Multiplied Seed and Greatly Increased Numbers

A Promise Fit for Modern Times

Genesis 16:7-12

And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.  And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.  And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.  And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

This is a neat story.  God cares a lot for Hagar, not entirely sure why considering she hates Sarai, but I guess just because Hagar is carrying Abrams son?  Also what’s with this multiplying seed thing that god and his people are so obsessed with. Having a prosperous and happy next generation or two seems a lot more important than having “endless, uncountable” grand-children.  Also, it’s really not a special gift from god, considering everybody can do the same thing without any blessing from him. All of us come from some crazy long ass lineage from somewhere, it’s one of the least impressive things we can do. 

The “blessing” turns kind of sour at the end too…I’d be pretty stressed knowing that my kid will be constantly warring with others. That’s some terrible bedside manners from god. “Congratulations, you’re having a boy! Although, you should know he’ll be in constant danger and probably be a bully.”

Genesis 16:13-14

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.”  That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.

This is an example of a mythic story being used to explain a local landmark.  It is a common practice around the world, and I think it makes the story simultaneously more interesting, and less credible.  These are myths used to attach significance to an already well-known place by giving it a memorable origin story. It is suspicious to find stories like these in the bible if it’s the word of god, because we can so easily recognize it for what it is and make such obvious comparisons to other equally debunked religions, myths, and origin stories.  One of my favorites is the story behind the naming of Athens and the importance of the olive tree.

Genesis 17:1-6

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,  “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 

I will rant now, again, about how God is constantly promising folks that he will increase their numbers, sometimes adding that the numbers will match “the stars in the sky.”  It is an obviously human thing to say. I imagine the rich old men in power thought having tons of children to carry on their name and increase their family power was of paramount importance.  So what does god promise the rich old men in the bible? Tons o kids. I’m obviously increeeedibly biased, but when I think of divine wisdom I just don’t see it including promises of having a gigantic family.  If god appeared to me today and was like, “Hey, I know I ask for undying loyalty while offering little more than jealous abuse in return, but if you promise to cut the tip of your penis off I’ll make all the women in your family constantly pregnant for generations, whadda say?” I’d respond with something like…”Will you just forget about penises for like a second and go de-escalate the middle-east? JESUS!”

More of the Same

Fighting Men, Murdered Animals, Mistreated Women

Such a creepy scene, poor Hagar.

Genesis 13:6-12

And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle…then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

Abram and Lot had to part ways because they were SOOOO wealthy, presumably from all the cattle they stole from Pharaoh, that the land could simply not sustain so many animals and people.  Their herdsman kept fighting and they had to split up. God and Abram scam Pharaoh, this leads to infighting with Lot, Lot settles elsewhere near Sodom, so I feel like Lot’s wife dying because of looking back, besides being god’s fault, was also god’s fault…

Genesis 15:9-11

And he said unto him, “Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

God tells Abram he’s definitely going to get the land god has promised him, and Abram asks god how can he know for sure?  Well, couldn’t you guess, without any explanation of why this is necessary or how it will ensure his inheritance of the land, god tells him to gather all these animals with the implication that they are an offering.  I do not understand why the god of the universe would be interested in murdered/burning animals. Being the lord of a people and constantly needing them to show their devotion to you through acts of cruelty is so very suspiciously something that a human king would ask for.

Genesis 16:3-6

And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.  And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.  But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

I’m still figuring this one out.  So Sarai made Abram have sex with Hagar…and maybe even marry her (polygamy?)…then when Hagar got pregnant, as planned and hoped for, Hagar hated Sarai and Sarai started being real mean to her? Did I get that right?  Also Abram, the classy gentleman that he is, told Sarai, “Yeah go ahead! She’s your slave. Nevermind that you told me to have a child with her and that she now carries that child, please treat her as harshly as you please!”

Similarly to the stories about Noah, the reason I’m picking apart these insights we get into the nature of our protagonists is to point out how unremarkable they are.  They aren’t even just unremarkable, they are clearly immoral. This makes it very unconvincing that god would choose them as the heros, the best that humanity has to offer.  Why does he keep making covenants with these fools? I take this as evidence against the existence of god. If he was really looking around for the cream of the crop, how’d he end up with a drunk naked guy cursing his children, and a wealthy con-man would won’t even protect his baby mama.

Abraham and Noah: Not the Hero’s We Imagined

Hexing and Whoring

Genesis 9:20-9:27

Now Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard.  When he drank some of the wine he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness, and he told his two brothers outside about it.  Shem and Japheth, however, took a robe and holding it on their backs, they walked backward and covered their father’s nakedness; since their faces were turned the other way, they did not see their father’s nakedness.  When Noah woke up from his drunkenness and learned what his youngest son had done to him, he said: “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of salves shall he be to his brothers.” He also said: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem!  Let Canaan be his slave. May God expand Japheth, so that he dwells among the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”

What a terrible father, and person.  I always associated Noah with the flood, cause obviously, but this is the last story about him in the bible.  I think it is hilarious for him to end on such a bad note and (in my opinion) for his legacy to be ruined. I want Noah to be remembered as the asshole who got drunk and naked and them cursed his son just for seeing him in such a state.  He didn’t even curse his son, he cursed his grandson through Ham. Cursing somebody for seeing you drunk and naked is wrong, but cursing their son, a completely innocent child who wasn’t even involved in the incident, is totally uncalled for.  

