Genesis contains many well-known Bible stories and characters, more than I expected honestly, and below are some interesting things I noticed regarding some of them.

Creation – The order things were created. 1) Light and darkness, with an earth that is all water 2) Sky over the earth, which was still all water 3) Land and vegetation 4) Sun, moon and stars 5) Fish and birds 6) Land animals and humans. First question is where was light coming from before the sun was created? Also, the earth as water first with land springing up second seems to be the opposite of how planets are formed. A final interesting note is that once humans are made, God says “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen. 1:28). Fill the earth and subdue it. An interesting phrasing (this is from an NIV translation, for clarity, but the King James version also says “subdue”).  Are we caretakers or conquerors? I mean that in the sense of humanity’s role in the world. The day of rest seems, to me, to establish the Jewish shabbat more than anything else. Speaking of customs, a college professor of mine once said the Old Testament was written as a set of guidelines so that the Hebrews, a historically nomadic people, would be able to maintain their culture while on the move. After God makes woman from man’s rib, Genesis 2:24 says “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Two chapters in, and two cultural templates: shabbat and marriage.

The Fall – Adam was with Eve when the serpent deceived her (them?), yet Eve often gets the brunt of the blame (first and foremost from Adam). This backs up a patriarchal society. The punishments handed down establish gender roles as well; men work for food and women give birth to children. A smaller note is that God makes coverings from skin for Adam and Eve, implying the killing of an animal and perhaps laying the foundation for sacrifice as atonement for sin. This may also tie into…

Cain and Abel – Abel offers up animals for sacrifice to God, and Cain offers up his harvest. God frowns on Cain, but never really gives a reason why. Cain and Abel get introduced as a worker of the fields and a keeper of flocks, respectively, so it’s strange that God does not accept an offering of harvest. God responds to Cain saying “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” What was wrong with Cain’s gift, if nothing other than it wasn’t an animal? Post-fratricide, when Cain is banished to the land of Nod it goes straight into Cain having children with his wife (where did the wife come from? Also Adam and Eve?) which eventually leads to Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain. These three are the fathers of all those who raise livestock, play instruments and forge tools, respectively. Similar to Priapus, Apollo and Hephaestus in Greek mythology?

The Nephilim – I had no idea these guys were even in the Bible. They are described as “heroes of old, men of renown” who came about “when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them” (Gen. 6:4). Are the sons of God different from humans? The Nephilim sound like demigods. Hercules comes to mind.

The Flood – God kills the entire planet except for Noah. The entire planet. Once Noah and his family get off the Ark they make a burnt offering to God. “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood'” (Gen. 8:21). After destroying the entire world, God was pleased by more sacrifice and only then decides to spare the world? We get from man being made in the image of God to now every inclination of humans, beginning from childhood, is evil? It also has many similarities to the Epic of Gilgamesh among other flood myths. I provide that link to Gilgamesh in particular because it comes from a site called the Institute for Creation Research. In its comparison of the two it concedes there are many similarities in the stories so there must have been a flood (that might be true). But because they believe in Creation as told by the Bible then the Bible must be right. Never mind that the evidence of a flood is not a worldwide one, and never mind that the Sumerian epic pre-dates any epic ever written. From the ICR site:

The Genesis account was kept pure and accurate throughout the centuries by the providence of God until it was finally compiled, edited, and written down by Moses. The Epic of Gilgamesh, then, contains the corrupted account as preserved and embellished by peoples who did not follow the God of the Hebrews.

Of course.

Noah – The last things the Bible recounts in Noah’s life is him getting drunk, falling asleep naked, waking up and cursing his youngest grandson (Canaan, son of Ham) to live a life of slavery because Ham saw him naked (Gen. 9: 20-28). This is the most righteous man alive before the flood. The Canaanites are also the people destroyed in Jericho…is this the reason?

The Tower of Babel – I remember God confusing the language of the world so the tower wouldn’t reach heaven, so people could not touch God. Biblically, however, God confuses them because he sees that unified under one language people could do anything they put their mind to. God created discord for…fun? To mess with humanity?

Abram – Or, later, Abraham. Some notes on Abram. He gives his wife over to the Pharaoh in Egypt and gets rich (Gen. 12: 14-20). Abram rescues Lot from capture (Gen. 14) so he was probably a good warrior. Abram sleeps with his wife’s slave (per his wife’s request) to start a family (Ishmael is born) because God promised him descendants and his wife Sarai is barren (Gen. 16). God tells Abram he will be known as Abraham, father of nations, and commands him to circumcise all males at 8 days old because that is important for some reason. God tells Abraham his wife, now to be called Sarah, will give him a son named Isaac. Then everyone gets circumcised (Gen. 17). Abraham passes off Sarah as his sister again, and she is taken in by a king again. We do find out Sarah actually is Abraham’s sister though, so there’s that (Gen. 20). Isaac is born so Sarah tells Abraham to banish Ishmael, and he does. (Gen. 21).

