Abram

Day 17

Time is running short today…

I don’t know where you are or when you’re reading this, but it’s nearly midnight and I’m just starting. This would be a lot easier if this weren’t still a secret from my partner, but oh well. Maybe today’s just doesn’t need to be long.

Hitchhikers

Yesterday I did something out of the ordinary, for me anyway. I was driving to work and I saw two hitchhikers with a shopping cart full of stuff. They needed to go out beyond where I was going. I started to slow down to tell them I couldn’t take them, or to make conversation, or something really stupid, but when I pulled up and rolled my window down, they were so happy that someone had stopped that I just couldn’t say no. I pulled off and loaded all their things up; one of their bags had a very large knife, hunting-style, not kitchen-style, and I made sure it stayed put. I was a little paranoid but they seemed like good people.

It was a nice drive. They were wonderful people who were going through some terrible things. The man, when he worked, did hard labor, mostly construction-type jobs. He had dabbled in various kinds of drugs but only smoked marijuana these days. The woman used to do some sort of care-taking or behavioral health or some such related thing. I don’t know if this is cheesy bullshit or not but these people were vibrant. They didn’t look like much at all on the outside but I could just tell that they were living every single minute.

Perhaps they were not “conscious,” as Eckhart Tolle would say, but damn if they weren’t digging deep into life. I can’t say whether they would have traded it for stability. The woman, again just radiant beneath her dirty hair and sun-browned skin, her story was much sadder than his. She left her husband for the second time; they had been married twice. He never laid a hand on her, she said, but she suffered every other type of abuse. Her children had been taken away, some three years ago, and she had little hope of ever seeing them again. It was neglect, they said, but she called it a kidnapping. Armed officers showed up at her door and took her children and gave them to someone else. She was never found guilty, but her two little girls are somewhere else. Now she’s on the road, and she may never see them again. She started to cry in the car, and all I could do was stare uselessly at my empty tissue box.

Part of me wishes I’d spent the whole day with them, taken them out to dinner, talked to them more. But it was beautiful while it lasted. They were just so positive, heading down, hitchhiking out to the middle of nowhere where his dad lived. I guess that’s really all they had. I don’t even know how they met. Are they friends? Did they fall in love? Who knows?

The craziest part was when the man, all wild blond hair and long, ragged goatee, he tried to offer me money. Not once, but twice. The man had all of two or three dollars to his name and he was going to give it to me for giving them a ride.

And you know what? Honestly I don’t really care what they were. Some people would be so suspicious and worried and whatever and say that they were probably meth addicts or who-knows-what, but I just don’t think so. I don’t know why I stopped, but at that point I was in too deep to back out. The looks on their faces throughout the whole thing, the emotion, the sheer joie de vivre that they possessed in spite of everything. I’m obviously romanticizing the whole thing but I don’t give a shit. They smiled and they laughed and they cried and goddamn they were just out there living it. I can’t help but imagine that as soon as I drove out of sight, they vanished into thin air, two strange, tan, angelic hitchhikers that showed up in my life and were gone just as quickly.

But I hope they didn’t disappear, and I hope that wherever you are, Lance and Theresa, I hope you are doing fine. Damn, I wish I’d gotten a picture.


 

Genesis 17

I don’t even know what the hell to talk about right now. I’m just happy to have shared that story.

In Genesis 17, God outlines His covenant with Abram, who is now dubbed Abraham, for, as God says, “I have made you a father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5). The biggest part of this covenant is circumcision. Most of you are probably familiar with the Jewish practice.

robin_hood_men_in_tights_circumcision

Interested parties will direct their attention to the historical documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights

God outlines the details for circumcisions, and also lets Abraham know that he will bear a son with his wife, now “Sarah” from “Sarai.” God blesses Ishmael, Abraham’s other son, but tells him that his covenant will be continued with Isaac, his son to be born in a year.

