Soupspionage and Goat Suits
January 13, 2012 3 Comments
Oh my god you guys we’re halfway through Genesis. Yes.
OT: Genesis 26-27
A famine hits Isaac’s land, so he and Rebekah travel to Gerar, which I think is a city in King Abimelech’s land, where they still live. I’m a little confused at this point over where exactly the Hittites are versus the Philistines, and whether we’re in Canaan or just near it. In any case, God appears to Isaac and tells him to stay there as an immigrant, because God will bless him and give all that land to his infinite descendants, like he’s promised a bunch of times, because Abraham was a good obedient dude.
So Isaac lives in Gerar for a while, and – I shit you not – tells everyone that Rebekah is his sister, because he’s afraid people will kill him because of her beauty otherwise. Jesus fucking Christ, Isaac, didn’t your dad teach you anything? But King Abimelech knows what’s up. He’s been through this before. One day he catches a glimpse of Isaac and Rebekah giggling in a not-so-platonic way, so he called Isaac in, and says, “She’s your wife, isn’t she?” (Genesis 26:9), and Isaac is awkwardly silent (meaning “yes”), so Abimelech is like “HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!” and Isaac is like “I thought you’d kill me because of her hotness!” and Abimelech is like “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? Sooner or later one of us would have slept with her and then God would take a giant dump on our faces!” But Abimelech knows the emergency protocol because of his past experience with Abraham’s similar stupidity, so he proclaims that anybody who touches Isaac or Rebekah will be put to death.
Isaac gets really rich, so all the Philistines get jealous and fill his wells with dirt. Abimelech tells Isaac to move away because he’s getting too powerful. So Isaac moves out into the valley, and re-opens the wells Abraham had dug there earlier. The first two times he finds water, the other shepherds fight with his shepherds about it, but the third time they get to keep it. Yay. Isaac moves to another part of the valley for some reason, and God appears to him and tells him yet again that he’s blessed and will have tons of kids and all, so he builds an altar and worships there, and builds another well. Abimelech comes after him with his army commander and is like “I changed my mind! God really likes you so let’s make a treaty. If you’re nice to us, we’ll send you away in peace.” Which doesn’t sound that different from the arrangement they already had, but okay. They celebrate and Abimelech and his dudes go home.
When Esau is 40, he marries not one but two wives, Judith and Basemath, both from the Hittite clan. “They made life very difficult for Isaac and Rebekah” (Genesis 26:35), but it’s not specified how.
Isaac is getting old and blind and calls Esau to him and asks him to go hunt him some game and make a delicious stew, and promises to bless him before he dies. Rebekah overhears this, and when Esau leaves, she tells Jacob to go bring her some goats from their flock so she can make the stew first, and that way Jacob can be blessed instead. I’m not sure what is so important about Isaac’s blessing, or why it requires stew, or why he would make Esau go hunting if they had goats right there that would work just fine, or why Isaac can’t bless both his children. But the biggest obstacle that Jacob sees with this plan is entirely different: since Esau is hairy and he isn’t, Isaac will know what’s up if he touches him, and will curse him instead of blessing him. Rebekah’s like “Don’t worry about it, I’ll be cursed, not you. Just do what I say.” So Jacob gets the goats and Rebekah makes the stew, and she dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes and wraps his exposed skin in goat fur so he’ll feel hairy. What could possibly go wrong?
So Jacob takes the stew to his father, who asks who’s there, and Jacob answers, “I’m Esau your oldest son” (Genesis 27:19), which doesn’t sound suspicious at all. Isaac’s all, “How did you hunt so fast?” And Jacob’s all, “God led me straight to the animal!” And Isaac’s all, “Come let me touch you!” Creepy. So Jacob comes over and Isaac touches him, and says, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the arms are Esau’s arms” (Genesis 27:22). Now, one might think that Isaac would realize it’s much easier to impersonate somebody’s hairiness than their voice – or that he would be able to tell the different between goat fur and a hairy human – but Isaac just asks, “Are you really my son Esau?” (Genesis 27:24), and Jacob says yes, and Isaac’s like, well, I guess that settles that!
