An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Archive for the ‘OT’ Category

Genesis 18

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on May 10, 2010

The Three Visitors

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.

So what’s your first thought when you’re out camping and look up to find three men standing near by? That’s right – they are God incarnate. How could any right minded person think otherwise?

4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree.

5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way— now that you have come to your servant. Very well, they answered, do as you say.

I’m sure they did. Who’d turn down a free footwash and slap-up meal?

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. Quick, he said, get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it.

8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 Where is your wife Sarah? they asked him. There, in the tent, he said.

Is it just me or is this coming across as plain old intimidation? Three guys show up, the old guy hopes to pacify them with food and drink so they leave him alone and just go on their way. Then they suddenly ask after his wife … it doesn’t look as if this story is going to happy places.

10 Then the LORD said, I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.

So God, aka Three Burly Strangers in the desert, have eaten all his food, found his wife and suddenly (flash forward) one of them is sneaking out the back of the tent whilst zipping up his fly, and the others are telling her husband she’s “miraculously” with child.

Good cover story – should persuade most vulnerable old men out in the wilderness. Even if …

11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.
12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?

Or perhaps they haven’t got into the tent yet, but Sarah sounds like she’s not getting much satisfaction from Abraham in that department. Sounds like God, aka TBS, is the most excitement to come her way in a long time.

Also sounds like we should be cueing up the cheesy 70’s porno soundtrack. What’s the betting these three burly geezers are all built like Wesley Snipes and hung like donkeys?

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’

14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, I did not laugh. But he said, Yes, you did laugh.

Nope, my mistake, we’re back to intimidation …

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

20 Then the LORD said, The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous

21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.

22 The men turned away and went towards Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD.

23 Then Abraham approached him and said: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?

So God’s off to do a bit of smiting and Abraham decides to argue with him. Well, the guy has balls, I’ll give him that.

25 Far be it from you to do such a thing— to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

26 The LORD said, If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes,

28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?

If I find forty-five there, he said, I will not destroy it.

29 Once again he spoke to him, What if only forty are found there?

He said, For the sake of forty, I will not do it.

30 Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?

He answered, I will not do it if I find thirty there.

31 Abraham said, Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?

He said, For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.

32 Then he said, May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?

He answered, For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.

And not only argue, but haggle with the big man. Some serious respect to our boy Abe there.

33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

Chapter ending leaves a bit to be desired though. Not exactly a cliffhanger that last sentence is it? I mean, have the writers never watched the old Saturday morning “Rocketman” or “Flash Gordon” episodes. What’s needed is Abe going out in a ball of flames, only to tune in next week to see that he’d used his tent as a parachute at the last minute.

Or something …

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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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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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Genesis 15

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 31, 2008

God’s Covenant With Abram

1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.

Not god, but “the word of god” came to Abram in a vision. What is that? The Metatron, which isn’t actually mentioned in any hoy text anywhere and yet seems to be part of the whole mythology (and is not to be confused with Megatron, who was a robot in disguise).

And Abram said unto the voice of the lord, “thanks very much, but a disembodied voice is rather insubstantial. Do you think I could have some kevlar body armour instead? And I’ll be happy with a small heap of gold as a reward.”

2 But Abram said, O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?
3 And Abram said, You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.

It sounds like Abram’s more concerned about passing on the family business. What is that, by the way? The most lucrative branches so far seem to be stealing land and dispossessing entire peoples in the name of god and pimping out family members to royalty.

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.

If I was taking this literally that would sound really painful!

5 He took him outside and said, Look up at the heavens and count the stars— if indeed you can count them. Then he said to him, So shall your offspring be.
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

And then god said unto him, “did you know they’ve taken the word gullible out of the dictionary?”

7 He also said to him, I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.

Who gave it to god to give away in the first place?

8 But Abram said, O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I shall gain possession of it?
9 So the LORD said to him, Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.

Of course, kill a few animals in a ritualistic manner and the land’s yours. What does god get out of these sacrifices anyway? I know the good folk who like to think they’ll get caught up in the rapture any day now have interesting discussions on whether dogs will get caught up in the rapture but I’ve never seen mention of cows and goats. Especially cows and goats that have just been cut in half. Sounds more like a Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate than anything else. Perhaps Abram was up for the Turner prize.

