Archive for the ‘Great Mystery’ Tag
To save a heritage…. or my heritage … when everything seemed threatened again, after one thing led to another.
Did you ever take a lot of time with a story, to savor its meaning ….. like a good wine, to savor its aftermath? Had you ever connected the stories of inheritance in the family of Abraham – mostly the same lives, the same stories, over and over – in the variation of pride and vainglory from unconditional love which was part of the inheritance which developed out of “knowing?”
“There was constant strife between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot, as the complaints reached Abram.” Even among uncles and nephews, over keeping a separation … or over growth … or over the distinctions between their animals — which came out of knowing?
In the movement in the story, toward growth, note the human unrest when leaving again, even for the descendants of nomads. And so the preparation to go on a trip. For a seventeen year old, like his mother at that age, “being a shepherd,” Joseph was with his brothers, with the flocks in what they were born into. Sons of Jacob, living at a time in a generation when a woman’s worth was proven in child bearing. And there was much strife between the brothers over who their mothers were. When it came to the handmaids, Joseph was frequently with the sons of Bilhah, because his [other] brothers would demean the sons of Bilhah, who had been the handmaid of Joseph’s mother who had died; Joseph acted friendly toward these sons of Bilah.
And these were the settlements of the generations of Jacob, from their wanderings. The first cause of their wanderings was their flock, when Joseph was seventeen years old. As Joseph, in a sign of pride and vainglory, as a kid, behaved childishly, writes Rashi, fixing his hair and touching up his eyes so that he would appear handsome. And besides the gift of prophecy, at a young age, Joseph was a handsome tattle-tale. “Any evil he saw in his brothers, the sons of Leah, he would tell his father,” writes Rashi. His tales told to Jacob were about the violations of the norms of the day, by the first born sons of Jacob. And did your ears ring with the question of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (The better translation was not “keeper” but “watchman,” if you ever studied Hebrew.) Rashi writes that the sons of Leah, now grown men, demeaned the sons of the handmaids by calling them slaves, in a continuation of the story of who was better than whom. In the quiet conversion called family, Joseph suspected that the sons of Leah were engaged in illicit sexual relationships. On issues of giving everything up, on matters of sacrifice, the sons of Leah were also eating the limbs of living animals, on issues of torture, perhaps confusing true sacrifice with animal torture. And for reporting on these three matters, Rashi explains, Joseph was punished. In Genesis 37:31 it is stated that his brothers slaughtered and ate a kid … “When they sold him, and did not eat it alive.”
And so the significance of PLACE in the story, as Joseph came to Shechem: the place where the tribes sinned, where Dinah had been violated in days when Joseph was just a toddler, learning how to walk. And there the brothers, writes Rashi, plotted against him to put him to death.
Yes, before selling him, the brothers had intended to kill Joseph. So why would someone with the gift of prophecy walk into the trap? Could he not have saved himself, or was this a case where Joseph first needed to be saved, if he was to save. Even if he had the gift of prophecy, he had come to know THAT, as he had come to know his God. And Rashi writes, “in expression of modesty and eagerness, [Joseph] went with alacrity to fulfill his father’s command although he knew that his brothers hated him.”
On matters of self-esteem, it is of note that shepherds were considering the lowest of the low in the Egyptian culture. And people from Canaan were not normally even allowed to sit at table of an Egyptian. And so the importance of the first born son, Reuben, and the descendants of Ishmael, in the saving in the story of self-esteem. It was Judah, the fourth born son of Leah and Jacob, who “said to his brothers, ‘What is the gain if we slay our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh.’ And his brothers hearkened.”
As Joseph’s life is spared, by caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, so much like Isaac’s life had once been spared, like Jacob’s life had once been saved, and even like Abram had once saved the life of Lot before he spared the life of Isaac. As Joseph’s life is spared so much like ….. somehow the movement in the common stories seem repeated to a people who shared a past — so much like when Abraham had shown up, if you believed the story in the Qoran read at the end of Ramadan, on Eid Al Fitr, at the same PLACE as the same scene later played out, between Abraham and Isaac maybe a generation later, once Ishmael had been banished, like Adam and Eve — like in the beginning. So why not just end it all again, like on Mount Moriah, Noah-like without the ark? And God, if He let Abraham kill his son, then surely understood. About a killing like the physics in a sacrifice.
In the conflict over belonging, with too much independence, seemingly returning to the Promise Land, from where Jacob had come, to this place where a man had one wife and one God, note the very real relationship part of the story, when over time you had started to so privately reveal something about Yourself, from one generation to the next. As God tried to assimilate with His people, as the descendants of Abraham tried to assimilate into the New Creation after leaving the place of their birth behind. And that was the cause of hostility, for all the brothers?
Note that Joseph would not be as shaken as much as Isaac had been when Isaac really was the lamb that Abraham had planned to surrender now so long past. In another of these stories of betrayal over and over since Abraham really had betrayed Isaac in the Akedah, attempting to show how separate he was from all other men, just as Noah once had been, Joseph has acquired — with his epiphysis, in the invisible growth center, like within a bone, called soul — an inner strength.
