Genesis 10-13: Abe Breaks Bad (Season 1, Episode 5)

What happens when God tells Abraham he’s going to be the father of a great nation? The world’s first skyscraper gets abandoned, people start speaking in tongues and Walter White turns into Heisenberg.

This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


On his 950th birthday, Noah dropped dead.

He and his family had spent the last few centuries just fucking and multiplying like rabbits. This meant that when he died, he left behind a pretty impressive genetic footprint.

It broke down like this:

When a girl came of age, she got pregnant.

When a woman stopped breastfeeding, she got pregnant.

When a woman was pregnant, she would continue to have sex under the belief that it might put another baby inside her.

Remember, this is before any kind of research was done in the field of obstetrics, so we can’t really hold it against them for believing that might be possible.

But yeah, there was a lot of fucking going on.

They’re not only giving birth to people, but to entire ethnic groups – the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Canaanites. Pretty much anything ending in “ites”, this is where they started.

Now, remember, Noah’s sons were called Shem, Ham and Japheth. And basically, these three guys re-populated the entire world.

The women who actually gave birth to their children and their children’s children – oddly enough, they don’t get a mention. But we all know that men have the hard part when it comes to procreation.

Shem’s descendants spread out around the Middle East and into western Asia. His people were known as the Shemites. In time, they dropped the ‘h’ to become Semites, and anyone who didn’t like the Semites were known as anti-Semites.

They’re the ones we’ll be focusing on.

The Semites, not the anti-Semites.

Having said that, we will meet a fair few anti-Semites too, but our main focus will be on the people they hate, since the Israelites are technically descended from Shem.

If you need to put a face to the name, he’s the guy who gets with Hermione in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. Not the Percy Jackson guy, the other guy.

So that’s Shem in a nutshell.

Everyone descended from Japheth, on the other hand, went north into modern-day Turkey, and from there, into Europe.

Ham’s descendants went south into Canaan and Egypt, and from there, into Africa.

Now...here’s where things get a little dicey.

See, because of what Ham did to his dear old dad, Noah put a curse on him. The ‘curse’ was really just an excuse invented later to justify the conquest of the Promised Land (aka Canaan), where Ham’s descendants were living at the time.

So instead of a raping, pillaging, murderous rampage like some shit you might expect Vikings to do, the Israelites ‘inherited’ their ‘Promised Land’. They didn’t kill every man, woman and child, or burn their cities to the ground, they ‘conquered their enemies’ and ‘drove out the unrighteous’.

Don’t worry...we’ll get to that.

But that’s not the only fucked-up result of this ‘curse’.

Since Ham’s descendants went into Africa, people in the Middle Ages began to associate the curse with Africans in the same way Israelites associated it with Canaanites.

Prior to that, there wasn’t really a racial component to slavery. You could fall into debt and become a slave, you could be kidnapped by pirates or captured in battle. Race didn’t really figure into it, so say what you will about ancient human slavery – at least it was colour-blind.

In other words, Noah’s pretty much responsible for racism. Thanks a lot, man.

Now, where were we?

Oh, yeah.

So everyone’s fucking, right?

Fucking like crazy.

At the same time, they’re on the move, migrating east in one giant, rolling orgy until they all run out of bodily fluids in Babylon and decide to build a city.

This isn’t some little pipsqueak town like Cain built and called a city – this is an actual city.

Now, the guy running the show is this fella called Nimrod, who sounds more like a porn star than an engineer, if you ask me. And he’s got a lot of respect for Cain. Thinks he got a bad rap for killing his brother. Nimrod’s sure there’s more to that story than meets the eye – shit, he’s got a little brother himself. He gets it.

He also thinks Cain got the raw end of the stick when his great-great-great grandson put an arrow through his brain. Allegedly by accident, but who the fuck knows? Shit happened so long ago, it’s hard to tell.