The important thing about this, apparently, according to Matthew Henry, is that Abraham obeyed God and trusted God with the circumcision decree. Granted, Abraham laughed at the idea of a son, since he is 99 years old, but he appears to be laughing out of joy or wonder.

Now I’m making a point not to read ahead, but good God, after reading this, how could I not?

“But let us remember that the true circumcision is that of the heart, by the Spirit, Romans 2:28,29.”

— Matthew Henry²

Just, wow. It’s a good point! A beautiful point. But seriously, read that line out of context. “True circumcision is that of the heart.” Read that a few times, and try and tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


 

¹ http://www.metacafe.com/watch/hl-6125628/robin_hood_men_in_tights_circumcision/

² http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=17

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Day 16

I’m sure by now most of you have heard this song, and some of you are probably sick of it. I used to not listen to the radio much, and I still listen to it minimally, so I have the benefit of not getting tired of songs that are overplayed… mostly.

I had an amazing revelation yesterday. I was listening to this song on the radio, and thinking about it as it relates to the historical city of Pompeii; the song obviously relates to death and dying, the total destruction of the city. And it is romantic. It is so hauntingly beautiful, and it is not the only work of its kind. We often romanticize death, we romanticize people leaving or committing suicide, and dying. I realized yesterday that it is not so much a longing for death that afflicts us but a longing for rebirth. We romanticize death because it is a doorway, it is the next step toward something better. We want to die, and like Don Miguel Ruiz said, we are not afraid of death but we are scared of living.

On some level, I think we know that death is the next step, that part of us has to die. This human life, the world to which we are all so accustomed, the things that we’re all so convinced of… we consider this world, this life of sin and suffering to be inevitable. We believe that the way we live now, the way we exist is inevitable, and in a way we want to die. We want to die, so that we can go on to something else. We know that part of us has to die, that something has to go away.

And the part that is left will be beautiful. That something will survive after death, that some part of us will be reborn into a much better, happier, life… that’s dying and going to Heaven, that’s why we have that dream. We want to die and find peace, to find Heaven, to achieve Nirvana. We want to stop the cycle of death, of living “as if we are dead,” to quote Ruiz. We want it to end.

Regardless of whether Heaven is a literal physical place where the soul goes after the body dies or not, regardless of whether the soul literally transcends suffering and attains Nirvana, these stories, these ideas are present the world over because they represent the innate human desire to get away from all of this. Regardless of the truth, these stories are also potent metaphors.

If you’ve spoken to someone who engages in transcendental meditation or someone who’s taken psychedelic drugs, you may have heard of a feeling of “oneness.” Perhaps for one reason or another you have experienced this for yourself. There is a related but deeper phenomenon known as “ego death” that can be experienced in a variety of ways. “According to Stanislav Grof, ‘Ego death means an irreversible end to one’s philosophical identification with what Alan Watts called skin-encapsulated ego.'”¹

In The Four Agreements, Ruiz talks a great deal about a process that will lead to joy and freedom that he calls the “initiation of the dead.” This, he says, is a spiritual, symbolic death that destroys the wounded mind, destroys the inner judge and victim, destroys what Eckhart Tolle calls the “pain-body.” In this way, we cease associating with the body and the mind’s conception of the “self” and instead begin to see the bigger picture, so to speak. We begin to become aware of the Unity that is.

When we realize our oneness, our connection with all things, with things beyond ourselves, we find that we can love everything and everyone. It is not easy to do, and it takes practice and awareness. But according to Ruiz, this is the state of mind that has been called “Heaven.” This is the kingdom of Heaven that is within man; this is the Heaven that is in our midst (Luke 17:21). This is truly living, being fully alive.

Part of us has to die to get there, but fear not. Once you break through, you will realize that there is no “you,” and that instead, We have been here all along. That is the best way I can put it at this time. I’ll just leave this here:

“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.'”

