Genesis 42 — I wish I weren’t tied and bound
Here we have some more family values and brotherly love. When Joseph’s famine-plagued brothers come searching for food, Joseph throws them in prison, and keeps one as a hostage!
Jacob (aka the patriarch-intermittently-known-as-Israel ©) hears about the grain in Egypt and sends his sons off to buy some. He asks that the youngest, Benjamin, stay behind so nothing bad happens to him (since he believes Joseph dead).
When the brothers arrive, Joseph recognizes them, but they don’t recognize him (he "disguised" himself, 42:7 New American Standard Bible, NASB ). A possible inconsistency occurs here: Joseph calls them spies because he "remembered the dreams he had about them" (42:9 NASB, NIV gives the same idea slightly reworded). But, his dreams, at least as reported in the Bible, never mention that his brothers will be spies, or do him harm (which might have come in handy when they sold him off to slavery!!). So if he had dreams of the sort, the Bible doesn’t mention them.
In any case, Joseph tells them that they are spies, and that they must send someone back to go get their youngest brother. Good tip for you youngsters out there: when going to a foreign land, don’t tell the guy in charge that you have a brother back home, especially if the whole idea was to keep him safe! (Joseph would have known anyway, but they don’t know this since they don’t realize it’s Joseph.)
So he throws them in prison, after 3 days letting them all out except for Simeon, whom he ties up as a "hostage" (hey, it’s the NASB’s word choice for the section heading, not mine!). The brothers assume it’s because of what they did to Joseph that this is befalling them (little do they know!).
But Joseph isn’t all bad, he does give them grain for free: he gives them grain, and they discover that the silver has been returned to them in their sacks, too. This upsets them, I assume because they are afraid that Joseph will think it’s stolen, although we’re not told.
Back at home, Jacob is none too pleased. Now he’s down two sons, and the brothers want to take Benjamin back? Even though Reuben promises to kill his own two sons if Benjamin is not brought back safe and sound (what a nice dad, offering to kill his sons like that! What would that solve?). But Jacob refuses for now: "My son shall not go down with you" (42:38, NASB).
Well, this story sure is exciting, at least. It’s a nail-biter. Will the brothers find out who Joseph is? Will Joseph kill his bound-up brother? Will Jacob relent and let Benjamin go with (and if so, will Joseph kill him?) What horrible thing will happen next in this "good" book??
Archive for May, 2009
Genesis 41 — God loves famine, this I know…
As I’ve been reading the Bible, I just keep thinking to myself, "How do I know this Yahweh is really great, the best god of all? I need more convincing! If only God could do something, like correctly predict and cause a worldwide famine for 7 years, to show how great he is, then I would certainly worship him!"
Well, my wishes have come true. God’s new sidekick, Joseph, interprets more dreams, this time ones that Pharaoh has. Pharaoh has these weird dreams, with fat cows eating skinny cows, good and bad grains, and so on. For some reason, he and his people can’t make heads or tails of the dreams. The cupbearer finally gives Joseph his due and tells Pharaoh about him.
Our humble Joseph tells him that it is God and not he who can interpret dreams. Apparently God doesn’t want to tell Pharaoh directly what the dreams mean, or heck, even make the dreams’ message clear enough that he can figure it out on his own. Joseph tells Pharaoh that God will cause 7 years of abundance, followed by 7 years of famine.
So basically, since Joseph says it’s God who’s doing the dream-reading, it means that God is predicting that God will cause a famine. Wow, that’s pretty amazing! He’s a regular Kreskin ! Pharaoh believes Joseph and figures since he’s on God’s side, might as well make Joseph his second-in-command, ruling over all in Egypt but Pharaoh. Prison-slave to second-in-command, not a bad promotion! Pharaoh renames Joseph "Zaphenath-Paneah" (it must have been really confusing keeping people straight in those days with all these renamings!).
Joseph goes to work having people save up food during the 7 years of plenty. But as Job could tell us, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Not only Egypt, but "all the other lands" (verse 54, NIV) are struck with a famine. Since only Pharaoh, Joseph, and the Egyptians were warned to prepare for the famine (why couldn’t the rest of God’s beloved Israelites, or the rest of the world, be warned by Joseph or God?), Egypt’s the only place in the whole world apparently that has enough food, according to the Bible. Now that’s a famine only God could cause. This lets Pharaoh and Joseph make a killing by charging money for the food they’ve saved up, since everyone around comes to get food from them to avoid starving.
