Chapter 6: the Story of Isaac

It’s weird to think that Isaac was nearly forty when he got married. Sarah never saw her son get married; she died when she was 127, and Isaac must have been around 36 at that time. I wonder if Sarah still doubted God’s promise that Abraham would be the father of many? She had watched her son grow up past normal marrying age without ever, apparently, having an interest in any girl. It would have been hard for both Abraham and Sarah to trust God through this entire ordeal.

It makes you wonder how old Rebekkah was. Nahor, Abraham’s brother, was her grandfather. Nahor probably had his son Bethuel at a normal age, though, and Bethuel probably had Rebekkah at a normal age, while Abraham didn’t have Isaac until he was 100 years old. They may have been around the same age, then, but that would put Rebekkah way beyond the age that a man would give his daughter away to be married.

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Chapter 5: the Story of Abraham

When God spoke to Abram, in Oursler’s telling, Abram recognized His voice as the same voice that spoke to his famous forefathers. I wonder if you get a sense of Adam and Noah and Abraham and all the others when God speaks audibly to you? I wonder if it seems ancient and sacred? I have never heard His voice like that, but it sounds interesting.

Oursler says that Abram put “Sarai on a donkey beside him” when he set out on his God-led journey. I don’t agree with this sentiment, because in the admittedly very few books that I have read on Jews and life back in those days, women were not respected at all and they were the ones to walk while the man was riding the donkey. I can see where Oursler would assume that Sarai would be the one on the donkey, because today we have certain views of chivalry and respect for women, but back then they simply didn’t have that.

It’s always interesting to think about what must have been going through Abraham and Isaac’s minds when Abraham tied Isaac up and put him on the altar to be sacrificed. The relief that they both must have felt afterward, and the gratitude that the sacrifice didn’t have to go through, must have been massive. That was at least one time in history when worship would have been utterly sincere.

Chapter 4: the Tallest Building in the World

I think it’s a really good observation Oursler makes when he says, “He realized the truth to which these fresh generations were blind and deaf ~ that the only progress the soul can make is backward toward Paradise.” Humanity might be getting technologically smarter, but all the technology is pulling us further and further from God. It’s a major distraction, and nobody in today’s world can deny it. Whereas you’ll hear a lot of people say they feel closer to God when they go camping or hiking ~ when they turn their backs on the bustle of civilization and enjoy the tranquility of nature.

I truly wonder what must have been going through the mind of the person who invented the first gods.

It would have been pretty funny to see all the workers on the Tower of Babel so confused when God changed their languages. But it would have been terrifying to be one of them. Imagine suddenly not being able to understand anyone’s words! Your friends, your brothers ~ and suddenly you have no idea what they’re saying. It would have been very lonely to walk around the half-constructed tower and not find anyone whose speech you could understand. Some of them must have wondered at first if something was wrong with them, until they realized that nobody else seemed to understand anyone either. And they were probably frightened that they wouldn’t be able to understand their wives and children when they returned home.

I wonder if they did?

Chapter 3: Noah and the Flood

Oursler mentions in the first paragraph of this chapter that Adam and Eve lived for a very, very long time, and that’s something that I always forget. According to the math in the Bible, Adam was only 126 years short of seeing the birth of Noah, but he was alive when Noah’s father Lamech was born. We don’t know how old Eve lived to be, but we can expect she had a long lifetime as well. They watched as the world steadily declined from the perfection they had witnessed in the Garden to the evil of Noah’s time. It must have been hard to stay hopeful through all that.

With all his preaching,” Oursler says, “Noah had made not a single convert.” I hadn’t thought of the idea that Noah must have told others about what he was doing and why. I assumed they knew, of course, because this was a massive boat that Noah was building for apparently no reason, unless he lived near the sea, which I don’t know. But he was a good man, and so it’s possible ~ even probable ~ that he would have tried to save someone. But in all the time it took to build the ark, nobody listened.

It’s interesting looking at the genealogy in Genesis 5. When you do the math, you find that Lamech, Noah’s father, died five years before the flood. But his grandfather, Methuselah, famous for being the longest-lived person in history with 969 years, was alive when the flood began. In fact, when you add Noah’s 600 years to Lamech’s 182 before he was born and Methuselah’s 187 years before Lamech was born, you get ~ 969 years. The exact same amount of time that Methuselah lived. That means it’s possible that Methuselah himself died in the flood. How long would he have lived if the flood hadn’t happened?

