God creates everything in six days, creating Man in his image and giving him rulership over everyone and everything, including the Garden where he lives. Interestingly, he specifically points to fruit and vegetables as food, rather than animals; he doesn’t say it’s specifically wrong to eat animals, but he doesn’t say it’s okay either. He tells Man to be fruitful and multiply, and then sits back, pleased with his work, a smile and the satisfaction of finishing something huge.
Unlike most employers, God recognizes the importance of a day off and sanctifies the seventh day of the week as rest day. While God’s napping, we get a second account of the Creation, this one more arcane than the first. God specifically creates Adam and makes him all sorts of animal companions so that he won’t get lonely. The animals just aren’t cutting it, so before this can become a bestiality story God knocks Adam out and, with a combination of some back alley surgery and hoodoo, creates a companion for Adam that will henceforth be known, creatively enough, as the Woman. Yes, this is what Adam calls her: Woman. Adam and his chick walk around naked and unashamed, because there’s no Media and no Church to make them feel bad about their bodies.
Just like in African legends, the snake can talk. In what has to be the most artless condensed version of Paradise Lost of all time, the snake tells the Woman she’s an idiot for believing that the Tree of Knowledge is a bad thing. The snake says it’ll make her smart, but God is afraid of equal opportunity in education. The Woman promptly eats the fruit and gets Adam to do the same. Suddenly realizing they’re naked, they hide from God, who (no dummy he) figures out right away what’s happened and starts with the curses. He curses the snake to always be a rather heavy-handed literary symbol, he curses the Woman to be the second class citizen of history, and he curses Adam with the one thing no man wants: responsibility. Adam’s going to have to work and farm and eventually die, but at least he’s got the Woman for a concubine/servant/housecleaner, I guess. Adam finally deigns to give his wife a name (Eve), and God puts clothes on their backs and ushers them out the door, never to return to the Garden, lest they find the Tree of Life and get in on God’s longevity treatments.
Adam and Eve have two sons: Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd. Cain offers God some of the things he’s grown; Abel slaughters some firstborn lambs. God is pleased with the bloody slaughter, but laughs off Cain’s offering (“Fruit?! WTF?!”) and is tactless enough to be surprised when Cain gets a little pissy about it. God offers some words of encouragement that amount to: “Do your best, eat your wheat-cakes, and don’t do anything sinful.” Cain, tired of being treated like the Special Ed kid, kills Abel in a field and, apparently, doesn’t even try to hide the body. God gives Cain a chance to come clean, but Cain just wants to be flip about it, so God pulls out his favorite go-to: the curse. He curses Cain to always be a fugitive and vagabond who will fail at everything, but—in a last minute response to Cain’s crying—God puts a mark on him to protect him from other people. Of course, as far as we know, there are only four—scratch that—three people on the entire planet, but Cain rushes off to Nod, gets married, and either has a kid called Enoch or founds a town called Enoch (which doesn’t exactly sound like vagrancy to me). Adam and Eve have a replacement son, Seth.
Adam lives to be 130 years old; following his lineage and the incredible fake ages of the people involved, Bishop Ussher once calculated that the world is 6000 years old. I once used a Star Trek compendium to predict the entire history of the future, but that turned out to be fake, too. Plus I was eleven. Anyway, at 130, Adam has Seth (which must’ve been hell on his body delivering a son at an advanced age…oh, wait) and a bunch of unnamed sons and daughters, and makes it to 930 years before capping it. The lineage goes down and down until we’re introduced to the next major character, Noah, who as the young age of 500 has triplets: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Now, for this first several thousand years of God-fearing human history, the angels have been coming down and making it with human women and having demi-god children who are “the mighty men of old, ones of renown.” Like Hercules? God decides to put a term limit on mankind so they won’t live past 120 years, but he’s still pissed off at how decadent and disobedient they are. Disappointed for creating something so flawed, and maybe a little psychotically depressed about it, he decides he’s going to wipe the slate clean. So, you know, human life means a lot to the guy. About as much as independence and education, but let’s move on. God likes Noah, though, and Noah likes God, and since God keeps staring at the flaws in the design like a pissed off freemason about to dynamite a bridge, he orders Noah to build an ark (his blueprints are very specific). He tells Noah to make sure to gather two of every animal (a logistical nightmare to say the least), his family, and an assload of food (note: assload might not be the actual word used in most translations). Rather than get in a philosophical debate about destroying all of Creation but giving it a chance to survive, Noah does what he’s told. Maybe he’s heard about the curses.
God gets even more specific, then confides to Noah his sadistic plan to drown everyone on the planet for not going to church more often. Noah smiles and nods. The ark is finished, it rains for 40 days and 40 nights, the flood kills everyone on the planet and lasts for 150 monotonous days.
