Archive | April 2012

Genesis: The Death of Sarah

Genesis 23:1-20

At a hundred and twenty-seven years old, Sarah dies. She dies at Kiriath Arba (Hebron) which is in the land of Canaan. Abraham speaks to the Hittites and asks them to sell him property to bury his deceased wife. They offer him prime burial tombs to bury his wife for free. Abraham declines, and again asks to buy land to bury his wife. Ephron the Hittite replies to Abraham’s offer and tells him that he is willing to give him the field he wants as well as the cave at no cost. Abraham insists on paying for the land, and be deeded the property. He is told that four hundred shekels is the going rate for the property in question. Abraham pays the four hundred shekels for the property, and the land is deeded to him. Abraham then buries his wife in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre.

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Genesis: Nahor’s Sons

Genesis 22:20-24

This is another passage that gives a list of descendants–the descendants of Abraham’s brother Nahor. There is not much of interest here. Nahor’s wife Milcah gives birth to eight sons: Uz, Buz, Kemuel, Kesed, Hazo, Pidash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. Kemuel is the father of Aram, and Bethuel is the father of Rebekah. Nahor’s concubine Reumah (another example of polygamy) gave birth to these sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

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Genesis: Abraham Tested

Genesis 22:1-19

This passage opens with some poorly written dialogue, in my opinion of course. God calls out Abraham’s name and Abraham responds with, “Here I am.” I find this ridiculous. God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac, whom God had promised to be born to him for many years, his son whom Abraham loves so much, and to sacrifice his son on an altar as a burnt offering to please God. Abraham does not think twice, the next morning he saddles his donkey, gathers fire wood, and brings with him his son and two of his servants. When they arrive at the location where God told him to sacrifice his son, Abraham turned to his servants and told them to wait while he and his son worship; they will return when they have finished. Abraham has his son carry the fire wood, and he carries the fire and the knife. As they are heading up the mountain, Isaac asks his father, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham tells his son that God will provide the lamb. When they arrive, Abraham builds an altar and places firewood on it. He then ties his son down to the altar, and is about to slice open his son when an angel at the last moment stops him. The angel tells Abraham that it was all a test, and now that God knows that Abraham is willing to eviscerate his own son to please God without hesitation, he does not have to continue. He’s promised the same thing God has promised him before: numerous descendants and that his descendants will conquer their rivals. Abraham has already been promised these things and passed the tests that came with them. It sounds like God is trying to go back on his word. Abraham then spots a ram, he then places the ram on the altar, and offers it as a burnt offering to God. Abraham leaves with his servants and his son to Beersheba, where they will stay.

This is not the act of a benevolent God. God clearly enjoys toying with people’s emotions, and torturing them. How could any father, who really loves his son, be willing to kill his son? No sane parent would, I hope, eviscerate their child, and then burn their child’s disemboweled corpse on an altar. Luckily, our rational, secular society locks these parents up, and treats them for the psychiatric conditions they have. Can you imagine how afraid Isaac must have been? Laying there on that altar, with his father looming over him, seconds away from plunging his knife through his chest, and running it down, opening up his abdomen so his bowels spill out. I can imagine him pleading with his father not to end his life so prematurely, tears streaming down his face, gasping for air as he frantically struggles to no avail. His father stands above him callous, his faith unshaken, resolute in murdering his own child to please his God. His God waits, relishes this moment, the desperate cries of the child ringing throughout the mountains, and just as God is sure that Abraham is committed to murdering his own son, an angel prevents it.

One could interpret that maybe Abraham knew God would not allow him to murder his son. He did say to his servants, “We will worship and then we will return to you.” When Isaac asked about the lamb, Abraham told his son, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” If this is the case then, Abraham is not a psychopath.  I don’t buy it though. God, if he exists and is all-knowing, would have seen right through this. I imagine He would not have stopped Abraham. In either case, God would still be responsible for the suffering of Abraham’s child. One can only imagine what type of emotional trauma would result from an experience like this. God still wanted Abraham to attempt to murder his son.

We hear of people, every year or two, who drown their children in bathtubs, cut off their hands, etc., and people think they are crazy, and they are. What if, like some of them claim, God had told them to perform these heinous acts? This time he just did not stop them. This is assuming the Judaeo-Christian God exists. If we lived in a theocratic society that is based on the Bible, would not they be justified in performing such atrocities to their children, so long as God commanded it. If God is real, and he commands the murdering of one’s child, then we would not have any authority to stop them, or reprimand them. Luckily our society has outgrown the morality of the ancient Mesopotamian societies represented in these stories. Sadly, there are some people who would like to enforce this morality on us.

So I say to the faithful, it’s time to do a little “soul” searching. Is this the morality you want our society to follow, or are our secular laws that deem people who perform heinous acts, in the name of God or otherwise, a better alternative?

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Genesis: The Birth of Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away, & The Treaty of Beersheba

Genesis 21:1-34

The Birth of Isaac

As the Lord promised, Sarah gives birth to a son when Abraham is a hundred years old. They name the son Isaac as they said they would. Abraham circumcised the boy after eight days like his covenant with God commands.

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

By the time Isaac had been weaned, Sarah had noticed that the son of Abraham’s other wife was beginning to mock Isaac. Sarah commands Abraham to “ ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ ” (If you remember, Sarah told Abraham to take Hagar and have a son with her.) Abraham was concerned with sending his son and his other wife out into the desert, but God tells him to do as Sarah commanded because he will make a nation out of Ishmael. Abraham packs them food and water, and sent her off with their son. The two wander into the desert of Beersheba. They run out of water and Hagar sets the boy under one of the bushes. She sits away from the child under the shade of a tree. She says to herself, “ ‘I cannot watch the boy die.’ ” God, hearing the helpless cries of the child, comes to Hagar and asks what is wrong. She tells the Lord that they are out of water. God tells her not to be afraid and pick up her child, and that He will make a nation out of her son. Then Hagar spots a well of water, and refills her skin (a pouch to carry water) and gives the child a drink. The boy grows up and becomes an archer. He lives his life in the Desert of Paran, and his mother finds him a wife from Egypt.

This is the first passage (that I find evidence of) where God shows true signs of compassion. For me, this doesn’t excuse the further and past atrocities He commits, but it is pleasant to read a passage that isn’t all about animal sacrifice and genocide. I’m sure even Genghis Khan had his good days.

The Treaty of Beersheba

The king that Abraham swindles, Abimelech, and Phicol, the commander of his forces, come to Abraham. Abimelech asks if Abraham will swear that he will no longer deal falsely with him, his children, or his descendants, and that Abraham will show him and the country he is living in as an alien with the same kindness as the king had shown him.  Abraham agrees to do so. Abraham complains about a well Abimelech’s people had seized. The king claims to not be aware of this, and to have only just heard this. Abraham brings to the king some sheep and cattle to make a treaty. Abraham sets apart seven ewe lambs (young female sheep, also the first time we see the number seven). The king asks why he has set these lambs apart, and Abraham replies, “ ‘Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’ ” The treaty was made, and the king and his commander left. Abraham continued to live in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

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Genesis: Abraham and Abimelech

Genesis 20:1-18

Abraham, the great con-artist, is up to his old tricks again in this tale. Abraham moves into the region of Negev and lived in Gerar. There, he and his wife are approached by the king of that region, Abimelech. Like they did in Egypt, Abraham and Sarah told the king they were brother and sister, not husband and wife. The king then takes Sarah to be his wife. God then comes to the king in a dream and tells him that he is as good as dead, because he has taken Sarah to be his wife. The king had not laid with Sarah, so he asks God if He would destroy an innocent nation. He tells God that he was innocent, because Abraham had told the king they were siblings. God then tells him that He knows that he did this in good conscience, and that is why He prevented the king from touching her. Here God has suspended free will. God is willing to step in and prevent this king from having sex with Abraham’s wife, but God is not willing to step in and prevent Lot’s daughters from raping their father.

Abimelech calls for his officials and told them what had happened. He then calls for Abraham and asks, why did he do this? Abraham says his reason for such treachery was because he believed that this city did not have the fear of God. Abraham does go on to admit that he did not lie, Sarah and him are brother and sister–half-brother and half-sister, same father. Another instance of incest (I am considering a counter for each account of incest). Abraham claims to have told Sarah that for her to show her love of him, she is to tell everyone that Abraham is her brother wherever they go.

Just like in Egypt, Abraham walks away from this situation a wealthier man. The king gives him sheep and cattle, male–who must now be circumcised–and female slaves, and returned his wife to him. The king also gives him a thousand shekels of silver. Abraham prays for the king so that he will be forgiven, and leaves now a richer man. It is said that God had closed up the wombs of Sarah and the female slaves while Sarah was with the king, and now that Sarah has return the wombs are returned to normal. The prophet of God, the great con man, Abraham, has swindled another king.

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Genesis: Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed & Lot and His Daughters

Genesis 19-1:38

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed  

The biblical account of these two infamous cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, are a permanent fixture in western society. Sodomy comes from the word Sodom, and implies a bigoted view toward homosexuals, all based on the biblical account of this city. Christians, and many other religions from the middle-east, source this account as justification for the vile, bigoted language and actions against homosexuals. They use this as an attempt to support their belief that homosexuals should not be granted equal rights. People read this passage with blinders, I think, because they are told ahead of time that this is a story about God’s hatred towards homosexuals. With these blinders up, they fail to see the other horrors done, not only by the people God does choose to save, but by God Himself.

The two angels that left Abraham’s house arrive at Sodom. When they arrive, they are greeted by Lot. Lot invites them into his home; they refuse and say they will spend the night in the square, but Lot is persuasive and they decided to join him in his home. Lot cooks them a meal, and they eat. Before they go to bed, men from across the city gather around his house, because they desire the men whom Lot is housing. The men tell Lot to let the men he is housing out, so they can have sex with them. Lot, in an attempt to spare the men he is housing, offers his two virgin daughters to be raped by this mob of men instead, then to have them rape some men whom he did not know. Sodomy is not the sin of this story, it’s rape. Rape is the theme of this passage, as we will see later. The crime intended to be committed was rape, but they preferred to rape the men instead of Lot’s daughters, whom he offered so casually. This shows this society’s contempt for women. They were merely an object, property, to be used. This is a man of very low character, and not even a decent father. If he were a heroic man, and was to offer anyone up for rape, it should have been himself. Heroism is defined by self-sacrifice, and this man apparently is not a hero. Instead this man offers his two virgin daughters to participate in an orgy, a gang-bang of biblical proportions, that would make even the most experienced of porn starlets blush at the thought. Yet, this is the man the angels, and God, decided to save. The angels pull Lot back inside the home and tell him to go tell his sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, etc., that the end is nigh. When Lot tells them this news they laugh at him, and dismissed his message. With dawn approaching, the angels tell Lot to take his daughters and his wife and leave before the city was destroyed. He hesitated, so the angels whisked them away to safety. Not his extended family though, even though they apparently deserved to be saved. One angel tells him to flee to the mountains, but Lot asks God if fleeing to a small city–Zoar–nearby would be adequate; God accepts. The mercy of God’s wrath is conditional of course, they are not to look back on the destroyed city as they flee. After they reach the city, the sun breaks across the horizon and God destroys the city. As we all know, Lot’s wife looks back, and is turned into a pillar of salt. Even though she was apparently a good enough person to be saved, she is punished by God’s wrath, because of curiosity. In this case curiosity did not kill the cat, but the disobedient servant of the Lord. According to the bible, God rains burning sulfur down on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. One could infer a different conclusion–something other than a spiteful god raining death down on a population–perhaps, it was instead, a simple volcanic eruption. In the morning, Abraham comes out and sees the cities burning. The Bible says that because God remembered Abraham, He saved Lot. This isn’t really what God promised Abraham. He promised him that if he found at least ten people who were righteous He would spare the city. From the viewpoint of the Lord, He did find them, Lot’s family, but instead he chose to kill them and save only Lot and his daughters. As I argued earlier, Lot is clearly not a righteous man, yet somehow, he is saved while the others perished.

Lot and His Daughters

Lot and his daughter leave the city of Zoar, and head to the mountains. They find shelter in a cave, and live there. The eldest daughter tells the younger daughter that it would be a good idea to get their father drunk, and have sex with him, since there is no other man for them to have sex with. They proceed with this plan, and the eldest daughter has sex with her father first. The next night the younger daughter has sex with him as well. The Bible claims that Lot was unaware of what was happening, but I find this hard to believe. He had to be aware enough to become erect, and perform his part in this transfer of fluids to produce a new life. If he was not lucid and his daughter forced themselves on him, then they raped their father. Again, rape seems to be the theme of this chapter. Yet, God seems to be fine with this incest. No angels sent to destroy them in this cave. God looks down on sodomy and the rape of angels, but incest and the raping of one’s father, that is fine. If the daughters believed that they were the last humans on the Earth, God could have stopped this incest from happening. All he had to do was come down and say to them that there were other men out there. Clearly incest is acceptable to God. Now the daughters have two bastard sons: Moab, the father of the Moabites, and Ben-Ammi, father of the Ammonites.

I think the point has been made that those who look to this chapter as moral support for their bigotry towards homosexuals can no longer do so. This chapter is void of any morality. This, in my opinion, is the most immoral chapter of the Bible I have read so far. So I pose this question to the faithful, how does one see morality in this chapter?

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Genesis: The Three Visitors & Abraham Pleads for Sodom

Genesis 18:1-33

The Three Visitors

The Lord comes to visit Abraham with two other men. Abraham rushes over to greet the three of them, and offer food and water to wash their feet. Abraham goes to his first wife Sarah and tells her to bake some bread. Then Abraham, knowing of the Lord’s hunger for the infantile flesh of young bovines, chooses a calf and orders his servant to prepare it for his guests. Abraham then brings to his guests some curds, milk, and the prepared calf. While they ate, Abraham stands near them under a tree. They ask where his wife Sarah is, and Abraham tells them she is in the tent. The Lord tells Abraham, again, that when he returns in a year, Sarah will give birth to a son. Sarah was eavesdropping, and when she heard this she laughed. Because she is old, so how could she give birth to a child? The Lord responds to her laughter by posing this rhetorical question to her: ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ The obvious answer to this question–if the Judaeo-Christian God, or any deity, does in-fact exist, which there is little evidence to support such an claim–is indeed yes, or, for those that do believe in this deity, it must be yes to reconcile their deity’s contempt for the suffering of billions of our fellow humans. I am of course alluding to that famous Epicurus quote that we Atheist enjoy so much. I hesitate to get into a discussion on the famous quote of Epicurus because first, I think it is slightly contrived, and second, I think there will be a more opportune time to discuss it. If you are not familiar with Epicurus’s argument then do so with haste. It is a philosophical argument that all should at least ponder on for a moment. Now, Sarah lies and tells the Lord that she did not laugh, but the Lord calls her out on her lie, and say, ‘Yes, you did laugh’.

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

The three men get up to leave and Abraham walk with them to see them out. The men look upon Sodom, and the Lord plans to go there to see if the people of Sodom deserve his wrath for their sins. The Lord questions whether He should tell his servant his plans, but in the end decides to do so. Abraham asks the Lord, what if there are fifty people who are righteous, will you spare the city for them? The Lord says he would spare it. Abraham goes on to ask the same question, but each time lowering the number of people who are righteous until he gets to ten people. The Lord each time says he would spare the city if said number of righteous people were found in the city. Abraham is obviously interested because, if you remember, his nephew Lot lives in Sodom. When the two finish their discussion they part.

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