Genesis 30 — Meddling and Mendelism

Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Heathcliff: Terror of the Neighborhood
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Genesis 30 — Meddling and Mendelism

The rivalry between Rachel and Leah deepens in this chapter, and like a shady political campaign contributor, God helps out both sides.

Rachel is upset that she isn’t bearing Jacob children (Jacob says it’s all God’s fault), so Rachel tells Jacob to have sex with her servant. He obliges (reluctantly, I’m sure). What the servant thinks of all this, we’re not told. In any case, the fact that her husband has a child with his wife’s slave makes Rachel thinks this is proof that God is now on her side. Her servant has a second child. Rachel takes this as proof that she’s beaten her sister now.

But much like that lovable cartoon cat Heathcliff, Leah just won’t be undone. Leah has stopped having children (whether it’s age or God’s doing, we’re not told), so Leah decides to one-up her sister again. She has one of her own servants become Jacob’s wife, and that servant bares Jacob a child.

Then Rachel and Leah strike up a bargain. Leah can sleep with Jacob if Leah’s son gives Rachel some mandrake. This apparently seems like a good deal, and Jacob doesn’t mind apparently since he sleeps with Leah. Leah becomes pregnant, not once, but twice. And her reasoning is interesting: she thinks it’s because "God has rewarded [her] for giving my maidservant to my husband." (Genesis 30:18, KJV). Is that crazy, or what? She thinks Jacob will honor her now because she’s given him a total of 6 kids now.

But God doesn’t want Rachel left out. He again "opened her womb" (30:22, KJV) and let her have another son, and she thinks she no longer has to feel disgraced.

What a crazy, mixed up story this is. And God apparently is fine with all of it, since he keeps opening up these women’s wombs and doesn’t prevent or condemn any of it, unless a very much delayed condemnation is in the works.

Then we have Jacob being cheated out of his freedom, and Jacob getting back by cheating his master (who is Rachel and Leah’s father, by the way). Jacob, initially refused his freedom, is able to haggle Laban into giving Jacob only his spotted goats and brown/black sheep while Laban can keep the rest (the white, non-colored animals being more pure, presumably). But Jacob, who hadn’t learned about Mendelian genetics in school, decides he’ll turn more goat and sheep colored by putting branches around them when they’re mating. He takes care to put the strong ones by the branches so that Jacob will end up with the stronger animals and Laban with the weaker ones.

And, miracle of miracles, it works! Did God help with this feat? We’re not told. But in either case, Laban apparently didn’t catch him in the act, so Jacob ends up becoming very weathly with a lot of slaves.

So we have sisters using sex, the sex of their slaves, and the resulting children, as a way to get back at each other, God meddling in the feud by helping them get pregnant, Jacob being refused freedom as God does nothing, and Jacob cheating his master and the laws of nature so that he can become rich and own tons of servants of his own. More morality brought to you by God.

Genesis 29 — Switcheroo!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Genesis 29 — Switcheroo!

Genesis seems to be filled with switcheroos and deceit. Here, Jacob wants to marry his cousin Rachel (a little further on the family tree than one’s half-sister), but Rachel’s dad tricks Jacob into sleeping with Leah, her older sister, first.

Jacob agreed to slave away for 7 years to have Rachel’s hand in marriage, but after those 7 years of work his uncle Laban sends Leah to sleep with Jacob. "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one," according to Laban (Genesis 29:26). Why didn’t he tell Jacob this before the 7 years of labor? If Jacob loved Rachel so much, how could he not notice the difference?! Didn’t they say anything to each other before getting down to business?!?

Maybe he figured that Jacob would be willing to be a slave for ANOTHER 7 years so that he could also marry Rachel. If so, he figured right. So Jacob marries Rachel after agreeing to another 7 years of servitude, and he loves her more than his first wife, Leah.

Unfortunately for the couple, Rachel is apparently barren. Leah keeps popping out kids, though, because God saw how unloved she was. But even after 3 kids, Jacob still doesn’t love her. Finally, she has a 4th kid with him and names him Judah to honor God (according to NIV it may mean "Praise") and decides she’s through with kids.

So let’s see, we have yet another case of sex switcheroo, another case of polygamy, another case of marrying within one’s family (Laban even says to Jacob in verse 14, "You are my own flesh and blood"), two more cases of servitude (Jacob to Laban, and the servant Bilhah to Rachel), and another woman that God has either made barren or refuses to help have children.

