Real Housewives of Canaan
January 8, 2012 3 Comments
So I looked ahead a bit on the reading schedule – which is only available through the end of January at the moment – and apparently we won’t be finishing Genesis until January 24. Blurrrghh.
OT: Genesis 16-17
Sarai, as we know, is sterile. So she tells Abram to try having kids with her servant, Hagar. And Abram’s like FUCK YEAH THREESOME!
Okay, so I don’t think they actually have a threesome. But whatever they do works, cause before you can say “L’chaim,” Hagar’s got a bun in the oven. But then she gets all uppity about it and teases Sarai for her sterility, which is kind of a bitch move. So then Sarai tells Abram it’s his fault she’s being teased, which isn’t really fair since the whole thing was Sarai’s idea in the first place. But Abram knows he won’t get any pussy by pointing that out, so he tells Sarai, “Since she’s your servant, do whatever you wish to her” (Genesis16:6). Sarai “treat[s] her harshly” (Genesis 16:6), which I’m pretty sure means she beat the shit out of Hagar – who, let’s all recall, is pregnant. So Hagar runs away.
God’s messenger (an angel?) finds Hagar by a spring in the desert and asks where she’s going and she says she’s running away from her bitch mistress Sarai. The messenger turns out to be kind of a dick, cause he tells her to go back and “Put up with her harsh treatment of you” (Genesis 16:9), thereby setting an excellent example for battered women everywhere. As a consolation prize, he promises her infinite babies. My vagina hurts again.
The messenger also tells her that the kid she’s currently pregnant with will be a boy, and tells her to name him Ishmael (meaning “God hears,” according to the notes below this passage) because “the LORD has heard about your harsh treatment” (Genesis 16:11). Personally, I wouldn’t find it very consoling to know that God is ignoring my suffering on purpose and not just through ignorance. The messenger goes on to tell Hagar that Ishmael is going to be a huge prick (because what she really needs is another asshole man in her life): “He will be a wild mule of a man; he will fight everyone, and they will fight him. He will live at odds with all his relatives” (Genesis 16:12). Mazel tov!
Hagar is in shock about having seen God and not been struck blind, which is kind of confusing since God has been showing up and chatting with people this whole time, and also because I thought it was God’s messenger, not actually God. But for whatever reason, this is a huge deal to her. Anyway, Hagar has her kid, and Abram, who’s 86 now, names him Ishmael.
Time for another covenant! I think this one is going to be more interesting than the last because it will probably involve circumcision.
God appears to Abram when he’s 99 and promises again to give him a shitload of descendants, at which point – I’m not even making this up – Abram “fell on his face” (Genesis 17:3). I guess they mean he did like a prostrating-yourself-in-the-direction-of-Mecca kind of maneuver? Anyway, God just keeps going like nothing happened. He tells Abram that because he will be “the ancestor of many nations” (Genesis 17:5), from now on his name is going to be Abraham instead of Abram. I’ve learned this week that people in the Bible are really into symbolically renaming things. Anyway, God goes on for a long time repeating himself about how Abraham’s going to have a lot of descendants and God will make a covenant with them and they’ll have a lot of land and it’ll all be dandy.
Finally we get around to the actual covenant: “On the eighth day after birth, every male in every generation must be circumcised, including those who are not your own children: those born in your household and those purchased with silver from foreigners” (Genesis 17:12). So, yes, slaves. And any male who isn’t circumcised will be shunned.
Then God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, for unclear reasons, and promises to bless her and give Abraham a son by her and make her the mother of “kings of peoples” (Genesis 17:16). Abraham falls on his face again – seriously – and laughs. Abraham is skeptical about the ability of a 100-year-old man and a 99-year-old woman to have kids, which is confusing since 1) he fathered a kid at age 86, and 2) Noah had triplets at 500. Anyway, he says to God, “If only you would accept Ishmael!” (Genesis 17:18), which is interesting. Accept him for what? Does Abraham not want other kids anymore?
But God insists that Sarah is going to have a son and his name will be Isaac and God will set up a covenant with him and his descendants. Ishmael won’t get a covenant, but God will bless him and give him tons of descendants, including “twelve tribal leaders” (Genesis 17:20). When God’s done talking, he “ascend[s]” back home (Genesis 17:22), which is pretty badass. Abraham goes home and circumcises himself and Ishmael and every other penis-owner in his house. On a related note, anesthesia wasn’t really invented till like the 19th century. Sadness.
Uh…Nope, people are still mostly being dicks to each other, including God. Not many highlights here. I was honestly expecting the Bible to be better. So far the Old Testament is just miserable.
A covenant is supposed to be an agreement between two or more parties, right? So what exactly is God’s end of the covenant? What’s the point of the circumcision? Also why would he only make a covenant with some of his people? Isn’t he supposed to love everyone equally?
Also, I would feel bad for Sarah and Abraham and Hagar because each of them has been treated kind of unfairly, but they’ve also all treated each other unfairly, so they kind of deserve it. It’s like Real Housewives of Canaan up in here. Sarah and Hagar are both being bitches and causing unnecessary drama, and Abraham is just kind of oblivious about the whole thing.
NT: Matthew 6
Phew! We made it back to the Sermon on the Mount!
Jesus warns everyone that if they make a big show of being really pious and charitable, God won’t reward them. This is an interesting point. I think we can all agree that people who act really noble in order to show everyone how noble they are and look down their noses at people who aren’t as ostentatiously pious are total blowhards. But Jesus is just telling people to go from one bad motivation for good behavior to another – instead of doing it for your reputation in this life, do it for your reward in the next. Isn’t it just as bad to show off for God’s benefit as for your neighbor’s? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to just be good because it’s good?
Then Jesus tells people that when they pray, they shouldn’t just “pour out a flow of empty words, as the Gentiles do” (Matthew 6:7). As half a Gentile, I’m kind of tired of all the digs at the Gentiles. Anyway, the alternative that Jesus offers to the Gentiles’ “empty words” is…the Lord’s Prayer. I LOL’d. Because the way everybody mumbles the Lord’s Prayer in church is pretty much the definition of a flow of empty words.
Jesus teachers his followers that “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but we should just forgive so that we in turn can be forgiven. We should forgive because it promotes peace and generosity.
Jesus rails against materialism and tells people to focus less on hoarding wealth on earth and more on collecting “treasures for yourselves in heaven” (Matthew 6:20), but I’m unclear on how exactly one is supposed to do that. Maybe there’s a cheat code to unlock that feature?
Next, Jesus tells everyone that “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matthew 6:22), and urges everyone to keep their eyes healthy in order to keep their bodies full of light. My best guess is that he is trying to tell people to have a positive outlook…? Then he warns that “No one can serve two masters,” and specifically, “You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). He’s really into the ascetic minimalist thing.
Finally, Jesus basically tells everyone to chillax. Don’t worry about where your food or clothes will come from; just as God feeds birds and clothes flowers, he’ll take care of you. So just focus on worshipping him and the rest will fall into place. “Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). I’m ambivalent about this part. Relying on providence to feed you is a really efficient shortcut to starvation. People should be concerned with those things. But Jesus makes a good point about living in the moment. Everybody spends so much time worrying about future minutiae that they forget to just live now and enjoy it.
The only motivation Jesus gives for being a good person – and he gives it over and over – is that Big Brother is watching you.