Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Genesis 3-5: Adam and Eve...begat, begat, begat...

And now to some more stories that we thought we knew, but leads to more questions. This book seems to actually be more of a book of questions rather than a book of answers. So, the brief synopsis:

Chapter 3: Serpent gets Eve to give apple to Adam, God finds out, and they get kicked out of the garden.

Chapter 4: Cain kills his brother Abel.

Chapter 5: A lot of begatting and a lot of people living a long time leading up to Noah.

OK...so now on to some questions and thoughts

First off, how historical is this all? Is there symbolic content intermixed with historical context? Everyone seems to stand on one side or another. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Couldn't it be a mix? Again, we are providing no revelations of our own as we are only asking the questions at this point, but in order to start the conversations, the questions must be asked.

Some interesting parallels relating to world history and the development of civilization come out of this story though. Man had an easy time finding food before eating the forbidden fruit. After getting kicked out of the garden, Man was told that he would have to till at the soil the rest of his life and have a difficult time doing so. Is this the point in which mankind switched from a gathering society to an Agrarian society? After all, it is agriculture that begat cities to form and it was in the lineage of Adam (the first farmer) that we see cities being built.

Genesis 3: 16 provides another parallel to World history: "Unto woman he said, i will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." After giving Adam the fruit, Eve was commanded by God to have to obey Adam. Woman was put in the dominion of man. Following this, we are given a lineage of patriarchs in chapter 5. Now to put a different context on this. There are many other references from early recorded cultures that some of the first societies were actually matriarchal (If my memory serves me, Egypt for instance was primarily a matriarchal society prior to the Pharaohs). At some point, the men took over and started warring. Other early societies held woman at the forefront because of the power to create life. Perhaps the men were jealous of this and this is why they took over and took power. In patriarchal societies a woman was often seen as unclean during her menstrual cycle. Interestingly enough, one of the punishments brought by God upon woman for giving Adam the fruit here seems to be children. Is this the same negative spin on the ability to give life that further gives Man power over women?

More questions:

So Adam and Eve had two sons initially. Cain and Abel. We know the story. Cain kills Abel and won't tell God what happened to him (Am I my brothers keeper?). Then, we find out that Cain took a wife and moved to Nod? A wife? where did said wife come from? If taken at a literal definition, Cain was only the 3rd person to exist in the world. So where did his wife come from? And where did this land of Nod come from if there aren't any other people in existence? He then has a son Enoch with his wife and builds a city....Who would live in such a city if there aren't other people around?

We dig further. Within the lineage of Cain, we start to see different classes of people show up. One's kids would become the people who live in tents and keep cattle. Another's would become the people who play organs and harps. Still another would develop a class of people who work in brass and iron. Here is where another parallel comes in. The process of civilization is this: Man develops agriculture which allows man to grow in population eventually forming cities. Once cities are formed you get a specialization of labor. Isn't that exactly what is going on in the lineage of Cain? He started a city and it is in his lineage that we see specialists of different jobs showing up.

Now this was all going on east of Eden in Nod. The story then jumps back to Adam and Eve having Seth who was essentially a replacement for Abel.  Chapter 5: 26: "And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." What follows in chapter 5 is the lineage of men from Seth to Noah. These are the men to call upon the name of the Lord. I pose a possible interpretation of what is going on here in the form of a question:  Are we to understand that Cain represents the rest of the world developing while the lineage of Seth will give us the chosen people who will believe in the one true God?

Are the things written above the answers? Maybe, but maybe not. They are simply questions that lead us to dig deeper into understanding the importance of this unbelievable book. Back to the original question: Is it historical or symbolic? Again I offer the possibility that despite what most believe, it CAN BE BOTH. Ultimately though, does it actually matter? The point isn't about a literal interpretation or a symbolic interpretation. People get too caught up in what the Bible means rather than its purpose: To get us to understand and respect ourselves, each other, our world and our creator .

Monday, July 30, 2012

Genesis 1-2: "In the beginning..."

So we are getting back into the bible to continue what we started upon seemingly so long ago. We decided though to hit the book of the bible that most people start with and most people think they know. The goal here is almost to find as many things to question about these books as possible. I have always taken for granted that I know what is in Genesis, but then again we both took for granted that we knew much of the story of David and boy were we informed of a lot that we didn't know about.

The first thing that got us was the title of this book: The first book of Moses called Genesis. Yep...The first book of Moses. Moses doesn't show up in this book and it is his book. Then again, The books of Samuel are more about David than Samuel. Does this mean that Moses put these books together? Or did he write them? Or did he compile stories that were already part of oral tradition.