Genesis 10:8-10:9

Cush became the father of Nimrod, who was the first potentate on earth.  He was a mighty hunter by the grace of the lord; hence the saying, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter by the grace of the lord.”

I had fun reading this and wanted to share it.

Genesis 12:11-12:19

If I ruined Noah for you, I’m about to ruin Abraham for you too.

When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: “I know well how beautiful a woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘She is his wife’; then they will kill me, but let you live. Please say, therefore, that you are my sister, so that it may go well with me on your account and my life may be spared for your sake.”  When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw how beautiful the woman was; and when Pharaoh’s courtiers saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. So she was taken into Pharaoh’s palace.  

On her account it went very well with Abram, and he received flocks and herds, male and female slaves, male and female asses, and camels.  

But the lord struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife Sarai.  Then Pharaoh summoned Abram and said to him: “How could you do this to me! Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Here, then, is your wife. Take her and be gone!”

When I criticize the bible it gets NO benefit of the doubt, so…let’s construe this as negatively as we can.  Did Abraham whore his wife out to Pharaoh, get tons of gifts because of it, and then allow god to plague Pharaoh’s family as collateral damage?  The only logic Abraham offers is that his life needs to be spared for her sake, because if he died she’d presumably be stuck in Egypt forever, albeit as a mistress of Pharaoh.  If Abraham as the brother gets countless flocks, herds, slaves, asses, and camels, who knows what treasures and pleasures might be available to Sarah? Still that sounds like a weak argument.  I have always been unswayed by the “indecent proposal” scenario, but Abraham seems to have orchestrated this one himself…what a punk. Abraham never apologizes to Pharaoh, who is YET ANOTHER innocent guy getting caught up and spat out by the misadventures of god and his goons.  God knew that Pharaoh was unawares that Sarah was already married, but went ahead and punished him anyway. A few lines down it mentions that Abraham is now very rich with livestock, silver, and gold, so he didn’t return any of the riches either.  Lastly, while the bible and legend maintain that Sarah was very beautiful even into her old age, she would’ve been 65 when they went to Egypt. There had to have been a way to keep his 65 year old wife from getting so much attention, like maybe a hood?

Mercurial and Murderous

God and PETA would not get along…

Genesis 7:24-8:1          

The waters maintained their crest over the earth for one hundred and fifty days, and then God remembered Noah and all the animals, wild and tame, that were with him in the ark.     

Whaaaat!?!  Couldn’t let this go without a comment.  What on earth else was god doing that he ENTIRELY forgot about the single last family on the planet, who he forced to build a massive floating zoo, for almost half a year?  This is literally the only thing going on.  If I was in charge of a tub with a Tupperware full of bugs in it, I really don’t see myself going 150 days without being like, “Oh right, let me check on this insane thing I decided to do 6 months ago.”  This would be especially true if I had somehow convinced the smartest family of bugs to actually build the Tupperware container, and then gather the other bugs into it before I turned on the faucet.  God just doesn’t seem to care, and again he comes off absolutely uninterested in the trials of mortal beings. 

Also, whomever owned this bible before me added a very entertaining question in the margin.  So far I have found a few paragraphs underlined or bracketed, but apparently the story of Noah finally pushed this original reader over their limits of credulity.  They skeptically wrote, “How can the whole world be covered in water?”  Ironically, and hilariously, this is one of the few things in Genesis that does not offend science and was likely nearly true at one point in earths history…                 

Genesis 8:20-8:21 

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird, he offered holocausts on the altar.  When the Lord smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.”

This bit comes immediately after Noah, his family, and all the animals get off the ark.  Even though it doesn’t explicitly say so, I have to imagine some time has passed, otherwise Noah would’ve killed half of all the animals remaining on earth and the repopulation effort would’ve been over before it started.  Noah still did apparently track down an individual member of every species he just worked to save, and then burned them to nothing but ash (the meaning of “holocaust” used here).   Did god even ask him to do this? The bible doesn’t say either, but regardless these animals just can’t get a break.  God murdered nearly all the animals on earth, then as a thanks for sparing him and his family Noah kills a significant number of their just burgeoning populations.  And, apparently, it worked!  God loves nothing more than the “sweet odor” of burning animal flesh. 

As I’ve already kind of made clear, I love comparing God’s reactions to what we’d expect from our fellow humans.  If I knew somebody who expressed their anger in bouts of animal cruelty, but then found peace and calm in the smell of those animals burning…I don’t know what I would do, call the police, I guess?  Definitely not hang out with them anymore.  Probably not worship them either.  Besides the illegality of it all, it’s just not a very inspiring way to act.  I am exceptionally unimpressed with god.  