In stories about identity, the missing connection for the sons of Leah is WHY they had been circumcised in the first place, indicative that they did not know God, since the time their sister Dinah, the daughter of Leah, had been violated? And that had occurred before the death of Rachel. And in retribution, the sons of Jacob, led by the second-born and third-born sons of Jacob and Leah, attempted to show their dominion over place after the sons of Jacob had rejected the proposal for an arranged marriage to Shechem. And their concern, fifteen or sixteen years before, had been about illicit relationships.
Where had Jacob been, with such a large family, for the past fifteen or sixteen years in his relationships with his sons? What had Jacob figured out about his birthright? The reporting that Joseph told him about the sons of Leah concerned still the illicit sexual relationships; “his master’s wife lifted her eyes, etc.” (Genesis 39:7).
As real people have to decide how to rebuild lives, in relationships, after the spouse you loved the most had died. Why had Jacob been called back to Canaan at the time his eldest sons were of the age for arranged marriages, with his pregnant wife Rachel? Who would these sons marry? Did you note the CALL, in this part of the story? Like the CALL that Abram once had answered? And in the CALL in the story of Jacob, did you look around at this part of the story for an answer to the “Where is the lamb?” question? As Jacob, like any nomad, wanted to go back to a place where he had been once known – for the arranged marriages …. so at least for the younger sons, living surrounded by his kinsmen . . . where at least the sons of Rachel would be able to marry suitable women through some form of arrangement, on issues over who was most pure.
Living with exception to these kinsmen, when Joseph to his family had allegedly become the outsider – or not. Did you note the obsessions in the family … over who was “chosen” or who had the birth right, as the sons of Leah, now grown men, demeaned the sons of the handmaids by calling them slaves – what ultimately leads to the demise. Of Joseph. For twenty-some years, in the perspective of Jacob (who had also left home for twenty years.) And what happens to those who obsess, who are not open to amending their lives — as a son reflects the father.
Yes, how the sons humbled Jacob, per these stories. The suggestion passed along was if you were to dwell in the house of Laban, just as Lot had dwelled in Sodom, couldn’t you engage in licentious behavior .. With your handmaids? When you did not know anyone else there, when your hope in relationships with your true love was blocked by the system, when the order of fathers involved the marriage of firstborn daughters, and you couldn’t do anything about that world you had moved into. (And so the perspective of Jacob’s sons in the dénouement of one story, into what they had been born into.)
What is the sacrifice, in the mores of the sons of Jacob who had been formed by their different mothers, or by the handmaids of their mothers? Note the separation in the story, involving the sons of Jacob, in the movement in the story of nomads. Where is the lamb now, for the grandsons of Isaac? I think that the story in this relationship between Joseph and his brothers and with their father is about what happens concerning the relationship AFTER the betrayal. Or what would happen to the bond, in the twenty-two years that transpired, before Jacob traveled to Egypt to find his son, to find salvation. After the sons of Jacob had betrayed Joseph …. after the sons of Jacob had betrayed their father.
When a father finds salvation through his son. Had there been a threat that the sons of Jacob would be disowned? What was their fears in the story over their own personal recognized illicit sexual relationships? Or had it been over eating the limbs of living animals, maybe like other members of Laban’s clan had done? What did this failure to keep kosher mean in their torture and eating of living animals? Or did this recall the command given to Jacob as he prepared to face off against Esau? That command in chapter 32 of Genesis had been “the children of Israel may not eat the displaced tendon, which is on the socket of the hip, until this day, for he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip, in the hip sinew.” And now their fears when there father heard reports about their behavior? And Jacob not dealing with the issue? When he had been so long immersed into the culture of Laban, which was his own mother’s family. Had you forgotten the moment when the hip injury occurred while wrestling with the angel in the night? Had you forgotten the visible injury …. the disabled in the story of Jacob and sons?
After all of Abram’s concern over purity, after what he had done to Hagar, which one day would result in circumcisions, leading up to the moment of the Akedah, what had become of the post traumatic stress of Isaac, in the conflict over belonging to the God of Abraham, because Abraham himself was so divided in his love, over issues of purity? Did you note the constant strife between the herdsmen — the stories over and over about shepherds — between brothers which always exists in relationships which come out of place, of bloodlines? When at this point in the Book of Genesis, how many of these sons were the bastard sons of Jacob?
So did Abraham disown Hagar and her son when he set them free? What was the perspective in this family of Jacob? Had there been a threat that the sons of Jacob’s handmaids would be disowned, if not set free?
And so the question of birthright. Was this the immaturity of a youngster with a developing inner talent but given no real direction, in this the slow development of the gift of prophecy, using a talent for personal profit to become beloved? “Any evil he saw in his brothers” – the sons of Leah –“he would tell his father.” How did people deal with strangeness, over who were your half-brothers or your full brothers? Sons so much like Eve who felt that she could do anything because she came from the Garden of Eden where God dwelled, or over who your mother was? Contrast the God of Abram and the definition of self-esteem to the concepts of the sons of Jacob with Jacob’s limited sense still of one birth right, no better than any other people, or any one son if the Lord was really with you. In this evolutionary developing story, in the shared God of Abraham, Chosen People who one day come to have their own children if not PLACE.
