Sunday, July 30, 2006

End of Act One (Genesis 46-50)

Genesis ends in triumph, and the first great act of this story comes to a close. Jacob, long believing Joseph dead, now finds that his most beloved son is alive and beckoning him to come to Egypt. He is wary of going, but God speaks again, echoing the promise he gave him on leaving Canaan the first time:
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph's hand shall close your eyes.
Joseph and Jacob are reunited. Joseph then presents his two sons before his father for a grandfatherly blessing. Jacob blesses the younger son Ephraim rather than Manasseh with the bigger blessing. Since Jacob is nearly blind (like Isaac before him), Joseph assumes he is making a mistake. He isn’t. “Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh” lest we think the preference for younger brothers so far has been a mere coincidence.

Jacob dies in Egypt. He is given great mummy-style Egyptian treatment, but his sons don’t bury him there. Instead, they take him back to Canaan and lay him to rest with Abraham and Isaac – on the one little piece of the Promised Land that the family owns.

After Jacob’s death, the brothers fear Joseph will turn on them. Thankfully, Joseph’s forgiveness goes deeper than mere appearances. He not only forgives them, but sees their evil deeds in the light of God’s plan. God had used their evil as a stroke in his good and perfect artistic project.

I can’t help but stop for a moment and comment on Joseph. Perhaps it’s just my particular modern framework, but I absolutely love the guy. What a fitting name for the man who would play the role of father to our Lord. He has character, vision, determination, faith, hope, and love – the combination of which I don’t see in anyone else in Genesis. I want to join Jacob in his blessing:
The blessings of your father, the blessings of the eternal mountains, the bounties of the everlasting hills: may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
The faithfulness of God, the realization of His promises, His preference for the younger, the trust His followers show even in their burial, His reunion of brothers who once sought to kill out of envy, and His use of the chosen ones in blessing the world – these are the themes upon which the book of Genesis closes. I have a feeling that they will also rocket us forward through the rest of the Bible.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

When Brothers Dwell in Unity (Genesis 42-45)

The famine reaches across the world – all the way to Jacob and his family. All the brothers besides Benjamin travel to Egypt to buy grain, and they are ushered before Joseph himself. He immediately recognizes them, though they don’t realize it is Joseph. Rather than introducing himself, he plays the suspicious magistrate. He accuses them of being spies, bent on seeing “the nakedness of the land.” Man, are they gunna get it...

I wonder why Joseph did this? I suppose it is only fair, and it is certainly amusing to see the tables turned on the brothers. At the same time, though, I’m trying to see what he aims to accomplish through all of this. Is he trying to teach them a lesson? Getting a little payback? Or just trying to see his little brother again? Perhaps it’s a little of each.

Anyway, Simeon is held hostage until the other nine brothers return with Benjamin. Terrified, they cannot help but see the hand of God’s judgment in this:
In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.
They are seeing their own actions from the point of view of their victim. Reuben then rubs a little salt into the wound:
Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.
The drama is excellent. Joseph is standing here listening to all this, pretending to need an interpreter. Emotion overwhelms him and he turns away to hide the tears in his eyes.

When Jacob hears that Benjamin is required, he will have none of it. Not even Reuben’s offer of his two son’s lives will convince him to let his youngest son go back to Egypt. It is not until they are out of food and Judah agrees to take responsibility for Benjamin, that Jacob finally consents.

From that point on, Judah is the representative of the brothers to Joseph. It is Judah who promises to “bear the blame forever” if anything happens to Benjamin. It is Judah who pleads with Joseph not to keep Benjamin from his father when they arrive. This seems right to me, because it was Judah who suggested selling Joseph into slavery in the first place.

In the end, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and forgives them with open arms, all of them bawling their eyes out. Though they meant it for evil, God had plans in all of this: to bring Joseph the dreamer to Egypt and thereby save the Earth from famine.

But I think there is even more going on. This is the strongest reconciliation to take place between brothers so far in the Bible. Isaac and Ishmael only consent to bury their father together and Jacob and Esau still go their separate ways. It is only through Joseph that a set of estranged brothers are truly reconciled. It is only here that God has decisively answered the legacy of Cain and Abel. Now, rather than fracturing into separate groups, these twelve brothers will be the beginning of a nation.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Seated at the Right Hand of Power (Genesis 40-41)

Joseph’s story is simply amazing. Here he is, sitting in prison for a crime he didn’t commit – indeed, being punished because he didn’t commit the crime. Reflecting on when his brothers threw him into the cistern, Joseph laments, “I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

Then two servants of Pharaoh join him – the baker of bread and the server of wine. They both have troubling dreams which Joseph, the “dreamer” himself, is enabled to interpret by God. The cupbearer will again serve his master, but the baker will lifted up and hung on a tree – his body eaten as if it were bread. As presumptuous as it may seem, I can’t help but see Christological and Eucharistic foreshadowing here.

