Deconstructing Genesis-Part 7

Sarai & Hagar

1.

This next tale, like all of the animal sacrifice (more of which is found in later books of The Old Testament) and odd customs, such as sprinkling animal blood upon altars and upon their congregations (also in later books) is something I didn’t expect to find in The Holy Bible. It has a tawdriness to it, not to mention inherent misogyny operating on multiple levels. In fact, the story serves no purpose except to explain how Abram’s son, Ishmael, came to be.

Perhaps it was simple naiveté on my part, but many such stories in The Old Testament had the same effect on me. Again, I expected more fable-type passages, bolstering all of the fundamentalists’ claims that God is all-loving and benign. But these stories, when viewed in their proper context as a whole, paint a much different picture of Judaic and Christian origins, indeed.

And, like the story of Lot and his daughters in the cave outside of Sodom—which we will get to in due time—the story of Sarai and Hagar isn’t one which Judaists or Christians like to dwell upon.

Thus far in the narrative, Sarai has been nothing but a good and faithful wife. She went along with Abram’s schemes in Egypt, and stuck with him through thick and thin. Unfortunately, though, Sarai wasn’t able to bear Abram any children, which must have left her feeling quite inadequate. So, still good, still faithful, Sarai looked to her Egyptian maid, Hagar, for an answer:

Genesis 16:2, And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

Yeah, I’ll bet he hearkened.

Just as fast as he could.

3.

Genesis 16:3, 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.

Talk about devotion, eh?

Abram, of course, fulfilled his wife’s wishes, and Hagar conceived. But Sarai’s plan backfired. After giving birth, Hagar turned on her mistress, despising Sarai (Genesis 16:4). And when Sarai saw this, she lamented to Abram that she’d made a mistake, entreating The Lord to judge between her and Hagar (Genesis 16:5).

Genesis 16:6, 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.

And now we have Abram giving Sarai free reign to treat Hagar as she pleased. And “dealt hardly” is an interesting turn of phrase. Given the nature and tone of this story, one has to assume that Sarai did more than just berate Hagar. And whatever abuse Hagar suffered at the hand (or rod) of Sarai, it was enough to make Hagar flee from the house of Abram.

4.

Now, before we go any further, let’s just take a moment to fully examine the situation as it stands. The author(s) of Genesis certainly haven’t painted a very flattering picture of God’s chosen disciple, or his wife. Abram, it seems, was all too happy to marry Hagar (because having multiple wives is moral, but having sex without marriage is not), impregnate her, then wash his hands of the situation afterwards. There is also no mention of whether or not Hagar had any choice in the matter, or why she grew to despise her mistress after giving birth. But I think it’s safe to say that, being a mere servant, Hagar was coerced into a loathsome situation and quite rightly loathed her mistress for it.

And let us not forget that the whole scheme was Sarai’s idea in the first place. She could’ve chosen to be merciful, but no. Instead, she “dealt hardly” with Hagar. And Abram let her.

So far, this story begs the question:

How cruel, capricious, and daft can two people possibly be?

5.

Now, just in case you’re wondering what Almighty Jehovah thought about all of this:

Genesis 16:7, And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

I’m sure there are differing interpretations amongst biblical scholars as to what “angel of the lord” means, but to the layman it’s very clear. Either God Himself has found Sarai, or one of His underlings has found Sarai. And either way, it’s God’s will being carried out.

Genesis 16:8, 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.

Unfortunately, this last passage doesn’t really clear things up. One could assume it’s God speaking since He’s always referred to in the masculine form throughout The Holy Bible. On the other hand; most, if not all, of the holy angels also have male names. Of course, whoever may be speaking, He continues God’s irritating habit of asking wholly asinine questions which gods and angels should already know the answers to.

And as to His command? Well, as He is often wont to do, God—or His angel—decided to get personally involved with His creations at this point. Again, I have to question not only God’s judgment but His followers’ claims of being benevolent and all-loving. Given Hagar’s plight, would a benevolent, all-loving deity have bade her thus?:

Genesis 16:9, And the angel of the Lord said unto her, return to thy mistress and submit thyself under her hands.

In other words: return to your servitude.

In exchange, however, The Lord—or His angel—offers what seems to be the most prized of gifts to Hagar if she agrees to obey His command: more children (Genesis 16:10). Then, Hagar is told that her child shall be named Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), and is even given a quite a preview of the man Ishmael is to become:

Genesis 16:12, 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.

Sounds like quite a guy, this Ishmael.

But here the mystery of who is addressing Hagar seems to clear up:

Genesis 16: And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest: for she said, have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

So it was God, after all.

6.