Now, after being surprised at some of the messed up stuff that was put in Genesis, I’m almost more surprised at how similar a number of the stories in Genesis are to each other. Maybe they call it the "Old" Testament because it’s the same old story over and over again?? In any case, I don’t see much morality in all of this. The only thing someone might see as moral in here if you think religion is good, is that Leah names her 4th child in praise of God, putting God above her husband. But that’s reaching, because surely God if he really has to be praised, could have thought of a less convoluted way to get Leah to praise him than the deceit of her father, the labor and lovelessness of her husband, and the sterilty of her sister. Why would a loving God do all that??

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.

The Triune Cereal

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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Synchronicity
By The Police
Synchronicity 2 ("We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies")
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The Triune Cereal
It occurred to me that instead of using pretzels or three-leafed clovers, people could use Rice Krispies to explain the Christian Trinity.

As the Christian Trinity is made up of three godheads, Rice Krispies is made up of three people (perhaps cerealheads?): Snap, Crackle, and Pop. There are three of them, but it’s still only one cereal, and you need Snap, Crackle, and Pop to have Rice Krispies. Pop would obviously be the father, given his name. Snap looks the most like Pop, kind of like how a young, unbearded Jesus would have resembled his dad, so there’s our second. And then Crackle would be the Holy Spirit, not because he does anything special, but because someone needs to fill the third slot (pretty much like the Holy Spirit does). Snap, Crackle, and Pop are a team, you can’t have one without the other or else you wouldn’t have Rice Krispies, just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together make up God.

Not only that, but the best part of this analogy is that you eat Rice Krispies, just as Christians eat God. The milk and rice that nourish your body when you eat Rice Krispies are just like the body and blood that nourish your soul when you eat Holy Communion.

Too bad I’m not a Christian any more, I could make money off this thing. Maybe I should do an L Ron Hubbard and decide to found my own Krispie-ology religion, that’s where the money is.

Genesis 28 — 3 wives are better than 1

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

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Led Zeppelin IV (aka ZOSO)
By Led Zeppelin
Stairway to Heaven
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Genesis 28 — 3 wives are better than 1

Esau wants to get back at his lousy parents for being cheated out of everything and made a slave, so he decides a good way to do this is marry yet again, this time to a woman of the much hated Canaanites. That will teach them! There seems to be a mixing of names for these people: Canaanites, Hittites, Philistines, etc. I wonder if some distinction is made later or not.

In any case, Jacob has a dream with a magical ladder, or stairway to heaven (or "staircase to heaven", as I sometimes jokingly call the song). God tells him that " in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (KJV, 28:14) Not just his descendants, but all families on earth are blessed. I wonder if the people who are massacred at various times in later books realized how blessed they really were.

One thing to note is that Jacob, while clearly amazed at this dream, doesn’t just completely take it on face value; he wants proof (28:20-22 KJV)

"If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment [clothes] to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God"

So only if God does this, will Jacob take the Lord into his heart. I think that Christians nowadays should heed this: I’ll only worship God if he takes care of me. Of course, I’m sure many people can convince themselves that God is taking care of them even when he isn’t (the Devil may have destroyed my house in that hurricane, but at least the Lord protected my basement!).

Jacob continues: "And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou
shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." This is tithing, a practice that some still practice today. Because God isn’t rich enough, we need to give him a tenth of everything we own. Of course, in real life, it’s the church or the priests that get this tenth, often to divide as they (and/or the church elders) please. Methinks some crafty priests may have come up with this tithing idea…

In the dream God promises to be with Jacob and all his descendants (and depending on your interpretation, it sounds like he is even willing to bless all families this time; how open-minded of him for once). In the dream, God even says " I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (NIV 28:15). Will God provide for Jacob and all families in the rest of the Bible? I fear alas that it was only a dream…

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 27 — Thou shalt steal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail
By Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Brave Sir Robin
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Genesis 27 — Thou shalt steal

In this chapter, we see Jacob steal Esau’s blessing, with no immediate consequences for Jacob.

