Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Reading the Bible - Genesis 13-14

In the last edition of Reading the Bible we got to see how God blesses Abram, and basically that this blessing is not justified in anyway. Abram truly carries on like a lunatic with no faith in the God that blesses him and curses anyone that gets in his way. At the end of his time in Egypt Abram walks away with immense riches for acting in a completely inappropriate and weak way. It is at this point that we pick up the story of Abram and Lot as the move away from Egypt to Canaan and the river Jordan area.

Due to the large numbers of people and livestock that are traveling with Abram and Lot, tied in with the lack of resources, the inevitable happens and the herders get into an argument. This argument gives Abram a chance to redeem his dubious nature, as he offers Lot a solution to this argument between the herders by saying they should split camps. However, its not just splitting camp he offers Lot the opportunity to choose where he wants to take his people and the Abram camp will take the less desirable option.

Please, separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” So Lot raised his eyes and saw that the whole district of the Jordan was a well-watered region (before Jehovah destroyed Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah), like the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt, as far as Zoʹar.

Now this story can be seen in two ways, obviously the way the Bible wants us to interpret it is that Abram is a great person showing decency by allowing Lot to choose where he wants to go. Unfortunately, if anything it shows us that Abram is anything but decent as he would surely know his nephew Lot and how his mind works. As such, he would know that Lot was not such a smart farmer, as would come across by choosing the fertile (well-watered) region, as Lot very soon was living  among the cities. Surely if Abram wanted to truly care about his nephew and avoid conflict he would have chosen a better solution to the problem.

The other interpretation of this story is far simpler. The Bible is setting up a fall guy to show what Jehovah does or does not approve of, just as happened with Pharaoh and his desires for Sarai. I feel this interpretation is more apt, as Genesis 13 closes with God once again promising Abram everything for no specific reason.

Jehovah said to Aʹbram, after Lot had separated from him: “Raise your eyes, please, and look from the place where you are, to the north and south, east and west, because all the land that you see, I will give to you and your offspring as a lasting possession. And I will make your offspring like the dust particles of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust particles of the earth, then your offspring could be counted. Get up, travel through the length and breadth of the land, for to you I am going to give it.”

Genesis 14 starts off (verse 1-11) with some fascinating history of the kings of the time and how they were warring with each other and why the warring with each other. Now, I would dwell on this fascinating history, but...... its based on kings, wars and cities that in all probability never existed or were not alive at the time. As such we can be pretty sure that this pseudo-history is put in place to make the hero Abram.

However, after all this pseudo-history we get to the crux of the issue when verse 12 tells us how Lot was abducted by these kings, luckily for Lot one of his men escaped and went searching for Abram to tell him the bad news. When Abram got this news he mobilized the men in his service, as well as 318 slaves and headed off to save his nephew. One night during this pursuit Abram divided his men and they attacked and defeated the kings of Elam, Goiim, Shinar and Elasar, before pursuing them and I gather reigning more terror on the fleeing armies? Most importantly, Abram recovered Lot and all the other people that had been abducted in the original battle of Sididm.

He recovered all the goods, and he also recovered Lot his relative, his goods, the women, and the other people.

Abram was rightfully  greeted as a hero by the kings of Sodom and Salem when he guided the prisoners of war back. The verses 19-24 show just how important this victory was.

Then he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Aʹbram by the Most High God, Maker of heaven and earth; And praised be the Most High God, Who has handed your oppressors over to you!” And Aʹbram gave him a tenth of everything. After that the king of Sodʹom said to Aʹbram: “Give me the people, but take the goods for yourself.” But Aʹbram said to the king of Sodʹom: “I raise my hand in an oath to Jehovah the Most High God, Maker of heaven and earth, that I will not take anything that is yours, from a thread to a sandal lace, so that you may not say, ‘I made Aʹbram rich.’

Fascinatingly, we see what a great person Abram is as he refuses to take any money from the kings.So, here I will finally give Abram credit for doing something decent. On that note we conclude this latest account of the Bible.

See you next time.

All verses come from the New World Translation Of The Holy Scriptures.
Online version available at the Jehovah's Witnesses official website