Genesis 14:17–24

1417 After Abram returned after striking down Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, the king of Sodom came forward to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh, now known as the Valley of the King.
     18 And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought bread and wine. He was priest of El Elyon (God Most-High). 19 And Melchizedek blessed Abram, saying: 
          “Blessed be Abram by El Elyon,
               possessor of heaven and earth,
          20 and blessed by God Most-High
               who delivered your foes into your hand
And Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything.
     21 And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the property for yourself.” 
     22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I promised YHWH, God Most-High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take even a thread to a sandal-strap of anything that is yours, so you can’t say, ‘I’m the one who made Abram rich.’ 24 Nothing for me! However, what the servants have consumed they may keep, and those who went with me (Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre) may take their share.


After a successful adventure, Abram meets two leaders with different responses to his return of the people kidnapped and property confiscated.

The first met was Melchizedek, the priest/king of Salem. [Note: A mnemonic for spelling this name is the cadence of the Mickey Mouse Club song—MEL-CHI-ZEDEK.] Later interpreters will associate his presence with the Davidic reign from JeruSalem.

Melchizedek comes forward with bread and wine and a blessing. For those in a later branch into Christianity, it is a reminder of how common is their tradition of communion/eucharist—simple gifts, simply offered. In response Abram gives 10% of the recovered property.

King Bera of Sodom, comes, still sticky from his time in a tar pit, with his generous offer to receive the recovered people (you can’t be king without subjects, even poor ones) and to leave all the property in Abram’s hands.

With all the recovered people to fee and 90% of the property, Abram rejects this offer by Bera in no uncertain terms. Abram sees this “bargain” as a future trap that will diminish his care for his extended family and turn it into a suspected means of his own aggrandizement. Bargainers for deals usually carry an unspoken assumption of being able to take, later, what they left on the table—to put the giver in debt to them.

Abram does look after the needs of those who adventured with him, those who risked their lives with him.

Some scholars see here the adaption of an old Akkadian story that glorifies a victorious king. If so, it is undercut by Abram’s underhanded tactic of a surprise night attack and his disinterest in profiting from a successful venture.

Who would you bless, today, without an expectation to profit?

Genesis 14:1–16

141 When Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim: 2 they went to war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (now Zoar). 3 These last five kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (the Sea of Salt). 4 For twelve years they were subjects of Chedorlaomer, and they rebelled in the thirteenth year. 5 In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and his three allied kings attacked the Rephaim at Ashteroth-Karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-Kiriathaim, and 6 the Horites in the mountains of Seir near the wilderness of El Paron. 7 Returning, when they came to En-Mishpat (Kadesh) they struck at the Amalekites and the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-Tamar.
     8 Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bera/Zoar, battled 9 Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar in the Valley of Siddim—four kings against five.
     10 The Valley of Siddim had pit after pit of tar (bitumen/asphalt). Retreating, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah hid in the pits and the rest fled to the mountains. 11 The four kings took everything of substance from Sodom and Gomorrah, including their food, and went away. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, who was living in Sodom, and all he had.
     13 A survivor came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was dwelling by the Terebinths of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and Aner who were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard his relative was taken captive, he marshaled his house-born slaves (318) and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 Abram divided his force during the night and struck and pursued them as far as Hova, north of Damascus. 16 Abram brought back all the looted property, returned his relative, Lot, and his property, and women and others as well.


And now for something completely different. If you follow the Documentary Hypothesis of JEP, we are here engaged with a D of historical record. All the arguments of what passage falls under which rubric reminds us of the futility of trying to dissect an animal to find its life essence or finally separate the good from the no-good within our self. A literary collage cannot be explained, only experienced. Though, to explain, we will attempt.

From coming to dwell at Hebron, now the seat of one small incipient nation, we are summarily tossed into international intrigue and war. Abram eventually comes to do battle with far-off Mesopotamian kingdoms (his birthplace) and engage the leadership of a principal city in his own Canaan area (Salem/Jerusalem).

Rather than continue an intimate description of the stages of Abram’s on-going relationship with G*D’s promises, we are flown to a height of 30,000 feet to see a geostrategic structure within which Abram’s small footprint is located. We should be reminded of the frailty of this post-Flood project so dependent upon progeny and the risks of such already run in Egypt.