There is a danger living around your own kinsmen, as we all come to think alike with God before seemingly forced out of the Land of Canaan? So, Joseph suspected that the sons of Leah were engaged in illicit sexual relationships. And for reporting on these three matters, Rashi explains, Joseph was punished … by his brothers.
Behold the sacrifice. In the offense that Joseph could hardly have remembered, Reuben had slept with Bilah. What I believe to be missing in the mystery of the Book of Genesis is that neither Isaac nor Ishmael, in trying to save Abraham – on matters of shame – ever reported what had almost happened to their respective mothers, on Mount Moriah. In a similar coverup, had Reuben, the first born son, ever explained to Joseph how Jacob had tried to take his birth right away like Jacob had with his own brother Esau? When did you discover that Jacob was this flawed hero? Or had this been another “Don’t tell your mother” moment which seemed a part of THE birth right. Much like a journalism major has no idea what they are getting into in a place like Russia or in the Philippines, it is dangerous work to want to be a theologian. So did Reuben love these Egyptian handmaids like he knew his father who engaged in illicit sexual relationships never had? And fifteen or sixteen years later, there is Joseph reporting on the illicit sexual relationships of the firstborn sons of Jacob. And for this, Rashi explains, Joseph – on matters of shame – was punished by his brothers. With all the wars which came out of identity connected to PLACE, there is sacrifice, as fathers over and over are sacrificing their sons. In stories about the seen and the unseen, note how just as a brother saved a brother, like in a reconciliation between Jacob and Esau, as Reuben suggested that Joseph be cast into this pit in the desert, “… do not lay a hand upon him.” So with all all the hoodwinking in between, about whether he had been killed, Reuben unknowingly first sacrificed his birthright out of his unconditional love for Bilah, and now consequently came to save the life of Joseph who was allied with the sons of Bilah.
Note the movement in the story of belonging which came out of a displacement in the story of Joseph. It was difficult when you left the PLACE where you grew up to search for a mate who was as pure as Sarah, as Rebekah, as Rachel while living outside the tribe, in the growing world. When it had been Rachel who had been most pure in the story of Joseph. That charley horse of the throat comes on the day that you recognize the part of Joseph in the invisible sacrifice with the birth right, while living outside the tribe – in what he had come to sacrifice, in his role of the lamb. Even when the world comes to adore you… from his own position of awkwardness, after being accused of raping the daughter of the chamberlain, in a family that slaughtered the king’s animals, Joseph is imprisoned. In “the ax to the frozen sea ending”in the dénouement of the story of Joseph, did you ever sense from his displacement the deep feeling like a charley horse of the throat when you recognize his Post Traumatic Stress disordering, about what is lost of the inheritance if not the birthright as TIME replaces PLACE, on issues of identity? Joseph had saved his brothers, but had not saved himself, and in his marriage to the daughter of a priest of the sun-god seemed to have sacrificed a future? In a “be careful for what you pray” story, the sons of Jacob survived as outsiders until their grandchildren’s grandchildren became slaves for the Egyptians, based upon Joseph’s sacrifice of his identity.
When into what they had been born, Joseph’s two sons were half-Egyptian, so Joseph surely came to understand all the turmoil among his brothers on concepts of what it means to be sons of servants, handmaids, slaves, or God’s Chosen — in sitting at table with Hebrews or even shepherds. As the Book of Genesis concludes, Joseph succeeds where Abraham fails, giving up forever whatever he had come to know of God … if Abraham had killed his first born son over issue of purity? Living in the “credentialed” world, in order to make a living there is a need presenting credentials to the proper authorities, in order to be recognized with the right to speak about the meaning of pedigree if not birth right … in the sacrifice of birthright, to start over? When every act of creation, noted Picasso, involves a form of destruction. And so again Abraham’s idea, to sacrifice the future – through a son. Could Jacob ever explain, like ABRAHAM could to his to his son that he had fathered Isaac not for the world — but for Sarah, after he had fathered Ishmael for the world, so that his God would not die? And so this story which reflects all the conflict and turmoil in the lives of Jacob and Sons, on world issues of insiders and outsiders? As Abraham had tried to make a sacrifice of his own purity before God with Sarah for others, few outsiders would ever understand the Akedah. Imagine the reaction of an outsider, if they ever came to understand the continuum ever since the story of Cain, that first born son of Eve and Adam, in the connection of sacrifice to purity and the future of the world. In the stories of real relationship, by the end of the Book of Genesis, the sons of Joseph had forever lost their blood purity, but lived on? And so begins the long period of time with the question, “dead or alive?” About the birthright, like in this story of Joseph – with the long-range repercussion, that the young never saw after what they were born into, so much like the hostility of Rebekah, after Isaac had married this outsider, through the arrangement by a servant of Abraham. To one day FEEL the inner hostility to the age-old institutions, by the servants.
