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.