So, at the ripe old age of eighty-six, Abram became a father (Genesis 16:16). Thus ends the quaint little tale of Sarai and Hagar, and there just isn’t much else to say about it—except that it reads like a blueprint of modern soap operas. And, of course, it’s worth noting again how misogynistic the story is, with both women bringing worry and strife to poor Abram.

Oh, and there is one other small item of note:

In Genesis 17:16, God decides to grant the previously infertile Sarai a son, which renders the whole thing pointless to begin with.

***

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Deconstructing Genesis-Part 6

Abraham & The Covenant

1.

After scattering mankind across the globe and confusing their language to hinder progress, God decided to take a breather from meddling in human affairs. During this period, The Book Of Genesis goes on to list the generations of Shem, son of Noah (Genesis 11:10-11:32). And from there, The Lord, for whatever reason, chose a man named Abram to be the next bearer of His holy direction.

Thus, Jehovah commanded Abram (soon to be known as Abraham) to leave the land of Haran and journey to Canaan, promising to bless Abram, to make his name great, and to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-12:2).

2.

Abram, his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran (Genesis 12:5) ventured into Canaan as God commanded. Once there, The Lord appeared to Abram again, promising the land unto his seed (Genesis 12:7).

Of course, Canaan refers to what we now know as Israel and its surrounding territories. Therefore, this particularly salient passage of The Old Testament lays the foundation for the Hebrews’ claim to that historically troubled region. It’s also important to note that many different mythologies emanated from this very diverse area. Further, it’s important to note that most mythologies, no matter what region they originate from, tend to base all of their legends, fables, and tales around that particular region.

And that fact is a direct result of widespread ignorance about the scope of the world. Or else God might have revealed the existence of indigenous peoples in parts of the world which weren’t officially “discovered” until much later. Because, judging by the mythological beliefs of the North and South American Indian tribes, Jehovah never made His presence known to them at all.

3.

Having been reassured by God, Abram and his band of wanderers journeyed south, into the famished land of Egypt (Genesis 12:9-12:10). Before entering, however, Abram came to a sudden realization. His betrothed, Sarai, was considered very fair, and Abram figured that the Egyptians would look upon her and want to possess her, which meant that his life would be in danger. So he came up with a plan: instead of entering Egypt as husband and wife, he decided that it would be much safer traveling through as brother and sister (Genesis 12:11-12:13).

So, it came to pass that Sarai’s beauty compelled the pharaoh to have her brought before him. And, thinking Sarai to be Abram’s sister, the Pharaoh insisted on taking her for his wife. Abram fared well from this, though, as the Pharaoh bestowed upon him sheep, oxen, asses, and servants (Genesis 12:14-12:16).

Big mistake:

Genesis 12:17, And The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

Seems fair, right? Pharaoh, having been deceived, was punished by God because of something he didn’t know. Does that sound like something a just God would do? And let us not overlook the wording of this passage. The Pharaoh was plagued because of Sarai? How is that? For one, it was Abram’s deception; Sarai was merely going along with the ruse her husband dreamt up. Not to mention, God is the one who actually punished the Pharaoh. If anyone is to blame for the plagues, it is Jehovah, and I’m sure the Pharaoh would agree.

But then, why would the authors blame God when they already have a suitable scapegoat in the form of Abram’s wife…

A woman.

4.

Genesis 12:18, And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

Why, indeed.

The Pharaoh, incensed at their trickery, sent Abraham and Sarai from his land (Genesis 12:20). Thus, Abram, Sarai, and Lot, left Egypt and journeyed south (Genesis 13:1). But Abram and Lot were both men of great substance, and there arose strife between their herdsmen (Genesis 13:7). Instead of war, however, a levelheaded compromise was reached. The two men agreed to go separate ways, and Lot (whom we’ll read about more later) pitched his tent toward the city of Sodom (Genesis 13:13).

With his nephew gone, Abram chose to dwell in the land of Canaan. The Lord appeared to him then, promising Abram the ownership of all the land which he could see, and to increase his progeny so that they rivaled all the dust of the earth in number (Genesis 13:14-13:17).

5.

Unfortunately for Lot, The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah went to war. Several kingdoms in the area known as The Vale Of Siddim warred with each other, smote each other, and, eventually, the kings of those two wicked sister-states fled to a mountain (Genesis 14:1-14:10). The kings took everything, including their people, which included Lot, as well (Genesis 14:11-14:12). But one escaped, and proceeded to tell Abram of Lot’s fate (Genesis 14:13).

Upon hearing that Lot had been kidnapped, Abram armed his servants and pursued the refugees of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 14:14). By night, Abram and his servants smote the kidnappers, and brought back all of their goods. He also brought back the people, including his nephew, Lot (Genesis 14:16).