The spectacle includes 4 kings vying against 5 and the losers jumping into tar pits. There is a mandatory film car chase to rescue the Capo’s nephew, Lot, and their related, extended family property. Abram trains his Dirty Dozen (118 vs. a horde) and essentially claims influence to north of Damascus (a fourth of the way back to Haran).Lot, and all his property, were rescued and returned to Sodom. What a relief. Will Sodom be so grateful it will change its wicked ways, which were described in verse 1? Well, we’ll see.

Genesis 13:13–18

1313 The people of Sodom were very wicked and offended YHWH. 14 And YHWH said to Abram, after Lot left, “Raise your eyes where you are and look to the north, south, east, and west. 15 I will give you and your seed, all the land you see—forever. 16 I will make your descendants like the dust of earth; only someone who could count dust particles could count all your seed. 17 Rise, walk through this land’s length and breadth. I give it to you.” 
     18 Abram journeyed with his tent and came to settle by the Terebinths of Mamre, by Hebron, and built an altar for sacrifice to YHWH.


The land of Jordan’s Plain looked good and healthy. Yet, Sodom was already a known problem—a snake in the garden, as it were. This little descriptor will grow into a significant episode in Chapter 19.

Abram had said to Lot, “You go one way, and I’ll go another.” As Lot makes his choice and leaves, Abram looks around to the four directions as G*D commends Abram to this place, as far as the eye can see. [Note: There is no seeing of the indigenous people on the land. Dominion will re-enter the story, for humans always seem to have someone they can curse/blame.]

While Lot travels, Abram puts down roots by walking the fence-line of his horizon. Like an animal marking their territory, Abram, using a common legal ritual, claims an area (length x width) on which he and his seed will multiply.

The first simile for Abram’s becoming fruitful and multiplying is that of dust. From dust have all ’adams come. To dust shall all ’adams go. Between times, all ’adams multiply, like dust to more dust in every place.

As Abram traveled by stages to Canaan, to Egypt and back again, so, now, Abram traveled by stages throughout the land promised by his G*D—finally coming to settle near Hebron by the Terebinths of Mamre. Some translations use a more familiar reference to a grove of Oaks. The trees in question show up in many places through Hebrew scripture. The first reference is in the last chapter, near Shechem—the Terebinth of Moreh. We will find Terebinth where angels visit and battles shake the ground (Goliath and David).

It is at this grove of trees where people had found wisdom (knowledge of good and not-good) that will lead us back to Sodom. For this echo of Exile and Flood, we await Chapter 18.

Genesis 13:5–12

135 And Lot, who journeyed with Abram, also had flocks, herds, and tents. 6 The land could not support them both, for their possessions were so many they couldn’t live together. 7 There were quarrels between those who herded Abram’s livestock and those who herded Lot’s livestock. At the same time, Canaanites and Perizzites were also settled in the land. 
8 Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not dispute between ourselves, between our herders, for we are relatives. 9 Isn’t the whole of the land before you? Kindly part from me. If you go to the left, I shall go right; if you go right, I’ll go left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw the whole of the Jordan Plain—well-watered all the way to Zoar (before YHWH destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah), like the Garden of YHWH, like the land of Egypt. 11 Lot chose for himself the whole of the Jordan Plain and left toward the east. Abram and Lot parted.
12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan. Lot settled in the cities of the Plain, pitching his tents near Sodom.


G*D spoke to Abram in Haran. Abram’s voice is not heard until approaching Egypt. He expresses his fear for his own survival to Sarai, sacrificing her. There is no response recorded of Abram responding to Pharaoh’s question. Now that the household is back at Bethel, Abram speaks again about separating from a family member. He speaks to his nephew Lot, who, until now we didn’t know had his own herds and tents. We still don’t know if he brought them from Haran and they were caught in the famine or if he also benefited from Abram’s lie.

Both times Abram spoke about his own perceived survival. The first time he was up-front about it; this time it is a subtext. With Abram’s increase from his adventure in Egypt, he and Lot are bumping up against the limitation on resources for grazing space. There is not only their own fruitful and multiplied flocks but indigenous peoples for whom it was their ancestral land. The choices seemed to be coming down to war with the Canaanites and Perizzites or re-enacting Cain and Abel (without knowing who would play which role).