Now that’s what I call good Christian values: don’t warn anyone about an approaching 7-year famine, hoard food, and charge starving people for it!! I peeked ahead, and it gets even better in Chapter 47. But for now, I’m going to call it a day and leave famines and family reunions to another day.
PS Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.
Genesis 39-40 — Joseph, the original Miss Cleo
I’m going to combine two chapters in one here.
Joseph’s story continues. God loves Joseph so much, that after he allows him to be enslaved, he lets him be falsely imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit.
Joseph becomes top dog among slaves and is trusted by his master Potiphar with everything except his wife. Well, Potiphar’s wife has the hots for Joseph, but he repeatedly refuses to sleep with her. So to get her revenge, one day she grabs Joseph’s robe and shows it to everyone as alleged proof that he came in and tried to rape her. Everyone takes her at her word, including her husband, so Joseph is falsely sent to prison.
But, don’t worry about Joseph. God is looking out for him, and the warden lets him be in charge of everything at the prison. Sure, God could have kept him out of prison, kept him from being falsely accused, or kept him from being a slave in the first place, but at least he lets him be head prisoner!
In Genesis 40, we find out that not only can Joseph dream, but he can reveal the meaning of other people’s dreams! (I kind of thought fortune-telling was frowned on in Christianity, but since Joseph is God’s main man at the time, I guess it’s okay.) Joseph correctly interprets two fellow prisoners’ dreams: in 3 days, the cupbearer will be restored to his old job, while the baker will be killed. Why these two are in prison, and whether it’s just or not, we’re not told. Maybe it’s because God loves them as much as he loves Joseph.
Joseph asks the cupbearer to put in a good word about him with the Pharaoh, to let Pharaoh know that he belongs with the Hebrews and doesn’t deserve to be in prison. 3 days later, the cupbearer is once again cupbearer, the baker gets butchered (while God just watches, we assume), but the cupbearer neglects to speak on behalf of good ole Joseph. Once again, God doesn’t seem to be looking out that much for poor Joseph, here.
But fear not! As we’ll see in the next instalment (spoiler alert!) God will remember Joseph again two years later, when Joseph puts his Miss Cleo -esque powers of divination to use for Pharaoh to warn of more death that God causes or just sits and lets happen.
What moral or spiritual purpose is all this serving, anyway? I wish they had told me in Sunday School.
Genesis 38 — Don’t cry over spilled ***
As some other posts on here, this entry is rated at least PG-13, if not R. It’s not of my own doing but of God’s (or his minions who wrote the Bible).
Here we are treated to talk about semen, prostitution, sex between a woman and her brother- and father-in-law, and two deaths at God’s hands. Pretty much par for the course in the Bible so far, but disgusting nonetheless. Plus, this chapter is often used to attack anything from masturbation to homosexuality, because God is apparently not ashamed to have semen, murder, and prostitution with one’s father-in-law in his Holy Book, but allegedly didn’t want to come out and clearly say that masturbating or homosexuality is wrong in his eyes.
Judah finds a wife named Tamar for his firstborn son, Er, but God thought his son was evil, so he killed him. What he did must be so wicked, it’s unmentionable, and there’s plenty of twisted wickedness mentioned in the Bible. If only God had known this beforehand, he could have told Judah not to bother marrying him off! So Judah, instead of just counting on his second son to find a wife and continue the family line, decides he wants him to have sex with Tamar. This is called a "duty", so apparently this sort of thing was expected. I feel sorry for the brother-in-law and the widow in cases like this…
The second son, Onan, isn’t keen on this because the children "would not be his" (Genesis 38:9, NIV). I guess the idea is that they would be his brother’s children since his brother’s wife (who in those days would have basically been considered as property) would have bore the children. So instead of knocking up his sister-in-law, he decides to practice (or invent?) the withdrawal method. God kills him for doing this. What is interesting is that God doesn’t kill him after the first time he does this, for according to NIV the Bible says "whenever he lay with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen" (verse 10, emphasis mine). How much could it have displeased him if God let it happen repeatedly before he killed him?!
Tamar then gets the idea to have her father-in-law lay with her by dressing up as a prostitute. She did this because, the Bible tells us, she hadn’t been married off to Judah’s 3rd son, even though he was now old enough to inseminate her. Sounds like solid reasoning to me. Tamar gets pregnant and it isn’t until later that he finds out what happened, when he hears that his daughter-in-law prostituted herself. He orders her burned to death (because it’s apparently okey-dokey to sleep with a prostitute, but not to be one), but then she shows him his seal, cord, and staff to show Judah that she was the one he slept with. He decides not to kill Tamar because she is "more righteous" (NIV, verse 26) than he is, and not to sleep with her again. I don’t know, neither of them come out smelling like roses in this one, but I will go on the record saying that I am all for not putting people to death. So I guess Judah and Tamar come off a little better in this chapter than God, since unlike Yahweh, they have no blood on their hands (at least for this chapter).
