Aside from the impressive scope of the story thus far, the time of the Old Testament seems like a bad place to be. Every society encountered seems dangerous, full of blood-thirsty men ready to take your head off. Everyone is having sex and making all kinds of babies (the uteri of these poor women). God is a type of fertility doctor who opens and closes women’s wombs like they’re Starbucks and he is one flush real estate mogul, who dolls out parcels and regions of land any time he shows up and wants to have a chat with a prominent figure.
In general, the first book of the Bible has the strange feel of a wacky sit-com, where ludicrous events happen; the principal characters antagonize one another; people lie, cheat and steal; are completely jealous of one another; and often scheme. Then everything is resolved in the end, thanks to a reconciliation that involves some tears and a group hug. Or annihilation.
Why anyone went anywhere during this time is puzzling. If you’re wife was attractive you had to pretend to be her brother so that people would not kill you and take your wife? This comes up three times in Genesis (twice with Abraham and once with his son, Isaac). And being a woman, forget it. Females get tossed around like poker chips: while protecting two angels who have come to Sodom and Gomorrah to verify how depraved life there has become, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to the violent male crowd who gathered, demanding that the two men come out so they can have sex with them. Lot says, take the girls, do whatever you want with them but leave the men be. Thanks, Dad.
Then there is the litany of circumcisions. I can perhaps understand why a person would be convinced by God to get this done. Fine. But I’m trying to imagine how this scenario unfolded: Dinah’s brothers—fueled by vengeance over their sister’s rape—arrive at an area ruled by Hamor. They are invited to settle among these people and encouraged to intermarry with them. The brothers feign interest, but insist that if it is to happen—especially them giving up their daughters for marriage—all the men in the area must be circumcised. At a town rally, Hamor and his son pitch the brothers to the townspeople, adding how the town would benefit from the added livestock. In effect, they said ‘Look, we can marry their women and add their herd to ours. But we’re all going to cut off part of our penises.” Response: “okay, sure, that sounds like a good idea.” I imagined a long line of men wrapped around a building like they were in line to get flu shots, each perhaps watching the served men limping away covering their groins. But the Bible offers no such negative feelings about it. When this goes down in 34:24 that sure was an easy sell.
Then there’s the life span people live for. Adam lived to be 930 years old? Perhaps sensing an issue here, God stepped in in chapter six and capped life spans at 120 years. But then Noah was 600 years old at the time of the flood? In the Tower of Babel section, we get a family tree and see people lived to be a couple hundred of years old. Abraham was 175. Jacob, 180. So much for the life span cap. Didn’t people think it strange that Bible characters had crazy life spans? And with their rudimentary medicine and diets, didn’t anyone question this?
And all this lying and deceit. If you haven’t read the Bible, here’s what you’ve missed: Lot’s daughters, because they appear to have no viable man options, scheme to get their father drunk and sleep with him. Yep, he gets them pregnant. Sarah gets jealous of her maid. Abraham agrees to sacrifice his son—who doesn’t seem all that fazed by this in the moment—but God stays his hand when he sees the level of dedication Abraham exhibits. Jacob gets tricked into sleeping with the wrong daughter but then marries them both. Jacob gets his father’s blessing over Esau, thanks in part of mom’s scheming. Apparently, except for perhaps Noah, no one tells the truth. Everyone has an agenda of some kind.
All this makes the plot lines in Dynasty look like good, wholesome family values.