Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (comedy)

Here’s a hilarious sketch by That Mitchell and Webb Look , a British comedy show, about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Thanks to Unreasonable Faith and Friendly Atheist for posting this.

You should definitely check out other irreligious and skeptical skits online by them on YouTube or elsewhere. I can’t imagine stuff like this being broadcast in the US. Maybe on cable/satellite, but even then probably not.

Genesis 25 — Give me your birthright, or die!

Friday, February 13, 2009

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

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.

Genesis 22 — If you love me, kill your son

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Real Love
By The Beatles
Real Love
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Genesis 22 — If you love me, kill your son

If you really love me, prove it by killing your son! That’s what God says to Abraham in this chapter.

God doesn’t make Abraham go through with it, though, so all’s well that ends well, right? There is so much wrong with this story that it’s hard to know what to say.

Let’s say God never intended for Abraham to kill his son, he just wanted to see if he would. To which I say, Doesn’t God know everything already? This is a perfect example of the sort of mind control that cults try to have over people, getting them to the point that they would do anything for you, including kill your own son.

Maybe God wanted to prove that Abraham would do anything for him. To which I say, why does God always have to prove how great he is? Did some other god give him an inferiority complex? Certainly he must already know how great he is, and such a great God could find a better way to prove it other than having his biggest fan almost sacrifice his son to him.

What about Isaac in all this? I would think it would be rather life-changingly scary to have your dad try to burn you alive. That’s the sort of abuse you don’t outgrow. It doesn’t say here how old Isaac was, but even if he was an adult, I think it is inexcusable torture to be tied up by your dad on an altar, knife in hand ready to kill you and burn you up.

I remember vaguely this story being taught to me as a kid, either in Sunday School or in church. Some explanation about showing that Abraham was willing to give up what mattered to him most. I think it is dangerous and sick that churches teach that this story is a model to look up to. No one should be willing to kill their son, or anyone else for that matter, just to prove how much you love someone. You shouldn’t have to prove love, not to God or anyone. That isn’t real love. Anyone who actually demands you do something to prove that you love them doesn’t deserve your love.

Here are a couple other reflections on this chapter:

* God makes a huge deal out of calling Isaac Abraham’s only son. What happened to Ishmael becoming a great nation? Why is he now completely disowned, and after worrying so much about him, Abraham seems not to care any more? Did God and Sarah wear him down? I guess if he’s willing to kill Isaac for crazy God, he’d be willing to forget his firstborn son as well.

* God has Abraham kill a ram instead of his son Isaac. What’s with the sheep? God could’ve just said that after all that almost killing your son stuff, you’ve done enough Abraham to prove you love me. But no, Abraham also has to sacrifice a ram. God loves the smell of burning sheep!

* The little ending about Nahor, whoever that is, includes a mention of a concubine. So God seems to be okay with having more than one sexual partner, since it’s not condemned here and I know even great kings later on have tons of concubines and wives.

Disowning your firstborn son, trying to commit a human sacrifice on your other son, having sex with whoever you want. True love, God style.

Genesis 21 — EweTube

Saturday, January 24, 2009

By Roy Zimmerman
Two brothers
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Genesis 21 — EweTube

Some more great family fun here, with some ewes thrown in at the end for fun!

Sarah the 90+ year old has a boy, Isaac. She thinks it’s hilarious that she would have a son at her age, as does everyone else. That rascal God, he really knows how to make people laugh.

But Ishmael laughed at his new brother, and Sarah is outraged. Laughing at what God does, okay. Laughing at your younger brother, not okay. Sarah wants rid of Ishmael and his mom. Abraham doesn’t want to kick out his son, but God sides with Sarah on this. God tells Abraham not to worry though, because Ishmael will also become a great nation after you kick him and his mom out.

After their meager supply of water run out (how nice of Abraham to abandon his son and the woman he slept with in the desert without enough water!), Hagar the mom tries to abandon her son to die, but just can’t go through with it. Turns out though that there was actually a well of water there, Hagar just couldn’t see it until God "opened her eyes" (21:19). From then on, God followed Ishmael wherever he’d go, kind of like the My Buddy doll from the 80s, I guess. Ishmael got to be an archer!

The story of Ishmael, Isaac, and the gang, along with some other related anecdotes from the Bible, is related in Roy Zimmerman’s song Two Brothers , which you can see on YouTube.

Speaking of you/ewe, the last part of this chapter is some more business between Abraham and Abimelech, the leader Sarah and Abraham duped in the last chapter. Abimelech makes Abraham promise God won’t pull any more shenanigans on him or his ancestors. There was this dispute about a well of water, but it was nothing that seven female sheep couldn’t clear up. I would have thought five ewe would have sufficed for such a minor matter!

