I’m about halfway through Genesis, now. Lots of interesting stories. I decided to summarize what I read and then share my reaction to it below.
God makes the world in seven days. Adam and Eve live in Eden until they eat the fruit of the forbidden tree. God curses Adam and Eve and the snake that tempted them (which seems to be a literal talking snake in this story, although I’ve always been taught that they were tempted by Satan, or something), and he throws them out of Eden so they won’t be able to eat from the tree of life and live forever.
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. God likes Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s, and Cain kills Abel. God curses Cain but also puts a mark on him so that no one will kill him.
There’s a long bit about who fathered who, almost exclusively focusing on fathers and sons. It also mentions who lived how long, with most of them living to be almost a thousand and few only living to be a few hundred years old. Eventually the genealogy stuff gets to Noah. God decides he is going to wipe out the human race because they are all so wicked, but he decides to spare Noah and his family because Noah is righteous. He tells Noah to build a boat and gather his family and a pair of each kind of animal on it. Then it rains for forty days and nights, flooding the whole earth and even covering the mountains, wiping out everything that breathes that isn’t on that boat. Eventually, the waters recede, and God promises that he will never again flood the entire earth.
Noah gets drunk and ends up lying naked in his tent. One of his sons sees his nakedness, but his two other sons cover him up while being very careful not to look. When Noah wakes, he curses the one son and blesses the other two, saying that the one shall be the slave of the others.
There’s another bit about genealogy, which again focuses on fathers and sons.
Some people get together to build a city and really tall tower, and God decides to confuse their languages (they all spoke the same language before), so they can’t all work together to accomplish anything they wish.
More genealogy stuff, just mentioning firstborn sons’ names, this time. It starts with Noah’s son Shem and ends with Terah’s sons, including Abram. God tells Abram he will make a great nation out of him. Abram goes where God tells him and he is shown a land that will belong to his offspring. Abram and his wife Sarai go to Egypt to avoid a famine. Abram is worried that he will be killed because his wife is so beautiful, so they decide to pretend that she is his sister. Pharaoh decides to take Sarai as his wife, but he is afflicted with plagues. When Pharaoh finds out Sarai is Abram’s wife, he demands that they leave.
Abram and his nephew Lot decide to split up because they have so much livestock that the land can’t support them both together and their herders don’t get along with each other. God shows Abram more of the land he will give to his offspring. Lot is captured in a war, and when Abram hears about it, he leads the men of his household against them and rescues his nephew. Abram complains that he is childless and that one of his slaves is his heir, and God tells him he will give him countless descendants. He says they will be slaves in another land for four hundred years, but they will come out of it, and he will give them the land he showed Abram.
Abram has a child with his wife’s slave, Hagar, at his wife’s suggestion. Hagar gets pregnant and looks with contempt upon her mistress. Sarai complains to Abram, and Abram tells her to do what she wants with her slave, so Sarai treats her badly, until she runs away. God tells the slave-girl to return and submit to her mistress and that she will have countless offspring through her son Ishmael.
God tells Abram again about the many countless offspring he will have. He tells him that his name will be Abraham, now, and his wife’s name will be Sarah. He tells Abraham that every male of his people, including the slaves, must be circumcised. He tells Abraham that he and Sarah will have a child, and Abraham laughs at the idea of having a child when they are both so old. Then Abraham circumcises himself and his son Ishmael and all of his male slaves. God tells Abraham again about how he and Sarah will have a son, and Sarah laughs.
God decides to destroy Sodom, and Abraham pleads with him, asking if he will spare the city if he can find only 50 righteous men in it. God says he will. Abraham continues to plead, reducing the number bit by bit, until he asks if God will spare the city for ten, and God says he will. Two angels go to Sodom, and Lot convinces them to stay at his house. The men of the city want to rape these two newcomers, and Lot pleads with them, saying he would let them do what they wish with his two virgin daughters, instead. They attack Lot, but the two angels rescue him and tell him to leave the city with his family and not look back because they were sent to destroy the city. His future sons-in-law think he is joking, so Lot leaves with only his wife and two daughters. God rains sulfur and fire on the whole area, except for the city that Lot fled to, but Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt.
Lot moves into the hills with his two daughters. His two daughters despair of ever having children, so they get him drunk and get pregnant by him.
This seems pretty sexist and pro-slavery to me. It’s like women just aren’t worth mentioning most of the time, and slavery is just a normal thing, as if it’s a matter of course that Abraham owns slaves. God doesn’t seem have a problem with slavery; when Hagar runs away, he tells her to return. Abraham literally tells Sarah, when she is angry with her slave, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.” And how is it ok for Lot to offer his own daughters to be raped instead of two strangers? I mean, obviously it’s a good thing to try to prevent two people from being raped, but to offer his own daughters?
There is a lot of smiting of the wicked going on here, although, especially in the case of the flood, it doesn’t really say much about what people do that makes God decide they are wicked or righteous. Some of the punishments seem fairly arbitrary to me. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt merely for looking back when she was told not to, while Cain wasn’t even killed for murdering his own brother.
God talks directly to quite a few people in Genesis. This doesn’t seem to happen nowadays, though, and that always bugged me when I was Christian. I mean, people talk about how they ‘feel’ God is telling them something, but that’s hardly the same as a literal conversation with literal responses. I have to say, if God talked directly to me, I wouldn’t have any trouble believing in him. Believing that a person exists while I am in the middle of having a conversation with them is a matter of course.