Wednesday, September 9, 2009

4: Scam

Genesis 12-15
Genesis 12 starts with God telling Abram to move away and make a great nation. Apparently God is only talking to one person at a time now and is not walking around as we see him in the Garden of Eden. God has also stopped doing anything particularly miraculous. In fact, throughout Genesis 12 God only "inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh", and supposedly gives Abram land. From this, wouldn't any reasonable person just come to the conclusion that Abram was hearing voices?

As I alluded to, Abram ends up in Egypt. His wife is beautiful so he tells her to lie and say that he is her sister. This is to prevent the Egyptians from killing him to take her as a wife. So thinking that Abram is Sarai's (Abram's wife) sister, Pharaoh takes her as a wife. Abram is treated very well since he is the Pharaoh's "brother-in-law". So, has Pharaoh done anything wrong in this situation? He has taken a wife, not against her will mind you, and treated her family very nicely. If anything he is the victim of Abram and Sarai lying to him. This is not, however, the way God sees it. The Lord decides to inflict serious disease on Pharaoh and his family. When Pharaoh eventually finds out that he has been lied to, he just tells them to leave. Seems like a pretty nice guy to me. Abram's fears of the Egyptians killing him seem rather unfounded at this point.

Here's the kicker, at the beginning of Genesis 13 we find out that Abram kept all the things that Pharaoh gave him as his brother-in-law. We find yet another jerk in the bible. Abram scams Pharaoh out of livestock, silver, and gold. In fact, Abram and Lot have accumulated so many fraudulently acquired animals that they can't travel together, because the land cannot support them. Because of this, they decide to split up. Abram, being a nice guy (for once), gives Lot first choice on which direction he would like to go. Lot chooses to go to Sodom, and Abram goes to the land of Canaan (I guess Lot likes to party too).

God tells Abram to look around and any land that he can see will be his and his offspring's forever. This would be like me walking into your house and saying "The Lord has given me this land," would you give it to me?

Some unknown amount of time later Sodom is captured by enemy forces and Lot was carried off. Some person that escapes the battle goes and tells Abram that his nephew is captured and Abram feels the need to come to the rescue. So he goes and rescues Lot, and defeats the armies that were warring against Sodom. Who's side is God on anyway (isn't he supposed to be destroying Sodom)? The king of Sodom tries to give Abram a bunch of goods, presumably as payment for routing the opposing armies. Abram turns the offer down, apparently he would rather fraudulently obtain his items, rather than accepting payment for services.

It seems like I always end these posts confused, today will not be the exception. Genesis 15 is very weird. It starts out with Abram being depressed that he has no kids. God promises that he will, then immediately changes the subject to how he gave him all this land. Abram asks God how he can be sure he will receive this land. So God says "Bring me a heifer, a goat, and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." Excuse me? How does this answer the question? Abram, being faithful, brings him these animals, and cuts them in half. Yes, you read correctly, he cuts them in half. Did God say, "bring me animals and cut them in half"? No. What's worse, is this doesn't actually accomplish anything. Nothing more is said about these animals, he just brings them to God (where ever he is) and cuts the animals in half, the end. We skip ahead to later that night, where Abram has a dream about God. Why is this even written in the bible when it is so clearly just a random dream? Who knows. Anyway, God "says" in the dream a few vague things that are probably interpreted as prophecy about the Jews in Egypt.

Later that night "a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces". If anyone can tell me what that means, please do because I haven't the faintest idea. I don't know what a firepot is, much less a smoking firepot, and what are the "pieces"? It seems like a random sentence thrown in at the beginning of the final paragraph. God then randomly promises Abram's descendants the land between Egypt and the Euphrates (again).


  1. This is what I think the passage is talking about...The actions of Abram represent a covenant between him and God. In those days animals would be split and each party in the covenant would walk through the middle to represent that they would keep his side of the agreement. Abram walks through to say that he will remain obedient to God and the "smoking firepot" is God walking through saying that He will keep His word to Abram and give him and heir. Sometimes it helps to also look at the historical background to understand the real meaning of the passage. Here God is saying that He will always keep His word as long as we are obedient and faithful.

  2. This doesn't really make sense because God has already made at least one covenant to Abraham, and he's been promising him the land to his descendants every chance he gets for the last several chapters. Why was it necessary to cleave the animals now?