So, to commemorate Cain’s first attempt at a city, he orders the construction of a tower right in the heart of downtown. Right where the action is. A tower so tall, apparently, you couldn’t see the top of it through the clouds.

More likely, the tower was just a ziggurat – this pyramidy thing the ancient Mesopotamians built for their gods. In this case, that god was Marduk (kind of like the Babylonian equivalent of Zeus). And while a ziggurat wasn’t anything to be scoffed at, it certainly didn’t get anywhere near the clouds.

Anyway, the people are building this ziggurat, yeah? Trying to make a name for themselves. God sees all this and he’s like, “Seriously?”

Why’s God so mad?

Well, remember how he told Noah’s family to fuck like crazy and spread out over the earth?

As we’ve already mentioned, they took care of that first part, no problem. It’s the ‘spreading out over the earth’ part they apparently had an issue with.

See, he wants them spread wide and thin, so they’re easier to manage, but they’re all like, “Fuck that,” and cluster together in this one place, building their way up to heaven.

So, instead of wide and thin, they’re narrow and tall.

They’re doing the exact fucking opposite of what God said and now he’s getting pissed.

Also, it’s not like they’re building a temple for the big guy here. If they were, he might be cool with it. Basically, what they’re doing is building something to prove how good they are at building something. It’s a monument to their glory, not God’s.

And that shit ain’t gonna fly with the big guy.

His first thought is wishing he didn’t make that pinky-promise to Noah’s family so he could drown every last one of these motherfuckers right now.

But a pinky-promise is a pinky-promise.

Instead, he figures half the problem is they all speak the same language and says he’ll take care of that. Next second, one guy starts speaking in Arabic, another guy starts speaking Hebrew and they both start trying to kill each other.

Pretty soon, everything falls apart. It’s like their version of September 11.

Don’t believe me?

There’s a tower, foreign languages, people will soon be invading other countries under the pretence of searching for WMDs, and I’m pretty sure Nick Cage is playing a fire-fighter in the upcoming movie adaptation.

Since no one can understand what the fuck anyone else is saying, they can’t coordinate shit. Someone asks someone else to hand him a brick, but it sounds like he’s telling him to go fuck himself, so they all split up into their different language groups and off they go.

People speaking Arabic go to Arabia. People speaking Hebrew go to Canaan. People speaking Babylonian – well, they stay right where they are.

Hebrews call their God “El”, Arabs call theirs “Allah”, and the stage is set for some shit to go down as the 1800s wind to a close.

So…yeah, that’s how we got our languages. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the leopard got his spots.

A few more generations go by before Abraham is born. Only he’s not called Abraham yet. He’s called Abram (but we’ll just call him Abe). And Abe’s married to a woman named Sarah. Only Sarah’s not called Sarah yet. She’s called Sarai (but we’ll just call her Sarah from the get-go).

Anyway, Abe and Sarah lived in the city of Ur, which was just downriver from Babylon. Their ancestors had arrived on boats after the biblical September 11, and settled down to do the whole sheep-and-crops thing.

Only problem was, Sarah was barren.

And buddy, back in these days, that was a big fucking problem.

Be like now, if you went to the supermarket and bought cage eggs instead of free range, the other shoppers would shoot you dirty looks and whisper behind your back.

But why are the cage eggs there if you’re not allowed to buy them, huh?

Exactly.

Sarah was the Bible’s version of cage eggs.

People shot her dirty looks and whispered behind her back. There was a lot of shame in not being able to pump out a few dozen kids, but that didn’t stop her father-in-law from trying to get her in the sack.

I should explain...

Abe’s dad, Terah (who we’ll call Terry), was pretty much the Harvey Weinstein of the Old Testament.

He was 205 years young and, in an age before AIDS or Viagra, he’d been with just about every woman in Ur. Recently, he’d started to turn in on his own family when Abe kindly suggested they move. Terry thought that wasn’t such a bad idea. He was getting bored. He needed some strange.

So they left.

