Reading the Bible – Ep.5 – Sodom & Sarah

April 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

In Genesis 18, the Lord appeared to Abraham, and after Abraham got some food together, the Lord said that Sarah would have a son, despite her age:

“And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.

Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

The Lord is not keen on Sarah laughing inwardly at this. She lies and says she wasn’t laughing. But she was. The Lord then walks with Abraham, and tells him that the sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are ‘very grevious’ but the sins aren’t explained. Abraham then manages to convince the Lord not to be too angry if there are some people in the city who are not righteous.

In Genesis 19, the Lord sends two angels to speak to Lot (Abraham’s nephew) who lives in Sodom. At this point it gets a little vague, but there is an association between Sodom and ‘sodomy’, so its easy to jump to conclusions. The men of the city surround Lot’s house and demand to see the two men (angels) ‘that we may know them’… Lot asks them to ‘do not so wickedly’ and tells them to take his own two virgin daughters instead of the male visitors – ‘do ye to them as is good in your eyes’.

The angels stand up for themselves, and blind the men of Sodom, then decide to destroy the city ‘because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD’

Lot, his wife and his daughters (mercifully) are told to leave the city quick, before it’s destroyed, but ‘look not behind thee’. So they skedaddle, but as the ‘LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ Lot’s wife carelessly turns around to watch and ‘she became a pillar of salt’.

Lot then has to escape to a cave with only his daughters for company (more of that later).

CONCLUSIONS

1. The LORD is aware of your thoughts, and I have a feeling he might have something in for Sarah. But, he is promising her a son, despite her having gone through menopause.

2. Sodom & Gomorrah’s sins are bad, as it seems they like to ‘know’ men, and that’s bad. But giving your daughters to them to do what they want is not such a bad sin.

3. The phrase is ‘brimstone and fire’ not ‘fire and brimstone’

4. It might seem pedantic, but how do they know Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt without looking round themselves? Did they realise she was gone, return at a later date, see the pillar of salt and say “that must be her”? Or is the disappearance of the wife into a pillar of salt symbolic for something that I’ve missed? Does she see God? Does she want to hang out with the bad men of Sodom?

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“Lot’s Wife” pillar at Mount Sodom, Israel – does kind of look like a woman in a flowing dress.

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Destruction of Sodom, Monreale Cathedral, Sicily (12th century?)

 

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Destruction of Sodom, Nuremberg Chronicle

Lot’s wife seems to be smiling at Sodom in her pillar-state. I like the topping over of the buildings by a top corner cloud blow.

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“The Destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah” John Martin (1852)

This is satisfyingly over the top, and I like that Lot’s wife is struck by salt-lightning. There is drama and pomposity here.

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“Lot Fleeing with his daughters from Sodom” Albrecht Durer (1498)

One daughter looks bored, she must be teenage. The other has some sort of spinning thing and some keys and a wee box. Lot appears to have a hot water bottle on his back. There is not a lot of drama, or pomposity here.

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“Lot and his Daughters” Lucas van Leyden (1520)

Durer drew a portrait of van Leyden, I guess they were friends. This painting combines the destruction and the following episode of Lot and his daughters in the cave. Wine is flowing, cuddling is happening…..

 

Reading the Bible – Ep.4 – Abraham & Hagar

March 31st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

 

So, Genesis chapter 16. Recently, Abraham has been in a big battle (Genesis 14) and protected some slaughtered animals from birds (Genesis 15) and God has revealed to him that 1. His seed will be numerous and 2. Abraham’s seed “shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years”. However, in chapter 16, there seems to be a bit of a threat to this, as Abraham’s wife, Sarai (Sarah) “bare him no seed”. So, what Sarah suggests is that Abraham sleep with her handmaid instead, and the handmaid can have Abraham’s children. The handmaid is an Egyptian called Hagar (not this Hagar).

hagar the horrible

Sarah actually ‘gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife’. Hagar and Abraham get together, she becomes pregnant, but Sarah now realises she doesn’t like the whole situation. Sarah is mean to Hagar, she runs off to a well in the desert, where the LORD reveals himself to her (ooh er..etc). God tells Hagar that her seed shall be multiplied exceedingly, to call her son Ishmael, that Ishmael shall be a ‘wild man’, and that he will face a number of difficulties. She seems to relax, and returns to Abraham and gives birth to Ishmael. Abraham is currently 86 years old.

CONCLUSIONS

– It’s ok to sleep with your wife’s handmaid, as long as it’s her idea.

– The handmaid doesn’t get to have a say in this.

– Abraham’s seed has longevity.

– Has Sarah lost patience with God, and is she trying to speed up the multiplication of Abraham’s seed with this idea?

There are a number of artworks based on this scene, here are some.

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“Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham” Matthias Stom (1637)

This one shows Hagar already getting undressed, and she seems to be concerned for Abraham, reaching out to him, but with a little encouragement from Sarah. Abraham seems a bit not bothered either way, though obviously is ready for bed. His left hand and eyes seem to say “you sure?”, though who he might be directing the question to is debatable.

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“Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham” ‘Spranger’ (16th century)

‘Spranger’ here is a little racier – Abraham seems distracted by her naked breasts, while Sarah looks a little like she’s trying to convince him it’s a good idea. He isn’t really listening though. While Abraham looks relatively ‘old testament’, Hagar doesn’t look that Egyptian. She is obviously a fine figure of a woman though, and is wearing some very thin material over her hip. Why the artist bothered with that I’m not sure, unless its just to suggest some tension, something holding her back (barely). I don’t know what that monster in the corner is.