— Alan Watts²

Genesis 16

Gen 16 describes Abram seeking a child. Sarai, his wife, tells Abram that he must have a child, and she tells him to marry her maid and father a child that way. Abram heeds her words instead of seeking a solution or a sign from God, and lo and behold, the trouble begins. Hagar, the maid, begins to despise Sarai, and the two women just about get into a fight.

Hagar runs off, and “an Angel of the Lord” finds her by a spring (Genesis 16:7). Matthew Henry states that this Angel is “the eternal Word and Son of God,”³ and considering that everything about the Angel is capitalized, that makes as much sense as anything else. Especially when one considers that the Angel blesses her and tells her the things which He will accomplish. I figured just by reading it that the Angel was in some way an extension of God.

Hagar says as much, when she asks, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13) This reminds me of a fun limerick:

“There was a young man who said ‘though

It seems that I know that I know,

What I would like to see

Is the I that sees me

When I know that I know that I know.'”

— Alan Wattsª

A name of the Lord given in Genesis 16:13 is “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees.” That limerick is lifted from “The Nature of Consciousness,”ª and I highly recommend it. Just from reading a few paragraphs I know I’m going to revisit it soon.

After speaking to the Angel, Hagar returns to the house of Abram, returns to that holy family and the righteous life, after having wandered off. I don’t think I need to explain this one; Matthew Henry does a fine job of that already.

Hagar bears Ishmael, and so ends Genesis 16.


That great illusion and tormentor, time, is pressing on me. My heart and mind are distracted by impending work. I feel as though I have said what I needed to say today, and I shall see you all tomorrow.

God bless, and peace be upon you.


¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_death

² http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alan_Watts

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=16

ª http://deoxy.org/w_nature.htm

Day 14

Holy crow, yesterday felt like three days. I worked a solid eleven hours, mostly outdoors, and I can feel a slight crisp on the skin of my face.

I slowly struggled out of bed just now to eat a slightly dried chocolate muffin that I got from a church’s coffee shop. I might have to check out this church in the future; it seems like a pretty nice place. I’ve never consistently gone to church in my adult life, and I only once attended a Mormon service, sort of out of obligation.

Just as recently I had a vision of death, two nights ago I fully connected with my Spirit Council again and was shown something else. Anyway, I wrote a short poem about what happened. It doesn’t have a name.

I have seen the face of my anger
It is a swirling burning thing.
Crimson light bleeds from it
Like an image of an angry sun.
Into the four corners of my life does it spread
A profane cross of impotent rage
Fueled by the fear that hides in my heart.

I haven’t written poetry in a while, and I’m not terribly satisfied with it, but the whole point of this project is to “Learn by Doing.” I’m not only writing when I feel like writing because I’m often unmotivated and tired and too busy seeking other pleasures. I was listening to the book Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and he wrote that if he ever procrastinates writing something, he doesn’t ever use it and throws it out. I’m just not like that. I’m busy rekindling my writer’s spirit, and it’s going to take time and practice before this becomes a habit, before it becomes a burning need that I cannot ignore.

I wanted to tell you about my Left today, but I think I will save descriptions of my spirit animals for a later date. Although, without meaning to, I have already introduced one.

Genesis 14

I read this chapter today and didn’t think a whole lot of it. It describes a war between a handful of kings, but Abram and Lot get caught up in this mess. Long story short, at one point, Lot gets snatched up (it seems) while he is in Sodom, and the armies take his stuff.

Then, someone comes and tells Abram, “Hey, so these guys up and kidnapped your nephew, Lot.” Abram mans up and arms his servants and chases the offending army as far north “as Hobah, which is north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:15). That’s a pretty damn long way.

Abram saves Lot and heads back home; it would appear that on his way or upon his return, he is met by a) Bera, the king of Sodom and b) Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Melchizedek is a very interesting character, if he be a character at all. He “brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). Firstly, he brings bread and wine, which most of us associate with Jesus Christ and the idea of body and blood. Secondly, while Abram and his family have been described as being the righteous ones, Melchizedek, who has no ancestry mentioned thus far, is a holy man, a “priest of God Most High.”