God has apparently forgotten all about Noah, because this chapter begins: “Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing.” Maybe mass murder makes him sleepy. God opens the drain, the water goes away, and the ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventeenth month (?). It takes months for the water to clear up; eventually Noah’s dove finds another heavy-handed literary symbol: the olive leaf. God says everything’s skippy, Noah apparently sacrifices one of every animal, and God is apparently pleased by the smell of burning flesh. God promises not to go all kill-happy again; must’ve gotten planetary murder out of his system.
God blesses Noah and his boys, tells them to get to repopulating the planet, and gives them the standard Adam deal: dominion, etc. This time, he specifically tells them they can eat “every moving thing that lives.” But don’t drink blood, he stipulates, and don’t kill unless, you know, it’s for revenge. Then he creates a pretty rainbow as a symbol of his promise to never get all flood-crazed again, because he knows that the best way to get people to forget something nasty and important is to distract them with a shiny, pretty thing. God’s nothing if not a showman. Disturbingly, God seems to imply that he needs the rainbow to remind him not to flood the earth again. Can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for the next time he gets bored and kills everyone. Anyway, Noah’s boys give birth to the entirety of Human Race 2.0 and Noah retires to his own vineyard and becomes an alcoholic (he’s been through a lot). Ham is traumatized when he sees his dad naked after passing out drunk, and even does his best to cover Noah; but Noah, embarrassed, curses Ham’s sons (in Canaan) to always be slaves to Shem and Japheth (whom he blesses for not looking at his pecker while he was in his alcoholic shame). Noah lives on for another 350 years, during which time he is probably unbearable from the shame of his children knowing he has a penis, and dies at the age of 950. So, the cause of hundreds of years of tribal rivalry and bloodshed results from some guy accidentally seeing his wino dad’s cock. Somebody has some issues.
More lineage and hagiography about how everyone who ever lived is descended from this dysfunctional family (which technically starts at Adam, the first man to subjugate his own wife). See, they’re all related, but they just can’t decide who gets to be the leader. Well done, Arabs and Jews, this doesn’t make you sound petty and ridiculous at all.
Oh, did I forget to mention that everyone on the planet speaks the same language? Maybe it’s all Indo-European or something. People in Shinar create masonry (ugh, finally) and build a city and a ziggurat. Like any dictator, God sees the ingenuity and unity of the people as a threat to his own power, so he decides to play them off one another to dull their ambitions. Time for another curse! This time, God confuses everyone by making them all speak different languages. The building of the city ceases, no one can agree on an official language, people become scared, and nations become pitted against one another. And God, who just a couple of hundred years back was worried that people weren’t pious enough, sits back with immense satisfaction over turning them all against one another. In seemingly unrelated news, Shem’s line continues down to Terah, who has three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Horan. They all live in the city of Ur.
God, it turns out, doesn’t much like Ur, but he does like Abram. So he tells Abram to take his mom, his wife (Sarai), and his nephew (Lot) and get the hell out of his daddy’s house. God tells Abe that he has real plans for the 75 year-old: to be the father of a great nation (including rulership over Canaan, which doesn’t really seem like the foundation of a great nation so much as a place to forget about). Abram ends up in Egypt, but he’s xenophobic, so he tells Sarai to pretend she’s his sister, because he’s heard that Egyptians like to kill married Canaanites or something. The Pharaoh takes an instant liking to Sarai and, assuming she’s in play, takes her into his house and, for her sake, treats Abram well. God doesn’t cotton to the arrangement however, and tells an understandably shocked and outraged Pharaoh what’s what. Pharaoh keeps his self-respect by kicking Abram and Sarai out of his country.
Oh, did I forget to mention that Abram and Lot are both rich and are traveling with a virtual army of retainers, cattlemen, servants, and such? I did? Well, so did the Bible, actually. They have so much stuff that they can’t even live together, and their flocks and herds take up so much land that their herdsmen are getting involved in tiny range wars. Lot decides to settle in green, cool, watery Jordan, while Abram heads back to dusty old Canaan. With some more encouragement from God—the nation, the descendents, etc—Abram settles in Hebron.
War breaks out in the Holy Land; Lot is taken captive, so Abram creates an army out of his 318 slaves and rescues his nephew in what is the least exciting “adventure” episode of the Bible so far. Maybe they should’ve gotten Edgar Rice Burroughs to take a pass at the manuscript. Anyway, the septuagenarian Abe is blessed by King Melchizedek of Salem, but refuses to accept any reward.
“Nice shootin’ son, what’s your name?”
Abram instead asks God for a reward: a son, which he wants badly. God promises the nation, the descendents, etc. Hungry, God asks for another blood sacrifice, then tells Abe that—hah hah!—his descendents will actually be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years but, you know, it’ll all be okay because God will (eventually) judge the foreign land. But it’s okay, because Abram will die peacefully at an old age. God even taunts Abram with the specific boundaries of the land of the Hebrews, knowing that Abe won’t live to see it. I wish I could say this kind of teasing cruelty was out of character.
