Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So Let's Just Say Infinities Are Impossible

I recently got into a conversation with an apologist who used the "real infinities can't exist argument", and specifically was saying that it is impossible to have an infinite past. It essentially says that with an infinite past, you can't get to the present moment. I've explained before what the problem with this argument is, but that's not my focus today. For this article, I want to assume that the argument is valid and see what would follow.

The argument concludes that there must be a beginning. Granted, we all agree that this universe had a beginning at the big bang, the question is what came before that? What started that big bang? Many say that one possibility is a multiverse, or perhaps a contracting and expanding universe. This argument says that even given those possibilities, it is impossible for them to go backward in time forever. Whatever it is, it must start somewhere. Whether it is at the big bang, at an earlier iteration of our expanding and contracting universe, or at the beginning of the multiverse, there has to be an uncaused cause somewhere. They are, of course, happy to place God in this spot.

But I would argue that we have gained nothing here. By the exact same argument which says the multiverse can't go back infinitely into the past, God can't either. When I pointed this out, the apologist said that it doesn't apply to God because he's immaterial. The problem with this line of logic is the "no infinite past" argument never mentioned material. It either applies to matter and to God, or it fails for both. If God can be infinite, then their argument is invalid and it is possible that a multiverse could be infinite as well. If infinities are not possible then God has to have a beginning and he needs an explanation just as well as the first universe/multiverse.

"God is eternal, he's outside of time." This is the other response I hear a lot to this line of argumentation. I'll be honest, I'm not completely sure what that even means, but I don't think it matters if I do. If God can be outside of time, why can't other things be as well? Perhaps the multiverse is "outside of time". No matter what angle they take here, the apologist is basically trying to construct a problem for the multiverse but leaving a trap door for their God to solve that problem. As far as I can tell, this will inevitably lead to the multiverse itself fitting through that same trap door. Their only recourse seems to be to special pleading by simply insisting that only God can fill that role.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Genesis 30: Genetics Work How?

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Jacob's Children [cont.] (v. 1-24)

Jacob's wives get real competitive with one another about having kids and they both enlist their servant for the cause. Jacob winds up having a bunch of kids with all 4 women. Is this the bible or daytime tv?

Jacob's Prosperity (v. 25-43)

Jacob asked Laban to let me gather his family and leave for his homeland. Laban didn't want him to go because he benefited so much from God blessing everything he does. In the time Jacob had worked for him his wealth had increased considerably. But after some discussion, Laban agreed to let him go and asked what he should be able to take with him. Jacob said that he would go through his flocks today and take every animal that is speckled and spotted. Any animal that is not so marked will remain Laban's.

It specifically says  that Jacob will go through the flock today, but that makes no sense because of what happens next, Jacob's plan involves breeding. All I can figure is that it is supposed to say "one day" or something, I did a compare translations but they seem to be pretty uniform in saying "today".

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown seems to be saying that the agreement was to remove the spotted livestock now, and only breed the ones without such markings. Then Jacob would get the ones that come up spotted in the next generation (or perhaps a few generations down the line). The idea was that this would make it unlikely that very many spotted animals would be born next generation, and that is why Laban was quick to accept this deal. That is clearly the way this went down, but it doesn't seem to be the deal that they made according to the way I read it.
v.32 "let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages."
That really seems like Jacob is supposed to get the spotted animals today doesn't it? JFB's interpretation doesn't seem to be consistent with this verse, but it certainly does match the rest of what happens here. Perhaps this is a translation issue, or perhaps I'm being dense and it's really not as confusing as I'm making it out to be. Whatever, this detail isn't that big of a deal, but it was peculiar.

Then Laban took all of the animals that should have gone to Jacob and gave them to his sons and they took them a three days journey away and took care of them there. But Jacob prepared sticks of poplar and almond, exposed the white of the sticks and put them by the water where the animals drank. They bred while being watered and this would make them reproduce with spots. Jacob did this for the strong animals but not the weak ones, so he would get the strong offspring and Laban would get the weak.

my comic archive

You heard it hear folks, if you want to control the coloring on your livestock you just have to be careful about what sticks they look at while they are breeding. Can we just agree that this thing isn't divinely inspired and whoever wrote this didn't understand how the world works? I'm guessing an apologist would argue that God is working behind the scenes and it really doesn't have anything to do with the sticks, but that really veers quite a ways from what the text actually says.

Guzik seems happy to just turn off his brain and take this as fact:
When Jacob put these branches in the the drinking troughs of the flocks it apparently increased the number of speckled and spotted offspring from the solid-colored flock Jacob managed on Laban’s behalf.
It's in the bible, must be true. No sense thinking critically about it one bit.

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown also took this as fact
These, kept constantly before the eyes of the female at the time of gestation, his observation had taught him would have an influence, through the imagination, on the future offspring.
This is not how it works! Granted, they wrote their commentary in 1871, unlike Guzik, who as far as I can tell is still alive, they may not have had a reasonable opportunity to know how ridiculous this is. Hell, on the origin of species was only written 12 years earlier.

I'd also like to point out how terrible both Jacob and Laban are in this story. They can't just come to an equitable deal and go with it, they both are trying to game their arrangement and come out ahead unfairly.

for the verses of note post


Genesis 30:35,41-42 Both Jacob and Laban were dishonest in this deal

"But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted...Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding...So the feebler would be Laban's, and the stronger Jacob's"


Genesis 30:1-24 Everything about this marriage is dysfunctional


Genesis 30:39 What you are looking at when breeding affects what traits you pass on

" the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Genesis 29: Traditional Family Values

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Jacob Married Leah and Rachel (v. 1-30)

Jacob completed his journey to the east and found his uncle Laban. Laban had 2 daughters, Rachel who was beautiful and Leah who was not. Jacob of course wanted to marry Rachel and made a deal with her father that he would work for him for 7 years and then marry Rachel. After the 7 years Jacob asked Laban for Rachel. Laban threw a party and at tricked Jacob into sleeping with Leah instead, claiming that it is unacceptable to marry off the younger daughter before the older one. Jacob then agreed to take both women as his wives, but had to work another 7 years for Laban.

What do you think it feels like to be Leah in this story? Your father had to trick someone into marrying you, and in the process got a worker for another 7 years. This story really does a good job of showing how much women were commodities in this culture. And for all of the traditional marriage people, multiple wives was clearly not a big deal here.

