Genesis 16 – The Birth of Ishmael, Genesis 17 – The painful Covenant for Isaac

In Genesis 16 we read the story of Sarai and Hagar. Sarai says that Jehovah has made her barren (if so, why?), so she tells Abram to impregnate her Egyptian servant Hagar (can we go ahead and say slave here?) so that Abram can bare a seed. This is DESPITE Jehovah already promising Abram that he will bare a child. Despite all the divination and promises, Abram still has to resort to impregnating his wife’s slave servant. Talk about no faith. Abram does so and Hagar conceives. Maybe Abram is under the belief that this is Jehovah’s promise?

Can we see a parallel between Abram/Sarai and Adam/Eve? Jehovah makes a pledge with the man, and the woman has the man break that pledge or go against it. In this case, however, Jehovah does not intercede with punishment. The only one that gets punished, in this case, is Hagar who was already punished by being a slave, and her child Ishmael who, despite receiving Jehovah’s blessings, does not receive a covenant the way his brother Jacob would.

It should be noted that the phrase here was Sarai “… gave her (Hagar) to Abram her husband to be his wife.”

Already knowing polygamy exists here, did Hagar actually become another wife of Abram or his “be his wife” euphemism for the act of creating a child?

Sarai becomes jealous, Abram tells her to treat Hagar as she pleases, and Sarai “dealt hardly” with Hagar and Hagar fled. Sounds like domestic violence.

“The” (note not “an”) angel of Jehovah appears to Hagar. If we take our notion of winged-angels-servants-of-God away then angel in this sense is some sort of physical form of Jehovah whereby he can speak to people publicly. No mentions of wings, white robes, or halos however. Jehovah instructs her to name her son Ishmael.

Genesis 16:12 – And he shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s against him; and he shall dwell over all his brethren.

Thus we are foretold about Ishmael’s personality and interactions with not only his brethren but other men.

In Genesis 17, Jehovah appeared to Abram (note the difference between a vision followed by a horror of great darkness) and once again describes the covenant he will have with Abram. But here’s the rub: Jehovah calls himself, for the first time, God Almighty. He changes Abram’s name to Abraham, his wife’s name to Sarah, and reaffirms the covenant of the land. As for a symbol of this covenant, he requires Abraham and his people to circumcise all males in his household, including slaves and Ishmael (who isn’t part of this covenant by the way, so why circumcise him? So now that he is circumcised, is he part of the covenant?)

circum
Why circumcision? God’s creation in Genesis Book 1 was supposed to be perfect, so why, mess with perfection? Why take away what God gave us from our birth? And why the male genital? Is the mutilation of a baby boy’s genital (or in this case, every man and boy) ok? It seems to be normalized these days. Female genital mutilation is abhorrent these days though. Why accept either?

What’s interesting is as, despite Jehovah saying his covenant will not be with Ishmael,  he tells Abraham that Ishmael will birth 12 princes and will become a great nation, much like what he will promise Abraham’s seed in the future. The only thing lacking is the covenant.

  • Ishmael as a child is innocent of the, what nowadays would be considered sinful, actions of his father and step-mother, so why not include him in the covenant?
    • Being a half breed (racially) is bad seems to be the notion here
    • Being inbred with cousin relations seems to be ok in the meantime
  • Why not set up a separate covenant with Ishmael? Will Ishmael’s descendants also live within the borders of the land Jehovah has set aside for Jacob? The more I read the more this covenant deals with land than with anything else.

It is that this point, 17 books into Genesis, that the words God and Jehovah become intermingled. Despite all the contradictions and differences, it seems the author wants us to think they are one in the same by replacing Jehovah’s name with God after Jehovah claims he is God Almighty. Will the contradictions and differences end at this point?

So, the names and titles of our 3 main characters change at this juncture: Jehovah calls himself God Almighty; Jehovah renames Abram as Abraham; Jehovah renames Sarai as Sarah.

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Genesis 15 – Jehovah speaks to Abram about the future. Entrail Divination?

After the affair of Genesis 14, Jehovah comes to Abram in a vision, tells him not to fear, that Jehovah is his shield and great reward. Abram wonders about his current heir, who is not of his birth, and Jehovah assures him he will have a heir of Abram’s seed.

Just how has Jehovah been speaking to Abram in previous verse? We are specifically told this is a vision. What about Adam/Eve, Cain, and Noah? Had they been having “visions” as finally mentioned in Genesis 15:1? Or were they actually hearing Jehovah’s voice through their ears?

Jehovah tells Abram the land he is in is his to inherit. Abram asks “how will I know it is mine to inherit?” Jehovah says:

Genesis 15:9 – And he said unto him, take me a heifer three years old, and a she-goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon. And he took him all these, and DIVIDED THEM IN THE MIDST, and laid each half over against the other: but the birds divided he not. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

So Abram is already in communication with Jehovah, and to answer his question, Jehovah has Abram go through an animal ritual. They were cut open down the middle “divided them in the midst” and then laid over each other to form an odd shaped pentagon “they were laid each half over against the other”, and because they were cut open with exposed entrails, Abram had to swat the birds of prey away.