In the Middle East where there still is constant strife between the herdsmen like between Abraham and his nephew Lot, the sons and grandsons of Abraham were still dealing with the post traumatic stress over issues of purity, on the inheritance, over who was better than who – selling their brothers off, contending with betrayal, pretending their prayers reached higher than the prayers of those who had lost their sense of PLACE in the world, in dealing with all their human and divine relationships, in preserving the heritage and somehow passing it on. Locate the innocent in each of the stories: in the story of Noah and in all of the stories concerning Abraham. To save the world? To be put into a position to save the world through his son, like the son of David built THE Temple, this one son of Jacob. To really save all of Israel… for a while. In the focus of salvation, locate the conflict over who was most pure, when a child had no choice over the purity of the world they were born into – when you had so many different mothers living in the Motherland, with a missing peace. In these stories of Identity about Native-born and the aliens, over who was better than who, I have come to learn somehow to pray for peace, even when I, so much like Cain, am no longer among the most pure.
You are welcome to follow this blog, along with 19 other people who together are trying to resolve the Greatest Mystery… through story.
Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries
Yūsuf ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm
donate, if you ever in your life felt chosen.
Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries
In stories about identity, Lot’s wife was “one of them.” Note the movement in the story of bonds which came from compounded belief, of a real human death. When you were surrounded by people who shared your belief, but with all of the real human doubt between people and families, that doubt would continue to be a theme over a lifetime, in this evolutionary process toward forgiveness which begins with the remembrance of the relationships of the father of faith, with his God and his sons — with the suffering.
The strangeness of it all, after the Great Flood — A SACRIFICE. What a bizarre idea, to sacrifice the future, through a son. Imagine the reaction of Rebekah when she heard the story, as an outsider, about Lot’s wife. Chosen, and learning each other’s strangeness. All these Latter Day Saints concerned about the private lives of this couple, as if it was anyone else’s concern – as if it was anyone else’s concern in the private lives of these men – whether a family would remain kosher. With the concern of all the latter day saints about the degree of how orthodox.
Yeah, so much like the shared doubt at this stage between Lot and Abraham, who are in the story, so all alone from the communities in which they lived, per the Book of Genesis. And over and over the theme of separation: “There was constant strife between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot, as the complaints reached Abram about the misbehavior of Lot’s herdsmen, about the arguments between their shepherds. Therefore the elder Abram said to Lot: ‘Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen. For we are brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if thou take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’”
Note the Garden of Eden in the story, in the separating, without hesitation, of Lot from Abram. Lot made the choice to journey eastward where he pitched his tent near Sodom, which was the same direction Adam and Eve had once headed after their banishment. Abram was left alone near Beth-El, receiving from his G*d another of His promises.
Sodom and Gomorrah were among five old cities east of the Tigris River, which for twelve years had paid tribute to the conquering powerful King Chedarlaomer of Elam, until the five cities rebelled. And so a war for independence; after thirteen years of independence, the king of Elam with the help of three neighboring kings marched upon the valley of the Jordan and met the enemy near the bitumen pits in the valley of Siddim, trapping the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. A battle was fought and among the captives of King Chedarlaomer was Abram’s nephew, who had remained in Sodom. A messenger who had escaped from battle carried the news to Abram that his nephew was enslaved. Gatherering 318 of his men, Abram pursued Chedarlaomer, and in a nocturnal attack, aided by many a divine miracle, his guys defeated the superior force, freeing the people – including Lot – recapturing all the loot, bringing back in a march of triumph the captives while singing praises to the G*d of Abram. Accompanied by Lot, Abram then met the king of Sodom along with the 465 years old King Malkitzedek of Salem (Melchizedek) who, if you believed what someone seems to have inserted into the story, was the actual son of Noah, named Shem. In accordance with his priestly office, Malkitzedek gave to Abram bread and wine, adding to a typical offering his true and simple blessing: “Blessed be Abram of the Most High G-d, Who has delivered thy enemies into thy hand.” Abram then gave him a tenth of everything he had, in the aftermath of the war for independence for Sodom and Gomorrah.
Standing on the height near Beth-El, long before this war of King Chedarlaomer, Abram and Lot had gazed over a wide fruitful valley of the Jordan, like the rich land of Egypt they had just left behind. But the people in the valley “were wicked and sinners before G*d exceedingly.” Although he lived in Sodom, it is said that Lot was the exception to the cruelty of the Sodomites to all strangers. In a story that repeats itself, as Sodom is totally annihilated just as the entire world seemed to be in the story of the Great Flood, Sodomites offered no hospitality to a passing stranger, no consideration for the poor. It is said that because one of Lot’s daughters once secretly had given food to a stranger near starvation, this daughter had been burned in public (see the story of Plitith). And so the pleading of Abram before G*d to save the cities for the sake of the righteous who might be living in Sodom, after G*d had informed Abram of His intention to destroy Sodom, where Lot (who he had saved once already) lived.
When words carry weight. As the words take root….. ‘Take this’ bond. Before comparing the G*d of Abraham to the G*d of Isaac, note another separation between Abram and Lot, in in the conflict over belonging,with so much independence? Note the very real relationship part of the story, when over time you had started to so privately reveal something about Yourself. From one generation to the next. So to be so personally given a choice. As G*d tried to assimilate with His people, in a seemingly populated world. Since mostly words connected to Spirit carry weight, if you did not understand this story about the nameless wife of Lot, you would never understand what would happen on Mount Moriah between Abraham and Isaac.