Sodom and Gomorrah – In Genesis 18 Abraham barters with God, and gets God to say if there are even 10 righteous people in the cities he will spare them. Pretty good bartering by Abraham by the way. Then we get to Sodom, and two angels arrive and stay with Lot. Soon every man in the city comes to Lot’s door and asks to have sex with the two visitors. Lot refuses (good job, Lot) and instead offers up his two virgin daughters to them. His daughters. Two every man in the city. Bad job, Lot.

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Gen. 19)

Lot escapes and God rains down fire and brimstone, destroying the cities. And one verse for Lot’s wife, who looked back so she became a pillar of salt. A bit harsh but it doesn’t seem like women in the Bible get much luck. Fittingly, the next section has both of Lot’s daughters living with Lot in a cave. They want to continue their family line, so on back-to-back nights they get Lot drunk and have sex with him. Lot, biblically, has no idea it happens on either occasion. Seems like a stretch. It seems our first biblical rape is that of daughters raping father (Gen. 19: 30-36).

Abraham (Almost) Sacrifices Isaac – This is a lesson on obeying God, I get it. But I also don’t, at all. God’s promise was to make Abraham a great nation. So we get Isaac, and Abraham and Sarah are happy. Then God says kill him, so Abraham goes to do it the next morning. Bear in mind this is the Abraham who bartered with God to try and save Sodom and Gomorrah and has spoken directly with God multiple times on multiple issues. He doesn’t question at all? No “Hey, God, remember what you said about giving me a son and through him I would get descendants that outnumbered the stars? Are you sure about this one?” He ties Isaac up, puts him on the wood, and is on the downswing of the killing blow with a knife when God stops him. What is Isaac thinking through all of this? This demonstrates God giveth and God taketh away to the extreme. And Abraham’s new reward is now surely he will have descendants that outnumber the stars, which is the same as what was promised before.

Jacob – He’s a smart/sneaky guy. Tricks his brother into giving up his birthright. Tricks his father into blessing him instead of his older brother. Tricks his uncle into giving him the strongest flock of sheep. But he does get duped into marrying his uncle’s older daughter, instead of the younger one whom he loves, after the eldest goes into the bedroom and sleeps with him instead of the youngest. Actual quote is “And there was Leah!” I’m starting to think no one in Genesis really knows who they’re having sex with. Jacob also wrestles, physically wrestles, with God. Jacob matches God all night and is then called Israel. God wrenches Jacob’s hip and that is why Israelites don’t eat hip tendons (Gen. 32: 22-31). I remember this story referenced to show that we need to be willing to wrestle with God over issues in our lives. Genesis seems to be much more literal.

The Rape of Dinah – This is not one of the more popular Bible stories and I can understand why, but I mention it because it’s the first of presumably many times every male in a city is killed, the women and children taken and the city plundered.

Joseph – The dreamer. Brotherly love does not seem to be a theme of Genesis. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph, years later when his brothers ask him for food because of a famine, realizes they don’t recognize him so he accuses them of being spies. He eventually sends nine of the 10 brothers back with food but keeps one of his brothers in prison until they return withe youngest brother (Joseph has 11 brothers). They do return, and Joseph sends them all back (not sure how the imprisoned brother felt about all this). But Joseph plants a cup in one sack, accuses them of stealing and then says the youngest brother will be Joseph’s slave. After begging to let the youngest one go, Joseph finally makes himself known as their brother. Then it’s a happy family reunion. So the lesson is make your enemies suffer for a while and then make things better?

Overall Genesis reminds me a lot of other mythology, namely Greek. Walking and talking with God, focus on major patriarchs, deception for gain, violence and plenty of really weird shit. Literary value is through the roof, but theologic value is on par with The Iliad.

On to Exodus. It’s Moses time.