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“Sarai showing Hagar to Abraham” Matthias Stomer

This is also by Stomer, and is a little creepier. Hagar has waddled in, and Abraham is ready to go, inspecting her and peeling off the blanket. He may also have a boner under the blanket. The wee dog is symbolic of his lust I guess, though the dog seems to be looking the wrong way. The little boy (perhaps a dwarf) on the other hand seems to be almost bowled over by Hagar. This time Sarah doesn’t seek Abraham’s approval, instead she is performing a purely perfunctory role. Everything is a little rubbery looking.

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“Hagar & the Angel in the Desert” James Tissot (1896)

This one is a little different, showing Hagar by the well. I guess the angel is a personification of the LORD (angelification?). I quite like this, Hagar is desperate, feet on the edge of the well, holding a big pot thing – perhaps she is considering jumping in, weighed down by the pot. The angel pretty chilled out though.

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Sarah presenting Hagar to Abraham – Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media

 

I might put these illustrations in future posts. They seem to have done a number for Genesis. At least here Hagar has a hint of Egyptian (I do wonder what bible illustrators are thinking when they draw such fabric tension between the breasts of Hagar, and also “are Sarah’s breasts old enough”?)- she is also embarrassed looking, casting her eyes to the floor. Abraham seems ready to spring from his chair. Sarah is positively delighted to present her handmaid to her mulleted 86 year old husband.

 

Reading the Bible – Episode 3: The Generations of Noah

March 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

So, Genesis 10 & 11 is basically a long list of the generations of Noah, all but one of whom is a man. Also, judging by the amount of sons that some people had, I reckon Canaan and Eber are going to have big roles to play.

Sons of Noah

 

I found it all very confusing so made a handy diagram to make sense of it all (click on image to increase size). Apparently this is also known as a Table of Nations. Here are some other people’s versions.

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Reading the Bible – Episode 2: Noah

March 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

After God floods the earth, once the rain stops after 40 days, Noah sends a raven out off the boat who “went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth” then he sends a dove – the dove comes back with nothing, then heads out again, returns again, this time with an olive branch. This is proof the waters have abated, the year is 601, the first day of the first month.

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From Die Schedelsche Weltchronik

 

Later, once they are settled down again, God makes a covenant with Noah and says he’ll never do it again and “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud”

That’s a nice image. God also

“blessed Noah and his sons”

So, Noah now can relax a little, and in Genesis 9:20;

“Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard;

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethern without.

And Shem and Japeth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their fathers nakedness.”

So, Noah gets drunk, one of his sons sees him naked, tells the others, they cover him up without looking.

“And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren”

So, Noah is pissed off because his son (Ham) has seen him naked, so he then curses his own Grandson (Canaan, Ham’s son) and condemns him to be a slave of slaves.

CONCLUSIONS

1. Nobody is concerned about the whereabouts of the raven.

2. God put a bow in the clouds. I am hoping to learn what became of this (or at least what natural phenomenon it refers to).

3. Nakedness is worse thank drunkenness. Unless seeing his father naked is not what is meant by Noah knowing “what his younger son had done unto him”. Is there some other unmentioned crime that Ham has committed while his father was drunk and naked?

4. Noah is a mean man who punishes his Grandson for his father’s (perceived) failings. However, it may be the case that as Noah and his sons are blessed by God, his grandson’s aren’t, so Noah can curse Canaan but not Ham.

 

Reading the Bible – Episode 1: Garden of Eden

March 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I am reading the bible, and trying to get my head around what must surely be one of the best selling books of the last two millennia. I will sporadically be writing these, with some art historical images and my understanding of what is being written. It might take a while because it’s quite long. I am reading the King James version. Feel free to tell me that I am wrong or have misunderstood. Obviously I am reading without knowing too much about what happens later in the bible, so I might make certain assumptions which I later contradict. Oh well. First up, some Garden of Eden.

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Adam & Eve – Abreha and Atsbeha Church, Ethiopia

In Genesis 3:5, the serpent (who is not described as anything other than a serpent) tells Eve not to worry about eating the fruit of the tree (not apple specifically) in the midst of the garden, because unlike God has said, it won’t kill her. In fact, the serpent says God doesn’t want you to eat it, because if you do you will have your eyes opened and you shall become like Gods.

She eats it, and indeed her eyes are opened, and she can see she is naked. She doesn’t die though, and though it might be imagined that by eating the fruit, humankind has been made to suffer and die forever, God says later he is getting rid of Adam and Eve from the garden to ensure that they don’t also eat from the Tree of Life –

“And the LORD God said; Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” – Genesis 3:22

So God doesn’t want them to eat from the Tree of Life, because then they will be immortal. So, they were already mortal, and thereby the serpent told the truth about God’s reasons for telling them not to eat it. It didn’t kill her, she became aware of good and evil and they have become like Gods. I don’t know why that is plural, but God himself says “man is become as one of us” which is to say he is a God among Gods.

CONCLUSIONS:

1. The serpent can be relied upon to tell the truth.

2. God said they would die on the day they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, but they didn’t.

3. Adam & Eve were already mortal, because only if they ate from the Tree of Life would they “live for ever”

4. There is not just one God, or, at least God thinks there are others he counts to be “us”.

5. It might not have been an apple.

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