15:12 – And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram…

Is this sleep with a horror of great darkness the result of his animal ritual? Is this horror of great darkness Jehovah? It sure sounds like it because right after the darkness fell upon Abram, verse says as if pointing to the horror the verse indicated: “he says…”

This sounds like extispicy, haruspicy: divination/fortune telling using animal entrails. In this case Abram performed the ritual to expose the entrails and Jehovah performed the divination and only through Abram’s deep sleep could Jehovah communicate this divination.

haruspicy
Roman rendition of a man about to cut open a fowl for the purpose of entrail divination. This ritual is done all around the world for similar purposes.

15:17 – And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces.

The only pieces we know of are the pieces of animals, so it sounds like the end of the divination ritual involved a smoking furnace and flaming torch passing through this animal pentagon, and finally the sun going completely down.

  • Abram was already in communication with Jehovah through his vision, why the need for the ritual?
  • How can we explain a smoking furnace and flaming torch in this instance?
    • We know there is smoke and flame, and the words furnace and torch can be non specific, so I’m not sure that an actual furnace and torch were involved here.
  • The coincidence that this book is about Abram’s future and what sounds like a well known ritual of animal organ readings for knowledge of the future takes place doesn’t lend credence to the idea that Jehovah did not use ritual divination to foretell the future to Abram.

So the even bigger question, why the need for divination with Jehovah?

Genesis 14 Part 2 – Melchizidek & God Most High

Abram is victorious over King Chedorlaomer, and the previously defeated king of Sodom comes out to meet Abram at the Kings Vale. Another king comes out, he is Melchizidek, the Priest-King of Salem. He is the king of Salem and a Priest of God Most High.

Genesis 14:18 – And Melchizidek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him, and said Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be God Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into they hand. And he gave him a tenth of all.

What’s interesting is that he brings BREAD and WINE for the blessing of Abram and for the blessing of God Most High who delivered Abram’s enemies into his hands. Not burnt flesh of the clean animals as Jehovah has asked for in the past.

This same deliverance has benefited the king of Sodom, who, as previously noted, are wicked and sin greatly against Jehovah.

The king of Sodom tells Abraham to give the people back to him, and Abram can keep the goods/spoils. Abraham makes a swear that he would not enrich himself by the king of Sodom with his goods. Abram’s response is curious, and you have to ask does it mesh with what we know about Jehovah and what Melchizidek’s actions were:

14:22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand unto Jehovah, God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth…

This is the first reference to Jehovah being the Most High and it’s not coming from Jehovah, it’s coming from Abram. If Jehovah and the Most High are the same, why would Melchizidek simply not call upon Jehovah? Is it a language/title issue? Where are the burnt offerings if he is referring to Jehovah?

Regardless, such an expansive war, and no mention of altars, no mention of savory burning flesh, no mention of clean and unclean animals. I think there is more to God Most High in these verses versus Jehovah (sorry for the pun) so we will have to see what future verse brings.

I’m thinking a heavenly hierarchy: we know there are multiple beings in the heavens, so there is obviously rank. Can there be more than one “most high”? God Most High = bread and wine, Jehovah Most High = burning flesh.

Melchizidek
Rendition of Melchizidek meeting Abram? Even in this illustration (potentially completely historically inaccurate) Melchizidek seems to have rank/glory over those who kneel before him.

Looking into the future (biblically), we know that bread and wine are going to take a very important role in upcoming verse, so I think this is a very telling story, especially in the absence of altars and the savors of burning flesh.

Genesis 14 – War of Kings, Lot’s rescue & Questions galore

In a jump from a cultural collection of stories into a history of war and kings, we find 4 kings of cities/nations involved in a war with the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. We previously find out that Sodom was wicked and sinned against Jehovah. Surely they would suffer Jehovah’s wrath in war against their enemies?

The 5 kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim and Bela versus the 4 kings of Elam (named Chedorlaomer), Goiim (named Tidal), Shinar (named Amraphel), and Ellasar (named Arioch).

Two interesting points:

  1. We are not given the names of the 5 kings
  2. The second group smote a list of people not represented by the 5 kings above:
    1. Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim
    2. Zuzim in Ham (descendants of Ham?)
    3. Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim
    4. Amalekites (location not specified)
    5. Amorites in Hazazon-tamar

The 4 kings under Chedorlaomer defeat the 5 kings, sending the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fleeing into slime pits, whereupon the 4 kings take their spoil of Sodom and Gomorrah, which included taking Abram’s nephew, Lot, captive.

Abram is informed about Lot’s captivity.

Genesis 14:13 – And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew: now he dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner; and these were confederate with Abram.

Here is the first mention of the first ethnicity mentioned in the Bible: Hebrew, of which Abram was considered. Remember Abram came from Ur of Chaldea, so does Hebrew point to Chaldea?

The logistics of such a war in 16 verses tells a gigantic story, imagine all the details left out. Does our historical record find evidence of a war of such a large scale? I honestly do not know, and it would be worth investigating. Just investigating Google: “rescue of lot” someone had already done the work of theorizing the paths and locations of this war:

rescue of lot
Note the scale of this map, this war was HUGE and surely there would be record of it historically and materially. This would be like a World War where just about every king in this part of the land would be involved. This map, if historically correct, would be good to have referenced while reading the 16 verses of Genesis 14.

