Still banging my head against the wall on the post I mentioned yesterday, so continuing on with reflections on Genesis and beyond.
In Lamech, violence intensifies as does alienation from God. He cries out, “Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold.” Note that it was God who decreed sevenfold vengeance for Cain, Lamech presumes this vengeance for himself and multiplies it.
If God creates by knowing, pace Augustine, what does it mean when He “remembers” Noah?
The builders of Babel, “Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.” Note what God promises Abram, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed.”
I don’t think we’re supposed to see Lot as a particularly good guy. Note that when he comes into conflict with Abram over the land, he chooses the land that looks like Egypt, which seems like an unwise choice given the symbolic role of Egypt in Scripture, and goes to dwell among the cities, also troublesome places. These cities are, of course, Sodom and Gomorrah, and we’re immediately told, “And the men of Sodom were very wicked, and sinners before the face of the Lord, beyond measure.” Is Lot included among the men of Sodom? Even if not, he’s clearly been misled by apparent earthly goods. It’s important, I think, that right after Lot departs, God speaks to Abram again and confirms that the land which Lot didn’t select is the land promised by God.
God speaks to Abram again right after he rejects the King of Sodom’s rewards for assisting him in battle. Surely, this is significant as well.
There’s apparently an ancient tradition that Melchizedek was Noah’s son, Shem. Salem, where he is king, is the future site of Jerusalem. The priestly, not merely biological, line thus goes from Adam to Seth to Noah, Shem, then Abram and onward to Christ. His role as priest of the God most high, the priest of the true God in a world of many gods. How God emerges in such a world, what it was like to worship Him, adds endless depth to how we read the text.
Abraham is the champion of faith. Isaac fades into the background after his binding, and God is called “the fear of Isaac.” The passed over sacrificial victim, something’s there’s but I can’t quite grasp it. What characterizes Jacob? His single-minded desire for God’s blessing. It culminates in wrestling with God himself, surely one of the most momentous and mysterious moments in all of Scripture. The strangeness of Genesis is manifest in this moment.
Joseph, trust in God’s providence, see his speech to his brothers when he finally reveals himself. Joseph is also a somewhat ambiguous figure. He takes an Egyptian name, an Egyptian wife, adopts their fashion, and is even mummified. He saves his family, but in a few generations this will lead to their enslavement. We might also wonder if their apparent loss of knowledge of God is the result of the same sort of cultural assimilation we see in the figure of Joseph.
Christ comes from the line of Judah, his three older brothers are passed over for transgressions, sexual and violent. Judah is the protector of Benjamin, when it looks as if the latter will be enslaved the Egyptians for theft, he offers up his own life in exchange, a figure of his greatest descendant. Paul comes from the tribe of Benjamin, the tribe which is the only one that remains loyal to the kings descended from Judah as the united monarchy collapses. What are we to make of the fact that Judah is the son of the Leah, the undesired wife? What of the fact that Jesus is descended from his relations with Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law?
Now I need to get off my butt and finish Exodus.