Guzik says the following about Jacob being tricked to sleep with Leah
We can Imagine how Jacob felt - and how Leah felt, and of course how poor Rachel felt. All this was because of Laban’s sin. Or, perhaps one should say it was because of Jacob’s sin - now the deceiver is deceived.
So he is saying that this is the end result of Jacob tricking his father into giving him his brother's blessing. It's actually kind of interesting, in a weird way he has gotten a taste of his own medicine. Unfortunately, as seems to be common in the bible, there is an innocent victim here. I'm glad that Guzik mentioned how terrible this whole ordeal is for the women involved as well. Additional comments on this matter from Guzik
When Jacob deceived his father and cheated his brother, God did not change His plan to choose Jacob to receive the birthright. Instead, God took Jacob to the school of hard knocks to discipline him. This shows that our disobedience may not derail God’s plan for our life, but it will greatly affect how we end up experiencing it. You may spend 20 years working for someone like Laban while God teaches you a few things. 
Though we can see this is God’s correction upon Jacob, it in no way justifies Laban’s deception. The fact God does work all things together for good never excuses the evil acts God works for good.
Guzik seems to have forgotten Leah's part at this point. This is the issue I've always had with the idea that "through God, everything works together for good", from what perspective are we looking? So God took advantage of some evil that was going to happen and spun it to make some good. Jacob went through the school of hard knocks and learned his lesson. What about Leah? She is basically just a prop in this story. This story isn't good for her.

Jacob's Children (v. 31-35)
Comic Archive

God saw that Jacob loved Rachel and hated Leah, so he made Rachel barren and Leah had a bunch of kids.

What the fuck kind of a dick move is this? What the hell does this accomplish?

Every time Leah had a child she said that it would surely make Jacob love her, but it never worked.

So having children won't fix your marriage? I guess that is one lesson that can be learned here.

From Guzik:
God’s compassion on Leah is touching. She is truly the innocent party in all of this mess. God can minister to a wife and meet her needs even when the husband acts in an ungodly manner.
what the hell! Are we reading the same story? God gave her children, which she tries to use to gain her husband's affection and fails. He also makes it so her sister doesn't have children, which probably would make it so she's hated in the house.

For the verses of vote post


Genesis 29:25 Laban tricked Jacob into sleeping with the wrong daughter to marry her off

"And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, 'What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?'"


Genesis 29:27 Jacob marries both Leah and Rachel

"Complete the week of this one[Leah], and we will give you the other also[Rachel] in return for serving me another seven years."

--Why God Why?--

Genesis 29:31 God makes the hated wife have children and the loved wife barren

"When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

That Miracle Was a Hoax, But Real Ones Exist

I've recently come across a handful of miracle claims, often times there is a knowledgeable person commenting who can explain why the supposed event is not as miraculous as it is claimed to be. What I find really interesting is the response that is given by the believer when this happens. The first thing they try to do is of course challenge the explanation, but if that fails they will often fall back to "Well fine, maybe that miracle wasn't real, but real miracles do exist".

While I disagree with their conclusion, they do have a point, debunking a miracle claim does not prove that miracles don't happen. No matter how many miracle claims are shown to be false, we can't say for certain that other miracles don't occur. This goes for pretty much any debunking that we do, whether it be horoscopes, water dowsing, or psychics. No matter how many times you show a claim to be fraudulent or simply mistaken, there is always the possibility that the real deal is out there somewhere.

These thoughts reminded me of something that I haven't thought about in years, when I was a kid I believed in UFOs. Why not? As a kid I didn't really have a good way to tell reality from fantasy. Nobody around me was a skeptic, as far as I could tell everyone believed in UFOs, why shouldn't I? I remember I watched a show on the discovery channel about crop circles. They showed a crop circle, showed how amazing it was, talked to a bunch of "experts" who explained that it would be impossible for humans to make and it was proof of UFOs visiting, then they shows a time lapse video of the crop circle being made by 2 (or 3?) guys over the course of a few hours. I was floored, it was the first time I had seen anything anything critical of UFOs that was done in a convincing way.

Of course, I didn't immediately stop believing in UFOs, this was just a stunt by the discovery channel. The fact that humans can also make crop circles doesn't prove that UFOs can't make them. I remember watching other shows which also debunked other UFO stories, and for a long time I just figured that UFOs are cool, and people will want to create their own, and hoaxes are probably fun to create and trick your friends with them. Even if 99% of UFO claims are shown to be fraudulent, it doesn't prove that the last 1% are also fake.

But then I started to ask myself what I thought was more likely, that the rest of them were also hoaxes or that aliens really are hanging out around our planet and hiding. It seems much more believable that some people creating hoaxes are just really good and set things up in such a way that it is nearly impossible to debunk. Also, once I learned about how big space is, it really doesn't make sense that an alien race would screw with us for decades but never reveal themselves. If they were to travel all that way, you would think they would make contact. Ultimately I decided that believing in UFOs was silly.

I think these miracle claims are very similar, no matter how many miraculous statues are shown to be the simple result of a broken water pipe, it's always possible that there is another one that is the real deal. But at what point does it seem more likely that the next miracle claim will also be fraudulent?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Genesis 28: Jacob Overinterprets a Dream

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Jacob Sent to Laban (v. 1-5)

Isaac calls in Jacob and blesses him and tells him he needs to go to Paddan-aram and marry his cousin.

Last time Isaac was pissed at Jacob for stealing his brother's blessing because he apparently had very few blessings available to give out. Now He gives Jacob another one. And of course, it is hilarious that he doesn't want his son to marry a Canaanite woman, but is perfectly happy to have him marry a blood relative.

Guzik says that Isaac is finally accepting that it is God's will that Jacob will be the one to get the birthright, and that is why he blesses him now. Guzik also says something which I find fascinating
Jacob is by no means worthy of this blessing. Each of the four parties in this whole birthright mess were in the flesh somewhere along the line. The amazing thing is that God could bring any good out of all this, and this is an example of a triumph of God’s sovereignty.
This seems like an incredibly strange take on this to me, I suppose it comes out of necessity of finding a good angle on this story. I suppose God's sovereignty says that he can do whatever he wants, but why should we call it good that God rewards people who are terrible throughout the whole story?

Esau Marries an Ishmaelite (v. 6-9)

Esau overheard this conversation and realized his father didn't like his wives because they are Canaanites, so he took another wife, the daughter of Ismael. So it was the daughter of his father's half-brother. So what is that, half-cousin?

I just feel sorry for Esau here. He clearly just wants his father's approval. Granted, he sucks at this, but it seems like he is just not treated very well by his parents.