Isaac plans to bless Esau as soon as he comes back from the hunt. Jacob takes advantage of his dad Isaac’s advanced age to trick him into thinking he is Esau. His mom helps out, by helping prepare meat like Isaac likes, to trick Isaac into thinking he’s Esau. Isaac suspects something’s up based on Jacob’s voice, and the fact that his son is back from the hunt unexpectedly soon. Esau you’ll remember has very long hair, but apparently Jacob’s hand is hairy, so his dad doesn’t notice this either. [Update: Thanks to a recent Dwindling in Unbelief post , I realized that I missed something the first time around: Rebekah puts Esau’s clothes on Jacob as well as goatskin on his neck and hands. This is in part how Jacob fools his dad. So much underhandedness going on, it’s hard to keep up!]

When Esau finds out that his dad "made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants"  (27:37 KJV), he’s understandably not too pleased. But Isaac claims there’s nothing to be done (do undosies with blessings apparently).  Jacob had now stolen both the birthright and the blessing. The only consolation Isaac gives is that eventually he’ll get tired of being Jacob’s slave and throw off the shackles. Some minor consolation.

No word as to why Isaac couldn’t just share everything between the two sons to begin with, or why after this deceit by Jacob that Isaac can’t do something better for his son (or why God doesn’t intervene).

Esau decides he wants to kill his brother, so brave sir Jacob flees on his mom’s advice. And mom is racist, just like Sarah had been. "If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living." (27:46 KJV) From context, it seems Hittite is referring to the same people they are living with (Abimelech et al.), unless I am mistaken. In any case, after the tricks this family have pulled on their neighbors over the years, perhaps no one would want to marry them anyway…

Genesis 26 — Like Father, Like Son

Saturday, February 14, 2009

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The Ditty Bops
By The Ditty Bops
Sister Kate
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Genesis 26 — Like Father, Like Son

The land is in famine (the Bible has to specify that this is a different famine than the one mentioned previously, since God apparently sends so many). In this chapter, we have Isaac trying to pull the same old "she ain’t married, she’s my sister " trick that Abraham had done. And the victims of this deceit are none other than the people of our friend Abimelech, whom Abraham had deceived back in Genesis 20. This time though, Abimelech sees Isaac and Rebekah in flagrant PDA and calls him on it before anyone sleeps with Rebekeh.

Why doesn’t God ever punish this sort of deceit? Or if Abimelech’s people are really so horrible that they would have harmed Abraham or Isaac because of their beautiful wives, then why doesn’t God punish the people Sodom-style?

Even though no one had touched the previously-thought-to-be-unmarried Rebekah, Abimelech doesn’t want to take any chances, so he tells everyone to stay away from Rebekah and Isaac. God gave Isaac plenty of crops and riches, the locals are disgruntled and ruin Isaac’s wells, so Abimelech sends him away so the Philestines don’t lynch him.

God blesses Isaac, and Abimelech stops by to make an agreement (a peace treaty?) with Isaac. Abimelech still wants to keep on the good side of Yahweh and whomever he’s blessing, despite (or perhaps because of) the way he’s been treated. Another story that doesn’t quite make sense in the good book.

As a footnote, we’re told that Esau marries two women. This models the story of Adam, Eve, and Sally, from earlier in Genesis. This sort of polygamous union serves as a model for all Christians to this very day. (Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)

Genesis 25 — Give me your birthright, or die!

Friday, February 13, 2009

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Angel with a Lariat
By k.d. lang & The Reclines
Diet of Strange Places ("Starving, I’ve got this hunger…")
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Genesis 25 — Give me your birthright, or die!

Abraham dies in this chapter, but not before finding another wife and keeping busy siring more boys. It doesn’t say why he does this (other than the obvious explanation), since he just sends all his other kids all away so that Isaac can inherit everything and God could bless him. The Bible doesn’t criticize Abraham’s complete disregard for his lovers and offspring. This certainly sets a poor example! (We’re perhaps supposed to be consoled by the fact that he gave them some unnamed "gifts".)

We’re told that Ishmael’s offspring fight with everyone (the KJV however only says "in the presence", an interesting divergence that according to the TNIV [Today’s New International Version] may be due to a confusion with a word or expression that could mean "east" or "hostility"?)

Then we’re told Isaac’s story. His wife Rebekah, like his mom, was apparently barren. God comes through again as the world’s premier fertility expert, and Isaac’s wife Rebekah conceives. The babies start fighting in the womb through, foreboding the fighting they and their descendants will have.

