Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Genesis

 

Editorial Approach

A good editor’s job is to combine the stories of multiple sources into a readable narrative. The Bible alleges to have the best editor ever in God himself, and I will therefore hold this book to a higher standard than any other, and regard any inconsistencies, contradictions or oversights as strong evidence there was no divine hand guiding the writer’s words.

Genesis 1 – In the Beginning

In this first episode of Freeway Bible Study, we will jump head-first into the book of Genesis with Chapter One – In the beginning. In this short chapter God creates the cosmos from nothing, moves across the face of the deep and then speaks the sun, stars and moon into existence. After separating day from night, wet from dry and creating the firmament to protect it all, God then creates all manner of plant and animal life leading up to the glorious creation of man and woman.

Genesis 2 – Adam and Eve

In the second book of Genesis, God rests after his six-day labor of creation. He then causes mist to rise from the Earth to water the fields and plants and create the named rivers of the Holy Land. The Garden of Eden is in this process made, and God places Adam here to begin the process of naming all of the created beasts of the field. God decides that Adam needs a companion, and after failing to find a suitable candidate from the assembled menagerie, God places Adam into a deep sleep, before removing Adam’s rib which is then fashioned into the first woman. The chapter ends when God instructs Adam and his wife (Eve is not named until chapter 3) that “man should leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Genesis 3 – The Fall

The serpent deceives the woman into eating and sharing with her husband the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Becoming aware they are naked, the pair hide in shame, while God searches for them in the cool of the afternoon. Upon discovering their trespass, the Lord punishes the snake, the woman and the man, in turn: before banishing them to the wastes east of Eden. The Fall is complete; and Original Sin the consequence which salvation through belief, trust and faith may one day redeem.

Genesis 4 – Cain and Abel

Adam and Eve have been expelled from Eden to begin their hard lives in the wastes. Eve gives birth to sons Cain and Abel, who till the field and tend cattle. God shows favor to Abel for his offering of flesh; and admonishes Cain to beware sin which “…is crouching at your door.” Ignoring the Lord’s warning, Cain murders his brother and attempts to hide his guilt. God punishes Cain to wander the Earth without means to gain sustenance from the ground. Bewailing his fate, and forecasting his own murder by any stranger he meets, God responds by marking Cain to protect his life. Cain withdraws to build a city in the land of Nod, east of Eden, where Cain begets six generations. Eve meanwhile, gives birth to Seth whom she claims will fill the void created of the loss of Abel. Seth grows to have a son of his own, at which time “…the people began to call on the name of the Lord.”

Genesis 5 – From Adam to Noah

Adam and Eve have been expelled from Eden to begin their hard lives in the wastes. Eve gives birth to sons Cain and Abel, who till the field and tend cattle. God shows favor to Abel for his offering of flesh; and admonishes Cain to beware sin which “…is crouching at your door.” Ignoring the Lord’s warning, Cain murders his brother and attempts to hide his guilt. God punishes Cain to wander the Earth without means to gain sustenance from the ground. Bewailing his fate, and forecasting his own murder by any stranger he meets, God responds by marking Cain to protect his life. Cain withdraws to build a city in the land of Nod, east of Eden, where Cain begets six generations. Eve meanwhile, gives birth to Seth whom she claims will fill the void created of the loss of Abel. Seth grows to have a son of his own, at which time “…the people began to call on the name of the Lord.”

Today’s Bible study revealed an astonishing fact: if the world is approximately 6000 years old, and Adam lived to 930 years; then this means Adam was still alive when Ancient Egypt got its start in 3100 BC.

Genesis 6 – Wickedness in the World

Human beings increase in number, while the mysterious “sons of God” make wives of the “daughters of humans” which union did produce the “heroes of old” and “men of honor.” This is also the time of the mysterious “Nephilim,” which race will somehow survive the coming flood. God despairs the wickedness of the whole of the human race, whose every inclination was evil. God regrets creating man upon the Earth and declares he will wipe from the face of the Earth every human, as well as every bird of the air and animal that moves across the ground. God finds favor in one man – Noah, who is blameless among the people of his time. God shares his plan with Noah, with instructions for Noah to build a great ark where two of every kind will find sanctuary from the world-destroying flood. God’s covenant with Noah is struck, and with his three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, the old man begins building the vessel which will preserve the seeds of life from utter destruction.

Genesis 7 – Go into the Ark

The Lord instructs Noah to gather his family and enter the ark with seven pairs of every clean animal and a single pair of every unclean animal. God tells Noah that the rain will fall for forty days and nights in order that God may “…wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” In Noah’s six hundredth year, the floodwaters burst from the springs beneath the ground, and the gates above the air. At last the waters stood above the highest mountains. And the ark did drift for a hundred and fifty days

Today’s Bible study revealed that Noah spent much more time in the ark than I had previously imagined. In Genesis 7, Noah and his family enter the ark on February 17th of Noah’s 600th year. In Genesis 8, Noah leaves the ark on February 27th of his 601st year. This means Noah’s voyage lasted one year and ten days.

Genesis 8 – But God Remembered Noah

The Earth becomes a sea with the ark floating upon it. God remembers his promise to Noah, and sends winds across the Earth to push back the waters, and cause the tops of the mountains to reappear. The ark lands at Ararat, and the waters continue to recede. Noah sends forth a raven, and then a dove, which reappears with a fresh olive leaf. Noah opens the ark and prepares a sacrifice which is pleasing to God, who promises to never again curse the ground because of man

Genesis 9 – God’s Covenant with Noah

The flood is done, and God blesses Noah and his sons while commanding them to “be fruitful and multiply.” God further instructs man to eat of the Earth’s bounty, and to avoid consuming the life blood of beasts, or shedding the life blood of man, for which the punishment is death at the hand of man. God then makes his covenant with Noah: to never again destroy utterly the inhabitants of the Earth by the waters of a flood. As a sign of his covenant, God offers the rainbow, which the Lord indicates he himself will use to remember the promise he has made. We next learn of the fate off Noah’s sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth, who will father all the races of man which will one day cover the Earth. Ham soon incurs his father’s curse, which is directed unto Ham’s son Canaan, whose descendants are fated to be as servants upon the houses of Japheth and Shem. After the flood, Noah lived another 350 years, bringing his total years to 950 before Noah’s days were complete

While preparing for my Bible study today I had a sudden flash realization why Noah’s curse in Genesis 9 skipped a generation. It all made sense when I tried to literally picture in my head the peopling of the Holy Land following the generations of Noah.

Genesis 10 – The Table of Nations

The flood is passed, and the hierarchy of Noah’s sons has been established according to Noah’s curse. What follows is an account of the lineages of Shem, Ham and Japheth; which are, in turn, identified as the Semites, the Hamites and the Japhethites. Stories are told of each line: the Japhethites becoming mariners upon the sea and populating islands. Nimrod, a descendent of Ham, made fame as a mighty warrior and hunter. We are also told of the territories of the Canaanites, which extended from Gaza to Sodom and Gomorrah. The sons of Noah did then spread upon the Earth according to their lines

I really enjoyed yesterday’s study of Genesis 10 – The Table of Nations. The chapter is unlike any so far, save chapter nine which hints at what’s coming in this chapter. There’s a political air of these two chapters that I didn’t expect following the story of Noah. But with the Tower of Babel coming next, these two preceding chapters now make sense in setting the stage for the division of Man following the Fall of Man.

Reading two versions of the Bible side by side and simultaneously is a very worthwhile exercise.

I received an email today from another non-believer who has taken up reading the Bible due to my Freeway Bible Study series. I consider this a very positive thing, as we can’t rightly accept or reject what we don’t make an effort to understand.

If he’s won over to the Lord, I wonder if Saint Peter will go a little easier on me in the end? Probably not…

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

An Earth and people united under a common language resolve to build a tower unto Heaven. God expresses his concern that man has gone too far, and God descends to Earth with his host to scatter the people across the globe and confound their tongue with the languages of nations. We then learn the story of the generations of Shem, descending through a succession of nine named sons to the house of Terah, whose son was Abram, and grandson was Lot. Terah resolves to move with his son and grandson, along with Abram’s wife Sarai – who was barren – from the land of Ur into the land of Canaan. Terah dies in Haran at the age of two hundred and five

History informs us that the Great Pyramid of Giza was completed within a hundred and fifty years after Noah’s flood, while the Bible indicates the Tower of Babel was constructed soon after the flood. Could these structures in fact be one and the same?

Genesis: 12 – The Call of Abram

God speaks to Abram telling him to leave his father’s house and go to a land the Lord will show. God promises to bless Abram and make of him a great nation; and to bless those who will bless Abram, and curse all who curse him, and to make Abram’s name a blessing unto all the Earth. Abram did then depart, taking his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot along with all their possessions and servants. The group went east into Canaan, where the Canaanite did dwell. And God appeared then to Abram, promising unto Abram’s seed all the land of Canaan. Abram then built an altar and made sacrifice to the Lord. In this time there was famine in Canaan, and Abram therefore took his family south into Egypt. But before arriving in Egypt, Abram instructed Sarai to identify herself not as Abram’s wife, but instead as Abram’s sister. This, in order to preserve Abram’s life which must surely be taken for Sarai’s great beauty. Pharaoh then took Sarai for his wife, which displeased the Lord who sent a plague unto the house of the deceived Pharaoh. Upon discovering Abram’s lie, Pharaoh expelled Abram and his family from Egypt, along with the many possessions they gained while in that land.

Genesis: 13 – Abram and Lot Separate

Abram leads his and Lot’s families out of Egypt, stopping for a time near Bethel where Abram’s covenant with God was first made. Abram and Lot are very rich now for their adventures in Egypt, and the land cannot easily support their combined flocks and cattle – and their shepherds are at odds with one another. Abram suggests they separate to preserve their good relationship. Abram offers to go left should Lot choose to go right, or Abram right should Lot veer left. Lot surveys the way ahead and selects the rich, well-watered lands upon the plain of Jordan. Going on to Jordan, Lot pitches his tent near Sodom, where he observes the wickedness of this city’s inhabitants. Abram meanwhile moves on to Canaan, where the Lord instructs Abram to look north, south, east and west; telling Abram that this land is now his and his descendants, and that it will one day be filled with the vast seed of generations to come – such numbers of Abram’s descendants as will rival the motes of dust of all the Earth. God then instructs Abram to walk through the length and breadth of this land which is his. Abram at last arrives and pitches his tent in the plain of Mamre, in Hebron, where he builds an altar unto the Lord

I’d previously heard of the Canaanites, though I didn’t really know anything about them. Now I at least know something of their origin and Biblical trajectory. However, I’d never before heard of the “Perizzites” who are first mentioned in Genesis 13, and who shared the land with the Canaanites. I looked them up just now over breakfast. Fascinating! I plan to discuss them during today’s video.

Lot’s first impression of the Sodomites makes sense when I remember from which of Noah’s three sons these people did emerge.