Tamar has twins who fight with each other before birth (apparently not uncommon in those days). Perez came out all the way first, but it was Zerah who reached his hand out of the womb first. So who wins the all-important firstborn contest? I guess we’ll see.
So we know God doesn’t like men not impregnating their grieving sister-in-laws (no mention is made of masturbation or homosexuality, by the way). God also doesn’t like being vaguely wicked as the firstborn Er was, but God seems okay with people becoming or sleeping with a prostitute. A good lesson for Sunday School teachers out there to keep in mind…
PS Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.
From Joseph to Yusuf
Life is often full of coincidences. I just noticed that I wrote an entry about Joseph, and am about to write a new one about Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens , who renamed himself after Joseph from the Koran (basically a remaking of the Joseph from the Bible, as I understand it).
On Tuesday, I woke up with the song "If I Laugh", from Cat Stevens, in my head. I fired up my computer and checked the news, as I often do, and there was an article saying he had just performed first the first time in 20+ years in the US. Strange Cat Stevens related coincidences!
I don’t believe they have been planted here by Allah, however. I’ve been told that I’m just good at finding links between different things. That seems a much more likely explanation, since I analyze everything to death (as you may have noticed from this blog!!) .
In any case, Yusuf performed on The Colbert Report . I don’t watch Colbert as often as I used to, but Colbert’s normally ultra-Christian character was more upset about the-artist-formally-known-as-Cat Stevens leaving the music scene than his Islamic leanings. I think this is because the "real" Stephen Colbert (the actor/writer, not the character) must have been a Cat Stevens fan. In any case, Yusuf portrayed Islam as a peaceful religion and referred to 9-11 as a "blip", the latter of which Colbert did rightly take issue with. Yusuf pointed out that people greet each other in Arabic saying "Peace" (salom) all the time, which he showed as proof of its peacefulness.
It’s very tempting to believe the guy who wrote "Peace Train" that a religion is truly peaceful. For a few seconds, I thought about this: what if Islam is getting too bad of a rap. But then, I came back to my senses. Like the Bible, I understand it is a cruel, backward, and unjust book. I am less knowledgeable about the Koran than I am about the Bible, but when I was in my "searching" period (which some people think I’m still in!) I did take a pretty good look at Islam.
Is Islam a peaceful religion? I think, much as with Christianity, much depends on the interpretation of the individual believer, or the group s/he belongs to. According to Dwindling In Belief ‘s rough count, the Koran (Quran/Coran/etc.) has fewer violent verses than the Bible, but since it is shorter, it has a higher percentage of violent verses than the Bible.
It seems like the vast majority of "violent" or "cruel" Koran verses, violence is directed towards non-believers in the afterlife. But some of the verses do not fall into this category, or aren’t clear (and thus open to misinterpretation by lunatics, which you would think Allah could have foreseen). In addition to a few "best of" killer stories from the Bible (the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.), here are a few other verses:
<< 4: 88-9 What aileth you that ye are become two parties regarding the hypocrites, when Allah cast them back (to disbelief) because of what they earned? Seek ye to guide him whom Allah hath sent astray? He whom Allah sendeth astray, for him thou (O Muhammad) canst not find a road. They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve , that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them , and choose no friend nor helper from among them >>
So Allah believes some people have earned their disbelief and are unsavable. Since they can’t be saved they should be killed (after which, we’re told elsewhere, they’ll burn in hell for all eternity). Nice and peaceful.
<< 18:58-9 Thy Lord is the Forgiver, Full of Mercy. If He took them to task (now) for what they earn, He would hasten on the doom for them; but theirs is an appointed term from which they will find no escape. And (all) those townships! We destroyed them when they did wrong, and We appointed a fixed time for their destruction."
The "mercy"-filled Allah destroyed entire cities! Is this peaceful? guess it’s more fun than trying to convert them. I’m sure though that, since he was merciful, he didn’t send them to burn in Hell for all eternity, right???….
<< 24:2 The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah >>
Is this a peaceful solution to marital problems? Allah seems obsessed with physically torturing people, both in this life and the next. Peace seems to be mentioned very rarely compared to the incessant repetition of eternal burning in Hell. If peace is so important, why is it not emphasized more in the Quran??
