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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Day Four (Non-Genesis)

I'm such a sucker for stories that Genesis has sucked in most of my responses. I will comment generally about the other sections I've been reading. Having read Matthew through 9:17, I am noting that Christ's miracles are becoming more public, although I also recognize that they came after his teaching. Matthew works hard to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah of whom the prophets were speaking, but also makes it clear that if the establishment doesn't want to come along that is just fine with him.

The Psalms have never really done much for me. I have initially chalked that up to my academic inclination, but have read portions of the first 10 (there are 150) they do seem to mostly be about battle hymns. They are generally to YHWH. And they seem--so far anyway--to contain equal parts God-help-us and God-kill-them. I've been pretty crossly scolded on the internets for expressing such an opinion about Revelation before, but I'll take the chance of publicly confessing that I am less inspired by some sections of the Bible.

Proverbs is an interesting book to me. The theme is that if you follow the way you will be rich and happy. And, lets not shy away from the rich part. Certainly the book contains cautions about being obsessed with money but Proverbs 3:9-10 is pretty typical: Honor YHWH with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. So, that's pretty much talking about wealth. I don't think, however, that Proverbs is talking about divine intervention. I think it is saying, God's way is the best way. The fact that it creates the "good life" is proof of that.

Day Four

You know how when you move to a new area, and if you have a really hot wife you get worried that people who live there will kill you to get a chance to be with her, and so you just say she is your sister and the problem altogether by just making her available to the top dog in the new area? Typical story, right? Well, in my fourth day of reading the Old Testament, I've now come across the third version of such a story. You can read the first, which is from Genesis 12, in Day Two. I reference the second, which is in Genesis 20 yesterday, and here is the third. Like father like son:
6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, "She is my sister," because he was afraid to say, "She is my wife." He thought, "The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful."

8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, "She is really your wife! Why did you say, 'She is my sister'?"
Isaac answered him, "Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her."

10 Then Abimelech said, "What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us."

11 So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: "Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death."
Gen. 26. For those of you keeping score at home, Abimelech is the second king to be tricked into marrying Sarah because Abraham played this trick on him.

In between the wife swapping, or actually wife giving away because you're a wimp, the Genesis story suggests some pretty intense loss. I've heard it mentioned that Sarah dies in the next chapter after Abraham offers Isaac as a sacrifice. Likewise, Genesis suggests that Isaac stayed away from Abraham. It is Abraham's servant who goes to find Rebekah. I found this passage to be genuinely poignant. "Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." Gen. 24:66-67. The story of Abraham's second marriage follows, seeming a little out of chronological order, but to me it showcases the separate paths taken by those two men. Abraham, always followed God, but also always sought heirs. Isaac, a damaged man who was the subject of great turmoil, sought only to replace the love of his mother, which ultimately was granted him in his new wife.

Of course, it is only a few verses later when Rebekah is scheming with her favorite son to trick Isaac into giving Jacob his birthright. But, it is sweet for a minute.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Day Three

Today's readings included the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6-7, stories of Abram & Lot, Gen. 16-23, excerpts from Psalms 7-9, and the beginning of the second book of Proverbs. Not a great day for the ladies.

We start off with it being Sarai's idea that Abram have a child with Hagar and "and gave her to her husband to be his wife." Gen. 16:3. Then through out she gets upset with Hagar for being uppity. Next you have Sarah laughing at the idea of having kids at her age, getting called out for it, and then lying about it. Gen. 18. Although, it is kind of bogus to point out Sarah's laughter since in Gen. 17:17 Abramaham has the exact same reaction. ("Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'") Also, Lot's daughters get him drunk to continue the race. Gen. 19:30-38. Except, there is town, Zoar, that they literally just left. So, I'm not sure why they thought their dad was the only choice for a mate. Even the passage from Proverbs get in on the lady bashing, claiming that wisdom "will will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead." Prov. 2:16-18.

Of course, in modern times we've out grown blaming the seductive woman, haven't we?