The twins are Esau and Jacob. We’ve all heard of Jacob, right? Well this is because Jacob forced his brother to give up his birthright. Esau, who’s described as the ugly brother, came home starving. Instead of Jacob giving his brother food, he tells him Esau he must give up his birthright or starve. Nice example of brotherly love! Brother, can you spare a meal so I don’t starve to death? Only if you make it worth my while!

Another important thing to note is that mom and dad play favorites. Isaac loves Esau (because he brings him venison) and Rebekah likes Jacob (a quiet young lad, the first stereotypical momma’s boy perhaps?). If the Bible is meant to be an example, should it discourage playing favorites with your children? Or blackmailing your near-death brother before feeding him? Or birthrights in general? Why should you favor a son or daughter just because he or she was born first?

I’m sure the response would be "Those were different times, etc." It’s too bad God didn’t realize this story, and many other objectionable ones, would be in there for modern readers to either have to ignore, explain away, or (in my case) reject as unjust.

PS Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, TODAY’S NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. TNIV®. Copyright© 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.

Genesis 24 — looking for SWF, no Canaanites, please!

Friday, February 06, 2009

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Half Breed
By Cher
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Genesis 24 — looking for SWF, no Canaanites, please!

This is a long-winded, but interesting story. I think it reveals a lot about the mindset of the author and/or the people of the day.

First, you would think a marriage would be important enough for someone to take care of personally, but not so in the Bible. Not only does Isaac not try to find a wife, his father doesn’t either: he sends a slave to take care of it. It was the "chief servant" though (24:2, NIV), thank goodness! Some translations have "oldest" or "eldest", but I think the idea is the same.

We see that racial purity is important. God doesn’t want Isaac to be breeding with those Canaanites apparently. No reason is given, but what other reason would there be than to maintain a "pure" bloodline? No mixed breeds allowed I guess. I wonder what God thinks of Obama….If Abraham’s story is any sign, God would rather you marry your half sister than someone from outside your clan. He didn’t seem to mind Lot’s daughters having children by their dad, either…

The way the servant, who is a complete stranger sent by the father of a complete stranger, convinces the family to give up Rebekah to him, is funny in my opinion. It’d be sad if it actually happened, but I suspect and hope not. Rebekah offers the stranger and his camel water. Later, this random guy comes in to her parents’ place and says, after the fact, that he knew if a beautiful girl offered water to him and his camels, then she would be the girl for his master’s son to marry. That proves that God wants her to marry his son!

And the best part is, they completely buy the story. "This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other." (NIV 24:50) Just mention Yahweh, and people believe the strangest things I guess.

What is interesting, though, is that the family wants a 10-day waiting period first. Why, we don’t know. But when Abraham’s servant refuses, the family actually asks Rebekah if she will go with the servant, and she agrees. Now, they’re probably only asking her how soon she will go (they had already agreed, without consulting Rebekah, that she would go with the servant), but it’s still a good thing that she has at least SOME say in the matter. This surprised me.

Another thing that is good is that it says Isaac loved Rebekah. Unless my memory deceives me, the Bible really hasn’t talked about love up until this point. It’s mostly been about having children to carry on the line. If Isaac truly loved her, then that is a good model for people. We’ll see in future chapters if something comes up that goes against this.

Two other quick observations:
• The oath by Abraham and the servant at the beginning of the chapter is weird. Why should putting your hand under someone’s thigh (or perhaps this is a euphemism for somewhere higher up??) seal the deal? Is it to prove that the servant wasn’t crossing his fingers behind his back, or something???

• When Rebekah approaches Isaac for the first time, she suddenly puts a veil on. Why would she do this? It isn’t explained. If it’s some sort of decorum, I don’t see why you would NOT wear a veil in front of a strange man but would wear one in front of your future husband. I don’t see why you’d wear a veil at all, but that’s another story. If it’s similar to Islam tradition, then it’s degrading to women to say they have to cover themselves up. Instead, God should have created men with a little more self-control and respect for women…

No one dies in this chapter, making it tame compared to many others I’ve read so far. Isaac and Rebekah appear to actually love each other. But the way they meet and marry is not a model, and the fact that Abraham excludes an entire clan of people from possible wives for his son shows his and/or God’s bigotry.

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.