Such an interesting lunch break. I had two back-to-back discussions (one was face-to-face) with viewers of the Freeway Bible Study series. Both discussions were very positive and interesting. The first was with a believer who was gracious and charitable (dare I say ”Christian”) with his comments and observations. The second was with a non-believer like myself, who seemed rightly suspect of my motives in creating and continuing this series. For some reason I rather expected the opposite feedback.

Genesis: 14 – Abram Rescues Lot

Abram and his nephew Lot are well settled in Canaan when the five “kings” of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Bela unite in rebellion against their foreign master, Khedorlaomer; who had conquered the land thirteen years prior. In the fourteenth year, Khedorlaomer and his allies, arrived to take back the land from the five rebellious kings. A great battle took place in the vale of Siddim where the armies of the five kings were routed and either destroyed or scattered to the hills. Khedorlaomer then looted Sodom and Gomorrah, taking all the people there as well, before departing for home. One who had escaped the battle fled to Abram to inform him of what had happened, and to tell him that his nephew Lot was now in the hands of the enemy. Abram hastily armed three hundred and eighteen of his trained servants who, led by Abram, set out in pursuit of Khedorlaomer’s army. Abram’s force caught up with Khedorlaomer at Dan, where Abram split his army in two before engaging in a bold nighttime ambush. Abram’s assault was successful, either killing or chasing the foreign enemy out of the land. Lot was reunited with Abram who took all the people and their goods back to Sodom and Gomorrah. Along  the way, at the valley of Shaveh, Abram was met by the king of Salem, who brought bread and wine, and, being a priest of the Lord, blessed Abram and his deeds. The king of Sodom came down from the mountain to greet Abram, offering Abram to keep all of the valuables he had collected from Khedorlaomer. Abram declined the offer, explaining that he would not provide the king with a reason to claim that he had made Abram rich. And Abram returned all save the portion possessed by his own men when they set out to liberate the people of Sodom and Gomorrah

A determined – and repeated – reading of Genesis 14 reveals quite clearly what it meant to be a king in the valley of Jordan in the time of Abram.

After my first reading of Genesis 14 I exclaimed into an empty room:

“This a pass-through chapter….There’s nothing here to see!”

After my fifth reading of Genesis 14 I’ve found it perhaps the most interesting in Genesis so far.

Christians and Jews have very different ideas of an afterlife. We get our first Biblical view of the Jewish perspective in Genesis 15.

There’s a thunder in God’s final words in Genesis 15 which echos through the Bible to at last fall upon the ears of a very aged Moses as he struggles to climb Mt. Pisgah in Deuteronomy to rest his eyes on the Promised Land. I never before realized how far back Moses’ pilgrimage really began.

God so far reaffirms his covenant with Abram three times: First, near Bethel, before Abram journeys to Egypt, again near Bethel (at the same altar in fact) as Abram returns to Canaan out of Egypt, and now – in Genesis 15 – after Abram has become the liberator of Canaan. Only now, God seals the deal with what appears to be a curious Mesopotamian contract ceremony. Brought into the modern context, the activity with the goat, ram, dove and pigeon appear similar to having one’s contract notarized. Though the ritual is a puzzle to me, I’m sure it made perfect sense to the people of this ancient world.

Genesis: 15 – The Lord’s Covenant with Abram

Abram experiences the word of the Lord in a vision, telling him to not be afraid as the Lord is his shield and his great reward. Yet Abram despairs having no heir, and laments he must pass all he has to a servant from Damascus. God assures Abram that he will have a son of his own to be as his heir, and, taking Abram outdoors, God shows Abram the starry night and challenges Abram to count the number of the stars, adding that his own seed will one day number as many. Abram at last believes the Lord, who then assures Abram further by reminding Abram that it was the Lord who delivered him from Ur to this land of his promised possession. Abram again doubts the Lord, asking for further assurance that he will indeed gain possession of the land God has promised. God then instructs Abram to bring before the Lord a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years of age, along with a dove and a young pigeon. Abram brings these to the Lord before halving the heifer, the goat and the ram and placing the remains on the ground, leaving space enough to walk between the split carcasses. The birds are killed too, though their bodies are not halved, and are instead simply placed on the ground near the other dead animals. Abram then drives away birds which arrive to consume the exposed carrion.

Evening arrives, and Abram falls into a “horror” of great darkness wherein the Lord speaks of the future, telling Abram that his descendants will one day be enslaved in a strange land where they will remain for four hundred years before being liberated and leaving the land of their subjugation with great riches. God then comforts Abram telling him that he is destined to live to a great age before being buried to then “go to thy fathers in peace.” After four generations, the freed slaves of his progeny will again return to the land of Abram. Then, when all was dark, a “smoking firepot” and a “blazing torch” appear which then pass between the carcasses of the dead animals which Abram had previously placed upon the ground. The covenant was then made, that the Lord would give Abram and his descendants all the land from the Wadi in Egypt, to the great river Euphrates – all the land therein including all the lands of the peoples who dwell there

Reading the Bible provides excellent grounding and relevance for anyone interested in Western literature. An excellent example of this is the clear connection between Genesis 15 and the opening line of Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael.”

Genesis 16 – Hagar and Ishmael

Abram and his wife Sarai had no children, and Sarai suggested to Abram that he wed her Egyptian slave girl Hagar, who might then bear him an heir. After Hagar became pregnant by Abram, she began to resent Sarai, who in turn expressed her anger at Abram, who then suggested Sarai treat Hagar as she see fit. Sarai did then mistreat Hagar, who ran away. An angel of the Lord found Hagar resting by a wilderness spring on the road to Shur. When the angel asked Hagar where she was going, she responded that she was fleeing from Sarai who had mistreated her. The angel then instructed Hagar to return to Sarai, adding that the son she was carrying would be the start of a great nation “numbering for multitude.” The angel went on say that Hagar’s son should be called Ishmael, and that her son would be “a wild man” who would strive against every other man, and would have his hand against every man though “he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” Hagar then referred to God as “Thou God seest me” for she had looked upon the one who does always see her. From that time on the spring where Hagar met the angel became known as “Beer-lahai-roi.” Hagar then returned to Sarai where she bore Abram a son, whom Abram named Ishmael. And in this time Abram was eighty-six years old

Genesis 16 is an easy read. Easy – like pouring wet concrete into the foundations of what will one day become an enormous skyscraper.

The happenings between the Angel of the Lord and the slave girl Hagar in Genesis 16 are later reinforced by Jesus in 1 Peter. I never saw that before until I’d begun reading the Bible a second time.

During today’s Bible study I successfully remembered and could even pronounce the name of the Canaanite warlord Khedorlaomer from last week’s study of Genesis 14. At my age, I’m tempted to call that a miracle.

To my Jewish and Christian friends: when you read Genesis 16, do you regard this chapter as a history lesson, an instruction in living – maybe both – or something else altogether? I’m learning towards a history lesson for the Jewish people, and an explanation for their place and situation in the Holy Land after the age of Patriarchs.

Genesis 17 – The Covenant of Circumcision

In his ninety-ninth year Abram was visited by the Lord who commanded “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.” Abram fell to his face while God reaffirmed – for the third time in Abram’s life – his promise to make Abram’s seed cover all the Earth. Abram – still childless – laughed to himself at God’s suggestion that, as aged as they are, he or his wife might at last have a child. God further instructed Abram to change his name to Abraham, and his wife Sarai to change her name to Sarah. God added that Abram must now bind his covenant with the Lord by circumcising himself and every male of Abraham’s household above eight days of age, be he of Abraham’s tent, or a slave purchased of Abraham’s money. God indicated that those of Abraham’s line who are not circumcised will be “cut off from his people” as one who has broken the covenant of the Lord. After hearing God’s long soliloquy, Abraham revealed his incredulity by asking God “if only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” God was tolerant in his response, telling Abraham that the Lord would indeed look after Ishmael, who would beget twelve princes, and at last become a great nation. But the Lord added that his blessing and covenant would extend principally to Abraham’s second, yet unborn, son Isaac, which Sarah would bear unto Abraham in the coming year. The Lord then did depart from Abraham, who then set upon the task that very day of circumcising himself, and every male of his camp over the age of eight days

I would love to have seen the looks on their faces when Abraham spoke to his men after receiving the message of Genesis 17. “OK, fellas. Here’s what we gotta do…”

After reading Genesis 17, and then comparing a map of ancient Canaan with modern day Israel, I now understand the Zionist interest in the area of land called the West Bank.

I was struck – while reading Genesis 17 – that God’s threat in disobeying his covenant with Abraham was purely secular: to “be cut off from his people.” No mention is made of being cut off from God, though perhaps this threat is implicit.

It’s revealing to know that Abraham’s first son Ishmael was 13 when Abraham introduced circumcision as a family practice; as this was the same age Egyptian boys were circumcised as a rite of puberty – which practice Abraham may have observed during his time in Egypt.

I suspect that inhabitants of the plains of Jordan in the time of Genesis would have strong sympathy for the America First movement. #CanaanFirst

Genesis 18 – The Three Visitors

The Lord appears to Abraham who is resting from the afternoon sun in the shade of some trees outside his tent. When Abraham notices God and two of his angles standing nearby, he welcomes them to his camp, asking them to sit and rest while Abraham prepares refreshments. Abraham then enters his tent and instructs wife Sarah to prepare bread, butter and milk, while Abraham goes to the flock to locate and dress a fine calf. Abraham dines together with God who asks Abraham about the whereabouts of Sarah. Abraham replies that Sarah is within the tent. Sarah is, in fact, listening just behind the tent flap, and can overhear all that is said. God then tells Abraham that he will return the following year when Sarah delivers her first son. Overhearing this, Sarah laughs in her heart, asking herself if it is possible she could have the pleasure of a baby at the age of ninety, and while her husband is almost one hundred years old? God asks Abraham why Sarah did just then laugh, challenging Abraham if any deed was beyond the Lord’s ability? Sarah becomes afraid and interjects “I laughed not” to which the Lord replied “Nay, but thou didst laugh.” The Lord and his angels then rise to leave, and Abraham walks beside the Lord who then dispatches his angels to inspect Sodom and Gomorrah. God explains to Abraham that he has received word of great evil in those cities, and that he has come to learn firsthand and decide if he should destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham asks the Lord if he would destroy the cities should fifty righteous be found within? God responds that he would spare the cities for fifty. Abraham asks again after forty-five, righteous souls, and God answers that he would save the cities for forty-five. Abraham asks again after thirty, and then twenty, and finally ten; at which point God agrees to save the cities should just ten righteous individuals be found. God then departs from Abraham.