Oh, on another family values note, Abraham runs into another king, and again tells the king that Sarah is his sister, and again causes problems for that king. But that king is spared because God comes to him in a dream and tells him the truth about Sarah. The kings asks Abraham, "What the hell, man?" And Abraham explains he was a coward and all that, but, "Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife." Gen. 20:12. Only in the Bible, or Kentucky.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Day Two

In today's readings I read about the end of the Great Flood, and the lineage that connected Noah to Abram. I also read about some of Abram's adventures. In the New Testament, I read more about how Jesus fufilled the Old Testament prophecies and the Sermon on the Mount. The Psalms were notable for their crying out to YHWH while at the same time offering him praise.

This was new to me. "Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there." Gen. 11:31. How about that. Abram was not the first effort to get to the promised land. Terah made a run at it and then gave up. A little theme about God always working. One human fails, God moves on to the next. Interesting.

Here's our morally ambiguous story for the day. Is Abram behaving as a model follower of God, or as a sinner?
Abram in Egypt
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you."
14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.

17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. "What have you done to me?" he said. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!" 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
Gen. 12:10-20. is it me, or is Abram showing some pimp tendancies here? Also, btw, why is God cursing Pharaoh who seems to be pretty much an innocent victim of Abram's cowardice?

Unemployment versus Deficit

Is it worth it to deficit spend (either through renewed or increased tax cuts or through renewed or increased government works projects) in order to address the nation's high unemployment figures, or should we be more concerned about the deficit despite 10% unemployment?

If it is worth it to deficit spend, which has more stimulating effect, government works projects or tax cuts?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Day One

Today I read January 1-3 of the One Year Bible. That is Genesis 1-8; Mathew 1-4:11; portions of the first three Psalms and the first book of Proverbs.

In general, it is overwhelming to me how much the Judeo-Christian experience is about competing accounts of things. I've written before about the two creation stories--first the distant almighty God, second the intimate life breather God--but there are also competing lineages. Were Enoch, Methushael, and Lamech descendants of Cain after being exiled (Gen. 4:17-18) or Seth generation later (Gen. 5:3-28) or were there two sets of Enoch, Methushael, and Lamech? There are certainly multiple James and Harry combination in the Barton family tree.

I also love the ambiguity of the stories. Eve says the serpant lied to her, but if you read what he says, it isn't a lie. Similarly, is the devil telling Jesus somethign that is untrue during the temptations?

These stories are so precious, that even fragments seem to have remained without a complete story. Just before the story of Noah begins in earnist, we have the following passage as a bit of a prelude, but which doesn't seem to belong:
The Flood
1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with [a] man forever, for he is mortal [b] ; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

9 This is the account of Noah.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Gen. 6:1-10. I left in the verses and blocking from the NIV. Notice in verse 9 we have "This is the account of Noah." Doesn't that introduce the Noah story? It seems to if you read on. So, why does the NIV put "The Flood" where it does? The first few verses are very weird. Who are the gods that were so attracked to human women? My uneducated guess is that this is a fragment of a sort of related tale that was too precious to lose but too lost to make clear.

New Project

At Bookmans in Mesa I came across The One Year Bible, discovered that I liked the format, and decided to pick it up. Given the amount of time I have each day on the bus, I've decided to try and read three days each day, and thus--having started today--be finished by the end of the year. Wish me luck.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Major Outrage

I have a friend who needs to have a test done tomorrow. Her doctor wrote a prescription that she is supposed to take before the test. Because the medication is also taken the night before an abortion, the doctor wrote on the prescription "to be taken the night before XYZ exam." The doctor explained that she did that because sometimes "the pharmacists will give you a hard time otherwise."

Are you fucking kidding me?

I think abortion is a complex issue. I think a robust public discussion about it is helpful. Furthermore, I think exploration of very abstract questions like, "Does life begin at a particular point or is it something that happens gradually over the course of months?" can actual help those making these very difficult decisions in some cases.

But, the nerve, the gall of harassing a complete stranger, with no knowledge of what that person is going through, what considerations that person has made--it makes me shudder. (Oh, and from a policy perspective, I think a pharmacist should lose his or license for such behavior.)