Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Abraham, Best of Breed and Best in Show -- Bible Study, Night Five

He kind of sneaks up on you,  this Abraham. At first he seems like just another figure in a long and tortured genealogy whose members (Arphaxad, Serug, Reu, etc) turn out to be pontoon bridges across Time, structures to be discarded and forgotten once they've afforded passage to his seed. Then, out of nowhere, he suddenly breaks out, surpassing and marginalizing those who sired him. It's almost as though (or it's precisely as though) all history before Abraham was whelped were just a complicated breeding program that yielded a couple of good dogs and lots of bad ones but no all-around, enduring champions. And Abraham is certainly a show dog, since what is his distinctive trait?  Obedience. He comes when he's called. He heels. He sits. He fetches. Canine Abraham is God's best friend.

It's tempting to think of Abraham as virtuous, but morality, in the sense of tenets and principles whose difficult application exalts the soul, doesn't really exist yet in the world. What matters at this juncture is God's favor, which is obtainable through lots of licking (in the form of building altars). As Abraham's adventures prove, if Master loves you you can do no wrong, and if He doesn't you can do no right.

Consider poor Pharaoh, who Abraham deceives by pretending that Sarah, his wife, is really his sister. The trusting Egyptian, acting in good faith and motivated by honest masculine instincts, takes lovely Sarah into his grand household and reimburses her 'brother' handsomely for his willingness to pawn her off, showering Abraham with asses and camels, all of which he cheerfully accepts. Pharaoh's reward for showing such generosity to a guest in his kingdom who ran a con on him rather than thanking him for his hospitality is to be beset by plagues. When the potentate uncovers the ruse and, understandably, vents his grumpy puzzlement (What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst tho not tell me that she was thy wife?), Abraham doesn't even bother to answer him, that's how cocky he's grown from knowing God has his back. Abraham doesn't return the asses, either. Or the gold. Or the silver. Or the cattle. He departs with his loot and once he's in the clear, his wife at his side after serving as sultry bait in history's riskiest-ever pimping scheme (exactly what happened to Sarah in Pharaoh's harem-room is left provocatively unaddressed), he meets up with God at a spot they picked out earlier and the two of them basically high-five each other.

Operation Egyptian Honey Trap complete!

4 comments:

  1. That's hilarious! And drop dead accurate.

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  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts as you read. Having read these stories so many times they can cease to offend/startle and engage me. Your insights make me laugh and think - keep up the good work!

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  3. Hey Walter...I am a christian. I grew up in a family where my parents both were pastor's of a church for 18 years and just recently began doing other things...my dad is still in the ministry.

    I subscribed to New York Magazine and their Approval Matrix mentioned this blog...so I started reading it.

    I really appreciate your commentary of the Bible. I think the way you put yourself in the story is quite funny.

    I disagree with some of your conclusions but I really appreciate this blog, and hope you actually read the entire Bible (most Christians do not do that haha)

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