Jacob's Dream (v. 10-22)

When it got dark Jacob stopped to sleep and he had a dream. He saw a ladder to heaven and angels going up and down it. He also saw God, who promised him the land as he had promised his father and grandfather. When he awoke he said that the lord must be in this place even though he didn't know it.

What does he mean when he says he didn't know the lord was in this place? Surely with his father and grandfather constantly assured by God that their descendants would get the land, he must have heard that over and over his whole life.

Guzik suggests that Jacob didn't realize God was in this particular place, perhaps thinking God was only in the place where he grew up.

He then took the stone he had been using as a pillow and set it up as a pillar and poured oil over it. He then says that if God can provide him with food and clothing "so that I come again to my father's house in peace" then he will follow the lord. The stone will be God's house.

I thought you weren't supposed to test God. I guess that is New Testament stuff.

Guzik points out that it won't be quite that easy for Jacob, referencing stuff that is coming. That should be interesting.

Also, what is the whole deal with him asking for food and clothing so he can come in peace. It reads to me like he is saying if God doesn't provide him with those things he will have no choice but to get them through violence. Is there another interpretation here?

For the verses of note post:


Genesis 28:2,9 Jacob and Esau marry cousins

"take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother...Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebaioth."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Is Abraham Considered a Hero?

I recently finished reading the Genesis stories involving Abraham, and looking back at it, I really don't understand why he is considered a hero. You often hear the phrase "the God of Abraham" and people will speak of Abraham with great reverence. It really makes me wonder if I am reading the same stories as they are. Let's take a quick look, shall we.

Let's start with the positive things that Abraham does. In chapter 14 Lot get's captured and Abraham saves him. That was pretty cool. In chapter 18 Abraham tries to help the people of Sodom by arguing with God on their behalf. Pretty cool move, although it does seem to go against the idea that he was obedient and trusting in God. As far as I can tell, these are really the only things that he does that I would put in the good column.

As far as negative things, let's start with the first significant thing we see Abraham do. In chapter 12 when he is afraid he will be killed for his wife's beauty, he responds by claiming she is his sister instead of his wife. This cowardly act resulted in his wife being taken as some other man's wife. Furthermore, at the end of the story the Pharoah returned Sarah and was just pissed that he was lied to. We see at this point that Abraham is not only a coward, but a horrible judge of character. For some reason, Abraham tells this same lie in chapter 20.

Throughout these stories, God promises them they will have a son over and over again, and yet Abraham goes ahead and has a baby with Sarah's maidservant Hagar in chapter 16. It would seem that Abraham's trust in God isn't really that great. In chapter 21 God finally comes through and gives Abraham and Sarah a baby, and they kick Hagar out on her own. Really a screwed up move.

pic source
Chapter 22 is the famous story where God asks Abraham to kill Isaac. This story is horrific, and yet for
some reason is held in high regard by the religious. They will say it is good that Abraham was obedient, and that he trusted God. I have two responses to that. First, if we look at the rest of the stories involving Abraham, we can see that he doesn't seem to trust God all that much, and he wasn't always completely obedient. But more importantly, when someone tells you to kill your child, it is a bad thing to be obedient to them.

Finally in chapter 25, Abraham remarries but he has a bunch more kids. He treats Isaac much better than the rest of his kids, which I must say I am not a fan of at all.

Honestly, I keep asking myself if I'm being too hard on the things I read in the bible, and I really don't think I am. Take these stories and tell them to someone who has never heard them before and how do you think they would react? Would they consider Abraham a good guy or a bad guy? I'm guessing pretty much everyone would think he is a piece of shit. Why would you consider him a hero? Why would you want to follow his God?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Genesis 27: Jacob Steals Esau's Blessing

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Isaac Blesses Jacob (v. 1-46)

Isaac was old and blind and thought he might die soon. He called his favorite son Esau to him because he wanted to bless him before he dies. But first, he requested that Esau go hunt for him, and prepare a meal for him with the meat.

So Isaac wants to bless his favorite son, but first requests something from him. This seems reasonable. Esau wants to please his father, so why not. This seems relatively unimportant up to this point, but what exactly is this blessing? As we will see, it is not simply symbolic, it is something more, although I'm not exactly sure what.

Rebekah heard this whole thing, so when Esau went out to hunt she told Jacob what happened and asked him to go get 2 goats from their flock so she could make some food for Jacob to give to Isaac and trick him into giving him Esau's blessing.

What exactly is this blessing that it can be stolen like this? It doesn't seem like it can be from God, as surely God could see the deception involved.

Also I would point out that Rebekah doesn't seem to be a very good wife here, but given what happened in the reading from last time, I can hardly blame her.

Painting from here
Jacob worries that Isaac will be able to tell he is not Esau because he is not as harry as Esau. He worries he will get cursed instead of blessed. Rebekah says she will take on any potential curse and insists that he brings her the animals.

I like that Jacob is thinking here, and not just blindly following. But now we have added a curse into the mix here along with the blessing. Suppose he gets cursed, how does that work? Is it in Rebekah's power to transfer it to her? What is going on here?

He brought Rebekah the animals and she prepared the food, she also gave Jacob Esau's clothes to wear and put goat skin on Jacob's hands and neck so he would appear hairy like his brother.

I absolutely love this, Esau's hands apparently are like a goat.

Jacob went to Isaac, who seemed suspicious. He asked how he came back so far, Isaac said the lord blessed his hunt. Isaac felt his hand and smelled his clothes. The voice threw him off for a second, but no matter, time to do a blessing.

You would think the voice would be more important than any of the rest of it. Especially since Isaac was obviously suspicious. Why did he go through with the blessing?

After being blessed Jacob left and Esau came in shortly thereafter. Esau offers the food and asks for the blessing, and Isaac trembled as he realized what had happened. Esau cried out, he was angry at Jacob because he has cheated him twice now, first out of his birthright, now out of his blessing.

Hold on there buddy, you lost your birthright out of sheer stupidity.

Esau then asks his father if he has any blessing left for him. Isaac says that Esau will have to serve his brother until he grows restless and then he will "break his yoke form your neck"

So apparently these blessings are a commodity of some sort. Isaac couldn't simply give him the same blessing he gave his brother. He also apparently can't take Jacob's blessing back? This whole thing is confusing.