So why do the birds get away with it?

11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.
13 Then the LORD said to him, Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years.

Sounds more like what goes around comes around to me.

14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.

Put up with a load of crap I’m going to heap on you (and blame it on Egypt, but as an omnipotent god I could obviously prevent it any time I felt like it. It’s a good job I’m ineffable, hey?)

15 You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.

Always good to know.

16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking brazier with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—
19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,
20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,
21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.

That’s a whole lot more disposessed peoples. I guess we’ve worked out the main arm of that family business anyway.

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Genesis 14

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 29, 2008

Genesis 14

Abram Rescues Lot

1 At this time Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim
2
went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar).
3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Salt Sea).
4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim
6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert.
7 Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim
9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar— four kings against five.

Zzzzzzzz….hhmph, oh, sorry. Dozed off for a moment there.

It’s not exactly a blockbuster tagline is it. You can’t imagine voiceoverman intoning it in his deep baritone.

“Starring, Bruce Willis as …. the king of Elam.”

I can only hope it gets better.

10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills.

I think Moses missed a chance here to expand on some prolonged death and suffering. Drowning slowly in a tar pit can’t be a pleasant way to go. I’m really quite surprised the publishers didn’t insist on the more juicy details.

11 The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away.
12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

I think we’re about to come to the interesting bit. Bruce Willis et al have just kidnapped god’s favourite toys. The future doesn’t seem very bright for our kingly heroes.

13 One who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshcol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram
14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household

(read “slaves”)

and went in pursuit as far as Dan.

Here‘s an interesting resource. I got fed up wondering where on earth all these places were. This application integrates with google maps and you can search by chapter and verse. Clicking on the link in the chapter displays a bubble with information about the place. For example, here’s the summary for Dan:

A city familiar as marking the northern limit of the land of Israel in the common phrase “from Da even to Beer- sheba” (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20, etc.). Its ancient name was Laish or Leshem (Judges 18:7, etc.). It was probably an outlying settlement of Tyre of Sidon. Its inhabitants, pursuing the ends of peaceful traders, were defenseless against … read more
occurs 57 times in the Bible

I’ll add that link to the sidebar – it’s pretty handy.

15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus.
16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

318 men really doesn’t seem very many to defeat 4 kings. Of course “king” is really a self-proclaimed title in these cases and translates roughly to “petty despot that’s managed to obtain a position of power within a city, at least until somebody deposes them”.

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,
19 and he blessed Abram, saying, Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand. Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

An early example of extortion from the church. You won so god was on your side. Give us some money for that. Of course had they lost Melchizedek would have been saying the exact same thing to the other side. Win-win for him really.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath
23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’
24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me— to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share.

Not really sure why Abram is being so arsey about this, after all Lot’s living over that way. OK, so we’ve heard Sodom is full of sinners but there’s been no mention of any oath.

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Genesis 13

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 22, 2008

Abram and Lot Separate

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him.
2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

Isn’t prostitution great? For the pimp at least.

3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier
4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together.

Somehow I’m failing to muster much sympathy for these characters.

7 And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

The seeming non-sequitur here is a reminder that this land Abram’s just claimed as his own by divine right actually belonged to the Canaanites, who are being punished because Noah liked to get pissed naked.

8 So Abram said to Lot, Let’s not have any quarrelling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.
9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.

So Abram pointed out that god had given them the whole land, they might as well make use of it. After all, that’s some prime real estate there and at a much lower price even than Manhattan Island.

10 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, towards Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)

I feel Moses is jumping ahead of himself here with the Sodom and Gomorrah references.

11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out towards the east. The two men parted company:
12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom
13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

This really is rather unsubtle writing. I’m sure it would be much more effective to keep a few surprises in the plotline. It might actually keep people reading!

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.
15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever.

Amazing, isn’t it, that one little quote from a work of fiction could cause so much pain and suffering in the Middle East hundreds of years after it was written.

16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.
17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.
18 So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

OK, said god, now Lot’s gone you can have the rest of this land. Don’t worry about all those people living on it, just let them know I told you it’s yours and I’ll dish out a few smitings if necessary.

And Abram built another altar. Very imaginative. Not difficult to tell where he’s been.