    I've never heard of God as a smoking firepot. So instead of the trinity it should be the quadrinity? The father, the son, the holy spirit, and the pot.

  3. They may have made a covenant before but this is a physical representation of it. God is reassuring Abram. As for the smoking firepot, the pot itself is not God more God is the one moving it through the animals and it is an object to show that He was there

  4. smokeing fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces....

    if i didnt know it was from the bible i wouldave thought that was a 'code' from smoking pot in a circle of friends.

  5. Notice that Abraham never walks through the pieces. He is put to sleep while the fire pot and the blazing torch go through the pieces. I am still studying this myself, but I believe that the fire pot is the Father and the torch is the Son. Jesus is making a covenant with his Father--foreshadowing His sacrifice.

  6. Again - the key isn't just what's said, but how it is said.
    Imagine you go to a state dinner with your wife. You arrive together, arm in arm, and these two hulking guys with badges and nightsticks wave you in past the bodies of a few guys who tried to get in illegitimately. You get led into a corner by these linebackers and the first question you get asked is "She's your sister, right?"
    You can see them salivating over your wife. You can also see yourself on the wrong end of that club of theirs. You're feel like you're being "encouraged" to say yes, so you do.
    Lo and behold, the guys were "scouting" for the president, who swoops in and decides to do you the "honor" of marrying your sister without even asking for anyones consent.
    Granted, you said yes, but it wasn't REALLY what you wanted to say, and the meatpacks set you up for it anyhow. On top of all that, he tries to buy your "sister" off you like a whore.

    Does that sound so virtuous?

    And when the president gets punished by god and gives you back your wife, is it fraud if he doesn't ask for the gifts back? Never mind the fact that he acted improperly in the first place?
    It's strange that you lay fraud upon Abraham, but are willing to ignore the fact that Pharoah treated Sarah like a cheap whore - suddenly objectifying women like that is ok?

    Re: Sodom - it hasn't had destruction decreed upon it yet. You mixed up your timeline. Also, Abraham was fighting for the rscue of Lot, not for the war as a whole - that was why he remained uninvolved until Lot got captured.

    "Abram turns the offer down, apparently he would rather fraudulently obtain his items, rather than accepting payment for services."
    Frankly, this disappointed me - Abraham specifies why he refused payment; Abraham wanted to prevent the King of Sodom from laying claim as the source of Abraham's wealth and greatness.

    As clarification, the "pieces" are the parts of the animals which Abraham cut in half earlier.

    I'm a little disappointed with this post. I hope the others will be much more intellectually curious and stimulating rather than this mocking tone you seem to have adopted.

  7. Isaack, it's against the rules to add to the bible! You can't decide on your own to have a couple of hulking guys with nightsticks. It clearly states tha Abram told Sarai that he would say she was his sister before they entered Egypt. If any interpretation is due here, it would be that Pharaoh gave all of the riches to Abram as a dowery for Sarai. I also object about Pharaoh treating Sarai as a whore and your claim about objectifying women. Women are always second class citizens in the bible. They are little more than slaves, and certainly nothing more than chattel. I also have a serious problem with your interpretation of Jesus making a covenant with God by being the smoking torch. This is a serious retro-fitting of the story to justify Jesus as the son of God, forcing the old story to mean what you want it to mean.

  8. It says specifically that the officers of pharoah took this matter into their own hands - no "making up" is going on here. They specifically approached him. The fact that Abram knew ahead of time and prepared for this doesn't change the fact that it happened - Egypt was known for this kind of thing (in fact, most of that area was known for this kind of thing - Sodom wasn't entirely... unique... in that regard). No one is debating that Pharoah gave Abram gifts on account of his relation to Sarai.

    You object to the fact that abducting someone for sexual relations, even a sister instead of a wife, and paying off the relatives isn't treating the woman like a whore?

    Regarding the claim that the bible treats all woman as second class citizens, I actually disagree with your assessment. Regardless, that doesn't change the fact that what happened here is far beyond the pale of whatever supposed sexism the Bible supports.

    I believe that last part of your comment wasn't directed as me, as I don't believe in Jesus at all, and I disagreed with the commentor who did.



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