Esau vows to kill Jacob as soon as his father dies, Rebekah hears this and tells Jacob to flee to her homeland. At some point Esau's anger will die down and Rebekah will send for him. It's for the best anyway, Rebekah hates the Hittite women that Esau has married, if Jacob also marries Hittites she will hate her life. This way Jacob will be likely to marry someone from her land.

Wait a minute! Was this whole ridiculous scheme of Rebekah's so that Jacob won't wind up with a Hittite wife? Look back at the story, the whole situation was her doing. This is the second chapter in a row that is totally motivated by racism.

For the verses of note post:


Genesis 27 Rebekah manipulates her whole family in this chapter


Genesis 27:19 Jacob lies to his father multiple times in this chapter (this is an example)

"Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn...'"


Genesis 27:46 Rebekah is racist

"Then Rebekah said to Isaac, "I loathe my life because of the Hittite women.If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?""

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Got Here How?

I'm sure most if not all of you are aware of this, but it is possible for me to see what was searched for to get to the blog. Every once in a while someone's search makes me laugh, and I thought it would be fun to share this pointless little chuckle with you guys

foreskinned incest pic blog

I was curious what the landing page would be, so I used this same search on google to see. I had to go 6 pages deep, but it brought me to sheldon's guest post. Foreskin wasn't mentioned in the post, although the word does show up in the side bar as the title to another post. Incest was mentioned 5 times, so I guess that is why it came up in the search.

While I'm mentioning it, the search terms to get to my other blog can be amusing as well, my favorite one is ass to slap. I'm pretty sure that person was disappointed when they landed on a page about star trek.

Don't get me wrong, Yeomen Janice is hot, but I doubt this is what that person was looking for.

Google can be a funny thing :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Guest on Bitchspot Report

I guest hosted on the bitchspot report again this week. In addition to doing a few news stories, we had a really long conversation about conservatism and liberalism. I thought it was a hell of a lot of fun, go check it out.

Also, Cephus also puts the podcast up on youtube, and he has put a lot of work into it this week. If you listen to podcasts are your computer I definitely recommend looking at that version

Friday, April 19, 2013

Genesis 26: This Scam Again?

Check out today's episode

God's Promise to Isaac (v. 1-5)

There was a famine and "Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines". God tells Isaac not to go to Egypt, if he instead stays here God will give him the land and lots of offspring and such.

I find it interesting that God made the same promise to Isaac here which he had made to Abraham, but it is contingent on him hanging around. Suppose Isaac had decided to disobey God here and go to Egypt anyway. If God then doesn't give Isaac the land hasn't he broken his promise to Abraham? Given that God made the promise to Abraham already, it should be that Isaac can do anything he wants and should still get the land. Worst case scenario, God is using the same promise to manipulate people and string them along. Best case he has foolishly promised too much to Abraham and potentially put himself in a position to either break the promise, or give the land to people who aren't following his commands any more. I suppose some would argue that God can see into the future and know that won't happen, but a look at the current state of the middle east seems to destroy that argument. Also perhaps it doesn't work well in the bible itself, I haven't read ahead.

Isaac and Abimelech (v. 6-35)

If they can reuse the story
I can reuse the picture
Isaac told everyone that Rebekah was his sister instead of his wife because he was afraid they would kill him since she's so beautiful. The king realized at some point they were actually married and yelled at him for potentially bringing guilt upon them because anyone could have laid down with her thinking she wasn't married. He spread the word to all of his men so this wouldn't happen.

WHY? Seriously, what the fuck? Why is this families first instinct to pretend their wives are their sisters? Did Abraham tell Isaac about that he had done this and got super rich off of it and that is why Isaac is repeating it? As has happened every time this scam was used, God's people looked terrible and the people who are being scammed act honorably. 

I love Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's take on this story
The pressure of famine in Canaan forced Isaac with his family and flocks to migrate into the land of the Philistines, where he was exposed to personal danger, as his father had been on account of his wife's beauty
The people of those places have given zero indication that Isaac or Abraham were in any danger. At every turn they have been lied to and they always treat Abraham/Isaac well. They have proved at every turn that Abraham/Isaac was incorrect to assume they would be killed because of their wives beauty. The fact that JFB comes away from the story thinking they were really exposed to personal danger shows they aren't really paying attention to what is happening in the stories.

So Isaac farmed in the land and his return that year was 100 fold because the lord blessed him. He became so rich that Abimelech told him to leave as he was becoming too powerful so Isaac moved on to the valley of Gerar. He had a conflict with some locals over water wells but he made peace with them and moved on and dug another well. At some point Abimelech came to him to set up a treaty because it is obvious that Isaac has the lord on his side, Isaac agreed and they had a feast to celebrate.

Not a lot that is too terribly interesting here. I definitely like that Isaac seems to be going the route of peace repeatedly. He was very powerful, when Abimelech asked him to leave he could have fought to stay but he didn't, when he had the disagreement over the water rights he moved on and found another well rather than killing those people and taking it. I like it.

When Esau was 40 he got married to two Hittite women, this made Isaac and Rebekah's life bitter.

There are two possibilities here, the problem could be that there are 2 wives, or it could be that they are Hittite. I'm assuming that the 2 wives aren't a problem as polygamy was very common back then, which leaves racism.

From Guzik:
Again, this shows Esau’s character as a fornicator and profane person
I suppose he's a fornicator for marrying two women, but again, very common back then? And to verify that I am indeed reading the right, that this is completely just racism, we have JFB's take on this passage
If the pious feelings of Abraham recoiled from the idea of Isaac forming a matrimonial connection with a Canaanitish woman [ Gen 24:3 ], that devout patriarch himself would be equally opposed to such a union on the part of his children; and we may easily imagine how much his pious heart was wounded, and the family peace destroyed, when his favorite but wayward son brought no less than two idolatrous wives among them--an additional proof that Esau neither desired the blessing nor dreaded the curse of God. These wives never gained the affections of his parents, and this estrangement was overruled by God for keeping the chosen family aloof from the dangers of heathen influence.
It really seems to me that this is just totally based on racism.

For the verses of note:


Genesis 26:16-17,21-22 Isaac chose peace over fighting

"And Abimelech said to Isaac, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we." So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there...Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, "For now the LORD has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."


Genesis 26:34-35 Isaac and Rebekah don't like Esau's wife because she's a Hittite

"When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah."

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Does Knowledge Really Mean?

When talking about atheism/theism and arguing with theists, there is a lot of talk about knowledge and belief. Many atheists tend to adopt the agnostic atheist label, saying they don't believe that gods exist but also saying that they don't know for sure. This leads me to the obvious question, what do we mean when we say we know something? What is knowledge?

