Inanna prefers the farmer

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The goddess Inanna is ready to marry, but must first choose a mate. Her brother encourages her to marry the shepherd-god Dumuzi, but she finds that the farmer-god Enkimdu is more to her liking. Angered by her choice, Dumuzi picks a fight with Enkimdu, but Enkimdu is able to calm the situation by promising to give him gifts and, even, to let him have Inanna. And so it is that Dumuzi, the shepherd-god, seems to win the argument and the favour of the goddess.

(Source)

Sound familiar? It should, because we covered it in Genesis 4.

As with the flood story (a Babylonian version of which is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh), we see that bits and pieces of many of the Bible’s stories were floating around in the collective cultural memory before they were written down (and edited) by the authors of the Hebrew Bible.

Marital Problems Explained

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institute-for-creation-research

Days of Praise is a daily sermon put out by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). The format is pretty fairly standard – it starts with a Biblical quote, and follows with a brief discussion that often bears no relevance whatsoever to that quote.

Today’s edition is no exception, drawing the conclusion that marital problems are caused by The Fall from: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:17)

There are all sorts of things wrong with the sermon. We jump right in with the first sentence: “Marriage has always had a high place–a high calling.” Yes, a very high calling. Marriage is that thing you do if you are too weak to resist sexual temptation. That’s right, marriage is the same kind of “high calling” as chopping off your limbs.

So that’s the first sentence down. On to the second…

It’s absolutely true that God intended woman for man to help ease solitude. However, the idea that woman would be a suitable companion came only after Adam rejected God’s initial idea: Bestiality.

To recap, marriage is a high calling, just like self-mutilation and the sexual abuse of animals.

Skip ahead a little bit, we get the statement that: “It is safe to say that the many excesses on both sides of a marriage that we see today are the legacy of sin.” Before you think that the ICR may have something of a point here, they aren’t defining “sin” as bad behaviour and/or thought patterns. No, in this context, “sin” refers to Adam’s rebellion. In other words, if you fight with your wife, it’s because someone ate some no-no fruit six thousand years ago. Logic!

Marital problems, caused by fruit consumption and… Satan!

Oh yes, they went there. “Satan himself delights in destroying marriage.” Cheat on your husband? Satan made you do it. Don’t respect your wife as a human being and partner? Satan’s corrupting your brain (or the opposite, Christians are a bit weird on this point…).

But more specifically, Satan (or Satin, for the fashionistas) “introduced numerous practices which are detrimental to a proper marriage.” This is how the ICR explains away the craziness of polygamy not being “Biblical marriage” – I’d always wondered about that. Of course, they’re still playing fairly fast and loose with scripture, saying that it was the “ungodly lineage of Cain [that] began to practice polygamy” and neglecting to mention that most of the patriarchs also did so.

They also claim that “Noah’s son, Ham, indulged in sexual thoughts and innuendoes,” citing Genesis 9:22. Now, the Bible is clear that Ham is a baddie and Noah is a goodie, so I’m not entirely surprised that they would try to spin it this way. But read the passage! Even without the context, Ham’s crime is seeing Noah naked and telling his brothers, which is a far cry from indulging in “sexual thoughts and innuendoes.” Take it with the context, and it only gets worse. The reason Noah was naked in the first place is that he drank way too much wine and passed out – naked – in his tent. And yet the spin here is that Ham is the baddie with “sexual thoughts” for accidentally walking in on him. That, folks, is why we don’t get our morality from the Bible.

And, of course, they bring up Abraham’s “extramarital affair” (which is a really nice way of saying that he raped one of his slaves). That’s what he did wrong. Abandoning the slave he raped and their son in the desert with nothing but a skin of water and a bit of bread, however, isn’t worthy of mentioning. We also won’t mention the two times that Abraham prostituted his wife for material gain…

And then ICR lists among the crimes in the story of Dinah “marriage to unbelievers.” Just to be clear, Dinah is the girl who was kidnapped and raped. Since she was the believer, we can see just how compassionate ICR is with rape survivors…

So after all this TL;DR, we finally get to the conclusion, which is what I really wanted to draw attention to today. ICR writes: “What is the solution for this age-long attack on the family? We must heed the guidelines given in Scripture for a godly marriage. Passages such as those surrounding our text are well worth our study.”

Vyckie Garrison, former Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy adherent, has frequently remarked that, while only a small minority of Christians practice the Quiverfull lifestyle, its ideals are very mainstream. Many Christians will look at families like the Duggars as an example of what great faith in God looks like. This conclusion, with words like “godly marriage,” is a subtle promotion of the Christian Patriarchy ideal. Keep that in mind whenever you hear the Christian Right talk about “family.”

 

Also posted on the CFI-Ottawa blog.

Genesis 4: Cain and Abel

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We’re now finished with the Garden of Eden and turn to the story of Cain and Abel.

Genesis 4 begins with Adam getting to know (*wink wink*) Eve, and they give birth to Cain and Abel (Cain being the elder of the two). Much is made of their professions: Cain is a “tiller of the ground” and Abel is a “keeper of sheep” (Gen. 4:2). My Bible points out that the story “reflects the tension between farmers and semi-nomads.”

