A week later than intended, but here it finally is: part one of my Bible reading project. Today’s post will only cover a small part, mainly because the week in which I read this section was shorter than usual due to a holiday. That said, there was plenty to comment on…
Before I start, let me please reiterate to all the Bible sites that started following my blog after my first announcement: I am an atheist and I will likely insult your religion. I honestly haven’t started this solely in order to do so, but sheesh, it’s going to be so fucking easy…
So here we go, Genesis 1 to 26, covering creation, giants, incest and a tiny Chewbacca.
Even among the uninitiated it is probably widely known that Genesis 1 covers creation. The six days in which God created light and dark, separated the waters, created heaven and earth, plants, the sun and the moon, birds and sea creatures, land animals and man. In that order. Except in Genesis 2, God creates man after heaven and earth and before all the plants and animals, then creates the animals so that man can have helpers and won’t be alone. Two chapters in and we already have a contradiction!
To be fair, this is clearly a piece of lore written down, presumably after a long time of oral transmission, so faults are bound to creep in.
(Fun fact! According to my mother, when she was a child, her teacher or pastor insisted that men had one rib less than women, because God created woman from the rib of the first man.)
Moving on to Genesis 3, where man and woman live blissfully in the garden of Eden, having been warned by God not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We all know how that ended, but God then banishes them from Eden ‘lest they also eat from the Tree of Life and live forever’. This makes me wonder: were there two trees from which they weren’t meant to eat, or were they initially allowed to eat from that one but just hadn’t got round to it? Or maybe option three: the tree of life will make you live forever, but you have to keep eating from it. We’ll never know!
Genesis 4 moves on to Cain and Abel*. Cain worked the land and Abel was a shepherd, and when both offered the fruits of their labour as a sacrifice to God, He rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s. No reason is given, and frankly, if I’d been Cain, I’d have been pissed off too. Maybe God dislikes vegetarianism? Still, killing Abel was obviously a massive overreaction.
Cain then flees to the land of Nod (this is less funny in Dutch than in English, unfortunately) and has sex with his wife.
Wait, what? What wife? Weren’t Cain’s parents the first people on earth? But no, apparently there’s a whole bunch of people living in Nod. I’m going to put this one down to oral lore tradition again.
Genesis 5 has all the begetting and the listing of every descendant of Adam, all of whom appear to have lived over 900 years. Colour me sceptical.
Genesis 6 is a bit odd. It says that the sons of God found the daughters of man beautiful, and they took them for their wives. It also says ‘The giants were upon the earth in those days’. It feels out of place with what’s come before this.
Genesis 7 immediately moves on to the wickedness of man and God’s intention to punish them by flooding the earth. I remember being extremely surprised when I first read the Bible that the whole noachian flood happens this early on. This bit is pretty well-known, of course, so I’ll skip the ark and move on to what happens after.
Noah, having been saved, plants a vineyard, makes wine and gets blind stinking drunk (yes, that escalated quickly). We’re in Genesis 9 now. Having done this, he gets naked and lies in his tent. Noah’s son Cham walks in on him, then tattles to his brothers Sem and Jafet. Those two then walk backwards into Noah’s tent with a cloak to cover his nakedness. When Noah wakes, he promptly curses Cham for ‘what his youngest son had done to him’. Here too I’m puzzled. Did I miss something? Was there some hidden euphemism in there I don’t understand, or is it really the fact that Cham went ‘hey guys, dad’s in his tent, stinking drunk and butt naked’ that pisses him off so much?
Moving on to Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel. For such a well-known tale, the whole thing is surprisingly short – only nine verses are devoted to this, and all it says is that when God sees the tower, he says that nothing that the people (who are building it) will try to do will be beyond their power, and because of that he’ll mix up their speech so they won’t understand each other anymore. Because he fears competition? Either that or it’s just a massive power trip.
The rest of Genesis 11 moves on to Abram, son of Terach. Terach had three sons, Abram, Nachor and Haran. They take wives, and Nachor takes Haran’s daughter Milka for his wife, which I find just a little bit creepy. I realise that I have to take this in the context of the culture at the time, but given the amount of people in the Bible who marry their nieces or cousins, I’m surprised the Israelite people didn’t all have webbed feet.
Now Abram lives in Ur of the Chaldeans, which my little Bible map places in what is nowadays Kuwait. From there he moves to Canaan (Israel) and then to Egypt, where he asks his wife Sarai to pretend she’s his sister, because she’s beautiful and he fears the Egyptians will kill him if they learn she’s his wife. She’s then promptly snatched up by the Pharaoh, except God strikes him with all sorts of nastiness for taking the wife of another man. Pharaoh then gives Abram shedloads of stuff (and his wife back) so Abram leaves Egypt a rich man. This is all a bit fishy and underhand if you ask me, but hey, God is with them, so it’s all good.
Genesis 17 describes the pact between God and Abram, where he is renamed Abraham (and his wife Sarai is now Sara) and circumcision is dictated as evidence of the pact. And I really don’t know what to say to that, because when I want to make a pact with someone else, circumcision really isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. But then I’m not God, of course.
Genesis 19 is the bit that stuck with me the longest after I my first Bible-reading try. This chapter covers Sodom and Gomorrah, and this is what actually happens. God sends two men (angels in disguise) to Sodom, and Abraham bids Him to spare the city if they can find but ten righteous people in it. Abraham’s nephew Lot lives in Sodom, and he insists that the visitors stay in his house rather than sleeping in the square. Then after they’ve eaten, all the men in the city surround Lot’s house and demand that he gives them the two strangers, so that they can have sex with them. Lot then tells them they cannot have the men, but he has two virgin daughters he’ll offer them instead, to do with as they please.
Bear in mind that throughout my Biblical youth, Lot was presented to me as a righteous man. In fact, he was the only righteous man in Sodom. And then I read this and I thought What the fucking fuck??
And then it kind of gets even worse. Lot escapes Sodom with his daughters (not his wife, because she looks around and turns into a salt pillar) and takes up residence in a cave in the mountains. His daughters then lament the fact that there is no man left on earth to give them children, so they get Lot drunk and get pregnant from him. And they become the Moabites and the Ammonites.
I’m not going to say anything more about that, because I still have no words. In Genesis 20 we go back to Abraham, who once again pulls the ‘she’s not my wife, she’s my sister’ trick and once again has his wife stolen by another man. God then tells the other man what he’s inadvertently done, and when he calls Abraham and asks him why on earth he did that, Abraham again gives the excuse that he was afraid he’d be killed. And besides, she really is his sister, because she’s the daughter of his father, but not the daughter of his mother. So he married his half-sister. The incest just doesn’t stop!
Genesis 22 made me giggle, because Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac in Moria. There really are some parallels with Lord of the Rings! Anyway, Isaac marries Rebecca, who is yet another family member, in that she’s the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother (the one who married his niece).
I’ll finish today’s post with Genesis 25 and the birth of Jacob and Esau. Esau was the firstborn, and the Bible describes him as ‘russet, entirely like a hairy cloak’. So now I will never lose the image in my head of Esau as a baby Chewbacca.
Subsequent posts will not nearly be as detailed as this, but an awful lot happens in Genesis, and much of it just boggles my mind. Next time we’ll move into Exodus.
*Readers must forgive me for any odd spellings of less familiar names. My Bible is Dutch, and I really can’t be arsed to look up the English version of every single name in the Bible which isn’t immediately familiar to me. I should be fine with some of the Bible’s more well-known protagonists.