Genesis 19 – Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

Two angels of the Lord arrive in the evening at the gates of Sodom, where Lot greets and invites them into his home. The angels decline the offer, indicating they will instead pass the night in the street; at which point Lot insists until the angels agree, and go with Lot to his home. Lot prepares a feast for his guests, during which time a crowd of men is gathering outside the house. At last the men of the city demand unto Lot that he put out the two strangers, that the men of the city might rape them. Lot went to his door and addressed the unruly crowd, offering his two virgin daughters to them in place of his guests. The crowd grows exceedingly angry with Lot and storms the door, at which point the angels pull Lot back, before then sealing the door, and causing blindness to come over the men outside. The angels then inform Lot of God’s plan to destroy all of Sodom, and Gomorrah besides, and instruct Lot to gather his family, and their goods, and leave before the destruction begins. Lot summons his daughter’s two fiancée, informing them of what they must do, only to be ignored as if Lot were joking. The whole family then sleeps, and at dawn make haste away from the city. The angels tell Lot to go to the mountains quickly, and to not look back – though Lot suggests instead that the family might seek refuge in a small city nearby. The angels agree, though after they separate, and the destruction has begun, Lot’s wife turns to watch, and is changed into a pillar of salt. After the destruction is complete, and Lot and his daughters are in the small city for a time, Lot becomes concerned for their safety, and decides to take his daughters into the mountains after all. After living awhile in the mountains, the older daughter complains to the younger that there are no young men for them to marry and make families with. She then suggests they give their father wine, to make him drunk, before then sleeping with him, in turn, with the goal of becoming pregnant by their father. This they do, first the older daughter, and then the younger. Both girls become pregnant, with the older daughter bearing a son who was named Moab, and who later became the father of the Moabites, and the younger bearing a son called Ben-ammi, who became the father of the children of Ammon.

A question for my Christian friends: Do you consider the presence of “three men” standing near the entrance to Abraham’s tent at the start of Genesis 18 as representative of the Trinity?

Following the trail which begins at Genesis 17 I’ve encountered the Arabic word “fitra” which has no easy translation into English, yet which explains why Muslims refer to their adherents as reverts rather than converts.

I have a feeling that from this point on in the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon, all roads will be found to truly begin with Genesis 17.

I like this definition: “Humanism privileges the well-being of individual men, women and children over the glory of the tribe, race, nation, or religion.” – Steven Pinker

Got out a map this evening and located Mamre. Now I can point and say Judaism, Christianity and Islam started HERE. I guess I’ll need to get a map of New York if I want to include the Mormons.

While reading Genesis 19 I was suddenly struck with a rationale for the actions of Lot pertaining to his daughters and the rape mob outside his door. When seen in the light of contemporary honor killing, and the need to preserve the honor of the household, even above the welfare of one’s flesh and blood, it all made sense

I’d like to ask my Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Mormon friends for help. When you first read the Bible, how did you get past Genesis 19 without closing the book and never opening it again – which I’m currently tempted to do.

I’m not so interested in links to scholarly analysis, as much as your own personal account of finding peace with the story. Thank you in advance.

I just had a revelation over lunch… From Genesis 12 through Genesis 20 I’ve been repeatedly astonished by the tone of voice Abraham takes with God whenever the Lord reaffirms their covenant. Despite standing directly before God, Abraham repeatedly demands some proof that what the Lord says is really true. The thing which finally silences Abraham’s doubt is when God tells him in Genesis 18: “you must cut off the end of your penis as an everlasting token of our covenant.” Abraham never doubts again…

Is it just me, or doesn’t it seem we’re witnessing God’s master class in handing a doubting creation?

Genesis 20 – Abraham and Abimelek

Abraham settles in a land ruled by a king named Abimelek. A man of God. Upon arriving in his new home, Abraham and his wife Sarah resumed their old story of being brother and sister, which led Abimelek to take Sarah into his house. The Lord then appeared to Abimelek in a dream, telling the king he was a dead man for taking the wife of another. Abimelek pled for mercy, proclaiming his innocence in not knowing Sarah was, in fact, Abraham’s wife. God shows mercy unto Abimelek, who, after consulting his men, returned Sarah to her husband along with a gift of many cattle and slaves, and 1000 shekels of silver. The Lord then forgives Abimelek and unseals the womb of his wife and all of his female slaves which he had closed up as punishment

I’m beginning Genesis 20 and right away Abraham and Sarah are up to the same trick they used to deceive Pharaoh in Genesis 12. I understand that Abraham fears for his life. Yet this is a man who has stood and walked with God at least four times. You’d think he’d be above such deceitful tricks after being guaranteed a covenant with the Lord no less than five times. And why does God hold Abraham’s unwitting victims to blame for Abraham’s willing deception?

Magical thinking should be treated like masturbation: recognized as something everyone does, is best kept behind closed doors, and should never ever be performed in front of the kids.

Christians: It’s Sunday evening now where I am, and I’m ramping my mind up for another serious week of Bible study. As I open my Bible to Genesis a question came to mind… If God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are One, can we then attribute God’s actions and commandments in the Old Testament to Jesus himself?

I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime reading my Bible and watching the rocket video bubble on the stove (over 35,000 views now). I don’t know what’s more confusing, the mystery of this video’s popularity, or the strange contract Abraham struck with King Abimelek at the end of Genesis 21. I think it’s gonna require a miracle to figure either out…

I received a few responses to my question yesterday asking about the nature of the connection and relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It seems these are three separate entities bonded by their long relationship together. When I’m reading the Bible then, should I imagine these three separate entities acting in perfect accord and making decisions in agreement with one another, or does one of the three (God, perhaps) act in a lead role? Or is their relationship something else altogether?

At the end of Genesis 20 Abimelech gives Abraham 1000 shekels of silver as reparation for his near miss with Sarah. God then rewards Abimelech by opening the wombs of his women which he had earlier sealed. I looked it up, and 1000 shekels of silver is the amount a worker at the time could earn in one hundred lifetimes. Why did God reward such exorbitant payment from a man to whom God speaks in a dream “I know you did this [took Sarah] with a clear conscience.”?

Very interesting! I learned this morning that the northern region of Negev (the setting for Genesis 20) is also the area where King Solomon reigned, and the same land where Moses sent his twelve scouts. Looking this place up on a map is quite helpful in visualizing where so many happenings within the Old Testament are alleged to have taken place.

Genesis 21 – The Birth of Isaac

The Lord visits Sarah, who becomes pregnant and bears a son to Abraham. The boy is called Isaac and is circumcised after his eighth day. Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety-one, when Isaac was born. Sarah observes that God has made her laugh, and all who hear her to laugh as well, and she asks who could imagine that a woman of her age would nurse Abraham’s child? Abraham then made a great feast when the boy was weaned. After that time Sarah observed the son of Hagar mocking; and she told Abraham to send the woman and her son away, that they might not share the inheritance of Abraham. This request distressed Abraham, as Hagar’s son Ishmael was his own flesh and blood. God spoke to Abraham, instructing him to heed Sarah’s words, and telling Abraham that God would watch over Ishmael, who was Abraham’s seed, and who would one day become a mighty nation. Abraham then took Hagar and Ishmael into the wild and left them to wander with bread and water. When the water ran out, Hagar placed Ishmael under a bush, before herself retreating a bowshot’s distance to sit beside a hill, where she could wait while her child dies. Hagar did then cry, as did the boy, which sound went up to God, who commanded his angel to speak to and comfort Hagar. The angel of the Lord told Hagar to pick up her child and go to a water well the angel did reveal. The Lord then told Hagar that he would make of the lad a great nation. God remained with Ishmael who grew and dwelled in the wilderness of Paran, became a great archer, and took a wife from Egypt.

Abraham was met by King Abimelech who asked Abraham to treat him, his son and his grandson fairly; which promise Abraham did make. Abraham then complained to Abimelech that his men had forcibly taken possession of one of Abraham’s wells. Abimelech denied knowing of the event. Abraham then offered sheep and cattle as a token contract between the two men regarding the disputed well, with Abraham throwing in an extra seven ewe lambs to seal the deal. The place where Abimelech and Abraham made their contract was then called Beer-sheba. After the covenant was made, Abimelech rose and returned to the land of the Philistines, while Abraham remained in Beer-sheba, planted a grove and then called upon the name of the Lord. Abraham then travelled in the Philistines’ land many days.

Before I began reading the Bible in earnest I’d imagined Jesus arriving on the scene with the start of the New Testament. My discussions with all of you suggest that Jesus is as eternal as the God the Father. If this is true, is it then fair for me to imagine Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit working in harmonious concert throughout the Bible – New Testament and Old?

Reading the second half of Genesis 21 in two versions of the Bible was very helpful this morning. If I’d only read the King James Edition I would have made a very embarrassing error. Thank goodness the New International Edition helped me spot my error.

Genesis 21 didn’t resonate much with me…until I put down my Bible and pictured and heard the tale being told around a campfire.

Genesis 22 – Abraham Tested

God tempts Abraham by giving him a very difficult assignment. Abraham is to take his son Isaac to the mountains, where he will sacrifice the boy as a burnt offering unto the Lord. Abraham receives these instructions and makes preparation for the three-day journey to the land of Moriah. Upon arriving, Abraham collects wood, fire and a knife and instructs his servants to remain behind while father and son go up the mountain to worship the Lord. Along the way, Isaac notes that they have wood, a knife and fire for the sacrifice, but no lamb to use as an offering. Asking his father about this, he is told that “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Arriving at the appointed place, Abraham builds an altar, stacks the wood and then binds Isaac and lays him atop the wood pile. When Abraham reaches for his knife, the Lord’s voice suddenly calls from Heaven ordering Abraham to stop, saying “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thin only son from me.” The Lord blesses Abraham and all of his seed for Abraham’s revealed fear of God.

I just finished reading Genesis 22 and I have a question: at the end of the story with Abraham and Isaac, God intervenes and prevents Abraham from sacrificing his son. Why was there no such intervention in the case of Jephthah (Judges 11) whom God allowed to offer his only daughter as a burnt offering?

Bible believers: In Genesis 22:12 God praises Abraham for his fear of the Lord. What virtue is God praising? Before reading this chapter closely I’d thought God’s test was one of obedience (which God also references in Gen 22:18). After giving the question serious thought, I’ve concluded that obedience is indeed one likely consequence of fear. But is obedience by this means genuine and from the heart? If I threaten my daughter into obedience, is her obedience something to be admired, or perhaps instead something we should pity? If I instead live well and instruct my daughter wisely, and she obeys me out of respect for my good example and behavior, is not such obedience of much greater value? Indeed, is their any value at all in obedience borne of fear for an architect who has it within his power to create a universe where he need not threaten his creation?

In reviewing our past discussions in the journey so far through the Bible, I’m struck with the impression that many believers look upon the wonders and miracles of the Bible as evidence and proof of the supernatural; while skeptics see these same as nothing more than well-told tales, or questions without an answer.

A deep read of the Bible has secondary advantages: a coworker (Catholic) today commented to me that she’d got a late start in parenting. I responded that Abraham and Sarah were ninety-nine and ninety when Sarah became pregnant with Isaac. She seemed to appreciate that fact.

It’s interesting how many folks have suggested to me today that the Bible is full of nuance, and must be read very carefully, and with frequent reference to historical vocabulary usage and a deep understanding of etymology. It seems to me that the Creator’s timeless testament of truth should be as simply, clear, elegant and timeless as E=MC2.

Believers: do any of you see the combined actions of Abraham, God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost in Genesis 22 as an appalling act of child cruelty? Do you ever think about the story from the perspective of the young boy Isaac? From the moment his father began binding him with rope, to the instant before his throat would be slashed, and the voices in his father’s head tell him to stop, must have been an utter horror.

