Thursday, September 10, 2009

5: You want me to cut what?

Genesis 16-18
God apparently forgets his promise to give Abram children so Abram and Sarai must turn to desperate (weird) measures to conceive children. Sarai decides to give her Egyptian maidservent (probably yet another thing they took from Egypt when they scammed Pharaoh) to Abram so that he can conceive a child with her. Abram doesn't have a problem with this and proceeds to knock up Hagar (the servant). Sarai is pissed, even though it was her idea, so she decides to take it out on the servant. The mistreatment was so bad that Hagar flees to the desert.

An angel finds Hagar in the desert (this is the first time we've seen an angel to my recollection), and tells her to go back and submit to Sarai. Can I get a hell no? Apparently not, she goes back and has his child. The end. We don't find out what happens to Hagar. Can I at least get "and then she lived happily ever after"?

Genesis 17 is titled "The Covenant of Circumcision" in my bible, this should be good. Ok, God comes down and promises the land to Abram again (ok God we get it), and renames him Abraham (I'm assuming this has some significance in Hebrew). Then God drops the bombshell, you have to cut off a part of your penis. Again, can I please get a hell no? Again, sadly no. God tells him not only to chop up his own penis, but that of his children and his slaves (yes, God apparently doesn't mind if you own slaves). God never gives any explanation as to why he came down one day and decided that part of Abraham's penis needed to be cleaved. Why did God put foreskin there in the first place? Later that day they all had a circumcision party and the chapter ends.

Genesis 18 starts with a story of either men or angels meeting Abraham. It is fairly ambiguous because these three beings are called men and "lord" in pretty much adjacent sentences. Regardless of what they are, Abraham treats them nicely, then has a conversation with the Lord. It doesn't really make any sense for these beings to be in the story if they are not either God or angels. Anyway, the final message is that Sarah (the new name for Sarai after all the guys got circumcised) is going to have a child at some undetermined time in the future. Sarah laughs at this because she is too old to have children. When God asks why she laughed she says (I'm paraphrasing here) "Nuh-uh I didn't laugh" and God says "Yuh-huh yes you did". The section abruptly ends.

Here's the weird ending of the day. Abraham finds out that God is going to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah, and asks if he is going to kill the good people in those cities along with the bad. (I'm going to be doing a lot of paraphrasing here) God says if he finds 50 good people he wont destroy the cities. Abraham says "how about 5". God says "If there are 45 I wont destroy them". Abraham says "Ok, how about 40". God says "Ok, 40, it's a deal". Abraham says "Wait, wait, how about 30". God says "Right, ok, 30 is good". Abraham says "Sorry, I'm not trying to piss you off, but how about 20". God says "Whatever, fine, 20". Abraham says "Wait, just let me speak one more time, how about 10 people". God says "Ok, 10". Did we just have an auction for a city full of people? How about 0 people, God, how about not killing a city full of people for any reason.


  1. If memory serves, Abram means "father" and Abraham "father of nations". At least that's what they taught in church…

  2. Could it be that the 3 men represent God (father, son, holy ghost)?

  3. After reading chapter 18 I thought that the 3 men represented God (father, son, holy ghost) but after reading chap 19 maybe they are just Angels.

  4. Genesis 16: Sarai isn't pissed at Hagar being pregnant, but at Hagar's reaction to her own pregnancy - verse 4: "And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes."
    This is the real problem with translations of a Hebrew text - you loose the subtlety of the original. In fact, preists used to study the OT in Hebrew, as it was seen as the only legitimate way to learn it, despite the fact that translations had existed in several languages for hundreds of years.

    That "mistreatment" of Hagar by Sarai? That's just the fact that, despite bearing Abram child, Hagar was still a servant of Sarai and was treated like one.

    Understand that the connotation we have of "slavery" is tainted by historical experience, and doesn't jive with the biblical requierments of slave treatment. By law, a slave must be treated identically to any other household member in terms of food, clothing, and shelter. In fact, you are required to take care of them before your own needs. There is a saying which goes "he who accquires a slave really acquires a master for himself." The only real benefit to having one around is to have live-in hired help.

    The only real question you ask on chapter 17 is why the foreskin existed in the first place. There is a recorded conversation between a Roman general asking the same question to a rabbi. In response, the rabbi asks why people bother making bread, since wheat grows naturally and we should all eat it as-is. The point (haha.) is that either physically or metaphorically we have a direct hand in the process of our own perfection.

    chapter 18: Sarah laughed internally (check the verse), and God called her on it. The three "beings" (whoever they were) directly proceed from Abraham toward Sodom, and eventually reach Lot (in tomorrows reading). Hence the direct connection of A) their arrival, B) Sarah's pregnancy, and C) the discussion of Sodom. This whole portion forms the start of a reading that extends until the end of chapter 22.

    It may be hard to comprehend, but capital punishment is and was seen by many as acceptible punishment for a variety of crimes, not just murder. If you're talking about a population dedicated to the glorification of murder, depravity, and other things, it is logical to conclude that such a society should not be allowed to exist. If you believe, as it seems you do, that human life should never be taken under any circumstances, than you clearly would have a problem with God doing so under any circumstances.

    This isn't a critical reading, which would involve asking questions of the Bible on it's own terms. This is just an attempt to buoy your non-acceptance of something you don't believe in anyhow.
    I don't care that you believe differently from some, but this is just an exercise in textual masochism for your own conscience.

    I keep hoping to find something actually interesting and insightful in your continued posts, but this is a bit disappointing.

  5. How is cutting off your foreskin making yourself more perfect? If god created human males with foreskins, aren't they already perfect? If god is perfect and omniscient, how can he make anything imperfect? Just because capital punishment is seen by many as justifiable, that doesn't make it right. Your twisted justifying of the bible is as bad as anything Bible365 is misinterpreting (if he even is). If we are supposed to ask questions of the bible on its own terms, then we have to look at it as a creation myth that is thousands of years old and realize how flawed it is in terms of today's world and it becomes nothing more than a work of literature that we can study like Shakespeare or Mark Twain or Anton Chekov (just to name a few). It becomes a seriously flawed story with a god who is jealous, rageful deceitful, and intolerable, a god who has no problem giving away land occupied by one tribe to his "favorite" individual, who he gives permission to for the slaughter of all of these other tribes in order to take their lands. Either that or Abram is a schizophrenic who is hearing voices telling him to do these things and really needs to be stopped!

  6. "How is cutting off your foreskin making yourself more perfect? If god created human males with foreskins, aren't they already perfect?"
    Great - a classical conceit. That question was actually asked by a Roman prelate to one of the Rabbis of the Talmud. his response - "Why don't you just eat wheat instead of bread!" - The explanation that followed was that mankind wasn't put into this world to simply enjoy it, but to take part in its perfection. We take wheat, basically destroy it, and make from it something even greater and nourishing. Man is designed to "self optimize," and the message of the circumcision is precisely that.

    "If god is perfect and omniscient, how can he make anything imperfect? "
    A perfectly flat surface is very inefficient for growing crystals on. or walking. or doing a lot of things. Imperfection is a useful form of perfection. And, as I said, having man engaged in making perfection also has purpose.

    "Your twisted justifying of the bible is as bad as anything Bible365 is misinterpreting"
    And your desire to justify your own viewpoint of it being an ancient creation myth for a defunct race is just as twisted. My interpretation is based on years of study and knowledge of the actual language, people, religion, tradition, and culture responsible for its production.

    Yours is based on what?
    A desire to be superior to those "hokey religions?" The interpretation that seems most subjectively sensible to you?
    If you want to really study Shakespeare (and I also study shakespeare) you have to understand the culture and language of his time to truly understand what he is saying. I am applying the same rigor to the study of the Bible, and not simply dismissing it with a superficial interpretation because I believe the people who wrote and read it were cavemen.



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