Bad Book Reviews: Genesis

In the beginning the author of Genesis created the most cliché intro for a book ever… and then went on to amateur psychology his way into as many human relationship tropes as possible before settling on a plot with any recognizable continuity. I say “his” because I can’t imagine a woman writing such a myopically misogynistic ramble. However, from the outset Genesis appears to be a collaboration of multiple authors often creating more confusion than coherence.

Let’s start… in the beginning.

In its first 11 chapters, Genesis ambitiously covers the creation of the universe, the problem of pain, sibling rivalry, meteorology, the origin of language and cultures, and a genealogical record that could put New York City to sleep. The story begins with God’s Spirit hovering over the seas of pre-creation, creating beauty out of tumult and order out of chaos. Then in a second creation story the author zooms in on the first couple and their shortcomings.

The plot holes are legion. Are the days literal? If so, how do we count a day before the creation of the sun to rise and set? If the days are figurative, how could plants survive without photosynthesis? What about dinosaurs and evolution? Why would a good God create mosquitos? Who did Adam and Eve’s children marry? And how were there already cities in the second generation of humanity?

In chapter 12, after another mind-numbingly boring genealogy, the author finally settles on a narrative choosing to follow one couple who’s been tasked with creating the blessed family that the first couple was supposed to create.

But it turns out this family is more dysfunctional than low-budget daytime television. Murder, rape and incest are the norm. Backstabbing, marrying rival sisters, and selling your brother to gypsies is offered as commonplace.

Aside from the dysfunction, there’s the boilerplate character development. Abram and Sarai follow the same old tracks of several mythical heroes before them: leaving home to find their lot (pun intended) and themselves. This is symbolized in their receiving new names (Abraham and Sarah), a literary device the author loved so much he decided to replay with their grandson, Jacob.

Have I mentioned that the author was a younger sibling? Abraham’s second son, Isaac; Isaac’s second son, Jacob; Jacob’s eleventh son, Joseph; and Laban’s second daughter, Rachel, all play the role of favorite. While Ishmael, Esau, Jacob’s first ten sons, and Leah, their older siblings either play roles of antagonists or, in the better cases, forgettable back-up roles.

There is one exception: Judah.

I’d bet dollars to donuts that the author was from the tribe of Judah. After a rocky start, Judah emerges as the second favorite of the twelve brothers. It’s almost as if the author was trying to pump Judah’s tires.

And this is where it really gets weird. Not only does Genesis awkwardly over-promote Judah but it also uncomfortably slams the aforementioned siblings. All of Israel’s enemies from the pre-exilic monarchy have their origin stories as rival relatives. Pesky Edom? They came from the Jacob’s brother who sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup. The Ammonites and Moabites? Incest children of Abraham’s knucklehead nephew. Canaanites and Amorites? Sons of the guy who peeping Tom’d his dad, Noah.

But David and his line? They descend from the guy who heroically offered to take his youngest brother’s place in an Egyptian prison. The winners, after all, write the history books… and the political commentaries.

Genesis definitely leaves the reader with more questions than answers. The book opens with the five words: “In the beginning God created”. It ends with the five words “In a coffin in Egypt”. In between, perhaps the only clear answer it leaves us, is that the absolute dumpster fire that defines this broken family is the same malady that plagues us all. Estrangement from God, creation, and ourselves.

Even if you don’t get your daughter-in-law pregnant mistaking her for a sex worker.

Happy reading.

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