My reading of Genesis 22 has me up in the middle of the night thinking. I’ve determined that I would reject God if he asked me to do something I thought was wrong – like sacrificing my child as a burnt offering. I’m wondering what believers would do in such circumstance? Would you attempt to emulate Abraham’s obedience? If so, how far would you go? Is there a point you’d put down the knife and say no?

Genesis 23 – The Death of Sarah

Sarah – Abraham’s wife – is dead at the age of one hundred and twenty-seven. Abraham mourns her passing, before going to the Hittites to ask to buy a plot of land where he might bury Sarah. This Hittites respect Abraham greatly, and offer him to take freely any available burial plot. Abraham insists that he must pay, and selects a cave owned by Ephron, son of Zohar. Though Ephron is willing to give the cave and associated land to Abraham, a purchase price of four hundred shekels of silver (forty lifetimes salary) is agreed to, and Abraham takes possession of the land, and buries Sarah his wife.

Genesis 23 was a bit dull after the fireworks of Genesis 22. However, I was interested to learn that Abraham paid the equivalent of forty lifetime’s salary for the cave and field where he buried Sarah. I don’t think he got a very good deal. But clearly, he loved his wife dearly.

My daughter told me this week that two boys from school asked her why her father doesn’t believe in God. She told them it’s because I’m a scientist – which isn’t true. I told her that if they ask again she can explain it’s because I’ve read the Bible – which is true.

A friend explained to me that they don’t read the Bible much because the book is difficult to understand. This statement robs the Bible of some credibility of divine origin; as what kind of Creator writes an owner’s manual his creation cannot comprehend?

Shouldn’t the Creator of the universe be able to write an instruction manual which doesn’t require a translator?

It was suggested today that my Bible reading is tongue-in-cheek. This is not true. I take this endeavor as seriously as the study of any mythology; though I will express surprise when believers tell me their supernatural tales are true – just as I would were a Greek to suggest that Odysseus really fought a dog-headed water nymph at the Rock of Scylla.

Genesis 24 – Isaac and Rebekah

Abraham sends his most senior servant to the land where Abraham was born in order to seek out a wife for Isaac. Abraham instructs the servant that Isaac is not take a wife from the land of Canaan where they now dwell, but that the servant must instead bring back a suitable bride from Abraham’s family. The servant asks if he is to bring Isaac away in search of a bride, to which Abraham responds that Isaac must remain in the land promised to him by God. When the servant arrives in the town of Nahor, he goes to the town spring and thinks to himself that he will know the girl to wed Isaac by a sign, which is this: when the servant asks the girl for water from the spring, she will give it to him, and then proceed to water his camels. This will be the sign that he has found the one. A group of young girls soon approach the spring, and the servant asks them for a drink. Rebekah, who is the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Milkah, brings the servant a drink, and the proceeds to water the camels. The servant knows he has found the one is seeks, and he asks her name – rejoicing when he learns that Rebekah is of Abraham’s family. He then asks if he might lodge the night in Rebekah’s home. Rebekah tells him they have room for both he and his camels and she goes home to make preparations. Rebekah’s brother comes out to greet the servant, bringing him in to the home; offerings him food and water to wash his feet. The family agrees that Rebekah will wed Isaac, and the servant then presents many gifts to the girl and her family. At dawn the servant prepares to depart, though the family is hesitant to allow Rebekah to leave so soon, asking the servant if she may stay ten days before leaving. The servant refuses, and Rebekah agrees, and the servant and the girl soon depart. Upon nearing the camp of Isaac, the girl spots her future husband walking towards them in the field. She descends from her camel, puts on her veil, and goes out to meet Isaac, who then leads Rebekah to the tent of his mother, which has stood empty since Sarah’s death.

Genesis 25 – The Death of Abraham

After Sarah dies, Abraham takes another wife who gives him six additional sons and numerous grandsons. Isaac receives all of Abraham’s possessions, beside those gifts Abraham gave to the sons of his concubines, before then sending these sons away to the east. Abraham then dies at the age of one hundred and seventy-five and is buried with Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar, had twelve sons who went on to become princes in the towns which they had built – striving with the people with whom they shared the land. And then Ishmael died when he was one hundred and thirty-seven years old. And when Isaac was forty years old he prayed to God that Rebekah, his wife, might become pregnant, which she did. And when Rebekah sensed that the babies within her belly were striving against one another she asked the Lord the reason, which response was that there were two nations then within Rebekah, and that these must fight with one another. The Lord adds also that the oldest son must serve the younger. When the babies are born, the first to arrive was red of skin, covered in hair and called Esau, while the second was called Jacob. Esau grew to be a hunter while Jacob preferred to remain in the tents. One day, Esau returned from the hunt famished, and he begged his younger brother for a share of the porridge Jacob had made. Jacob responded that he would share it for the price of Esau’s birthright, which the older brother then gave up, for the value of a bowl of porridge.

Is it in God’s nature to play favorites? We know the Lord has chosen Abraham and Isaac, who nevertheless seem all too willing to deceive King Abimelek, who truly respects and fears the Lord. In both Genesis 20 and 25 we observe poor Abimelek lied to and then punished by God, while the liars Abraham and Isaac not only get away with their deceit, but are rewarded for their treachery when God makes them rich at the expense of Abimelek and his people. If God changed his nature or law with the introduction of Christ, then what lesson is to be gained in the story of Abraham, Isaac and Abimelek, and what can we infer about the nature of a deity who may sometimes change his mind?

In Genesis 26:5 (KJE) God expresses his pleasure in Abraham “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” What charge, commandments, statues and laws is God referring to? So far in the Bible we have yet to encounter a single Thou Shalt.

Genesis 25 paints a beautiful picture of the geographic spread of the descendants of Abraham: with the sons of his concubines settling to the east of Jordan (the land where I presume Moses will soon wander), the sons of Ishmael to the west against Egypt, and finally the sons of Isaac, who remain in Canaan to enjoy the full inheritance of Isaac’s father.

The more I read the Bible the less compelled I feel to point out the reasons to not believe. I suspect when I’m done I’ll be as ardent as most believers in suggesting…”just read it for yourself.”

Genesis 26 – Isaac and Abimelek

There is a great famine in the land, and Isaac takes his family to a city ruled by King Abimelech. Isaac considers taking his family further into Egypt to wait out the famine, though the Lord instructs him to remain where he is until God tells Isaac of a new home. During this time, Isaac instructs his wife Rebekah to say that she is his sister, so that Abimelech’s men will not kill Isaac to get to Rebekah. Abimelech discovered Isaac’s deceit and orders his men to touch neither Isaac nor Rebekah on pain of death. Isaac plants his crops which return a bountiful harvest, making Isaac very rich in money, cattle and servants. Abimelech becomes afraid of Isaac’s growing power, and he requests Isaac to take his family and leave the city of Abimelech. Isaac attempts to settle in the land which Abraham had previously possessed, only to find that the Philistine people there strive against him over local water rights. Isaac continues moving on, at last settling in a land where nobody contends for his water in the wells he digs. Abimelech arrives seeking peace, and the two men form a treaty.

Is it in God’s nature to play favorites? We know the Lord has chosen Abraham and Isaac, who nevertheless seem all too willing to deceive King Abimelek, who truly respects and fears the Lord. In both Genesis 20 and 25 we observe poor Abimelek lied to and then punished by God, while the liars Abraham and Isaac not only get away with their deceit, but are rewarded for their treachery when God makes them rich at the expense of Abimelek and his people. If God changed his nature or law with the introduction of Christ, then what lesson is to be gained in the story of Abraham, Isaac and Abimelek, and what can we infer about the nature of a deity who may sometimes change his mind?

So far in my study of the Bible I’ve been repeatedly told that I can’t fully understand God’s word without the help of human guides. History, theology, fellowship and the oversight of a minister, priest or rabbi are claimed as a necessary bridge between God’s message and understanding. It’s a wonder to me that they don’t see their suggestion that God’s word requires a tutor as an indication the message is not of God.

In Genesis 27 Isaac and his sons demonstrate their great sense of right and wrong. Where did this sense come from – as yet there are no commandments? If this sense is written upon their hearts, then what need of the commandments?

Which is scarier in Genesis 27: the potential wrath of Esau or the mother-in-law scene at the end of the chapter?

I’ve been told today that God’s law is written on our hearts, but that this law must further be inscribed in stone lest we forget. This sounds backwards to me.

Genesis 27 – Jacob Takes Esau’s Blessing

Isaac has grown very old and he knows his life is nearly done. He summons his eldest son Esau, the hunter; from whom he requests a meal of venison before giving Esau his blessing. Esau departs to begin the hunt, while his mother Rebekah – having overheard the conversation – goes to her favored younger son Jacob to arrange a deception. Rebekah instructs Jacob to fetch her two lambs from the flock, which his mother then prepares just the way her husband likes. Rebekah instructs Jacob to take the meal to Isaac, that he may then give Jacob the blessing Isaac had intended for his elder son Esau. Jacob complains to Rebekah that his father might touch him, and then discover his deception – for Jacob’s skin is smooth while Esau’s skin is hairy. Rebekah covers Jacob’s arms and neck with the skins of the slaughtered lambs and sends Jacob to deliver the prepared meal to his father. Rebekah promises Jacob that should his father discover their trick, and then curse Jacob for his deceit, that this curse will then not fall on Jacob’s head, but instead upon Rebekah. Their trick is a success, and Jacob leaves his father with the blessing which was intended for Esau. Soon after, Esau returns and delivers his feast to his father, who is confused by the second feast, though he quickly discerns what has happened. Isaac refuses to bless Esau, explaining that his one blessing has already been given. Esau’s anger against Jacob is great then, and he threatens to kill his brother after his father is dead. Worried for her favored son, Rebekah sends Jacob away to the safety of distant relatives, where Jacob may wait out Esau’s anger. Rebekah then laments her Hittite daughter’s-in-law and admonishes Jacob to not take any wives from the Hittite people.

Why does God seemingly ignore Jacob’s willing deception in Genesis 27, and even reward Jacob with a great blessing in Genesis 28?

I think I may have figured this one out myself. Since Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup, doesn’t this then entitle him to his father’s blessing? If so, then what Jacob and his mother did – though sneaky – was not technically deception, and therefore there is no need for God to be upset. How’s that sound?

Genesis 28 – Isaac calls Jacob

Isaac calls Jacob to tell him he is not to take a bride from the Canaanites and must instead travel to the land of his mother to take a bride from her family. Jacob depart and overnights in an open field where he rests his head upon a stone. During the night Jacob dreams a vision of a stairway rising from the same spot up to heaven. Jacob sees angels moving up and down the stairs, while God stands at the top of the stairs. God speaks to Jacob, telling him that he will give Jacob all the land where he now sleeps, and will bless him with many descendants to spread north, south, east and west. When Jacob wakes the next morning, he realizes he is on holy ground, and he makes an altar of the stone where he had rested his head, pouring oil over the top and vowing to return should his journey to find a wife prove successful.