Goal Accomplished, we haven't even begun this book and we already have a significant question.

OK...more things to question. As we discovered in the David stories, there is some timeline discrepancies. In the first chapter we see God create everything. including man and woman in his own image. Upon finishing this chapter, Molly and I asked a significant question, "What about the whole taking Adam's rib thing?" Ahh, but this gets answered in the 2nd chapter. Although in the 1st chapter, God had already made the animals and had made man and woman at the same time, God creates the beasts again in the 2nd chapter so Adam has some company. He then lets Adam name them all and then only once a suitable mate is not found, God makes woman for Adam out of his rib.

Now, in the 1st chapter, God made the beasts first and then Adam. In the 2nd chapter it is the other way around. How could this be? Is the 2nd chapter a re-telling in more detail of the 1st? It doesn't seem so because the 2nd chapter picks up where the first ends. The 7th day happens in the 2nd chapter, not the first. So, in the 2nd chapter, God made animals and woman after the seventh day, whereas they were created in the 6th day in the 1st chapter. Is it possible that the writer of Genesis (Moses or not) was combining a number of creationist stories from the oral tradition of the Hebrews into one book? We see this sort of thing in Catholicism quite a bit in the early days of the church. Stories of previous faiths and peoples get combined into one new dogma to unify people behind one belief. Is this the answer to the question? not necessarily, but at least it has gotten us thinking quite deeply about something we thought we already knew about.

Enough on that though...There are loads of other questions that we can ask about these first chapters (and have between ourselves). We suggest you read or re-read them for yourselves and start questioning what you have taken for granted that you already "know."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

SFT: Challenge follow-up and CHANGE!

Hello!  It's been a while...a little less than a month, I guess.  No, we didn't intentionally take such a long break from reading/blogging, but life caught up with us and before we knew it, a month had passed.  This is actually a good talking point for tonight...change!

A few months back we had extended a challenge to our readers--change 3 things for 3 months.  The changes were to be small, feasible, and something that you really needed to work on.  Mike and I chose to change the following: 1) go to bed by 10:00 every night, 2) no junk food and no eating out except for special occasions, and 3) read the bible Monday through Thursday and blog about it.  How did we do?  Horribly!  But did we have success?  YES!

So often we think that just because we didn't "lick" a bad habit or "nail" our goals, we've failed.  But the truth is, just because we haven't succeeded 100% doesn't mean that we haven't succeeded at all!  What do I mean?  Well, let's look at the goals that Mike and I set.  1) Go to bed by 10:00 every night. Well, we had been going to bed between 11:00 and 11:30.  After setting our goal, we ended up getting to bed by 10:30 on average.  So did we go to bed by 10:00 every night?  Nope.  But we got halfway there.  And we may not have gotten that far if we hadn't tried to make a change.  2) No junk food and no eating out except for special occasions.  The bad news?  We still eat treats nearly daily.  The good news?  We now eat only treats that we truly want and our portion sizes have gotten MUCH smaller, not to mention that we rarely eat daytime treats. 3) Read the bible Monday through Thursday and blog about it.  Well, as our blog readers you obviously knew that we weren't fully adhering to this.  But you know what?  If we hadn't set that goal we probably would have opened the bible at the beginning, started reading and gotten bored after the Creation.  So I'd say once or twice a week on average isn't so bad!  Of course, we've beat ourselves up a bit along the way for not always striving to reach these goals, but when we reminded ourselves that we were part of the way there (and I'd say that's something to hang your hat on!), it became easier to jump back on course when we strayed.

This might sound a little like complacency.  If you just stop at "halfway is good enough," then yes, you've become complacent.  But sometimes it's really important to look back at the last few years of your life and think, "Have I changed?" because you will remind yourself just how far you've come and when you can see the progress that you've made, it does make it a lot easier to stay on track.  As long as you don't just give up after you've partially reached your goal, you'll get there!