Genesis seems to be obsessed with saying why places and people were named as they were. Beersheba is apparently named because of the oath between Abraham and Abimelech there. To me, it kind of sounds like they had the names for these places and people and then they just made up the stories, kind of like how parents make up stories for little kids when they don’t know why something is the way it is, or how kids just make things up when they don’t understand something.

Nah, that couldn’t be the case!

Update: The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible gives a possible explanation of why Ishmael was kicked out. Maybe it was more than just laughing at his brother…

Genesis 20 — She ain’t married, she’s my sister

Monday, January 19, 2009

He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother
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Genesis 20 — She ain’t married, she’s my sister

So here we have Abraham passing off Sarah as his sister again (how tantalizing a woman she must have been, even approaching 100 years old, that the local leaders just couldn’t keep themselves from marrying her!). But this time, we find out Abraham wasn’t totally lying about Sarah being his sister.

" Yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father , but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife." (Gen 20:12, KJV)

So apparently, Sarah is only Abraham’s half-sister. Which apparently makes it okay? Sounds pretty sick to me, but God doesn’t say anything against this in these verses. Nor does he appear to get mad at Abraham and Sarah for lying again.

Instead, God threatens the local leader (Abimelech) with destruction because he married Sarah, who’s already married to Abraham. After the local leader points out that they haven’t consummated the relationship, and that he had been lied to about Sarah’s identity, then God lets him off the hook. The local chieftain even tells Abraham to make himself at home, and to make up for everything gives Abraham a thousand shekles.

And the moral is?? Who knows. My guess is the leader saw how completely screwy the whole situation and figured he’d better make nice with Abraham and his god to avoid punishment. A wise move, I’d say.

Genesis 18 — Please Yahweh, don’t hurt ’em

Friday, January 09, 2009

Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em
By MC Hammer
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Genesis 18 — Please Yahweh, don’t hurt ’em

We have two different episodes in this chapter. First, God and Abraham have dinner together with Sarah (and a few men?), then Abraham tries to plead with God not to kill an entire city.

In the first part, God appears by Abraham’s tent with three men. It’s unclear to me, even after consulting several versions of this chapter, who is who at some points due to unclear pronouns and references to who is speaking to whom. But the general idea is God stop by, Abraham invites him in, Sarah prepares bread, milk, and beef (the SAB points out this isn’t kosher , but I’m sure some would argue that’s because God hadn’t arbitrarily decided what was and wasn’t kosher yet) and they chat.

God says that Sarah will have a son, but she laughs. Abraham and Sarah like laughing at God apparently (since Abraham did the same in the last chapter on this subject), but this time the Lord calls her on it. She lies and says she didn’t laugh, but shouldn’t she know you can’t lie to an all-knowing being? She isn’t punished here, I guess we’ll see if it comes up later or not.

In the second part, God’s deciding whether or not to tell Abraham about his upcoming mass murder of Sodom and Gomorrah. Since Abraham is so great, God decides to go ahead and tell him his upcoming project. Abraham is taken aback and says (Gen 18:23-25, New King James version: NKJV)

"Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked"

Abraham must not know Yahweh very well if he thinks God will have any problem whatsoever killing whomever he pleases. So anyway, Abraham starts to plead with God, asking God if he can find 50 righteous people there, will God still kill the whole city? God says no, he will spare "all the place" for the sake of the 50. He’ll mosey on down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see what they’re up to. (So much for an omniscient God!) Abraham haggles with God all the way down to 10 people. If even 10 people are righteous, S & G will be spared. After this, the Lord goes on his merry way.

Isn’t there something wrong with a God when his creation is more just and compassionate than he is? I’m sure some would argue God is just testing Abraham, or proving a point that not even 10 people were righteous there.

Instead, one could argue that this is a sign that people should not just blindly follow what God says. God left on his own apparently would have just killed an entire people without even looking into whether or not he’d killing innocents, too. Acceptable losses, I guess. Guess we know now who many military leaders look up to…

PS Here is the copyright notice for the New King James Version . "Bible text from the New King James Version® is not to be reproduced in copies or otherwise by any means except as permitted in writing by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Attn: Bible Rights and Permissions, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214-1000." I am putting this here on my own initiative even though I do not believe such a lengthy copyright notice should be necessary, especially since according to their guidelines, if I were a church I wouldn’t have to put this here…

Genesis 17 — God likes genital mutilation

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Automatic for the People
By R.E.M.
Everybody Hurts
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Genesis 17 — God likes genital mutilation

God created us so perfectly (in his image, right?), that he decides in Genesis 17 that genital mutilation is mandatory for all his male believers.