Genesis 29 – Jacob Arrives in Paddan Aram

Jacob travels east until he reaches the site of a water well where shepherds are gathered with their flocks. Jacob asks the men if they know of Laban, the son of Nahor? They do, and they explain that Laban is well and then point to a young woman approaching with a flock. The shepherds explain that the woman is Laban’s daughter, Rachel. Jacob assists Rachel to water her flock before presenting himself to her as her cousin. Rachel quickly returns home to tell her family of their visitor. Rachel’s father Laban comes out to meet Jacob who is welcomed as family and invited into the home. One month later Laban offers Jacob wages in return for his work, and Jacob selects Rachel to be his wife in exchange for seven years labor. When the seven years are through, Laban tricks Jacob into sleeping with his eldest daughter Leah who is less beautiful than Rachel. Jacob feels he has been deceived, though Laban explains that it is the custom in his land that the older daughter must not be married before the younger, and that he will give Jacob Rachel as well in exchange for another seven years of service. Jacob then marries Rachel and begins another seven years of work. God pities Leah for her sadness in knowing that Jacob loves her less than Rachel. God closes the womb of Rachel and opens Leah’s such that she gives birth to four sons in quick succession.

Believers: what do you make of Genesis 29, and the story of the marriage of Jacob, Leah and Rachel?

Christians hold that The Book of Revelation tells us the fate of world; while scientists point to the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a more conclusive and demonstrable end.

Genesis 30 – Rachel and Leah

Jacob has married Laban’s daughters Rachel and Leah. Rachel is unable to bear children, while Leah on the other hand has produced four sons. Rachel gives her slave girl Bilhah to Jacob and adopts the resulting children. Leah then does the same with her own slave girl Naphtali producing still more sons. God then carefully opens and closes the wombs of the four women such that twelve babies total are produced. Jacob makes a deal with his father-in-law Laban to take possession of Laban’s spotted, speckled and stripped cattle and sheep in payment for Jacob’s long service. Laban agrees to the arrangement in recognition of God’s love of Jacob, thinking God might also favor him. Laban then steals the spotted, speckled and stripped animals before Jacob can take them, leaving only unblemished animals in the flock. Realizing he has been deceived, Jacob executes a plan to create spotted, speckled and stripped cattle and sheep by stripping the bark from sticks and placing the sticks upright in the ground. He then places the flock in front of the sticks such that they can see the sticks while mating. The cattle and sheep which mate while looking at the sticks then produce spotted, speckled and stripped offspring which become the property of Jacob. Over time, the number of spotted, speckled and stripped animals grows great and Jacob becomes very rich at Laban’s expense.

Is faith a universal remedy to doubt? Should we recommend faith to the Doubting Thomas? Was faith argued at Jonestown? What about the suicide bomber unsure if he should push the button? Is there a point faith must be put aside in favor of reason?

Genesis 30 is an astonishing story of a baby war between Rachel and Leah, resulting in twelve babies, with God orchestrating events by sealing and opening the wombs of four women. Is this a good example of the efficacy of prayer? Are we witnessing the same thing now when two football coaches pray to win a game and God steps in to place his finger on the ball?

After I die, if I find myself standing before Saint Peter and he asks if I’ve anything to say before he pulls the lever and sends me to Hell, I’ll say “The ending of Genesis 30… Did you really expect me to believe after reading that??”

Why did God have a chosen people? And if he gave that up with Jesus, why did he change his mind? And if this was simply his plan, then what about the countless unchosen who were simply fodder for the plan with no chance at redemption?

Genesis 31 – Jacob Flees from Laban

Rumor is spreading among the sons of Laban that Jacob’s schemes have robbed their father of his fortune. Jacob also notices that Laban no longer looks on him with favor. God instructs Jacob that it is time for Jacob to gather his family and return to his father’s home in Beersheba. Jacob summons his two wives, Rachel and Leah, to a field where he explains to them God’s plan. The women express their disappointment in their father, whom they say has treated them less like daughters and more like property to be sold. They tell Jacob that he should follow God’s instructions, and that they will go with him wherever he leads. The family gather their possessions, people and flocks and depart. However, before going, Rachel steals her father’s ancestor statues. Three days later, Laban learns that Jacob has left and taken his family with him. Laban also discovers that his ancestor statues are missing. Laban assembles his men and sets out in pursuit. Several days later Laban catches up with Jacob in the foothills of Gilead. Laban accuses Jacob of running away like a thief, taking Laban’s daughters, his grandchildren, his cattle and sheep and even his ancestor statues. The two men argue, and Laban reveals that Jacob’s god has spoken to him in a dream, warning Laban to not harm Jacob. The two men settle their dispute after Laban is unable to locate the stolen statues which Rachel has cleverly hidden in her camel’s saddle. Laban and Jacob erect a “heap” of stones to serve as a marker for their agreement to not harm one another now or in the future.

It’s interesting to superimpose ancient maps upon modern to trace the route of Jacob’s flight from Laban in Genesis 31. Familiar place names like Syria, Aleppo and Damascus take on new scope and meaning.

Genesis 32 – Jacob Wrestles with God

As Jacob’s family nears Beer sheba, Jacob sends forth runners to announce his return to his brother Esau. The runners come back to Jacob, telling him that Esau is coming to meet him in the company of four hundred men. Fearing his brother’s retribution for Jacob’s treachery during their youth, Jacob divides his camp into two groups, such that if the first is destroyed by Esau the second might still survive. Jacob then assembles flocks of cattle, sheep, goats and camels, which he sends towards Esau as a gift, telling the shepherds to inform Esau that these are gifts from his brother Jacob. Jacob then sends his two wives, their two slave girls and his eleven sons across the river Jordan, leaving Jacob alone on the east bank. After nightfall, God comes and wrestles with Jacob until morning. As dawn nears, God asks Jacob to release him, which Jacob agrees to do if God will first bless him. God agrees and blesses Jacob and tells Jacob he has a new name which is Israel

While reading Genesis 32 I was struck by God’s intimate attention to the happenings of such a small group of people in such a tiny part of the world. I thought then to the end of the Bible, where God’s great mandate, promise and threat are yet confined to this same small band of people. Why confine such an important message to such a tiny audience? Especially when the consequence of not hearing or accepting the Good News are so dire and everlasting.

I’m three fifths the way through Genesis and a bit baffled. Why did God open his book with this story? Sure, it makes sense chronologically with all the “In the beginning…” stuff; yet Genesis in no way touches on the Lord’s critical message of salvation through Christ. Wouldn’t it be better to open with Revelation and then the Gospels, and then save the Old Testament for last? I understand that the order of the books was decided by humans, yet it’s a wonder God allowed his central message to be obscured behind eighty thousand words of history.

Genesis 33 – Jacob Meets Esau

Esau has encountered Jacob’s five waves of gift-bearing servants, and at last arrives to meet Jacob and his family near the West Bank of the Jordan River. Jacob carefully positions himself in front of his two slave girls and the children which he has fathered by them – next behind the slaves are Leah, and her many sons, followed by Rachel and her sons including Samuel. Esau approaches and embraces Jacob – and the two men rejoice at their reunion. Esau asks about the women and children whom Jacob explains are his. Esau then asks about the many cattle, sheep, goats and camel which he met along the way, and Jacob tells him these are his gifts to his older brother. With an expression of gratitude Esau declines the gift, which Jacob insists he must take. Esau relents and accepts Jacob’s gift, before inviting his brother back to their home. Jacob indicates that he must move slowly for the many women, children and livestock in his group, and that Esau should go first and Jacob will follow. Esau returns home while Jacob purchases land and sets up a new home.

Genesis 34 – Dinah and the Shechemites

Having resettled his family among the Canaanites, Jacob’s daughter Dinah ventures out to meet the womenfolk of the area. While alone and unprotected, Dinah is raped by Shechem, who is the son of a local prince named Hamor. Learning of the event, Jacob contains his anger until his sons can return from the fields where they are tending Jacob’s flocks. Hamor comes to Jacob requesting the hand of Dinah for his son, who loves her. Jacob and his sons agree, on condition that Hamor and the men of his family and city first become circumcised. Hamor agrees, and convinces the city fathers of the plan, telling them they will all eventually grow rich through intermarriage with the Jacob’s family. Three days after the circumcision – while the men of Hamor’s city are still recovering from the procedure – Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi take up their swords and kill all of the males of the city, afterwards taking plunder and all of the women and children into slavery. Jacob expresses his disappointment in his sons, indicating that their action will likely bring wrath upon the house of Israel in the form of vengeance from the Hittites and Canaanites. The son’s respond, telling their father that what they did was justice for the disgrace brought upon their sister and family

After reading Genesis 34 I’m eager for God to step in with his Commandments. These chosen people are all out of whack with their sense of justice. Though somehow, I think the full six hundred and thirteen Commandments aren’t that much better.

We know that Alzheimer’s doesn’t simply rob us of our memories, but consumes them utterly, and irrevocably. I wonder how these are recovered in an afterlife?

Genesis 35 – Jacob Returns to Bethel

God commands Jacob to return to Bethel where Jacob had first erected an altar to the Lord many decades prior. Jacob prepares his people to leave, instructing them to discard their old clothing in favor of new garments, and to gather and bring to Jacob all their deity and idol images. Jacob disposes of the God images by burying them beneath a large oak tree. Once upon the road, Jacob’s family is protected from attack by a fear of the Lord which God has instilled upon the people whose land Jacob’s family must pass through. Along the way, Rebekah’s nurse dies and is buried beneath an oak tree. Arriving at Bethel, Jacob erects an altar of stone and pours oil over the top, communing then with God, who reaffirms their covenant and reminds Jacob that he is thenceforth to be known as Israel. Jacob (Israel) then leads his people away from Bethel. While on the road, Rachel dies while delivering Jacob another son, whom Jacob calls Benjamin. Jacob buries Rachel along the road to Bethlehem and erects a pillar of stone to mark the spot. Israel moves on again, and during this last leg of the journey his son Reuben sleeps with his father’s concubine Bilhah, which deed Israel is made aware. The Bible then relates the names of Jacob’s twelve sons by four women: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulan, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher. Jacob at last arrives at the home of this father Isaac, who is now one hundred and eighty years old. Reunited with his sons, Isaac then dies and is buried by Esau and Jacob

In Genesis 35 we have our first Biblical encounter with the word “soul.” Sadly though, there is no definition of what this word means.

Genesis 36 –The Dukes of Edom

Esau moves his large family to the hill country near Mt. Seir where there is room to expand after the return of his brother Jacob. In this chapter we begin referring to Esau as Edom, as he will be the head of the Edomites. The chapter has two long lists of names; the first list being the sons of Esau by his various wives and concubines, while the second list is a chronology of the various heads of the tribe who are referred to as “dukes” in the King James edition of the Bible and “chiefs” in the New International Edition

After reading Genesis 36 several times the name “Timna” suddenly stood out on the page. This name is listed as one of Esau’s concubines in verse 12, and also as the very first in a long list of dukes in verse 40. Was this leader of the Edomites both a woman and a concubine? A quick Google search revealed scholarship suggesting she was indeed the same person.

