bethel. Jacob tells everyone to get rid of their pagan idols and get cleaned up. At Bethel God appears to Jacob again and re-re-names him Israel. In case he missed it. Jacob moves on toward Ephrath (which will apparently be Bethlehem someday). On the way, Rachel difficultly delivers her second son, the last of Jacob’s twelve. Dying, she names him Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow”) but Jacob calls him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”).

As they travel on, Reuben, Jacob’s eldest, has sex with one of Jacob’s wives, Bilhah. Dude, you really shouldn’t do that.

And there you go. Next up: Technicolor Dreamcoat time, everybody!

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That’s too many women to keep happy.

January13

The child is upstairs not napping again. She’s having a conversation with Elmo right now. Whatever works for you, kid.

This weekend I will be giving Andy the present of our absence, so he can relive his glorious bachelor days by sitting around in his own filth and playing video games. Or whatever boys do. The kid and I will be at my folks.

Speaking of filth, I promised to leave Andy with a not disgusting house. My marginal housekeeping skills have gone completely to hell and I don’t think I have good excuses anymore. I don’t feel that bad. I have plenty of time. I’m just a baaaaaad little housewife.

Andy was a bit cheesed to learn my laundry method yesterday, which is to leave his ugly sweaters at the bottom of the basket until there is nothing left to wash. He doesn’t like that at all, but I think it’s the laundress’ prerogative.

Aud is loud and animated up there. I think there will be no nap.

Here’s your Bible snippet for today:

Jacob Gets a Lotta Wives

After his first day of travel to Haran, Jacob makes camp and dreams of a stairway from earth to heaven, with angels going up and down. God is at the top, and renews the familial covenant with Jacob. Jacob is blown away and upon waking, makes a little altar, names the place Bethel (“House of God”) and says, “If God really does look out for me and provide for my on this trip, than God will totally be my God. Whatever I get from God, I’ll give a tenth back.”

(Went back and checked: God made the same covenant with Isaac. I almost missed it, as it was sandwiched in between all the Jacob and Esau craziness.)

Jacob arrives at Haran, and sees a hottie at the well (theme!) named Rachel (“ewe”). She turns out to be his uncle Laban’s daughter. Jacob goes to work for him, and after a month Laban offers him compensation. Jacob offers to work for seven years if he can just marry Rachel. Laban agrees, and the time passes fast for the lovestruck guy. When it comes time to marry Rachel, Laban slips Jacob his older, less hot daughter Leah instead. Jacob is super angry. Ain’t fun on the other side, is it, Jacob? Laban says he can marry Rachel after his bridal week with Leah is over…and then he has to work an additional seven years after that.

Well then the sisterly rivalry begins hard. Leah’s not the favorite, so God lets her have the kids – four sons to start off. Each one comes with a name derived from Leah’s hope that NOW she’ll be loved. To try to catch up, Rachel has Jacob sleep with her maid and make a couple of sons in her name. Leah decides to do the same with¬†her maid, so she can stay way ahead. There’s even some negotiating over sexual access to Jacob and aphrodisiacs. Leah has two more sons and a daughter herself, before God finally lets Rachel get pregnant and she has a son, Joseph.

Current total: 11 sons 1 daughter. There will be one more son before all is said and done, but not yet.

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Kids

January12

I took a day off from the Bible yesterday. The folks came over and we went out to eat. We timed it just badly enough to get the tired kid to the restaurant right at naptime. And what did this two-year-old who’s been so TWO lately do? Act like a total lady. Sit contentedly, eat happily, be a total joy to be around. Ain’t life sweet?

Today Andy and I are working through the two-hour season 4 premiere of Downton Abbey. This show, I tell you. I was so passionately in love with it in the beginning, and now I find myself groaning at the thought of watching another episode. Can I take it emotionally? I’ll ask myself. I feel like there used to be more fun along with the drama. Sigh.

Yes, these are the kind of problems I have right now. Woe is me.

So let’s tackle the Downton of its day, Genesis.

Jacob

Abraham dies. Rebekah’s having trouble getting pregnant (theme!) until Isaac does such a good job of pleading with God about it, that she gets knocked up with twins. It’s sibling rivalry from the beginning in there, and as they’re duking it out in utero, those of us who have been pregnant can feel for Rebekah when she complains to God: “Why is this happening to me?”

God talks right back to her (that’s the third woman God has addressed personally, if you count that “You did too laugh” to Sarah) and tells her the boys will be fathers of rival nations and the older will serve the younger (theme!). Esau (“hairy”) is born first and Jacob (sounds similar to “heel” and “deceiver”) is born grasping Esau’s heel.

Esau grows up an outdoorsy hunter and Isaac’s favorite while Jacob is a quiet homebody and Rebekah’s favorite. One day, Esau comes home all exhausted from hunting and demands some of the stew Jacob’s cooking. Jacob asks for Esau’s rights as firstborn son in exchange. Esau, in the ultimate act of immediate gratification, agrees. I’d like to point out this is lentil stew, not even beer cheese or chicken and dumplings.

We take a detour from these two with a bit of famine, moving, and Isaac pulling Dad’s “She’s my sister” routine with a local king. Oh, sigh. Then some battles over wells.