Yes, billions of baby boys (and adults, too) everywhere have suffered this pain at God’s command. I guess when we go to the Pearly Gates, God asks us to drop ’em and checks to see if we’re circumcised. No shirt, no circumcision, no salvation.

Sure, some will argue that was the Old Testament. Some New Testament verses speak out against it (e.g. Galatians 5:2). But Jesus himself was allegedly circumcised (many churches even have this glorious day on their calendar, including Catholics) and he did not speak out against it, even though he had a good opportunity to (John 7:21-24).

Not only do all male babies have to be circumcised to keep God’s covenant, but one’s slaves/servants as well. Talk about adding insult to injury: you’re bought as a God-sanctioned slave, and then you have to have private parts mutilated. And the babies can’t even talk yet to protest.

I guess this is one case where women can praise the Lord for being sexist, since women are not told they need to be circumcised (unlike some other cultures and religions, including some forms of Islam).

God praises Abram (yet again) and gives him and his wife new names, Abraham and Sarah. Then God tells Abraham that he and Sarah will have a son. Telling from his reaction, Abraham apparently forgot about this (God promised this in the last chapter, but apparently over a decade has passed based on comparing his age in the two chapters). Even Abraham laughs at God for suggesting that two near-centenarians can have a baby. Fortunately God’s apparently in a good mood that day and doesn’t seem to mind being laughed at.

Abraham is able to squeeze out a little mercy for his other son, Ishmael, who had been cursed in the previous chapter. God promises Ishmael fertility and fathering 12 rulers. Why did God have a change of heart about Ishmael? I guess because Abraham circumcised him! (Even though God comes out and indicates in verse 21 that he’s establishing his covenant with Abraham’s upcoming son instead. Doesn’t make sense Ishmael would have to pay the price for the covenant but not be included!)

It seems silly that God would want people to mutilate themselves (or worse yet, their babies) for him. But that’s what God wants, and billions of babies have suffered the consequences of it. Some people think it’s necessary and even cleaner for boys to be circumcised. Besides the fact that there’s apparently no consensus that this is true and that circumcision has other negative side effects (google it if you want; I want to keep my blog more family-friendly than the Bible is)—even if it were true that it’s better to be circumcised, why couldn’t God just get it right the first time then when he created us?

Why does God like to see people suffer?

Genesis 12 — Plagued Like an Egyptian

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Walk Like An Egyptian (Extended Dance Mix)
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Genesis 12 — Plagued Like an Egyptian

In this chapter, we see the Egyptian Pharaoh and the people in his palace punished because Abram and Sarai lie to them. Not very fair, but we’ve already seen (and I’m sure will see many other times) that God is anything but fair a lot of the time.

First though, God sends Abram on a wild goose chase so that he can go somewhere where there isn’t enough food to eat. He loves Abram, and blesses him, but doesn’t like him enough to let him and his family eat right, I guess. God shows him Canaan, but then says he can’t live there (his descendants will, lucky them). Then Abram moves on, because of a famine, has to settle in Egypt. God could have just stopped the famine of course, but apparently wasn’t in the mood.

His wife Sarai (who amazingly has a name, unlike many women in the Bible) is so beautiful, Abram decides the Egyptians would be too jealous if they knew she was already married to him. So they just lie and don’t tell anyone that they’re married. They tell the Egyptians that they’re just brother and sister. So the beautiful Sarai is taken to the Pharaoh’s palace. We’re told Pharaoh marries her, so we can only assume what else goes on behind closed doors…

Then God sends plagues on the Pharaoh’s house (which ones, we’re not told, but I have faith that God could come up with something violent or nasty like he does for the later plagues he sends the Egyptians), and Pharaoh of course figures out it must be because Sarai and Abram are actually married. That’s what I always assume when there’s a plague: I must have married someone who was already married, and God wants to punish me.

So to sum up, Abram lies and says Sarai is his sister, he lets her get taken to the Pharaoh’s palace, Sarai apparently says nothing and marries Pharaoh, and then God punishes Pharaoh for Abram and Sarai’s sins. How is this fair? God expects the Pharaoh to be psychic, I guess.

Why isn’t Abram punished for lying? The 10 commandments didn’t exist yet, so I guess it was okay for Abram to lie to the Pharaoh. No wonder Pharaoh sends them on their merry way. Why would he want anything to do with them or their God if this is how they act? Seems like God just entrapped Pharaoh.

And shouldn’t Sarai be punished for polygamy (and presumably adultery)? The Bible says nothing about her being forced into any of this, and she was already married to another man.

What is the moral of this story: men should not marry women who claim to have a brother, in case their brother is actually their husband, or else God will send you "great plagues" (12:17). Or maybe the moral is that, if you lie, then God will punish the people you fooled. I can’t even figure out what would be the moral of such a story. The Bible, your guide to morality.