In a certain sense we don't know anything. I could be a brain in a vat connected to the matrix, you might not exist at all, but are merely a figment of my imagination, we could both just be a part of someone's dream. We can never be sure that some craziness like this isn't happening, in that sense we don't know anything. But this definition of knowledge isn't useful, and it's not really the way we use the word except when we talk about god or perhaps during drunk philosophical conversations (seriously, I throw great parties).

If I hold a pencil out at eye level and let go, it is possible that a glitch in the matrix will make it hover, it is possible that an alien has a tractor beam on it that will pull it to the ceiling when I let go, it is possible that god will perform a miracle and make it fly against the wall instead of toward the floor. In this sense, there are incredibly low probability things that could happen and we can't say with 100% certainty what will happen next, and yet we are all comfortable saying that we know the pencil will simply fall to the ground. Why is it that in this example everyone is perfectly happy to say they know for sure what will happen to the pencil, but when we talk about god people are so quick to fall into this "we can't know anything for sure" nonsense?

Pic Source
We all know Santa doesn't exist, we know the easter bunny doesn't exist, we know that Zeus isn't real, in all of these other examples we don't bend over backwards to quality everything. Nobody says "We can't be 100% sure where the presents under this tree came from", we all know that the parents bought them and put them there while their kids slept. I know that my parents did this when I was a kid. Nobody will take me to task for making that statement. Why is it so taboo, even among other atheists, to say that I know that God doesn't exist?

The only other wrinkle here is what is meant by a God. In these discussions people will often back up to a deist God who created the universe and then was hands off. They have a point there, in relation to that God it makes sense to be an agnostic atheist. But let's be honest, that is not the God we are usually talking about. We are talking about Yahweh, a God who knows everything, has absolute power, cares about us, and interferes in our lives. This God doesn't exist, it just doesn't make any sense.

I think for any reasonable definition of knowledge, I can safely say that I know Yahweh doesn't exist. Am I going to start calling myself a gnostic atheist? I don't know, I imagine it would cause more problems than it would solve even though I think it is accurate. I can hear it now, people would say that I now have accepted the burden of proof and have to prove that God doesn't exist. But let's think back to our examples of Santa and the easter bunny. We are all perfectly comfortable saying we know they don't exist. We are gnostic a-santa-ists, we are gnostic a-bunists, where is our burden of proof there? I imagine we are all happy with the lack of evidence where we would expect evidence to be. Why isn't that enough for yahweh?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Genesis 25: A Meal for a Birthright

Check out today's episode

Abraham's Death and His Descendants (v. 1-18)

Abraham remarries and has a bunch more kids, he gives them gifts but gave most of his stuff to Isaac. He sends the other sons away to the east. Eventually Abraham dies and he is buried along with Sarah.

I'm really not a fan of Abraham's favoritism of Isaac. He gives him basically everything he has, and sends away his other sons. It seems like a pretty screwed up way to handle things, pick you favorite and to hell with the rest of them. It's actually not that much different from God is it? He picks his favorites, his "chosen people", and screw everyone else.

Guzik has absolutely no issue with Abraham picking a favorite. 

Also, it says Abraham gets remarried to Keturah, but then later calls her his concubine, what's up with that?

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown suggest that it is likely that she had been around for a much longer time than is described here given the number of children. That seems reasonable on first glance, but would it have to be after Isaac was born? Otherwise the whole thing with him having a son seems even more confusing.

The Birth of Esau and Jacob (v. 19-28)

Rebecca was barren and couldn't get pregnant so she prayed to God and then got pregnant.

I wonder how long they waited to determine she was "barren", sometimes it takes people a while to get pregnant, no miracle from God necessary.

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown point out that Isaac had the same problem as his father, but he was patient instead of taking matters into his own hands.

She would have twins, and they were struggling in her womb so she asked God about it, he said they would be 2 divided nations within her, one is stronger than the other and the older would serve the younger. Esau was born first and he wound up being a skillful hunter and a man of the field. Jacob was born next and he was a quiet man and spent time dwelling in tents.

I guess getting along with your twin brothers is not part of the story. How's that for family values? Also, what the hell does it mean that Jacob dwells in tents? Does it mean he is just a weaker person? Is it perhaps code for being an intellectual?

whoa, according to Guzik:
Jewish legends say Jacob and Esau tried to kill each other in the womb. Also, every time Rebekah went near an idol’s altar, Esau would get excited in the womb, and when she would go near a place where the Lord was worshipped, Jacob would get excited.
that's some serious shit right there. He also points out that God once again has chosen the younger instead of the older in as he did with Isaac and Ishmael. 
Is it fair for God to love one and hate another, and to choose one and not choose another, before they are even born? We should regard the love and the hate God speaks of here as having to do with His purpose in choosing one to become the heir of the covenant of Abraham. In that regard, God’s preference could rightly be regarded as a display of love towards Jacob and hate towards Esau. The real thought here is much more like “accepted” and “rejected” more than it is like our understanding of the terms “loved” and “hated.”
Is it really okay for God to reject one before he's even born? Just seems screwed up.
Our greatest error in considering the choices of God is to think God chooses for arbitrary reasons, as if He were sort of an “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” chooser. We may not be able to fathom God’s reasons for choosing, and they are reasons He alone knows and answers to, but God’s choices are not capricious.
So God works in mysterious ways? Great. 

Esau Sells His Birthright (v. 29-34)

Pic Source
One day Esau came in from the field exhausted and asked Jacob if he could have some of the stew he was making. Jacob said that he would do it if Esau would give up his birthright for it. Esau said if he doesn't eat he will die and the birthright will be no good to him, so he agreed.

Wow, this story is dumb. First of all, how hungry could he possibly be? It says he came in "from the field", it is highly doubtful that if he didn't get this stew he would die. Why would he give up something so valuable for a bowl of stew, even when he was really hungry? And Jacob is a horrible person in this story, why would you take advantage of someone like this? Esau is either suffering from intense hunger or stupidity, it seems wrong to act as he did.

I'm wondering what the lesson from this story is supposed to be. My guess is don't be stupid/impulsive like Esau, and don't be a jerk like Jacob.

