Genesis was a relatively long book –50 chapters long–and covered a lot of ground. Several hundred years allegedly transpired between the creation of the universe at the beginning of the book and the settling of Goshen and the deaths of Jacob and Joseph at the end of the book. You should read my chapter-by-chapter postings for all the bullshit, but here are the larger takeaways:
Genesis is Theologically Bankrupt
The Bible is supposed to be a book that provides a rich, consistent, detailed theology, right? It was supposed to originate and advance the concept of monotheism, and to throw its weight behind an all-knowing, all-powerful, and omnipresent supernatural creator, correct?
Not here. Not this Bible. This Bible is a deeply disturbing and violent book that reads like it was created by paranoid savage tribesmen, not the supernatural creator of the universe. It’s empty, hollow, and one-dimensional. It doesn’t provide any direct moral instruction, no lessons from a wise God or anything like that. It also doesn’t have any metaphorical or second-hand moral instruction that you can divine from the lives of the protagonists. The Biblical heroes are all assholes who lie and kill and don’t have any meaningful relationships with man or god.
The only themes you can extract are morally repugnant. Xenophobia and misogyny are rampant. God spends a significant amount of time and effort making sure that humans never become happy and self-reliant, and constantly throws horrible disasters at them to keep them reeling and dependent on him.
He resents his creation when they are doing well, but destroys them if they are not. He revels in breaking up families.
Slavery is tolerated and encouraged.
“God” is a Contradictory and Inconsistent Concept
This was particularly strange to me. The one thing the Bible should be able to do is keep the idea of God straight, but it absolutely does not. Sometimes, he’s a wandering humanoid in need of food and water, Other times, he’s an ethereal, supernatural formless being who could create matter from nothing. He walked and talked with some biblical characters, but then disappeared completely for most of the second-half of the book. Sometimes there was not even a God, but a group of Gods. There were also “messengers” who were interchangeable with the God whose messages they were supposedly conveying.
Ultimately, if you can ignore a never-ending series of contradictions, or take an average of the gods who comprise Genesis and call him “God,” you are left with a giant fucking asshole. God is not a wise shepherd of mankind, he’s an obviously concocted golem who is used to try to intimidate foreigners and justify horrible atrocities. He threatens to kill people, tells his followers to slaughter people, and sometimes does the dirty work himself. He’s also a consummate fuckup. His creation went off the tracks almost immediately, and he decided his work was so deficient that he wanted to kill everyone and everything. He’s also so temperamental that humans have to talk him out of committing all sorts of terribly violent acts on a whim.
It’s a Disjointed and Conflicted Narrative
Even if you don’t think of the Bible as a useful guidepost for your life or morality, it’s still an interesting book, right? No! Fuck no! I don’t even like the Bible as literature. It is wildly internally inconsistent and repetitive. It’s a collection of fucked-up vignettes that have impossible premises and no application to modern life. It tells two different creation stories. It steals and repackages other ancient writings. It offers no insight on human nature, life, or anything else. Most of the stories are just a few verses long, with one-dimensional stock characters. The manly-man. The warrior. The scholar. The tricky wife. Over and over and over.
It really only makes sense if you think about on an etiological level, and then things start to come together. Some of the characters start to make sense if you realize they are meant to be paradigms of certain tribal values or serve the limited purpose of warning ancient readers away from certain practices or rival groups. Some of the nonsensical stories gain some semblance of meaning when you think about them as explanations to ancient contemporaries why they don’t have penis skin, or why they don’t have asherah poles, or why their neighbors speak a slightly different dialect. The fact that the Bible makes etiological sense doesn’t redeem it for me. On the contrary, it makes me dislike it even more profoundly.
Good vs. Evil
The snake in the garden of Eden is the devil right? Nope. The devil does not exist. At all. There is no story of his creation. There is no mention whatsoever about an evil counterpart to God in the entire book of Genesis. On the contrary, the main bad guy in Genesis is God himself. He is the short-tempered, violent, unforgiving, and sneaky presence who destroyed the whole Earth, and has to be talked out of committing genocide regularly by his lowly creation. There is no grand battle between good and evil. There is also no heaven and no hell. No good people go here, bad people go there. This was a huge realization for me. I’m so used to hearing the narrative that “believers” infuse into the Bible: a battle between good guy and bad guy for the eternal souls of creation, but that is just completely absent in the Bible.
God is evil. God is the bad one. He lies. He rewards liars. He tells people to kill their sons. He breaks apart families.
The Most Fucked-up Shit that has Happened Thus Far
- God destroyed the entire Earth for violating some unspoken rule about having sex with mysterious non-human beings (that were never created)
- Noah got drunk and fucked both of his daughters
- God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even though he knew there were innocents among the “fallen.” Then he killed a woman just for looking back at the destruction.
- Abraham pimped out his wife to a rival king, then God threatened to kill the king for “taking” Abraham’s wife (whom he had said was his sister)
- Then Abraham did that again, and God struck another king’s entire populace with horrible plagues for the same offense
- God orchestrated the desert exile and near-death of a woman and child
- God directed a father to stab and burn his only child to death
There has also been:
- One attempted double-daughter-rape-pimping
- One rape punished by the death of every male of the Hivite tribe and the enslavement of their women and children
- One coupling with a stepmother, who is also the father’s sex-slave gifted to him by his uncle.
- One father-son rape of a sex-slave, who was then almost burned to death
What a great book, huh? What a fan-fucking-tastic foundation for your life.