Monday, December 27, 2010

Exodus 24-31: Even MORE commandments

Right, so God is still not done. So far he's gone over the 10 commandments, and a whole extensive rulebook regarding what to do in every possible scenario involving bull-goring.

Moses goes and tells all this to everyone, and they agree to follow it all. Then Moses builds an alter and sacrifices some stuff, throws half of the blood on the alter, and sprinkles the other half on the people. Eww.

Then Moses and the elders go up the mountain and see God (even though God told the elders not to come...but he decides not to kill them all anyway, what a nice guy). So they are seeing God, but all the bible has to say about it is that the ground was paved with lapis lazuli. Seriously, who wrote this shit?

Then "the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai" for 6 days, in the form of a cloud, which also looked like fire somehow. On the 7th day, Moses goes back up there (either with Joshua or alone...seriously, the details of this story are so confusing), and stays up there for 40 days.

Now God goes on for 7 chapters about how to build the tabernacle, which is “a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them." I can't help but wonder why this warrants 7 full chapters, while the creation of the entire universe gets only one. Oh well.

First, God gives Moses a shopping list of building materials, which he is to obtain by donations from the Israelites. Mostly gold, silver, and a bunch of other fine metals and fabrics. I have to wonder why they would have any of this stuff at all. I mean, these people were much gold and silver do slaves really have? Even so, these people had to flee their homes. I know when I'm fleeing for my life, I go straight past useful things like food to be sure to grab all the gold and silver, just incase God wants to build something in the middle of the desert. Really?

Anyway, then God gives horribly detailed instructions for building the following objects (seriously, if you thought Noah's ark was boring, don't even bother with this).

First the ark of the covenant, basically a wooden box with carrying poles, for holding the "tablets of covenant law." And it has to be decorated with cherubs.

Then a table, also with carrying poles, and a bunch of gold dishes. And they are to put bread on it whenever God is around. I thought God didn't want to be offered anything with yeast in it...

Then a fancy lampstand.

The oil for the lampstand is olive oil, and it is to be kept burning from evening to morning. "This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come." Right then.

Then a fancy wooden alter with bronze utensils.

The tabernacle itself seems to be a series of curtains and a wooden basically a tent. There is to be a fancy curtain splitting the tent in two parts... the "Holy Place" and the "Most Holy Place." Lol, great names. The ark goes in the "Most Holy Place" and the lampstand and table go in the "Holy Place."

There's also instructions for another fancy alter specifically for burning incense. It sounds like this also goes in the tabernacle, possibly conveniently right in the middle of it, blocking the dividing curtain.

More stuff to go inside the tabernacle: a bronze bowl of water, so Aaron can wash his hands and feet. If he doesn't, he dies...God must love purell.

Also, the tabernacle is to have a courtyard.

Aaron and his 4 sons will be priests, and extremely detailed descriptions of how to make their priestly garments are given, including linen underpants! Also gold bells, so that "The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the LORD and when he comes out, so that he will not die." Weird. Apparently God will kill you if you don't jingle in his presence.

Then there is instructions on how to consecrate the priests... a bunch of really weird stuff involving a young bull, 2 rams, and some bread, of which certain parts must be burned on the alter, others waved in the air, and others eaten. And they have to do this for 7 days. I don't know if they have to do that just once, or every time they want to enter the tent (tabernacle). Though they have to go in the tent every day to tend the lamp. I dunno.

Also, God expects a routine sacrifice twice a day... some strange concoction of lamb, olive oil, and wine.

God wants the Israelites to give him money at each census, otherwise they will get a plague; God is all about the coercion of his chosen people.

Then there is a recipe for anointing oil to smear on all this stuff, so it can be holy. I don't get why we need oil to make it holy...can't God just do that? Oh well.

There is also God's favorite recipe for incense.

Also, God was kind enough to magically beam the knowledge of how to make all of this stuff into the minds of the most skilled workers, so I'm not sure why he's bothering to tell Moses about it.

God also goes on about the sabbath some more. To desecrate the sabbath is death, if you work on the sabbath you get "cut off from your people." But wait, 2 sentences later working on the sabbath is also death. Hmm.

Now, it seems that God is finally done talking, and gives Moses the 2 tablets of "covenant law" ... "the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God!" Oooo, fancy. I wonder how he fit all of this on just 2 tablets. I know he wrote on both sides, but still... I guess that's omnipotence for you. Ooo.

So, do they have to make all of this stuff right now, and then haul it around the desert with them? Is that why it takes them 40 years to get to Canaan? If that is true, then God is a total asshole (but then, he was already).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exodus 21-23: Some more commandments

So, God just said the 10 commandments to the Israelites, and now he's still talking to Moses by himself. Looks like God has a lot more law to lay down. Check this out, anybody who thinks that the 10 commandments were so brilliantly simple that the Israelites just didn't need any other laws, and neither do we!

About servants: you buy a servant, they serve you 6 years, then they go free. But only if it's a man, if it's a woman you keep her forever (cause that's fair). If he already had a wife, the wife goes free too. If they marry during those 6 years, you get to keep the wife, and any kids, apparently forever. Seriously. If, after 6 years, a servant decides he doesn't want to abandon his wife and kids, he can stay on as a servant too, forever, but only after you pierce his ear with an awl. WTF. If your son marries a female servant, that servant attains the status of daughter. Friendly.

Punishment for personal injuries:
  • murder = death
  • manslaughter (accidental killing) = "flee to a place I [God] will designate." WTF.
  • kidnapping = death
  • cursing your father or mother = death (woah, seriously?)
  • injury = "he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time"
  • beating a slave to death = "punishment" (that is so specific)
  • accidentally hitting a pregnant woman so that she gives birth too early, but there is no serious injury = "the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows."
  • accidentally hitting a pregnant woman so that she gives birth too early, and there is a serious injury = "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
  • hitting a servant and knocking out an eye or tooth = the servant goes free
  • a bull goring someone to death = death for the bull, but nothing for the owner
  • a bull goring someone to death, and the bull had a habit of goring = death for the bull and the owner
  • a bull gores a slave = death for the bull, and the owner must pay 30 shekels of silver
  • digging a pit and not covering it properly, so an ox or donkey falls in = pay the owner of the animal, but you get to keep the dead animal!
  • a bull gores another bull = the 2 owners sell the remaining bull and split the money and the dead bull
  • a bull gores another bull and he already had a habit of goring things = the owner must pay the other guy for his loss
Holy crap that was tedious. What's with all the "if a bull gores this, do this" rules? Did that really come up that much?

OK, rules regarding theft:
  • stealing an ox = pay back 5 ox
  • stealing a sheep = pay back 4 sheep
  • killing an intruder at night = no punishment
  • killing an intruder during the day = death (Why does it matter what time it is??)
  • grazing your livestock in someone else's field = make restitution with stuff from your own field
  • starting a fire that burns down someone else's crops = make restitution
  • keeping something for someone else, and it gets stolen = if the thief is found, he must pay back double! If he is not found, you have to go before the judges, and you may be responsible.
  • keeping an animal for someone, and it is injured or died = take an oath before God that you didn't do it. If the other person accepts this, nothing happens. If not, you must make restitution.
  • keeping an animal for someone and it is ripped apart by wild animals = save the pieces as evidence, and there will be no punishment
"Social Responsibility"
  • seducing a virgin = pay the father and take her as your wife. If the father refuses to give her to you as a wife, you must pay him anyway.
  • "Do not allow a sorceress to live." Nice, simple, to the point.
  • bestiality = death
  • making sacrifices to anything other than God = death
  • "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him." Hey, that actually is friendly. Hmm, unless he is a sorcerer, or sacrificing something to his foreign God, or any number of other things. Then kill the bastard!!
  • taking advantage of a widow or orphan = God will kill you himself. Maybe God is so touchy because he was once an orphan. That's how it would be if this were a cheesy movie, anyway.
  • If you lend a fellow Israelite money, do not charge interest.
  • "Do not blaspheme God." Shockingly, there is no punishment given for this one.
  • "Do not curse the ruler of your people." Lay off Moses already!
  • "Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats." OK then.
  • Give God your firstborn son. He's been going on about this for a while now, and I still don't know what he's on about. Does he want them all to become priests? Does he want them all as burnt offerings? No idea.
  • "Do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts."
"Justice and Mercy"
  • Don't spread rumors.
  • "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong."
  • If you see your enemy's ox wandering off, bring it back to him. Friendly.
  • Do not deny justice to the poor.
  • Do not put an innocent or honest person to death. Hmm, that's interesting, given how many offenses are punishable by death. This is the whole problem with the death penalty. Thanks for pointing it out, Bible. Guess this invalidates all that other stuff punishable by death? Guess not.
  • No bribes.
The Sabbath
  • Plant your crops for 6 years, but leave the fields unplowed the 7th year, so poor people and wild animals can forage in them. Weird.
  • Work 6 days, rest on the 7th. You know, I've heard this a bunch of times already, and they still haven't actually said "Sunday". Just "the 7th day." Well, I declare that the sabbath is Thursday. Why the hell not?
  • Do not invoke the names of other Gods.
3 times a year celebrate a festival to God: Passover, the first harvest, and the last harvest. Also, do not offer a sacrifice with anything involving yeast. No fucking yeast! - this is clearly one of the central tenets of the Christian religion. Also, do not cook a baby goat in it's mother's milk.

God also tells Moses about how he is going to have his angel lead them to the promised land, and guard them on the way. Obey him and me, and all will go well for you (but if not...oh boy). The Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites (lol, Jebus) are already living in the promised land, but God is going to "wipe them out," so it's no problem. But you people be damned sure not to start worshiping their gods. Knock down their temples. Worship me, and you'll get food and water, no sickness, no miscarriages, no infertility, and a full life span.

