How now? Ararat?
January 4, 2012 5 Comments
Who’s ready for some more genealogy?
OT: Genesis 5-8
Genesis 5 = Just a list of some of Adam’s descendants – specifically, Seth (Adam’s 3rd son), Seth’s firstborn son, his firstborn son, his firstborn son, etc., and all of their ages. All of them also “had other sons and daughters,” but why would we mention the women? They don’t matter! All these people lived to be about 750-1000 years old, which either sounds great or miserable. Methuselah is, predictably, the oldest person mentioned, living 969 years, but only narrowly edging out Jared, who died at 962. Confusingly, a bunch of Seth’s descendants have the same names as Cain’s descendants. Seth’s great-great-great-grandson is named Enoch, just like Cain’s son. Methuselah is the Seth-Enoch’s son, which is an anagram of the Cain-Enoch’s sons name, Methushael. And Methuselah and Methushael both named their sons Lamech. This is some Wuthering Heights shit. Anyway, the Lamech who’s descended from Seth fathers Noah – yes, the Noah. Lamech predicts that Noah will relieve the world from the curse on Adam that made agriculture hard. And then to wrap things up, Noah, at the tender age of 500, fathers triplets: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Side note: I’m still not sure why Adam’s and Eve’s kids get blamed for Adam’s and Eve’s sins. That seems like the opposite of fair. I get that, metaphorically, this is probably just supposed to set up the situation in which humanity is imperfect and separated from God and therefore needs salvation. But God isn’t setting a good moral precedent with the whole thing where the sins of the father will be visited upon the son, IMHO.
Genesis 6 = The flood! Get excited! But first, people keep reproducing, and some “divine beings” (angels?) are turned on by the human women, so they marry their favorites (Genesis 6:2). God reminds everyone that humans are mortal, and then sets their life span at 120 years, but Noah keeps on keeping on into his sixth century. Also, Genesis 6:4 is trippy as all hell: “In those days, giants lived on the earth and also afterward, when divine beings and human daughters had sexual relations and gave birth to children. These were the ancient heroes, famous men.” Giants, huh? Like, literal giants a la Jack and the beanstalk, or metaphorical giants a la, I don’t know, Ajax? Also, what’s with all the interspecies breeding between “divine beings and human daughters?” This seems to imply that all the divine beings are male. Naturally. Anyway, grab your buoys – it’s flood time! God realizes that humanity has become “thoroughly evil,” and that “every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil” (Genesis 6:5), which is kind of extreme, if you ask me. God regrets ever making humans at all, and prepares for what Eddie Izzard has aptly described as “the Etch-a-Sketch End of the World,” where you make a little mistake and then just annihilate everything. Except God doesn’t make mistakes – but he has regrets…? Hm. Anyway, God is disgusted with everybody except Noah and his triplet sons. So God tells Noah he’s going to kill everyone except him and his family, and orders him to make an ark (with measurements and all that), and to bring one male and one female of every animal on board. Except God never gave Noah measurements for an aquarium, so I guess he left the fish alone since they’d be better off in the floodwaters? Anyway, Noah is also told to bring his wife (who still isn’t named) and his sons and their wives (who also aren’t named) on board. And Noah does everything he’s told.
Genesis 7 = God changes his plans slightly, telling Noah this time to bring seven male-female pairs of every bird, plus seven pairs of every “clean” animal, but just one pair of every “unclean” animal (Genesis 7:2-3). Naturally he doesn’t explain what makes an animal “clean” or “unclean.” Define your terms! But then, inexplicably, a few verses later, “From the clean and unclean animals, from the birds and everything crawling on the ground, two of each, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, just as God commanded Noah” (Genesis 7:8-9). Except that wasn’t what God commanded Noah to do – at least not most recently. What happened to the other six pairs of birds and all that…? Whatever. So a week later, it starts raining, when Noah is exactly 599 years and 1 month and 17 days old. And on that day, Noah and his family and the animals all go into the ark…again. So, to recap: they all board the ark; seven days later, it starts raining, and they all board the ark.
Haha, my dorm just lost power. I’m probably being punished for my irreverence.
Anyway, back to Genesis 7. God closes the door behind Noah &co., and then unleashes the flood. It rains for 40 days and 40 nights, and the flood rises to a depth of 23 feet, “covering the mountains” (Genesis 7:20) – I guess the Andes hadn’t been invented yet. Everything dies but Noah &co. (and the fish…?), and the flood lasts for like 5 months. Maybe overkill?
