An Atheist Reads the Bible

A godless heathen’s religious experience

Posts Tagged ‘Sodom’

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 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
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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