Thank you for reading,

AR

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Genesis

  1. A reaction to your latest blog and to the general tone of your quest. Lots (no pun intended) of your observations about Genesis I’ve noticed myself. The Old Testament is a combination of many different types of literary styles written over hundreds of years. There’s symbolic language, poetic language, prophetic language and all those types of language have different types of rules. I read for the message. In that sense I’m not literal.
    Where did the light come from? From another star – God did create the entire universe. Or from God himself. Creation story is a symbolic story not a science manual. Read for the message. Humanity is to be the caretaker of the earth. Subdue is defined as to overcome or bring under control – manage not pillage.
    The Fall – God blames Adam; Adam throws Eve under the bus; then Eve throws the serpent under the bus. Running away (literally) from responsibility. An accurate depiction of humankind?
    Cain & Abel (oh brother) – 4.3 Cain brings “some” of the fruits of the field. 4.4 Abel brings meat from the “firstborn”. You bring to God your best. That is why God didn’t honor Cain. Yes…where did the other people come from?
    The Nephilim are just weird and out of nowhere.
    Flood – Man is full of evil from the Fall. Where does evil come from would be a good question to ponder. Another question is whether you believe that the innate nature of mankind is good or evil. The answer to that says much about how you approach the world. As to the historical ‘truth’ of the flood, doesn’t the presence of multiple flood stories lend credence? Are there not some geographical layers in the earth’s crust that might support a massive flood?
    Tower of Babel – Men were going up to the heavens ‘in order to make a name for ourselves’ – the name was an extremely important aspect of someone’s being. People do things ‘in the name of _______’. You were baptized in the ‘name’ of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So men trying to make a name for themselves are challenging God. So yes, God created discord to bring down the prideful. He does that. Remember that these stories are presented to explain the world in which the tellers and listeners (and eventually readers) lived. Why are people evil? Why are there different languages? You need to move beyond the story to the message. What does this story say about the nature of God and of man?
    Abram – are you being witty or smug when you say ‘that is important for some reason’ regarding circumcision? You’re a smart man. You know it’s a symbol of obedience to God. That’s the reason.
    You are so right with the Patriarchs – they are great liers. Abraham pawning off his wife twice. And I wouldn’t believe the half-sister story…he might be lying again. Jacob is a sneak. As you said, the literary value of the book is fantastic…there’s a realism to the compromised nature of all the main characters. Of course, I find a little more theology in it than you do.
    Abraham and Isaac – surprised by your analysis. At the Rob Bell event we went to (many years ago) he explained that in those primitive cultures child sacrifices – made at the behest of one’s God – were not unusual. So Abraham’s reaction isn’t so disconcerting theoretically…but is always is no matter how many times you read the story. That’s because no father would ever want to sacrifice his son – his only son. They would readily put themselves in their son’s place. How could Abraham be willing? Abraham does say “God himself will provide the lamb for the offering” 22:8. And he does. And the promise is re-iterated. There are stages to the promise. The message? Trust in God. God will provide. And it foreshadows God’s sacrifice of his only son Jesus Christ.
    Joseph – again I wonder if the message you got is real or just being flippant. “make your enemies suffer for a while and then make things better?” In Joseph’s story, I see perseverance, faith through hardship, forgiveness for an unspeakable crime (and lie to their father). Joseph twisted the knife a bit, but read Chapter 45: 3-15 again (also 50:20). There is real emotion there not something manufactured.
    You challenged yourself to find out if you believed in God. What I see here is re-telling of Bible stories with your arch commentary. I don’t see digging down and finding a message about the nature of God and of man. Of course it’s just the first book. But…by the end of your journey you should have a world view – a Christian world view, a spiritual world view, a naturalistic world view, a nealistic world view – whatever it may be it will belong to you. Love you.

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  2. A couple of thoughts. I would think God could create a planet in any order he wished. I was not around when planets came into existence. I am sure that your hyperlink gives the scientific theory of planet formation, but they weren’t around at the time either.
    I agree that the Old Testament times were very different, and I’m glad, since I am a woman, on not living in that time.
    I also wondered what was wrong with Cain’s offering. Looking at it, it has to be a heart thing. It reads Cain brought “some” grain, but Abel brought fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. also, in future stories people do offer grains and oils. So perhaps Cain’s “gift” was not his best grain, and so not accepted, and THAT is why God said “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”. And looking further into Cain’s “heart” , it was dark enough that he killed his own brother. Abraham and Lot are certainly not stellar perfection. But they are human. My take away is that – again – it’s a heart thing. It says God credited Abraham for his faith, not his behavior (Gen 15:6).
    I have also wondered what Isaac must have been thinking as his father bound him. Did Abraham tell him what was going on? But the story is not about Isaac being sacrificed, because he wasn’t. So what is the purpose of the story? As I said to you, I think to illustrate what felt when he sacrificed His son. He did not pull back at the last moment. If God is love, then I can empathize to a degree, because I know – and all people know – how it sinking feels when someone you love is harmed. It says “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34). Did God turn away because looking on was hard?
    You said you were reading critically. I believe reading critically means looking for the meaning the author weaves into the story. These are the meanings I get from Genesis. I have questions about the rest, but since I believe in God, and I believe “His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). I want a God who is smarter and deeper than I am. If I can figure God out, he’s not very special or – well – God like.

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  3. Oh, I forgot Joseph. How pissed would you be if your brother sold you into slavery? I think, again, people are people. In the end, he helps his family. I guess he needed some payback first?

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