Exodus 2 is jam-packed with things that Dreamworks’ 1998 film The Prince of Egypt changed for its adaptation of the Exodus story.
Having begun Joseph’s story in earnest, we now set it aside for yet another sidebar. And like many before it, this one is not for the flannelgraph; most retellings of Joseph’s adventures omit it for a reason (by which I mean specifically a reason other than Joseph’s complete absence from it). Genesis 38 tells the story of how Judah was tricked into having sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar.
It’s a genealogy, everybody. It’s literally just Esau’s descendants.
In today’s chapter, Isaac travels in the land of a foreign king, in order to avoid the effects of a local famine, and to keep the inhabitants from killing him and taking his extremely attractive wife, he claims she’s his sister. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing Abraham did twice before. However, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, you can’t step in the same river twice, much less the same river that your father stepped in. Isaac’s encounter doesn’t go exactly as his father’s two encounters did, but what are we to make of that?
At some point in my early childhood, I came into possession of a set of Wildlife Treasury cards. Each oversized card on the front the animal’s name, a photograph, and extremely dope icons indicating the animal’s class, habitat, and geographic range. The back of the card gave additional information, but I was all about those icons, sorting and re-sorting my collection in all sorts of permutations. If I were just a little older, I probably would have devised a game by which the animals could battle each other, gaining terrain advantages in different ecosystems and so forth.
In yesterday’s chapter, as a consequence of humanity’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, death became a fact of life. Today, we witness the first recorded human death, and not only is it a murder, it’s a fratricide.
Man, writing this entry has been like pulling teeth. It’s been like going to the dentist and finding out you’re the dentist. Is every chapter of Genesis going to be like this? Is it going to be grappling every time with just what the text intends to communicate and how to talk about that to all of you, with your various perspectives on it? Am I going to spend each post on the mat, with uncertainty and self-consciousness putting me in a headlock? Well, so far we’re two for two, so let’s get back into the creation myth.
On the drive to work Monday morning, I put in my old Revenge of the OC Supertones CD, and there’s a stanza from their track “We Shall Overcome” that’s stuck with me for the fourteen years since its release: “There’s a land of the dead called Planet Earth / Where a race called Man walks dead from birth.” I’d be hard-pressed to give a more succinct and potent statement of the human condition than that. But it wasn’t always that way, here on the blue planet. There was a time when there wasn’t any death here, nor any humanity. There was a time when there wasn’t any here. And that’s where the entire Bible starts.
I’ve had an up-and-down relationship with the gospel of John. Of all the four gospels, it was the one that most saturated my childhood. I have these random memories: reading it with my mom at a TCBY as part of homeschool lessons, memorizing John 3:16 and thinking about God’s love for the world while swinging on a pull-up bar on the playground. In high school, I became increasingly aware of the scholarly skepticism surrounding it, its alleged late authorship and its authenticity. The sun moved, everyone’s favorite gospel suddenly became shrouded in shadow, and for years afterward reading through it became weird for me.
Now we’re into the narrative. There are two events in the second chapter of John, a wedding with a problem and a Passover that starts with a bang.