Sarai, also in her seventies, figures (not unreasonably) that she can’t have children anymore, so she tells Abe he should do the maid, Hagar, in the hopes that they will conceive an heir. Hagar is an exotic Egyptian lady, so Abe agrees without a single word of protest. Hagar conceives and gets all uppity about it, lording it over poor Sarai, who responds by beating the shit out of her (with Abram’s permission, of course). Hagar flees, but an angel gets her to go back home with the (probably empty) promise of the nation, the descendents, etc. Hagar goes home and gives birth to Ishmael, making the 86 year-old Abram a first time father.
Thirteen years later, God is still stringing Abram along with the nation, the descendents, etc, and rather arbitrarily tells Abe that he really looks like an Abraham. So the old guy changes his name and God tells him about how all of these Hebrews are going to worship him. Oh, but only if they’re circumcised. I think at this point God is just trying to see how far he can push Abraham, but he goes for it: foreskin=damnation. So Abe cuts off his foreskin, cuts off everyone else’s (including his slaves’), and is rewarded with a promise that Sarai (who’d better change her name to Sarah ay-sap) will have a son. Which is, I’m sure, what any 90 year-old woman would want to be told.
Three men who are all God come to Abe’s for dinner, yet again promising the baby, the nation, the descendents, etc. Sarah laughs at the notion of a woman her age having a baby, but God responds by getting an “I’ll show you” ‘tude. Then he decides that he needs to smite Sodom and Gomorrah for not going to church often enough. Abe tries to reason with God, asking him to think of the pious who are there, so God (in a sociopathic whimsy) agrees to spare the cities if he can find at least ten righteous people there.
Two angels come to Sodom to meet Lot, who offers to host them. The angels seem to be set on the course of destruction, because Lot has to ask them twice before they’re forced to admit that there’s at least one nice guy in town. Strangers in town mean bad hoodoo, I guess, and the men of the town gather in front of Lot’s door. The exchange goes something like this:
Men: “Bring out the strangers! We want to rape them!”
Lot (apparently being heroic): “No, you can’t do that! But, you know, if you gots to rape someone, I have two daughters in here!”
Men: “Keep your lissome beauties! Nothing but foreigner ass will satisfy us!”
Some lone guy in the crowd: “One of those furners was a-judgin’ me! I’s gonna teach him to think twice about thinking I’m violent by violently violating his asshole!”
Men: “Break the door in!”
God: “Time for another curse!”
Men: “Fuck! We’re blind!”
Angels: “You know, you should think about moving out of town, like, tonight, because the town’s not going to be here tomorrow.”
Lot’s son-in-laws: “Yeah, right, whatever.”
So, Lot rushes the hell out of town with his wife and daughters in tow. God’s aim isn’t so great, so the angels tell him to get into the mountains and hide behind stuff. Lot’s too tired to go all the way into the hills, so he stops at Zoar while God rains death and destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah, murdering everyone in town, leveling the buildings, and salting the earth so nothing can ever grow again. Lot’s wife rubbernecks the action, and God, embarrassed at a human seeing him in a rather undignified moment, turns her into a human-sized deer lick. Which is a little extreme, considering he lets Abraham watch it from a ways back, but that’ll teach Lot’s nameless, uncharacterized wife to be a woman in the Bible! Lot, scared shitless, rushes up into the mountains and hides in a cave with his daughters. In a fit of flawless logic, Lot’s daughters decide they’ll never have children unless they get daddy drunk and fuck him, so on two sequential nights (no hot, richly detailed three-way incest action here), Joe Simpson’s dreams come true.
Abe decides to move, and once again tells Sarah to pose as his sister. King Abimelech (the first biblical name my spell check doesn’t recognize) falls for Sarah and takes her in, so she must look awesome for ninety years old. God, pissed off as usual, confronts the king in a dream. The king defends himself in a cool, rational manner, and gives the wife back to Abe; God gets all huffy and takes the credit, proclaiming Abraham a prophet. Even though the king has been as polite as could be expected, God threatens him with death if he doesn’t get his shit together. King Abimelech responds by making Abe appear in front of his slaves and calling him on his dicklick behavior, and Abe just kind of cries and admits that he just assumed the people of Gerar were godless. “Plus,” he says, “you know, I didn’t really lie so much, because Sarah is my half-sister as well as my wife” (which is logic that only the mass murder-rationalizing God could approve of). To prove he can be magnanimous, the king gives Abe slaves, sheep, money, land, and Sarah’s self-respect. Oh, and as an afterthought, it is mentioned that God sewed up all the wombs of the women in the royal household, opening them only after Sarah was given back. So, I guess God’s a real hero for forcing a perfectly reasonable man to correct a mistake he only made accidentally and was willing to make up for.
