Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 2: Genesis, Chapter 4 - 6

Note: I'm continuing my Bible study from this post (or get the whole series here).

Genesis, Chapter 4:
1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

OK, Adam and Eve have been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, but at least they're having sex now. Hmm,... Eve says, "I have gotten a man from the LORD." It's a good thing Adam isn't the suspicious type, isn't it?
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.

God doesn't like vegetables? (This isn't the only place in the Bible where God loves the sweet smell of burning flesh.) But this was a gift. Couldn't he have been a little more gracious? But we're not told why God rejected it.

Still, couldn't an omniscient god have seen this coming, at least?
 8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

That's a great line, isn't it? Too bad so few Christians take it seriously.
15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

I realize that the Bible contradicts itself later (standard procedure, when it comes to the Bible), but God certainly seems to be against capital punishment at this point, doesn't he?

As far as I can tell, though, that "mark upon Cain" - so beloved by racists everywhere - is never said to be hereditary. In this part of the Bible, at least, it's just Cain himself who's marked, and that's actually to prevent other people from killing him. (Of course, there's only two other people in the whole world at this point - his parents.)

But this is like "Original Sin," isn't it? There's nothing in that initial Genesis story to indicate that all people are tarred with blame for the Fall. Adam and Eve are punished for what they did, but there's no indication - so far - that their descendants should also be blamed for something that happened long before they were born.

Of course, getting back to that mark of Cain, this is before God killed everyone on Earth - except for seven people - in the Great Flood. So even if the mark had been hereditary, there's no reason to think that today's ranchers, musicians, and metalworkers - who supposedly descended from Cain's sons - would bear it.
17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Apparently there were women around - nameless women, of course - from somewhere. Was this Cain's sister, not important enough to even mention? Or did God make more women from men's ribs?

But Cain builds a city? For three people - himself, his wife, and his son? That seems like overkill doesn't it? Three people wouldn't even make a village!
18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

But here, women are finally worth mentioning by name. Well, two of them, at least - the first since Eve.

And here's our first mention of bigamy, too - the first of many. Yeah, for all that right-wing Christians yell about marriage being "defined by God" as one man and one woman, there are sure a lot of marriages in the Bible which are otherwise, aren't there? Haven't they even read the Bible?
25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

Eve says that God granted her another "seed," in exchange for losing Abel. Are women not "seeds," then, since her daughters are never mentioned by name? Really, this was such a patriarchal culture, it's hard to tell what's going on.

Chapter 5:
4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:

5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Apparently, then, Adam and Eve had lots of kids - boys and girls - so I'm not sure what the significance of Seth was supposed to be. (Edit: Oh, yes, he's Noah's ancestor, huh? Duh!) None of the others are named - the women certainly aren't named - but I guess we know where Seth and Cain got their wives, huh? Their own sisters!

The rest of this chapter is just a genealogy (leading to Noah), with only one man (and no women) mentioned by name per generation. They all have exaggerated lifespans of many hundreds of years, though.

Again, it's really hard to understand how anyone can take this seriously. It's just the typical kind of storytelling from primitive cultures.

Chapter 6:
2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.


4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Twice here, it's "the sons of God," but "the daughters of men." Is that just because women weren't valued? Were the men supposed to be godly, but the women just ordinary mortals? Or is there some other significance to this? Weird, isn't it?

And I wonder at "they took them wives of all which they chose." It sounds like the women didn't have any choice in the matter, doesn't it? Of course, we're reading a story from a very patriarchal culture. Women weren't valued. They were just the property of, first, their fathers, and then their husbands.
5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

So God gets his knickers in a twist and decides to murder everyone on Earth except for the "perfect" Noah (remember that when we get to the next chapter!) and Noah's three sons (plus their unnamed wives).

He's not just going to drown every child on Earth, along with their parents, but every animal, too. Really, I don't know how the animals pissed him off. Were they "wicked," too?
17 And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

Now, that seems a little extravagant, doesn't it? God is supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent (well, he is now, but maybe not back then?), so he could have killed everyone easily enough without flooding the whole planet, even if he did think that infants were "wicked."

Anyway, he tells the "perfect" Noah exactly how to make a boat, then tells him to fill it with two of "every living thing of all flesh" (which is contradicted in the next chapter), and then to load it up with food enough for them and for all the animals. Nice trick, that, huh?

But this is enough for now. We'll get to the Flood next time.

Note: This whole series, such as it is, so far, is available here.

No comments: