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 covenant...it'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?