From Guzik:
Esau’s thought isn’t that he is so hungry that he will die without food. Instead, the idea is “I will die one day anyway, so what good is this birthright to me?”
But that's not what the text says? It makes more sense in one aspect, because it is unlikely he was one bowl of stew away from death, but if he wasn't desperate why would he trade something so valuable for something so cheap?
Luther draws attention to an important fact: this was not a valid transaction, because Jacob was buying what was already his, and Esau was selling something that didn’t belong to him. (Leupold)
What?! The blame here is on Esau for selling something that God gave to his brother? Perhaps this whole things is just a self fulfilling prophecy. 

For the verses of note page


Genesis 25:5-6 favoritism of one child over others

"Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Can Cherry Pick Your Bible But You Can't

It's no secret the Christians do a lot of cherry picking of the bible. They will focus on verses that support their ideas and completely ignore verses that go against them. Take for example the current gay marriage debate going on in this country. Christians will often cite bible verses to support their argument that being gay is bad, but will ignore the fact that nearby verses also prohibit eating shellfish.

Christians don't tend to like having these facts pointed out to them, when confronted they will often try to turn the tables and point out that atheists focus on all of the negative things in the bible. The claim is that we have no high ground here, we cherry pick just as badly as they do. The problem is, we aren't making symmetric claims.

Many Christians claim that the bible is inerrant, that it is the perfect word of god and that it is the source of all morality. These are very strong claims, and really, a single counterexample creates big problems. Ignoring parts of the bible which contradict these claims is unacceptable.

Atheists on the other hand don't claim that the bible is 100% bad. If we did, our cherry picking would be a problem as well as we would be ignoring the evidence against our claim. However, our claims are generally that the bible is not perfect and that the God depicted in the bible is not a strong moral character. To support these claim it is not necessary to show that good stuff is absent, we merely need to show that bad stuff is present. That is why we will often cherry pick the bad items, because all we need to do to prove our point is to show such items exist.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Genesis 24: Isaac Gets Married

Check out today's episode

Isaac and Rebekah (v. 1-67)

Abraham wanted Isaac to get married, but he didn't want him to marry a Canaanite woman but they live in Canaan. So he sent a servant back to their homeland to get him to find a wife for Isaac. The servant asks if he should bring Isaac back to the other land in the event the woman doesn't want to come to Canaan. Abraham says no since God promised this land to his descendants. He tells the servant that if the woman doesn't want to come then he "is free from this oath".

I thought this phrase was somewhat unclear, I'm assuming it just means that he can move on and try to find another girl.

Along with an angel of the Lord, the servant goes to Mesopotamia with 10 camels and a bunch of gifts and such. He goes to a watering hole at the time when a bunch of women will be there and he asks God to let him know who the right woman is because she will get water for him and his camels. Rebekah comes out as he is finishing this thought and she does those things and winds up being the right girl.

This whole thing strikes me as just laziness on the servant's part. Instead of going out and finding a woman in whatever way he might normally, he's just like, God send me a sign. The first person that comes must be the woman God sent to me. It just reminds me of people who don't want to solve their own problems, but expect God to fix things for them.

He meets her family, stays the night with them and eats with them, tells them the whole story and winds up taking Rebekah back to be Isaac's wife.

You might be wondering how such a simple story can be 67 verses long. It's pretty easy actually, you just have to have the characters of the story constantly repeat themselves.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Genesis 23: Sarah Dies

Check out today's episode

Sarah's Death and Burial (v. 1-20)

This seems about right (pic source)

Sarah died and Abraham wanted to bury her in a place out of sight. He went to the Hittites and said he wanted to buy some land for a grave site, they wanted to give it to him for free. He insisted and bought a field with a cave for 400 pieces of silver.

That's it. If I'm really looking for something to comment on, I guess it is good that the Hittites were willing to give him the land for free, he was clearly grieving and would have probably been an easy mark, yet it would have been screwed up to take advantage of him that way. Also Abraham didn't want to take advantage of their kindness and paid them a fair price for their land.

Interesting comments from Guzik:
Sarah is the only woman in the bible whose age is recorded (127 years old).
Interesting point, lots of men's ages are given, so they clearly thought this was an important thing to keep track of. I also find it interesting that she is among the most important women in the bible and yet what do we really know about her? She was a bitch to Hagar and she laughed at God for saying she would have a son and then lied about it, and she was willing to pretend to be Abraham's sister instead of wife and wound up being taken as someone else's wife, twice.
Abraham came to mourn for Sarah: “That is, he set himself deliberately to all the functions of a mourner.” (Boice) Abraham wasn’t afraid to mourn, though he did not sorrow as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
This didn't even occur to me, but it is good to have strong male characters willing to show their emotions like this. Here's a weird one, in relation to Abraham saying he was a foreigner in their land
Abraham did not feel this way because he came from Ur of the Chaldeans. It was because he recognized his real home was heaven. Moses knew the same, and commanded Israel to know it (Leviticus 25:23). David also knew this truth (1 Chronicles 29:14 and Psalm 39:12).
It seems strange to me to make this claim, he was a foreigner in this land, why wouldn't you assume the more obvious and clear meaning. If Abraham meant this less obvious interpretation of foreigner, you would think there would be some direct indication toward that.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interviewed by Sheldon

Sometimes the hardest part about blogging is coming up with something to write about. Once you have a topic it is easy to just blather on about it. Sheldon was kind enough to do the hard part and provide me with some excellent questions in an interview today. If you would like to see how it went you should go check it out on his blog The Ramblings of Sheldon. In answering questions about religion and blogging, I managed to work in references to dinosaurs and world of warcraft, I think it's worth a look :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Genesis 22: Insanity or Divine Instruction?

Check out today's episode

The Sacrifice of Isaac (v. 1-24)

I think this is a story we are all familiar with, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son on the altar, Abraham listens and gets ready to do it but God stops him at the last second and has him sacrifice a ram instead. He is praised for fearing God and obeying.

This story is really a strange one, I think anyone who reads this story at face value would be disgusted. The idea of murdering your own child is horrible, and I think generally anyone who is willing to do that would be viewed as a monster, or perhaps someone who has been psychologically beaten down like in some psychological horror movie (I've never seen any of the Saw movies, but it's the kind of psychological torture I could imagine in a movie of that type). I can't imagine a situation where the character who is willing to murder his own child is seen as the hero. Enough of my rambling, I think the focus of today's post should be on the Christian commentaries.

