Friday, 29 October 2010

Genesis 12 to 14

Abram is called by God at the start of chapter 12; this is the beginning of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism, it is said he acquired his wealth in Haran, which is in southeast Turkey today and he is promised to be a great nation. In the Genesis account Abram is to leave for Canaan, he is promised the land for his offspring, with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot and the people and possessions that have been acquired.

Genesis 12 gives an account of Abram dishonoring himself, interestingly he has just been called by God and he then sins against the Pharaoh, by saying Sarai is his sister and the Pharaoh has been sent a disease from God because of Abram. This is definitely an example of moral failure/sin by the patriarch Abram, in a way it shows that men of god are also likely to sin just as much as a normal person, in a way it should give comfort that we are all fallible.

Genesis 13 gives the account of the separation of Abram and Lot, with Abram heading to Hebron, in the modern day West Bank and Lot heading to Sodom, near the Dead Sea. In Genesis 14 an account is given of a conflict between Kings and how Lot is rescued by Abram, a strange set of verses are given at the end of chapter 14, saying about Melchizedek king of Salem and that he is a priest of God Most High and him blessing Abram, this suggests that more people were practicing monotheism in Abram’s time.
In Islam, Abram (Abraham) is known as Ibrahim and is considered an important prophet as he is the father of Ishmael (Arabs) and of Isaac (Jews), he is mentioned a large number of times in the Quran. Some traditions in Islam state that Ishmael was to be sacrificed instead of Isaac; the specific son is not clearly given in the Quran. Lot is also considered a prophet in Islam because of his strong stance on homosexuality while in Sodom.

The account of Abram has problems in placing him in history, it is always consider being at the start of the second millennium BC, there is no clear indication, some theories believe he was an historical invention at the time of the exile, to help explain the founding of the Jewish people.

The “Cave of the Patriarchs” is given as Abram’s last resting place, which is in Hebron, technically the site should be a place of pilgrimage for all the Abrahamic faiths, whether the actual place of burial, no one would be able to verify it.

Genesis Chapter 10 & 11

In Chapter 10 of Genesis the discussion moves to the beginning of nations, or the development of tribes through Japheth, Ham and Shem, the sons of Noah. Ham is given more space as he is seen as the father of the empires and Nimrod is given a mention as the first king of a tribe. Japheth is seen as the father of maritime peoples whose descendants spread out through the world. Shem is the direct descendant of Abram, who is seen as the father of the nation of Israel.

The dispersion of the human family is given in chapter 11 verses 1 to 9; the Tower of Babel story always is represented pictorially as a Babylonian ziggurat, this may be where the story comes from as there was one called Etemenanki dedicated to the deity Marduk in the ancient city of Babylon; this was meant to be a great tower, due to the nearness of Israel and Babylon, it is not improbable for a crossover of stories between nations.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Genesis 6 to 9

Genesis 6 verses 1 to 8 are some of the strangest verses in the whole Bible; they mention the marrying of the Sons of God to human wives and the Nephilim in verse 4, the strangest phrase is that “Sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them”, as is shown below, it is very odd verse.

“ 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

I personally believe that we could spend hours speculating about the verse, as it meaning seems to come from a previous document we do not know about, my belief is that the Old Testament is written from a set of previous documents that have been lost. The Nephilim are mentioned in the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, both works that were probably written before 200BC, but would have been widely known about at the time of Christ. We must remember that we are reading from a Jewish interpretation of stories from that area, we cannot exclude the influence of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The wickedness of men comes to the story of Noah, God says he will destroy the earth and wipe it clean, all except Noah and his family, who then builds and ark and with his family is saved. Noah is an interesting tale in Genesis as unlike Abraham, he does not plead with God to save the world he just builds the Ark, in comparison Abraham pleads to save Sodom. Stories of a Deluge and a Flood from around the world, such as in Mesopotamia the Epic of Gilgamesh mentions the flood, Manu in Hinduism and Deucalion in Greek mythology, one theory is that a meteor hit the earth and caused a tsunami, it is interesting that the flood story exists in several ancient civilizations, this seems to show something probably happened that caused a serious flood.

In the Koran, there are large number of references to Noah as a prophet and being a man of God and trying to bring the pure monotheism of Allah upon the people. The main difference between the biblical account and the Quran is the absence of the account of Noah’s drunkenness and that Noah had fourth son who was drowned in the flood.