Jolly good then, let's go wipe out thousands of people in the name of God, just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then in a few thousand years, let's yell incessantly at people who dare to say our God and religion is not one of love. Hmm.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exodus 17-20: The 10 commandments

So, once again, the Israelites have no water. But rather than asking God for water, they complain about Moses. So God tells Moses to hit a rock with his magical staff, and water comes out. Fantastic.

You know, I have to wonder... since God can apparently make it rain quail and bread every day, can't he also make it rain rain every day?? Then they would always have something to drink. How is making water come out of a rock one time any solution, since they're traveling, and thus not going to be there the next day? Oh well.

Then they are attacked by the Amalekites. Moses sends Joshua out to fight them. While the fighting is going on, Moses stands well back, but he "helps" by holding up his hands. Apparently whenever Moses's hands were up, the battle was going well, and whenever Moses's hands were down, the battle went badly. Really? So they win, and it's clearly all because Moses managed to hold his hands up the whole time. And then when it's all over, God decides that he really hates the Amalekites, so he will "be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." Well that's friendly.

Apparently Moses didn't bother to bring his wife and kids with him when he left Egypt. So they came and found him in the desert, and the father-in-law, Jethro, came too. Jethro noticed that Moses was acting as the only judge for everyone's disputes. It said earlier that there were 600,000 men, not to mention the women and children of course, who left Egypt with Moses, so it was all more than Moses alone could handle. So Jethro suggests that he pick out some other judges to handle the simple cases. So that's what he did, yay.

Then, even though he was apparently a total convert (he went on about how great it was, what God did it Egypt, and he gave God burnt offerings!), Jethro goes back to Egypt (or wherever he came from).

This next story is a bit weird. They are near Mount Sinai, and Moses is having a friendly chat with God. God tells Moses to go tell everyone that so long as they "obey me fully," then "out of all nations you will be my treasured possession." Err, I thought this was already thoroughly established in Genesis. So Moses does that, and everyone is like, "yeah, sure."

Then God tells Moses that he is going to appear to everybody as a "dense cloud," so that they will stop giving Moses shit, basically. And they should prepare for this by being "consecrated" by Moses, washing their clothes, and abstaining from sex, for 2 days, until God appears on the 3rd day. That is so random. I mean, I already knew God is totally obsessed with the sex that his followers are having (what a perv), but why does he care if their clothes are clean? Is this like people dressing up to go to church? Cause I never understood that either.

God also tells Moses that he is going to be appearing on the mountain, and that Moses should tell all the people that they are not allowed to so much as touch the mountain, or they will die (apparently by a hail of stones or arrows). Well, that's convenient.

On the third day there is a cloud, and thunder and lightning, over the mountain. Then there's a trumpet, then a whole lot of smoke, apparently because God descended on the mountain "in fire." Then God is on top of the mountain and says "Moses, get up here!" Moses is allowed to go up the mountain, but no one else is? Again, that is very convenient.

God tells Moses to go tell everyone (again) to not come up the mountain. Apparently God is very concerned that they will charge up there to try to see him, and then die. Because God himself would kill them. He could just... not kill them. But what fun would that be.

So, again, Moses is acting as messenger. How is this "appearing to everybody" thing any different than usual?

Ah, here we go. God does address everybody, with the 10 commandments, which everyone knows about.

There was this funny tidbit in the "no idols" one:
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Got that right.

Then God is talking to just Moses again. God says, tell them "no idols!" again. Apparently that is the most important one. God also says to tell them to be sure to build alters to me, and to sacrifice burnt offerings on it. But, random alter rules: "you will defile it if you use a tool on it" and "do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it." WTF? I don't even know what that second one means. I imagine someone going up on an alter by a set of stairs, and then suddenly their clothes vanish. I guess God is a fan of sight gags? And really hates stairs?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exodus 13-16: God drowns some Egyptians

I didn't mention last time, in chapter 12 the Pharaoh basically told all the Israelites to get the fuck out of Egypt. And really, who can blame him. And so they went, and it goes on and on about how their bread had no yeast in it. Yeah, yeah, I get it, no fucking yeast.

So they're leaving, and God randomly says to Moses, "Consecrate to me every firstborn male." OK, whatever that means.

Then Moses goes on about celebrating Passover some more. No fucking yeast! I get it already.

Also, "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath." Sweet, they actually did dig up Joseph's corpse and take it with them. That's hilarious.

It also says that God didn't let them take the easy road, but led them through the desert toward the Red Sea, because "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." Yeah, right. Also, if God could control the mind of the Pharaoh, can't he just control the Israelites' minds and make them keep going?

So God led them on as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night. Fantastic.

Then, in chapter 14, God is telling Moses where they should go. I have to wonder why that is necessary, since all they have to do is follow the cloud/fire. Oh well.

Well, shit, God hasn't had enough of controlling the Pharaoh like a puppet. Exodus 14:4: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." But I will gain glory for myself????? Fuck that. This is ridiculous.

So of course, Pharaoh chases them, along with 600 of his finest chariots. And he gets another dose of "hardened heart" in verse 8.

The Israelites see the Egyptians coming, and they get pissed at Moses. We told you we didn't want your stupid help back in chapter 6!!

So, God parts the sea so the Israelites can flee across it, and "I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen." Seriously??? This is all just so fucking stupid. God is continually making this whole thing so much more difficult than it has to be, just so he can "gain glory" for himself. Well God, I guess if the pointless murder of children wasn't enough "glory" for you, maybe the pointless murder of 600 chariot's worth of adults will be.

So of course, that's what happens... the Israelites get across the sea safely, while the Egyptians are forced in by God and drown. "Not one of them survived." Fucking great. Are you happy now, God? Do you feel sufficiently glorified now???

We also learn about now that the pillar of cloud/fire is an angel of God, even though it said previously that it was actually God. I am so confused.

Then Moses and the Israelites sing a song to God. It's a pretty dumb song about how fantastic it is that God killed all the Egyptians.

Then they walk through the desert for 3 days without water. They finally find some water, but it is "bitter." So Moses "cried out" to God, and God pointed out a piece of wood, and Moses threw it in the water and it became "sweet." Well, that's just grand. Then God says, (paraphrasing) "Just do whatever I want, and you won't have to suffer like the Egyptians." Hmm, God is issuing thinly veiled threats to his chosen people...

Then they go on to a place with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. That is so specific.

So they're in the desert for like 2 months, and they are all grumbling about how at least as Egyptian slaves they had enough to eat, and Moses just brought them all out here to starve to death, and so on. God hears this and says "At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread."

Then "That evening quail came and covered the camp." I can't help but imagine dead quail just raining out of the sky. The following morning "thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor."

Yep, this is manna. The bible has a lot to say about manna. Each person is to gather as much as they need for a day. (except for saturday! gather twice as much on saturday because there won't be any on sunday.) Don't save any til morning! (except saturday) When they did keep some til morning, it got all maggoty and gross - except for sunday, it was alright on sunday. Well I guess that just proves it's bread flakes from God. They also apparently saved a jar of manna; "keep it for the generations to come" God said. I wonder where this jar of God-bread is now, and why no one has tried to make a fake one.

Apparently, "The Israelites ate manna forty years ... until they reached the border of Canaan."

It took them 40 years to get there??? I'm remembering Genesis, when Jacob's 11 sons apparently had no trouble getting from Canaan to Egypt in a reasonable time to buy food. 40 years, huh. I do hope there's some good reason for that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Exodus 7-12: 10 plagues of Egypt

I've heard this story before, and I imagine most everyone else has too. Here's Penn & Teller covering the basics of this story, in their amazing way.

That clip also contains one of my all-time favorite quotes: "God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways." From what I've seen so far... so true.

There is one pretty major detail in this story, though, that Penn & Teller do not touch on, and for all the many, many times I've heard this story in church and sunday school, I've never heard of this either. God says repeatedly that he is "hardening the Pharaoh's heart" so that he won't let the Israelites go. Yeah, seriously.
Exodus 7: 3-4 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you."

Exodus 9:12 "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron"

Exodus 10:1 "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials"

Exodus 10:20 "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go."

Exodus 11:9-10 "The LORD had said to Moses, "Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt." Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."
If this is true, then I want to know... what the goddamn hell is the point of all of this??? I mean, seriously. The Pharaoh might have let the people go of his own free will at any point (probably long before God ruthlessly slaughters all the Egyptian firstborns). But no, God "hardens his heart." WHY??? Is this all a game?? Is God some kid playing with dolls? Is this all just a roleplaying game, with God as the sadistic DM? I don't get it!!

I haven't ruled out the possibility that this is all just the usual arbitrary cruelty, but the story does give a couple of hints...
Exodus 7: 3-5 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Exodus 10:1-2 "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."

Exodus 11:9-10 "The LORD had said to Moses, "Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt." Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."
So... God is just looking for an excuse to show off? Or actually no, even worse: God is manufacturing an excuse to show off. What the effing crap is that all about? Gah!

This is possibly the worst thing I have ever heard of. God slaughtered Egyptian children, which is horrible no matter what. But he himself created the circumstances that led to it, which is even worse. But, even worse than that, God apparently slaughtered these children just to show off, which is what makes this officially the worst thing I have ever heard of.

Let me just say right here, I am glad that God does not exist. This is complete bullshit.

So anyway, let me see if I can calm down enough to finish.