Isaac has some stew and asks “Esau” to kiss him, which he does, at which point Isaac smells Esau’s clothes and is further convinced that Jacob is Esau. So Isaac blesses him, telling him to “be the most powerful man among your brothers” and praying that “your mother’s sons bow down to you”(Genesis 27:29), which is odd considering that, as far as I can tell, Jacob and Esau are Isaac’s only sons. It’s also weird for a father to want some of his kids to dominate his other kids. Anyway.
Right after Jacob leaves with his stolen blessing, Esau comes home from hunting and makes stew and brings it to Isaac. Isaac asks who it is, and Esau answers, and Isaac flips a shit:
Isaac was so shocked that he trembled violently. He said, “Who was the hunter just here with game? He brought me food, and I ate all of it before you came. I blessed him, and he will stay blessed!”
When Esau heard what his father said, he let out a loud agonizing cry and wept bitterly. He said to his father, “Bless me! Me too, my father!”
Isaac said, “Your brother has already come deceitfully and has taken your blessing.” (27:33-35)
Hold up. Is a blessing like a magic spell that any human can cast, or is it like a little prayer making a request of God for a specific person? I always thought of it as the second, because if people could just cast spells, they wouldn’t really need God, now, would they? And isn’t God smart enough to know whom Isaac was trying to bless? If a blessing is like a magic spell, would it really work on somebody other than whom it was meant for? This whole debacle seems kind of ridiculous to me.
Anyway, Esau complains that Jacob has now taken away both his birthright and his blessing, even though Esau willingly sold Jacob his birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau asks if his father has any spare blessings lying around to bestow on him, and Isaac confesses that he has already made Jacob the most powerful brother who will rule over the others. But Esau demands to be blessed, so Isaac gives him a shitty blessing, declaring that he will live far away and serve his brother until he can’t stand it anymore and throws off the yoke. Great, thanks a lot, Dad.
Esau’s pissed off and swears that after Isaac is dead and the mourning period is over, he’ll kill Jacob. Someone (who?!) tells Rebekah about Esau’s plans, so she sends Jacob to live with her brother Laban until Esau calms down. Then things get real racist real fast:
Rebekah then said to Isaac, “I really loathe these Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women, like the women of this land, why should I go on living?” (27:46)
I’m glad Abimelech figured out what was up before it was too late.
The wife/sister thing AGAIN. All the familiar infighting and trickery and stupidity. The unexplained hatred for the Hittite women. The weird politics of blessings.
NT: Matthew 10
Jesus gives his twelve apostles the power to heal and exorcise people. The apostles are Simon (aka Peter), Andrew, James, John (not the Baptist), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, other James, Thaddaeus, other Simon, and “Judas, who betrayed Jesus” (Matthew 10:4). Um…spoiler alert.
Jesus sends the apostles to go tell all the Jews that the kingdom of heaven is nigh. He tells them to heal and resurrect and exorcise people for free, and not to take money with them, but to rely on worthy strangers to host them in each city. Anybody who refuses to host or listen to the apostles will be screwed worse than Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day. And, for some reason, Jesus tells the apostles not to do this for Gentiles or Samaritans – only the “people of Israel,” who are “lost sheep” (10:6).
Jesus warns that the apostles will likely be beaten and betrayed and arrested and hated, but promises that God will put the right words in their mouths if they are interrogated, and that “whoever stands firm until the end will be saved” (10:22). If they meet trouble in one city, they should leave for the next. They shouldn’t fear “those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul”; instead, they should fear “the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (10:28) – not sure if this means God or Satan. Jesus promises that God sees and knows everything, even the fall of a sparrow and the number of hairs on a person’s head, and since people are worth more than many sparrows, God will take care of them.
Jesus promises to acknowledge in heaven anybody who acknowledges him in public on earth, and to deny those who deny him. That sounds a lot like “an eye for an eye” to me…. Jesus also declares, “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword” (10:34), which sure puts a crimp in all those Christmas carols about peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Jesus says he’s come to turn families against each other, and that anybody who loves a single person in the world more than they love Jesus isn’t worthy of him. Harsh. Finally, he promises that anybody who’s nice to his disciples will be rewarded.
It’s cool that Jesus gives his apostles the power to heal the sick and all that.
Why are the apostles only witnessing to the Jews? And why does Jesus need to turn families against each other? How does that help anything? I really don’t like any message that teaches people to love each other less.