Note the conflict over power in the story, when surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition, whether as the last person on earth — or the first — and feeling so all alone? It is never stated that Lot had been tortured in his captivity, but I think that he had been. When, like any nomad, you wanted to go back to a place where you were once known – in the arranged marriage, where at least your wife was known. And so the nameless wife of Lot, living surrounded by her kinsmen, but living with exception to these kinsmen, with Lot and all the strangeness of Lot.
In a variant of dealing with denial, there was the doubt. As the locals, attempting to show their dominion over the place, were having kids, to address all the doubts in times again and again of annihilation …. Post-war? In the stories of the past — and also in the present — in another relationship story about what it does mean to be CHOSEN, there is over and over indiscriminate human annihilation, as real people have to decide how to rebuild lives, in relationships. Maybe after losing one daughter who had already been burned alive in public.
The all-knowing story-teller, working for The Academy of Private Detection, before answering the question whether the G*d of Abraham would die when Abraham died, had some exploring to do? Chosen, like in a mate, needing a marriage certificate, or a death certificate, or just a wife, if the the G*d of Abraham would survive for his son, with the involvement of political and Spiritual powers?
From age to age, from east to west, WHERE you come to feel a Living G*d, it is story that shapes the way you think, as you come to know in the ritual of seasons, with at least this quasi-religious timetable, where to find a Living G*d. Through story, image is defined by others, especially in the way of Lot’s nameless wife. Compare how you prayed to others — not so much that you might pray better, but to find the Living G*d.
Comparing things was the definition of poetry. Compare the perspective in a story — from the perspective of Abraham — with the voice of the story-teller. In the case of Lot’s wife, how would you acquire a sense of belonging without learning about the spirits, in the relationship part of the story, when over time you had started to so privately reveal something about Yourself, from one generation to the next? Not so much the holy Spirit, as my holy Spirit that led to the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God.” Period. Paragraph.
Note the reluctance of the narrator if not the Author of Life to state the self-evident about the inequality which threatened stability: The fear of the Sodomites of outsiders, as if there was not enough there in the way of riches if all of the world discovered the riches – and then one day no one would be rich, like Lot. Always note the outsider(s) in the story of the Book of Genesis. And so the conflict of the G*d of Abram with the god of Sodom found more in the land instead of on the earth. Counting the cost of the earth of the irreversible environmental damage in the unsustainable world of straight growth, without death.
Starting over. To write it all down. Ever since memorizing the Abraham Lincoln line delivered about what was so self-evident, I have a reluctance to state the self-evident. Were all men really created equal? I feel safe to say that the Christian world has never given this story about Lot’s wife its due, if I could understand the comment that I heard ten days ago from a former priest: “It’s all fiction.” So in Catholic seminaries, young men are not taught to feel for the emotions that the characters in the stories had to live with – in this case Lot, trying to reach some understanding of what had happened. And what happens to someone who could not discover through stories real feeling — which came out of stories of betrayal — when you are surrounded by your kinsmen?
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it is story that not only shapes the way you think, but the way that you pray. When doubt met belief. Aspiritual, not unlike being called asexual, from the reduced set of circumcisions like when you mother died …. or your father. To find the broken Spirit of God in ghosts, with the joy, the sorrow and the glory all eventually broken in a former priest, living with the reduced set of circumcisions in his inheritance, dealing with loss.
Note the unconditional in this story, for those willing to keep moving, to start over – not to be made into a statue, starting over, again. There was the Obedience, to move forward with Lot’s fertility, and not the culture that you had grown up in. When Lot and his family had been outsiders.
The place in the story was always important – like the PLACE of origin. Feel the desire of Lot’s nameless wife who was from Sodom or Gommorah (over issues of PLACE-related-always-to-fertility?) which becomes obsessive to her and is what ultimately leads to her demise. And what happens to those who obsess, who are not open to amending their lives?
Note the movement in the stories about identity, about fleeing, but marked as a pillar of salt, or marked only to laugh about identity, if you did not look for real human meaning in these stories?
Marked: The story of Lot’s wife and the evolutionary vow of obedience was connected to statues? I do not believe what happened in Sodom was about the sexual practices. There. But I am in a minority. I think that the story in this relationship between Lot and his nameless wife was about what happens concerning the relationship AFTER the betrayal — Or what would happen to the bond?
There was Abram’s concern over purity, after what he had done to Hagar per the just completed chapter, which one day would result in circumcisions. The suggestion passed along was if you were to dwell in Sodom, like Lot, couldn’t you engage in licentious behavior .. and outside of Sodom where you did not know anyone and had lost your betrothed and any hope in relationships, couldn’t you do anything, without the knowledge of anyone you knew. (And so the perspective of Lot’s daughters in the dénouement of the story, after their life in Sodom was destroyed.)
In the years that he had spent with Uncle Abraham, Lot had absorbed what he had witnessed of Abraham’s great hospitality. Did you pay attention to the chronology in these stories? So sitting at the gates of Sodom, Lot saw and greeted two strangers, inviting them to his tent. In doing so, Lot knew full well that he risked his life. Having learned of the presence of strangers, people of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house, demanding Lot give up the two visitors to be dealt with in the usual manner. In vain did Lot try to quiet the people outside his home, persuading them to leave the strangers alone. The more Lot spoke, the more excited the crowd became until finally the crowd threatened to kill Lot … until the angels (the strangers), as if was recorded, sent blindness on the Sodomites — if the Sodomites did not already have vision deficits. And so the PLACE in the story, as dawn was breaking. Invited to spend the night at the home of Lot and his nameless wife, the visiting angels urged Lot to flee with his family to avoid being caught in the impending destruction coming to this PLACE of iniquity. And though it is never specifically said, many suspect it was the nameless wife of Lot, as a native of Sodom, who had told someone that strangers were at their home. So it was Lot’s wife who had collaborated with her life-long friends and relatives? The command given LOT was “Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away.” With his own virgin daughters betrothed to men of Sodom, Lot did delay, the angels took hold of Lot’s hand, the hands of his nameless wife and two nameless daughters, and brought them out of the city of Sodom. And in my view, the angel who took Lot’s hand appeared in the image and likeness of a female, since gender seems important in the story.
When words carry weight, or since mostly words connected to Spirit carry weight, compare the G*d of Abraham to the god of Lot’s nameless wife, in the conflict over belonging to Sodom? Ever since the greatest commandment in the Garden had been to know G*d, who knew G*d best? As the nameless wife of Lot, note she was given a chance to be saved, according to so many who embezzled the story for their own purposes. Had the nameless wife of Lot even recognized that these strangers were angels of G*d?
Did you grasp the resentment in the story? The real conflict in the story was not so much the people of Sodom and the punishment of Sodom, but what had come between Lot and the ideals of Lot’s nameless wife of who she was: over identity and belonging, and over who this G*d of Abraham and of Lot was. Was the nameless wife of Lot hostile that Lot had taken in strangers against the mores of the people of Sodom, of whom she was one? And there was now a threat to her own daughters that night, at the invitation of Lot. So that Lot might be saved? Outrageously, to save himself along with the angels of G*d, Lot had offered to sacrifice his own daughters to the crowd. And could you feel the later story to come when Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah? What kind of crazy theology was this?
It was a theme over a pillar of salt, like I envision, quite impersonally, in the ruins of Greek temples. And so the nameless wife of Lot, born into the nameless fears of Sodom, surrounded by the crowd of your kinsmen — as your loving wife, immersed into the culture of Sodom at her birth, had to decide, with or without unconditional love; in an arranged relationship, determined by family, with existing post traumatic stress on issues of trust, like what still existed today in parts of the world where the tribesman of Afghanistan would never let you talk to or see his wife, much less tell you his wife’s name. Not unlike the norms or taboos of the men of Sodom? The theme, in the conflict of private and public lives, over who would be saved, and with the involvement – some kind of involvement – with the use of your fertility, in times of annihilation as you were so personally threatened, from having been immersed into a culture at birth, when sex became a form of punishment – or the thinking about the method of punishment which left most readers gasping; or later, in the conflict of private and public lives, out of the thinking of the nameless daughters of Lot as a kind of reward, in a later story of incest which might have come as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in this incredible story.
Sodom and purity: To connect the dots about Sodom, about intimacy, in the placement of the story just after Ishmael had been born to Hagar. There is always the conflict over belonging to the G*d of Abraham, because Abraham himself was so divided in his love (over issues of purity), perhaps over whom his new son belonged to? Did you note the constant strife between the herdsmen — the stories over and over about shepherds — of Lot and of Abraham which always exists in relationships? (There are silent themes of PLACE, Bloodlines, and the fertility of Sarai.) When at this point in the Book of Genesis, Ishmael was the bastard son of Abraham.
To connect the dots concerning Sodom and purity . . . to give to someone, to pass on. Philanthropy, on issues of accommodation. The vehicle that carried the future. Language. Earth. Children. War and its never ending aftermath, when rape is about power and domination over your victim. To slowly invent words to pass on to your children, if not story. To communicate deep feeling while unknowingly dealing with a tragic hero — Lot. Concerning the resentment in this story, didn’t the nameless wife of Lot resent if not Abram, Lot? Because she had gone along once already with Lot, which had resulted in one daughter who had been burned in public, because the girl had been hospitable to one stranger. What was this selfish theology of Lot, demonstrated in how he was willing to sacrifice the purity of his betrothed daughters to save himself and these strangers?
When there might not be enough to share, with strangers? And people, and I along with them, always thought the conflict in Lot’s home was somehow associated with the G*d of Abraham? If you ever later sensed the hostility of Rebekah, living in the house around Abraham, to the male birthright to the eldest, did the nameless wife of Lot miss the uniqueness of Abraham in his day while living in a world of serial servitude and sex, for the nameless wives – over making a different kind of arrangement in his own life. (And hadn’t Abram heard the story of what happened first to the one daughter [was it their firstborn daughter?] of Lot before what happened to the entire city of Sodom.)