While God is giving the Israelites instructions for painting their doors with lamb's blood on the night of this reprehensible slaughter of innocents (apparently God can't tell who is Israelite and who isn't), he also gives some instructions about celebrating Passover. Yeah, apparently we're supposed to celebrate that God killed everyone else's kids but not our own.

First and foremost, NO YEAST! God goes on and on about this. "Whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel." Harsh. Also, if any foreigners want to celebrate, they have to be circumcised. All right then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exodus 3-6: Back to work you lazy slaves!

Well, now that God has been alerted to the situation (because apparently that has to happen), he starts bothering Moses. Moses is out tending the flock when he sees a bush that is somehow on fire but not burning. He goes over to check it out, when suddenly the bush demands that he remove his sandals. After that, the bush announces that it is God, and it is very concerned about the suffering of the Hebrews in Egypt. The bush has big plans to take the Hebrews to "a land flowing with milk and honey." Also the bush would really like it if Moses would do all of this so it doesn't have to.

Well, I do hope someone remembers to dig up Joseph's corpse and take it with them...those were his final wishes ya know.

Anyway, Moses is like, "Why me?"

And God says, "I will be with you." (Way to dodge the question, God.)

Moses asks God what his name is (ballsy).

God says, "I am who I am." (again, nice dodge)

God tells Moses to go tell the elders of the Israelites about all of this. Then Moses and the elders are to go tell the Pharaoh that they would like to take a 3-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to God. Apparently God knows that the Pharaoh will not let them go unless "a mighty hand compels him." Therefore, God will "strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them." Hmm, I think I know where this is going...I don't think 'wonders' is the word I'd have chosen.

God also encourages the Hebrews to "plunder the Egyptians" by asking their neighbors (their Egyptian neighbors?) for gold or silver, or clothing, which they should dress their children in. OK, whatever.

Moses asks God what he should do if no one believes him. So God imbues him with the power of 3 cheesy magic tricks: he can throw his staff on the ground, where it becomes a snake; he can put his hand in his cloak, and it comes out leprous, then put it back in the cloak and it comes out fine; and he can make water turn to blood when he pours it on the ground.

Then Moses says, "I am slow of speech and tongue."

God says, "Go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say."

Moses says, "please send someone else."

God gets pissed and says fine! I'll get your brother Aaron to help you.

God apparently also told Moses that it was safe to go back to Egypt because everyone who was trying to kill him had died. Bwah ha ha! So Moses packs up his wife and son and goes back to Egypt.

Prepare yourself for Exodus 4:21-26 - the most confusing reading known to mankind (or maybe just to me).

God is apparently coaching Moses for his confrontation with the Pharaoh. God says to be sure to do all 3 of your cheesy magic tricks. But it won't work anyway, because "I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go." Then what the goddamn hell is the point, I would like to know.

So after the magic tricks fail, Moses is supposed to say "This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, 'Let my son go, so he may worship me.' But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son."

Huh... Israel. Is that Jacob? Is that all of the Israelites?

So Israel (whoever that is) is... God's firstborn son? Moses's firstborn son? WTF? Neither one makes any sense at all.

All I can figure is this must be about how they were planning to ask for a 3-day journey to make a sacrifice to God. But Pharaoh will refuse (because his heart had been hardened by God), therefore, God is going to kill the Pharaoh's son. That makes no fucking sense. You refuse what I ask, because I made you refuse, therefore I will punish you. Gah, I think my head just exploded. Seriously, I would expect this scenario to come up when some sadistic 5 year old is playing with his dolls (or action figures!), not when the Creator of the universe is trying to free his chosen people.

Then, Moses and his family are lodging somewhere on the way to Egypt, when suddenly God shows up and tries to kill Moses. Yeah, seriously. WTF. Why, your bloodlust so insatiable that you apparently have to kill your own people??? So obviously his wife cuts off their son's foreskin and touches it to Moses's feet. God is apparently satisfied that Moses has foreskin on his feet, and leaves him alone. For fuck's sake.

OK, that was Exodus 4:21-26. Moving on...

Then God goes and tells Aaron to meet Moses in the desert. They find each other, and Moses tells Aaron about what God told him to say, and his fancy new magic tricks. They go to the elders of the Israelites, and they believed them.

Then Moses and Aaron go see the Pharaoh, and ask him to let the Hebrews go worship God in the desert for a while. The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "I don't know God! So why should I obey him!" They say, (paraphrase) "But God told us to take a 3 day journey into the desert! He might punish us if we don't go!" The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "Get back to work!" Hmm, they forgot to say the bit about how God would kill the Pharaoh's son. That surely would have closed the deal for them.

Then the Pharaoh decides that the slave's problem is they are lazy, so he tells the foremen to stop providing them with straw to make bricks with, so the slaves will have to go gather it themselves. Then they beat the slaves when they can't make as many bricks as usual. Hmm.

The Isrealites complain to the Pharaoh...yeah we can't make as many bricks, but it's your own fault for not giving us straw. The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "Back to work you lazy slaves!!"

So now all the Israelites hate Moses and Aaron. Awesome.

Moses asks God, "why have you brought trouble upon this people?" I did what you said and things are worse than ever! Waah!

Then God told Moses, "Because of my mighty hand he will let them go." Well that's just fucking great, God, why didn't you do that before?

God also told Moses about the covenant that he established with Abraham, and apparently now that he's strung those guys along for 3 generations, and then vanished entirely for who knows how long, now he is ready to make good on his promise!!! Oh joy.

Moses told this to the Israelites, but somehow they fail to be excited by it. Perhaps they're too busy being beaten for not making enough bricks.

Then God tells Moses to go ask the Pharaoh to let them go again. Moses says, seriously old man? he won't listen to me.

Then there's a random segue into the genealogy of Jacob and his sons.

Then God tells Moses, just say what I tell you to say, for fuck's sake. But Moses is still like, "I speak with faltering lips!" Holy shit, that Moses complains.

So, Genesis gave me the impression that God is sort of a bumbling, inept idiot who would much rather kill people than make them better.

After reading this last bit I am reforming that impression.... God is a temperamental 5 year old and we are all his dolls.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Exodus 1-2: Hebrew enslavement, enter Moses

Exodus seems to be pretty much a direct continuation of Genesis. At this point in the story Jacob and his 12 sons are dead, but their descendants (the 'Israelites') are "exceedingly numerous."

Egypt gets a new Pharaoh, and apparently someone forgot to tell him how awesome Joseph was, because he really hates the Israelites. He is concerned about how numerous they are, so he makes them all into slaves. Yep, that'll shut them up. But somehow, "more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread." That seems unlikely, but whatever. So the Egyptians hate them more than ever, and make them work even harder.

Then the Pharaoh decides to tell the midwives to kill Hebrew babies (if they're boys). The midwives "feared God" and don't kill any babies. The Pharaoh is like, "What the hell? Why aren't you killing babies like I asked?" The midwives lie; they tell him that the Hebrew women are so "vigorous" that they give birth before they get there. This is a lame-ass lie if I ever heard one.

So the Pharaoh tells the midwives to throw the Hebrew baby boys into the river. How exactly is that different than "kill them?"

Some Hebrew chick gave birth to a boy, and she "saw that he was a fine child" so she hides him for 3 months. So what, if he wasn't a "fine" child, she would let him be thrown in the river?

Anyway, 3 months later she couldn't hide him anymore for some reason, so she put him in a basket and put him in the Nile. He is found by the Pharaoh's daughter, and she feels sorry for him and keeps him for her own son...she names him Moses. (Hey, I've heard this story before!)

Suddenly, Moses is all grown up. Apparently, even though he's been raised by Egyptians, he knows he's really Hebrew. He's hanging out one day watching the Hebrew slaves. He sees an Egyptian beating a slave, and it pisses him off. So, obviously, rather than using his influence as the Pharaoh's adoptive grandson to put a stop to this, he stupidly murders the Egyptian.

News of this gets out, and the Pharaoh tries to kill Moses. But Moses runs away to Midian. He's moping near a well when he "came to the rescue" of some girls who get chased off by some shepherds.

The girls leave him there and go home, and their father is like, "What'd you leave that nice boy there for? Bring him here."

Moses apparently stays there for quite some time. He marries one of the girls, Zipporah, and they have a son named Gershom.

During all this time, the Pharaoh dies.

Also, the Israelites "groaned in their slavery and cried out ... God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them."

Well that's sweet. Wait, I think I mean 'bullshit'. Why, oh why, did God apparently "forget" about his covenant with Abraham et al? The covenant that was oh-so important that God literally didn't have anything else to say for 3 whole generations? For fuck's sake.

Of course, God did tell Abraham in a dream that it was part of his mighty plan that the Israelites be enslaved until the people already living in the promised land were evil enough to destroy (Genesis 15). So, if that's the case, why is he so surprised that they are slaves now? And why does he care that the Israelites are "groaning?" If this is all part of his plan, either it's time for them to be liberated or not. Who cares whether they are suffering.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Genesis 46-50: Joseph - SUPER cut throat businessman

So, Jacob et al head to Egypt. On the way God appears to Jacob in a dream, saying basically, "I know I said to stay in Canaan, but don't worry about going to Egypt, because I will be with you." Well that's just grand, God. God also says, "I will make you into a great nation there." Yeah, we'll see how that works out.

Then it lists out all of Jacob's descendants who are going with him to Egypt. Snore.

So they get to Goshen, which is the area of Egypt that Joseph told them to go to. Apparently Goshen is some of the best land in Egypt. Though I'm not sure why it matters, nothing is supposed to be growing anywhere because of this famine.

