Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Genesis: a Book Report

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The Bible: a Book Report" in which I read each book of the Bible, and then summarize it in my own words.  I will also include biblical artwork by famous artists.

At the beginning of time, God made everything.  It took him six days.  He made the stars and the planets first, including earth.  Then he made plants, sea creatures, land animals, and finally humans.  On the seventh day, God took a rest.

"Creation of the World" by William Blake

The first two humans were called Adam and Eve, and they lived in a nice garden called Eden, which was located at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in Mesopotamia, which historians call the “Cradle of Civilization” and modern-day residents call “Iraq.”

In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived happily and naked, and had all they needed to survive.  They could eat anything they wanted, except they could’t eat from this one tree called “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”  But a crafty talking snake convinced them to eat from this tree, and suddenly they became all self-conscious and guilt-ridden.  When God found out what happened, he cursed the snake and expelled Adam and Eve from the garden.  They had lost their paradise.

"Adam and Eve Leaving the Garden of Eden" by Lucien Saul

Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel.  Abel was a shepherd who bred livestock, and Cain was a farmer who raised plants.  For some reason, God preferred the sacrifices of Abel to Cain and this made Cain so jealous that he murdered Abel.  As punishment, God drove Cain away from his family.  Adam and Eve then had another son named Seth, who was a pretty decent guy.

As the generations of humans went on, people became selfish and violent, and God was seriously bummed that he’d created this whole mess.  There was, however, one guy whom God thought was basically good (or at least obedient).  His name was Noah.  God’s solution to the whole “corruption of mankind” thing was to flood the whole world, killing everything except a tiny remnant of humans and animals that could fit on a big boat (built by Noah and his sons).  So that’s what happened.  God basically genocided everything except Noah and his boat full of life.  Presumably the sea creatures survived the flood unscathed, as they could live in water.  They got lucky.

"The Deluge" by Leon Comerre

When the flood subsided, Noah’s boat settled on a mountain and everybody got out.  God promised that this global genocide was just a one-time thing.  Noah got really drunk and passed out naked.  He probably needed to unwind after an ordeal like that.  

So Noah and his family went on living and procreating (albeit with a much more limited gene pool), and slowly the world was re-populated.  For a while, everybody on earth spoke the same language, and stuck together.  They built a city with a tall tower in the middle.  This upset God, and He made everyone speak different languages so they couldn’t communicate, and they were scattered over the earth.

"The Tower of Babel" by Pieter Bruegel

One of the descendants of Noah was a man named Abram.  God really took a shine to Abram, and promised him that he would be the father of a great nation.  Abram and his wife Sarai traveled around quite a bit, on their way to Canaan, which was the land God had promised them.  They spent some time in Egypt, where they sort of tricked the Pharaoh out of a good deal of money and possessions.  Then they arrived in Canaan.  

Unfortunately, they picked a really bad time to settle in Canaan because there was a massive war going on between nine different kings.  It was like Game of Thrones.  Abram and Sarai managed to survive the war unscathed.  After the war, when things had settled down a bit, God told Abram to circumcise himself and all the men in his tribe.  This was such a big deal that, when Abram circumcised himself, God changed his name to Abraham.

Meanwhile, Abraham’s nephew Lot was having some troubles in his town, a little place called Sodom.  God thought the citizens of Sodom were bad people, and he was planning on burning them all up with fire.  Abraham bargained with God for a while, trying to prevent this genocide.  God promised to save Lot and his family, but Sodom was going down, in flames.

God sent a couple angels to Lot’s house in Sodom, to help his family escape.  The people of Sodom wanted to rape these angels.  Lot’s solution was to let them rape his virgin daughters instead.  But the angels made all the would-be rapists blind, and Lot and his family escaped.  God burned up those cities with fire, presumably because they were full of inhospitable rapists.  As the fire was raining down, Lot’s wife looked back, and she turned into a pillar of salt.

"The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah" by John Martin

After escaping to the mountains, Lot’s daughters wanted to keep the family line going and decided to get their dad drunk and have sex with him.  So that’s what they did.  Lot disappears from the story after that.

Meanwhile, Abraham’s wife Sarah (her name had been changed too) gave birth to a son named Isaac, which was amazing because she was really old.  Unfortunately, when Isaac was a little boy, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, as a kind of loyalty test.  So Abraham took his son to the top of a mountain, bound Isaac, and was about to murder his only son and heir.  At the last minute, God provided a ram to sacrifice instead, and God was happy with Abraham’s loyalty.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah died.

"Abraham and Isaac" by Rembrandt van Rijn

When Isaac became “of age” his father decided it was time to get him a wife.  He sent his servant to get him a wife from his relatives, and so Isaac married his second cousin, Rebekah.  Rebekah gave birth to twin sons named Jacob and Esau.  Jacob was a conniving scoundrel.  He stole his brother’s birthright (inheritance), and his father’s blessing.   God renewed his promise to both Isaac and Jacob, that they would be the fathers of a great nation.

Jacob married sisters named Rachel and Leah, who were also his cousins.  Because he was so conniving, he became very wealthy.  In addition to his two wives, he also had concubines.  One night, Jacob wrestled with a mysterious man (who may have been God), and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel.  Israel became the father of the twelve tribes of nation of Israel (which were named after his twelve sons).  This would not happen until centuries later, however.

"Jacob Wrestling With the Angel of God" by Jack Baumgartner

Jacob had a daughter named Dinah, and she was raped by a prince named Shechem.  Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi took revenge on Shechem’s people by circumcising them, murdering them, and looting their city.  This caused Israel’s neighbors to hate his family, so the whole Israel family moved.

Israel’s favorite son was named Joseph, and he made him a multi-colored coat, which made his brothers green with envy.  It didn’t help that Joseph had dreams of his brothers bowing down and serving him.  His brothers became so jealous that they sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.

Joseph was such a good guy, however, that he became well-respected in Egypt, until a sex scandal landed him in prison.  In prison, however, he earned a reputation as an accurate interpreter of dreams.  The Pharaoh of Egypt was having troubling dreams, and he sent for Joseph to interpret them.  Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams, and Joseph was named a ruler of Egypt.

I couldn't resist.

Years later, when there was a famine, Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy grain.  At first they did not recognize their brother (thinking he was dead).  After fucking with them for a while, Joseph revealed himself, and there was a lovely family reunion.  Israel and his sons all moved to Egypt, where they were given land, and prospered for a while.  But hard times were coming for the sons of Israel.  

Stay tuned for Exodus: a book report…

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