Abram speaks to Lot regarding the lack of space for both of them and provides his assessment, but politely, but imperatively, literally, “Kindly part from me.” Abram puts a choice before Lot that seems to benefit Lot—“You choose where to resettle, and I’ll go in the opposite direction.”

This choice is both humble and informed, through experience, of Lot’s likely decision. Immediately, Lot’s eyes gleam with possibilities of out-doing his uncle. Lot looks toward the Jordan Plain—water and fertile soil; what’s not to like!

All the way down the Jordan River to the end of the Dead Sea, the land was green—both naturally watered and irrigated. Lot made an easy connection with Eden and abundance—an easy way to prosper. This choice took Lot to the cities of the Jordan Plain.

As for Abram, we remember his father, Terah, had begun to move toward Canaan but stopped in Haran. (11:31) Abram traveled on to Canaan (12:5) and beyond before returning to Canaan. He now continued to set his herds and tents in Canaan Land.

Abram and his herds are in Canaan. Lot and his tents are near Sodom. In a bit, Abram will continue herding, and Lot will move into the city (which in previous scenes has always proved to be problematic).

Genesis 13:1–4

131 Abram returned from Egypt with his wife and all that was with him, including Lot, to the Negeb. 2 He was loaded with livestock, and silver and gold. 3 Camp by camp, Abram journeyed from the Negeb to Bethel 4 where he had previously built an altar. It was there Abram called out the name of YHWH.


We return to where we have been, but more experienced. We can appreciate the soil of our being a bit more clearly. Now there is a confirmation or assurance we missed the first time around. We can see it again, for a first time.

A call. A decision. A journey. A detour. A return. To be continued.

Abram, Sarai, and Lot left Haran with their possessions and household servants to head from the center of culture and commerce to a cursed land (at least to the land of a cursed people). After some time they come to Shechem and build an altar (like Cain initiating a sacrifice-off). Abram acts as though he affirms that this is the land previously promised.

Coming from Haran, more was expected. This is no place to end a story with, “And they lived happily ever after.”

The travelers slide right past Shechem to a space east of Bethel (meaning, House of G*D). Perhaps even worse? Pulling up their tent stakes yet again, they journeyed and journeyed to the Negeb wilderness. Could anything be worse? Yes; famine. Relief was available in Egypt and worth the wife/sister ploy just told.

Abram, Sarai, and Lot had left Haran with goods and servants. Famine meant a loss of such resources. Egypt has left them re-equipped with more than they ever had.

From Egypt, this household returns to the Negeb and, successively, back to Bethel—back to an altar east of Bethel. It is easy to lose track that they are between cities. Cities begun by Cain, before the Flood, and Babel, afterward, are avoided. Abram had been called out from the cities of Mesopotamia—from Ur, from Haran. His father, Terah, had already begun a trek toward Canaan from Ur, but got stuck in Haran. Abram continued Terah’s impulse. The focus is put on soil, land. 

Abram continued past Shechem, a marker of the goal, Canaan, and Bethel, a marker of G*D’s house distinctively desired beyond Shechem’s Oak Grove. Abram kept going to the wilderness of Negeb, and, worse, back to culture and commerce—Egpyt, a place of danger.Confirmed through this rebound from Egypt—the space east of Bethel is to be Abram’s East-of-Eden. Now the story can proceed into next tests and quests of what this story of space might mean with a living G*D not to be routinized by rhythms of the city and a people so easily tempted by national power, being honored as G*D’s pet, and building the reverse of a Tower of Babel, assaulting heavens from a city—building a tabernacle and temple around which to build a city.

Genesis 12:10–20

1210 It happened, there was famine in the land. Abram sojourned to Egypt because the famine was severe. 11 Just before arriving in Egypt, Abram said to his wife Sarai, “You’re a beautiful woman. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “She is his wife,” and kill me and let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister so that it will go well with me and I will live, thanks to you.”

14 It happened that when Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians did see the woman was very beautiful. 15 Pharaoh’s courtiers praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s household. 16 It went well with Abram. He received sheep, cattle, donkey, she-asses, camels, male and female slaves.
 