So then Isaac’s on his deathbed and going blind. He gets ready to bless Esau, conferring all the rights of a firstborn upon him: it would typically mean a double share of the inheritance and leadership of the family. Rebekah talks Jacob into presenting himself as Esau to get the blessing for himself. It works, and Isaac and Esau are shaken hard when they realize what’s happened. Esau plots to kill Jacob and Rebekah tells her younger son to hightail it to her brother Laban in Haran. Isaac agrees and tells him to marry one of his uncle’s daughters. Not those local women like Esau married. Jacob goes. Esau, getting his folks don’t dig on his two wives, adds another wife, this time one of Ishmael’s daughters.

posted under Audrey, the Bible in 2014, TV | Comments Off on Kids

A Warm Fuzzy Arranged Marriage

January10

Okay, I’m going to make my Bible summary short and sweet today, because I seem to be using as many words as the passages themselves. Also, I have less to rant about today.

Sarah dies.

Abraham sends his right-hand man to Abraham’s relatives to find a wife for Isaac, so that Isaac doesn’t end up with a Canaanite woman. You know those Canaanites. Abraham promises the servant that God will help him, and if the woman he finds won’t come back with him, he’s free from the obligation. They seal the deal the old-fashioned way. Hint: It’s like a pinky swear, but one of the pinkies is Abraham’s junk.

The servant – probably Eliezer, he’s been mentioned before – asks God for a sign upon approaching the city well, and it is immediately fulfilled by Rebekah, who grants Eliezer’s request for a drink, and the offers to water his camels too. This ain’t no hollow gesture. Each camel could have taken down close to 25 gallons of water. That is some serious physical labor. So Eliezer gives her a gold nose ring and bracelets (if any old ladies in your church cluck their tongues at your body piercings, just remember you’re like Rebekah!) and finds out she’s indeed related to Abraham. Eliezer strikes a deal with the family for her marriage and wants to cart her off right away. The family asks for a little time, but when he pushes it, they – God bless them – ask Rebekah’s opinion and she takes off to meet her new husband.

As their caravan approaches home, Rebekah sees Isaac walking in the fields. She dismounts and veils herself.

“And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.”

There we go. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.

posted under the Bible in 2014 | Comments Off on A Warm Fuzzy Arranged Marriage

The Roast of Isaac (but not the Comedy Central kind)

January9

I’m having a rough time. I’m six days into this Bible reading thing, and…eh…how do I put this?…book’s a downer. I know the point is not to give me the warm fuzzies, but rather to tell the stories of the human family and our relationship to God, but, oy, they can be brutal stories. My Bible does a thorough job of trying to explain (whitewash?) every morally curious episode but methinks they are stretching too much in places. Sometimes you’ve got to just let it bother you. A lot of this stuff should bother you. Anyway. Must keep trucking. I know there’s a nice moment when Isaac and Rebekah get together, Joseph is a satisfying yarn, and there will be some great, uplifting quotes worthy of a Thomas Kincaid painting. So…let’s buckel down and have some fun with human sacrifice!

Isaac

Abraham moves a little south and, deciding he hasn’t learned any lessons, calls his wife his sister, and hands her off to the local king. This time, no funny business goes down before the king finds out, and Abraham still makes off with presents. I don’t even.

So then Abraham and Sarah FINALLY get their long-promised son, Isaac. They are super old. Sarah sees Ishmael acting like a teenager about the whole thing and kicks him and Hagar out again. God talks to Hagar again in her wandering and protects the two.

Okay. Here we go.

Isaac gets a little older and God decides to test Abraham’s faith by telling him to off his son in a mountain sacrifice. Maddeningly, Abraham’s response is not recorded. Complete silence from the guy who argued with God over sparing Sodom. The only dialogue is this wonderfully short but rich bit going up the mountain after three days of travelling:

Isaac: Father?

Abraham: Yes, my son?

Isaac: We have the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?

Awkward pause.

Abraham: God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.

Yeeesh. So Abraham builds an altar, straps his son to it, and raises his knife. With perfect dramatic timing, the angel of the Lord stops him and tells him he’s so awesome for not withholding his son, but he doesn’t have to do it now. More praise is heaped on Abraham. No idea how Isaac feels about his dad’s great “faith.”

I imagine it’s a long walk home.

So I still remember the first time I heard this story in Sunday School. I don’t know how old I was, but I remember the feeling of having my mind flipped upside-down. Now, what would have been nice to hear, as young as I was, was that this story has bothered theologians for literally thousands of years. I would have like to hear the different thoughts about it: well, it’s a symbolic rejection of pagan human sacrifice; or it prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus. It wouldn’t have fixed it, but it would have helped to know the great minds of Judaism and Christianity have struggled with it too. But no. I was told it was a great lesson about having faith. Abraham was our guy to model ourselves on for having faith.

I mulled this over for quite some time in church that day. And I came to a conclusion. If God was talking to me, and specifically ordering me to kill my child, I would not be out of line to question my sanity and therefore, it would be wrong to kill my child on that chance. And then I thought: Even if God was most assuredly telling me to kill my child, I would choose eternal life in hell (if that was the punishment for disobedience, which I assumed it was) rather than hurt my kid.

I’m still really proud of kid me for that stance.

You’ll find a part later on, in one of the prophets, maybe Jeremiah, where God says nobody’s going to need to learn from books or people any more: God’s going to write the truth on our hearts. I’m thinking this is entirely what came to pass. We tend to know darn well what’s right and wrong, and sometimes we need to pass even the Bible through that filter to see if what we’re reading is a God Thing or something that came from People and got projected onto God. It’s obviously more complex than that, but another option is to run it through the Jesus filter (who I tend to take as a more reliable transmitter of who God is than anyone else in the Bible). If you see things coming out of God’s mouth that wouldn’t come out of Jesus’, it’s worth a pause and examination. Just my opinion.

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