Thursday, July 16, 2009

Genesis 26 and 27: Patriarchs as Grifters

When I read Genesis 26, it's deja vu all over again. This is a rehash of a story about Father of Multitudes, only ths time with He Laughs and To Bind in the lead roles. There's a famine, so He Laughs takes his entourage to Gerar, still ruled by the same king that Father of Multitudes made a pact with. God promises He Laughs that his descendants will be multitudes, that his seed will be a blessing, all on account of Father of Multitudes' obedience to God's law. Oh, and the land of the Philistines, including Gerar would belong to his successors.

Anyway, He Laughs pulls the old "She's my sister not my wife" trick just like his old man. The King of Gerar is on to him though and upbraids him for exposing people to sin because someone might have lain with To Bind. This is an interesting concept of sin, a kind of strict liablity in which intent plays no part. So far in these stories, screwing another man's wife is one of the few sins that have been enumerated. Don't kill people, unless God tells you to, and don't consume blood are the other two rules. I almost forgot genital mutilation. Following the law in those days wasn't too complicated.

He Laughs prospers and grows so strong that the King of Gerar asks him to leave, so he settles in the valley. He continued to have conflict with the locals over water rights, but he and the King of Gerar make a peace pact just as had been done with Father of Multitudes.

He Finishes marries a couple of Hittite women. Evidently, He Laughs and To Bind didn't like them.

Chapter 27 is a tale of unmitigated douchebaggery. He Laughs is old and blind and reckons the hand of death is nigh, so he sends He Finishes out to get him some game for stew after which he plans to give He Finishes his blessing. To Bind has Supplanter fetch kids so she can make a savory dish. She puts the kids' skins on Supplanter so that he can pass for the hirstute He Finishes when he goes in and steals the blessing. Supplanter holds himself out as He Finishes even when He Laughs expresses doubts (after all, the voice is Supplanter's). He even lies about how God provided the game when He Laughs questions him about he got it so quickly. Under false pretenses then, He Laughs bestows his blessing on Supplanter and allows as how he will be the master of his kin and that his brothers will serve him.

He Finishes then comes in with the game stew and asks for the blessing. Alas, it has already been bestowed on the deceiver and there's nothing for it. He Laughs gives He Finishes the crappiest blessing ever, to wit that he would live away for the fertility of the earth and the dew of heaven and would serve his brother. As a sop he gets some day to break his brother's yoke from his neck.
Understandably, He Finishes is in a fratricidal mood. To Bind tells Supplanter to go hide out in her brother's house in Haran until everything blows over.

I reckon He Laughs must have wanted to bless Supplanter all along, that he must have known that there was a subterfuge. Once again, the cadet screws over the first born, and it doesn't seem right to me at all. Either way, these patriarchs are not to be trusted. They're shameless liars and grifters, and I would not hold any of them out as a role model so far in the story.

I notice that God doesn't show up so much with He Laughs as he did with Father of Multitudes. He doesn't play an active role in the deceptions of Supplanter and there doesn't seem to be much of an effort to lend the imprimatur of divine approval to them.

The moral of the story is get the blessing up front before you go hunting for stew meat.

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