Thursday, August 26, 2010

Deja vu all over again

One of the criticisms I have of the Bible up to this point is that it is in bad need of an editor. There is lots of repetition and huge swaths of text that seem to be completely superfluous for today. I can understand now why Thomas Jefferson took a pair of scissors and chopped up his Bible to make his own, slimmed down version known today as the Jefferson Bible.
Genesis Chapter 20 is one of those chapters that should probably have been cut out. It is a complete retelling of the story from Genesis 12 where Abraham pretends like Sara is his sister causing a local ruler to take her as his wife and then ends up suffering the wrath of God.
But this time, instead of an Egyptian pharoah, it is “Abimelech king of Gerar” who gets caught in Abraham’s snare.
This story is quite a bit more detailed than the one in Genesis 12 and we are privvy to the interactions between Abimelech and God as the former pleads his innocence and protests the punishment God is threatening to impose.
Abimelech ends up giving Abraham “sheep and cattle and male and female slaves” as well as “a thousand shekels of silver” before sending him on his way. It sounds like Abraham and Sara have a pretty good racket going.
But what should strike anyone reading this story straight through is that Sara is supposed to be nearly 100 years old (and pregnant!) at this point in the story. Was she still so desirable at that age that everyone they came across immediately wanted to bed her and make her their wife?
Personally, I think this story got stuck in the text out of place and is simply a different version of the tale from Genesis 12 told by a different Biblical author.
And here’s the kicker: We will hear this story again before Genesis is through.

1 comment:

  1. "One of the criticisms I have of the Bible up to this point is that it is in bad need of an editor."

    You might want to Google up some background on the development of the Pentateuch that discusses the difference between a novel or other individual, edited work and the written form of a centuries-long oral tradition of an entire race. You seem to be mixing up two entirely different genres of verbal communication.