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.