Anyway, Joseph finally gets his moment of glory when Pharaoh himself has troubling symbolic dreams. Joseph interprets them as predicting seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh is amazed, and places Joseph in charge of storing up food during the good years.

You almost want to wax poetic in the face of such grand exaltation following such dire suffering. Fortunately, there is a poem in Philippians that can be adapted nicely.
Joseph, though he possessed the promise of God, did not keep hold of the coat of his father, but was made nothing, being sold as a slave, taken to the land of Egypt. And being found in Potiphar’s house, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of imprisonment, even in the dungeons of Egypt. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above all but Pharaoh, so that at the name of Joseph every knee should bow, in Egypt and in Canaan and in the far reaches of the Earth, and every mouth kiss the ground on his command, to the glory of God of Jacob.
I know, I know
everything reminds me of Jesus. But reading the Old Testament as a Christian should be like reading a great mystery novel for the second time. You see so many clues pointing towards the solution to the puzzle: details that you simply missed the first time around. But now it all makes sense!

Anyway, Joesph’s plan works, and people from all over the world flock to Egypt for relief from the famine. This makes me reflect a little on the flood – of how the storing of food is like the storing away of the animals in the ark, so that when the destruction has taken its toll there will be resources to replenish the Earth. If Abraham’s trust and obedience corresponds to Adam’s suspicion and disobedience, and Esau’s reconciliation with Jacob corresponds with Cain’s murder of Abel, then maybe we should be reading the more biographical chapters (12-50) of Genesis as God’s initial reply to the opening mythological chapters (1-11).

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Brother is Born for Adversity (Genesis 37-39)

Is there a situation in all of scripture where God prefers the older brother to the younger one? I can’t think of any off hand. Anyway, this conflict is defiantly one of the strongest themes in Genesis. Cain vs. Abel, Ishmael vs. Isaac, Esau vs. Jacob, and now everyone except Benjamin vs. Joseph!

It’s the same story as before: the father loves Joseph more than the others, and the older ones hate him for it. Yet God seems to aggravate things by sending Joseph dreams of all his family bowing down to him. Joseph’s eagerness to share his dreams with his family doesn’t help either.

The brothers’ spite is just classic – so rich in hatred that the words sting even after being translated thousands of years later.
Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.
In the end, they decide to make a profit instead. There’s one little detail that I missed before: Judah sells Joseph for twenty pieces of silver. That sounds rather familiar.

While Joseph is off learning all the joys of slavery, we are treated to a bizarre escapade with Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Tamar’s husband dies, and Judah’s son Onan is expected to do his brotherly duty and impregnate her so she can have a son. However, during sex he makes sure nothing goes in, and God kills him for this selfishness. Judah then sees Tamar as bad luck, so he doesn’t let her sleep with his remaining son. Tamar then poses as a prostitute, sleeps with Judah himself, and keeps a few of his personal items. When it is found that Tamar is pregnant, the hypocritical Judah orders her burned alive. Tamer then produces the items as proof that Judah himself is the father, and she is vindicated.

Meanwhile things are going well for Joseph in Egypt. He serves his master Potiphar so well that he’s given control over his entire estate. But Potiphar’s wife keeps pursuing him, demanding that he sleep with her. He refuses. As David Plotz noticed, Joseph is the first person in scripture to resist sexual temptation. Potiphar’s wife uses some of Joseph’s personal items to frame him of rape, and he’s wrongfully condemned to prison.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

The Face of God (Genesis 32-36)

Esau is on the move, coming to meet Jacob with four hundred men. The terrified Jacob makes contingency plans as best he can, splitting up his family in different camps so that at least some may escape the ensuing massacre. He then lifts up this agonized prayer, filled with horror and hope, fear and faith:
O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’
A strange man then attacks Jacob after dark. Wrestling with all his might, the great patriarch remains locked in combat with the intruder all night long. Though his hip is knocked out of joint, Jacob is winning, and demands a blessing from his assailant before he’ll let him go. And so the stranger blesses him:
Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.
In a mystical and mysterious turn of events, Jacob has not been wrestling with a mere mortal: the intruder was God himself. And Jacob won! With wide eyes he realizes that he has “seen God face to face” and lived to tell about it.

