In this chapter we get another turning point in the story of Abram. Having presumably passed all of God’s tests, Abram gets a little bit added to his name, and little bit taken off of his — well, you’ll see.
Hello! I’m back from a nearly year-long hiatus. It’s Spring Break, so I have enough free time that I can justify working on a post.
It’s funny that this chapter includes the original “handmaid’s tale,” since I actually taught The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood to my students this past semester. It was received well by the students — by one parent in particular, not so much.
We get ‘back to God’, as it were, in Chapter 15. Most of this chapter is a conversation between God and Abram, though it’s definitely more one-sided: the first sentence of this chapter describes how the “word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision” (1). While the disembodied voice isn’t new, this is the first time I can remember that the word “vision” being used to describe encounters with God. Case in point: there’s none of this with Adam and Eve — God just starts talking to them.
Depending on your previous beliefs, the explanation for this could range from “merely a translation issue” to “proof that religion is just people on drugs making stuff up.” Either way, the nature of this visitation shows that God seems increasingly mystical and abstract, as if he’s distancing himself from this own creation. Perhaps he’s discovering he can be more effective as a ‘mysterious power’ than a human-like entity, like when he caused those plagues in Egypt.
Author’s Note: From this point forward, I will cite textual evidence by verse number only for convenience’s sake, since the book and chapter is already listed in the title. However, I will include both the chapter and verse if a post includes more than one chapter (like this one).
Chapter 13 wastes no time in telling us that, by the time he got out of Egypt, “Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (13:2). Great, he really is a carpetbagger. Even so, Abram comes off pretty good in these chapters.
Though he continues to head south (13:3), Abram is metaphorically entering the Wild West, with wide open lands apparently ripe for the taking. But he soon learns, as The Notorious B.I.G. famously stated, “mo’ money, mo’ problems” —
So begins the saga of Abram, the next big-hitter name in this book of all books. God tells Abram to “get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (12:1). This three-fold separation of Abram rhetorically singles him out for greatness as the chosen one, a parallel to Noah. Abram ‘hero’s journey’ is as old as storytelling itself, so we also know, at best, he will struggle greatly; at worst, it won’t end well.
Genesis 11 introduces the story of the Tower of Babel, the mythos behind the world’s many languages. While I am familiar with this story, as a secular person and 90’s kid, I must admit that I also associate this phrase with the Tower of Babble, the desert hideout in Carmen Sandiego Word Detective. (Wow, now I know why I grew up to be an English teacher. I identified parts of speech for fun.)
As an English teacher, I also know that failure and/or inability to communicate is one of the most frustrating aspects of life. So what exactly did humanity do to warrant this scattering of a previously monolingual culture? Continue reading
Chapter 10 is mostly just another montage “family tree” chapter, listing the sons of the sons of the sons, etc. So because of its brevity, I decided to have a bit of fun. There’s a whole bushel of interesting names here, some of which I’ve highlighted below. I’m not making any of these up.
The post-flood reset of the Earth, as I discussed before, is heavy on allusions to the first time God created humans. This time, God seems to give humans more responsibility for their own actions, though he does impart a few rules. I’m imagining God like the parent of a reluctant teenager: “Okay, this is Earth 2.0, and I’m not starting over again. I’ll still intervene, but you all have to step up and take more responsibility around here.” We’ll see how well that works out.
Author’s Note: I decided to combine these chapters because they are part of the same story, and otherwise Chapter 7’s post would have been very short.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Genesis 7 shows the first indications of the importance of the number seven. The “clean beasts” and “fowls” are brought into the ark “by sevens,” as instructed by God, and it was “after seven days” that the floodwaters came upon the earth (7:8-10).
The number seven, of course, is already significant because that’s how many days it took for God to create the earth plus one day of rest. This motif of a single number is a classic literary technique, and I’m sure it’s why seven has been and still is an important number in Western culture. (Harry Potter, anyone?)
Remember earlier when I said that, since God promised a harsher punishment for Adam and Eve than he actually delivered, “the child’s respect for the parent’s word of law could erode”? Well, apparently that happened.