An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Posts Tagged ‘Abram’

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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