Joseph meets them there, and says he's going to go tell the Pharaoh that they arrived. He says they should all tell the Pharaoh that they are shepherds, so they will be allowed to settle in Goshen. Aside from being some of the best land, Goshen is apparently also where the Egyptians dump all the shepherds that they don't like. Hmm, great plan Joseph.

So Joseph and 5 of his brothers go see the Pharaoh, and he lets them live in Goshen. He also says that if any of them are super awesome shepherds, that they should watch the Pharaoh's animals. Fantastic. We never learn whether any of them become the royal shepherd though.

Then Joseph brings in Jacob. Jacob blesses the Pharaoh, then the Pharaoh asks Jacob how old he is (130), then Jacob blesses him again (I guess being 130, maybe he forgot that he did that already).

So the famine goes on, and eventually people run out of money to buy their own food back from Joseph. They say, "Oh, come on, just give us some food! Or would you rather we died, you prick?" Joseph, being a total prick, tells them that he will accept their livestock in exchange for food.

Then everyone runs out of livestock, and Joseph gives them food in exchange for their land and "bodies" (so they're all slaves now?). Apparently every single person in Egypt had to give up all their land to Joseph, except for the priests, who somehow had their own supply of food.

So, Joseph and the Pharaoh now owns all the money, all the food, all the livestock, all the land, and all the people in Egypt. Seriously, WTF? Also, does this mean that Hebrew slavery in Egypt is Joseph's fault? That would be freaking hilarious.

So now that he owns everything, Joseph gives people seeds to plant. But because it's the Pharaoh's land, 1/5 of anything grown belongs to the Pharaoh. But, Joseph was already taking 1/5 of everything even back when the Pharaoh didn't own everything, so I'm not sure what difference this is supposed to make.

Suddenly it's 17 years later, and Jacob is on the verge of death. He makes Joseph swear to bury him in that cave where Abraham and Isaac are buried. It's another appearance of "put your hand under my thigh!" Genesis 47:29.

So I guess at some point in this chapter the famine was over.

Chapter 48, Jacob is still dying. Joseph brings his 2 sons to see Jacob. Jacob claims the 2 kids as his own (WTF???) and says any more kids Joseph has can be Joseph's. He also rambles on for a while about how God appeared to him, and how Rachel died in Canaan.

Then Jacob seems to suddenly notice Joseph's (now Jacob's?) 2 kids (I'm my own uncle! I'm learning all about "traditional families," as defined by the bible). He put his right hand on the younger kid's head, and his left hand on the older kid's head, and blessed them. Apparently this was backward and Joseph was upset about it. But Jacob says, "Yeah, yeah, I know. The younger one will be greater, that's why I'm doing it this way."

Then Jacob promised Joseph "the ridge of land I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow." Fantastic.

Then Jacob got all of his 12 sons together and defined them as the 12 tribes of Israel, and "gave each the blessing appropriate to him." Yeah, yeah. "Joseph is a fruitful vine...prince among his brothers." The rest of them get blessings like: "Simeon and Levi...cursed be their anger...I will scatter them in Jacob." or "Issachar is a rawboned donkey...he will bend his shoulder...and submit to forced labor." Yeah, Jacob fucking hates all of his children, except for Joseph, so he blessed them "appropriately."

Then, finally, Jacob dies. He gets embalmed and mourned for 70 days by the Egyptians. Then Joseph gets permission from the Pharaoh to go bury Jacob. So he goes, with his brothers and a bunch of the Pharaoh's officials. They get to the cave, they mourn for 7 more days, then the bury him.

Joseph's brothers are scared Joseph will try to exact his revenge, now that Jacob is dead. But Joseph is like, "No way. God made it happen so I could save people from the famine. Also, you should fear God instead of me." Hmm.

Joseph stayed in Egypt. In his old age, he told his brothers that surely God would take them back to the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And when that time comes, they are to dig up his (Joseph's) corpse and take it with them. WTF??? Yeah crazy man, I'm sure your decaying remains will have a jolly old time in the promised land.

Then he died at 110 and was buried in Egypt.

And that's how Genesis ends...charming.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Genesis 42 - 45: Joseph - the awkard reunion

Flash over to Jacob and his remaining 11 sons. (And his one daughter! Just kidding, she isn't mentioned. After serving her one purpose, getting raped and triggering the slaughter of a whole city, I suspect we will never hear of her again.) They begin to feel the effects of the famine over in Canaan, so Jacob tells his sons, (paraphrasing) "Word on the street is they have food in Egypt, why don't you go buy some?" He doesn't let the youngest, Benjamin, go because he doesn't want him to get hurt. Joseph and Benjamin are the only 2 to have Rachel as a mother; I guess in Joseph's absence Benjamin is now the favorite.

So, the 10 of them go to Egypt, and are shown to Joseph who is in charge of all the food. Joseph knows who they are, but for some reason they don't recognize him. Joseph is pissed at his brothers, and starts yelling about how they are spies. They explain who they are, and let it slip that they have one more brother (idiots). So Joseph says that to prove their honesty, they must wait in jail while one goes and gets the other brother and brings him here. (Why? Does he want all his brothers there at once so he can exact his revenge? Does he just really miss Benjamin? Is he just being a dick? I have no idea.) Then he throws them all in jail for 3 days.

3 days later, I guess Joseph has had a chance to cool off. He tells them that only one of them must wait here in jail, while all the others go back with food for their starving families. But they must bring the youngest back, "so that your words may be verified and that you may not die." Die? Huh?

Then the 10 brothers have a little conversation among themselves about how they are being punished for what they did to Joseph. It seems odd to me that they should happen to think of that at that moment, since they couldn't recognize Joseph. Are they really that guilty about it still, after all these years?

So Joseph has Simeon taken away, then he gives orders for their bags to be filled with grain, and for their money to be put back in their bags. Err, why? Joseph is willing to take money for food from starving Egyptians, but not his no-good double-crossing family?

Maybe he gave them their money back to freak them out, because that's just what happens. They find their money later, and "Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What is this that God has done to us?" "

So they get home and relate this story to Jacob (in typical biblical fashion: excruciating detail). Jacob refuses to let them take Benjamin to Egypt, saying: "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!" and "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left."

Wow, Jacob is dramatic. Also, have 11 sons. Unless for some retarded reason you are only counting the children you had with Rachel. I know Rachel was your favorite wife and all, but to pretend like your other 10 sons don't exist seems just a little bit unfair.

So, they leave Simeon in jail, and life goes on I guess. Eventually they eat all the food they got, so Jacob tells his sons to go get some more. They're like, "uh, we can't go back there without Benjamin." Jacob moans and groans for a while, then he's like, "fine, but I don't like it." He tells them to take Benjamin, and also gifts...honey, almonds, etc (I thought there was a famine on, where are all these gifts coming from?), and extra money so they can pay for the food they got before also.

They go to Egypt. Joseph sees them all and tells the steward of his house to bring them home for lunch. They're pretty freaked out about being summoned to Joseph's house, they think it's because they didn't pay for their food last time. They tell the steward that they don't know how they ended up with their money back last time, but they brought it back. The steward is like, "don't worry about it!" Then he goes and gets Simeon out of jail.

Joseph shows up, and they present their gifts to him. He asks about their father, and when he sees Benjamin he has to run out of the room and cry for a while. Hmm, I guess he did just really miss Benjamin. Then he came back, and they all "feasted and drank freely." Aww.

Then it was time to go...Joseph told the steward to give them grain, to put their silver back in their bag, and to put his (Joseph's) fancy silver cup in Benjamin's bag. Then he told the steward to chase after them and accuse them of stealing the fancy silver cup. They say, "If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord's slaves." (Idiots!)

So of course, Benjamin is found with the cup. They "tore their clothes" and returned to the city. Joseph says, (paraphrase) "Don't worry! Only the one who had the cup must be my slave, the rest of you are free to go."

Judah makes this long plea to Joseph (seriously, it goes on for an entire chapter). Oh please, if we come back without Benjamin it will break our poor father's heart, he will die of sorrow. I personally guaranteed Benjamin's safety, if we come back without him it will be bad for me. And so on and so forth. Therefore, please let me stay as your slave instead of Benjamin.

Then "Joseph could no longer control himself." He tells all his servants to leave, and then reveals himself to his brothers. He tells them not to feel bad about what they did, and that he's not angry (gee, I would have never guessed that from the way he's been acting...). It's not their fault, God brought him here so that he could save people from this famine.

Then he tells them to go get their father and all their households and move them here to Egypt...there's 5 more years of famine coming, so they may as well come closer so Joseph can provide for them.

So they are sent back to Jacob with shiny new clothing, more food, and carts for the women and children. They tell him that Joseph is alive and in charge of Egypt, and they should move up there. After a bit of convincing, Jacob says, "I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." Fantastic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Genesis 41: Joseph - cut throat businessman

2 years later, the Pharaoh had some dreams...7 fat cows being eaten by 7 skinny cows, etc. And no one could interpret the dreams for him, aww. Then the royal cupbearer was like, "OMG! I totally left Joseph rotting in jail!" So he told the Pharaoh about Joseph's awesome dream-interpreting skills, and so the Pharaoh sent for Joseph. And of course, Joseph is able to interpret the dreams...they mean that Egypt will have 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine.

Then Joseph cleverly suggests that the Pharaoh finds a "discerning and wise man" to collect some extra food and store it for the famine. The Pharaoh says (paraphrase), "well, you were wise enough to interpret my dreams, you do it!" Uh...this Pharaoh must have been an idiot. So Joseph becomes the Pharaoh's #2.