So, Sarah gives birth to Isaac and he’s circumcised right off the bat. Ishmael, now 14, is understandably upset about being displaced as heir. Sarah doesn’t like the chip on his shoulder, so she tells Abe to kick him (and his mother) out of the house. God approves of this, because he thinks Isaac is more important and, apparently, wants to set off a rivalry to see what happens (which makes God a lot like Jeff Probst, when you think about it). God waits until Hagar and Isaac have almost died of thirst to pull out his favorite empty promise: the nation, the descendents, etc. Because that’ll make a dying woman feel better. Isaac marries an Egyptian woman. Meanwhile, King Abimelech and Abe settle a disagreement over the placement of wells by making a pact that their descendents, the Hebrews and the Philistines, will always be the best of friends.
Even though Abraham has always done whatever God told him to, God decides that now is the time to test Abe’s loyalties. God tells Abe to take Isaac to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him. Without even a pause for drama or a single qualm or a “What the fuck kind of responsible deity asks that from someone?” Abraham walks up the mountain and knifes his kid. Except that God jumps out of the bushes at the last second, probably laughing and pointing. “Oh, dude, you were totally going to do it! You were! You should see your face, man! You’ve just been Punk’d!” Now that God knows Abe is his unquestioning slave, he promises the nation, descendents, etc once again as consolation.
Sarah dies (probably relieved) at the age of 127. Abe buries her in a cave.
God chooses Isaac’s wife: Rebekah, a Hebrew woman who lives in Mesopotamia. She’s apparently a perfect choice despite the fact that she is also Isaac’s cousin. Around verse 24, the nameless slave sent to procure Rebekah relates, almost verbatim, everything that we have read in the previous 23 verses. Rebekah’s father sells the girl off, probably just to shut the slave up before he recites the previous 23 chapters as well, and Rebekah and Isaac wed.
Abe gets remarried to a woman named Katurah, who is so fertile that she bears the ancient old coot six more sons (and apparently they’re all his). Then Abraham leaves everything to Isaac and finally has the grace, at the age of 175, to die and make room for someone else. He’s buried next to Sarah. Rebekah is barren, but God just snaps his fingers and changes all that. Ike has two sons, Esau (a hunter) and Jacob (a mild-mannered boy whom Becky dotes on). Ike likes the manly boy better than gentle Jacob, but Jacob is smarter and gets Esau to sell his birthright for some soup. Which kind of makes Jacob a dick.
Ike moves to Gerar because of famine, but God warns him to stay out of Egypt (that would be detrimental to the whole nation, descendents, etc that God just can’t seem to organize). Despite the fact that it never got his dad anywhere, Isaac heeds God’s word and moves in with an amazingly-still-alive King Abimelech. And, get this, Ike pretends that Becky is his sister! The poor king calls Ike on his bullshit and calls him a fucker for trying to bring unintentional guilt on the people of Gerar, who have had it up to here with God’s enforcer routine. Abimelech just takes the easy route and decrees that no one jumps out of a closet and murders Ike so he can marry Becky. There, done. Ike begins to prosper, but the Philistines start to get all nationalistic about it and stop up all the wells. Ike turns to the king for help, but the king just suggests he quietly skip town. God tells Ike not to worry because, you know, the nation, the descendents, etc. The Philistines and Hebrews vow to be friends again, even though they’ve both proven they’re pretty shitty about trusting people. This chapter could’ve been cut for brevity’s sake.
Oh, and Esau marries two women, Judith and Basemath.
An old, blind Isaac asks Esau to hunt him a final meal, but while he’s gone Rebekah tells Jacob to slaughter a goat so he can serve the final meal and get Ike’s blessing instead. She even puts goat hair on the kid so he’ll feel as fuzzy as Esau, and Jacob serves the food claiming that God (who, for once, is not in earshot) helped him kill something really fast. Isaac instantly blesses Jacob—the nation, the descendents, etc.—and realizes too late that he has been deceived. Esau should probably be happy he doesn’t have to deal with God stringing him along for the rest of his life, but instead he gets pissed and demands another blessing. Isaac is frankly too tired, so he just offers some claptrap about living by the sword and throwing off the yoke of his brother’s tyranny. Esau, perhaps unsurprisingly, starts planning a scenario where Jacob accidentally falls on a sword out in the woods. Becky tells Jacob to flee to Uncle Laban’s house in Haran.
Be here next week for more thrilling-yet-oddly-boring adventures of the dysfunctional family that a large percentage of the population is actually thrilled to claim they're descended from!
***********UPDATE 26 August 2007******
It's come to my attention recently that this post has been linked on a number of websites that are bringing readers to it. If anyone's interested in more, this series completed back in June after I had read the entire Bible. Click here to go to the post that links each part. And thanks for reading! And there is adult language throughout, just so you know.
Saturday, September 30, 2006