Afterward, the King of Salem emerged to praise Abram (Genesis 14:18-14:20). Then the King of Sodom beseeched Abram for the return of his people, allowing Abram to keep the goods (Genesis 14:21). Abram, invoking The Lord, declined the goods, and wished only to keep the men who had went with him (Genesis 14:24).

6.

Genesis 15:1, After these things the word of The Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Abram, perhaps wondering when he was going to reap his rewards, responded—quite riskily, I hasten to add, considering God’s history of venting His wrath—that he didn’t have an heir to the kingdom he’d been promised (Genesis, 15:2-15:3). Abram’s wife, Sarai, was barren (Genesis 11:30), and without an heir Abram’s words seem to reflect that any such kingdom wouldn’t be worth much in the long run. Of course, one has to assume that Abram’s faith in The Creator, who formed the earth, the heavens, and mankind itself, must have soothed him somewhat.

I know that if God began speaking to me exclusively, I would be pretty confident about life in general.

So, in response to Abram’s grievance, God reiterated His promise of a kingdom, then promised that Abram will in fact be granted an heir from his own bowels (Genesis 15:4-15:5). Abram believed God’s words (Genesis 15:6), and asked Him how he will know when the time comes. And God’s answer—to me, anyway—was very interesting:

Genesis 15:9, 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.

Abram followed God’s command, bringing all of the animals together except for the two birds (Genesis 15:10), but the text is unclear as to why and for what. The next verse, however, sums it up pretty well:

Genesis 15:11, And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

Carcasses. That denotes death. Therefore, we must assume that Abram sacrificed these animals. This isn’t new, of course. Abel, a keeper of sheep, sacrificed the firstlings of his flock to God…and it should be remembered that Abel received The Lord’s favor for this act while Cain and his offering of fruit did not.

7.

Genesis 15:12, And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.

It should here be noted that receiving messages from the deities while asleep is another motif which permeates all mythologies, and Christianity is no different. Perhaps such stories are primitive man’s way of explaining the phenomena of dreams and nightmares, which as we all know can manifest as joyous, terrifying, odd, or even banal. And with Abram in a deep sleep, Jehovah speaks to him thus:

Genesis 15:13, And he said unto Abram, know of a surety that thy seed  shall be stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.

Pretty rough news for Abram if you ask me. First, God tells him that he will gain possession of all Canaan, then God tells him—while in the “horror of a great darkness,” mind you—that his progeny will be slaves for four hundred years. And to what end? If God favors Abram and his seed, then why punish them in this fashion? Not to mention, why was God playing favorites amongst His creations?

Of course, Jehovah plays favorites all throughout The Old Testament, and as we shall see, being God’s favorite doesn’t seem to bring much fortune or happiness. But getting back to Abram, God reassures him that He shall also judge the enslaving nation, and that his people will be rewarded in the long run (Genesis 15:14). Next, God tells Abram that he will die peacefully (Genesis 15:15). There are no passages in which Abram responds, but one has to assume that his fears had to be assuaged by The Lord’s words.

Thus, was the covenant with Abram made.

***

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Deconstructing Genesis-Part 5

The Tower Of Babel

1.

At the start of this section I must confess that, of all the stories in The Old Testament, this one upsets me the most. So far, God has created the earth and the heavens, cursed Adam, Eve, and Cain, destroyed the earth with a flood, then blessed Noah and his progeny, making a covenant with Noah to never again drown every living thing.
How much more capricious, how much more vindictive, can Jehovah possibly become?

Well, let’s see…

2.

Genesis 11:1, And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

I realize that such a state of affairs would be almost impossible from an anthropological point of view, and that this also highlights how ignorant The Holy Testament’s authors were to the actual scope of the world around them, but let’s just stop and consider how beneficial this would be to the human race if it were true:

Optimal communication between all societies.

A deeper and clearer understanding of all cultures.

No issues regarding translation of one tongue to another.

Greater cooperation on an international level.

Now, one might argue that a homogenized environment such as this could get rather boring—and from an aesthetic standpoint, who could argue?—but just imagine how much further along the human race would be with such a vital, unifying element like language bringing us all together.

You’d think that an all-knowing, all-loving Creator would specifically make it so, and take pains to ensure that the state of the world remained so. But, as His worshipers always say, The Lord works in mysterious ways. And what He decided to do next can at best be described as mysterious.

At worst, I would describe it as obtuse and downright petty.

3.

So. It came to pass that the people, in their homogenized, unified state, decided to build a city, and a tower which would reach all the way to Heaven, where their ubiquitous Creator supposedly languished (Genesis 11:4). And who could blame them? Why not, if it was within their power? Who wouldn’t want to reach Heaven and gaze upon such perfection with earthly eyes?