The Pharaoh gives him robes of fine linen, a gold chain, a fancy new name (Zaphenath-Paneah, which doesn't seem to ever be used again...I guess 'Joseph' is more memorable), and a wife! Things are going swimmingly for Joseph; he has 2 sons, and "men shouted before him, 'Make way!'" He travels all over Egypt and takes food and stores it in the cities, so much food that "he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure."

However, the bible also said that Joseph stored 1/5 of all that was produced, which doesn't sound "beyond measure" to me. It sounds like "not enough." I mean, if you assume that the rate of consumption is the same, wouldn't you have to save 1/2 of everything for 7 years to survive a 7 year famine?

So the years of abundance are over, and the famine begins... it's happening in Egypt and all the other countries in the area. The people of Egypt start asking for food, and the Pharaoh sends them to Joseph. Joseph opens up the storehouses and "sold grain to the Egyptians." Sold grain to the Egyptians??? Joseph is selling these own people's food back to them! That's just wrong. That would be like if the government took money from the people and gave it to banks, just so the banks could lend it to the people at increased interest rates...oh wait.

Joseph also sold food to other countries. Apparently, Joseph didn't bother to tell anyone else that a famine was coming. That's nice. Also, I do not understand how there is even enough food for the Egyptians, let alone everyone else.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Genesis 39-40: Joseph - servant/leader

So, before the random segue into the story of Judah, which seems fabricated specifically to make a point of how arbitrarily cruel God can be, Joseph had been sold and was being carted off to Egypt.

In Egypt, some guy named Potiphar bought Joseph, and he soon noticed that, "the LORD gave him success in everything he did," so Joseph was put in charge of the household, and "the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph."

He took his job very seriously, so seriously that he turned down the repeated and belligerent attempts of Potiphar's wife to sleep with him. Once she managed to grab is cloak as he was running away from her, and she showed it to Potiphar and told him that Joseph had tried to sleep with her (see, the cloak proves it!). Potiphar is dumb enough to fall for this and has Joseph put in jail, where he is somehow a prisoner and also in charge of all the other prisoners, because the wardens like him so much.

The royal cupbearer (cupbearer? lol.) and baker somehow "offended" the king, and they were thrown in jail. Joseph was put in charge of them. At some point, they both had dreams, and they were totally depressed because there was no one around to interpret them. Joseph says, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams."

So...interpretations belong to God, so only God can interpret your dreams. But, tell me your dreams, and I'll take a crack at interpreting them. Huh? That makes no sense...

Anyway, the cupbearer's (lol) dream was that there was a vine with 3 branches, and he took the grapes from them and squeezed the juice into the pharaoh's cup and gave it to him. The baker's dream was that he had 3 baskets of bread, but birds kept eating it.

Joseph, with his mighty god-like wisdom, told them the interpretations of their dreams...the cupbearer's dream meant that he would be let out of jail and reinstated as royal cupbearer in 3 days, while the baker's dream meant that the king was going to have him killed in 3 days. And of course, that's just what happened.

The cupbearer was supposed to try to get Joseph out of jail, but he forgot about him. Poor Joseph.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Genesis 37-38: Apparently, every sperm is sacred

So, after galavanting around for 20+ years, Jacob comes home and settles down (apparently for good) in Canaan, just like Isaac and Abraham.

Joseph was Jacob's favorite (you know he had a favorite, they all do). Jacob made a "richly ornamented" robe for Joseph (an amazing technicolor dreamcoat, perhaps?). Joseph's brothers are super jealous, and who can blame them.

Joseph has a couple of dreams that he shares with his family...a bunch of symbolism of Joseph ruling over the rest of them. This apparently pushes Joseph's brothers over the edge, and they decide to kill him (over a dream? really?). Reuben tries to convince his brothers not to kill Joseph, so while Reuben isn't looking, they sell Joseph to some handy passing Ishmaelites. They fake Joseph's death by putting blood on his amazing robe, and Jacob buys it.

Jacob is super upset...he "tore his clothes" and "mourned for many days." This is totally the most "depth" I've seen yet to any of these characters.

Meanwhile, Joseph is taken to Egypt and sold.

Chapter 38 is all about Jacob's son Judah. All sorts of quality arbitrary Godly judgement in this chapter!

Judah goes away from his family and marries a Canaanite woman.

Wait, he's not going to go find some cousin to marry? Oh yeah, Judah is not the favorite. I bet Joseph does some inbreeding later.

Judah has 3 sons...the first one is named Er. Best name ever. But awesome-name-kid was "wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death." Seriously. No rhyme or reason, that's all we get.

Apparently Er lived long enough to get married though, because Judah tells the second son Onan that he must sleep with Er's wife, Tamar, to make babies for his brother. But Onan doesn't want to make babies that "would not be his" (why wouldn't they be his?), so whenever he sleeps with Tamar he "spilled his semen on the ground." This apparently was also "wicked in the LORD's sight," and Onan dies too. Really, God, really? That's what you're going to care about? It's just so trivial! So inconsequential! I suppose "every sperm is sacred" is more true than I thought.

Judah tells Tamar to go and wait until his third son was old enough to knock her up, but he never lets his third son near seems Judah thought Tamar was bad luck. But no, Judah, no...God just hates your kids, for no apparent reason. Or for the stupidest reason I've ever heard of.

Many years later, Judah's wife dies, Judah mourns for a while, then he goes to get his sheep sheared, and I guess Tamar happened to be in that general area. Tamar is upset that she never got to marry (or just get knocked up by? I'm confused) the third son, so she dresses up like a prostitute and waits for Judah. Judah sleeps with her, not knowing who she is. Of course, she gets pregnant.

Side note... I've noticed a pattern of the bible making it sound like people regularly get knocked up after having sex only one time. I am of the impression that that is actually fairly unlikely... just seems a bit weird.

Anyway, after that, Judah is trying the find this prostitute so he can send her the goat he promised in payment, but he can't find her. So the matter is basically dropped.

A few months later, someone tells Judah, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution." And obviously, Judah's very first reaction is, "Have her burned to death!" But then he finds out it was he who slept with her, and he completely changes his tune to, "She is more righteous than I." What a fucking hypocrite.

So, Tamar does not get burned to death, and instead gives birth to twins. Now I wonder whether these are Judah's, or are they really Er's twins, since that's apparently how it works? Freakin' weird.

For some more random weirdness, during the birth of these twins, apparently one of them stuck a hand out, and then pulled it back in. Then the other baby came out first, and the one that stuck the hand out came second.

So...I'm really not an expert in the birthing process, but does this sort of thing EVER happen in reality? A hand coming out and then going back in? Really? What the fuck is all that about?

Is it supposed to be symbolic? If so, what could it possibly mean???

As usual, I am completely lost.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Genesis 34-36: A series of random events

So, Jacob et al are in Shechem. The son of the ruler of Shechem rapes Jacob's daughter, Dinah. Then the ruler asks Jacob et al to let Dinah marry his son. They say, "sure, but every man in your city must be circumcised." And they all get circumcised with shockingly little complaint.

Turns out, it was all a trap! While every man is still in pain from the circumcision, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi kill every man, and take all the women and children. Harsh.

Jacob is slightly pissed off when he learns of all this, but just because he doesn't want to make any enemies and not because he felt that what they did was wrong, of course. But they say, basically, "they totally had it coming."

And God doesn't say a single thing about this, which I can only assume means he approved. WTF.

What a charming story.

Then God said, "go to Bethel," so they do. But first, Jacob tells everyone to give him their "gods," which he buries. I guess idols?

They get to Bethel safely; no one attacks them because they were too afraid...something about the "terror of God." When they get there, God shows up and says the same old line to Jacob...numerous descendants, land, blah, blah, blah. He also renames Jacob Israel, even though he already did this back when they were wrestling that one night. From here on out the Bible seems to randomly switch between Jacob and Israel...guess the name didn't really stick.

They leave Bethel and head somewhere else, we don't know where yet. On the way, Rachel dies in childbirth, but no one seems to care much. And oooh, Jacob's son Reuben slept with Jacob's "concubine," and Jacob found out about it! But that's all we get about that juicy tidbit.

Then Jacob's 12 sons are randomly listed, even though we already know who they all are. The daughter Dinah is of course not listed, even though she was totally worth murdering a whole city not one chapter ago.

Then Jacob got back to Isaac just in time to watch him die. And again, no one seems to care I don't either. Seriously.

Wait, wasn't Isaac like super old and on the verge of death when Jacob left? That was at least 20 years ago (we know Jacob spent 20 years with Laban, and who knows how long the journey back took). But I'm bored with this book, so I don't care.

Yes, chapter 35 was just stuffed full of completely random events that didn't seem to have much of anything to do with anything.

Chapter 36 lists Esau's (or Edom, apparently) descendants, frankly I didn't bother to actually read it.

Oh, I got it! I bet the secrets of the universe are hidden in these really boring parts.

[some time goes by...]

Well, I've read chapter 36 now, and no, the secrets of the universe are not hidden in the boring parts. They're just boring. Though this chapter did contain a verse 42...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Genesis 31-33: The misadventures of Jacob, Pt. 2

God tells Jacob it's time to go back home. Jacob finds his two wives and goes on this massively long and bitter rant about spotted animals and how unfair Laban has been. Then Jacob and his wives and children take off secretly. Before they left, Rachel stole some stuff from Laban.

Laban catches up with them, and asks why they ran off like a bunch of jerks, and also why did you steal my stuff? Jacob doesn't know that Rachel stole something, so he tells Laban to look through his stuff and see if anything was stolen. Rachel puts the stolen goods in her camel's saddle and sits on it, and tells her father she can't get up because she's on her period. Hilarious.