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Genesis 12

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 15, 2008

The Call of Abram

1 The LORD had said to Abram, Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2 I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

So Abram’s moping around one day wondering whatever happened to that god chap – he never phones, he never writes – when out of the blue there’s a mighty thunderclap and god’s talking to him in full surround telling him to leave his home, his friends and most of his family and trek to an unknown destination where he would found a great nation and be blessed by all.

Tricky one that. This god fellow isn’t one for giveing you easy decisions is he?

4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.

But Abram, drawn by his 15 minutes of fame on the new reality show “I’m god’s current favourite, smite mine enemies” decided to give it a go. After all 75 was pretty sprightly in those days when lifespans were measured in hundreds of years.

5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

So taking only his wife, his nephew, absolutely everything they owned, including all the people they had ‘acquired’. After all they needed all those slaves to carry all the crap that had accumulated up in the attic and Abram was a bit of a hoarder.

6 Abram travelled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

They eventually come to Canaan which, surprise surprise, is full of Canaanites.

7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, To your offspring I will give this land. So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

And without so much as a by your leave or the involvement of a surveyor god hands over the land to Abram. For those of you following closely this was of course Noah’s punishment for getting drunk and falling asleep naked where, gasp, people could see him.

Probably not much consolation to the Canaanites though.

8 From there he went on towards the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.
9 Then Abram set out and continued towards the Negev.

Abram continues his journey, building altars everywhere to mark his territory.

Abram in Egypt

10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.

Is this making a great nation? Doesn’t seem like god’s holding up his end of the bargain here sending famine into Abram’s land.

And buggering off for Egypt at the first sign of trouble isn’t going to make the people bless him either.

11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, I know what a beautiful woman you are.
12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.

Nice bunch, the Egyptians.

13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.

But it’s OK. Pretend you’re just my sister and I’ll be OK. Presumably that means she’s likely to be forced into unpleasant situations thanks to Abram taking her there, but as long as he’s OK there’s no problem. After all his name is great and he is a blessing.

14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.
15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.
16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

Abram seems to be doing pretty well here by pimping out his wife on the grounds that she’s only his sister really.

There’s just so much wrong with that preceding sentence that I don’t even know where to start.

17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

It’s not really clear why here. Was god annoyed because he wasn’t getting any Sarai action? Certainly he’s not punishing Abram’s enemies or people that curse him as he’s being treated pretty well. Looks like a childish tantrum to me. Smite any other “best friends” and they’ll come running back, tail between their legs because now old god’s the only viable option again.

18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. What have you done to me? he said. Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?
19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!
20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Poor old Pharoah. All he wanted was the most beautiful women in the land to cater to his every desire and whim. A man of simple pleasures.

The thought does of course occur that the nasty diseases suffered by Pharoah might be more a consequence of Abram pimping out his missus to all and sundry rather than any kind of divine intervention. It was probably nothing a quick trip down to the clinic couldn’t sort out.

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Genesis 11

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 11, 2008

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.

That would be nice. God must be very pleased. Everybody can talk to each other with no misunderstandings. Things must have been a lot more peaceful in those days.

2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly. They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar.
4 Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.

Wow, god must be so proud. His children are growing up and achieving something. Not only have they left home they’re building a new one for themselves and thinking big.

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.
6 The LORD said, If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

I can just see god now, down the pub, bragging about his creation – “you should see my children, they can do anything.”

7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.

Ah!

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

I’ve had a number of managers like this. Somehow it reflects badly on them if their subordinates do well without supervision, so any progress that didn’t involve management intervention must be scuppered at the earliest possible opportunity. I wonder if god reads Dilbert? I can just see him as the pointy haired boss.

9 That is why it was called Babel— because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

This is a little confusing. It was called Babel because god confused the language? So which language was the word “Babel” taken from then? Surely it was the other way around and that is the etymology of “babble”.

Oh well, obviously the bible is the infallible word of god (or Moses in this case, as we’re still in Genesis) so it can’t be wrong. Confusing as hell seems to be OK though.

You can safely skip the rest – it’s more dullness. If you’re really interested in this stuff (why, man, why?) there’s a family tree diagram here

Never fear though, genesis 12 has sex and plagues. Things are looking up again.

