Week 11: The End of the Beginning

Reading

Genesis 46–50 (Israel’s reunion with Joseph, and his blessing(?) of the twelve tribes)

Questions

  • Does Jacob/Israel foresee the futures of the twelve tribes, or does he determine them? 
  • What is a blessing? 
  • Final Genesis Question: If Genesis is a story of beginnings, by the end of Genesis, what has begun?

In the closing pages of Genesis (or, on a scroll, the final little bottom portion!), Jacob-slash-Israel gives a blessing to his twelve sons, and it’s pretty intense. Here is where the futures of the Twelve Tribes are spelled out, some in more detail than others.

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Week 10: Tamar and the Amazing Red Thread; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Part 1

Reading

Genesis 37–45 (Tamar and Judah; the Story of Joseph, part 1)

Questions

  • What’s up with the stories of the patriarchs making them seem like total assholes? (Cough, cough, first Jacob, then Simeon and Levi, now Judah and his sons)
  • Are dreams a way of communicating with the divine? How much can we trust knowledge gained in dreams, or interpretations thereof?

In the homestretch of Genesis, we first read about Tamar’s deception of her father-in-law Judah in order to become pregnant, and then are plunged right back into the Joseph narrative—as Joseph is enslaved, then becomes a renowned interpreter of dreams in Egypt. We discuss: What does it mean to have agency? Is it morally wrong to lie when you have no other way of asserting your agency? Can dreams—or their interpreters—be trusted?

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Week 9: Jacob Wrestling, and the Story of Dinah

Reading

Genesis 32-36 (Jacob wrestles the divine; Jacob and Esau reunite; the encounter between Dinah and Shechem and the revenge/treachery of the sons of Jacob)

Questions

What does it mean to “struggle with God”?

What really happened in Shechem?

A big week: Jacob wrestles with some kind of divine being, and his daughter Dinah has an encounter with the prince of Shechem that her brothers interpret as a defilement or rape.

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Week 8: Jacob’s Wives and (Goat) Breeding

Reading

Genesis 28-31 (Jacob’s wives; Jacob’s labor for Laban; Jacob’s experimental goat breeding plan)

Questions

Who are our parents?

Does goat breeding work like that?

So, after cheating Esau of the birthright (still unclear why they can’t share it), Jacob flees from the land where he was raised, and goes to stay with his mother Rebekah’s brother, Laban. It’s a marriage plot! Specifically, Jacob’s marriage to not one but two of Laban’s daughters, and his sexual relationship with two of their handmaidens, Bilhah and Zilpah.

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Week 7: Isaac’s Blessing

Reading

Genesis 25–27 (Isaac’s Blessing)

Questions

Does/can/should God have favorites?

What is a birthright?

In this week’s reading, Yahweh seems to favor Jacob, the younger of Isaac and Rebekah’s twins, right from the get-go. Right from the womb! God has already favored Abel over Cain, Noah, and Shem/Japheth, and Isaac over Ishmael. Is this a pattern? Why does God prefer some people over others?

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Week 6: Abraham, the Chosen People, and the Binding of Isaac

Reading

Genesis 12–24 (Abraham, the Chosen People, and the Binding of Isaac)

Questions

Why must faith be tested to be believed?

From Isaac to Christ — why is child sacrifice such a theme?

Circumcision. What’s the deal?

Belial challenged us to consider the testing of faith alongside the implications of the Abraham narrative regarding circumcision, gender, naming/transformation, and the idea of the “chosen people.” Along the way we dove into nakedness, the miracle of life, and the fickleness of God. Are we moving from physical memes to abstract memes? Does the nation of Israel have a founding trauma, as Michael suggests? Is God “fleshy,” as Gabriel asks? And what are we to make of the fact that Abraham doesn’t hesitate for a moment when he’s called upon to draw blood? It’s gnarly.

Read on… or skip to the Takeaway and/or Gems from the Chat.

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Week 5: Noah, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel

Reading

Genesis 6–11 (Noah, the Flood, the Noahic Covenant, and the Tower of Babel)

Questions

How close are we allowed to get to God? (What’s the ideal human-divine boundary, and how do we know we’ve crossed it?)

What is a covenant?

This week, Mephistopheles led us on a voyage of self-discovery. Why did God flood the earth, and why was Noah saved? Was Noah all that great? Or was he just not evil all the time? Phanuel introduced us to “the smelling Lord”; Michael and Anael “vibed” about blood; we discussed sperm and mini-me’s, sexy angel-giants and the etymology of “baby.” And finally, was Yahweh a union buster? Find out this week.

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Week 4: Cain and Abel

Reading

Genesis 4–5 (Cain and Abel, and some very old people)

Questions

Why does God prefer Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s?

Is it more of a punishment to die, or to live?

This picture is ClipArt that I, Lucifer, found online. Mostly I include it because I find it hilarious. But it’s also oddly disturbing. We have our key players: two little boys, wearing some tasteful hides, holding up sacrifices to God. They’re instantly recognizable—on the left, Abel’s little sheep is in for a snooze, and Cain’s corn on the cob is honestly looking pretty good. So why doesn’t God like them equally?

Because God is thirsty for blood.

Or… maybe not?

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Week 3: The Fall

Reading

Genesis 2–3 (The Creation of Eve, and the Garden of Eden)

Questions

How does the Garden of Eden narrative contribute to Western ideas about gender?

What is “sin”?

Was the Fall of Man all part of God’s Plan? It rhymes, but it’s also kind of disturbing.

The entire chapter brings to mind larger questions about being, judging and seeing. In Genesis 1, God saw that things He made were good, which both made them good, and judged them good. In Genesis 3 we encounter the first “sin” (according to later Christian interpreters, such as St. Augustine). It’s the first thing in the universe that is not good. Does that mean, though, that it’s evil? Or is that just centuries of Christian theologians whispering in our ears?

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