I’m skipping saying anything about the bits that have to do with who fathered whom. Because I’m really not entirely sure how that’s supposed to be relevant, though it does provide some really unique names, which has a relatively decent entertainment value.
Next up, we come to the Tower of Babel. Is it just me, or are these stories briefer than I recall them being as a child? We didn’t spend a whole lot of time at church, but I wasn’t wholly unfamiliar with Bible stories, and it always seemed to me that there was more to them than this. A function of age and memory, I suppose. Or creative license on the part of the storytellers.
At any rate, the Tower of Babel. Once again, things seem all nice and peaceful. It’s not Eden, but everyone is getting along and cooperating and doing Grand Things. Which is apparently not the best idea; God does not appear to want us to have it too easy. I’ve often heard the Tower of Babel talked about in terms of hubris. Humanity got too big for its collective britches and we got smacked down for it.
But I wonder if that’s all it is? Perhaps it’s another instance of difficulty that is actually for our own good. Anyone can tell you, it’s usually relatively easy to get along with people who are like you. It’s one of the reasons that we cling to the formation of in and out groups. People like us are safe. They don’t make us uncomfortable or force us to question our assumptions. They don’t raise the possibility that we may have some work of our own to do. Maybe our differences, then, are part of the point. We have to learn to work with each other when things are difficult, when we’re literally and figuratively speaking different languages. Maybe then the Great Things we do are even greater.
But there humanity is, scattered and divided, when we get to the first of the patriarchs and matriarchs, Abram and Sarai. I can’t help but thinking Sarai gets kind of a crappy deal in all of this. Sure Abram is promised that he will be blessed and make a great nation. But Sarai is barren; how great a mockery that must seem to her? Then they go to Egypt and Abram throws Sarai under the bus to save his own life. I’m not saying that I don’t understand why he wants to save his own skin, but I can’t imagine Sarai relished the thought of being taken as wife (which sounds more like concubine, frankly) of the Pharaoh when she’s already married. Yes, the Pharaoh is punished and wisely returns Sarai to her husband, but I can’t help but imagine the pain and heartbreak she must have suffered. But then again, perhaps not. Perhaps she was willing to endure whatever was necessary to protect her family. There’s nothing said one way or the other.