There is something big going on here that I can’t quite get my finger on. Remember God’s words to Cain back in Genesis 4?
Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will there not be a lifting of the face? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is against you, but you must rule over it.
The next day Jacob bows to the ground before his brother Esau. Despite his fears, Esau embraces him in friendship, lifting up his face. Jacob marvels and says, “I have seen your face,
which is like seeing the face of God.” He would know.

Was Jacob’s fear of Esau groundless? I don’t think so. The Bible seems to be implying that Jacob’s victory over God caused the warm reunion. Does that mean God was playing the part of sin? Did God make himself “to be sin who knew no sin” in order that Jacob might “do well”? I have no answer but mystery.

So Jacob returns to Canaan with God’s protection. Though his sons treacherously massacre an entire town after the rape of their sister Dinah, God preserves Jacob from violent retaliation. Despite their former animosity, Jacob and Esau bury their father Isaac together in Hebron. It is the place where Abraham himself “strove with God” over the life of the righteous in Sodom.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Awful Dirty Trick (Genesis 29 - 31)

Ahhh, sweet irony. Upon finding himself in his uncle Laban’s service, Jacob arranges to marry his cousin Rachel in exchange for seven years of work. A great wedding feast ensues, the people celebrate, and Jacob beds down in the dark with his new wife – only to find out the next morning he’d been had! He had married her older sister Leah by mistake! Does this remind anyone of that trick he pulled on his father Isaac? Come to think of it, it even reminds me of all those “confusing your sister for your wife” escapades.

Fortunately Jacob doesn’t have to worry about modern marriage laws. He waits a week and marries Rachel as well (with the promise of another seven years of work). Get ready for the next big sibling rivalry in Genesis, feminine style.

I can joke about it all I like, but it really is heartbreaking to see Leah and Rachel go at it, vying for their husband’s affection and God’s blessing (aka, Children). Here Rich Mullen's haunting song comes to mind:

Jacob, he loved Rachel
and Rachel, she loved him
And Leah was just there for dramatic effect

Well it's right there in the Bible,
so it must not be a sin
But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick

And her sky is just a petal
pressed in a book of a memory
Of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed

And her friends say, "Ah, he's a devil"
But she says, "No, he is a dream"
This is the world as best as I can remember it

Thankfully it’s not an exact parallel to Cain and Abel. In the end, there seems to be plenty of blessing to go around, and Leah also seems to “do well”. With the birth of each son, Leah has hopes of gaining Jacob’s love. Finally, with the birth of Judah, the fourth, she simply says “this time I will praise the Lord.”

Through even more deception, Jacob and his harem leave Laban with a fortune of sheep and head back for Canaan. Laban intercepts them, demanding his stolen household gods (whom Rachel is hiding in her saddlebag). When he can’t find them, he and Jacob form a covenant of friendship, and part on far better terms. He now heads home to face his older brother Esau, who apparently would like nothing better than to kill Jacob and all his family.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Violent Take it by Force (Genesis 25-28)

Compared to Abraham, there is very little to say about Isaac. As the child of the promise, God’s blessing is always just handed to him. His one bit of active obedience is to relocate to Gerer and not Egypt when a famine hits Canaan. There he has Rebekah pose as his sister because he is afraid someone will kill him to steal her (she being so beautiful and all). This is the same deception that Abraham pulled on both Pharaoh and Abimelech, and the king doesn’t fall for it a second time. Yet God grants Isaac favor, and he prospers in the land of Gerer.

Jacob is another matter entirely! Never was there a man who pursued blessing so ruthlessly! He comes out of the womb clutching Esau’s heel, and the brother's rivalry only gets more intense.

One day Esau comes in famished, and Jacob offers him stew in return for his birthright. He basically says “what good is my birthright to me dead” and agrees. The Bible concludes,
Thus Esau despised his birthright.
I always thought this a little harsh: after all, what good is it to him dead? But compare this with Abraham agonizing over the sacrifice of Isaac: choosing to put God and his promise over the life of his son.

Isaac’s shady dealings at Rebekah’s expense eventually catch up with him. He sends Esau out to hunt him game, with a promise of the fatherly blessing when he returns. Rebekah quickly sneaks Jacob in with some food (the way to a man’s covenant blessing is through his stomach) and Isaac mistakenly blesses him instead of Esau. Esau is furious, and plans to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac dies.

I can’t help but see echoes of Cain and Abel – the privileging of the younger brother over the older, the older brother’s disappointment, culminating in an attempt on the younger brother’s life. Here we are again at the beginning. Will man “do well” this time? Rebekah comes to the rescue, convincing Isaac to send Jacob away to her brother Laben to find a wife. The excuse works, because Esau has two Hittite wives who have been making life hell for Rebekah.