There are a lot of odd mysteries surrounding this name and this person. Some identify him as Shem, descendent of Noah. The Dead Sea Scrolls identify Melchizedek, if not this Melchizedek, as a divine being, sometimes giving unto him the name Elohim, traditionally associated with God. Even his “name” itself may mean “the king [of] righteousness,” from malki tzedek, which contrasts with a mention in the Dead Sea Scrolls of a “Melchi-resha,” which means “king of evil,” the name for an angel of darkness. ¹

Jehovah’s Witnesses – An Aside

I was just interrupted from my work by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who come to my house frequently because I invite them back. Today they invited me to their annual event commemorating the day on which Christ gave His life that we may all live. They also talked to me for a while, and I told them about my project. They told me to pay attention when I get to the story of Joseph (of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame), because he has something to say about interpretation. I want so badly to look ahead but I am reading this Bible chapter by chapter and I will wait. The gentleman today brought his wife, who seemed like a charming lady, and she slipped a hint as to what Joseph says, but I will not yet mention it.

What I will mention, though, is John 17:3.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

— Jesus Christ, John 17:3

The Witnesses told me essentially that it is Good to study the Bible, that by reading it and learning of it, we can know God and Jesus, and thus gain eternal life. The gentleman said that everything in the Bible tells us about God. Interesting when contrasted with the ideas of, say, the Eastern Orthodox Church, which believes that

“The words do what they can do, but the nature of the Trinity in its fullness remains beyond our comprehension and expression, a Holy Mystery that can only be experienced.”²

Perhaps God is knowable for practical purposes but a Holy Mystery in totality, the way Albert Camus describes man in The Myth of Sisyphus. We can know God and seek union with Him enough to be saved and to know, sense, or feel what He wants for us. But the nature of God? The essence of God? The spiritual form of God that exists in contrast to the material? At least in this lifetime, in these bodies, it cannot be understood.

The King of Sodom

There are but a few verses left in Genesis 14, but before reading about Melchizedek, they were the only thing that interested me. The king of Sodom offers to trade Abram: Abram gives him back the people (his people? Previous subjects? I’m not super clear on this) in exchange for stuff. The stuff is really unimportant; the important part is that Abram says no. Abram vows in the name of God to not take even “a thread [or] a sandal strap” from the king (Genesis 14:23).

Abram remembers God’s promise and realizes that he has no need for these material things. Abram chooses the people because he knows that God has plans to make him rich in spirit, a wealth to which material substances cannot compare.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

² http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Orthodox_Church#Trinity

Day 13

No more weird premonitions of death this time around.

This morning just presented me with an amazing dream: think Terminator: Salvation meets Inspector Gadget, by way of The Incredibles. Or something like that.

Last night is a different story. I got upset, I took something personally and my fear and shame became anger. I lost my temper and I blew up for no good reason. I was afraid to say that I’d never do it again, because I was afraid of making a promise I couldn’t keep, but this project has shown me that I have the dedication. In only 1176 more days I’ll have proven it.

The anger served another purpose, though: it allowed me, in my stress and sorrow following the incident, it allowed me to re-connect spiritually inward, and for the first time in a while I had a full “meeting” with my council of spirit animals. I have neither the time nor the inclination to enumerate them here, but interested readers will learn the details soon.

Anyway, I slept poorly last night and now I have a long, long day of work ahead of me. I’m going to crack open this Bible and get on with…

Genesis 13

Abram leaves Egypt with Sarai and Lot. At this point, Pharaoh didn’t bother to take back any of his stuff it seems, probably because God gave him enough trouble for messing with Abram already. So Abram is a wealthy man and returns to his place and his altar mentioned in Gen 12:8.