17 Then YHWH afflicted Pharaoh and his house with terrible plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Pharaoh summoned Abram and said, “What have you done to me? Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister,” so I took her as a wife? Here’s your wife, take her and go!” 20 Pharaoh gave orders, and Abram was escorted out of Egypt, with his wife and all he had.


Here is a doubly important passage containing both an archetype and a foreshadowing of an archetype.

First, the foreshadowing: Exile leading to Exodus. Famine for both Abram and, later, Jacob, the lack of successful tilling, will lead both to Egypt and the fertility of the Nile River floodplain. They will experience the power of the Pharaoh and his threat to male life. There will be interventions by “the Lord.” There will be plagues. There will be riches gained.

Readers still remembering Noah and the wilderness of evil (vs. a wilderness of famine) may catch a peripheral glimpse of a rainbow when G*D saw and came to help, not to ignore or otherwise further curse. This is not a fully memorable exodus, but a step on its way.

The story of betrayal goes back to a belated recognition of loneliness and attempt to rectify this through an ancient tradition of “something borrowed.” Issues of betrayal of self and others continue to this day.

Abram, passing his wife, Sarai, off as his sister is the first of three recounting of this patriarchal game of self-preservation, risking the loss of their loneliness cure for the substitute of wealth. We will find a repeat of this by Abraham (a special name change won’t fix this trait) in Chapter 20 and by Isaac (Abraham’s privileged son) recapitulating it in Chapter 26.

The details of how Sarai is both wife and sister to Abram won’t come out until the next time Abram tries this gambit. For now, the emphasis is upon setting up a later story of exodus and nation-building. [Note: This story persists with a later privileged influx and nation-building of Israel, also displacing those living in Canaan/Palestine.]

Readers will have to decide for themselves whether Sarai was simply in Pharaoh’s house as a beautifying trophy wife or whether the Pharaoh also “knew” her. The storyteller leaves this an open question. I tend toward a carnal engagement (which got G*D’s attention) and accords with what might be considered a bride-price paid to Abram, who makes out like a bandit with his increase in sheep, cattle, donkeys, she-asses, camels (possible anachronism?), and slaves (both male and female). Abram plays the part of a pimp and profits.

Genesis 12:1–9

121 YHWH said to Abram: Go forth from the soil of your homeland, your kinfolk, and your father’s house to a place I will let you see. 2 I will make you a great nation; there I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 Those who bless you, I will bless; those who curse you, I will damn. All the clans of earth will find their blessing through you. 4 Abram went forth as YHWH said; Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old. 5 And Abram took his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, and all their possessions, including those added to the household while they were in Haran. They set out for Canaan. They came to Canaan. 6 Abram traveled through the land, as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. There were Canaanites in the land. 7 YHWH was seen by Abram and said, “I give this land to your seed.” Abram built an altar there to YHWH, whom he had seen. 8 He moved on to the mountains east of Bethel and pitched his tent between Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar to YHWH and called out YHWH’s name. 9 Then Abram successively journeyed on to the dry Negeb.


We are moving out of archetypes into the details of particular people. This does not mean less ambiguity or mixture of motives. A dive into more details does not lessen the need for a creative imagination, but a willingness to tie our reading to our living. One of the largest considerations to take into account is an underlying methodology of the recorders that privileges a patriarchal paradigm. Readers will need to continually see beyond the temptation to turn this narrative choice into a theory of what is “natural.”

A first act of eventually finding meaning in one’s own backyard is to quest forward. There are many motives for finally acting on behalf of a promised blessing somewhere down the line. Power of being a great nation certainly plays its part in any fancy of being in a better position. Honor has its part to play as we are justly recognized for the wonder we are. It is a leap of another kind to be a source of blessing to, for, with, and among others that does not rely upon authority or integrity of self. Blessing is a call to wholeness, a partnership that relies on more than the wisp of vanity of passing power and/or honor.

A focus on blessing is like a rainbow after the curses related to East of Eden, Lamech, and Canaan. In particular, in a post-Flood earth, the latest curse of Canaan is being mitigated by a second decree to rectify a hasty first response.