His little quote in the passage above is so pathetic, too.  He blames the humans for his own murderous behavior!  And his attitude is so defeatist.  He claims to never want to kill all living things again, which is promising…but only because he no longer has faith in humanity?  He is saying nobody should ever expect anything but evil from humans anyway, so why punish them for just being who they are?  Also, does anybody else find it suspicious that the bible says, “he said to himself,” implying that somebody was somehow there to record what god was muttering under his breath?  Don’t pretend like you can know the mysterious ways of our lord…or something like that…

Is god a Targaryen?

Who does god confess to…

Genesis 6:5-7

When the lord saw how great was man’s wicked-ness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.  So the lord said: “I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.”

Exactly what we’d expect from the source of all goodness…?  I have two points to make about this episode. First, if he was looking to punish humans by killing every last one of them, why did he go ahead and kill all the animals and bugs too?  It’s like committing a foul in a soccer game and having the ref give you a red card, then your whole team, then the other team, then everybody in the crowd watching, and finishing it off by punting the ball over the highway.  Put more simply, it is the punishment of innocent bystanders. God is ending countless animal lives. God has taken away their potential to have future experiences of pleasure and contentedness. Further, he has chosen to make the last moments of these innocent animals ones of terror and pain, as they drown.  These choices lack compassion, and they reveal god to be indifferent towards, and out of touch with, mortal suffering.  

Second, I am disappointed in gods lack of imagination at solving this “problem” he’s created.  It takes less energy to see the world in black and white; to judge people and their actions as either good or evil, or to decide our labors culminated in either success or failure.  I would ask more of us, and I’d expect more from god. God is (supposedly) omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent. This means he knows all that is wrong, he has all the power to fix it, and he is guided by forces of righteousness.  I am none of those things, and it still took me only moments to consider better solutions that don’t involve mass-murder. Let’s ponder some. Why didn’t he show himself to these early peoples and awe them with explanations of what they are doing wrong?  Why didn’t he give them more opportunities to learn lessons of morality and grow wiser? Why didn’t he simply fill their hearts with love and give them minds that took pleasure in the service of others? 

 I will use this logic often to demonstrate how evil god is.  You should ask yourself, and others, when contemplating gods actions: if you were he, and you had to solve this particular problem, how much better would you have done?  How quickly did you find a way to cause less agony…than god did?

Digression

When considering what pronoun to use as I talk about god, I first considered “it.”  I decided against this because it disassociates his corruption from humankind. God may not really exist, but his example has allowed innumerable evildoers to justify their actions.  When I say “he” in reference to god throughout these commentaries, I’m not just referring to the hypothetical being. I want to invoke all of the men throughout history who have done evil in the name of god.  And that brings me to why I chose “he” instead of “she.” I originally thought of using “she” because I appreciate the idea of not thoughtlessly defaulting to male placeholders when speaking abstractly. But then I realized how unfair that was to women, who don’t share nearly as much blame for religiously inspired atrocities.  If I’m going to call out the guilty as I rail against god, then he must be a he.

A Curious Liar

Eve, Incest, and Polygamy

I tried to find a way to nitpick the creation story, but it’s too deep in the realm of fiction to critique seriously.  I’d be obligated to accuse every line of being outrageous. It’s more honest (and easier…) to just accept it as an interesting stab at contemplating “the beginning,” and move on.  Actually, compared to a lot of other creation myths it’s pretty unimaginative.  

Genesis 3:4-5

But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!  No, god knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who knows what is good and what is bad.”

As I read through “The Fall of Man,” depicted by the writers as more like, “How Man was Dragged Down by Woman,” I noticed that Eve wasn’t in fact tricked into eating the Fruit of Knowledge as I had always thought.  She eats it after being given very accurate information about its potential effects, and then lied to god about being tricked. You may conclude that this is an unimportant detail. I find it much more interesting that our fall from grace wasn’t caused by the machinations of the serpent and therefore inevitability out of our control.  

Eve knew what would happen, and she made a choice between “ignorance and Eden,” or “knowledge and the unknown.”  She didn’t display gullibility or immorality, she showed bravery, curiosity, and disobedience. Throughout history I’m sure this story has inspired much misogyny and support for a surveillance state (as the church often was).  I enjoy reimagining the morals as supporting feminist ideals and an instinct to question authority.   

Genesis 6:2

The sons of heaven saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose.

This appears in the bible without condemnation or any explanation of gods attitude.  It comes up as a matter of fact. I could be confusing the translation, but if not, it is saying that the original population practiced polygamy.  Also, let’s not forget that this original population necessarily must have been the products of incest. I expect the bible will condemn polygamy and incest later on, but then we’ve found one of the countless contradictions amongst its stories. There will be many more, and more interesting, contradictions as we keep going.