Maybe there are other texts and teaching of Islam that the average Muslim emphasizes more than the hellfire verses (just as many Christians opt for a kinder, gentler Christianity), but in both cases they are practicing a belief system inspite of what their holy books say.
While I am glad that Yusuf seems to have a more liberal form of Islam than he did when he first converted (and thought only drums and vocals were pleasing to Allah, among other things), it’s too bad that picked a belief system whose holy book holds that women are worth half as much as men, is fine with slavery (as a man named Yusuf/Joseph should know), has given rise to some of the most repressive and unjust societies in the modern world, and whose God thinks that making people suffer forever is fair and merciful.
I will continue to like Cat Steven’s music, even if I disagree with his current beliefs. It’s too bad the Peace Train doesn’t stop more often in Islam…
Genesis 37 — A coat by any other name…
In Genesis 37, we see the beginning of the Bible story that was the inspiration for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat . I haven’t seen the musical, and don’t really remember the story from the Bible, so I don’t know how faithful (if you’ll permit the word) the musical is to the original. But let’s see how this story goes.
We once again have a father who shows favoritism to one of his children: in this case, it’s Jacob (aka the-patriarch-intermittently-known-as-Israel ©) who loves Joseph more than his other sons. The story starts out by saying that the sons of both of Jacob’s wives are jealous of him, and I’m so used to the more-than-one-wife thing by now that it almost slipped by me.
So Joseph decides since his brothers dislike him so much, that he would tell them about this fantastic dreams he was having, with lightly-veiled symbolism indicating that he will rule over all of them (including mom and dad!). So, as any good brothers would do, they decide to kill Joseph. More good family values. Reuben (he of sleeping with his dad’s concubine fame) doesn’t want to kill his brother, just throw him into a pit (or a cistern, according to NIV) so that he can come save him later.
But as Joseph approaches, the other brothers decide instead to rip off his fancy-schmancy coat and sell him into slavery. The slavery is Judah’s idea; the others seemingly would have gone ahead and killed their brother while Reuben was away. So they dip the coat in blood to make it seem like some animal had devoured Joseph. Dad buys into this and mourns the loss of his son.
Surely they will be some moral to come out of this later? The Bible must eventually have some reasonable moral about something. If nothing else, I’m sure Andrew Lloyd Webber wouldn’t have made a musical out of it!
Genesis 36 — Oh my darling Concubine
Nothing earth-shattering in Genesis 36. We have a long, boring list of descendants with virtually no action happening.
Esau moves away from Jacob because the former has acquired just too much stuff (as we saw with Abraham and Lot , brothers who are too rich just can’t live next to each other). And if you have to pick between blood and wealth, we know what is more important in the Bible. So Esau moves away from Jacob with his extended family. We have plenty of names and occasional tidbits about Esau’s descendants. The Bible does take time to point out (and notably does not condemn) Esau’s son Eliphaz having a concubine (36:12). The men in the Bible seem plenty "fruitful" without having to take on extra wives and sleeping with slaves and concubines all the time. I guess they just couldn’t control themselves.
Esau, aka Edom, fathers an entire nation of chiefs apparently (with a few daughters thrown in for good measure). What does all this mean? I’m not sure what happens to the Edomites, if anything, in the rest of the Bible. My guess is they will be peacemakers and spread the word that God is love. Sure…
God leave the USA
It’s been a while, but I’m back. Within the next two weeks, I should have my site update completed, and I plan to post several times a week until then. Here’s a post that I left half-finished a little over a month ago, having to do with a decision concerning God in the courts.
I’ve thought about it, and we may be able to get God out of our government institutions. Since the Bible openly admits in Genesis that God is a terrorist (I checked a number of other translations besides the KJV, and they all said "terror", too), it would be difficult for a believer to argue against this, right? God is a terrorist. What do we do with terrorists in the good ol’ US of A? We kill them, torture them, or kick them out.
Too bad Nebraska State Sen. Ernie Chambers’ lawsuit against God was dismissed recently. But forget that minor setback. As a terrorist, God could certainly still be pursued under the Patriot Act. Certainly we don’t want an omnipotent terrorist around. I say that extraordinary rendition (supernatural rendition?) might be justified in this one case to protect America. Not to torture, terrorize, or kill God, mind you: we wouldn’t want to stoop to his level. Just to get him out of here to protect us from any future terrorists acts against our citizens (Katrina, etc.).
I wonder if I contacted Sen. Chambers, what his take on this would be?!? Or any flag-waving Bible-believers out there. When you point your finger at some hippie on the no-fly list as a possible terrorist, don’t forget your thumb is pointing right up to God.