Barren? Sure, blame it on the women, patriarchs.

During my now increasingly regular silence and meditation time, I’ve been rereading the Bible, starting at the very beginning. Okay, so I admit that I’ve never read the entire Bible, but if you combine all of my reading over my lifetime…well, I’d at least come pretty close, within a book or so.

This, however, is my first time through reading the Bible with my (comparatively) newfound ideas about thinking about the context and intentions of the authors and the influence that the history of the culture and society had on the writing (that seems like it was quite a mouthful). Basically, instead of just reading the way I tend to read a textbook, eyes sometimes glazed over, forgetting what it was I actually read, that sort of thing, reading now involves thinking about several ideas at once.

Admittedly, I haven’t had any massive philisophical, theological, or ethical epiphanies. I have, however, laughed quite a lot. A lot. I never before thought the Bible could be entertaining, but it certainly is. Even just small things, like how little emphasis the writers don’t put on some things. For instance, one of the first things that struck me was that after Sodom and Gomorrah, there’s a brief anecdote about how four kingdoms were battling five other kingdoms. I don’t remember offhand which alliance wins, but Lot gets taken prisoner. What does Abraham do? Struts off, slaps them around a bit (them being the armies of several kingdoms combined) and walks off pretty well unscathed. So I know Abraham was a patriarch and had a decently sized family and whatnot, but that just seems ridiculous.

I think what’s been a bit reassuring for me is recognizing that the people being written about have a lot of the same problems we still do today. People make the same mistakes over and over (i.e. “oh no, my wife is beautiful! I think I’ll just pretend she’s my sister” and “Hmm, I’m not having kids. I think I’ll trick my dad/father-in-law/miscellaneous other male relative into sleeping with me. Yeah, that’ll work out well.”), and there’s PDA even in ancient Caanan (“One day, after they had been there quite a long time, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac fondling his wife Rebekah. Abimelech sent for Isaac and said, “So, she’s your wife. Why did you tell us ‘She’s my sister’?””). The one that interested me the most, however, was the recurring theme of women being barren. Several times it’s mentioned that God opened or closed a woman’s womb, but I can’t help but wonder how so many of these Biblical women would all be barren. Or maybe an ancient patriarchal society reeeealllly just didn’t want to talk about what might be some problems with some of those Biblical men. This also sparked a mental image of men sitting around trading fertility folklore; “If you’re on top, you’ll end up with a son!” “Make sure she doesn’t stand up for at least half an hour afterwards, let gravity do it’s work” (I don’t really think they had a word for  or idea of gravity, but you get the idea).

It does make me sad to see the Israelites being douches and realize that it’ll only get worse. At least at this point in my reading, the Caananites, Hittites, and Philistines have all been welcoming and decently friendly, and it’s dramatic irony that I know they’ll get slaughtered later on. On a personal note, I would also be pissed if someone ran around my homeland renaming everything.

I’m just sayin’.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. NonCharon
    Jun 20, 2009 @ 15:45:14

    Barrenness… It was seen as men depositing ‘seed’ in the ground. All seed was the same, but the ground could be different. It could be rocky or fertile. None of that X and Y chromsome or whether or not sperm had good motility. If the seed didn’t grow, it was because it fell on infertile ground. Not justifying the blatant sexism, just explaining the way it was viewed.

    One of the things I like about the Bible is that the people are so screwed up. 🙂 They weren’t saints, even if they were “Saints”. Ancient Middle Easter Jerry Springer.

    Keep it up kid. 🙂


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