We will have to wait and see, but the early sign is one of difficulties to come as the blessing is for one’s own who will colonize the Canaanites rather than bless them as the Canaanites they are.

The interplays between Abram, Sarai, and Lot will carry all the familial misunderstandings of role and person that each has and inhabits.

We begin lightly with a tent and a traveling by stages to the clarifying wilderness of the Negeb. The quest begins with a promise of blessing and a horizon of briar, challenges, and risk of missteps.

Genesis 11:27–32

1127The descendants of Terah:
 
Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. 28Haran died before his father, Terah, in his homeland of Ur of the Chaldees. 
 
29Both Abram and Nahor took wives. Abram’s wife was Sarai. Nahor’s wife was Milcah, daughter of Haran who also begot Milcah and Iscah.  30Sarai had no children. 
 
31Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and Sarai, his daughter-in-law and wife of his son Abram and set out from Ur of the Chaldees toward the land of Canaan. They came to Haran and settled there. 32Terah lived 205 years and died in Haran.


We have moved from the lineage of ’adam (5:1–32) to Noah (12:1–32) to Shem (11:10–26) and are now at the lineage of Terah (11:27–32) which leads us to Abram.

Between ’adam and Noah’s family tree, there is the Flood. Between the line of Noah and Shem, there is Babel. There is a movement from generalized humanity to a focus on one particular line in the midst of many lines. The G*D of the cosmos has become the G*D of one people and all their ups and downs. It might be asked—Where else in my/our life do I/we, as a reader of this story, find it echoing or reflected? This personal and societal question needs both a singular and plural response. Reflection on this relationship between an ancient narrative and current experience can be a crucible within which we make needed choices that carry the potential to move us beyond our stuck points.

Leon Kass in, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis(p. 349) writes regarding Abram/Abraham’s journey, “…God, the source of life and blessing and the teacher of righteousness….” Obviously, “God” can be any number of “ideals or idols.” Kass notes his list of options that include, “…Mammon or Molech, to honor or money, pleasure or power, or worse, to no god at all.”

Family systems change during the centuries (as well as right under our nose at this moment). Two women are finally named in a genealogy—Milcah and Sarai. Both are interesting in regard to current norms. Milcah was Nahor’s niece and wife. Sarai, mentioned here as Abram’s wife, Terah’s daughter-in-law, will later be revealed as also Abram’s half-sister and Terah’s daughter by another mother. There are additional stories in the extended midrash corpus that name Milcah and Sarai as sisters (implying that Sarai is the daughter of Terah and Haran’s unnamed wife). As G*D connects with one family line, that family is very small—much like what can be imagined regarding the wives of Cain and Seth. Soap-operas have been going on for a very long time.

There is no distinction in English between Haran the person and Haran the city. In Hebrew, these are distinctly different. The confusion this can cause is a reminder that plays on words are difficult enough in one language system and become more difficult in translation to another language. If the Bible is going to enlighten, it must be held lightly.

The long genealogies are now over. There will still be short genealogies for Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Judah, Joseph and more that will lead to the beginning genealogy in the sequel—Exodus.In the coming story, there will be ambivalent and ambiguous relationships between Abram, Sarai, and Lot.

Genesis 11:10–26

1110 The descendants of Shem:
 
Two years after the Flood, Shem was 100 when he begot Arpachshad. 11 After begetting Arpachshad and other sons and daughters, Shem lived 500 years. (600 total years)
 
12 Arpachshad was 35 when he begot Shelah. 13 After begetting Shelah and other sons and daughters, Arpachshad lived 403 years. (438)
 
14 Shelah was 30 when he begot Eber. 15 After begetting Eber and other sons and daughters, Shelah lived 403 years. (463)
 
16 Eber was 34 when he begot Peleg. 17 After begetting Peleg and other sons and daughters, Eber lived 430 years. (464)
 
18 Peleg was 30 when he begot Reu. 19 After begetting Reu and other sons and daughters, Peleg lived 209 years. (239)
 
20 Reu was 32 when he begot Serug. 21 After begetting Serug and other sons and daughters, Reu lived 207 years. (239)
 
22 Serug was 30 when he begot Nahor. 23 After begetting Nahor and other sons and daughters, Serug lived 200 years. (230)
 
24 Nahor was 29 when he begot Terah. 25 After begetting Terah and other sons and daughters, Nahor lived119 years. (148)
 
26 Terah was 70 when he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.


It was only 9 verses ago that we had a long genealogy of Noah’s three sons. Upon the scattering of people after the confusion of languages at Babel, we track a single language or lineage—Shem, oldest son of Noah (in the line of Seth, youngest son of Eve* and ’adam).

