Genesis Chapters 23, 24, & 25

Chapter 23

Sarah’s death and burial could have been summed up in a few sentences and maybe a eulogy for her, but it’s all about Abraham trying to buy a field from the Hittites, where he lived as an alien. They offer him any land that he wants, so he asks for Ephron son of Zohar so he could get the sweet spot with a cave. Ephron gives it to him, but it sounds like an argument because Abraham insists on paying for it. They strike a deal and Abraham has himself a cave.

Judging by the translation, this story was a poem or a song in the original Hebrew. That explains the peculiar structure and the refrain of many of the lines. I still stand by my assertion that something should have been said about Sarah.

Chapter 24

Abraham is old. He makes his servant swear an oath that he will find Isaac a wife, but he can’t find the bride-to-be in the land of Canaan. Instead, he must venture back to Abraham’s homeland. The servant traveled there, came up with the contrived criteria that would determine the correct woman, Rebekah fit said criteria, he put a (nose) ring on it, paid off her family and she went with him. She met Isaac for the first time, they went into his mother’s tent, yada yada yada, they’re married.

I glossed over the story because it’s a lot of filler and repetition. The servant states his plan, then the plan work out perfectly, and then he recounts the plan and the outcome to her family. This is either bad writing or another poem/song.

The details leading up to this include the servant swearing an oath to Abraham which ends with the servant putting his hand “under Abraham’s thigh” which means “touched his junk” which is the way oaths were sworn. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, this would be the equivalent of swearing one’s life. I just hope that biblical literalists don’t want to bring this tradition back.

This is the longest chapter in Genesis and is also the influence for the start of a new series of Saturday Sermons about “biblical marriage”. I won’t talk much about it here except to comment that the Bible will never be accused of being a romance novel.

Chapter 25

Abraham marries [takes] another wife and has six more boys and probably an untold number of girls which, naturally, is not talked about. He gave everything he had to Isaac and gave the other kids gifts and sent them to the east away from Isaac.

Abraham dies at the age of one hundred seventy-five and Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave that he bought at the beginning of this post. God blessed Isaac and then we get a genealogy of Ishmael, because those are thrilling to read.

Apparently, God can’t point in the general direction of a woman who isn’t barren and requires divine intervention. Anyway, Rebekah gets pregnant with twins and is told that she has two nations in her womb (that can’t be pleasant) and that the older one will serve the younger. Esau was born first and came out all hairy while Jacob followed on his heel (he was gripping Esau’s heel when he was born). Esau, who Isaac loved, was a hunter while Jacob, who Rebekah loved, was the quiet type. I really hope that the parents loved the other boy as well, because that would be poor parenting.

So one day, Esau was out hunting and came home to find Jacob cooking and sold his birthright for a bowl of stew in one of the most anticlimactic scenes so far:

Esau: I’m hungry, give me some stew.

Jacob: Sell me your birthright.

Esau: I’m really hungry…okay.

…and scene. We are now halfway through the book of Genesis.

Genesis Chapters 20, 21, & 22

Chapter 20

We come back to Abraham and Sarah as they enter Gerar. Once again, he says that Sarah is his sister and the king takes her as one of his wives. Is this a kink? More likely, this is a retelling of the earlier story that took place in Egypt. This idea comes from the Oxford Bible Commentary.

This version of the story has a different twist since God appears to King Abimelech in a dream and threatens him. Abimelech points out that Abraham told him that Sarah was his sister, but because Abraham is God’s special little guy, he won’t be punished.

But wait, it turns out that Abraham did not tell a lie…

It turns out that Sarah is his sister from another mother. So Abimelech gave Abraham livestock and male and female slaves and told him to settle anywhere on his land. He also gave him a thousand piece of silver. God healed Abimelech and the womenfolk so that they would bear children because he caused them not to be able to bear children in the first place. Once again, God, the great judge of character.

Chapter 21

And God allowed Sarah to conceive and give birth to Isaac. Abraham cut off his naughty bits at eight days old because…reasons, and we are reminded that these two are old.

Of course, there’s the tiny matter of the other woman and Abraham’s other son, Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah didn’t want the son of a slave to inherit anything along with her precious angel. So God allowed it and Abraham sent them on their way because, of course.

Once again, because Hagar is either a woman, a slave, or Egyptian, or all of the above, God does not talk to her directly, but only through an angel. The angel tells her that Ishmael will be a great nation. He would learn to use a bow and marry an Egyptian woman of his mother’s choosing.

In a bit of a weird scene, Abraham and Abimelech agree to be besties, but Abraham complains about a well seized by Abimelech’s men, but he knew nothing about it. Abraham gave him sheep and oxen, but held seven ewes back so Abimelech would hang out while Abraham digs a well. They call the place Beer-Sheba (mmm, beer) because it means Well of the Oath. Abraham planted a tree and hung out in the land of the Philistines.

