Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: And you thought Fox News was fake

There is plenty of absurdity in the Bible but the end of Genesis 32 has got to be a contender for the Wacko Award.

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 
 His two female servants more specifically means his sex slaves.
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Uhm, okay. So the idea is that Jacob wrestled all night with God, and won. And it wasn't because God was letting him win either -- "When the man saw that he could not overpower him," he cheated somehow. Ordinarily touching a person's hip doesn't cause injury so this was some sort of magic. Despite his injury, Jacob still has control over God, who begs to be released. Apparently God didn't know Jacob's name. So God renames him Israel but in fact he continues to be called Jacob, even by God, for the rest of his life, as we shall see.

So, to sum up, God starts a wrestling match with what is apparently a random guy whose name he doesn't know. A fairly old man, by the way. This is pretty odd to say the least since God has had several encounters with Jacob in the past and bestowed various prophecies and blessings on him. Then God discovers that he can't beat Jacob, a mere mortal, so he permanently injures him through some sort of trickery. Then God changes Jacob's name but it doesn't stick. This altogether so stupid it has to have been planted just to see if we're paying attention.
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[h] and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
Two more things. One, this is a ridiculous reason not to eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, although I would imagine that like most tendons it isn't a pleasant thing to eat. As for seeing God face to face, many people do at various points in the Bible and yet:

There shall no man see me, and live. Exodus 33:20 No man hath seen God at any time. John 1:18, 1 John 4:12
And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. John 5:37
Not that any man hath seen the Father. John 6:46
...the invisible God ... Colossians 1:15
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17
Whom no man hath seen nor can see. 1 Timothy 6:16

Update: I've done a little research and apparently the Talmudic rabbis have decided that the tendon is actually the sciatic nerve, called the gid ha-nasheh. Since the idea of wrestling with God, and winning, obviously makes no sense, the Zohar also tells us that this was not God but rather Esau's guardian angel. The sciatic nerve is said to represent sexual desire. (Of course in reality it has nothing to do with sex, it carries nerve impulses from the spinal chord to the legs and feet.) You can read Rabbi Menachem Posner's explanation here. Of course this is just made up by a bunch of guys in eastern Europe a couple of thousand years after this was originally written, and there is no basis for it other than imagination.

  1. Genesis 32:28 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
  2. Genesis 32:30 Peniel means face of God.
  3. Genesis 32:31 Hebrew Penuel, a variant of Peniel


Don Quixote said...

Sheesh. With research like this, you could be a rabbi. Or a Talmudic scholar. But seriously, there are guys with seventh-degree black belts in this stuff. It occurs to me that, as fantastical or inaccurate as the Pentateuch and Scriptures can be, they do make great literature. That is not unusual, right? So apparently a lot of it is fiction, or inaccurate historical fiction. But then there's the psychology of all the stories that can be pondered.

Point is, there's a reason it's probably the greatest best-seller ever. That doesn't mean it's valid on other levels than as a literary work. But it sure has inspired some of the greatest artistic minds ever to sculpt, write music, paint, be real religious, and otherwise take material from it for truly great art. Other religious art I'm not crazy about, though.

Bob Owen said...

I think you're correct.

The Sunday Sermons written here are a one dimensional examination of the Bible as a historical document. There is a reason the Bible has sold almost 4 billion copies and that doesn't include the untold amounts that are given away.

Don Quixote said...

Yes, it's a best seller, but it's also full of nonsense and homicide. So "Bob," you and I are not on the same page.

"Anonymous," "Gay Boy Bob," methinks?

I love Cervantes's takedowns of the nonsense of the Hebrew Bible. And the Christian Bible, that anti-Jewish work of authors who never knew Jesus? Even more of a rag, no doubt, with less poetry, beauty and power.