Would you select prayer over medicine if you could only pick one?

Genesis 37 – Joseph’s Dreams

Jacob has at last established a home in the land of Canaan where he and his brother Esau were born. Jacob favors his young son Joseph, who is just seventeen and beginning to help his brothers tend the herds and flocks in the field. Joseph is his father’s favorite, and his eleven brothers hate him for that, as well as the fact of the beautiful coat of many colors which Jacob has given Joseph. They are further upset by the fact that Joseph is in the habit of reporting to their father every evil deed the brothers perform. Joseph also reports his recent dreams to his family. In the first dream Joseph and his brothers are binding sheaves in the field when his own sheaf does rise into a standing posture. His brother’s sheaves did also rise and then bow low to Joseph’s sheaf. In another dream the sun, and the moon, and eleven stars make obeisance to Joseph. The entire family is upset by these dreams which seem to indicate that Joseph will one day rule over them all.

Jacob’s eleven sons have been tending the herd in Shechem, and Jacob sends Joseph to that place to see if all is well. Joseph cannot find his brothers at Shechem though he meets a man who tells him the brothers have moved on to Dothan. Joseph at last reaches his brothers who recognize him from afar and conspire to do him harm. Reuben convinces his brothers not to kill Joseph, but to instead simply throw him into a dry water cistern. After removing Joseph’s coat of many colors, they throw the young man into the pit and depart to make dinner. While enjoying their meal they see a caravan of Midianites approaching from Gilead. The brothers decide to sell Joseph into slavery which they do for twenty pieces of silver. Before returning to their father, the brothers first kill a kid goat and cover Joseph’s coat with its blood. When they give the blood-stained coat to their father he “rent his clothes and put sackcloth upon his loins and mourned for his son many days.” This chapter ends when the Midianites sell their cousin Joseph to an Egyptian named Potiphar who is an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard

Genesis 37 reveals that Jacob’s sons have gone from Hebron to pasture their sheep in Shechum, which is the community Jacob’s sons destroyed in Genesis 34. Realizing this prompted an unsettling sentiment: “To pasture our flocks in the fallow fields of those we have slain.”

Genesis 38 – Judah and Tamar

Jacob’s son Judah leaves his family to live with his friend Hirah in Adullam. While there, Judah meets and marries the daughter of a Canaanite man. The couple have three sons. When their first son Er is grown, Judah arranges for him to marry the daughter of his friend Hirah. The girl’s name is Tamar. The first son is wicked in the eyes of Lord and is therefore killed by God. Judah then commands his second son Onan to make love to his widowed sister-in-law such that she might have a son by him to carry the family name. Onan pulls out when making love to her, deliberately spilling his seed on the ground. This angers God who then kills Onan. Judah then instructs Tamar to return to the home of her father and wear widows clothing until Judah’s third son is old enough to marry her.

Some years later Judah’s own wife dies, leaving Judah on his own with his third son Shelah. When it’s time to go to the pasture to shear the sheep Judah asks his friend Hiran to join him. Tamar is aware that Judah’s third son Shelah is now old enough for her to marry, yet she is disappointed as Judah has not yet given her to Shelah. Tamar goes to the road where Judah is travelling and waits for him. She changes into the clothing of a harlot and she covers her face. When Judah passes he asks to girl to have sex with him – not knowing she is his daughter-in-law. She agrees for the price of a lamb and asks Judah to first give her his seal and his staff until he can return with the lamb. He agrees, and they have sex which makes Tamar pregnant. Judah later sends his friend Hirah to bring a lamb to the harlot by the side of the road. Hirah is unable to find the girl – his daughter – as she has already returned home. Three months later Judah learns that Tamar is pregnant and he orders that she be brought out and burned to death. Tamar then produces Judah’s seal and staff claiming these items belong to the man who made her pregnant. Judah realizes that Tamar is more righteous than he and vowes to never have sex with her again. Tamar is carrying twins, and when the babies are born the nurse ties a string around the hand which comes out first

I was told yesterday that I must study both the Hebrew and Aramaic languages to gain a proper understanding of the Bible. So I tried that with Genesis 38. In English the Bible refers to the widow Tamar in this chapter as simply a prostitute and whore, while in Hebrew she is called either a zonah or a qedeshah, the latter word of which is nothing like the English translation, and really changes the story. I guess we really do need to read the Bible in the original languages to gain the full and intended meaning.

It’s good to read the Bible more than once. The first time I read the Bible I thought it was Joseph giving his coat of many colors to the harlot by the side of the road. Rereading Genesis 38 I realize it wasn’t Joseph, but his brother Judah, and he didn’t give her his coat, but his seal, his cord and his staff. Details details.

What?! I just realized that the man whom Judah sends to pay the harlot in Genesis 38 is the harlot’s father. I guess it’s a good thing he couldn’t find her, as that would have been pretty awkward.

Genesis 39 – Joseph and Potipher’s Wife

Joseph is sold into the house of Potiphar who is Pharaoh’s captain of the guard. The Lord favors Joseph who is soon granted control of all of Potiphar’s household and fields, which are enriched greatly under Joseph’s worthy administration. Potiphar’s wife is attracted to Joseph and attempts to seduce him over many days. Joseph resists her advances, citing allegiance to his master and an unwillingness to sin against the Lord. One day, Potiphar’s wife catches Joseph alone in the house and tries again to call him to her bed. Laying her hand upon Joseph’s shoulder he makes an escape, leaving his cloak behind. The wife then raises an alarm and tells her husband that Joseph did attempt to seduce her, offering up Joseph’s cloak as evidence. Enraged, Potiphar then places Joseph in the king’s prison, where God continues to favor Joseph who soon becomes the prison warden’s trusted helper

The end of Genesis is now in sight. Maybe another ten days and I’ll be done with this first book. I’ll confess reading this thing has already become a slog. I would have kinda expected God’s book to be more of a page turner – even for a nonbeliever.

Genesis 40 – The Cupbearer and the Baker

Joseph is joined in the king’s prison by two of Pharaoh’s servants: the butler and the baker, each of whom has been charged with an offence against the king. One night, the two men each have a dream, and when they wake in the morning they are distressed that there is nobody who can interpret their dreams for them. Joseph offers to hear the dreams, and then tell the men their meaning according to the Lord. The Butler describes his dream first; saying he witnessed three vines before him, sprouting flowers and then ripened grapes, which the butler did squeeze into a cup to then hand to Pharaoh. Joseph tells this man that in three days’ time Pharaoh will lift his head out of bondage and return him to his rightful place by Pharaoh’s side. Encouraged by this interpretation, the baker relates his own dream. The baker says that in his dream there were three baskets on his head, with the topmost basked filled with breads of many kinds, which birds came to devour. Joseph tells the baker that in three days’ time Pharaoh will lift his head from his body before placing his corpse upon a spike for wild beasts and insects to devour. Three days later – on Pharaoh’s birthday – the king indeed summons the butler and the baker. The butler is restored to his position while the butler is beheaded and hung upon a spike.

Genesis 41 – Pharaoh’s Dreams

The king of Egypt has two dreams which none of his dream interpreters or sorcerers can discern. His cup-bearer however suddenly remembers his experience two years prior when Joseph accurately foretold not only the cup-bearer’s fate, but also that of the king’s baker, when these two men told Joseph their dreams. The cup-bearer tells pharaoh of what happened, and pharaoh summons Joseph before him. When Joseph appears – freshly shaven and wearing new garments – before the king, pharaoh tells him of the two dreams: In the first dream seven healthy cattle emerge from the Nile river, followed by seven lean and dying cattle. The dying cattle then consume the healthy beasts while remaining lean and withered. This dream is followed by a second dream, in which pharaoh observes seven stalks of grain, ripe and burgeoning with seed, followed by seven withered stalks, blasted by the east wind. The withered grain somehow consumes the healthy grain. Joseph tells the king that his interpretation from the Lord indicates the two dreams are one, and a warning to the king of what is to come. Joseph says there will be seven years of plenty in Egypt followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advises the king to choose a worthy administrator to oversee the coming harvests and lay up one-fifth against the coming famine.

Impressed with Joseph’s interpretation, pharaoh assigns Joseph the role of administrator and second-in-commend behind pharaoh himself. Joseph is provided with a post, a title, robes, a wife and a chariot with someone to announce, “make way!” as Joseph travels throughout Egypt, fulfilling the mandate of pharaoh’s dream. Joseph’s wife – the daughter of a high priest – bares him two sons which Joseph names Manasseh and Ephraim. After seven years of plenty, famine indeed falls upon the land, and pharaoh orders Joseph to open the city granaries and sell food to the people, that they might not starve

Reading Genesis 41 has revealed to me that God is a socialist.

Holy moly! My study of Genesis 41 has helped me to understand that the “pharaoh” of Genesis and Exodus was NOT the king of Egypt; as apparently this word did not mean king until around the fifteenth century BC, and the events of Genesis and Exodus are staged in the early to mid-second millennium. These “facts” really change my mental impression of early Biblical events.

Genesis 40 and 41 suggest that God’s message to individuals can be accurately interpreted through dreams, but only if the interpreter does so sincerely in God’s name.

I’m reading this afternoon the account of one of the first Europeans to report his encounter with the rainforests of what is now Brazil. In 1502, explorer Amerigo Vespucci writes “we saw so many animals that I believe so many species could not have entered Noah’s ark.” I wonder how his report was received back in Italy and Spain?

Genesis 42 – Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

Famine comes to the land, and Jacob addresses his sons, asking them why they stand around “looking at each another” when there is food in Egypt they could go and purchase. Leaving only their youngest brother Benjamin behind, the ten sons of Israel depart for Egypt bearing silver to use in payment for the grain which will keep their family alive. Arriving in Egypt, the brothers are met by their own brother Joseph, who they do not recognize due to the fact that Joseph speaks the Egyptian language and dresses in the garments of an Egyptian nobleman. The brothers bow their faces to the ground, which reminds Joseph of his dream (Genesis 37) when his brothers sheaves bowed down before his own. Speaking through a translator, Joseph angrily accuses his brothers of being spies, which the brothers deny, stating they are simply in Egypt to buy grain for their family, and that they are all the sons of one man from Canaan, with yet another brother left behind with their father, and still another brother (Joseph) lost. Joseph imprisons his brothers for three days, after which point he releases all but one while sending the other brothers home with grain and instructions to send back the youngest son Benjamin to secure release of the brother taken hostage. During the return journey one brother discovers his own silver stashed in his grain – which Joseph had instructed his servants to do while loading the donkeys. Arriving back with their family Jacob becomes angry that Benjamin is required to go to Egypt, and he refuses to allow the boy to leave. The oldest son Reuben offers to allow Jacob to kill his own two sons should Reuben fail to return from Egypt with both Benjamin and the hostage son. Jacob complains that he will go to his grave wailing should anything bad happen to Benjamin.

