Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 8: Genesis, Chapter 24 - 26

Continued from Part 7, reading the King James version of the Bible, 1769 revision. (The entire series is here.)

Chapter 24:
1 And Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.

2 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh [they're kidding, right?]:

3 And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:

4 But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.

OK, we're about to switch to a new generation here. As we learn shortly, Isaac is 40 when he gets married (which makes Abraham 140), but he doesn't have anything to say about who he marries. That's all arranged for him. (Don't you love that 'traditional marriage' in the Bible?)

Abraham is determined that his son marry within the family - and I mean that literally - so he sends this servant back to his kindred to pick out a bride. I mean, you can't have any of that damned Canaanite blood mixing with theirs, right?

Of course, they're all related, because it hasn't been very long ago that there were only eight people left alive on the whole planet. (Canaan was Noah's grandson, cursed with servitude - through absolutely no fault of his own - because his father accidentally saw Noah drunk and naked. And it's the Canaanite land that God gives to Abraham's descendants in perpetuity, so the Lord actually screws them over twice.)
10 And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor.

11 And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water.


14 And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.

OK, he's got a plan. He settles by the village well, planning to choose a woman who is kindly enough to give him and his camels a drink of water. Hmm,... I'd say there are a few problems with that idea, but that's what happens.

As it turns out, the very first woman he encounters agrees to give him water. So it would have worked just as well to ask the first woman he saw, wouldn't it? Luckily, Rebekah is unmarried and a real hottie ("And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her").

She's also Isaac's first cousin once removed. (Her father and Isaac are first cousins.) Keep in mind that Isaac's mother and father were brother and sister (well, half-siblings - they had the same father, though different mothers). So now he's supposed to marry a close relative, himself? These guys clearly have no problem with inbreeding, huh?

Anyway, she takes him to her father's house:
33 And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.

Now we hear the whole story all over again - the entire plan and everything that happened at the well with Rebekah, exactly as it was related to us just a few verses previously! I don't know who wrote this thing, but couldn't he have done a little better than that?

Anyway, this servant had valuable gold jewelry, plus all those camels, so Rebekah's family was fine with the whole idea. They do want to have a few days to say good-bye, but Abraham's servant insists on leaving immediately. (And Rebekah agrees to do so. The only decision she's asked to make is whether she's willing to leave immediately.)
67 And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

No big ceremonies, apparently, huh? But all's well that ends well.

Chapter 25:
1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.

2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.


5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.

6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.

Abraham may have been 140 years old, but he was still a randy old goat. This says he "took a wife," but it also indicates that his other children were "sons of the concubines [note the plural], which Abraham had."

Apparently, Keturah was a "wife" the same way that Hagar, the slave girl, was a "wife." Only Sarah - his half-sister - was his real wife, and her son, Isaac, got everything (and that was the only son God was willing to establish his "covenant" with, too). The other sons were sent away.
8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.

9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;

10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

Finally, Abraham dies, at the ripe old age of 175, and he's buried with his wife, Sarah. Interestingly, this says that Isaac and Ishmael buried him there, but note that Ishmael had been sent away to die in the wilderness 60 years previously.

According to that previous account in Genesis, Ishmael didn't die - and indeed, he flourished - but apparently they hadn't completely broken off contact. All of Abraham's sons with his concubines were sent away, but that first son, with his first concubine, still had a part in the funeral. Interesting, isn't it?

Indeed, Ishmael's sons are listed here, too - "twelve princes according to their nations" - and then he dies at age 137.
20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.

21 And Isaac intreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Rebekah, like Sarah, is barren (all this inbreeding?) before God comes through for them, twenty years after they're first married:
23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.

25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau.

26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.

28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Given all the incest in the Bible, you might expect closer families, don't you think? Or maybe not, I don't know. Certainly, it didn't work out like that here.

Issac loves one of his sons, but Rebekah loves the other. What, they can't love them both? There's no love between the brothers, either. In the remaining verses of this chapter, Esau is dying of hunger ("I am at the point to die"), but Jacob refuses to give his brother any bread or soup until Esau gives up his birthright. Nice guy, huh? (Guess which one God is going to favor?)

Chapter 26:
1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar.


7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.

9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

What? Again? This is the third time we've heard this story! Apparently, it was a popular theme among ancient storytellers, because we've read it three times already in Genesis, with just the details different.

The first two times, it was Abraham and Sarah, once with the Pharaoh of Egypt and then (when Sarah was already 90 years old - but still hot, apparently) with this same King Abimelech. Now it's Isaac who lies about his hot wife, Rebekah - because, of course, it's OK if the king rapes her, as long as Isaac isn't at risk, himself.

But the king catches them having sex, so he gets suspicious. (Actually, if he knew the family, that wouldn't have surprised him at all, huh?)

But come on! This is like a popular sitcom plot which may or may not have been original with I Love Lucy, but succeeding sitcoms just used over and over again. That's pretty clearly what happened here, don't you think? It must have been a popular theme, so different storytellers wove it into different stories.

But how could you read this - three times in Genesis alone - without realizing that? And here, there's no mention of their twin children, either, until the end of this chapter, so you kind of have to wonder about that, too, don't you?

At any rate, like Abraham, Isaac came out of the experience with great wealth:
13 And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great:

14 For he had possession of flocks, and possession of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him.

There's also a similar disagreement about wells (well, this is an arid land), and a similar covenant with King Abimelech, just like we saw with Abraham in Chapter 21. Again, it sounds like the same story, ascribed to Abraham in one version of the tale, Isaac in another.

The last two verses of the chapter suddenly switch to a different problem:
34 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

35 Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Esau took two wives (which wasn't a problem, not in this time of 'traditional marriage'), but they were Hittite women - Canaanites - not kin. That was a "grief of mind" to Isaac and Rebekah. Clearly, bigotry has a long history in Christianity, huh?

We'll have lots more about Esau and Jacob coming up soon. :)

Note: There are links to all of these posts, in order, here.


Chimeradave said...

That King Abimelech just doesn't learn does he? I can't believe they repeated the same story three times. It was bad enough the first time.

And I had no idea the phrase "Give up the Ghost" was from the King James Bible.

And why the heck would Ishmael have come back? Maybe he just wanted to dance on Abraham's grave.

WCG said...

It's funny how many phrases we get from the Bible, John. I didn't even notice that one. (Of course, the Bible was all most people had - if they even had that - for centuries.)

PS. It probably won't affect anything for my readers, but this series is looking to be a long one. So I've moved it from my Skepticism page to a new page just for this Bible series.