What quietly is in this story again was 1) Separation, 2) Slavery and/or indentured servants, 3) another nameless wife, 4) PLACE, in the story of purity, 5) SHARED dominion, 6) fear and 7) resentment. The people of Sodom used the riches from their fertility to simply grow more riches for themselves. And when an individual supersedes the “group think,” there would be grave punishment; the punishment to invoke a lasting fear in the community, to be spoken of for ages, dealt with threats of sexual punishment, which was an aftermath of war at the time. Because the fear of the Sodomites of outsiders was that there was not “enough” there in the way of riches if all of the world discovered the riches – and then one day NO one would be rich, like Lot had become living there. Or was their fear about drought and famine, as the Sodomites made PLACE their god, in the Post Traumatic Stress which lingered since the time Lot had once been held captive? SO to keep the outsider out!
Did you feel the concern of Lot’s wife over what she was leaving behind, like a statue, as Lot’s nameless wife looked back? According to Midrash, Lot and his nameless wife had four daughters, two of whom were married. The two married daughters and their husbands, along with the two future bridegrooms, remained in Sodom and perished. Unable to move on from what she had born into, note the lack of obedience in Chosen People to the heard commands of the angels of the G*d of Abraham. When a self-esteem of the people of Sodom, including the nameless wife of Lot — in more than just another story of pride — is, along with their god all based upon one PLACE, so in contrast to the G*d of Abraham. And thus the angels needed to grab the hands of Lot’s family.
A Promise Land. From a nomadic perspective of the infinity of G*d not connected to one PLACE, the G*d of Abraham is not connected to one place. Contrast the G*d of Abram to the thinking of his nephew, Lot, who had such a need to be lead by Abram. Note the importance of the PROPHET in his life: the definition of esteem was that which came out of not just the G*d of Abram but, in this evolutionary developing story, in the shared G*d of Abraham. The mystery in the promised vows, in the relationship from vows that led to the Great Covenant – the unconditional relationship – is based upon love and forgiveness. A Chosen People, who one day come out of their own PLACE, no better than any other people, if the Lord was really with you. And so much no longer like Eve who felt that she could do anything because of the place to which she had been born.
So contrast the concept of punishment that the Sodomites, if not the nameless wife of Lot, surrounded by so many of her kinsmen, the very same human condition, when the last person on earth — or the first — feeling so all alone, as you lost your sense of place. View this nameless wife of Lot looking back at horror to see what happened to her city of birth, with so many loved ones including the betrothed men of her two surviving daughters, like had once happened to one of her own daughters. So contrast that concept of punishment for the Sodomites…. with the concept of the punishment that came to Sodom that takes away a future, like the punishment bestowed upon what is now the nameless world that existed before the time of Noah, intended for the strangers, with the punishment that the Sodomites threatened just for Lot — the sexual punishment that always burdens the victim’s future.
Using the method of Spiritual Exercises from stories, when I was there in the story, as evangelization did not work for me, I had to read and reflect for myself what was going on in the story, not concentrating solely on the ending. With a philanthropy—that you might have what I had, in what seemed a normal way of life. Scripture is nothing but the history of how people who went before us learned how to pray. Abraham. Isaac. Immersion. The arrangements when marrying an outsider, with some new need for evangelization, replacing the old ways of immersion? So I did believe in parochial education, along with what it was in the Picasso line, about creation: that every act of creation involves a form of destruction. And who better than a woman to appreciate the words, in the days when maternal life was threatened with each birth of a newborn? When you are putting it all on the line, for the first born and the next born: “This is MY BODY.”
The lesson that a life-long nomad named Abram seemed to come to one day out of PLACE was that of Chosen People, no better than any other people, if the Lord was really with you. Ignatius of Loyola described spiritual consolation as breaking down all barriers – the barriers between “us” and “them,” and in order to walk in the ways of God, ultimately between “us” and G*d. People who develop human Spirit into something divine had to have an awareness about ghosts. Like the ghost of Lot’s wife, with an importance of the binding in the relationships, in stories about unconditional love. When your relationships were so alive, did you feel a great desire for naming in all of the stories about native population, and the wandering Jew, through identity stories about Native-born and the aliens, over who was better than who.
Could you find the unconditional in this story, for those willing to keep moving, to start over – not to be made into a statue? If the unconditional had ever been there? Or did you feel the anger of a woman after, over time, you had started to so privately reveal something about yourself, from one decade to the next? And Lot had tried to save only himself, because he had guessed it was his nameless wife who had informed on him?
As the nameless wife of Lot was given a chance to be saved, even after she had revealed the presence of the strangers in her home. What happened was that Lot’s wife choose not to listen to the angels of Lot’s G*d, questioning the truth about Lot’s G*d after Lot had tried to save only himself, because he knew G*d best? And so the real human resentment in the story, not unlike how the locals of Sodom more loudly attempted to show their dominion over PLACE.
When your prayers were so alive, and you wanted others to then have the same experience… passing on the Spirit in some kind of Abraham-like Crazy Glue, in a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving G*d, on issues of inheritance and birth right. Did you recognize the shift by the end of the story that is now all about all of the daughters of Lot, if compounded belief is to stay with the descendants of Lot and his daughters? Like in a dénouement of the story, passing on the power in bonds between your own people, concerning Lot’s wife and daughters: all along the focus in the culture seemed to be allegedly on the male and his tribe, in Sodom. It was always hard in this impersonal world, on this earth, to so personally live with your God, with the G*d of Abraham who stirred and disrupted Chosen People, when to be “chosen” is not something a person learns to be, but is an identity contested and fought over, between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, and always the tension in this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories.