What has Esau done to get his blessing revoked? His actions don’t seem that bad on face value. But they are sins against the covenant. To sell the birthright for a bowl of stew is to hold God’s redemptive project in contempt.
To marry local women is to derail the promise of founding a nation, by assimilating into the local people. Esau realizes at least this much, so he marries one of Ishmael’s daughters as well. He can’t regain the blessing, but at least Isaac can assure him that he won’t always live under his brother’s yoke.

Meanwhile, Jacob is on the run. Sleeping under the stars one night, he sees a vision of a ladder reaching up into heaven. The Lord appears in glory, promising to give to Jacob all the blessings flowing from Abraham. Jacob awakes amazed, saying,
How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
He vows to follow the Lord, if only He will provide him the means. God has found one like Abraham – a man who will pursue His blessings with confidence and determination.

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

These All Died in Faith (Genesis 23-25)

Sarah dies in Hebron, at the ripe old age of 127. After all this time Abraham is still just a drifter in Canaan: he doesn’t even own a plot of ground to burry his wife. Rather than bury her back in Heran, he buys a cave near Hebron and buries Sarah there. This in itself is an act of faith – that God will give to his descendents the land of Canaan. To the end of his life Abraham only owns this tiny little plot, but he holds onto God’s promise.

Abraham is old now, and he sends his servant back to his relatives to look for a wife for Isaac. Abraham is vehement both that Isaac not marry a Canaanite, and that he not settle outside of Canaan. Both of those options would undermine the promise. To this end, his servant sets out for Mesopotamia to find a girl for Isaac.

The servant sets out a sign for the Lord: the girl that waters his camels without being asked is the one for Isaac. As in Sodom, the key test of righteousness is hospitality. Rebekah is the one. The servant negotiates with her father, with her brother Laben, and (shockingly) he even asks Rebekah. She agrees, and, the very next day, leaves her family and all she knows to marry a man she’s never met living in a land where he himself is a foreigner. Rebekah’s attitude reminds me a bit of Abraham. The Lord knows what he likes, and Isaac doesn’t complain. He loves Rebekah, and is “comforted after his mother’s death.”

Then Abraham goes and marries another wife, bears a bunch of children, and sends them eastward to be away from Isaac. How strange! Why add to the promise after all that has happened? Some of the names, like Midian and Asshurim, have an ominous tone.

Finally Abraham dies, and Isaac and Ishmael burry him with Sarah east of Mamre (where he met the angel of the Lord). Though he leaves Isaac with all he has, Abraham dies with no more of the land in his possession than the cave he lays in. What has this giant of a man to show for after his long life? What has he accomplished? The birth of a son? That’s been done before. Abraham’s great accomplishment is an unwavering trust in God to be faithful to his promise, even after he himself is dead and gone.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sulfurtheropy (Genesis 18-19)

How do you recognize a righteous man? By his lavish hospitality. The author of Hebrews advises not to “neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Three men approach Abraham and he begs them to accept his invitation, fixes a lavish feast, and stands himself while they eat. It’s here that Isaac’s future birth is officially announced, and the men get up to leave.

Well, two of them do. The third stays with Abraham, and, besides being an angel and a man, also happens to be the Lord. No, this isn’t explained, but it is the source of some esoteric theological reflection, and some pretty amazing iconography. At any rate, the Lord stays to discuss his future plans with Abraham: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Why does God want to have this little talk with Abraham?
For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.
God tells Abraham that he plans to nuke the place, and Abraham cries out for God to be just: don’t sweep away the good with the bad! It is a cry of reason, a cry of justice, and frankly, it is my agonized cry when I read much of the divinely authorized mass slaughter and collective punishment in the Old Testament. Abraham talks Him down to only wiping out the city if there are less than ten righteous people.

Lot turns out to be a righteous man – inviting the angels into his home. However, the men of the town don’t share his hospitality, and demand Lot send them out for some mass rape. Every single resident of Sodom shows up to dish out the abuse on the foreigners – “both young and old, all the people to the last man.” Looks like there’s only one righteous man in the city.

Lot offers his virgin daughters to the rabid crowd – which is horrifying. Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was trying to shame them: “Look, rape my pretty little girls, you animals, before you do this to my guests.” It seems to come across that way to the crowd, who scream that gang rape will look downright hospitable compared to what will happen to the holier-than-thou Lot. The angels come to the rescue and blind the crowd.

Actually, in the end, the Lord is even more just than Abraham demands. He will not let even one righteous man perish in the destruction, and the angels physically drag Lot and his family out of the city. I always had in mind the picture of Lot’s wife merely glancing over her shoulder and getting zapped for it, but it seems more like she stopped and wouldn’t go further with Lot and their daughters. She is swept up into the sulfur and becomes a pillar of salt.

