Back to the Basics: Genesis 17
Previously, in The Bible
Abram’s wife Sarai couldn’t get pregnant, so she told Abram to go knock up the maid Hagar. Proving that you should never, ever, EVER believe it when your wife says that, as soon as the maid gets pregnant Sarai starts getting abusive and drives Hagar out of town, all with Abram’s tacit approval. Hagar, now pregnant and homeless, might have thought that things couldn’t get much worse but God shows up to prove that things can ALWAYS go downhill. Not only does God tell her to get her ass back to Abram and Sarai, He also tells her that her son is going to an antisocial asshole. So there.
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Does God really need to remind us that He’s the Almighty God as often as He does? I would think that would be kind of self-evident.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
“fell on his face”. Heh. Ow.
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
I know the covenant between Abram (now named Abraham because, well, I guess because God just thought it sounded better) becomes a pretty big deal later on, so it’s worth really looking at it here. So far:
- Abraham’s descendants will become many nations and will include kings
- This will be an everlasting covenant as long as Abraham and his descendants keep God as God
- Again, He gives Abraham the land of Canaan as an “everlasting possession”
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Ok. There’s a few things I’m going to set aside, like the fact that we’ve got more slavery going on (“he that is bought with thy money”), the really nice way that an uncircumcised boy gets exiled, and the fact that almost as much space is given to the importance of hacking off bits of your kids as is given to all the other points of the covenant, this just went waaaay into creepy-town. Take away the divine factor in this for a moment and take a look at what’s being described here. This is a unique piece of body mutilation that is being used as an identifier for the tribe. It’s a group identifier. Fine, ok, that’s a common practice that we see throughout history (and National Geographic, for that matter).
Add the God factor and, if I were a member of Abraham’s group, this would raises some fairly serious questions, with the first and foremost being WHY THE HELL DOES GOD WANT TO CUT BITS OFF MY COCK TO PROVE THAT WE’RE HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE??? WHAT. THE. FUCK?
Humanity was supposedly designed in the image of God, but God wants us to start intentionally changing that design? Was that design wrong? Why the penis, why not the ears? Can’t we just get a fucking tattoo or something? Why just the men, why do we have to have our penises sliced, why not do something to the women too? Or here’s a grand idea, you’re God – you created the humans, why not just make a genetic change so that Abraham’s descendants are born without foreskins? That’d make a whole lot more sense to me rather than commanding your followers to mutilate their bodies to prove their loyalty.
I’m calming down now, but did want to point out one small thing before I get back to reading. Some quick research points to the time here being ~1930 BC, but circumcision was already being practiced in Egypt since at least ~2400 BC. With Abraham & Co. recently returning from their Egyption sojurn, the timing of this whole circumcision thing makes me wonder if it was actually something that got picked up there. I’ll have to dig into that at some point.
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
Just changing everybody’s name, ain’tcha?
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
Yea, he’s all “How can I have kids” now but Abraham was all gung-ho and virile when it came to Hagar, wasn’t he. Amazing how quickly that changed.
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
Now that’s interesting. Even though Ishmael – Hagar’s son – is technically the firstborn, he’s getting passed over for this covenant in favor of Isaac. Maybe Ishmael made the mistake of offering a fruit basket as a sacrifice to God instead of slitting an animals throat?
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
Um. Ow. Really, really ow. Abraham had 318 slaves back in chapter 14, and I can only imagine that there’s more than that by this point. That’s a lot of dick in Abraham’s hands (including his son’s).
Sorry, I just had to go there.
Completely ignoring the absurdity of God giving humans a foreskin and then commanding him to cut it off, I have to have some serious reservations about a supposed divine being that feels like the best way to identify his “chosen people” is through ritual genital mutilation. And that’s exactly what it is – genital mutilation, little different from cutting the labia off an infant girl. Yet we, in the Judeo-Christian culture, think nothing of the one and are horrified at the other, specifically because Judaism and Christianity have done it for religious reasons long enough that it’s become a societal norm. The fact that millions of parents have looked down at their children and, because of this book, willfully harmed them disgusts me.
I went into this with as much of an open mind as I could manage, but that’s changing very quickly. I can accept that there will be people out there who would intentionally hurt their children out of malice, insanity, or simply because they’re evil people, but this? Religion? This has loving parents doing terrible things because of some duty to some supposed invisible father figure. I’m sorry, but there’s no morality, no goodness in that.
There’s more going on in here but frankly I’m too disgusted to go into it.