Locate the innocent in each of the stories: in the story of Noah, the story of Abel, the story of Adam, and in all of the stories concerning Abraham. Locate his conflict with others, trying to use their power, unblessed. When you had different mothers, note the difference between the brothers, or their nephews – the one who played the system, and the one who did not. When one guy had the world by the tail, and the youngest had suffered as a result of the Great War. And note what happens as you are surrounded by your own kinsmen who all think in the same manner, about good and evil.
When surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition, needing a certificate, of birth, of marriage, of baptism, of death, or needing a wife, or just a son, if the G*d of Abraham would survive for the future, note the involvement of political and Spiritual powers? Through story, when surrounded by so many of your kinsmen, the very same human condition shared, image is defined by others. And when surrounded by people suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, fertility was thought to be just another weapon of war? Against the mores of the people of Sodom, of whom she was one, Lot had taken in strangers, against the wishes of his nameless wife? So Lot thought he was better than the people of Sodom, as he, maybe like his G*d, tried to assimilate with His people, living with the reduced set of circumcisions post-war.
Note the underlying belief by all the member of Lot’s family that IT was nonsense, maybe like your view of the story itself, concerning any need to be saved, for another day, in another place. So was it nonsense that the fertility of the daughters of Lot had to be saved for the future, in any post-war world, from a cultural atmosphere, as people can then be triggered consciously or unconsciously. After the recovery of the next generation from Post Traumatic Stress Disordering which came from all war, note the recorded stories distinguishing good from evil. These stories were told about hope, for a better world, with the threat to institutions, needing to be saved like the euro? How much was Sodom like the present day part of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, surrounded by the crowd of your kinsmen just north of Riyadh, with the concerns about purity in the Wahhabi heartland? Or how much was Sodom just like Russia, wanting to keep the outside world away? With all the micro-managing bean-counters, in a world left to the bean counters who seemed to forget the goal was thought to be ensuring the sustainability of a nation through its fertility and its food. Like in Ukraine or Crimea, trying to use a power, unblessed? As few nations on earth had ever lost so many people like Russia or Ukraine in famine, or in the what the western world calls World War II — The Great Patriotic War. And in this great haunting, suffering was still so alive.
In the detachment which came from war, having grown up in the suburban world with a cultural atmosphere over the last 50 years of the suburban world, note a child or grandchild who did not share her father’s beliefs – about religion, about government, about the world, in times of revolution – after system collapse? And so the estrangement, in the detachment. In the detachment which came from war, even in suburban life, there is dysfunction out of leaving it all behind. There is the disordering which came from war, with varying degrees of compassion and cruelty, equanimity and fear, with the pathology which affected the expression of feeling as a result of conflict. And there is the mental illness as some kind of scarlet letter of our day, with the fear of mental illness which came out of the cultural atmosphere of war. And after we sent our sons to war, they came home, to settle in among us. Like in Sodom, locate the source of belief, held by all the member of Lot’s family — or like with the former priest born in 1930 — that it was all just nonsense.
By the end of the story, there is a change in the PLACE in the story, where Lot will have to live with an aim of shared “dominion” — a word suggesting an absolute fierce exercise of mastery. In his new location, in order to live with himself, Lot would need to seek forgiveness concerning how his action led to the death of his nameless wife as neither he nor his nameless wife ever really believed in each other. In the end, Lot is in need of forgiveness — from the G*d of Abraham as well as from his daughters.
Like in Sodom, locate the innocence in the story, and what happens to the innocent. In these stories about preserving a Spirit amid system collapse, did you see over and over a destruction of what institutions previously built … and concerning the themes of what the young are born into, an invisible change?
There were always these gradual changes…..in what is called systemic theology, followed by the fear and the anger. Was an outsider like me, really ever a threat to THEIR G*d or to them, if I risked my life in hospitality? In the days of rampage, as the Islamic State demands conversion in the manner that Abraham circumcised his own slaves, Islamic militants called D’aesh have attacked Christian communities in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, burning churches while trying to annihilate their God along with the faithful. In Iran, people of the Baha’i faith have been jailed and killed; in Pakistan Ahmadi Muslims suffer mob violence. And all over the Middle East, anti-Semitism has erased Jewish communities. The suggestion passed along by these adherents of Islam, in kidnapping young women, was ‘couldn’t you engage in licentious behavior,’ if you were to dwell in these circumstances? Were these the same perversions connected to Abraham’s concern over purity, after what he had done to Hagar per the just completed chapter, with the long-term consequences.
When you lived under a dominant power of church and state… With the FEMALE fear of life versus the MALE fear of death, fertility was thought to be just another weapon of war? Note all the human perversions and conversions associated with the sons of Abraham.
And so the same question: “Abraham, where IS the lamb?” After you have been sent by outsiders to war? When the new wars were the old wars, over this God of Abraham, as sons set out to prove how they have come to know God like Abraham?
TheDeacon’s Bench, Greg Kandra
creighton online ministries