Genesis 43 – The Second Journey to Egypt

The long famine continues, and Jacob’s family has again run out of food. Jacob instructs his sons to return to Egypt to buy more corn, that the family may live. Judah tells his father that they cannot go back without bringing their brother Benjamin, as the Egyptian who oversees the granaries instructed them to not return without their youngest brother. Jacob is wroth with his sons, asking them why they did tell the man they had a brother? Judah explains that the man’s questions were very specific, asking after asking after the health of their father, he asked if they had any younger brother. Judah protests that they could not possibly know that the man would demand the younger brother be brought to him? Judah offers himself to be held to blame if they fail to return with Benjamin. At last, Jacob allows them to go, telling them to bring gifts of honey, incense and nuts, as well as money to pay for the grain, along with the money they returned with after their first journey.

When the brothers arrive in Egypt, Joseph meets then and instructs his steward to take the brothers to Joseph’s home, where they will have lunch with him. Fearing an ambush, the brothers tell the steward of the mystery regarding how their money was returned to them after the first trip to Egypt, and of their innocence in the whole matter. The steward comforts the brothers, telling them not to fear, as it was the Lord who was with them then, and that it was the steward himself who had been behind the affair with the money.

When Joseph arrives for the meal, he asks the men if the youngest among them is their brother. They say he is. Joseph of course, recognizes his brother, and goes into his own room to hide his tears of joy for reunion. After cleaning his face, Joseph returns to his guests. Joseph sits alone at the head table, while the Hebrews – his brothers – sit together at another table, and the Egyptians – who will not eat with the Hebrews, for it is blasphemy – sit at still another table. The food is then placed on Joseph’s table, and Joseph instructs his servants to bring portions to his guests. For Benjamin, a great helping – five times that of his brothers – is brought and placed before him.

A close reading of the Bible reveals very interesting things. In Genesis 40 and 41 we learn that God speaks to us in our dreams. And in Genesis 44 we discover Joseph’s use of a silver cup for divination.

Just five chapters of Genesis remaining. This book reminds me of the desert. A landscape devoid of God, yet haunted by the memory of man.

Genesis 44 – A Silver Cup in a Sack

After entertaining his brothers in his home, Joseph – still hiding his identity – instructs his household steward to fill the men’s donkey sacks with corn before sending them on their way. Joseph gives the steward his silver cup – the one Joseph uses for divination – with additional instructions to include this also in the sack of the youngest brother, Benjamin. Not long after the men have left, Joseph tells the steward to go after them, and then accuse the men of being thievery because of the silver cup. The men are not far from the city when the steward accosts them, demanding to know the reason they have repaid his master’s kindness with the treachery of theft? The brothers are astonished at this accusation, reminding the steward that they had arrived in Egypt with not only silver to pay for this corn, but also with payment for the previous purchase. They ask what possible cause they could they have to steal from the lord of the granary after their efforts to set matters straight? They even go so far as to offer the life of any one of them in whose pack the stolen goods might be found. The search begins, starting with the oldest brother ass and moving down to the youngest, wherein the cup of Joseph’s divination is found within the pack of Benjamin.

Returning to the house of Joseph, the brothers offer themselves in exchange for Benjamin’s life. However, Joseph will not hear it, and insists that Benjamin – his full brother – must stay behind, while the remaining brothers go back to Canaan. It is then that the brothers explain to Joseph their difficult predicament; and how their aged father would not at first let Benjamin leave his side, but only relented when the family had run out of food. And how furthermore the old man had claimed he would go to his grave mourning if, for any reason, Benjamin did not return.

Genesis 45 tells us that Israel will settle in Egypt in Goshen, a fertile land on the east bank of the Nile. History tells us the Semites were indeed there, though not as slaves, but as an unwanted foreign incursion during a weak point in Egyptian history. There is no evidence the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt and were instead simply tolerated on the far side of the river until Egypt regained sufficient strength to run them out. Which they did.

Genesis 45 – Joseph Makes Himself Known

Joseph can no longer keep his secret, and beginning to weep, he sends away his Egyptian servants. Alone with his brothers, he reveals his identity to them, saying “I am Joseph” which brings great fear to their hearts, for they remember the wrong they inflicted on him when they attempted to kill Joseph before selling him into slavery. Joseph explains that they should not be afraid, for Joseph now knows that it was the will of God that he should come to Egypt to save many lives from the famine which is now under way. Joseph further rejoices at the reunion with his brothers, and there are many tears of joy. Joseph then instructs his brothers to return to Canaan to bring their father down to Egypt to live. Pharaoh then arrives and tells the brothers they will have a splendid home in Goshen, and he tells them to go back to Canaan bearing many gifts, and to then return to Egypt with their families, leaving all of their former goods in Canaan, as they will have in Goshen the best that Egypt can offer in land and goods. Arriving back in Canaan, the brothers tell their father Israel that Joseph lives, which he cannot believe. However, seeing all of the goods which were sent along by Pharaoh and the man claiming to be Joseph he at last must understand, and his heart is then lifted with joy.

Settling in for another week of Bible study and it occurs to me how flat and two-dimensional the characters of Genesis are. We learn nothing of their appearance, or their likes or dislikes, or even very much about their personalities. This fact may strengthen the claim that the stories are history (“just the facts, ma’am.”), or maybe this dry writing tells us something about the nature of storytelling in the ancient world. Or maybe the writers simply weren’t very good.

Wait a minute. In Genesis 44 Benjamin is referred to as a “boy” seven separate times. Yet in Genesis 46 (a short time later) we learn that this “boy” has ten children. I know they sometimes started families early in the ancient world, but really?

Genesis 46 – Jacob Goes to Egypt

Jacob assembles his entire family, consisting of sixty-six individuals, who begin making their way from Canaan down to Goshen in the land of Egypt. Along the way, they stop at Beersheba, where God speaks to Jacob in a dream, telling Jacob to not be afraid to go to Egypt, as God promises to be with him to protect and make his family prosperous. God even promises Jacob that the old man will be with his son Joseph when he dies, which is a great comfort to Jacob who knows his end is near. What follows is a long list of the names of the sons who have accompanied Jacob to their new home in the Nile delta. Nearing Egypt, Jacob sends his son Judah ahead to get directions from Joseph, who – upon learning that his father is near – makes ready his chariot to go out and meet Jacob in the field. There is much emotion when father and son meet, and Jacob tells his son that he can at last die in peace knowing that Joseph is alive and well. Joseph then instructs his father and brothers to go forth to Pharaoh and tell the king that they are shepherds, which fact will bring favor onto them and cause Pharaoh to give them land in Goshen.

I like the way God has to raise his voice to get Jacob’s attention: “Jacob! Jacob!” (Gen: 46:2). It’s details like this which I’m sure I’ll remember all my life.

I’ve got another Bible math problem. Genesis 46 tells us that Jacob took seventy people with him to Egypt, and that this number was sixty-six excluding the wives. That leaves four wives for thirteen brothers. At first I thought maybe they weren’t counting the concubines and slave girls, but I see the servant girl Bilhah is included in the list. Can someone please help me understand?

I discovered today that a coworker is a fellow nihilist. We had a good conversation, like members of a secret society who discover they aren’t so alone in a crowd. I wonder how many others are out there?

Genesis 47 – The Death of Jacob

Joseph brings five of his brothers to meet with Pharaoh who asks the men about their work and livelihood. The brothers explain that they are shepherds, who have come from the land of Canaan with the flocks, and families and their aged father. The brothers request of pharaoh a chance to establish new homes in the fertile land of Goshen. Pharaoh instructs Joseph to settle his family and make of any able men shepherds over pharaoh’s own flocks. Joseph then brings his father Jacob before pharaoh who asks the old man’s age. Jacob explains that he is one hundred and thirty years old, and that his years have been very had. Jacob then blesses pharaoh before departing from the king’s presence.

Because of the famine, the people of Egypt came to Joseph to buy grain, which Joseph sold them for money. In the second year of the famine the people had no more money, and Joseph took their cattle instead. In the third year, with no money or cattle to trade, Joseph accepted the people’s land, and their lives, making them serf and servants unto pharaoh. Joseph then moved the people from the cities to the countryside to farm the land and give one-fifth unto pharaoh. The people accepted and appreciated this arrangement, believing slavery preferable to death. Joseph and his family prospered in the years to follow, and in his one hundred and forty-seventh year Jacob dies and is brought back to be buried in Canaan with his fathers.

Genesis 47 includes a reference by pharaoh to “the district of Ramesses” which place name did not yet exist. This would be like Lincoln referencing the state of Hawaii in the Gettysburg address.

In Genesis 47 we see again the strange custom – first witnessed with Abraham (Gen 24) – of cupping a man’s testicles when making a vow which must be carried out even after death. I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.

God’s plan in Genesis 41 results in serfdom and the enslavement of EVERYONE in Egypt – except the priests – by Genesis 47. Was this God’s plan all along?

If God was a fiscal conservative then wouldn’t he more likely instruct Joseph to order the people of Egypt to set aside 20% against a rainy day, rather than having the government do this for them? The story of Joseph is adding weight to the idea that God is indeed a socialist.

I think I’ve just witnessed my first Bible miracle. Genesis 47 ends with the death of Jacob. But then Jacob is alive again right at the start of Genesis 48!! Jacob then dies a second time – under different circumstances – at the end of Genesis 48. At first I thought I was dealing with a situation like the Gospels, in which the same story is told from the perspective of different authors, but the two Jacob stories aren’t even similar.

What’s the rule about blessings? Before Isaac died he behaved as though he had just one blessing to give (Gen 27). But now that Jacob is about to die he’s handing out blessings all over the place, giving one both to Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as an extra helping to pharaoh himself. And isn’t it a little presumptuous to bless, or for that matter pray? Who are we to attempt to sway God’s will?

OMG! I just now realized what Jacob did with the little blessing switcharoo he pulled at the end there with Ephraim and Manasseh. He effectively robbed Manasseh of his birthright, in the same way Jacob stole the birthright from his own brother Esau. This guy was bad “till the end. His mother would have been proud.

After announcing yesterday that I would return to the desert this week, I received a request asking me to not bring my Bible. Such an interesting request. I would never think to do such a thing.

Genesis 48 – Manasseh and Ephraim

Word comes to Joseph that his father Jacob is ill and may soon die. Joseph collects his sons Manasseh and Ephraim and brings the boys to see their grandfather before he dies. Jacob is told that Joseph has come to see him, and the old man sits up and readies himself to accept visitors. When Joseph arrives, Jacob relates stories of the past, and in particular how Jacob buried his wife Rachel beside the road near Bethlehem. Israel (Jacob) then notices the two small boys with Joseph and asks who they are. Joseph responds, telling the old man that they are his grandsons who were born to Joseph during his time in Egypt. Jacob desires to bless the boys who Joseph then pull from the knee of their grandfather, placing Ephraim before and at the right side of Joseph and Manasseh – the eldest – before and to the left of Joseph. Joseph then walks the two boys before their grandfather such that Manasseh stands before Jacob’s right hand and Manasseh stands before Joseph’s left. Sensing the boys are near, Jacob then reaches out his arms which he suddenly crosses in order to rest his left hand upon Ephraim and his right hand upon Manasseh. Joseph notices the mistake and removes his father’s right hand from Ephraim’s head before placing it atop Manasseh, all the while telling his father that Manasseh is the eldest. Jacob responds that he knows what he is doing, and that though both boys will be blessed and become prosperous, the younger son Ephraim will at last become the greater of the two. Israel then promises his son Joseph some land in Canaan before the old man at last dies.