He, Abe, Sarah, and his grandson, Lot (who was Abe’s nephew), all headed east for Canaan, where Terry heard the loosest women got down.

Unfortunately, he never got a chance to find out.

They’d stopped over for the night in Haran, and the old guy was out in a brothel, banging away at some poor Egyptian girl (Hagar), when his heart gave out and he died right on top of her. She was so freaked out and felt so guilty that she offered to be Abe’s slave to repay the debt. Abe, who was secretly glad to be rid of the guy, pretended like he was in mourning and graciously accepted her offer.

So there they were, in Haran.

Halfway between Ur and the sex-paradise Terry imagined Canaan to be. But Terry was dead now, so they weren’t quite sure what to do.

One night, Abe’s just hanging out like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, when God comes down and asks to bum a cigarette off him. Abe’s a little wary, since he’s only got a few left in the pack and the smokes they sell in Haran aren’t worth shit.

But Abe’s a good dude, so he gives God a smoke and that’s when the big guy reveals who he is. God tells Abe that he wants him to get his ass out of here and keep heading west – “Don’t worry about ‘where’ exactly, I’ll let you know which exit to get off at.”

See, God’s been continually fucked over by humans ever since he made them, but he’s got a good feeling about Abe. He thinks that if he can focus in on just one person, one family, and build out from there, rather than trying to control all of humanity, he’ll have a better chance of success.

Here, we see the story narrowing, from the universal scope of the first few episodes, to the more personal tale of Abe and his descendants.

Abe asks if he’s only saying all this because he gave him a smoke. God says no, not at all – Abe seems like a stand-up dude and if he does what God says, then he’ll be the father of a great nation. But first, he has to trust him.

The first thing Abe thinks is, “Dude, my wife’s barren. How the fuck am I supposed to be the father of a great nation when I can’t even have a kid?”

But God tells him not to worry about that. Don’t worry about where you’re going, either. Just blindly follow whatever God tells you to do and shit’ll work out fine.

“And gimme your cigarettes,” says the big guy. “For collateral. You’ll get them back when you prove yourself.”

Now, Abe only had like four smokes left and not only did God already bum one of them, now he’s asking for the rest of the pack. Abe weighs his options:

On the one hand, he could be the father of a great nation.

On the other...three more cigarettes.

For a moment, it’s neck-and-neck.

“You’re sure this isn’t just about you wanting cigarettes?” he says.

God’s like, “No, man, it’s a test.”

Abe gives in and hands over the smokes. God winks at him. Disappears.

Abe goes home that night and tells everyone to pack up their shit, they’re leaving in the morning. His nephew, Lot, has been out drinking and tells Abe to go fuck himself – he’s not the boss of him.

But something’s been awakened in the guy now.

Before, he was mild-mannered Abram, who would’ve allowed himself to be spoken to like that.

Now...he’s motherfucking Abraham.

Basically the Old Testament Heisenberg.

So he grabs his drunken nephew – the Jesse Pinkman of this story – by the collar and shoves him up against a wall.

“Either you come with us or I’ll cut your fucking toes off and feed them to you one by one.”

Needless to say, Lot’s suddenly on board with the whole thing.

Everyone watches in silent horror as Abe walks over to the dresser, takes a black pork pie hat and puts it on to complete the Heisenberg look.

“Any questions?” he says.

No one says a fucking word. They haven’t seen this Abram before.

That’s because Abram is dead.

In his place stands a man so manly he might have put a baby in Sarah just by looking at her if she wasn’t so damn infertile.

He’s motherfucking Abraham now.

So the next day, Abe sets out to an unknown destination. He rides on the back of a camel and makes everyone else walk. He looks back at them occasionally to remind himself that this is only the beginning of his great nation.

He wants the fame that those tower-builders in Babylon wanted, only he’s doing it under the pretence of serving God. He’s being smart about it.

He travels down, into Canaan, making his camp at Shechem. It’s here that God returns and tells Abe that this is the land he’s going to give him and his descendants. This is where his future nation will be.

