Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 4: Genesis, Chapter 11 - 13

Note: I'm continuing to read the Christian Bible from my previous post (you can find the entire series here). Bible quotes are from the King James version.

Chapter 11:
1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.


5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth

Here's God being a complete dick again! It's really something, isn't it? We saw this before, in Chapter 3. There, God was scared that human beings would "become as one of us."

That's why he told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which they did anyway, since obviously they couldn't tell right from wrong before they'd eaten its fruit), and that's why he drove them out of the Garden of Eden, for fear that they'd eat of the tree of life, too. He seemed to be afraid of the competition. (Too many gods already, I suppose, huh?)

And now? Now that they've learned on their own how to make bricks, how to build a city, how to construct even a tall tower (the tower of Babel), he hates that. Those humans are just getting too smart for him! So he confounds their language, so they can no longer understand each other, and he scatters them across the Earth. What a complete dick!

Note that, this is another example, of many in the Bible, where it's obvious that God values only obedience. He never values intelligence, knowledge, competence - indeed, he positively hates those qualities in human beings.

[Edit: After watching Matt Dillahunty on the Atheist Experience TV show this week, I think I missed something here. Keep in mind the Bible's primitive ideas about our universe, which I noted in Chapter 1. They thought the sun, moon, and stars were set in a firmament - and that it wasn't very far above us. Heaven wasn't very far above us. I skipped this, but Verse 4 actually says, "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven."

God was afraid that human beings would literally build a stone tower all the way up to Heaven! Yeah, that seems laughable these days, even if you actually believe in a Heaven. I guess I missed this, just because I couldn't imagine such an idea. But I was looking at this through modern eyes. We know how far away the sun and moon are, let alone the stars. So it didn't even occur to me that the Bible meant this literally, that they were actually planning to build a tower tall enough to reach Heaven. And God, of course, was afraid that they'd succeed!]

The rest of the chapter is another genealogy, of little interest except for the apparent discovery that women actually exist. Unlike in the earlier chapters, where men usually seem to create men, seemingly without any contribution from women at all, these men all "begat sons and daughters" (my emphasis).

And two women are actually mentioned by name! Admittedly, that was mostly to say that one of them was barren. But she also has a part to play in the next chapters.

Chapter 12:
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

So, the Lord has another BFF! Nice, huh? But remember how he thought that Noah was "perfect"? Well, God can really pick 'em, apparently:
10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Yeah, God can really pick his best buds, can't he? (Of course, God isn't so great himself, since Abram suffered under a famine even with God's blessing.) But Abram tells his wife to pretend to be his sister, since he's afraid the Egyptians will want to make her a widow.

So, if they think she's not married, what will they do then? Keep in mind that this seems to be a culture where a woman's wishes matter not at all.
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

Hmm,... so where did these Egyptians come from, anyway? After all, it wasn't so long ago that there were only eight people left on the entire planet.

At any rate, the Pharaoh behaved quite well here, didn't he? He thought Sarai was hot, but rather than just taking her (remember, Abram claimed that she was just his sister), he treated both of them very well.

Well, maybe not by modern standards, I suppose, depending on what "and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house" actually implies. Still, he was the Pharaoh. And by ancient standards, that was probably being very, very generous. After all, there's been no indication that women had any choice about these things anywhere in the Bible - not yet, certainly. And the Pharaoh wanted to marry her.

When the Pharaoh finds out that Abram has lied to him, causing him and his whole household to be cursed with plagues, he merely tells the lying bastard to take her and leave. Apparently, the Pharaoh even let them keep the stuff he'd given them!

OK, I'm not completely sure of that, because the precise wording is "and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had." But Abram went to Egypt because he was suffering during a famine. And in the very next chapter, we learn that he's "very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold." It certainly sounds like he got those riches by selling his beautiful 'sister' to the Pharaoh - and that the Pharaoh let them keep all those gifts when he told them to leave. Not that's generous!

God, on the other hand, behaves like a complete dick, once again. God didn't punish Abram for his cowardice and his lies. No, he punished the Pharaoh for believing the lies - and not just the Pharaoh himself, but the Pharaoh's "house." How many people do you think would have died in those "great plagues," at a time before modern medical care (or any knowledge of medicine at all, really).

Of course, God has already demonstrated that he cares nothing for human life - just as he's clearly demonstrated what a poor judge of character he is!

Chapter 13:
1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.

2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.

3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;

4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.

5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.

6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.

7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.

So, Abram and Lot (and Sarai) went back to where they'd come from, only they went back loaded down with loot. As I said before, the Pharaoh was extraordinarily generous, wasn't he - especially after learning how Abram had lied? But maybe he was just afraid of more plagues, I don't know.

Still, Abram and Lot now had so many cattle, so many flocks and herds, that the land couldn't even support them all! So they agree to separate, dividing up the land between them.

Of course, there are already people living there. The Canaanite and the Perizzite already "dwelled then in the land." Neither Abram nor Lot seem to care anything at all about them. They just don't want strife between the two of them, because they're "brethren."

Again, this isn't all that long since there were only eight people left on the planet, supposedly, so the Canaanite and the Perizzite - and the Egyptians, for that matter - must have been fairly close relatives, too. But who cares about that, huh?

So Lot chooses the plain of Jordan for himself, and leaves. (The Bible helpfully notes that this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, which were there.) But Abram, despite everything, is still God's favorite:
14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:

15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.

16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.

This is where we get the unending battles in the Middle East. After all, God gave this land to the Jews, to the descendants of Abram, forever.

Of course, he also promised them that their seed would be as the dust of the earth, "so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." Um, I think he missed the mark a little bit with that one, don't you think?

Of course, like most prophecies - and most godly promises - he doesn't say when that will happen. But if God really liked Abram as much as he claims, if God really meant to bless Abram, why would he give Abram's descendants just about the only part of the Middle East which doesn't contain oil?

This is enough, for now. But there's lots more about Abram and Sarai coming up!

Note: This whole series, as well as my Non-Belief series, can be found here.

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