Turns Out L.A. Is In Israel
January 7, 2012 Leave a comment
OT: Genesis 14-15
The kings of a bunch of cities declare war on the kings of a bunch of other cities. The five attacked kings prepared for a battle against the four attacker kings in the Dead Sea Valley, which is “filled with tar pits” (Genesis 14:10). The only tar pits I’ve ever been to are the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, so I’m assuming those are the ones we’re talking about. During the retreat, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fall into the tar pits, and their three allies flee. The allies pillage Sodom and Gomorrah for food and supplies – with allies like those, who needs enemies? – and, for good measure, they also kidnap Lot and all his possessions, and book it out of there. When Abram hears the news about his nephew’s kidnapping, he takes all 318 of “the loyal men born in his household” (which, as Branan pointed out in a comment on a previous post, likely means his slaves) and goes after the kidnappers. He attacks them and reclaims “all of the looted property” (from two entire cities?), and his nephew Lot, and “Lot’s property, wives, and people” (Genesis 14:16). I’m not sure why Abram and his wife need 318 slaves, or where Lot picked up multiple wives and “people” (aka slaves?) of his own. Also I like how the wives are listed between the property and the slaves. So it’s three kinds of chattels, basically.
Abram comes home and the king of Sodom, who I guess recovered from his tar dip, comes to meet him. Yet another king brings a priest along to bless Abram and thank God for the victory, and Abram repays the blessing king with 1/10 of his loot. Side note: I think this is the first instance so far of people claiming that God picked sides in a fight. Anyway, the king of Sodom tells Abram, “Give me the people and take the property for yourself” (Genesis 14:21). I’m not sure which people we’re talking about here. I thought Lot’s household were the only people taken from Sodom…so maybe he means Lot’s slaves? And/or Lot and his family? Anyway, Abram denies the gift, saying that he promised God he wouldn’t take anything from the king of Sodom so that the king couldn’t claim to be the one who made Abram rich…or something. Biblical people have the weirdest hangups. Anyway, Abram says he’ll just let his men keep food to eat and give the rest back to the king.
Well, that was a boring chapter.
This should be more interesting, because now we have God’s covenant with Abram.
So God comes to Abram in a vision and says, “Don’t be afraid, Abram. I am your protector. Your reward will be very great” (Genesis 15:1). And Abram’s all, “But nothing you can give me will matter because I don’t have any kids. This random dude from Damascus who runs my household will have to be my heir. Wtf?” And God says – and these are his actual words – “Your heir will definitely be your very own biological child” (Genesis 15:4). Well, those are his actual words as translated in the Common English Bible. His actual actual words were probably in Hebrew. Anyway, God tells Abram he’ll have as many children as there are stars in the sky, which makes my vagina hurt on behalf of Sarai.
“Abram trusted the LORD, and the LORD recognized Abram’s high moral character” (Genesis 15:6), because a high moral character consists of faith and obedience. Sigh.
God reminds Abram that he’s God, after all, and that he gave him all this land. And then Abram asks how he can know that the land is actually his, because apparently the word of God himself isn’t good enough for Abram. What happened to his high moral character? Then God asks for an animal sacrifice – of very specific animals – which Abram of course gives him, magically knowing that he’s supposed to leave the birds whole but split all the other animals in half. I can only assume that he was butterflying them so they would cook evenly, because I know sometimes steakhouses do that with big cuts of meat.
God tells Abram that his descendants will live as immigrants in a foreign land “where they will be oppressed slaves for four hundred years,” and then God will punish the oppressing nation, and Abram’s descendants will leave “with great wealth,” and Abram will die peacefully after a long life (Genesis 15:13-15). God also tells Abram, “The fourth generation will return here since the Amorites’ wrongdoing won’t have reached its peak until then” (Genesis 15:16). I don’t know what’s special about the Amorites compared to all the other tribes we’ve talked about, or what their “wrongdoing” is, but I suppose I’ll find out.
Then it gets dark and “a smoking vessel with a fiery flame passed between the split-open animals” (Genesis 15:17), for some reason. Then God “cut a covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15:18), all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates to Abram’s descendants, “together with” a whole lot of other clans. I’m not sure if that means Abram’s descendants will be sharing that land with those clans, or if God is giving all those clans to Abram’s descendants along with the land, as slaves or subjects or what have you. With God, all things are possible!
…Nope, that was still kinda boring.
Eh, nothing good really happened in this section.
Sarai will apparently be expected to squeeze approximately one hundred billion babies out – and that’s just if we’re assuming God was limiting himself to the Milky Way.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, metaphor. I know. I know.
Animal sacrifice is a lowlight in my book.
Also, it’s always a little discomfiting when people decide that God is on their side fighting against other people.
More OT: Psalms 3-4
This one’s sung/narrated/possibly written by David, who complains to God that he is surrounded by enemies. But he declares that God is his “shield” and his “glory” (Psalms 3:3), who answers when he cries out, who helps him sleep and wake up and face his enemies without fear. That’s all very well, but the last stanza is absolutely charming. David calls on God to save him, and then elaborates: “In fact, hit all my enemies on the jaw; shatter the teeth of the wicked!” (Psalms 3:7). Finally, David asks for God’s blessing on his people.
Oh good, another one by David. David asks God to answer his cries and hear his prayers and have mercy on him and release him from his troubles. He chastises the people he’s fighting against, I guess – it’s unclear since he just called them “you people” – and asks them, “How long will you continue to love what is worthless and go after lies?” (Psalms 4:2). He warns them that God “takes personal care of the faithful….So be afraid, and don’t sin! Think hard about it in your bed and weep over it!” (Psalms 4:3-4). He tells them to truth God and give him offerings. And he wraps up by telling God again how great he is for filling his heart with joy and protecting him.
Ehh…this part was also pretty mediocre.
I really wish people could come up with a better motivation for ethical behavior than fear. “Be afraid and don’t sin” isn’t the kind of lesson I would want taught to my children. No Sunday School for them, I guess.