Only one problem.

There’s a fucking famine going on in his future nation.

People are coming up to Abe, begging him for food. And while he has more than enough, and could easily spare some for the starving children, he blows right on through, heading south and joining the influx of refugees into Egypt.

Basically like a reverse-Exodus.

Now, Egypt is fertile as fuck. And whenever there’s a famine in Canaan or anywhere else, the Egyptians get all these people coming in, begging for food. They’re like the parents of a kid who leaves home and then keeps coming back when they run out of money. The parents are like fine, you can move back in, but you’re going to do the dishes and take out the trash.

That’s pretty much the deal Canaan agrees to.

When we get to the Exodus in a couple hundred years, it’ll deteriorate into more of a master-slave situation – which is where we’ll get Moses coming in – but prior to that, it’s a pretty good deal for both sides.

Now, Hagar is originally from Egypt, so she takes them back to her old neighbourhood – basically, skid row if it had a view of the pyramids – and hooks them up with a place to stay. Abe’s like, “Oh, thanks Hagar, you really didn’t have to.”

And she’s like, “No, I insist.”

And he’s like, “No, you really didn’t have to. We’re gonna get fucking murdered here.”

They end up staying in a tavern-slash-brothel-slash-opium den, and that night, Abe sits his wife down and says that she needs to pretend to be his sister.

“Why?” she asks.

“Because...if they think you’re my wife, they’re gonna kill me so they can have you.”

Translation: pretend to be my sister to protect me, even though it’s a win-win for me and a lose-lose for you.

“And what if they do want me?” she says.

“Then....” Abe shrugs. “You’re gonna have to take one for the team.”

“You’re gonna whore me out?” she says. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Not ‘whore you out’. Just...use your vagina to keep them at bay.”

“Who’s them?

As if on cue, Pharaoh’s guards arrive to escort them to the palace. Abe had gotten Hagar to put the word out through her local connections. He wanted Pharaoh to know they were there so he could worm his way into the ruler’s good graces by offering his wife up on a silver platter.

Sarah was a fine-looking woman, no question, and he didn’t doubt Pharaoh would be impressed with what he saw. In fact, Abe was counting on it. While Pharaoh was in bed with his wife, Abe was going to have her kill him and then he would seize power and become the next pharaoh.

Fuck Canaan, he thought. Egypt’s where it’s at.

The plan was flawless.

All he had to do was carry it out.

As husband and wife are brought into the palace, Pharaoh looks Sarah up and down and says, “Not bad.”

They adjourn to his quarters and Sarah looks back at her husband like, “Are you seriously letting this happen?”

He just gives her two thumbs up like, “Everything’s going to plan.”

So Abe waits with Pharaoh’s guards while Pharaoh has sex with his wife. As payment, Abe is lavished with gold and oxen and donkeys and camels. And slaves – lots of slaves. He stands there like a plantation owner as the chained-up workers are brought in, evaluating each one in turn. He gives them either a nod of approval or dismisses them with a wave, like he’s been doing it for years.

He sits there counting his gold while Pharaoh grunts and moans in the next room. Sarah sounds like she’s having a pretty good time herself.

“Nice job selling the part, honey,” Abe mutters under his breath. He’s too distracted by gold and livestock – both human and otherwise – to detect that she’s probably having the best sex of her life.

That is, of course, right up until Pharaoh bursts out in hideous boils and crawls, screaming, from the room.

“What the fuck is going on?” screams Pharaoh. “Who is she?”

All the guards are breaking out in boils too, and Abe doesn’t know what to say. “She’s...my...sister...”

Sarah comes out wrapped in bedsheets and says, “I’m his wife, you asshole.”

The ‘asshole’ is directed more at Abe, but Pharaoh still orders them to be seized and thrown out into the street, telling them to get the fuck out of Egypt.

