An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Archive for February, 2008

Genesis 17

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on February 26, 2008

The Covenant of Circumcision

For some reason I don’t remember this passage ever being read in our local methodist church. Wonder why?

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.
2
I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.

So it doesn’t matter that Abram has pimped his wife out and got his maid pregnant, if he “walks before” god (whatever that might mean) he will be blameless? Nice deal if you can get it.

3 Abram fell face down, and God said to him,
4 As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.

God’s offering him stuff again, you can just smell the catch around the corner.

5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

And Abra(ha)m said unto god, “but I’ll have to change all my credit cards. And do you know how long it takes to get a new passport these days?”

6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.

“Sounds good so far, I get a load more land and slaves to go with it. By the way, do you think you could let them all know I’m their master this time?”

Essentially these are the same old promises we’ve heard before. You’d think god would have a slightly more spiritual outlook on life.

9 Then God said to Abraham, As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.

I’m guessing this is the point at which Abraham starts to get nervous.

10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

Ouch!

11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

So at 99 years old Abraham’s got to get himself circumcised. At least god’s not asking for Talmudic circumcision

The operation [circumcision] consists of three parts: “milah,” “peri’ah,” and “mezizah.”

Milah: The child having been placed upon a pillow resting upon the lap of the godfather or “sandek” (he who is honored by being assigned to hold the child), the mohel exposes the parts by removal of garments, etc., and instructs the sandek how to hold the child’s legs. The mohel then grasps the prepuce between the thumb and index-finger of his left hand, exerting sufficient traction to draw it from the glans, and places the shield (see Fig. 1, next column) in position just before the glans. He now takes his knife and with one sweep excises the foreskin. This completes the first act. The knife (see Fig. 3) most commonly used is double-edged, although one like those ordinarily used by surgeons is also often employed.

Peri’ah: After the excision has been completed, the mohel seizes the inner lining of the prepuce, which still covers the glans, with the thumb-nail and index-finger of each hand, and tears it so that he can roll it fully back over the glans and expose the latter completely. The mohel usually has his thumb-nail suitably trimmed for the purpose. In exceptional cases the inner lining of the prepuce is more or less extensively adherent to the glans, which interferes somewhat with the ready removal; but persistent effort will overcome the difficulty.

Mezizah: By this is meant the sucking of the blood from the wound. The mohel takes some wine in his mouth and applies his lips to the part involved in the operation, and exerts suction, after which he expels the mixture of wine and blood into a receptacle (see Fig. 4, below) provided for the purpose. This procedure is repeated several times, and completes the operation, except as to the control of the bleeding and the dressing of the wound.

You really have to wonder where they get this from. Is there a special version of the bible somewhere that defines Peri’ah and Mazizah or, far more likely, was the procedure thought up by repressed, dirty old men who got their rocks off with 8 year old boys?

12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner— those who are not your offspring.

So it’s OK to force this religious observation on family and slaves alike, regardless of their beliefs? (And we’ll ignore for the moment the implicit approval of slavery here).

13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.

Let me just say that again in case you didn’t get it the first time.

14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.

I think I’d rather be cut off from my people than have a bit cut off my little person …

15 God also said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.

But Sarai can be her facebook hooker name.

16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Now you’d think he could have done this before all that trouble with Hagar. God sure has a crappy sense of timing.

17 Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?

I assume by this point people aren’t living quite as long as Adam and his immediate descendants. Still, 90 isn’t a bad age to reach in a time with no modern medical facilities and when penicillin lies far in the future.

18 And Abraham said to God, If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!
19 Then God said, Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

God sure is pushy on the whole naming thing. What’s it to him anyway? Abraham’s now going to end up with two sons at 100 years old. Just wait until Sarah’s stopped breast-feeding and makes him get up for the nightly feed. He won’t be getting up bright and early for altar-building exercises then I can tell you.

20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.

So Ishmael’s going to do alright for himself. I’m sure he’d have been happy with a house in the suburbs and a decent job, but obviously that wouldn’t have increased god’s little following in the same way as being, say, the father of a great nation.

21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.
22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

I’ve got plans for your unborn son, but you’re nuts if you think I’m going to tell you what they are yet.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.
24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,
25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;
26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that same day.
27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.

Snip, snip, snip …

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A slight hiatus

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on February 15, 2008

I’m still here, but posts have been a little short on the ground due to extended illness in the family and some hefty work deadlines.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. I also intend to introduce a new category – Asides – which will enable me to comment on aspects of the bible which are slightly wider ranging than just the current chapter and verse.

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Genesis 16

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on February 7, 2008

Hagar and Ishmael

I bet you never knew there were vikings in the bible

OK, a bad joke, but I couldn’t help myself … sorry about that.

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;
2 so she said to Abram, The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Hands up those people who think Abram’s wife actually told him it was OK to go and sleep with the maidservant … nobody? … Bueller? Didn’t think so, and does poor Hagar get no say in this?

3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.

Without duress? I’m surprised Abram didn’t go all out and just ask for a threesome.

4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

I’m pretty sure the despising started before she found out she was pregnant.

5 Then Sarai said to Abram, You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.

“O husband mine,” complained Sarai, “this lowly wench is giving me lip. Do something about it.”

6 Your servant is in your hands, Abram said. Do with her whatever you think best. Then Sarai ill-treated Hagar; so she fled from her.

And Abram, having had his way and getting a little concerned about what the neighbours would say about him getting the maid pregnant, replied, “look, she’s your servant, you deal with her.”

7 The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.
8 And he said, Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? I’m running away from my mistress Sarai, she answered.
9 Then the angel of the LORD told her, Go back to your mistress and submit to her.

Hearing the pitiful story of a maid who has been forced into sleeping with the man of the house and becoming a surrogate mother for his child, then subsequently abused by the wife, god’s messenger tells her to get the hell back to the household and be meek and submissive.

Later on he popped over to africa and started suggesting to the tribal chiefs they might want to start selling their war prisoners to those funny looking white men that showed up from time to time.

10 The angel added, I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count

Oh, well that’s OK then.

11 The angel of the LORD also said to her: You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers.

Why does the fact that god knows she’s miserable mean she has to name her kid Ishmael? What she really needs following rape and abuse is a good counsellor, possibly an abortion clinic, and a relocation package.

And for the moment I’ll refrain from making any comments about Ishmael being a wild donkey. I’m sure they didn’t have innuendo in those days. Doesn’t sound like he’s going to have a very good life either though. I imagine Sarai’s wondering what the hell god’s picking on her for.

13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: You are the God who sees me, for she said, I have now seen the One who sees me.
14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.
16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Beer Lahai Roi is Hebrew, meaning “the well of the living one who sees me”. Doesn’t do much for the plot but then the bible seems to be full of filler and we’re only on the 16th chapter of the 1st book.

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