The Offering

The two brothers decide to make an offering to God, and each gives something they created from their own profession. So Abel gives the fat portions of the firstlings of his flock, while Cain brings fruit of the ground. God loves the animal sacrifice, but he has “no regard” for Cain’s offering. Cain, understandably, is rather upset by God’s social faux-pas, but God plays that oblivious guy at every Christmas party and tells Cain to just get over it.

Well, not exactly. He says: “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:7), which really just adds insult to injury. Cain is a farmer, and he’s just given (of his own incentive – he’s listed in the story as the first to make an offering, and he does so without a command to) part of his livelihood to God. Worse yet, God tells him that if he doesn’t get over feeling upset, sin is “couching at the door” (Gen. 4:7).

Even very young children know to accept gifts with a bit more decorum.

Back to the idea that Cain and Abel are stand-ins for their lifestyles, I find it interesting that God seems to be showing preference for the herder rather than the farmer. The implication is clear – being a herder is a more righteous lifestyle than farming.

The First Murder

The First Mourning by Leon Bonnat c.1861

The First Mourning by Leon Bonnat c.1861

In any case, Cain is justifiably upset. Unfortunately, he decides to take his anger out on his brother rather than on God, so he takes him out into a field and kills him.

God comes along and asks Cain what where Abel is. I don’t think we need to take this as a literal question, since it does work perfectly well as a rhetorical strategy to get Cain to confess. Either way, Cain gives that famous answer: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9).

The next bit is rather confusing. God curses Cain, saying that he “shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Thing is, he also says “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength” (Gen. 4:12). Tilling takes a good deal of time – there’s a reason that we call agrarianism a sedentary lifestyle! So how can Cain be cursed both with wandering and with having less bounty when tilling? The only possibility I can see is that the land will so withhold it’s “strength” that making his living as a farmer will henceforth be impossible for Cain – forcing him to wander/scavenge. Unfortunately, even this interpretation is contradicted in a few verses…

Cain complains that this won’t work because he will be a fugitive and, therefore, “whoever finds me will slay me” (Gen. 4:14). This is a rather odd thing for someone to say when the only other people on the entire planet are his own parents (and possibly a couple siblings). Even if we allow that he’s merely anticipating a time when there will be many people, it’s still rather silly to imagine that someone who literally has never known anyone outside of his immediate family would immediately think of how other people will react to him.

But God acquiesces and declares that if anyone kills Cain, “vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold” (Gen. 4:15), and he marks him to make it official. Cain, who has now been hidden from God’s “face” (Gen. 4:14), “went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen. 4:16). Just to confuse things further, Nod may be etymologically related to the Hebrew word verb “to wander” – adding the possibility that Cain was merely banished to a place called Wander, and not actually banished to wander himself.

Cain’s Line

The next verse is a bit of a shocker, so brace yourself. “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch” (Gen. 4:17).

So Cain not only has a wife, but enough people to warrant the building of a city. I know that Adam and Eve supposedly lived a long time, but long enough to produce the children necessary to fill a large settlement? And where did Cain get his wife? If she’s his sister, there’s no mention of this. It seems that the authors of the Bible simply could not imagine what a world devoid of people would actually look like – they were writing a creation story super-imposed on a familiar world, a world that comes ready-made with people.

And what about that second part, where Cain builds a city? Once again, how does this fit in with God cursing him to wander?

Genesis 4:18-22 is a genealogy of Cain’s descendants. After a couple generations, we are told about the sons of Lamech: Jabal is the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle; Jubal is the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe; and Tubal-cain is the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron (rather impressive given that the Iron Age is still a rather long way off). We can see the obvious mythologising of cultural advance.I’d like to note that Lamech has two wives and this incident of polygamy is in no way condemned. In fact, nothing is said about it other than “Lamech took two wives” (Gen. 4:19).

What we do get is a really weird passage where Lamech seems to confess to murder to his wives. In Genesis 4:23-24, he says:

I have slain a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.

There’s no context provided for this. My study bible says: “An ancient song, probably once sung in praise of Lamech, is here quoted to illustrate the development of wickedness from murder to measureless blood revenge.” In other words, the Old Testament was pulled together in a particular cultural context – one that we no longer have. It makes it that much more difficult for modern Christians to read and understand it, since we’re just too far removed for passages like this one to make any sense. More than that, even among passages that seem to make sense, the average reader has no way of knowing whether they actually make sense or whether the reader is simply able to make sense of it by using their own culturally-specific leaps and assumptions.

I’ve heard the argument made that an intelligent God who truly wants to lead people to himself would never use a book to guide us – and this is a perfect example of why.

“And Adam knew his wife again…”

I assume that we’re travelling back in time after having followed Cain’s line in Nod for a while. Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth, as a replacement for the son they lost. No kidding: “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him” (Gen. 4:25). It’s difficult to imagine the worldview that sees one’s own children as replaceable in this way. But there you have it…

We aren’t given much information about Seth, other than that he has a son named Enosh. It’s during the time of Enosh that “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). Note, once again, the use of collective language for humanity. If taken literally,  and assuming that Eve is not having litters, “men” should be counting perhaps 10-15 people at maximum. And yet, here we are using language that suggests a collective humanity…

Leaving that aside, my study bible notes that this verse, referring to the “name of the Lord,” “traces the worship of the Lord (Yahweh) back to the time of Adam’s grandson, in contrast to other traditions which claim that the sacred name was introduced in Moses’ time (Ex.3.13-15; 6.2-3).”