Let's start with Guzik:
Significantly, God calls Isaac your only son Isaac, when in fact Abraham had another son, Ishmael. But since Ishmael was put away from Abraham’s family, then as far as God was concerned, Abraham had only one son.
Wow, I totally missed that part, that's screwed up. As to the sacrifice itself, Guzik references an LA times columnist who said he would have told God to mind his own business. Guzik's response:
That’s what the world always says to God.
So Guzik says it is wrong to fail to listen to God's order, and yet he recall the story of Andrew Cate who murdered his child thinking God would stop him at the last moment. Guzik says
The man was obviously deranged. What Abraham did was something completely unique in God’s redemptive history, given for a specific purpose once for all fulfilled. There is no way God would ever direct someone to do this same thing today.
How are we supposed to tell the difference? How can you tell the difference between God talking to you and you being deranged? And don't we have to put some of the blame of that tragedy on the bible? And finally, how can he be so sure God would never ask someone to do that again? If it was a good thing why can't it happen again, and if it was bad why was it good for it to happen once? Anyway, let's move on.
In wonderful, trusting obedience, Abraham went right to the spot.
This sentence really bugged me. Obedience is held in such high regard even though he is being asked to do such a horrible thing.

The next thing that Guzik brought was was very interesting and it was something I completely missed when I read it. Abraham and Isaac had some servants along with them for most of the trip, but near the end they went up the part of the trip just the two of them and Abraham said they would both be back.
Does this mean Abraham somehow knew this was only a test and God would not really require this of him? Not at all. Instead, Abraham’s faith is in the knowledge that should he kill Isaac, God would raise him from the dead, because God had promised Isaac would carry on the line of blessing and the covenant.
What are the implications of this line of reasoning? It certainly seems to take away how horrible the story is. Abraham isn't such a bad guy for doing this if he thought Isaac would just be brought back to life and they could go back home, but then it's also not as much of a sacrifice. The whole point of the story seems to be that Abraham was willing to obey God and sacrifice what he loved most, that message is ruined if Abraham thought they would come home together at the end of the day.

And we have to end with another comparison between Jesus and Isaac

  • Both were loved by their father.
  • Both offered themselves willingly.
  • Both carried wood up the hill of their sacrifice.
  • Both were sacrificed on the same hill.
  • Both were delivered from death on the third day.
I also looked at Matthew Henry's commentary (I scanned it at least), most of what was said there was covered above, although I did find an interesting line. At the part where God stopped Abraham from going through with the sacrifice
Abraham did indeed love God better than he loved Isaac
Is that was this was all about? God wanted to make sure that Abraham loved him more than he loved Isaac? What an egotistical God.

I was thinking of trying to draw a comic for this, but I can't think of a good joke that hasn't already been done to death. Instead I'm going to just include my 2 favorite youtube videos based on this story.

And from SMBC Theater


For the verses of note post:


Genesis 22:12 Abraham rewarded for fearing God

"He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'"

--Obedience and Violence--

Genesis 22:2-3, 10 Abraham rewarded for being willing to murder his son on God's order

"He said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.'  So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him...Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Name One Issue Where You Disagree With Your Group

We all wear a lot of labels: Democrat, Liberal, Humanist, these are all labels that I identify with to at least some degree. We all do this, it just becomes a necessity at some point. There are so many ideas and opinions that we can't express all of those things at once very easily, it is nice to have a shorthand. If my ideas generally conform to the stereotypical democratic viewpoint it is much easier to say I am a democrat than to try to explain all of my nuanced ideas. If I get into a deeper conversation I can then indicate which democratic ideas I think are off the mark.

The problem comes when people do this in the opposite order. "I'm a democrat and democrats believe X, therefore I believe X". A lot of people do this and it is a huge problem. I think it is just so much easier to do things this way, thinking through all of the issues we have to deal with is a big job and most people don't care enough to do it, so instead they just agree with the party line, whatever that happens to be. I really wish we people would just say "I don't know, I haven't thought about that much" or even "I don't care about that", but I think they are afraid of sounding stupid. They'd rather have an opinion, any opinion, than just leave themselves open.

The reality is, no one really agrees with every single opinion under any given label. It might be subtle, it might be a refinement, but there are places where you will disagree with the label. This is fine, the label should just be a way to quickly get some information passed at the beginning of a conversation, it doesn't have to be the end of the conversation as well.

A few years ago I heard this "no labels" idea, that people cling too closely to their political labels so we should get rid of them. The idea definitely has some appeal, but it seems to take things too far, labels do serve a purpose. It's nice to organize ideas together and work together with like-minded people, you just can't do this so blindly as everyone seems to want to. I think the right thing to do is identify with the group that seems to share your ideas as much as possible, but always be willing to challenge those ideas and even change labels if it becomes appropriate (whether that is because your ideas have changed or the party platform has changed). You should question ideas that come from people who share your label exactly as much as you question ideas coming from people of other labels. If you are a democrat who agrees with everything that Obama does and disagrees with everything that Boehner does, you are doing it wrong.

But disagreeing with our own group is hard. It is much easier to follow party lines and conform to ideas that we have thought about previously. And we identify with our labels for a reason, chances are a new idea under that heading will be to our liking anyway, it can be tempting to skip the step to verify this and just adopt this new idea before really giving it your full attention. This is fucking dangerous. This is how huge numbers of people wind up holding positions that are against their own interests. So what do we do about it?

This brings me to the title of this post. I don't think we should simply question ideas regardless of the source, I think we should go out and find some issue that you disagree with from any group you strongly identify with. Again, it could be something subtle, or it could be a refinement from a commonly held position, but I feel pretty confident that you should be able to find something. For myself, I feel like little things come up all the time, but it is hard to think of examples on the spot, which is why I've been sitting on this for a few weeks. But I have come up with a few examples that seem to go against the first few labels I have up at the top:

1. Social Security

Now don't get me wrong, I love the idea of social security. People shouldn't spend their retirement eating cat food because they can't afford anything better. I think we should do as much as we can for the people who really need the help. I hate the idea of cutting programs and having people's needs not be met. But there is an economic reality that social security is screwed up right now. We basically have two options, cut a little bit now or a lot later. I would much prefer we do a little bit now.

The problem is, when the idea of cutting social security comes up, many democrats and liberals stand up and cry bloody murder. This is not because the proposal is unfair or the cuts are too deep, but just because the issue is on the table at all. If they want to pick apart a plan that is proposed and say that there are issues with it, I'm right there with them. It's quite likely that I would agree with many of their complaints. But I hate this idea that social security can never be cut, ever, no matter what. With this mentality there is only one option, wait until things get to catastrophic levels and then make much deeper cuts that we would have had to earlier.