Q: What did the cats on the ark say when they saw land?
A: Look, A-ra-rat!
So even after the ark hits land, it takes two and a half more months for mountain peaks to appear, somehow. Forty days later (why wait so long?), Noah sends a raven out to fly around until the water dries up, for unclear reasons. Then he sends out a dove, but the dove finds nowhere to land and comes back to the ark in disgrace, which makes no sense since the mountaintops had already appeared. A week later, Noah sends the dove off again, and this time it comes back with an olive leaf – meaning that somehow, in the week since its last expedition, not only did the water evaporate from dry land somewhere, but also an olive tree had time to sprout and grow leaves, or else it survived being submerged for the better part of a year. I can’t decide which is less implausible. A week later, he sends the dove out again, and it never comes back, indicating either that it found enough land to settle down, or that it gave up and drowned itself. But Noah is an optimist, I guess, so he opens up the ark (not sure how he released the birds without doing that before) and, sure enough, he finds dry land. God tells Noah to bring everyone out of the ark. Noah builds an altar and sacrifices some of the clean animals and birds to God. So either he just made several species extinct, or else he did take seven pairs of clean things and birds after all, contrary to the most recent version of the story. God “smelled the pleasing scent” (Genesis 8: 21) of burning flesh (ew), and decides not to destroy everything anymore, or at least not “as long as the earth exists” (Genesis 8:22), which is sort of an empty promise. “Until I destroy everything, I promise I won’t destroy everything!” “Great, thanks.”
Before the flood, God tells Noah that “the end has come for all creatures, since they have filled the earth with violence” (Genesis 6:13). Because the best way to end violence is to destroy absolutely everything with a giant fucking flood. I guess God wasn’t familiar with the whole “be the change you want to see in the world” idea since Gandhi hadn’t been born yet.
NT: Matthew 3, Psalms 1-2
[EDIT 1/5/12: It turns out the Psalms are actually in the Old Testament. Oops.]
When we last left our intrepid baby hero, he had narrowly escape death in Herod’s genocide by fleeing (slash being carried by Joseph) to Egypt, then returned to Nazareth in order to, you guessed it, fulfill a prophecy.
Matthew 3 = John the Baptist shows up in Judea and tells everyone to clean up their act because “Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 3:2). This fulfills a prophecy about a person “shouting in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3) about God coming to check in on everyone. People come from all over Jerusalem and Judea and Jordan and confess their sins to John, who baptizes them in the Jordan River. John is skeptical of some of the people who come to him for baptism (the Pharisees and the Sadducees), and warns them that God won’t put up with any bullshit. He’s going to “sift the wheat from the husks” and burn the husks (Matthew 3:12), and only those who have truly “changed [their] hearts and lives” are going to make the cut.
(Just to be clear, I’m fully aware that sifting the wheat from the husks is a metaphor. That kind of metaphor is easy to spot. The whole story of creation is more ambiguous.)
Then things get funky. Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. John is all, “wait, shouldn’t you be baptizing me?” And Jesus is all, “No, just do what I say.” Except what Jesus actually says is “This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), which sounds way cooler. So John baptizes Jesus, and when Jesus emerges from the river, heaven is open to him, and he sees “the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him” (Matthew 3:16). But I thought Jesus is God…? Anyway, a “voice from heaven” (presumably God’s) says, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him” (Matthew 3:17).
Psalm 1 = Happy people don’t take bad advice or hang out with sinners and disrespecters; instead, “they recite God’s Instruction day and night!” (Psalms 1:2). “Whatever they do succeeds” (Psalms 1:3), aka all they do is win. The wicked, on the other hand, are fucked. They don’t have a place in “the court of justice” or “the assembly of the righteous” (Psalms 1:5).
Psalm 2 = The world leaders are rebelling against God and “his anointed one” (Psalms 2:2) – who is Jesus, I’m assuming. But God “makes fun of them” (Psalms 2:4), and then yells at them. God tells the narrator, “You are my son, today I have become your father” (Psalms 2:7), and promises to give him all the rebelling nations as his property, so he can “smash them with an iron rod” and “shatter them like a pottery jar” (Psalms 2:9). Nice guy, huh? The narrator then warns everyone to “wise up” (Psalms 2:10) and serve God, “because his anger ignites in an instant. But all who take refuge in the LORD are truly happy!” (Psalms 2:12).
Apparently John the Baptist “wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist,” and “ate locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4). What a BAMF.
The Psalms are a pretty unflattering depiction of God as vengeful.