Just two chapters of Genesis left. The feeling now is the same when you know the dentist is almost done.

A benefit of a deep, deep reading and study of the Bible is the way the stories become more like memories than mere recollections. As I approach the end of Genesis, I’m confident the characters and events within will remain as up-front in my mind as the anger and energy of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, or the fear and timidity of Hepzibah Pyncheon in The House of the Seven Gables. Not because the Bible is such great literature, but simply because I’ve force-fed myself to a point I can’t easily forget.

I asked one of my students today why he attended a private school that was so far away. He answered that it was the only non-religious private school his family could find. I was shocked by his candor. Then I remembered his family was from Europe.

Genesis 49 – Joseph Blesses His Sons

Jacob knows that his life is nearly over, and he calls his twelve sons before him so that he may bless them. To Reuben, his first born, Jacob compliments the man’s strength and honor, though he denies him the rights of the first born due to Reuben’s trespass upon his father’s bed. To Simeon and Levi, Jacob offers warning to others to not seek their council, for the men have killed with dishonor. Judah is honored by his father, and given the foremost blessing for his goodness and purity, being likened to a pride of lions. Zebulun is mentioned as one day living by the sea, while his brother Issachar will become a servant unto others. Dan is forecast to bring justice to his tribes, waiting in ambush to do good. Gad will be attacked, but attack back in greater force. Asher will enjoy delicacies of food, fit for a king. Naphtali will enjoy freedom, and a family. Joseph will be abundant and fruitful, withstanding assaults with a steady arm, enjoying great blessings from the Lord. Benjamin will live like a devouring wolf, bringing back the spoils to share with his home. After passing on these predictions, Jacob instructs Joseph to bury the old man in the family cave back in the tomb of Abraham, in the land of Canaan

While my time alone in the desert reveals there is no God, my time teaching teens how to drive indicates life can be chock full of purpose

A benefit of a deep, deep reading and study of the Bible is the way the stories become more like memories than mere recollections. As I approach the end of Genesis, I’m confident the characters and events within will remain as up-front in my mind as the anger and energy of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, or the fear and timidity of Hepzibah Pyncheon in The House of the Seven Gables. Not because the Bible is such great literature, but simply because I’ve force-fed myself to a point I can’t easily forget.

My confusion over Bible blessings is only compounded with Genesis 49, where Jacob hands out an additional twelve blessings (some though, seem more like a curse) in addition to the two he gave in Genesis 48. That’s fourteen blessings total! Clearly, we’re not limited to giving out just one blessing, which was the example with Isaac. I wonder if God will set the record straight somewhere within the 613 laws to come?

Genesis 49 seemingly instructs us in the difference between prophecy and prediction; where the former requires the invocation of God and the latter does not. Jacob’s utterances in this chapter then are predictions, unlike the prophesy delivered each Sunday from pulpits throughout Christendom.

If you could only have one, which would you prefer: good government or good church? Keeping in mind that not everyone shares your religion or your political views.

While writing in my daily Bible log just now I had to pause while reading Genesis 49:16 “Dan will provide justice for his people.” Who among us today would include the word “his” in such a sentence? This fact is revealing that morals are indeed mailable to the times.

 

Genesis 50 – The Death of Joseph

Jacob is dead, and Joseph directs his physicians to embalm his father’s body, which process takes forty days. During this time, Joseph visits Pharaoh to request permission to return his father’s body to Canaan where Jacob had asked to be buried, in the cave of his ancestors. Permission is granted, and Joseph gathers his brothers and their families and prepares to depart, leaving only the small children behind in Egypt. The group arrives west of the Jordan river where there is great mourning and the people of Canaan mistake these people for Egyptians. After burying Jacob, the family returns to Egypt. Joseph’s brothers are anxious should Joseph seek revenge for the evil deeds they performed against him in their youth. The brothers send word to Joseph from their father instructing Joseph to forgive his brothers, which he does, citing the Lord’s will. Joseph lives on to the age of one hundred and ten years. Before his death, Joseph informs his brothers that though he will soon be gone, God will come to deliver them from this land and unto the land promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph then dies, leaving instructions to return his bones to the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Genesis ends well. Not great, but good. Like that novel you bought at the airport and finished before landing in Honolulu.

Jordan? What the heck are Joseph and his family doing near the Jordan river on their way to bury Jacob in Canaan? A quick check of my map reveals they overshot the mark by as much as a hundred miles. Maybe this helps explain the coming forty years wandering in the desert.

Joseph’s final utterances (Gen:50:24-25) read like someone’s putting words in his mouth. There’s the cliffhanger.

Why did the people of Canaan confuse Joseph and his family for Egyptians (Gen 50:11)? This would be like me returning to the USA after a few years in Japan and being identified as Japanese.

I’m pretty sure I’ll remember for the rest of my life the name of the cave where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried. That’s a bit of trivia I never thought would be mine

The many characters of Genesis linger in my mind like portraits in glass; leaded, colorless outlines in the dusty alcoves of thought. Memories, put aside for another day.

With Genesis complete, I can now do a little math to help me figure out how long it will take to complete this project. Genesis is 50 chapters, which required 87 days to read. That’s 1.75 days per chapter. I’ve finished 50 chapters so far, which leaves 1139 chapters to go. Assuming the 1.75 chapters per day (big assumption), this means I’ll need to dedicate another 5.6 years to study the rest of the Bible. I’ll be eligible for retirement then. Which is good, as I’ll also be sorely in need of a rest. 

I’m allowing myself a short break between Genesis and Exodus, in order to organize and prepare. It feels strange experiencing a morning without the Bible, which has come to consume so much of my free time. Kinda like a second job. 

One of the most satisfying things about my Bible study project is the fact that I can leave a record behind to share with my grand-kids and beyond. The YouTube playlist below contains all fifty chapters of Genesis, consisting of eighteen hours of commentary, on every event from creation through to the last days of Joseph. It’s rather satisfying to know that if my great-great grandson or daughter – who I’ll likely never know – ever begin to wonder or doubt for, or against, the supernatural, they can come ride with me on the freeway and share a little of great-grandpa’s earnest critical review. Possibly they’ll think “Gee, grandpa sure was dumb…” though maybe they’ll find the courage to say “I don’t believe you” to ideas which don’t make sense in the light of what we really know, and our admission of what we do not.

The following was written between the completion of Genesis and the start of the next chapter, Exodus.

When I was a Christian I felt guilty when I didn’t regularly read my Bible. It’s strange to experience that feeling again. Though the feeling now isn’t really guilt, but something more like the unease of goofing off at work. The discomfort of not following through. 

What I Learned From Studying Genesis

The very last thing I wanted to do before closing the book on Genesis is to summarize all the new things I learned. It turns out there’s a lot! This was indeed a very worthwhile effort. My summary is below. My thanks to everyone who helped me learn along the way.

  • The universe is roughly six thousand years old (Gen 5)
  • Noah was 600 years old when he entered the ark (Gen 7)
  • The voyage of the ark lasted one year and ten days (Gen 7)
  • Noah’s curse skipped a generation, seemingly to provide justification for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as the later genocide performed by Samuel upon arrival in the Promised Land (Gen 9)
  • “God loves the smell of old school BBQ” (Gen 8) -Tony Farkas
  • Construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza was completed within a hundred and fifty years of Noah’s flood (Gen 12)
  • Christians and Jews have very different ideas about an afterlife (Gen 14)
  • God seals some deals by cutting in half a goat, ram, dove and pigeon, and then walking among the entrails (Gen 14)
  • Herman Melville read Genesis (Gen 15)
  • Abraham probably picked up the practice of circumcision from the Egyptians (Gen 17)
  • The Bible and The Quran may be seen to diverge at Genesis 17
  • It’s OK to lie about your marital status if you are afraid, you think you have God’s favor, and if you hope to gain financially by doing so (Gen 12 and Gen 20)
  • Fear can be a catalyst to virtue (Gen 22)
  • Threatening our children with death builds their character (from comments I received from Facebook friends regarding Gen 22)
  • We should obey God, even if we think what he asks is wrong (Gen 22)
  • Abraham needed a better real estate agent (Gen 23)
  • God plays favorites, even between believers (Gen 20 and 25)
  • God references his “charges, commandments, statues, and laws” though no such rules have yet been formally provided by this point in the Bible (Gen 25)
  • God may ignore and even reward our deception (the example of Jacob in Gen 27 and 28)
  • God may sometimes use the miracle of sealing and unsealing women’s wombs to get his way (Gen 25 and Gen 30)
  • Our first Biblical encounter with the word “soul” is in Genesis 35, though there is no clear definition of meaning
  • The leader of the Biblical tribe of the Edomites was possibly both a woman and a concubine (Gen 36)
  • Joseph’s sons pasture their flocks in the fallow fields of those upon whom they have committed genocide (Gen 37)
  • God is a socialist (Gen 41)
  • The Egyptian word Pharaoh did not necessarily mean “king” during the time of Genesis and Exodus (personal study)
  • God’s message to man may sometimes be accurately interpreted through our dreams, but only if the interpreter does so sincerely, and in God’s name (Gen 41)
  • It is possible to divine the future using a silver cup and observing the contents swirling within (Gen 44)
  • There is no good evidence the Jews were ever slaves in Egypt (my own study around Gen 44)
  • A “boy” named Benjamin has ten children (Gen 44)
  • God must sometimes raise his voice to be heard (Gen 45)
  • Jacob’s thirteen sons shared just four wives between them (Gen 46)
  • Jacob’s family settles in a land called “the district of Rameses” though there was no such place name at the time (Gen 47)
  • Biblical patriarchs may sometimes cup one another’s testicles with their hands when pledging a solemn oath (Gen 24 and 47)
  • God facilitates the enslavement of everyone in Egypt except the Egyptian priests (Gen 47)
  • God once more demonstrates he is a socialist (Gen 47)
  • We see our first Biblical resurrection with Jacob, who dies and seemingly rises again between Gen 47 and 48
  • While Isaac refused to grant more than just one blessing before his death (Gen 27); Jacob, on the other hand, gives out as many as fifteen (Gen 47)
  • Joseph and his family got seriously lost on their way to bury Jacob in Hebron (Gen 50)
  • Joseph and his family may have successfully impersonated Egyptians during their brief time near the Jordan river (Gen 50)
  • We must read the Bible in both Hebrew and Aramaic in order to gain a true understanding of meaning (from comments provided by Facebook friends)
  • God needs man’s help understanding His word (constant feedback from my Christian friends on Facebook)
  • And most astonishing of all…according to my Christian friends on Facebook, Jesus was present with God for the events of both the New and Old Testaments, and sanctioned all God’s decisions and actions
  • And finally, I learned that the best way to recognize that Bible is the work of man is to simply read it for ourselves
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