I continued my read through the Bible. I’ve started adding notes to the margins, so I don’t forget things as I discover them. It makes it scruffy, but I’ve always thought that it’s the content of the Bible that’s important, not the physical book. (Unlike some other religions, where the book itself is holy – I know for example the Jews will not even touch the Torah with their hand, and use a gold pointer to follow the words.) Not sure if I’m right on this – let me know if you have an opinion, I’m interested.
I read the stories in Genesis about Jacob and his wives. Was rather interesting to read that his father, Isaac, didn’t much like his daughter-in-law, Judith. It’s funny when you read about relationships hundreds of years ago that mirror modern day ones – people really have not changed very much.
I read the part about Jacob’s two wives vying to have babies, and there was a story about Rebekah asking Leah (who was cross-eyed) for some mandrake. What is a mandrake? I thought it was an imaginary plant from the Harry Potter books! Apparently, it exists in real life too, is the size of a small apple and has a lovely aroma and narcotic properties (it’s related to the belladonna, deadly nightshade, plant.) It was also thought to increase fertility. Which makes you wonder if Rebekah was covering the odds, she’d asked God for a baby, now she was trying to improve the situation herself – first by eating dodgy plants, and secondly by giving her servant as a womb substitute. I guess sometimes we do that too. Not the dodgy plant bit (well, you might, I’ve never gone that route). Nor the offering a servant as an available womb. But the covering our odds bit. Do I sometimes ask God about something and then worry about it and look for other avenues? A bit like the teenager asking God for help with study and then wearing his ‘lucky socks’ to the exam, just in case.
The thing is, all these characters seem very flawed. I don’t think I would like them much. They deceived each other, looked for ways to get what they wanted and pretty much ignored God. But God used them anyway, he didn’t change his plans, even when they tried to sidestep him, even when they got it wrong. God had decided to work through them, so he did, even though they proved many times that they weren’t good enough. I find that reassuring.
There are more lists of names. Chapter 36 of Genesis is weird, because there’s a list of names, and in the middle is a mention of Anah, who found the hot springs in the desert while pasturing his Dad’s donkeys. Why??? I tried to research this, and found a few opinions about whether ‘donkeys’ represented stubborn people or if ‘hot springs’ is the best translation, but it felt like people were just trying to be clever and actually no one knows why this is included. I suspect as I read on, there will be several texts that I’ll put in the ‘don’t understand’ box, some bits are just odd. I guess the decision we all have to make is, does not understanding part of something make the whole thing irrelevant? I don’t think so. I don’t understand lots of things – like how gravity really works, or why if space is a vacuum we’re not all sucked up into it, or how a bulb knows when to start growing – but the bits I do understand are still useful.
I have read to the end of Genesis now. Whilst some of it was weird, it was interesting. I have a feeling some of the next books might be rather heavy going.
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Thanks for reading