But did God look down upon His creation, His people, with loving eyes? Did He commend them for working together in peace and for being efficient?

Read for yourself:

Genesis 11:6, And The Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they all have one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

It’s hard to imagine why a being with the power to create and destroy would feel the least bit threatened by His own creation, but apparently Jehovah did. Which is why He descended upon the people with the intent to confound their language, and, as if that wasn’t enough, scatter them across the face of the earth (Genesis 11:7-11:9).

4.

WHY?

Why would God do such a thing? Absolutely nothing about this story makes sense. If God abhors violence so much, then what reason could He have possibly had for doing the one act which would virtually ensure discord upon the face of the earth?

This drivel doesn’t even work as a fable.

What’s the moral? That cooperation is bad? That building monuments is somehow a disgrace in the eyes of The Lord? That unity amongst people is nothing more than a pipe dream?

Again, the tale of Babel only makes me question the very nature of God all the more.

5.

I realize, of course, that this story is nothing more than the authors’ crude attempt at explaining how all of the different peoples with all of their different cultures and different languages came to be. I mean, realistically, the authors wrote themselves into a corner nice and early with the Book Of Genesis. If God created Adam and Eve, then all of humanity has a common parentage, so how does that even begin to explain the diversity of the human race?

It doesn’t, which is why it would make more sense to a primitive mind to have God somehow involved with the result…

And, really, that’s what God is for. To explain everything which doesn’t make sense…even if the explanation itself is patently absurd.

***

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Deconstructing Genesis-Part 4

Noah, & The Great Flood

1.

Considering what The Lord eventually decided to do, one has to wonder why He didn’t just start over right after the fiasco with Cain and Abel. After all, Adam and Eve had both let Him down, then their progeny’s failure was twofold (unworthy tribute followed by murder).

It’s amazing how a supposedly perfect being could create such flawed creatures.

Especially when said creatures were made in His image…

2.

Saddened by the loss of their youngest, Adam and Eve did what any bereaved-but-healthy parents would do; they had another child. And another. And another. And those children begot children. And those children begot more children, until soon the world was crawling with humans.

Adam, by the way, lived to the ripe old age of nine hundred and thirty-five (Genesis 5:5). The Bible never mentions Eve again, so we don’t know how old she was when she died. Another oversight, or has Eve just fulfilled her purpose (procreation)?

At any rate, the lineage of Adam and Eve led to humanity’s first savior. And though he’s never given the esteem which Moses and, later, Jesus are given, I feel that in the context of Genesis he’s more deserving of praise than either of those two.

His name, of course, was Noah.

3.

Just a quick side note here, concerning a very interesting passage in this part of the story:

Genesis 6:4, There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

Interesting, indeed! Giants in the earth. What, exactly, is this passage trying to convey? Who are these giants? Are they in reference to mankind? Are they the sons of God who came in unto the daughters, or does this mean that God’s angels, different from the giants, came down to copulate with the women?

Of course, all mythologies which predate Judeo-Christianity have stories of such unions between mortals and gods, resulting in heroes and men of renown. If ever there was a point to be made in favor of the argument that The Holy Bible is a conglomeration of earlier mythologies, then this is it.

4.

So. Let us examine the reasons why God decided to destroy mankind:

Genesis 6:5, And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Again, He made these creatures (all of us), so why did He give us freewill if it only distresses Him?

Genesis 6:6, And it repented The Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. Then why did He make us in the first place?

Genesis 6:7, And The Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Okay, I can perhaps understand being angry at mankind…but why destroy all the animals, too? Other than the serpent in Eden, no animal has given The Lord any reason to be upset. It seems a bit cruel to punish all creatures equally when the lower forms don’t even have freewill…

Can God really be that petty?

Genesis 6:11, The earth was also corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.

If there’s one passage which I would like you to bear in mind throughout this project, it’s this one.

God abhors violence, eh?

We’ll see about that one.

5.

Genesis 6:8, But Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.

And here, God begins His rather disconcerting habit of playing favorites; of choosing one lucky individual to grace with His presence, and to give orders to. Never does He appear to humankind as a whole. Oh, no. He always picks a representative…and puts him (of course, it’s never a woman) through hell.

Thus, having chosen Noah and his family, God instructs the hapless man to build an ark to take refuge in while He goes about His business of destroying the earth. And in this refuge, Noah has been told to bring two of each animal in order to repopulate the earth after God’s cataclysmic tantrum.

Noah did so…then it began to rain.

6.