The new problem here is that Lot and Abram both have lots of stuff and big herds and they can’t live comfortably in the same area. “There was strife” between their respective teams of herdsmen (Genesis 13:7). Abram tells Lot that it’s time for them to go their separate ways; Lot heads east to the plain of Jordan. This was before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, so sayeth Genesis 13:10, and it seems to me that their destruction must have been “common knowledge” at the time, because this event has not yet been mentioned. The plain of Jordan is “well watered everywhere… like the garden of the Lord,” apparently referring to Eden. So Lot dips out.

Abram is once again told by the Lord to look around, and God reaffirms his promise to grant this land to Abram’s descendents. God once again offers his gifts as soon as Abram returns, ready to have faith and accept them.

“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.”

— God, Genesis 13:16

Once again, Abram settles his tent near the terebinth trees, this time in Hebron.

This guy.

Me again. ¹

So ends Genesis 13, and so begins the rest of my day. Blessings to you all, energy drinks to me…

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

Day 12

I had the strangest experience last night.

I had an overwhelming sensation that I wasn’t going to wake up in the morning. Or at least that the “me” that was going to wake up in the morning was not the same “me” that was lying in bed.

There is an illusion we call continuation of consciousness, and I suddenly became aware of it in a very big, big way. I felt as though I was going to die, whether that be in a literal or figurative sense. I felt as though the person who woke up in my body would be someone else, an alien who would have forgotten things that I was thinking, would have different motivations, hopes and dreams. It was all very strange.

As I was lying in bed I had a number of bizarre visions as well; I had visions like an hourglass running out, looking as though it were limned by the infinity symbol. I watched it run out, tried to envision it turning over, only to watch it run out again. When I tried to visualize my council of spirit animals (more on that later), I came up empty. I instead envisioned a blank gray wall which receded from me until I realized I was looking at a large skull that became part of the form of a Grim Reaper-like figure. It was then with this figure positioned over me that I suddenly became aware of the presence of my spirit animals once again. My Left cried out against this figure and I felt strongly implored to take up my “sword” and defend myself against this manifestation of Death.

All in all, it was both a deeply humbling but empowering experience. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but as much as any man can say this, I know I’m here today.

Genesis 12

Here in Gen 12 we have the departure from Abram from Haran, where his father Terah lay dead. God tells Abram to go, leave for a new land. Abram feels this conviction from God and takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot to the land of Canaan, which if you recall from Genesis 9 was basically cursed by Noah and by the Lord. Or at least its inhabitants were. So the godly man, Abram, is cast by God Himself into the realm of the ungodly, the Canaanites. And the Lord sayeth, “Trust Me on this one.”

One verse of note is Genesis 12:3, wherein God tells Abram, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” According to our old friend Matthew Henry, this is to signify the coming of Christ, that by the line of Abram shall the world be saved.

So when Abram finally settles near “Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh” (Genesis 12:6).

This guy.

This guy. ¹

It seems there is a great deal of discourse surrounding this tree business. Matthew Henry does not touch on the nature of the tree or any symbology thereof. This website, the Jewish Heritage Online Magazine, mentions that tree worship existed in some form in ancient days. They suggest that by being “rooted in the earth and [reaching] toward the sky,” trees represent a bridge between Heaven and Earth, or symbolize man’s journey from the latter to the former. Apparently at some point this practice was discontinued, possibly to mitigate confusion and prevent blurring between the holy religion of Israel and the idolatrous religions of the Canaanites.² Interesting. Now back to Abram.

Abram carries his faith with him throughout his journey and sets up an altar wherever he makes his home.

“Wherever we go, let us not fail to take our religion along with us.”

— Matthew Henry ³

God blesses Abram and tells him that his descendents will inherit this land, this land of Canaan that is currently in possession of the ungodly. As I said recently, perhaps as recently as yesterday, worldly goods cannot fill a spiritual void. In time, the cruel and evil will fall and the righteous will rise. I’m not necessarily using “righteous” to mean “Christian,” here, but I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, or at least the potential and desire for good.