I suggest doing as we've done and set a time frame for when you'd like to reach your goal.  After that time has passed, make an assessment of your progress and change your goals based on that assessment.  Maybe going to bed at 10:00 every night just isn't realistic.  Can you get everything done that need be done before then?  Will you still have time to relax and unwind before bed?  If you find yourself saying, "No, my original goal just isn't feasible," then consider tweaking your goal a little.  If changing your goal to a 10:30 bed time gives you that extra time that you need to feel "on top," then perhaps that's a better plan for you.  As for our junk food goal, I remembered back to a time when I was counting calories.  At that time, I allowed myself a little treat (not necessarily full-sized) every day and it REALLY helped me to curb my sweets cravings and prevented me from going overboard, even during special occasions.  So for now, a little something sweet to keep myself from over-indulging is not only helpful, but possibly necessary.  And as for our reading M-Th goal, we'd still like to keep this one up, knowing that we may not always achieve this goal (or be able to, depending on what life hands us...children, heat, schedules, etc).

What did we learn/gain from our challenge?  Well, obviously we got a little more sleep from the bed time goal.  But I would say that this was the goal that let us see that we needed to be able to be flexible.  Flexible, not lazy.  That doesn't mean we let ourselves veg out in front of the tv every night, but it means that we knew that if we didn't get certain household tasks done before bed, it would cause more problems the next day, so if that meant going to bed a little bit later, then so be it.  From our junk food goal...well, like I said, we've got a lot of work to do here.  BUT we both did lose some weight and are now holding steady at weights we feel are ideal for us.  We also noticed less garbage output and (as long as we were being diligent) we noticed a little more financial breathing room in our grocery budget.  From our reading goal, we learned A LOT!  Clearly reading the bible provides much insight, so the goal itself didn't necessarily need to have another purpose, but I would say that we now barely watch any tv/movies (it feels very empty to me now).  We also became a little better about keeping on top of housework...I find that it's not unreasonable to fold a basket of laundry while Mike reads or blogs.  And as we prepared to wind down for the night, it helped us better wind down our children for the night, leaving bedtime a much less stressful routine.

Please, please, please, keep setting goals.  They don't have to be big.  They don't have to be excruciating.  They don't have to be impressive.  But they do have to be there.  When we just stop and think, "I'll get to it later," rarely do we actually get around to it.  Life doesn't have to be approached with an "all-or-nothing" attitude, but should rather be approached with a "do something" attitude.  Just get up and do something!  Move!  Try!  Change!  It will come to you eventually as long as you do something.  You just need to have realistic expectations of yourself.  And when you make a mistake, own it and learn from it.  Remember, you are not your neighbor, your mother, your grandmother, your boss, or that celebrity.  You are YOU and your goals should reflect the person that you are and that you hope to become.

We'd love to hear from you all about the changes you've made in your lives over the last few months. What did you learn about yourselves and your goals?  Did you gain anything?  If so, what...and was it beyond what you expected?  If not, how could you alter your goal to make it more attainable?  Please share your stories, as I'm sure every one of our readers would love to hear the inspiration that it provides.

Back to the bible tomorrow.  This has been the past month's Sunday Fresh Take!

Monday, July 2, 2012

II. Samuel 20-24: wrapping it all up

After a weeks delay, we've gotten back on track and finished up II. Samuel. The major events in David's life have taken place and it seems that these last few stories pale in comparison to previous ones, but continue with the same themes: someone tries to undermine David, God punishes Israel, David's men smite Philistine giants in battle, David thanks God for everything, David sins.

Chapter 20: One of the old followers (Sheba) of Saul decides that he should rise up against David. In the process of chasing him down, Joab "accidentally?" kills one of David's men that had failed in one of his tasks for David. When they show up at a city to come in and take Sheba, the people of the city throw Sheba's head over the wall so that Joab and his men won't kill anyone in the city.

Chapter 21: The people are stuck in four years famine as a hangover of one of Saul's unrighteous wars against the Gibeonites. To make things right, David turns over 7 men from the line of Saul (at the Gibeonites request) to be hanged...which of course gets rid of the famine. Meanwhile, more Philistine giants are leading the charge against Israel, after a close call where David almost dies, his men tell him he has to stay home now and they proceed to smite some Philistine giants for David.

Chapter 22: David produces a long psalm of thanksgiving unto the Lord.

Chapter 23: David's last words on earth, talking of how God has been good to him and is against the naughty people of the world. This chapter then goes on to list the great men of David's army and their accomplishments, almost as if it is a list of Hall of fame inductees in Israel.

Chapter 24: In a sign of arrogance, David tells Joab to go and count how many subjects he has. Begrudgingly, Joab does so. For his sin, God has Gad, David's seer, give David a choice between famine, fleeing from enemies, or pestilence. David cannot make a choice so God sends disease to wipe out 70,000 of David's subjects. David then goes to make an altar and give burnt offerings to the Lord, which ends the pestilence.

Thus ends Samuel.