August 16th, 2009


Take a trip on a rocketship, the sea is the sky

Yes, yet another concert tonight, but I don't think we have plans to go to any others anytime soon. This time, it was Tori Amos at the Tower Theater, which is a fine venue, but rather obnoxiously located. I have to drive all the way across Philadelphia to get to it. At least it only cost $10 to park the car. The opener was a British band called An Eskimo (not to be confused with An Horse), and they weren't very interesting. Tori came out at about 9, wearing a shiny blue dress (which helped me see her from the balcony {g}), and played for about two hours. She did less talking and improvisational bits than she'd done in earlier shows, instead pretty much just doing one song after another. I believe it was the first time I'd heard "Flying Dutchman" live, and I like that song, so that was definitely cool. Other enjoyable inclusions in the set were "Black Dove," "Hotel," "Past the Mission," and "Big Wheel" (which was her closer). bethje mentioned after the show that Tori played "China," "Northern Lad," and "Your Cloud," which were all her least favorites from their respective albums. I actually like "China," but it's not exactly a riveting live song.

Also today, Beth and I went to her cousin's fifth birthday party, ate at IHOP, purchased a new collar for Reagan (the cat), and got take-out drinks at a McDonald's that was out of iced coffee. And that's about it, really.
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The Generations of Genesis

In Genesis 24, focus begins to shift from Abraham to his son Isaac, with the tale of Abraham's servant setting up a marriage between Isaac and Rebekah, who was his cousin once removed (okay, these marriages are getting a little less creepy). Considering that he's only the focus of the Bible long enough to have kids and pull the same trick his father did on King Abimelech, this patriarch sort of gets the short shrift, and I have to wonder if there were other stories about him that somehow didn't make the Bible. Anyway, he and Rebekah have twins, the hairy Esau and the quiet Jacob. Isaac favors Esau, but Rebekah likes Jacob better, and helps him to obtain his father's blessing in place of the first-born (by, like, a second, but cultures that practiced primogeniture took this kind of thing seriously). Jacob also tricks Esau into selling his birthright for some stew. Later Biblical references (Malachi 1:3 and Romans 9:13) insist that God hated Esau, but that seems a bit strong when simply referring to the red-haired hunter, and the Bible is careful to include a reconciliation scene between the two estranged brothers. But you have to remember that, to the people writing these stories, these two patriarchs represented entire nations. Jacob is eventually given the name of Israel, and Esau is called Edom upon selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. Edom was a neighboring kingdom of Israel, the people of which were of the same ethnic stock as the Hebrews (hence the patriarchs of both nations being brothers), but they never embraced the Jewish religion or monarchy (well, until the time of the Hasmodean monarchy, but that was much later). There were a few wars between these countries, with Judah eventually winning out, and Edom becoming a vassal state. During the Babylonian invasion, the Edomites assisted the invaders in plundering Judah, so it's no real surprise that the Jews weren't too fond of their brotherland. I also get the impression that the characterization of Esau as hairy, wild, rash, and not too bright was a stereotype that the Jews held of their Edomite neighbors.

Getting back to Jacob, after he steals Esau's blessing and birthright and the hairy hunter seeks to kill him, the future patriarch takes his mother's advice and flees to the lands of her brother Laban. I have to wonder if Rebekah had an ulterior motive in this advice, since Jacob and Laban are both devious bastards, constantly pulling tricks on each other. When Jacob wants to marry Laban's daughter Rachel (yeah, we're back to marriages between first cousins) and works seven years to gain her hand, Laban foists off his older daughter Leah instead, and Jacob is somehow unobservant enough to have sex with Leah without noticing she wasn't the one he wanted. So he works seven more years for Rachel as well, but he gets his revenge on his uncle by making off with the better sheep and goats of Laban's flock (he lays claim on the speckled and spotted ones, then uses some primitive sympathetic magic to breed new ones of this variety), as well as stealing his household idols. (And here I thought God frowned upon magic and idols!)

Jacob and his two wives and two concubines bear a total of one daughter and twelve sons, the boys being the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Well, sort of. The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were actually named after the sons of Joseph, but since their borders were never as rigidly defined as those of some of the other tribes, they're usually thought to be one tribe that eventually split into two, and are sometimes referred to as half-tribes. And I believe some lists don't count the Levites as one of the tribes because they never had their own territory. Oddly enough, the list of the tribes in Revelation includes Levi, Joseph, and Manasseh; but omits Ephraim and Dan. Regardless of how this worked out, Ephraim emerged as the most prominent of the northern tribes, which is probably why Joseph is the hero of the most of the last part of Genesis. Since the Joseph tribes were eventually conquered by the Assyrians, however, it was Judah that emerged as the main remaining tribe, hence the term "Judaism." Just think, if the Assyrians hadn't succeeded in their conquest, the first of the Abrahamic religions might have been called "Ephraimism." Judah isn't really that significant in Genesis, aside from a brief interlude in which he has sex with his disguised daughter-in-law, implying that most of these stories came from a time before the tribe was of much importance. When Jacob addresses his sons near the end of the book, however, he speaks of Judah in kingly terms, leading more skeptical scholars to think this part of Genesis might have been a later development.

Joseph is his father's favorite child (again with the parents playing favorites), and brags to his brothers about his dreams in which he lords it over them. So the brothers, who are not exactly known for their tact, trap Joseph in a pit and sell him into slavery. As with most stories of this sort, however, the brothers' attempt to prevent Joseph's destiny just leads to its being fulfilled, and the bearer of the coat of many colors soon works his way up from slave and accused rapist to the Pharaoh's personal financial advisor (a position that's been held by Jews ever since {g}). After playing some tricks on his brothers, who come to Egypt to buy food during a famine, he invites them and his father to live there with him. Some scholars think that it was actually only the Joseph tribes that sojourned in Egypt, with the idea that Jacob's entire family settled there being a later invention of a supporter of a united Israel. Certainly, the idea that the tribes formed in Egypt, journeyed to Canaan together, and then split back into the same tribes, while not impossible, is a little difficult to swallow.