So Laban and Jacob yell at each other for a while, then make a pile of rocks and each promise not to go beyond it, and they each go their separate ways. Friendly. At least they didn't kill each other or something.

Jacob sends messengers to Esau to basically grovel. They come back and say Esau is coming with 400 men. Jacob freaks out, prays (for the first time ever, possibly? God has been awfully quiet lately) for protection, and sends a bunch of animals ahead as gifts to Esau.

One night, he is alone, and "a man wrestled with him till daybreak." The "man" couldn't overpower Jacob, so he apparently dislocates (or something) Jacob's hip, and begs to be let go. Jacob says, "no, not until you bless me." The "man" renames him Israel, and blesses him. So...apparently Jacob spent all night "wrestling" with God, and wins? Sounds...dirty? Also, what the crap kind of crap God loses in wrestling to some guy? Furthermore, why exactly did God decide to wrestle with Jacob in the first place? Or did Jacob start it? Is that even possible? As usual, I'm lost.

My first thought was that it was all some story he came up with to explain why he was limping the next day...yeah, I hurt my hip wrestling with God, I'm so awesome. But really, he just fell down, or something.

The next morning, Esau comes and hugs Jacob. They talk about the kids for a while...generally a pretty friendly and benign reunion. Those crappy messengers made it sound like Esau was coming to kick ass, but apparently all is forgotten.

Jacob goes on to...Shechem, buys some land and seems to settle down.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Genesis 28-30: The misadventures of Jacob (Pt. 1)

Before Jacob leaves, Isaac tells him that while he's fleeing for his life, he may as well find one of his cousins and marry her. Then he blesses him again, and says that he hopes God will give Jacob the same blessing (curse?) he gave to Abraham and Isaac.

Hearing this, Esau finally figures it out: his parents hate the local girls. So he marries two more of them, bring his total up to 4. Way to go Esau, break that inbreeding mold.

On his way to Laban's house, Jacob is sleeping one night and has a dream. There is a stairway to heaven, and God is there telling him the usual...basically that Jacob inherits the blessing of Abraham and Isaac..

Jacob marks the place when he wakes up, and makes a vow that if he ever makes it back to Isaac's house, "the Lord will be his God." So...what, Jacob doesn't really believe yet? He's bargaining? Yeah, I'll worship you God, if you do this for me. That's hilarious.

So Jacob eventually gets near to where Laban lives, and comes across some shepherds near a well. He starts talking to them, and learns that one of his cousins, Rachel, is on her way to that well. I can't quite tell what happens next...Jacob is either trying to get rid of them so he can be alone with Rachel, or he's just randomly trying to tell the shepherds how to do their job. He basically tells them to hurry up and water their sheep and go away. The shepherds are like, hell no. They are still talking about it when Rachel comes along.

Jacob seems to instantly fall in love with Rachel...he waters her sheep for her, kisses her, cries, then tells her he's her cousin. Then she "ran and told her father." Stranger danger!!

But no, Laban likes Jacob. After Jacob has been there for a while, Laban says, you shouldn't have to work for free! Name your wage. So Jacob says he will work for 7 years for Rachel, and Laban agrees. And Rachel agreed too!!!! Just kidding! Rachel had nothing to do with it, obviously.

So 7 years later Jacob gets married and sleeps with his new wife. But the next morning he learns that it had been Rachel's older sister Leah all along! Wow...either old testament weddings happened entirely in the dark, or there were unbelievable amounts of booze involved.

Jacob tells Laban, (paraphrasing) "what the hell?" Laban explains that it is their "custom" to marry off the oldest daughter first. But if Jacob will only work for 7 more years, he can have Rachel too. Tricksy Laban!

So Jacob marries Rachel also, one week later, in exchange for promising 7 more years work.

The next part is basically a baby-making contest between Rachel and Leah. Leah has 4 babies while Rachel has none (apparently this is because God noticed that Jacob didn't like Leah much, so he took pity on her). Rachel is pissed, and tells Jacob to sleep with her servant...he knocks her up twice. Then Jacob has 2 kids with Leah's servant. Then Leah buys sex with Jacob, from Rachel, in exchange for mandrakes (WTF?) and has another son. Then Leah has another son, and a daughter. Then finally, Rachel has a son.

Busy, busy. I guess this supports that whole "quiverful" thing...have an assload of babies, or you are utterly worthless as a human being.

After (I assume) the 7 years are up, Jacob tells Laban, I want to go home, let me take my family and go. Laban says, you should totally stay, name your price. Jacob says, I'll take all the spotted or speckled animals, and Laban agrees. They split the animals up that day...Jacob's son takes care of Jacob's animals, while Jacob watches Laban's animals.

Prepare yourselves for this bit of biblical "science": Jacob tries to make Laban's animals give birth to spotted babies by making them look at bits of branches that appear spotted while they are mating. And apparently it works. .....WTF???

The strange thing is that there is actually a decent bit of science wrapped up in this story. Jacob only shows the animals the spotted branches if they are strong, thus making it so only the strong animals have spotted babies, so he'll have the strongest animals. That actually makes some sense...if you ignore the "looking at spotted things makes you have spotted babies" thing.

So, a halfway decent bit of evolutionary science (selective breeding) wrapped up in a scientific EPIC FAIL. Fascinating.

Genesis 26-27: Jacob "steals" a blessing

In chapter 26, Isaac and Rebekah go back to Gerar. When they get there, God shows up and tells them to stay here, and he reiterates his promise (I've completely lost track of how many times this is) about the numerous descendants, and this land will be yours, etc. Seriously, God, when is this going to happen? Oh yeah, in 400 years. Well then why is it so important that they stay here now?

The rest of the chapter is basically an (almost) exact copy of the time Abraham and Sarah were in Gerar. Isaac and Rebekah tell everyone in Gerar that they are siblings. Luckily for the people of Gerar, no one tries to marry Rebekah. The king of Gerar (who has the same name as before, so is possibly the exact same guy) happens to look out a window and catch the 2 making out, or something ("caressing?") So he goes on this tirade about how if someone had tried to sleep with Rebekah, God would have doomed them all in a manner most unreasonable (yeah, I'm thinking this is the same guy as before, lol).

So they stayed in that area, and "became very wealthy," apparently due to Isaac's great skill at farming (hey, at least he didn't scam for it like Abraham did). Eventually, people started to envy him, and the king told him to go away because he was too powerful.

They went away, and dug a well, but some people fought them for they just kept digging wells until no one fought them anymore, and then stayed with that one. Ah, here's that "turn the other cheek" attitude I've heard so much about.

Then God comes along and (AGAIN) makes the usual promise. Seriously, God, don't you have anything else to say?

The king of Gerar comes to Isaac and asks to make an agreement that they won't harm each other, and Isaac agrees.

Esau marries TWO local girls, and his parents hate them both.

Seriously, you could replace the word "Abraham" with "Isaac", and "Sarah" with "Rebekah", and this chapter would be almost exactly the same as chapter 20-21 (with the exception that the king had apparently learned his lesson). This is getting boring.

Some time later, Isaac is an old, blind man, and wants to bless his favorite child (Esau) before he dies. So he tells Esau to go hunt something and make him some "tasty food," so that he may bless him. Don't know why he has to eat first, but whatever. Esau goes off hunting.

Rebekah hears this and tells Jacob (her favorite) to go get something from their herd so she could make some "tasty food," then Jacob could give it to Isaac and pretend to be Esau, thus stealing the blessing.

Rebekah dresses Jacob up in Esau's clothes and goatskins (Esau was apparently VERY hairy). Jacob brings the "tasty food" (sorry, it just amuses me how many times the phrase "tasty food" appears in this chapter) to Isaac. The goatskins fool Isaac into blessing Jacob...a bunch of stuff about God give you abundance, nations bow to you, and be lord over your brother.

Esau comes along later with his "tasty food," and Isaac figures out it was Jacob before. He basically tells Esau, sorry but I've only got the one blessing, your doomed to be Jacob's servant now...but eventually you will "throw his yoke from off your neck."

I really don't understand this... by "blessing," I assume it means asking God to be nice to someone. But wouldn't all-knowing God know that Isaac meant to bless Esau, but Jacob deceived him? Why is Jacob now blessed by God, while Esau is not, just because Isaac happened to say the words while Jacob was there pretending to be Esau? Shouldn't God know better? And anyway, what kind of asshole father (and God) sets it up so one brother reigns supreme, while any others are just completely fucked? Why does it have to be that way?

Anyway, Esau is pissed, and he's decided to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac is dead. So Rebekah tells Jacob to go stay with her brother, Laban, until Esau calms down.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Genesis 23-25: Put your hand under my thigh

Sarah dies at 127. Abraham spends about 1/2 of a sentence mourning his dead wife, and the entire rest of chapter 23 haggling for the price of burying her. To summarize, they try to let him bury her for free, but he begs to pay.

Next comes my new favorite bible verse, Genesis 24:2: "He said to the chief servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, 'Put your hand under my thigh.'" Yes, apparently the way you swear something in the bible is by putting your hand under someone's thigh. Hilarous.

Abraham asks the servant to go to his (Abraham's) family to find a wife for Isaac. Seriously, why with the rampant inbreeding, bible? Adam and Eve, Cain and whoever, Lot and his daughters, Sarah is Abraham's half sister (chapter 20), and now this.

Anyway, the servant sets off (with some other people...more servants possibly) for Abraham's family. He sits by a spring and makes this promise with himself (or God, I suppose) that the first marriageable girl who waters all of his camels will be the one who is supposed to be Isaac's wife.