Abram had an army of 318 soldiers and was able to push the 4 armies of Chedorlaomer all the way up to #8, as far as Dan and eventually into Hobah.

A couple of minor observations:

  1. Abram’s nephew Lot is now called his “brother”
  2. The “left hand of Damascus” which is Hobah is west of Damascus
    1. Why not just say “west”? The direction “east” is mentioned multiple times

There is a lot of new information in this Book 14 which begs a lot of questions:

  • Aren’t all these groups kin if Adam and Eve were the first on earth? Now they are at war? What happened to the “good” Creation of Genesis Book 1?
    • Is it the devil’s fault these wars exist?
    • FACT = the devil has not even been mentioned up to this point
  • Previous books in Genesis focus on small groups of families and peoples, now we are dealing with Kings and Armies. Where is the explanation of the development and evolution of societies to this level? Is it found in other texts?
  • This is the first time I’ve seen Salem and Jerusalem correlated. Jeru-salem.  Is this map historically correct to assume they are one in the same? More research is needed for this question so I will not come to a certain conclusion.

Genesis 14 is a heavyweight in the Genesis collection, and it’s not even complete to this point, as I will address the remainder of Genesis 14 in Part 2.

Also, note that in this case, the wicked Sodom was victorious, thanks to Abram.

Genesis 13 – Out of Egypt, Return to Beth-El

Abram heads north with his caravan. It is noted at this time that Abram is rich in cattle, silver and gold. Obviously not a poor traveler or a starving wanderer… so just what was this “drought” he was fleeing from? Was it a drought not of weather but of another kind?

They flee to Egypt to avoid the drought, get thrown out, and then return to the land of the drought. Anyways, Abram ends up back where built the altar to Jehovah at Beth-El.

In a story rife with anthropological meaning, two pastoral families run out of land to tend to their herds and flocks of “great substance” (again,  drought?) so they conflict, and come to terms with each other since they are kin. Also the author felt it was important to note that the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelt in the land (we know the genealogy of the Canaanites but not the Perizzites.)

Abram Lot
Uncle (Abram) and nephew (Lot) divide their unit into two, explaining the separation of two families out of one.

Lot chose the Plain of the Jordan and journeyed east (there it is again) and “moved his tent” (which I’m going to assume is a euphemism for his collective) as far as Sodom. Also of note, Lot saw that the Plain of the Jordan was “well watered”, so either the drought was over or, again, we are talking about a drought of another kind. Abram stayed in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 13:13 – Now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners against Jehovah exceedingly.

We are given insight into the people of Sodom: they were wicked, however they also answered to Jehovah. This is the first mention of another group that fell under Jehovah’s tutelage and also the first of a people considered wicked and sinners.

It wasn’t until Lot left Abram that Jehovah spoke to Abram, hinting to the future of his lineage:

13:14 – (Jehovah to Abram)… lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed for every. And I will make thy see as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then may thy seed also be numbered.

Abram “moved his tent” aka his collective and moved to the aforementioned (somewhat) oaks of Mamre which we now find out are in Hebron, where Abram builds another altar for Jehovah.

Genesis 12 Part 2 – Pharaoh & Abram

Right before Abram enters Egypt, he begins to fear for his life because of Sarai, his wife. He believes because of her beauty, they will take her and kill him. So they conspire to tell the Egyptians that they are brother/sister so that Abram will not be killed.

Why does Abram not call upon Jehovah for protection? After all, Jehovah said he would bless Abram and his seed. Those who bless Abram will be blessed, and those who curse Abram will be cursed. Where’s the faith? Let’s see what happens:

The Egyptians via the princes of the Pharaoh bring her to the Pharaoh’s house.

Genesis 12:16 – And he (Pharaoh) dealt WELL with Abram for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels.

Sounds like good treatment to me, possibly a blessing to Abram? So what happens next:

12:17 And Jehovah plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.

Abram and Sarai lie to the Egyptians, the Pharaoh treats them very well, and Jehovah plagues not just the Pharaoh but his house. Ok, that’s not meshing with what we were told Jehovah would do to those who treated Abram well.

Pharaoh summons Abram, somehow figuring out the plague of his house was due to Abram and Sarai’s lie and ask him why he lied to him. And in an episode that could really have gotten out of hand, Pharaoh simply asks Abram to take his wife and leave, even putting men in charge of assisting Abram with all of his belongings. I’ve got to say, Pharaoh isn’t the bad guy in this situation.

Abram Pharaoh
Thrown out for lying and bringing plague to a Pharaoh who treated them well both before and after their transgression.

So now we see that lying and deception are accepted, even defended by Jehovah. One could say the reason Pharaoh treated them so well was to not incur further wrath, but the fact that he was treating them well BEFORE he was plagued shows that Pharaoh had good intentions.

Growing up I was told that lying was the work of the Devil, was the Devil behind Abram’s lie? So far, as of Genesis 13, there is no mention of the Devil as being behind the acts of man.