Sitting on their asses in the dust, Abe says, “I hope you realise that was all your fault. I could be ruling Egypt right now if it wasn’t for you.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you. Why didn’t you use the ricin I gave you?”

“I didn’t get a chance.”

“What’d you use, then?”

“Nothing. I told you, I didn’t get a chance.”

“Then, what, he just burst out in boils all by himself?”

Sarah looks at him like he’s nuts. “What, you think I did that?”

“There was no one else in the room.”

“I suppose I poisoned all his guards too, then?”

Abe frowns, seeing the gap in his logic. Suddenly, he realises what’s happened.

God.

That motherfucker...

He goes back to the tavern-slash-brothel-slash-opium den to find God playing cards with Lot and Hagar.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Abe says.

Not looking up from the game, God’s like, “What’s it look like? I’m playing poker. Doing alright, too.”

“Back there, I mean.”

“I could ask you the same question, serving your own wife up like an appetiser.” He slides his chips forward and Hagar does the same. Lot folds.

“You told me she was barren,” Abe says. “How the fuck am I supposed to be the father of a great nation when my wife can’t even have a kid? Not to mention the nation’s as barren as she is. Whole goddamn place is in the middle of a fucking famine.”

“That won’t last,” says God, folding his own cards now as Hagar goes all-in. “I told you you could have Canaan. Not Egypt.”

“Can I trade?”

“No, you can’t trade.”

“Can I trade?” Sarah’s speaking now – not referring to Canaan, but her piece-of-shit husband who used her like a bargaining chip.

“Sorry,” God says, standing up and taking his coat from the back of the chair. “You’re stuck with him. Now get the fuck out of here, all of you.”

He throws the coat over his shoulder, finishes his beer and walks out.

The next morning, Abe takes everyone and heads back up north into shitty, shitty Canaan. He looks back at the pyramids glimmering in the distance and a tear trickles down his cheek.

They go back up as far as Bethel and settle down to make camp. By this point, Lot has his own crew, and things aren’t really working out.

See, they’re both living in the same area. Their flocks and herds are eating the same grass, their shepherds are getting in fistfights and their tents are staked down so close to each other that everyone keeps tripping over the guyropes.

Tensions mount between the two factions until Lot’s like, “Fuck this, man. I’m outta here.”

And Abe’s like, “Oh, no, no, no. You’re not going anywhere.”

“I’m leaving, dude. End of story.”

So Abe gets all up in his grill. “Oh yeah?”

Lot gets equally up in Abe’s grill, to the point where they’re basically kissing, and says, “Yeah.”

“I don’t think so, pal.”

“Well, you already taught me everything I need to know.”

“Not everything. I didn’t teach you how to hollow out a sheep for a sleeping bag.”

Lot steps back in disgust. “Jesus Christ, why the fuck would I want to do that?”

“If it’s cold.”

“Why wouldn’t I just use a blanket?”

Abe frowns. “I guess you could just use a blanket.”

Lot shakes his head. “Listen, I think I know what this is about. Ever since my dad died, you’ve been like...well...a dad to me. And it’s not like I don’t appreciate everything you’ve done, but...I think it’s time for me to go out and be my own man. You understand, right?”

Abe sighs and gives him a weak smile and a nod like he does understand.

So off Lot goes, heading east with his crew to settle in between Sodom and Gomorrah (aka the cities of the plain, aka the birthplace of sodomy).

The second he’s gone, the smile disappears from Abe’s face.

He’s heard the stories about Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, it was one of the main reasons his dad wanted to come out west in the first place.

But now Lot thinks he can up and leave, just like that?

No way.

Uh-uh.

Ain’t gonna happen.

So Abe launches into what’s supposed to be a sinister revenge soliloquy, but it ends up coming off super-homoerotic instead.

“You wanna go live with the Sodomites? Fine. I’ll come down there and sodomise you myself. That’ll teach you to abandon me, you backstabbing motherfucker. I’m coming for you, Lot. I’m coming for you.”


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