Numerologically, there are 10 generations from Shem to Abram, just as there were 10 generations from ’adam to Noah. This symmetry is carried along in ’adam’s 3 sons, Noah’s 3 sons, and Abram’s being the first of 3 sons. We might say that ’adam’s first son, Cain, is contrasted with Abel’s replacement, Seth, Noah’s first son, Shem, and Terah’s first son, Abram.

Those interested in numerology might also appreciate knowing that there were 365 years from Shem’s son to Abram’s migration to Canaan (land of those cursed by Noah). We’ve run into this year of years before.

After some repletion of Shem’s descendants, we come to Peleg. The previous genealogy only mentioned Peleg and went on to detail his brother’s line. In this genealogy of Peleg, we follow his line down to Abram, Nahor, and Haran. [Note: Not mentioned in this listing of male descendants of Shem is Sarai—daughter of Terah by another mother than Abram’s. This will come to play its part later in the story and will be revealed then. You can check then to see if you still remember this detail.]

Back before the Flood, 6:3, we heard G*D’s displeasure with human creatures and decreed the limit of a lifespan to be 120 years. The genealogy here shows a progression toward this limit. Shem begins with a life of a nice round 600 years. By the time we get to Peleg, his lifespan was 239 years. Terah lived 205 years. We will come to learn that Abram made it 175. The mills of the gods grind ever so slowly. 

Genesis 11:1–9

111 Now all Earth was one language, one set of words. 2 When they migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said, “Gather up! Let us make bricks and burn them hard.” The bricks were a substitute for stones and raw-bitumen for mortar. 4 They said, “Together! We will build us a city and a tower topped with heavens. We will build us a name and not be scattered over all the earth.” 5 And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower the human creatures had built. 6 YHWH said, “One people with one language—with this beginning, nothing they scheme to do will elude them. 7 Come! Let us go down and mix their language so they will be confused by their neighbor’s language.” 8 And YHWH scattered them over the face of the earth, stopping them from building the city. 9 Therefore it is called Babel, for there YHWH baffled the language of all earth-folk. From there, YHWH scattered them over the face of all the earth.


More is going on in the story of Babel than meets the ear. Robert Alter puts it this way, “The story is an extreme example of the stylistic predisposition of biblical narrative to exploit interechoing words and to work with a deliberately restricted vocabulary…. The prose turns language itself into a game of mirrors.” This leads to, “the blurring of lexical boundaries culminating in God’s confounding of tongues.”

This small story, these nine verses, is sandwiched between extensive genealogies. It is set off as a way of looking at all post-Edenic connections, partnerships, and differentiations of post-Tree-of-Knowledge attempts to make sense of good and not-good definitions of interpenetrating intersections between what is too easily named divine or human.

From one language, one “’adam,” the peoples, nations, spread further east than East of Eden. They found themselves interacting on a large “new earth” of Shinar (“land,” as in “land of Shinar” is the same Hebrew word for “earth” or soil; hearkening back to creation 1.0).

Any making of a common, collective identity here is an equivalent of an individual fig leaf to cover their separation, their difference from one another and G*D. This is an attempt to hike a community up by its non-existent bootstraps. A prior unique shaping of clay turns, here, into a mechanized uniformity of a rectangular brick burned into an unchangeable cog in a larger mechanism privileging unity over unique gifts. [Try reading the last sentence backward to get a feel for the mirror effect of a restricted vocabulary.]

A single-minded assault on heavens continually runs into the multi-valence of creation. The very focus on defining the cosmos based on any current technology, from sewing fig leaves or burning bricks onward, runs up against its own limit that there must be only one creation.

The very attempt to avoid being scattered leads to a static structure unable to deal with tectonic changes shaking and scattering every firm foundation, every next creation, every settled doctrine of divinity and humanity. Of building and rebuilding, there is no end.