When I think of writers that are going to make me laugh out loud (not to be confused with LOL) I think of guys like Chuck Klosterman. I never knew Moses and his boys were going to be among the most fun to read (although David Cross did warn me of this once.
The title of this post doesn’t encapsulate the scope of the content because honestly, there’s a whole lot of geography and family ties and talk about sheep and wells and feasts that spans the literature that I covered for this post. I stopped around Chapter 30 because I was gut laughing so hard I had to stop.
That’s where I picked up for this post. Genesis 10:1 details the litany of nations that came out of the whole Noah/Ark/Animals/Flood fiasco, which I’m not going to go into because all the humor and figurative meaning and cultural significance have been thoroughly wrung out of that story. I picked up where they start to tick off all the descendants of Noah and among them was his son Ham (I know. A Jew named Ham. Noah’s big middle finger to God I guess.) Ham had a son named Cush, who had a son named Nimrod, who was the first “potentate” on earth, which Biblestudytools.com says meant “a ruler or monarch.”
Verse 9 says he was a “mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord, hence the saying “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter by the grace of the Lord.”
And we’ve all heard that old chestnut, haven’t we?
Then there’s Chapter 16, which details the birth of Abraham’s son Ishmael from whom the Arabs claim descendance. Chapter 17 relates how God promised Abram (his name before he changed it to Abraham. My bible says he did it because He was making “Abraham the father of a host of nations.” Yeah, I don’t get it either) that he would be this father if and only if he cut off part of his penis; that would be the mark of the covenant between God and Abram (wait, sorry. Abraham.) Which I’m struggling with because you would think that if God is going to make Abraham the father and father figure of all these nations, the very absolute last thing He would choose to alter would be the very thing that Abraham is definitely going to need if he’s going to make that happen, right? God then goes on to talk about Ishmael again, in pretty flattering terms at that, going on about how fruitful Ishmael is gonna be and he’ll have his own 12 chieftains throughout the world and so on but He maintains that his covenant (again, commemorated by the biggest anatomical oxymoron I can think of) will be with Abraham (no longer Abram.)
I mentioned in the last post how educational Bible study can be, right? Check this out. In Genesis 18:11, we learn that at this point, Abraham and his old lady Sarah “were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her womanly periods.” I would have never guessed that the phrase “she’s having her period” was actually a biblical reference, but there you go. And Sarah herself is pretty surprised herself because she was eavesdropping on God and Abraham and she busts out laughing when He gets to the descendants part.
“’Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?’ But the Lord said to Abraham “Why did Sarah laugh and say ‘Shall I really bear a child, old as I am?’ Is anything too marvelous for the Lord to do?’”
He’s got a point there. And in Verse 15, Sarah mutters under her breath “I didn’t laugh.” But Abraham counters, “Yeah, you freakin’ did,” very possibly pondering the kind of God they were dealing with and weeping for the future and with good reason. I mean, yes, God promised Abraham he was going to be fruitful and multiply but now, because Sarah threw a monkey in the wrench of their dealings with Him. He was gonna mess with Abe first and see just what how far he would go to please Him.
Really, Abe had two entities that he was trying to please and still maintain some sort of independence (an affliction that, really, has plagued a heathy mass of men since time immemorial.) First there was God, but then Abe had his wife to please too. Thankfully in this case (unlike, say, almost every other case of interpersonal relations of every gender normative couple every single day since) she was pretty straight forward about what she wanted. In Chapter 21, after the birth of Isaac, Sarah got real pissy about Abe’s concubine Hagar (Ishmael’s mom) still lurking around like she owned the place just because she had borne Abe’s first son. She notices Ishmael and Isaac playing Jacks or Hooves or Rocks or whatever little boys played back then and suddenly and without warning, lost her freakin’ mind.
“Drive out that slave and her son!” Sarah screamed at Abe. “No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac!”
Abe was understandably pretty shocked, not to mention confused, but God took him aside and reassured him that he should go ahead and kick Hagar and Ishmael out and He would take care of them (I guess you could trace all of Islam back to Sarah having a bee in her bonnet about how loose sexual norms were back then)
A couple chapters later, God decides, pretty abruptly actually, that now is the time to confront Abe and test his mettle in light of the chuckling incident. It happens right at the start of Chapter 22 with God, trying to catch Abe by surprise, comes out from behind a mountain or a cloud or whatever and shouts “Abraham!”
Ol’Abe apparently had the foresight to know this was coming because he dropped his shovel and immediately stood at attention.
“Ready!” he shouted.
God, although mildly surprised that Abe was anticipating this, doesn’t miss a beat and tells Abe to go to Moriah (which I guess was just down the road or street or river) and bring a knife and some kindling and, like Christopher Walken, calmly tells Abe he’s going to sacrifice his only legit son Isaac to prove his devotion to God.
Shit just got real.
So while Abe is, once again, considering all the other deities he could have chosen and wondering why on earth he decided to stick with the Supreme Being that apparently now had a vendetta, gritted his teeth and built a sacrificial altar. Poor, oblivious Isaac sweetly asked his dad, “Where are the sheep we’re gonna put on the altar?” Abe looked at his son sideways and wondered if the old, withered Sarah might just have another son she could squeeze out of her, then remembered the only reason he had Isaac in the first place was because … and you get the rest. God tells Abe to in fact not sacrifice Isaac after all and that he’s proven his devotion, etc. Not long after, Abe, who has lived to a “ripe old age” (another instance where I learned that a saying we use even to this day has biblical roots. The English vernacular would be a lot less rich without the Bible and Shakespeare to draw from) finally kicks the bucket after 175 years and the second part of the book of Genesis is over.
But there’s plenty of juicy stories to come, starting with a big dumb ox of a guy who’s hair was his downfall.
I’ll repeat that.
Hair plays a very significant role in the chapter to come.
Long, beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen.
Shoulder length or longer.
Here, baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it, long as God can grow it.