So along comes Rebekah (Isaac's 2nd cousin...oh the rampant biblical inbreeding), and she waters the camels, and she's a virgin!!! The servant asks to stay at her house, and gives her a nose ring (what?).

They get to Rebekah's house, do a bunch of stuff like feed the camels and wash their feet, then when they try to give them food, Abraham's servant is like (paraphrasing), "There's no time for food! I have important stuff to say!" Why didn't he say it before they did all that other stuff, who knows.

So he explains his mission, and his little deal with God at the spring, and how Rebekah is therefore meant to marry Isaac. And he explains it in excruciating's like reading the entire chapter again.

Rebekah's family agrees that she should marry Isaac (Rebekah has shockingly little say in this, other than to agree to go right away instead of 10 days later), and she and the servants go back. As soon as they get back, she and Isaac apparently do it in his dead mother's tent. Err...kinky? No, that is just weird. So far the bible seems to really be all for (what some might consider) "sexual deviancy"...the inbreeding, the daughters basically raping Lot, now this bit of weirdness.

Abraham remarried after Sarah's death, and had 6 more kids. But Isaac is still the favorite...Abraham sent the other 6 away (with gifts!), and he left everything to Isaac when he died. Isaac is still God's favorite too, he's the only one who gets "blessed." The bible also refers to Hagar and this new wife as "concubines," which is just weird. I guess it just illustrates even further that Isaac is the favorite.

Anyway, Abraham dies and is buried with Sarah.

There is also a little blurb about Ishmael. It lists his 12 children, and says they are each tribe leaders (The 12 tribes of Israel? I've heard that phrase before, but I still don't know what it means).

There's considerably more about Isaac (he's the favorite!). Rebekah is barren...of course she is, I swear every woman in the bible is barren. Maybe if they'd knock off the inbreeding. Isaac prays to God, and lo and behold, a miracle! Rebekah gets pregnant with twins.

Apparently the kids were fighting in her uterus (ouch...), and God told her basically that they were going to fight all their lives. That just sounds strange, and unpleasant.

Anyway, the slightly older one was a hairy baby (Literally, hairy all over...WTF. Knock off that inbreeding, seriously, then maybe you won't have barren goat babies.) named Esau, and the younger one was Jacob (not hairy). Isaac liked Esau best (because Esau could hunt and Isaac liked meat...OK...), Rebekah liked Jacob best.

Then there's a random little story about how Esau "sold" Jacob his birthright for bean stew. I really don't know why these random, inconsequential moments are given such weight in the bible.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Genesis 20-22: Isaac is born, God tests Abraham

Abraham moved to someplace called Gerar, where he and Sarah worked the same con as before...they pretend to be siblings, and the king takes her (apparently as a concubine or something, since he's already married). God comes along as tells the king, (paraphrasing) "Sarah is actually married, and even though you couldn't possibly have known about it, I'm going to kill you and everyone else here." Good old God. This stuff is getting downright predictable.

The king actually sticks up for himself...good for him. He makes the point that he couldn't have possibly known she was married because he was lied to, and that he hadn't even touched Sarah yet anyway. God says, yeah you haven't touched her because of me. You return her, or you'll all die. That's friendly.

So the king gives Sarah back to Abraham, and he gives him a bunch of animals, slaves, and money, and lets him live anywhere in his land.

This is also the first time Abraham is referred to as a prophet.

Sarah got pregnant and had a son...they named him Isaac and circumcised him, aww.

After Isaac was born, Sarah wanted to have Hagar and Ishmael sent away, apparently so Isaac won't have to compete with Ishmael. Abraham didn't really want to do that, but God (what a dick) thought it was a fine idea, so that's what they did.

After wandering around in the desert for a while, Hagar and Ishmael run out of food and water, and it makes it sound like they are just about dead before an angel comes by and encourages them, and then God made Hagar notice a well that was right there. I think saying, "hey, look at that well over there," is the nicest thing God has done so far (never mind that God wanted them sent away in the first place). So Ishmael grew up in the desert, became an archer, and married some chick is mom found in Egypt. Alright then.

Meanwhile, that King that Abraham and Sarah conned out of a bunch of stuff, and who's land they are living in, asks them to swear that they will play nice, which they do.

Then Abraham asks the King to return a well that he (Abraham) dug, that the king's men had captured. The king says, I don't know what you're talking about, but OK. Abraham plants a tree to commemorate this apparently very important occasion.

Next is one of my favorite heart-warming stories...God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham, the sucker, falls for it. Abraham and Isaac start hiking up this mountain, with wood for a sacrifice. Isaac asks his father where the lamb is (what a thinker), and Abraham says "God will provide." They get to the place, and Abraham has tied up Isaac and is on the verge of killing him, when an angel comes along and says (paraphrasing), "Stop that." So Abraham sacrifices a handy ram that happens to wander by. Then the angel comes back and says (paraphrasing), "Now that I know you really fear me, I'll be sure to do all that stuff I keep going on about (numerous descendants, land, etc)."

So, God ups the ante on this covenant again. It's not enough that they have to be enslaved for 400 years, or that to prove their loyalty they have to chop a bit of their penis off, now Abraham has to further prove how faithful he is by being willing to kill is son. Seriously...let it never be said that God doesn't test people.

How insecure must God be to need this much reassurance that his people really, truly fear him?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Genesis 18-19: The destruction of Sodom

Something, which is either 3 men, 3 angels, or God, appears to Abraham near his tent. He begs them to stay and rest, they agree. Abraham runs off and tells Sarah to get 20 quarts of flour and make bread. That is a lot of bread... Abraham then runs off to kill a calf, and he brings it to the men and they all eat. Then God says that Sarah will have a son in a year. Sarah heard this from inside the tent and laughs; she doesn't quite believe it. Then there was this bit of pedantry:
God: Why'd you laugh?
Sarah: Nuh-uh, I didn't laugh!
God: Yuh-uh you did!
The men walk off toward Sodom, and God tells Abraham that Sodom's "sin is grievous," so he's going to go there and see what's what. (Really, all-knowing God has to go to Sodom to see how bad it is? He can't just know?) Abraham then has this weird haggling session with God:
Abraham: Will you spare the city if there are 50 good people in it?
God: Yeah, OK
Abraham: How bout 45?
God: Fine
Abraham: 40?
God: OK
Abraham: 30?
God: Yeah, fine
Abraham: 20?
God: K
Abraham: 10?
God: K
Then he stops. How about not destroying a even single good person, God? Really?

I've heard this sort of ethical question before (mostly on star trek) many innocent people is it OK to wipe out? Now we know the answer, the bible says it's 10. See, I am learning things.

The next chapter starts with "The 2 angels arrived at Sodom." I thought it was 3 that set off from Abraham's tent. But, whatever.

They find Lot at the gate of the city, and he basically badgers them into staying with him. Later that evening, the house was surrounded with men demanding that Lot send the 2 angels out so they can have sex with them. So obviously, Lot offers the mob his 2 virgin daughters instead. Really, Lot, really? That's a despicable act if I ever heard one. The angels pull Lot inside and make all the men outside blind.

The angels tell Lot to gather up his family and go to the mountains, because they are going to destroy the city (and apparently all the other nearby cities). Lot asks if they could just go to that other city instead, and the angels promise to spare that one city. So Lot runs away with his wife and daughters.

I want to know why Lot gets to live. The story is the people of Sodom are horrible and need to be destroyed...and I guess if the angel-raping mob is representative of the city as a whole, I could sort of see that. But is Lot really any better? He offers his virgin daughters to the mob. I don't care what anybody says, that is disgusting and he deserves to die with the would-be angel-rapers.

This is all assuming, of course, that God is vengeful and cruel, and doesn't much care about actually doing anything to make people better. Seriously, God's big solution to everything is to just destroy everything when things get tough, surely he could do better.

Anyway, Lot and family are running away, and his wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt. OK... As usual, I don't get it. I guess it must be symbolic of something. But as literal truth, that makes no sense.

Lot and his 2 daughters end up holed up in a mountain cave, where the daughters hatch this brilliant scheme: let's have sex with our father! Brilliant. So one night, they get him super drunk, and the one sleeps with him...and the next night they get him super drunk, and the other sleeps with him. The bible is very clear that Lot doesn't know what's going on. And they both get pregnant and have sons. What a charming story.

So I was kind of interested in this story, because it's one of those that get trotted out by the anti-gay wingnuts, in that, "the bible says it's wrong and this story proves it," way. Really, I don't see it. God destroyed Sodom because the people there were so bad, and I guess the rapist mob was an example of that. And I would agree, that would be bad. But it says nothing about consensual homosexual relationships, which is what these wingnuts fight so hard against.

In this story, there was a mob of men who wanted to rape men (I assume the angels looked like men). And what the wingnuts claim is that it was the men having sex with men part that was so wrong. But would it have been OK if that mob wanted to rape women instead? That would be heterosexual, so I guess it would be OK. Really? Ugh. Maybe that would be OK with God and right-wing nutcases, but it's not OK with me...

If anything, I could see where this story says that God frowns on rapist mobs, and as usual overreacts by destroying everything. I don't see where it has anything to do with gay marriage, or homosexuality in general, like the wingnuts claim.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Genesis 15-17: Abram knocks up servant, chops up dicks

God tells Abram that his reward will be great (that’s random). Abram says, what does it matter, I don’t have any children, and one of my servants is my heir. God reiterates his promise to Abram, your descendants will be as numerous as the stars, all this land I give to you (in this chapter, 10 tribes who already live here are listed...but fuck ‘em) etc. This time Abram says “how can I now that I will gain possession of it?” Is Abram asking for proof, or a sign? What a thinker. So God tells Abram to bring him a cow, goat, ram, dove, and pigeon. Abram brings these, and for some reason cuts them all in half (except the birds!). I guess “cut them in half” was implied in God’s request to “bring them here.” Then Abram spends the rest of the day fending off all the things that come by trying to eat them, and eventually he falls asleep.