2. Death Penalty

As I understand it, the humanist position on the death penalty is that it should be completely removed. The main argument would be that many people who are on death row have been exonerated. New evidence came up, maybe they had a terrible lawyer, who knows. It is also my understanding that death penalty is used much more against poor people. In general I think the death penalty is bad, I don't think it should be used very often. Almost never I would say. But there are extreme cases where I think we should just kill the guy. Any of these mass shooting that seem to be all the rage lately are great examples. If they go into a public place and kill 20 people indiscriminately and they don't kill themselves, we should just do it. There is no question that they are guilty and they have done something beyond horrible, I say kill em. Serial killers are another great example. The evidence needs to be absolutely overwhelming, but assuming we know for sure these guys are guilty, I say kill em. What do we gain by keeping them locked up for the rest of their lives?

One final thing I want to add here, this whole thing applies to people as well. If you are a big fan of someone and you listen to a lot of what they say, you should make sure it doesn't become hero worship. Do you love Dawkins or Hitchens? That's great, but I'm sure you disagree with some of their opinions, keep that in mind as well.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Minor Change of Publishing Schedule

When it comes to doing this blog, I get lots of ideas on ways to improve it. Many of those ideas don't work and I abandon them after a short period of time, but many of them I think have been for the better. Christian commentaries, podcast, webcomic, and youtube are all great additions in my opinion and have made my bible posts something I am very happy with. Unfortunately it also means that putting them together takes forever. I don't want to cut any of this stuff out, but doing 5 a week has become a bit overwhelming at this point, so I'm going to cut back just a touch. I'm going to do bible posts on monday, wednesday, and friday, and I'm also going to move my random posts in to tuesday and thursday. I'll generally leave the weekends blank except for doing announcements like this. (Or until I get my next "brilliant" idea of something else I want to do which will absorb all of my free time)

Speaking of announcements, I don't think I ever mentioned on the blog that I was on the bitchspot report again last week. If you haven't listened to it yet, go check it out.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Genesis 21: Out With the Old Kid, In With the New Kid

Check out today's episode

The Birth of Isaac (v. 1-7)

God fulfilled his promise and Sarah had Abraham's son Isaac. He was circumcised at 8 days old.

I don't think I pointed this out before, but it was expressly stated before that all children should be circumcised at 8 days. Seems to be a pretty big deal to them.

Guzik draws a bunch of parallels between Isaac and Jesus
  1. Both were the promised sons.
  2. Both were born after a period of delay.
  3. Both mothers were assured by God’s omnipotence (Genesis 18:13-14; Luke 1:34; 1:37).
  4. Both were given names rich with meaning before they were born.
  5. Both births occurred at God’s appointed time (Genesis 21:2; Galatians 4:4).
  6. Both births were miraculous.
  7. Both births were accompanied by joy (Genesis 21:6; Luke 1:46-47; 2:10-11).
#2 makes me ask how old Mary was. I have always thought she was a teenager, she was certainly not married. How much delay was there?
#7 aren't most births accompanied by joy?

God Protects Hagar and Ishmael (v. 8-21)

Sarah saw Ishmael laughing and insisted that Abraham kick him and Hagar out.

Wow, Sarah is a bitch!

Guzik says that Abraham wants Ishmael as a backup plan in case something happens to Isaac, and that is why God had them sent away. Perhaps Abraham just sees Ishmael as one of his sons and doesn't want anything bad to happen to him. 

Abraham wasn't really happy with this, but God told him to do what Sarah wants and he will take care of Hagar and Ishmael. So Abraham gave Hagar some bread and a skin of water and sent them away.

Even with God's protection, this seems like a small amount of provisions. Sure, she has God's protection so they won't starve, but with that logic why take anything at all?

Guzik says:
Abraham was a wealthy man and could certainly spare more provisions, even giving them a donkey or several pack animals. But Abraham realized that without God’s help, no matter what he gave them, it would not be enough. But with God, things would turn out all right.
It's funny that I predicted this statement. 

When the water in the skin was gone, Hagar assumed they were going to die, so she put her child in some bushes and went away the length of a bowshot. But God talked to her and said everything would be okay, and she found a well full of water and got some for Ishmael. The boy grew up in the wilderness and learned to use the bow very well.

What I find interesting about this story is how old Ishmael is. He has to be at least 14 years old, in Genesis 17:25 he was thirteen and that was before Sarah was even pregnant with Isaac. In between those 2 stories is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the second use of the she's my sister scam. Also, this happened after Isaac was weaned, I don't really know anything about how old a kid is when they are weaned, but if we just assume it takes at least 3 months we can guarantee that Ishmael is at least 14 years old. If we allow for him to breastfeed a little longer, and allow for some more time in between for those other stories to happen, it is likely that Ishmael was 15 or even 16 when this happened. But just for the sake of argument, let's say he's 14.

According to Guzik, weaning happens at three years or later, so Ishmael would have to be 17 or older.

Why is his age important? This story is told as if he's a young child, in verse 14 Abraham puts the child on Hagar's shoulder along with the food and water, this makes me picture a toddler, not a teenager. Also, leaving a 14 year old under a bush to die doesn't really make sense. In fact, the story might sound more believable if the son told the mother to rest while he went out and scavenged some food.
As evidence in this picture (found here), the image of Ishmael that
we get from this story is much younger than it should be

A Treaty with Abimelech (v. 22-34)

Abimelech went to Abraham and acknowledged that God is with him and wants a treaty, he said that he has always dealt kindly with Abraham and should get a treaty. Abraham acknowledged this and agreed to the treaty.

At least Abimelech is getting something out of being screwed over last chapter.

Very strange comment from Guzik:
How could this be the same Abimelech of Genesis 20? It isn’t the same. Abimelech is the title of a ruler among the Canaanites, not a specific name.
Unfortunately he doesn't elaborate at all. I don't see why it couldn't be the same guy. I looked through a bunch of other commentaries but no one mentioned this at all.

Then Abraham complained that some of Abimelech's men had taken a well from him, and Abimelech swore he knew nothing about it. They made a covenant, and Abraham gave him some sheep and oxen, but set aside 7 ewes. Abimelech asked what that was about, and Abraham said that when he gave those 7 over it would be witness to him digging the well. Then Abimelech left and Abraham planted a tree.

What? I've read this over a few times and don't understand at all. Hopefully the commentaries will shine a light on it.

Unfortunately no, I looked through all of the commentaries that I have bookmarked and no one really explained this.
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