From Shem to Abram

10 This is the account of Shem. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.
11 And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
12 When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah.
13 And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber.
15 And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters.
16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg.
17 And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters.
18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu.
19 And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters.
20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug.
21 And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters.
22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor.
23 And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters.
24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah.
25 And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters.
26 After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.
27 This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot.
28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.
29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah.
30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.
31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.
32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

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Genesis 10

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 11, 2008

The Table of Nations

1 This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

A rather dull account at that, get ready for a whole lot of -ites. As it’s so dull I’m just going to put a couple of comments and links for names that I already recognised.

The Japhethites

2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech and Tiras.
3
The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

Gog and Magog I originally heard of as giants.
Askenaz is presumably the descendant of the Ashkenazi Jews, who I first heard of in connection with the high incidence of breast cancer and gene patents.

4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim and the Rodanim.
5 (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)

The Hamites

6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan.

Canaan is obvoiusly the father of the Canaanites, who have already been condemned by god simply because Noah couldn’t lay off the booze.

7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

Sheba brings to mind the Queen of Sheba who famously tested the wisdom of Solomon.

8 Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth.
9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; that is why it is said, Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.

So mighty it needed saying twice. Nimrod these days would obviously be associated with the anti-tank missile.

10 The first centres of his kingdom were Babylon, Erech, Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.

Babylon is of course Babel, which we’ll read more about later. It’s also a David Gray song, but the less said about that the better as it’s a fairly insipid piece of drum and bass.

11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah

I swear Disney used the name Nineveh in an animated film but IMDB reveals nothing so perhaps I’m losing it. Entirely possible at this point – I’m almost looking forward to getting back to some decent smiting. At least that’s interesting.

As I don’t think I recognise any more names this post ends here and we’ll move on to Genesis 11, which at least has a more interesting opening.

12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
13 Mizraim was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites,
14 Pathrusites, Casluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.
15 Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites,
16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites,
17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites,
18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered
19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon towards Gerar as far as Gaza, and then towards Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

The Semites

21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.
22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.
23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshech.
24 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber.
25 Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.
26 Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah,
27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah,
28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba,
29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.
30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha towards Sephar, in the eastern hill country.
31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.
32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

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Genesis 9

Posted by Urbane Spaceman on January 9, 2008

God’s Covenant With Noah

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

A policy echoed by, of course, the catholic church. The more sprogs popped out by his worshippers, the more worshippers there will be, and it will grow exponentially generation by generation. Just as long as the indoctrination process can keep up with the birth rate. Still, I’m sure a few judicious smitings will see to it that the young’uns don’t stray from the path of righteousness.

2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.
3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

We’re more important than everything else and it’s all there just for us. I think this must be why we have so many religious fundamentalists in charge in the western world – they get to sell off natural resources to the highest bidder … sorry, lobbyist … with impunity, because god put everything there for precisely that reason.

Now I’m off to drill for oil in Alaska, if that’s OK.

4 But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

Don’t eat living things, OK, I reckon we can live with this one.

5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

And don’t kill other people, unless they’ve already killed someone, in which case it’s fine. Sounds like a recipe for everybody dead to me as soon as you get the first murder. Somebody kills the murderer, so it’s then alright to kill them, etc. etc. Not sure god really thought that one through.

Then of course there is the fact that he’s already put the first murderer under his own protection with the mark of Cain. How does that fit in with company policy?

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.

Just in case you missed that the first time – get out there and produce some more worhippers.

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
9 I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you
10 and with every living creature that was with you— the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you— every living creature on earth.
11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:
13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
17 So God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.

See, he’s a nice god really. He’s promising not to kill everybody in a massive flood again.

Of course he’s not promising not to kill anybody, just that he’ll use a different method next time.

The Sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)
19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.
21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.
23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backwards and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him,
25 he said, Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.
26 He also said, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth, may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.

So one of Noah’s first actions was to start the homebrew and get wasted. Then he gets upset because he’s passed out naked and his son has seen him (though no fault of his own it seems). I can only assume that Noah had a really tiny penis and was extremely embarrassed about having been seen with his tackle out. Condemning an entire race of people to slavery for this would seem to be just a small overreaction though.

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
29 Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

And good riddance, from what I’ve read of him.

On the plus side if this is an example of a devout holy person that was basically the only human god considered worthy of saving then it would seem there is hope for most of the rest of us come judgement day.

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