A while ago there was blogging about churches. Now there’s blogging about the Bible. Both, I think, are interesting. David Plotz at Slate is blogging what’s really in the Bible. He realizes, after reading about the rape of Dinah, that he didn’t really know the Bible all that well, even though he felt like he did. Frankly, I’m not sure how many Christians know the Bible very well. (Plotz is Jewish.)
The point of his blogging is to comment, from the perspective of someone who is neither a committed Christian nor a committed Jew, on the incidents in the Bible that most people don’t know about.
He notices striking things. Beyond “Who was Cain’s wife?” (who really cares, anyway?), he notices that God seems a little capricious. He seems to just choose Abram for the heck of it.
Why Abram? There is no obvious reason. Unlike Noah, he’s not a “righteous man.” He’s 75 years old and hasn’t done anything with his life. He isn’t pious, rich, or accomplished. He’s not a king, not a chief, not a prophet, not a genius, not a warrior. He’s completely ordinary, and I suppose that’s the point. Abram isn’t special: It is God choosing him that makes him special. He is a regular man touched by God—just like any of us could be.
Also, it seems, from our human point of view, that God is on the wrong side of “collective punishment” and people like Abram are on the right side.
This problem of collective punishment seems to plague the Bible—the flood, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Egyptians in the Red Sea. To my modern eyes—though perhaps not to the Bible’s authors—collective punishment appears to be the great moral question of the Torah. And God is on the wrong side of it. And Abraham is on the right one.
I think it has something to do with humans being on the wrong side of God.
Anyway, it’s all interesting, and I think we had better admit that the Bible does not give us all the answers we want, nor, even when it gives us answers, does it give us the answers we think we want. The best Biblical verse for the challenge (and it’s in the Torah, no less)? Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
“The secret things belong to Yahweh our God.”