Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thoughts on the First Book of Moses

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”.

According to Genesis 1:1 that was the very first thing that happened. That was for starters.

God made himself a universe and then he went and made us one too.

Admittedly our planet 'was without form and void’ and thus not exactly homely, to begin with. We were far from lock-up stage yet.

Not that it mattered greatly yet, we couldn’t see what we were doing because ‘darkness was upon the face of the deep’. We needed something to brighten the place up, and God’s lick of paint, Light, was called into action.

And lo, for there is always an enlightening lo in such lore, there was light. It was such a valuable resource, it had to be carefully rationed. Thus day and night was the compromise solution(no word at this stage about the sun, the source of all this luminosity).

And then our Master Builder addressed himself to the problems of a watery planet and decided the dolphins couldn’t have it all to themselves. Land was created and upon it was put grass, herbs and trees. The stage was set to support carnivorous beings.

It took him three laborious days to get this far. On Day Four, only now is the Sun created (what source provided all the light for previous two days is never explained.) The Moon too gets its papers on this day.

With the working week in full swing, its time to populate the planet with animals to eat all those succulent plants, herbs and trees. Hence cattle and creeping things, whales and the rest. Two whole days were spent (an activity which was to have major consequences for Noah later in the game, not to mention long queues) putting all the beasts in the fields.

That left day six to make his piece de resistance, the creature in his own image, Man.

Thus the question is, if man is created in God’s image, what is the size of God’s honker? He ignored that question, instead he slyly commanded ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ to his newly created replicates.

He also, dubiously, handed them the keys to the kingdom. Six days it took him all up. No wonder he needed a break, no wonder he was so keen to relinquish control. He did bugger all on the Seventh Day.

From there on in the time period becomes hazy. We have no idea how long it took to build Eden and that most sinister of constructs ‘the tree of knowledge and evil’. More of which later. We do know that he went and built 4 rivers Pison (in Hasilah likely to be modern Saudi Arabia), Bihon in Ethiopia (the white Nile?), Hiddekel in Assyria (Tigris?) and the only one still known by its modern name, the Euphrates. Man was plonked into the middle of this riparian garden.

But this knowledge tree was bothersome. God left specific instructions. Don’t eat the fruit, he commanded in the World’s first council by-law. Poison was the official reason ‘Eat it and you will die’ was the unambiguous message. It is not clear why it was so planted with its killer propensities unless it was deliberate provocation.

Meanwhile, in week two and beyond God was turning his mind to some of the other problems of his making. Man must have his mate, he reckoned. So, while old Adam snoozed, God ripped out one of his ribs and showed great dexterity to turn it into a woman.

Did Eve ever realise she was just one rib away from oblivion? Anyway, when Adam awoke he found they were naked together but, pointedly, unashamed of this condition. They didn’t know any better. They were also possibly aroused, but this is not mentioned.

Unless it is, in the allegorical form of the snake who enters the dramatis personae at this point. The snake slithers up to Eve and gets into her ear about the forbidden fruit. He whispers casually that he frankly doubts God’s edict that the fruit is poisonous (and after all, we only have God’s word for it).

So tempted is she by the snake’s reasoning, she ignores the injunction and eats the fruit. So does Adam, showing at an early stage who was really wearing the trousers in Paradise. But as we know, neither is wearing trousers. The very first effect of this reckless fruit-eating is to ‘open their eyes’ and immediately notice their nakedness. This causes shame to kick in. They rush to find some fig-leaves and press them into service to hide what will soon be immortalised as ‘naughty bits’. The practice will be repeated for time immemorial against works of art by scandalised clergy and laity.

There was another immediate reckoning. Adam was hauled into the boss's office for a ‘please explain’ session. Why did you break my specific order? Adam did the obvious thing and blamed the underling – it was Eve’s fault. So she too was called in for an interrogation. She took the same tack as Adam and blamed the beguiling snake. God wringed his hands, the list of suspects was growing by the minute. The snake was hauled in too for questioning. After listening to all the evidence, God pronounced his stentorian judgement. The snake was cursed and forced evermore to march round on his belly (we are not told how it managed its movements beforehand and the fossil record is inconclusive.)

The woman’s sorrow was multiplied in a way that will impact her oncoming conception (this bit of the judgement, Woolly Days found obscure and difficult to follow.) More importantly God ruled that the husband would henceforth rule over her. Adam himself, despite winning dominion over woman, did not escape God’s wrath. His precious property, the Garden of Eden itself, was to be turned into a dustbowl - Adam and Eve would become the world’s first Okies.

Adam lost his godlike status and was turned into a mere mortal because ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return’. Adam and Eve were grounded in crime and punishment and banished from Eden (though given its now dustbowl status, that may not have been altogether a bad thing.) God hired bouncers called Cherubim to enforce the ban and armed them with madly flashing and flaming swords which turned every which way to make sure the nasty vermin stayed out.

With Judge God presiding, the court had ruled that original sin was in place and humans would not easily be allowed to forget it. In fact it would to be carried until some convenient time is found to expunge it by Christian baptism.

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