The definition of the word hypocrisy is, “the professing of publicly approved qualities, beliefs, or feelings that one does not really possess,” but, as common usage tells us, the more prosaic definition is, “do as I say, and not as I do.”

So, let me get this straight. This God, this Creator, who seems to abhor violence, has now decided to drown every living thing upon His world—except, one supposes, all the fish already swimming in the ocean.

Death by drowning.

Water filling up the lungs.

Of women.

Of little children and infants.

Surely, they all weren’t wicked, were they? How can an infant be guilty of anything? If God really is the epitome of virtue, and all-powerful to boot, then why didn’t He choose to show at least that much mercy and spare the blameless?

Then again, I suppose a much more practical question would be: why didn’t the authors of all this nonsense have the intelligence and foresight to have their God do so? You know, just to make Him a bit more sympathetic in the long run…

7.

Now, just in case the story of the Great Flood doesn’t seem ridiculous enough, consider this:

Genesis 7:6, And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.

Well, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this. Suppose for a moment that anyone could actually believe that a human could live for six hundred years; what’s with God charging the task of building such an enormous ark to a man six centuries old?

Perhaps in those days one didn’t hit his stride until the eighth century.

8.

Of course, everyone who’s even remotely familiar with this story knows that God made it rain for forty days and forty nights. What isn’t well-known, however, is that the earth was flooded for one-hundred-and-fifty days (Genesis 7:24).

How comfy Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives—not to mention all those critters—must have been floating around for five months. If The Lord created the earth in only six days, one has to wonder why it took so many just to destroy mankind.

9.

Finally, God commanded Noah and his passengers to go forth (Genesis 8:16), and Noah—rather joyously, one assumes—obeyed. The first thing the grateful six-hundred-year-old man did was pay tribute to the being which had just put him through that horrible experience:

Genesis 8:20, And Noah builded an altar unto The Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

In retrospect—Noah’s, not ours—wouldn’t it seem a bit risky to burn animals in tribute to a God who abhors violence? Apparently, God doesn’t seem to mind this practice, since He demands it throughout The Old Testament. Which begs yet another question:

What, exactly, does God consider unacceptable forms of violence?

If it’s done in tribute to Him, then one must assume that it’s fine. And, of course, being The Almighty, God can cause any sort of violence He wishes, whenever He wants.

10.

At this point, God begins to set some new ground rules for Noah and his clan, and, presumably, for the rest of mankind as it emerges. He announces that every beast upon the earth shall fear man (Genesis 8:2), that every living thing shall be meat for man (Genesis 8:3), but that man cannot eat life which is of his blood (Genesis 8:4), which I interpret as a prohibition against cannibalism.

And, of course, God can’t resist imposing His will in this fashion:

Genesis 8:5, And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.

I guess that’s the price we all have to pay for being created (even though we had no say in our creation), for being destroyed because we acted the way we were created to act, and for being resurrected through Noah’s progeny.

Then, God proclaims:

Genesis 8:6, Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man.

Sounds like a reasonable edict coming from a God who is so angered by violence and wickedness that He drowns almost all of His creations in a holy temper tantrum. And you’ll note the reminder that we were made in His image.

Of course.

How could we forget?

11.

Having already questioned the foresight of the authors, I suppose the joke is on me, because they, in their infinite wisdom, decided to give the story of the great flood a happy ending:

Genesis 8:21, And The Lord smelled a sweet savour; and The Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground anymore for man’s sake; neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done.

Noah and his sons are bade to go forth and repopulate the earth, and God even deigns to appear before Noah and his sons to proclaim a covenant with them:

Genesis 9:11, And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off anymore by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth.

Cheerful, no?

And we even receive an explanation for rainbows, which are a token of the covenant God has made with the earth (Genesis 9:13):

Genesis 9:14, And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud.

So, every time you see a beautiful rainbow in the sky, remember that it’s God’s own special way of reminding you of His promise to never again flood the world with rain. And while you’re contemplating that happy thought, feel free to contemplate yet another joyous notion:

That after all of the hard work and sacrifice Noah had to endure because of humanity’s sins, the poor, venerable ark-builder was lucky and blessed enough to live out another three-hundred-and-fifty years!

Thus:

Genesis 9:29, And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

***

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Deconstructing Genesis-Part 3

When Cain Slew Abel

1.

Having been banished from Eden, Adam and Eve were then forced out into the world. Their punishment, however, didn’t seem to affect their sex life, and they eventually bore two sons:

Cain, and Abel.

And here, beginning with Genesis 4:1, we come to the second fable of The Holy Bible. As with many of the stories in the Old Testament, it has a rather bloody undertone, and shows God to be not only vengeful, but again casts doubt upon his ability to effectively monitor His creations.