Man is often his own worst enemy, and our desire for righteousness must overcome our desire for comfort in sin. Man must become accustomed to some level of discomfort in order to break the cycle. In our modern society, we have food and shelter and entertainment but these things do not bring happiness. Our comforts are worldly and fragile; satisfaction of the soul, peace with the Divine, is forever.

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.”

— The Eagles, “Already Gone”

But I digress. Things become difficult for Abram once there is a famine in Canaan, as described in Gen 12:10, so he leaves and heads to Egypt. Even a godly man such as Abram is burdened with doubt and disbelief in this trying time, and he lies because he is afraid. Abram pretends that his wife Sarai is his sister because he fears for his life and safety, believing he will be killed by someone who wishes to claim her.

Once the Pharaoh’s men see her, they take her to the Pharaoh, but God has other plans. Even though Pharaoh treats Abram well, the Lord shakes things up, perhaps so that Abram will not be comfortable in this land but will return to his God-given destiny. God plagues the hell out of Egypt (a preview of things to come) and Pharaoh realizes the problem, gives Sarai back to Abram, and kicks him the hell out. Matthew Henry’s commentary fits well here:

“Those who set out for heaven must persevere to the end. What we undertake, in obedience to God’s command, and in humble attendance on his providence, will certainly succeed, and end with comfort at last. Canaan was not, as other lands, a mere outward possession, but a type of heaven, and in this respect the patriarchs so earnestly prized it.” ³

Just as is in The Four Agreements, Matthew Henry equates Canaan as a state of mind, a type of heaven. Though the story in the Bible is about a land, there is more than meets the eye. It is symbolic of the gifts that God grants to the faithful, it is symbolic of peace, serenity, and love. God did not let Abram settle in a land of fear, a land of suffering and deceit. Abram found no peace in the land of Egypt, and so too do we find no peace while we are burdened by our lies and our mistrust. Abram initially trusts God to provide, but when times get difficult, he abandons the dream and promise of Canaan for worldly “security” elsewhere.

It seems to me that this was a lesson that Abram needed to learn the hard way. God is not a wizard, but had He wanted to, I am sure He could have prevented the famine in Canaan. But God does not make our lives easy; instead God teaches us to have faith in the most difficult times. God does not clear the skies and calm the waters, but instead dances with us in the rain and teaches us to weather the storm. This is how we learn and grow stronger. Like a parent to a child, God allows us to suffer and be injured that we might grow wise and strong.

God does not always appear to us and tell us where to go and what to do, but if we pay attention to ourselves and to our feelings, we can know right from wrong and find a good path for ourselves. We will not be comforted in Egypt, and must find our way to Canaan. In Canaan we will find peace, and our faith will be rewarded. It may be a long road, full of setbacks and obstacles, but faith can move mountains, not by magic, but by inspiring us and motivating us to take up our pickaxes and start chipping away, one stone at time.

I feel as though I am repeating myself and rambling; I will end here for today. Love and be loved. Spread joy wherever you go.

Peace be upon you.

 

¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pistacia_palaestina

² http://www.jhom.com/topics/trees/worship.htm

³ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=12

Day 11

For heaven’s sake… God is not going to make this easy on me.

Today is the first day that I’ve actually had difficulty doing my writing, and I foresee more challenges on the horizon. Work is ramping up in a big way and I need to get it under control before it controls me. I’m also not getting enough sleep and not enough personal leisure time.

One consolation that I forgot to write about came in the form of my horoscope from 3/25/14. This happened to be the day or the day after I told my friend about this project and worried about my lack of motivation. My horoscope read:

You have more command over your emotions than you think you do, which you’ll find out by taking control of your environment.