Then God apparently talks to Abram in a dream. Even though this here is the “promised land,” Abram’s descendants have to go away to be enslaved somewhere else for 400 years. But it’s OK, because after 400 years, God will punish that country where they will be enslaved, and they will come out with “great possessions.” The reason, apparently, is because of all the people who are already living in the promised land; their sin “has not yet reached its full measure.”

Seriously, this is the weirdest fucking covenant I've ever heard of. I guess the people already living here aren’t quite evil enough to destroy yet (Seriously, this is the best example of a benevolent God I've seen so far...that he's willing to wait until they are sufficiently bad to kill them all. That's just great.), so Abram et al have to go somewhere else for 400 years. For some reason they can’t just wait anywhere for 400 years, they have to go be enslaved. But God is going to punish these people (400 years later) for enslaving them. But why is God going to punish them, when it is part of his own plan that his chosen people be slaves for 400 years? Seriously, it was his idea in the first place. What an all-around shitty deal.

At the beginning of chapter 16 we get a hilarious piece of news: even though God has promised Abram three times that his descendants will be numerous as the stars and the grains of dust on the earth, Abram’s wife Sarai is barren! Good move, God.

They (Abram and Sarai) decide Abram should start sleeping with Sarai’s servant, Hagar. So Abram knocks up Hagar, then Hagar starts to “despise” Sarai. So Sarai beats Hagar, and Hagar runs away.

An angel (the first we’ve seen so far) finds Hagar in the desert and says (paraphrasing), “Whatcha doin?” Hagar says she’s running away, and the angel tells her to go back and submit to Sarai. Well, that’s friendly, and helpful too *snark*. The angel also says her descendants will be too numerous to count (this is quite the common promise, apparently), that her son will be named Ishmael, and he will be a wild man. This all sounds good to Hagar, apparently, and she goes back to Abram and Sarai. The chapter ends with Ishmael’s birth.

13 years later, God comes to Abram and reiterates his promise (for the 4th time). This time, however, there is a catch. God will make Abram’s descendants numerous, and give them all of the land of Canaan, and all that, but all of the males in the household have to be circumcised…every male, even the servants and the servants’ children. Any male not circumcised will be considered to have broken the covenant, and will be cut off from his people.

So this is circumcision… there is absolutely no reason given for it, other than, “I’m God and I say so.” I was hoping for something, but there is nothing. And why only on the 4th time God makes his "covenant" with Abraham does he mention circumcision, why didn't he say that in the first place? I cannot believe people are still circumcised today. The bible gives no reason whatsoever, and there is no good secular reason to do it.

Also, Abram is now Abraham, and Sarai is now Sarah. I assume that this has some significance in Hebrew.

God also promises that Sarah will have a son named Isaac. Amusingly, Abraham doesn’t seem to believe him, because he and Sarai are so old.

God says that he still likes Ishmael and all, and he will bless him and his descendants, but it is Isaac he is making this covenant with. (I’ve heard before that Ishmael et al are supposed to be the Muslims, and Isaac et al are the Jews.)

So on that same day, Abraham circumcised himself, his 13-year-old son Ishmael (why? Ishmael isn’t part of this covenant anyway…), and all of his male servants. Busy day. I can only imagine how that must have gone down…I imagine Abraham basically rampaging around, chopping up people’s dicks, while everyone else runs around going, “Ahhh! He’s gone crazy!!!”

Seriously, this's like God keeps upping the ante. The first couple of times it sounds great; numerous descendants and land. Then later...yeah, all that will happen, but you all have to go be enslaved for 400 years. And now...yep, we'll do that, but first you have to mutilate your own genitals, then go be enslaved for 400 years. I cannot wait to see what comes next!

I still want to know why Abraham and his descendants are chosen out of all the people in the world to be so blessed (if you can call enslavement and genital mutilation "blessed") by God. Abraham doesn't seem special or particularly righteous. He lies, he sleeps with someone who isn't his wife, he doesn't quite believe God about his prolific descendants or his barren wife's miracle baby. He sounds like a normal person, in other words (aside from that genital mutilation rampage he just went on...that was pretty not normal). As far as I can tell, he's just randomly, arbitrarily chosen. Why does God always play favorites? Can't he just bless everybody? Is that too hard for him? Does he only have time for one guy at a time? I don't get it.

I also want to know what's so great about this land God keeps promising Abraham. It's so special, it's worth Abraham et al being enslaved for 400 years, and totally wiping out 10 tribes worth of people! Why? In any description of it, it's just desert, like everything else. Why can't they just go somewhere else? Or live somewhere with other people without destroying them all?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Genesis 14: Abram rescues Lot

This bit is just kind of random and weird.

There was some sort of battle involving 4 kings vs. 5 kings, and at some point one of the kings took stuff from Sodom and Gomorrah, which included Lot (and Lot’s possessions, oh dear). Abram heard about this and decided to go rescue him…he took a bunch of his people and attacked them, and took Lot (and his possessions!), and other people and goods.

Afterward, there is this weird exchange between Abram and the king of Sodom. At first, Abram has all the goods (that originally came from Sodom), and Abram apparently gives 10% of this to the king of Salem (Don’t know why…maybe it’s because the king of Salem was praising Abram, saying he was blessed by God and such. With Abram, flattery will get you everywhere apparently). After this, the king of Sodom says, give me my people and keep the stuff for yourself. Abram says he doesn’t want to take anything from the king of Sodom, so that he won’t owe the king anything later (I thought pride was one of those 7 deadly sins, lol). But he already gave away 10% of the stuff that he admits he doesn’t want, and never considered to be his. Bit weird.

So, Abram is willing to take stuff (under false pretenses no less) from the pharaoh of Egypt, but is too high-and-mighty to take stuff freely offered from the King of Sodom. But he's not too high-and-mighty to give the King of Sodom's stuff away to other people.

This whole chapter confuses me. Actually, make that, everything that has happened so far confuses me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Genesis 12-13: God's abritrarily "chosen people"

God comes to Abram and says that he will be blessed, and his name will be great, and so on. He tells Abram to go away to some land that he will show him, and live there. So Abram goes away with his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot. Eventually they get to a place, where God appears and says, all this land I give to you and your children. There are other people already living in this place of course, I wonder what is going to happen to them?

So, why is Abram so blessed, why is he chosen? There is no reason given whatsoever. By my count, Abram is 9 generations removed from Noah’s sons…if you start with 3 couples, 9 generations later there must be thousands of people. Out of all of these, God chooses Abram to be his chosen people, and fuck the rest. Why? It’s a mystery.

Then Abram and Sarai pull off this con in Egypt. They go there, and Abram says something about how he’s afraid that if the people know they are married, they will kill Abram to have Sarai, because she is so beautiful. So he convinces her that they should pretend to be siblings. The pharaoh marries Sarai, and Abram, as the royal brother-in-law, gets all sorts of amazing riches.

God decides to be pissed at the pharaoh (why? For all the pharaoh knew, she was unmarried. Abram and Sarai are the ones who lied to him.), so he unleashes a bunch of horrible diseases on the pharaoh’s household. So the pharaoh says to Abram, you suck, take your wife and go. So they left, and they also got to keep all the stuff they were given. What a couple of con artists.

So Abram, Sarai, and Lot leave Eypgt. There was no mention of what Lot was up to in Egypt, but he must not have done too bad for himself…between Abram and Lot they had so many possessions that the land could not support them, and they had to split up. Lot went toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abram went to the land of Canaan.

After they separate, God comes and reiterates his promise to Abram; all this land (where people already live, but fuck them) I give to you and your offspring. Your offspring will be as numerous as grains of dust on the earth, etc, etc.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Genesis 10-11: Horrible writing, Tower of Babel

Chapter 10 is entirely a tedious genealogy of Noah’s sons. One amusing bit is chapter 10, verse 8-9: “Cush was father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.’” Really? This is the worst example of writing I have ever seen in my life, and I’m pretty bad at it myself. Also, I am totally going to start working that saying into my everyday language.

The first half of chapter 11 is about the tower of babel. I’ve heard this story before, and in the version I heard, it starts with God telling everyone to spread out and cover the earth, but they ignore him, so he makes them all speak different languages, so they have no reason to stay together. So in this version, God tried telling them nicely first, then he pulled out the big guns.

That’s not how it goes here though: God hasn’t said anything to anyone since the end of the flood, when he said, “go forth and multiply,” which doesn’t necessarily mean “don’t live all in one place.” So apparently all people had decided to build a big city to live in together, in peace. Sounds great to me. But God was apparently threatened by this…he says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So he did, and they scattered all over.

First of all, this is the second time that God has talked to himself in the plural…what the heck is up with that?

Second, apparently the motivation for the tower of babel incident was that God didn’t like that people could accomplish things, and decided, for no apparent reason (other than to be a dick, possibly), to make their lives more difficult. They didn’t even disobey him, because he never told them to do any different.

Then the last half of chapter 11, it jumps right back into the tedious genealogy again. But it doesn’t pick up where it left off, it starts over with Noah’s sons, following a different line to Abram.

Seriously, this is a terrible book, just in terms of readability and flow of the plot… some genealogy, a random story thrown in, and then more genealogy. But it’s not even chronological, the genealogy starts over. It’s like whoever put the bible together had bits of writing that they just shuffled together and said, “there it is.”