2.

One day, as the story goes, the two brothers each brought a tribute to The Lord. Cain, being a tiller of the earth, offered the fruit of the ground. Abel, being a keeper of sheep, offered up the firstlings of his flock. And though it’s not specifically stated, it’s very much implied that Cain didn’t bring the best he had to offer, so God refused his tribute. This rejection angered Cain so much that he vented his wrath upon his own brother (Genesis 4:8).

Thus, Cain rose up and slew Abel…and, apparently, God didn’t bear witness to the first act of fratricide in recorded history:

Genesis 4:9, And The Lord said unto Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?”

This rather naïve question on the part of God also elicited one of the most oft-quoted answers in human history: And he said, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

But God figured everything out fairly quick, declaring that the voice of Abel’s blood cried to Him from the ground (Genesis 4:10), and set a curse upon Cain. Cain protested that he wouldn’t be safe anywhere upon the earth, so God marked him and declared that His vengeance would fall upon anyone who took Cain’s life. Then, having no other recourse, Cain went to the land of Nod, where he later built the city of Enoch.

3.

Of all the things which bother me so much about The Holy Bible, its inconsistencies bother me the most, and here is the first glaring one. Cain’s lament:

Genesis 4:14, “Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that everyone who findeth me shall slay me.”

At this point, God has created a total of two human beings, who in turn have begotten two sons. Who is this “everyone” which Cain refers to? Perhaps Adam and Eve did have other children during their time in Eden, but those people weren’t important enough to mention. Or, more likely, perhaps somewhere along the line a vital piece of Genesis was left out…

Then, of course, we must consider another major oversight:

Genesis, 4:17, And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived.

Huh? Just where did Cain’s unnamed wife come from? This is the only passage in which she’s even mentioned, and it seems awfully convenient (not to mention misogynistic) that she only pops up when it’s time to start explaining how everyone else did get here.

4.

At this point, I feel compelled to point out what I perceive as more anthropological evidence for my argument that man was the creator of his own Jehovah. Because ancient man, in his very limited understanding—especially without any concept of evolution—would assume that humans, along with every other living thing, were fully formed upon creation. That is, the plants and animals around him must’ve been in those exact states when they first appeared. And so it follows that ancient man would’ve concluded that, if they traced their lineage as far back as possible, they’d find two original humans from which the entire human race was conceived.

All of which means that Eve must’ve suffered through many births during her long life. It also means that the entire second generation of human parents were brother and sister.

Of course, science and basic logic teach us that it would be impossible for even the most fecund couple to become the progenitors of such a varied and widespread race, much less populate an entire planet.

5.

Try as I might, I can’t find any moral to the quaint little tale of Cain and Abel. If anything, it serves as a valid commentary on mankind in general. Since we humans first appeared on this planet, we have fought, enslaved, and murdered one another. Nation against nation, brother against brother. And it will probably continue in this vein until man no longer walks the earth.

There is, however, one other subtle lesson to be learned here, as it relates to God. God, as He will later proclaim to the children of Israel, is a vengeful God. And I can’t help but think that the two stories so far—Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, and Cain’s murdering of Abel—are designed not only to foster fear of The Lord’s reprisal in the believer of these words, but they also pile on a hefty dose of guilt as well.

After all, if every man and woman can trace our roots back to the Garden of Eden, then we have a poor lineage, indeed. Two parents who couldn’t seem to obey their Father’s one rule of living in the Garden, and a sibling who murdered his own flesh and blood out of sheer jealousy.

Thus, we have fear, ignorance, repression, and guilt weighing upon us in just the first four chapters.

***

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Deconstructing Genesis-Part 2

Adam, Eve, & The Serpent

1.

Genesis 1:27, So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

After the seventh day, His holy day of rest, God decided to create the beatific Garden of Eden. He then decided that the Garden needed a man to tend it, so He fashioned that man in His own image, breathing life into dust (Genesis 2:7) and creating the first human:

Adam.

2.

And now, a quick note to all those who believe in the doctrine of Intelligent Design:

Nowhere in The Holy Bible does it mention the concept of evolution. And the reason for that, of course, is that evolution wasn’t known to mankind when the Old Testament was written. So your attempt to marry modern science with ancient religion is more than disingenuous—

It’s outright foolish.

You either believe that Jehovah breathed life into dust and created Adam, or you believe that we evolved from an ape-like ancestor over thousands of years. The two ideas, I’m afraid, are mutually exclusive, and have absolutely nothing at all to do with each other.

3.

God created man in His own image, The Holy Bible tells us. But I’m not so sure. In fact, I posit the belief that it was actually the other way around:

Man created God in his own image.

And furthermore, man did it for his own specific needs. There’s ample anthropological evidence of this, as even a cursory glance at previous mythologies (read: religions) show how the traits of their gods matched the people who worshiped (read: created ) them, and their beliefs.

Observe:

Many of the earliest known mythologies, such as that of Sumer, had mostly elemental deities (air, fire, water, earth, light, and darkness), and doesn’t that make sense—especially considering the example of how primitive man must’ve sought a way to assuage their fears over natural phenomena?

The ancient Norwegians (Vikings) were a very war-like people from an inhospitable land, therefore, almost every god and goddess in their pantheon was associated in some way with war.

(Example: Thor, god of thunder…and battle.)

The ancient Greeks were very diverse and sensual, therefore their pantheon reflects this. Zeus was known to have indulged in many extramarital affairs—resulting in the birth of several demigods such as Theseus and Heracles—which prompted his betrothed, Hera, to many acts of vengeance. They had gods of love (Aphrodite), gods of war (Ares), even gods of revelry (Dionysus). The gods had messengers (Hermes), servants (Cupid), and so on.

So far, we haven’t seen many traits of this Jehovah, who, as it shall be later revealed, was at first a Hebrew God…except one. He created everything for no apparent reason. At least, no specific reason is given in The Book of Genesis. That, to me, reflects the same willfulness I see in most of my fellow human beings. They do what they do, because they do. Even if it’s pointless.

Thus, I think it’s safe to say that the Judeo-Christian God, at least in His original form, was a construct of men with little to no self-awareness, who needed an explanation for a great many things.

And coming up, we’ll see that this God of theirs tended to be very capricious in His actions.

4.

Let us now return to The Garden.

Under God’s watchful eye, Adam was charged with the enviable task of keeping Eden tidy and naming all the creatures living amongst him. Quite a responsibility. But even with all of that work to do, God decided that Adam must’ve felt lonely. Thus, He brought a deep sleep upon Adam and took from him one rib, which He used to create Adam’s mate (Genesis 2:21). The very first woman:

Eve.

5.

The creation of Eve is the perfect place to bring up a very salient point. Something I don’t think is widely discussed amongst so-called Christians or their ministers:

The Bible’s inherent misogyny, which I’ll be referring to throughout this project.

As you can see, it’s already begun. God didn’t breathe life into dust and bring forth woman, He took from Adam one rib and fashioned his wife from it, thereby setting her up to be subservient since she couldn’t have existed without him in the first place. This makes sense in a historical context when one considers that women have by and large been subservient to men up until the twentieth century.

Of course, it’s no coincidence that Eve would be held responsible—albeit indirectly—for humankind’s very first sin.

6.

Apparently, the first arranged marriage in the history of recorded time was a successful one. Adam and Eve languished in Eden, frolicking naked with the creatures around them, and heeded The Lord’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” God must’ve been very content with his creations and the world He made for them. There was no strife, no suffering, no death. Everything was in perfect harmony, in perfect accord with The Creator’s design, and it should’ve been such for all eternity.

Then one day a scaly cretin slithered up to Eve and whispered the first blasphemy in her innocent ears.

7.

Okay, no need to belabor this section. What happened next is well-known. After forbidding both Adam and Eve to taste the fruit from The Tree Of Knowledge, the subtle serpent convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, who in turn convinced her betrothed, Adam, to partake. Adam and Eve then gained knowledge of good and evil, which changed everything. Knowing shame for the first time, they covered their nakedness and hid from The Lord. He came upon them, found out what happened, and punished everyone involved. The snake was cursed to go upon his belly and eat dust for all its days. Unto Eve, God decided to make the act of bearing children laborious and filled of pain. Adam, it was decided, would henceforth be forced to till the earth for his daily bread. And all of them were banished from Eden.

Now, since this was meant to be a chronicle of human history, I feel compelled to at first analyze this story from a literal standpoint. Thus, so many questions arise:

First, if God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat of The Tree Of Knowledge, then why did He place it in the middle of Eden in the first place?

Second, if God is truly all-knowing and all-seeing as His followers claim, then why didn’t He know that the snake was tempting Eve and intervene at that time?

Third, to cast more doubt upon the claim of His being all-knowing and all-seeing, why didn’t He know where his creations were hiding? (Genesis 3:9, And The Lord called unto Adam, and said unto him, “Where art thou?”)

Perhaps God was only being coy…

Then again, God also didn’t know what they had done. (Genesis 3:11, And He said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”) Sounds pretty incredulous to me. And as we wade through the rest of Genesis there are many such passages which cast doubt upon the ubiquitous nature of God.

8.

Moving from the literal to the metaphoric, one must assume that there is some point to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, which, in its intended context, should be viewed as the first fable since the beginning of time. But what is that point? That ignorance is bliss, perhaps? That peace of mind comes from not knowing? That knowledge itself can be a curse?

Of course, that lesson is very true as it concerns a great many things…but the reverse is also true. Knowledge is power, a fact which is even conveyed in The Holy Bible. (Genesis 3:5, For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.) And lest any religious scholar say, “Well, those were the words of the serpent, who was a liar,” I submit for your analysis two other passages side by side:

Genesis 2:17, But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

And, after Eve protests that she will die from partaking of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:3)…

Genesis 3:4, And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die.”

It’s true that Adam and Eve did eventually die, but not on the day that they tasted of the fruit. Perhaps their disobedience prohibited them from living eternal life, but the serpent’s words were indeed proven true. They were cursed, as was he, but Adam and Eve didn’t die from the knowledge of good and evil. So, in actuality, God wasn’t exactly honest with Adam, but He did later confirm the serpent’s words:

Genesis 3:22, And The Lord God said, “Behold the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil…

9.

Although the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden seems very simple on its surface, it is actually very layered when one stops and thinks it through. If the main point is that knowledge can be a curse, then the next most important lesson is that God’s creatures shouldn’t question Him, lest they lose His favor.

Sounds like the reinforcement of ignorance and fear to me.

And let us consider the symbolism of the betrayer, the subtle serpent. In many pre-Christian belief systems the snake, the serpent, and the dragon respectively were used as icons of wisdom, sensuality, darkness, and evil. Thus, the serpent here represents man’s carnal nature. Make no mistake; the temptation of Eve in the Garden is a thinly veiled warning to man about his own inner nature.

Now we have ignorance, fear, and repression.

I think it’s also telling that Eve was tempted first rather than Adam. A statement regarding the foibles of women, perhaps? Moving along, the theme of womankind being the precursor to man’s strife will make itself known over and over again. For a book which is purported to be so full of love, it’s author(s) certainly had a prejudice against the fairer sex.

10.

Finally—though I feel ridiculous doing so—If I am to take The Holy Bible literally, at face value, then I must address the issue of the talking snake. No one in the modern age believes that animals have the ability to speak, but believe it or not, there are Christian fundamentalists who believe that the serpent in the garden really did open its scaly mouth and tempt Eve with actual words.

Honestly, that fact baffles me.

As a rationalist, logician, and freethinker, I’m afraid that I just can’t abide such outright foolishness.

***

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JLR

Deconstructing Genesis-Part 1

The Problem of Creation

1.

Genesis 1:1, In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth.

Thus begins the most famous opening passage of all time, rivaled only by Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” and Herman Melville’s “Call me Ishmael.” Except this isn’t regarded as fiction by a great percentage of the human populace. This is Chapter 1, Verse 1 of the first book of The Holy Bible.

Supposedly, the eternal word of God.

Conspicuous by its absence, however, is any mention of who God is, where He came from, what—If anything—existed before Him, and why He chose to create anything at all…

2.

So, as with all mythological stories of creation, we immediately come to an insurmountable problem. The problem of creation. There simply must be a starting point which in turn must be accepted as truth. Otherwise, no one will believe the myth.

As an atheist, an intellectual, and fully rational human being, I understand man’s psychological need to explain the world around him. That is, after all, the root of all religion. Primitive man lived in a very harsh world which he didn’t understand. Just imagine how frightening a simple electrical storm must’ve seemed to the Neanderthal—much less an earthquake, volcano, or hurricane. Having no practical knowledge of science, the visceral response is to imagine some higher being—like himself, only greater—controlling those forces. And, in a way, evolving higher intellect didn’t help matters any. All that did was give man the ability to ponder deeper mysteries, and give him the means to fabricate the answers.

Thus, lightning is hurled from the hand of Zeus.

3.

Of course, all religions and mythologies begin with the creation of the world, but none of them have any detailed explanation of what existed before their particular creation myth. And the reason why is simple enough:

No one knows what existed before our universe came into existence.

All religion and myth come from the mind of man, and, no matter how imaginative we may be, none of us know with any certainty what predated our reality. As such, none of our religions contain the answer, either.

It’s as simple as that.

4.

Nevertheless, from this auspicious beginning, The Book of Genesis goes on to explain that God, in the course of six days, brought light to the darkness, divided that light from the darkness, formed the mountains and the seas, created all of Earth’s flora and fauna, created the sun, moon, and stars, then rested on the seventh day, sanctifying it in tribute to all which He’d made.

***

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JLR