That’s the kind of information I need these days. I wish the “taking control of [my] environment” part wasn’t such a pain in my ass. My room and my house are a terrible mess. All my work folders and paperwork are disorganized. I feel like I have neither the time nor the inclination to change this, because it feels like an overwhelming undertaking at this point. But I have to work and I have to pay my bills and I have to have to have to.

I’m just going to bang my head on the keyboard for a while and see what comes out.

Genesis 11

Gen 11 reminds me of Gen 2, in that it appears to conflict with the previous chapter. Genesis 10 shows all the different genealogies of all the families and constantly lists them as “according to his language, according to their families, into their nations,” or some form thereof (Gen 10:5). It shows that all these people were separated into different cultures and languages.

Genesis 11 comes along and says that “the whole earth had one language and one speech” (Gen 11:1). It seems that, like Genesis 2, Genesis 11 is here to elaborate on the narrative of the previous chapter.

With their one language, people started building a tower “whose top is in the heavens… lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen 11:4). I love this verse because they’re like, “Oh boy, we better not get scattered to the four winds! That would be terrible!” And then the Lord sees them and does exactly that. Once again, the Lord refers to Himself in the first-person plural: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Gen 11:7).

So God does this apparently because humans will be able to do anything they want! With one language, they could build a tower straight up to Heaven, which once again points back to the Hebrew mythology of a heavenly realm located physically above the Earth.

This baffles me a little, and Matthew Henry gives me no placating explanation. I think… firstly the location of Babel is in the land of Shinar, which was mentioned previously as part of the kingdom of Nimrod in Gen 10. So we already know that these are not supposed to be the godly folk. With that in mind, it seems that their hubris was their undoing; with one language they could have accomplished many great works but instead decided to essentially rebel against God by saying, “Screw the rules, we’re building our way to Heaven!” And the Lord says no.

So He punishes them for their hubris and their disrespect by confounding their language and scattered them all over the world. Apparently this is part of the plan, that humanity will be divided. The eventual reunification will come with Christ, apparently. So sayeth Matthew Henry:

“The children of men never did, nor ever will, come all together again, till the great day, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before him.” ¹

Mankind does seem to have this problem where we help each other in our misery rather than lifting out of it. Ruiz says as much, that we have agreements to help each other suffer.² Suffering is comfortable because we are so used to it, but the company of angry, fearful fellows does not beat the serenity that can be found within. It is a hard lesson to learn, but the more people that learn it, the better we will be as a species.

Genealogy

The rest of Genesis 11 is dedicated to the genealogy of the family of Shem.

We have:

  • Shem
    • Arphaxad
      • Salah
        • Eber
          • Peleg
            • Reu
              • Serug
                • Nahor
                  • Terah
                    • Haran -> deceased
                    • Abram — Sarai
                    • Nahor — Milcah
                      • Lot

Yikes. I think that’s everybody. So at the end of Genesis 11, Terah takes his son Abram, Abram’s wife Sarai, and Lot, Abram’s nephew and Terah’s grandson, and they leave Ur, headed toward Canaan. They stayed in Haran, or Charran, for a time, where Terah passed away. Matthew Henry ends this portion of his commentary with the poignant thought:

“Many reach to Charran, and yet fall short of Canaan; they are not far from the kingdom of God, and yet never come thither.” ¹

I’ve heard a similar sentiment regarding general or business success, but here it applies spiritually as well. Ah! Found it:

“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.”

—  Napoleon Hill

Most of the time we never know how close we are to something, to achieving a goal, and our tendency is to stop or turn around, often just before we make a breakthrough. Persevere! Today I will leave you with one last quote, the other of which I was thinking:

“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter
hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as
much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first
blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last
blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

— Jacob A. Riis
Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Every blow weakens the stone, just as every step in the right direction, no matter how small, leads closer to one’s destination.

Blessings to all, and peace be upon you.

 

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

Jacob August Riis

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/jacobaugus107072.html#pTWJkqAJYzZKKMRA.99

¹ http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=1&c=11&com=mhc

² Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements