So there’s a guy, who’s reading the Bible. He’s Jewish, but he’s not a practicing Jew. He’s doing it because he was bored in a synagogue one day so he picked it up and read the story of Diana and her brothers in Genesis 34. And now he’s blogging about his journey through Genesis.
All that is pretty ordinary. What’s very interesting is that, in reading through, he notices a number of things about the Bible that I think many Christians would miss. Maybe it’s because he’s Jewish, or maybe it’s because he’s reading it in the way books ought to be read – as a whole. Either way, his insights are either pedestrian, annoying, or dead on. He notices things about the Bible that I know I’ve never noticed, things that really are there. Here’s a few of the good thoughts:
Genesis 2:18-24: Before God creates Eve, He brings all the animals to Adam, so that Adam can give all of them their names. This episode captures something fundamental about the male brain: our obsessive categorizing behavior. I once spent a whole spring looking at Washington, D.C., taxicabs to see if I could memorize every cab company—there are scores and scores of them—by the paint scheme on its cars. The bird-watcher, the stamp collector, the guy trying to visit every Starbucks in America—we are all re-enacting in a small way Adam’s introduction to the animals.
Genesis 18: Jews had the three wise men before Jesus! Three strangers visit Abraham, and he welcomes them hospitably. One of the strangers—who are messengers of God—announces, “I will return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” The Christ story is a clear rip-off. In the Christmas tale, it’s impossible for Mary to have a child because she’s a virgin, but she does, and three supernatural visitors herald the child’s birth. Here it’s impossible for Sarah to have a child because she’s post-menopausal (as we are told very directly: “Sarah had stopped having the periods of women”)—but she does, and three supernatural visitors herald it. The big difference: We Jews do not have any good songs about this incident.
Genesis 23: This is a forgettable chapter, except for one reason. It begins with the death of Sarah, quickly taken care of in two verses. The remaining 18 verses are devoted to a protracted, confusing description of Abraham haggling to buy a burial site for Sarah in Hebron. Real estate, again! It is the strangely dominant theme of Abraham’s life. Practically every chapter about him is crammed with details about land—who owns it, who can buy it, whether God is giving it, whether it’s a temporary deal or a permanent one.
His best moment, though, is on chapter 19 (the Sodom chapter):
This chapter makes the Jerry Springer Show look like Winnie the Pooh.