Genesis: Blueprint for the Dysfunctional Family

The stories in Genesis are mind-bogglingly sordid. They really are. The people are miserable and vile to one another, even those whom God ‘favoured’, e.g. Abraham and Sarah. Take the story of Hagar: first off, she’s a slave. Later, she is a sexual tool used and abused by both Abraham and Sarah, then she is physically abused by Sarah while Abraham doesn’t bat an eyelid.

Thankfully, God sees Hagar’s misery. He ‘sees her’, as she puts it, for who she is and takes her, the slave, the odd one out and not ostensibly part of His plan, and gives her life blessing and purpose.

Genesis 19. What the heck…? A father offers up his daughters to be gang raped:

…the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them out to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

Genesis 19:4-8 (GNT)

The man has to protect two strangers above his own daughters? What?! Later, Genesis tells us, the daughters seduce their own father, who doesn’t know what’s happening, so that they can have children. I remain unconvinced that it is possible for a man to be unaware of the sexual act. Either way this is seriously screwed up stuff. I am glad to be revisiting these passages with a fresh eye, but I never thought that the bible could give EastEnders a run for its money. It’s depressing.

Thank heaven I know what happens later! Thank heaven that ‘every story whispers His name’, as the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, even when the only whisper is the implication of the unequivocal and desperate need for a Redeemer.

With that in mind, have a listen to these lovely ladies from Tonga singing ‘Soon and Very Soon’

What the…?

In my wisdom I decided to go through the bible again from beginning to end, only this time I am listening to it rather than reading it. I find I have a different perspective when I listen. Within the first hour I noticed several really weird things and I thought it was about time someone dedicated some small part of the blogosphere to these strange stories. Before I begin, let me say I am no theologian, although I’m married to someone who studied theology to degree level and is annoyingly well-read in the subject. I’m just someone who reads/listens to the bible and spends time thinking about God and taking an interest in His word.

Some of these passages are just bizarre. I can only think their true meaning has become obscured by the mists of time and culture. Other passages are worthy of an eyebrow-bending look of puzzlement, and some are outright hilarious (admittedly I find things funny when other people don’t – it is perhaps a survival mechanism; I see it is a God-given gift to be able to see the funny side). My aim is to compile and consider some of the passages of the bible (over time and with no particular intent) that, for example, The Jesus Storybook Bible*** leaves out. These are the strange, otherworldly, oddly-placed passages that you’ve probably never heard in a sermon (feel free to tell me if you have; I’d be intrigued).

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Genesis

I love the story of God bringing all the animals to Adam so he could name them, it reminds me of a daddy playing with his child and taking delight in him. I love how God sees that Adam is lonely and makes him a wife while Adam sleeps – that has to be one of the sweetest stories in the whole bible. Often we overlook this sweetness and focus only on the Fall. I think that’s a shame. There is something precious and wonderful about the relationship between God and Man before the Fall.

There’s also this strange sentence in Genesis that is definitely one for the ‘lost in the mists of time’ compartment.

‘In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.’

Genesis 6:4 (GNT)

Giants? Heavenly beings?

Anyway… today I’m writing about someone very familiar: Noah. Everyone knows the story of how Noah was the only man who listened to God, and all the other people were horrible and self-obsessed and grasping and wicked so God decided to put everyone but Noah and his family out of their misery, so to speak. But few are familiar with the rest of Noah’s story. This happens later, long enough for Noah to have planted a vineyard and made wine from the grapes so, at a guess, several years after the flood. Noah drinks the wine and gets completely and utterly – er – sloshed. In fact, he’s so steaming drunk that he takes all his clothes off and passes out in his tent. It all sounds remarkably like Glastonbury. Definitely not like New Wine.

So Noah’s lying naked in his tent when his son, Ham, walks in – they weren’t Kosher yet <ahem>. Maybe he was checking on his father. Maybe he was having a giggle at his dad’s expense. We don’t know and the text doesn’t say. Either way, he goes back out and tells his two brothers, Shem and Japheth, who between them gingerly make their way backwards into the tent (to avoid seeing their p****d, naked father) and cover Noah up with a robe. Let’s face it, the children’s storybook character of a jolly little man with a smiley face and a long grey beard, somewhat like Santa Claus but with an ark instead of a sleigh, is completely gone at this point. Or is it just me?

To top it off, when Noah wakes up the next morning it reads as if his hangover got the better of him. He curses Ham’s son, Canaan, saying vile things and ordering that his grandson be a slave to both of his uncles.

Is it just me or does the story of Noah and his sons seem like an episode of EastEnders?

*** I love the Jesus Storybook Bible.