The last two sections apparently overlap since Hagar went into Beer-Sheba, but that land isn’t named until the following scene. It’s a bit confusing to read and I needed to refer to the Oxford Bible Commentary.

Chapter 22

This is the worst story in Genesis. God sends Abraham to Moriah to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice and all Abraham can do is gather up the supplies and his servants and set out on the road. God gives no reason for his request and God forbid he question God (oh, right). I don’t know who said it originally, but I am reminded of a quote, “Any god who demands to be worshiped is unworthy of it. Any god worthy of worship would not demand it.”

Anyway, Abraham and Isaac make their way to the site, most likely with the kid doing most of the heavy lifting, and they build the altar. Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice is and dear ol’ dad tells him that the Lord will provide one. Abraham tied Isaac up, placed him on the altar, and pulled out the knife and prepared to cut the kid’s throat. An angel of God came down and stopped him, telling him that he passed God’s test.

Passed? PASSED?! No, he failed miserably. He was “just following orders” I guess. I would certainly hope that if I was tested in this way by the voices in my head, I would have sense enough to question them. Even if I was convinced that it was a real god, even the God of the Bible, I still hope that I would question his motives. Once again, God proves that he is a horrible judge of character and misses another psycho.

The rest of this chapter is God praising this sicko and then we get another genealogy. Oh, and spare me the apologetics about this story. I can read it and understand it with my own brain.

Genesis Chapters 15, 16, & 17

Chapter 15

God tells Abram that he is there for him and will be his shield and give him a great reward. All Abram can do is complain about not having kids. Abram’s only heir is a slave born in his house named Eliezer of Damascus. God tells him that he will have his own child who will be his heir. That means that Abram will definitely have a son because women can’t inherit anything (although, they can be inherited). God tells him that he will have descendants as countless as the stars. He really doesn’t because the number of people that have ever lived is still quite countable at about 115 billion people.

When Abram asks God how he knows that he will possess the lands before him, God simply tells him to bring a three year old cow, goat, and ram, along a couple of birds. He cut them in two and chased the birds away to them from eating the carcasses. Then God comes to Abram in a dream and tells him, I assume, of the Israelites who will be aliens and slaves in the land that they serve for four hundred years.

If God knows that this is going to happen, then why not prevent it from happening? Why let the people be enslaved for so long and then free them? Then God promised Abram the lands east of Egypt. But there were people living there already, but now they were to be subjects of this new guy. Of course, he still didn’t have any heirs.

Chapter 16

Abram is given permission to “go into Sarai’s slave-girl, Hagar,” so that they can have kids of their own. They get it on, she conceives, gives Sarai a smug look, and earns her wrath. Of course, when there’s another woman thrown into the mix, drama occurs. Sarai “deals harshly” with Hagar which causes her to run away, but an angel of God tells her to go back because she is carrying Abram’s son.

Naturally, because Hagar is not a man, only an angel of the Lord can come to her, not the big man himself. She will have a son and I will try not make the completely obvious Moby Dick joke when I tell you that she will call him Ishmael.

11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 52). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Accord to the Oxford Commentary, the practice of a slave-girl acting as a surrogate for a barren wife was common throughout this area. So Hagar is going to have a boy and he will be “a wild ass of a man”. SPOILER ALERT: He will not be Abram’s heir. We’ll see soon enough. Another point in the Commentary is that God is not present in the messenger, but in the message. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth and, as foretold, we can call him Ishmael.

Chapter 17

Finally, God reiterates his covenant and then renames Abram (exalted ancestor) to the more familiar, Abraham (ancestor of multitudes), because God can just do that. He continues reiterating his covenant; lots of land, lots of descendants, kings will come from him. In exchange, all Abraham and his heir have to do is remember God and get circumcised because cutting off the foreskin will be a sign of the covenant.

I mean, really? Couldn’t God have given Abraham and his descendants a cool birthmark or a special card or something else to mark the covenant? Nope, God wants foreskins. Every male currently living among them including slaves, and every male born thereafter. That also includes any slaves purchased from elsewhere. As if slavery wasn’t bad enough already, now they have to be mutilated. I think I’ve spent enough (read: way too much time) on this subject.

God also renames Sarai, Sarah, and blesses her with the ability to bear a son at the ripe, old age of ninety-nine, as Abraham states. God tells him that he will name him Isaac. Ishmael will still be pretty successful and will father twelve princes and will be made a great nation, but the covenant will be with Isaac. We end this chapter with one-hundred year-old Abraham doing a little snip-snip on the men of his house. That wouldn’t be at all awkward.