The destruction of the two cities reminds me a lot of the flood, actually. Save the little bit that’s worth saving and wipe out the rest. He seems to treat human wickedness like cancer. It must be aggressively attacked, stopping just short of killing the entire patient.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It Counts as Righteousness (Genesis 16-17,21-22)

Having taken on God’s vision, Abram has Ishmael by his wife’s slave Hagar (an Egyptian and descendent of Ham – I can’t say I’m terribly fond of this little theme). There is soon friction between Hagar and Sarai, resulting in Hagar and her son running away. Later on, when they are permanently expelled, it looks like Ishmael will die of thirst. But God is faithful to them for the sake of their relation to Abram – even though Ishmael is not the child of the promise, God’s blessing spills over.

God renames Abram to Abraham, promises to miraculously give him a son by his barren wife, and outlines circumcision as the covenantal sign. It’s a weird symbol, perhaps, but fitting for the nature of the blessing. All the men of his tribe must have this sign on their penises: reminding them that they carry the covenant to the next generation in order to build a great nation with whom God will bless the world. I guess sex and children used to be associated with each other back then – strange, isn’t it?

Isaac is born, and then God pulls a really hard one on him. He says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering…” What a horrible thing to ask! What a terrible time to live in, where Abraham doesn’t even seem surprised that this is an unusual thing for a god to ask! I love my son, and I wouldn’t do this for anything, particularly for such a cruel god who would demand this.

I say this with 4000 years of hindsight. What did Abraham know of God? Only that God had promised a son in his old age, given it, promised that a mighty nation would come from him, and had inexplicably asked for his son’s life back. Abraham trusts God, and offers the sacrifice.

This is huge. This is an absolute triumph for humanity and a turning point in the Genesis story. The suspicion of God that permeated the ancient world – that God is greedily withholding blessing from us – is overcome, and replaced with simple trust. The fall involved man pursuing a good thing out of suspicion of God’s trustworthiness. This redemption involves man surrendering a good thing out of trust in God.

Abraham has passed the test, and God is ecstatic! He quickly wrenches the knife from Abraham’s hand and gives him a lamb to sacrifice in place of his son. God gushes with praise:
By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.
Here is man truly bearing the image of his creator. Such love, such trust, and such obedience. In Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac we see the prototype of redemption.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? … For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Yeah,” says God, “I think we can work with this one.”

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Lord Does Something New (Genesis 12-15)

A rather strange and often glossed over story happens at the end of Noah’s life. Noah gets drunk and lays naked in his tent. Ham walks in on him, and tells his brothers, who promptly cover Noah up without peeking at him. Noah finds out, and curses Canaan (Ham’s son) to serve Shem and Japheth.

Abram’s story begins in the middle of his father Terah’s journey from Ur (one of the centers of civilization at the time) to the land of Canaan. Terah didn’t make it the whole way, but the Lord suddenly appears on the scene calling Abram to finish the journey. What’s more, he makes Abram a stunning promise, to give him exactly what the builders of the tower of Babel wanted for themselves – a great name, a mighty nation. And, as Abram is a descendent of Shem, the promised land will be taken from the sons of Canaan. God is enforcing Noah’s curse.

The next few chapters involve interesting anecdotes, including a bizarre episode in Egypt involving Sarah posing as Abram’s sister that foreshadows the exodus from Egypt (going there because of famine, plagues sent by God, sent away with urgency) and a battle to rescue Lot from the enemies of Sodom. Abram is blessed by the priest-king of Salem (the future Jerusalem, I assume) who offers him bread and wine in the name of “God Most High.” But all through this, something else is going on.

God is taking Abram through the land and constantly pointing things out. See this valley here? It will one day be filled with your descendents. God is letting Abram in on vast plans he has for him – a great nation that He himself is building. What’s more, in a mystical series of events, God seals the deal with a covenant. The nation itself wont be planted in the land for a while – the current inhabitants aren’t currently evil enough to deserve being displaced – but you know how these humans are: just give ‘em time.

God is finally getting his hands dirty in making something new. Up ‘til now, he has cursed man and the ground, preserved some of creation while destroying the most cancerous parts, and dispersed an arrogant group bent on upstaging Him. But he hasn’t begun the work of redemption until now.

And what does this redemption look like? A single man and his tribe traveling to a foreign land, with the promise that God will build him into a great nation. God needs a nation of people that he can make into something, to then bless all the families of the earth. All the “righteousness” he needs from Abram is the vision to see that God can pull this off.

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