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:
• 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 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 16 — Call me Ishmael
Close down the fertility clinics! We should all follow the example of Abram and Sarai in Genesis 16.
Abram can’t have any kids with his wife, so she tells him to sleep with one of the servants named Hagar. So far we’ve learned that polygamy is perfectly okay when you’re dealing with the Pharaoh (as long as you pretend you’re just your husband’s sister), or when you can’t have a kid (as long as it’s with one of your wife’s slaves).
When the servant gets pregnant, she gets all uppity towards Sarai. In just what way, we’re not told, so we’ll just have to take the Bible’s word on this. So Abram tells Sarai to deal with Hagar however she wants, and Hagar flees. But God will have none of that. (No fleeing that is, the abuse is fine.) If your master impregnates you and your mistress mistreats you, you have to stay put, no if’s and’s or but’s. God sends an angel to convince Hagar to go back and "submit" to her mistress (16:9).
But never fear, the Lord feels her pain and promises her that she’ll have lots of descendants, although the first one will be called Ishmael and be quite a handful—"his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him" (16:12). Abram is 86 when Ishmael is born. No one says how old or young Hagar was, but what should the mother’s age matter since she’s just a sassy slave anyway?
So what gems of wisdom has the Bible taught us in this chapter? If you have a slave, just get her pregnant and she’ll have to submit and bare your child. This must be the right way to do it, because God sure doesn’t say anything against it. And if you’re a slave, submit to your masters if they can’t have a baby. Bare the child and if they mistreat you, don’t run away!
Yet another heartwarming and inspiring story from the Bible.
Genesis 15 — Good news, bad news
God has some good news and some bad news for Abram. Abram’s upset that he doesn’t have a kid yet, so God reassures him that he’ll have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. (How many is that, by the way? God dares Abram to count, kind of like those contests where you have to guess how many jellybeans are in the jar!)
Then God tells Abram to bring him a cow, a she-goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon. Why does God want these specific animals? God sounds like a 3 year old making up the rules to some game as he’s going along. Anyway, Abram cuts all but the birds in two. Abram falls a sleep and a "horror of great darkness" (15:12 KJV) falls upon him. (Sounds like God’s handiwork to me!) God then tells him his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years.
Whoa, did that come out of left field, or what? First God reassured Abram that he’ll have offspring, then Abram brings God all these animals, and God tells him he’ll just sit by and let his descendants be slaves for 400 years (or until the 4th generation as it says later; whichever comes first, I guess). But the good news is, then God will punish the slaveholders and the slaves will come out of it with a bunch of stuff. Plus, Abram will be buried at a good age. So it’s not all bad!
Why must God wait 400 years to punish those who enslave Abram’s descendants? Why must they become slaves in the first place? I know, the Amorites are bad and Abram’s family can’t go there yet. But why punish Abram’s family, then?
Just imagine what horrible things God would have let happen if Abram had forgotten to bring that she-goat.