It must have rained for a long time before people started getting concerned. And it must have been hard for Noah and his family to ignore the screams for help coming from outside the ark.

A really interesting thing is that we have no idea where Noah lived before the flood. He could have been an American for all we know! When the floodwaters rose, the ark could have been swept anywhere.

Oursler doesn’t talk about the race of Noah’s sons, but I know that Ham’s name meant “dark,” Shem’s “dusky,” and Japheth’s “bright” or “fair” (Information I received from Chris Williamson’s book, “One But Not the Same”). This, I think, may be an indication of their ethnicity. But in order for Noah to be the father of three sons of different skin tones, he had to have been black, because genetically, a white person cannot produce black offspring, while black people can produce offspring of any color. But it makes sense that Noah would be black if you consider Adam to have been black ~ the color would have been passed down the line.

Anyway, Oursler says that Ham was the father of black-skinned people, mostly Africans. Shem was the forefather of the Hebrew people. And Japheth was the progenitor of all of us Caucasians, which Oursler calls the Gentiles. For some reason, the Bible seems to come alive on a whole new level when you bring race into the picture. (In a good way!)

Chapter 2: Cain and Abel

In this second chapter about Cain and Abel, Oursler describes the Garden of Eden as being “lost and vanished.” Does he mean that it actually disappeared? I’ve often wondered what happened to it, because I don’t think the Bible ever said. But to have an entire garden simply vanish? That seems outrageous even to me. It was a place here on Earth, and though I know God can do anything He wants, if He’d just plucked it off the Earth I feel like the Bible would have mentioned it. But it said that He placed an angel to guard it. So does it still exist? And if it does, is it as perfect and unblemished as it was when it was created, or did death’s sting bite it too?

It must have been weird for Adam and Eve to leave the garden and find that they suddenly had no control over the animals, and that the animals were dangerous. The lions and lambs weren’t lying together anymore. The lions had gained a taste for meat, and that includes human. The first time Adam had to fight off an animal’s attack must have been shocking to him.

It had briefly occurred to me before that people didn’t have any written language back in the beginning, so how did the creation story get in the Bible? But Oursler intelligently deduces that Adam and Eve must have been very open to their kids about what had happened, and the stories were passed down from generation to generation until it was finally written. That’s a good point. I like it.

And really, if anyone should know how the world began, it was Adam and Eve. The creation story is a simple one if you think about it, and that’s one reason why I find myself inclined to believe it. When humans make up a story pertaining to the origin of the human species, they think up something complicated like a massive explosion or gradual evolution over billions of years. But with the creation story in the Bible, all you’ve got is, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

It’s interesting that sacrificial offerings were invented so early on in our history. Adam and Eve knew they had done something wrong and they were trying their hardest to make it right. And of course, they had no way of knowing that God wanted a blood sacrifice to atone for the sin they had caused as opposed to a crop offering. So it wasn’t Cain’s fault for giving the wrong thing. Both brothers gave the best of what they happened to raise. Cain’s fault was in becoming jealous because God liked Abel’s offering better. You can kind of understand where he’s coming from, though. He was probably hurt because he had given his best but God still liked Abel’s better, and so he lashed out in pain and anger.

I wonder how they knew that God preferred Abel’s offering, though. The Bible doesn’t tell us that part. It tells us that God looked on Abel’s offering with favor, but how did the little humans find out? We know He could speak to them audibly. Was it like a “Well done, good and faithful servant” type of moment?

You can tell that Cain has never done something this horrible before because after he killed Abel and God came and asked him where his brother was, his response was indignant. “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” You can hear the anger, the pain, maybe even shock about what he’d just done.

Cain protested when God cursed him and exiled him to a lifetime in which he could farm as hard as he ever had but would never get any crops in return (which, to be honest, would be the worst punishment imaginable for a farmer). That seems like a human thing to do, but it was also a stupid thing to do, because God complied with his protest that whoever saw him would kill him. Be careful what you say to God. Instead of getting killed himself, God gave Cain just what he wanted: protection from his fellow man ~ and with it, the doom of a long life of agony in work and in regret for the terrible thing he had done.

Finally, I want to leave off with this thought from Oursler’s book:

For God Himself is love and women are the principal bearers of His mercy in this world. They habitually give their love to men who do not in any way seem to deserve it.”