Saturday, September 12, 2009

7: Father and Son

Genesis 22-24
Genesis 22 is all about this grand test God has devised for Abraham. Before I tell you what the test is (I'm sure some of you already know), lets review what we think we know about God. He is all loving, perfect, and presumably sinless. That being said, the test is for Abraham to kill his only child (Isaac). Now why would a being that is supposed to be the opposite of sin ask someone to do this? The idiocy is two fold here, one for God telling someone to sin, and two for Abraham not (visibly) caring.

Abraham does as he's told, gathers his son and firewood, and goes to the top of the mountain God told him about. Isaac isn't stupid and asks where the lamb for the offering is. Abraham says that God will provide the lamb, that's a lie. Let's stop for a second and think about what we would think of someone today who was going to kill their children on God's orders. Actually, we don't even have to imagine, click here.

Abraham then ties his son to the firewood, the bible doesn't say what Isaac is saying at this point, but he's probably getting the idea. Abraham picks up a knife and a moment before he deals the death blow an angel comes down and tells him to stop. I'm very interested in who this angel is and what he says. "Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son." So the test was a test of fear? If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you to do something, then you aren't expressing your loyalty to them when you do what they say. This seems like the same thing God is doing here. So can we assume that Abraham has never been loyal to God, just afraid?

Now, has God changed his mind, or is this angel working alone? If God changed his mind it will just be another example of how he's not omniscient. The only other thing the angel says is (paraphrasing) "God says you passed the test, you don't have to kill your son". Why isn't God saying this himself? We never see God needing to "send messengers" any other time. A logical conclusion would be that this angel is acting independently of God's will. Consequently I've only heard of one angel that acts against God's will. Why is it always God inciting sin and lying (in the garden of Eden for example), and it is always serpents (supposedly evil) and rogue angels (supposedly evil) telling the truth and saving lives?

In Genesis 23 Sarah dies and Abraham comes and cries and haggles over burial prices. Just as a side note, he mourns for a half a sentence and haggles over the price of her burial spot for 8 paragraphs; just saying.

Genesis 24 is about one of Abraham's servants going to find Isaac a wife. The only requirement is that she offer him water, and offers to give water to his camels. He finds a woman that does just that and gives her a bunch of gold. They're gone the next day. Isaac doesn't seem to mind being forced to marry someone and they are married as soon as she gets back.

Friday, September 11, 2009

6: Sodomy

Genesis 19-21
Two angels go down to Sodom from Abraham's house. Lot just happens to be sitting at the gateway to the city when they arrive and invites them back to his place. Apparently these were super hot angels, because men from all around the city came to Lot's house to have sex with them (at least take them out to dinner first). Lot decides it would be a better idea to give these men his two virgin daughters to do what they want with them (no, no, not the angels that can defend themselves, take my two innocent daughters). Unsatisfied, the men essentially say "don't judge me" and try to break down the door. The angels don't appreciate the idea of being gang raped and decide to strike the men blind. The angels then tell Lot to get everyone out of the city that he knows (what is happening to his daughters as they are having this conversation?) because they are going to destroy the city. Did they look for the 10 good people in the city or are they just assuming that a few rapists means the whole city is bad? With Lot's daughters, his wife, and his son-in-laws that makes 6 good people, they only need to find 4 more.

God seems to have made up his mind, so Lot, his daughters, and wife flee to the adjacent city of Zoar as Sodom and Gomorrah are being destroyed. Lot's wife looks back to see what is happening and she is turned into a pillar of salt. Excuse me? Am I reading this correctly? What was Lot's wife's sin? And why a pillar of salt (on the bright side, Lot will never have bland food again)? Nobody really seems to care that their wife/mother just died and they leave to settle in the mountains.

This is where it gets weird (can we just have one normal chapter), as if giving up your daughters for rape isn't weird enough already. Lot's daughters are desperate for kids or maybe they are just horn dogs, but seeing no other men around they decide that their father should impregnate them. Aren't these supposed to be the good people of Sodom? Anyway, the first night they get him drunk and his older daughter sleeps with him. Apparently Lot is a blackout drunk and doesn't get the trick. So he lets his daughters get him drunk again the second night and his younger daughter sleeps with him. So they both get pregnant, the end. No explanation, no condemnation, this guy just knocked up his daughters and nobody seems to care.

Oh boy, this is going to be a long day, Abraham is back to his scamming of the innocent and inflicting God's wrath on them. It's even more clear in this story than it was in the story of Abraham (then Abram) and Pharaoh. Again he moves, and again he tells the king of the land (Abimelech) that Sarah is his sister. The scam works again and Abimelech takes Sarah as his wife. God comes to Abimelech and tells him he is good as dead. What? Abraham is the scam artist, God, you should be punishing him. Abimelech says this in a conversation to God, "Did he not say to me 'She is my sister,' and didn't she also say, 'He is my brother'?". God essentially says he doesn't care and that Abimelech should give Abraham his wife back because Abraham is a prophet. But why is he a prophet if he is such a jerk?

They call Abraham in for a council and ask why he did this to them. Abraham says that he thought God wasn't around these parts (What?) and that he thought he was going to be killed again. Who is going to kill you Abraham? In the end the scam works again; out of fear Abimelech gives him a bunch of stuff to appease God.

Sarah finally gets pregnant and has a child. Being the jerk she is she sends away Hagar and her son Ishmael to die of thirst in the desert (so we do get to find out what happens to Hagar). God is perfectly ok with sending them away, he tells Abraham to do what his wife says. Ishmael and Hagar survive when they find a well in the middle of the desert.

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.

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).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

3: Noah

Genesis 8-11
As Genesis 8 starts we are not yet done with the Noah story (oh how I wish we were). Noah and all of the animals float on the water for 5 months. Not only are they not sleeping because they have to tend to a pair of animals every 7 seconds, but they are surely starving and dying of thirst because they didn't have room for food and water to start with. For another approximately 2 months they sit on the top of mount Ararat, presumably still starving. Noah then spends another two months sending out doves and other birds to figure out if the ground was dry. Finally, over a year after they all piled into the ark, God tells them that they can come out. Now, I don't have the time to figure out how much, and what kind of food 98,000 pairs of animals need for an entire year, but I would imagine the amount would be staggering. These animals have a 2.5x2.5x2.5 foot container to start with. This size container would only hold about 117 gallons of fresh water, I would imagine that most of the animals would drink more water than could even be held in their cage in a year. And we still haven't included food. This story is not feasible by any stretch of the imagination.

Noah then builds an alter and sacrifices burnt offerings to God. When God smells the aroma he vows never to kill everyone again. Maybe Noah could have burned come incense before God killed everyone on earth?

God, apparently not learning his lesson, tells Noah to be fruitful and multiply, and for the first time gives us permission to eat animals. I guess Abel could kill some of his flock and show them to God, he just couldn't eat them afterward. God then reiterates that he's not going to kill us all again. He says that whenever he makes a rainbow appear that he will remember his promise not to kill everyone. What? I haven't seen a rainbow in a long time, I hope that little promise hasn't slipped his mind (again, he is revealing his lack of omniscience).

Genesis 9 is finished with a strange story of Noah getting wasted (drunk) and falling asleep naked. Why was he walking around naked? Noah must party hard. Anyway, Ham sees his father naked and tells his brothers, and they decide to cover him up. The brothers walk into the tent backwards so there is no chance of them seeing their father naked (cause that would be the end of the world). We haven't even gotten to the strange part yet. Noah wakes up and finds that he is covered. Now I would assume that Noah would be happy that someone covered him up, apparently not. He somehow knows Ham must be the culprit and exclaims "Cursed be Canaan [Ham's son]! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." Noah makes Ham's son a slave because Ham was trying to be a nice guy? Let's review. Noah got drunk and passed out naked, his son suggests they cover him up, Noah curses his grandson to be a slave. I guess Noah was kind of a jerk.

Genesis 10 is largely genealogy. All is not lost though, there is the story of the mighty warrior Nimrod (I couldn't make this up if I tried). It is Genesis 10:8 if you need a laugh.

Genesis 11, the story of the Tower of Babel. I should just stop saying this, but this is very strange. People get together and invent bricks and begin building a tower "to the heavens". God, seeing this, says to himself "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." Well that is certainly worth a rereading. God says, about the power of humans, that nothing they do will be impossible if they are united. Is he scared? Apparently so scared that he needs to confuse us and sew discord. Is God going to come down and undermine Google translator? If we, as one people, come together and put aside our differences, is God saying that we could usurp his power?

I leave you with this today, the word of God "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible...".

Monday, September 7, 2009

2: Brotherly Love

Genesis 4-7
Genesis 4; the story of Cain and Abel. Cain works the land and Abel raises animals, apparently God favors the latter and Cain is overwhelmed with jealously. First off, why doesn't God appreciate the work of Cain and his offering, but loves Abel's offerings? We never find out. It seems like God could have made everyone in the situation feel competent and like they had done a good job. God then asks Cain why he is angry, and several other questions. Doesn't he know? Again, he is acting less than omniscient. Cain then kills Abel and proceeds to attempt to lie to God about it. Cain clearly doesn't see God as omniscient either, otherwise why would he even attempt to lie?

God then administers his first punishment for murder. The only other punishment we have seen so far was in Genesis 3. Which, as we remember, was eternal torment for all of mankind for eating a fruit. Any reasonable person would expect a much more horrible punishment for murder. What is this horrible punishment you ask? Cain can't grow any more crops and he has to move.

This brings us to another strange point. Cain, in trying to talk God out of his punishment, says that "whoever finds me will kill me". How many people do we know of that are on the earth at this point? Adam, Eve, Cain, and dead Abel. Who is he afraid of? God then marks Cain so these mysterious people wont kill him.

Cain then apparently marries one of these mysterious people, unless the wife he took was Eve, which the text does not say. Could these people be the ones that God created in Genesis 1? The text simply doesn't say.

Genesis 5 serves to connect Adam to Noah in genealogy, and has several stories of people living nearly 1000 years. At every step in the generational line the men take wives, but we are again not told where any of these people come from.

Genesis 6 starts with God being very upset with his creations. We are given no explanation as to why he didn't know how we were going to turn out. The only conclusion this omniscient being can come up with is to wipe us all off the face of the earth; except Noah of course. Couldn't he have come down and at least asked us nicely to be good boys and girls?

Apparently God, having exhausted all other options, (though we don't see much of an attempt) decides to kill us all, and tells Noah to build him an ark that is 450ftx75ftx45ft. He then tells Noah to get two of all living creatures; birds, and anything else that moves along the ground. I have searched for the most conservative estimate of how many land creatures are currently alive today. This website tells me, after I add them up, that there are 26,859 land animals currently alive. For the moment, I will not figure in dinosaurs or insects (the lowest estimate I would find was nearly 1 million insect species). Dividing the cubic footage of the ark by the number of animals currently on earth yields 56.5 feet cubed. Taking the cubed root of this gives me a 3.8x3.8x3.8 foot box, for every pair of animals currently alive. This does not give any room for food, water, or any place to walk.

At the same time we must also assume that the ark is infested with 2 million insects, as they are not figured in to this equation. This is also not including the massive brontosaurus, which has an average length of 75 feet, or the infamous tyrannosaurus rex which averages 43 feet long.

These numbers aren't looking good for the bible going into Genesis 7, unfortunately it gets worse. God again changes his mind, as we've already seen several times. He now says he wants 7 pairs of clean animals, 2 pairs of unclean animals, and 7 pairs of every kind of bird. Ok, well I guess I need to recalculate. There are a relatively small number of "clean" animals, so i will just include them in the count of "unclean" animals. So two pairs of unclean animals (excluding birds) would be 35,718 pairs. Seven pairs of each bird would total to 63,000 pairs. This totals to 98,718 pairs of animals. This means that each pair of animals would have a cube 2.5x2.5x2.5 feet. This also means that there would be about 4 million insects crawling around (this is around 3 insects per cubic foot of space). Noah would certainly have to watch his step to ensure he didn't wipe any insects off the face of the earth. I will reiterate that this is the most conservative estimate I could find of the creatures on earth, there could be many, many more.

The final blow for the ark was when I started thinking about how these 8 people would tend to all these animals. There were 8 people on the ark to tend to 98,000 animals. This comes out to over 12,000 animals to tend to per person, per day. This means that if every person worked 24 hours a day, and never slept, ate, or used the bathroom, that each person would have 7 seconds to care for each pair of animals. This would include feeding, watering, and cleaning up the cage. I assume that the insects would just find their own food and water.

