Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Genesis: Finishing Abe

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abe moves on and eventually comes to Gerar. Once again, scared that people will kill him to steal his wife, he pulls out the old “She’s my sister,” ruse. Naturally Abimelech, the king, falls for Abraham’s barren, post-menopausal wife (I guess she’s so beautiful that even as an old lady incapable of bearing heirs, she’s irresistible to kings everywhere. Way to go, Sarah!). This time around, God sees fit to inform Abimelech in a dream of her marital state before he gets a chance to consummate the marriage. Abimelech gets up the next day and goes to confront Abraham, demanding to know why they lied to him. Abraham’s response is a reveal of Jerry Springer-like proportions.

“Gen 20:11 Abraham said ‘I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. 12 Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father though not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.’”

Did you catch that? Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is his half-sister! And remember that Abraham’s brother married his niece. Springer would pay good money to get this family on his show.

Oh, and just toss in the casual assumption that people who don’t follow his God can’t possibly have any moral sense. Some attitudes just haven’t changed to this day.

Anyhow, after this Abimelech gave Abraham gifts of animals and silver (as opposed to kicking his ass for being a lying shit). Somehow this payoff was supposed to be a sign that he hadn’t banged Sarah. Though it’s interesting that after this incident is when she finally conceives a son (by Abraham, wink wink).

So Sarah gives birth to Isaac. Then she convinces Abe to kick Hagar and Ishmael out on their own so they won’t be a threat to Isaac’s inheritance. More deals with Abimelech (who seems awful accommodating for someone who’s been lied to and made fool of). Which brings us to the signature act of faith of the Abraham story.

“Gen. 22:1 After these things God tested Abrham and said to him ‘Abraham!’ And he said ‘Here am I!’ 2 He said ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moria, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”

Naturally, Abraham pleaded for the life of his son, and… nah, just fucking with you. He packed up his knife and his kindling and set out to sacrifice his son without so much as a word of protest. And by the way… what’s with this “your only son…” bullshit? It’s pretty well established that Abraham has another son. The firstborn, even. Remember Ishmael?

Of course, we all know the story. Abraham takes his son, trusses him up and puts him on the altar, takes up the knife to kill him and a torch to set his corpse on fire, and then an angel puts a stop to the whole travesty. Now in Sunday school (yes, they actually do teach kids in Sunday school that parents who really love God should be willing to kill them if he asks them to), they like to spin this tale like “See what a good man of faith Abraham was?” rather than “See what a fucking psychopath Abraham was?”

They also like to make a big deal out of the fact that God didn’t actually let him go through with it. But so what? I mean, I suppose it’s a good thing Isaac didn’t have to actually die, but that’s not really the point. The point is that 1) Abraham believed he served the type of God that demanded human sacrifice, 2) he was willing to do it, and 3) that God is, at the very least, the type of God who wants followers willing to commit human sacrifice, and of their own children no less. That, my friend, is a trifecta of fucked up. And yet this story is routinely held up as a shining example of exemplary behavior!

And yet… I take some comfort in the fact that I suspect even Christians don’t really buy it. When people murder their own children and use the excuse that God told them to do it, after all, you never see a groundswell of support for their behavior on the basis that if God wants you to kill your kids, then that’s what you should do. We lock those people up as a threat to others, as well we should.

But getting back to the story. In response to Abe’s willingness to slaughter his own kid (that’s not prejudicial phrasing; the Bible actually uses the word “slaughter”), God promises once again to give him bucketloads of descendants who get to have the Canaanites’ land. He literally prefaces the promise with “Because you have done this…” which rather raises the question that, if Abe hadn’t been willing to sacrifice his kid, would that have nullified all of God’s previous promises?

Earlier I compared the God character portrayed in this story to the nerdy rich kid trying to buy Abraham’s affection by promising him stuff. But this is taking on more of a mafia boss scenario. He starts out with the generous promise to get him feeling indebted, then starts adding more and more requirements steering him toward greater and greater efforts on his behalf.

Gonna continue on a little bit, because the Abraham story is just about over. Sarah dies, and he buys a cave to bury her in. Then there’s an involved and repetitive story in which he sends his head servant to find a wife for Isaac. Specifically, he sends him to his brother’s family. And the wife he brings back is Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother and niece. Keep on keepin’ it in the family!

Then we move on to Abraham remarrying, having a bunch of other kids, dying and being buried with Sarah, concluding with more boring-as-hell genealogy.

Next we get on to the lives of Isaac and his kids Esau and Jacob. And Jacob’s a real piece of work!

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