I leave Genesis 7, perplexed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

1: In the Beginning

Genesis: 1-3
In Genesis 1 (as I'm sure most of us know by now) God creates the heavens, earth, plants, animals, and humans. Wait... Humans? I thought that was Genesis 2... Apparently not, there are two alternate stories of creation, but I will get to that in a moment.

God says let there be light, day and night, sky, water, land, and vegetation. As a side note, in reading it seems like God may think the earth is flat. God then creates stars. This takes, as far as the reader can tell, as long as it took to create the earth. However, we know today that there are trillions upon trillions of stars in the sky that are all billions of times larger than the earth, and they are all trillions of miles away. Did God trace photons back to the stars as he was creating them, knowing that 6000 years later humans would look upon them and wonder how light got from the stars to the earth, millions of light years away? Assuming God did do this, wouldn't it take a little longer to accomplish this than it took to create the measly little earth?

God then creates fish, birds, (rests for the night) animals, and finally humans. After giving humans rule over the planet he rests.

Genesis 2 begins before plants are created. Keep in mind plants are created in Genesis 1 on the third day, and humans on the sixth. "When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens- and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up ... LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground..." Wait a minute now, did we mess up the order, or are there two different stories? It is only after this that God makes the garden of Eden and vegetation.

God then creates all of the animals (out of order again) , has Adam name them, and creates Eve from Adam's rib (this is different from the first story wherein male and female were created at the same time). God also forbids Adam from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or he will surely die. This is before Eve is even created, so she is never expressly forbidden from eating from the tree, this will come up later. Genesis 2 leaves off with Adam and Eve naked in the garden feeling unashamed.

Genesis 3 opens with the dreaded snake asking Eve whether God told her not to eat from any tree. She says that they may eat from any tree except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or they will die. I'm not sure if she heard this as hearsay from Adam or God told her directly, as a seemingly important part of the story is cut out between Gen. 2 and 3. The serpent replies that they will not surely die, which turns out to be the truth. Did God just lie? In the end Eve eats from the tree (was she expressly forbidden by God to eat from the tree? we may never know), and shares some with Adam.

This next scene strikes me as strange so I will quote it "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, 'Where are you?'". They heard him walking? Where are you? God isn't seeming very all powerful or all knowing at this point.

To put it mildly, God was pissed. He curses the snake to crawl on his belly (I'm not sure what the serpent was doing before), Eve to have childbearing pains, and Adam's farm land to be cursed, just to name a few. We are thus, all of mankind, cursed forever. But for what? How were Adam and Eve supposed to differentiate between the word of God and the word of the serpent if they had no idea, at that point, of good and evil? Do we punish a child for holding up his middle finger when he doesn't know the meaning? Why does God punish us for the ignorance of the people he just created, why did he let this serpent anywhere near them? They seemed perfectly content in following the rules until another being, that to them would have seemed just as much of a reliable source as God (not knowing anything of good and evil), convinced them to do something else.

Genesis 3 closes with God casting Adam and Eve from the garden and placing cherubim and a flaming sword on the east side of the garden of eden to guard the tree of life. It seems like someone would have noticed a magical flying, flaming sword at this point and tiny winged men next to a big tree.

Info

Rules:
I will be reading the bible and critically reviewing it during a one year period. I will do my best to be a non-biased reviewer. I will generally not be commenting on whether the events in the bible actually happened, but rather on whether the story line is cohesive and makes sense. I have found a website that divides the bible into 365 sections and I will be using this as my guide. I will be using the New International Version as I read and quote from the bible. I will do my best to make one post per day. There will be 365 entries and my final post will be on September 6, 2010.

Motivation:
I am told that reading the bible is a life changing experience that will fully and unequivocally convince me of the existence of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and maybe unicorns. I am also told, when I quote some seemingly strange passages from the bible, that I am merely taking them out of context, and that I would understand the "true" meaning if only I would read the bible in it's entirety. I also look forward to the day that when someone asks me disdainfully "well, have you actually read the bible?" my reply can be "yes, have you?".

I would encourage everyone to read along, if they are able, to make sure I'm not "reading it wrong" or something of that sort.

The last day of bible reading will be September 5th, 2010.


 

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