10.20.2013

GOD AND SCIENCE, THE THEORY DU JOUR





“If you board the wrong train,
it is no use running along the corridor
in the other direction.”
              ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer









How often have you heard atheists claim there is no “scientific evidence” proving the existence of God?

Atheists who make this claim have no understanding of the difference between scientific evidence, scientific theory, and faith.

For science, evidence is a fact or result which is measurable, predictable and repeatable. For example, scientists measured that it takes 87.969 Earth days for the planet Mercury to complete one orbit around the Sun. This fact is evidence that Mercury orbits the Sun, its “year” is periodic and predictable. 

A theory is a proposition, a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain something as yet unproved – such as the Big Bang Theory – which fits the known scientific facts, but which may or may not be a true expression of reality This is where atheists trip up. Those who believe or do not believe God exists are simply making a choice as a matter of faith.

Faith is a belief based on spiritual inspiration rather than physical evidence. It lies in the realm of Mankind’s non-intellectual  intuition. There is no evidence which can prove his belief is right. But the faithful need no evidence. They have powerful intuition that there is some purposeful, unknowable force which powers the cosmos. Science seeks to explain the unknowable force, generating many theories along the way. 

On any subject which cannot be directly observed or measured, there may be many different theories which fit the known facts. But cherry picking facts which support your theory, and ignoring those which don’t, do not prove a theory. And tomorrow, new facts which invalidate today’s theory may come to light. In the end, only one theory will be proven correct. But I suppose that’s another theory which can’t be proven.

I am a Deist, in the tradition of many of our nation’s Founding Fathers. That is, I believe God exists as “the Great Architect of the Universe.” Now, atheists seem to think that everyone who believes in God is an intellectual midget, stuck in ancient beliefs, mysticism and mumbo-jumbo. Or that everyone pictures God as some superhuman being living in the sky, wearing white robes and bearing a long white beard. In other words, a child’s vision of God.

Psychology asks, did God create Man, or did Man create God? How is it that every civilization we know of created its own god? Different gods, to be sure. One reason we can be sure of is that Man quickly recognized his own diminutive nature in the cosmos. He looks up to the sky and sees things so awe inspiring that his instincts tell him some power beyond his understanding is at work, keeping it going according to barely guessed-at rules which regulate the interactions of space, matter, time and energy.

There are cosmological “theories” galore. The Big Bang. Steady State. Oscillating Universe. Fluctuations in the Vacuum (no, not a Hoover). Symmetry-breaking. Inflation and Expansion of Space. Dark Matter. The Many Universes Theory. And my personal favorite, Collapse of the Wave Function. Theories ad infinitum. Theories ad nauseam. Each kind of fits the evidence. Kind of. But none are as yet unassailable.

Deists do not describe God as a superhuman being. Not a being at all. We only believe that whatever created the Universe and keeps it going, presumably toward some unknowable future; is God. If Science ultimately proves fluctuations in the vacuum are responsible for the way the universe has evolved, perhaps that is what God is. Who knows, in the distant future, maybe science will get to the truth of it all.

But beyond the question of how it all began, Mankind yearns to know if God, or that force which operates the Cosmos, knows we are here, hears our prayers and intercedes in our destiny. Perhaps most of all Man yearns to know if there really is an afterlife. The sort believed by the Egyptians and other ancient cultures? The sort promised by Jesus?

And what of Jesus? According to The New Testament, he qualifies as the most unique human who ever lived. As a Deist, I believe in Science. I do not believe a human can actually die and return to life. But are we being too narrow-minded here? Today, Science can bring about virgin births. Men can die, or at least seem to be dead, and then be resuscitated. Certainly some advanced race could have engineered the birth, education, death and transformation of Jesus. Who and why? Another subject for another time.

Contrary to their own claims of modernism, atheists seem to be living in the Dark Ages, grasping for ways to destroy religion. Why? For some, such as the late Christopher Hitchins, it may be the ultimate act of rebellion against a religious upbringing which they see as somehow failing or hurting them. Perhaps others hate Judeo Christian tradition because it is one of the pillars of Western Civilization. But what does our tradition ask of atheists which they find so abhorrent? To not murder. To treat others as they would be treated. To allow God-fearing people to keep their faith. Surely atheists can live with these few rules. It’s the more subtle beliefs with which they seem to have trouble. Admonitions against certain lifestyles and such. Oh, bother.

Not that there aren’t religionists who cross the line many times. We especially abhor those preachers who talk the talk but do not walk the walk.

But religion is not the same as belief in God. Religions require a belief in some sort of god, but faith in God does not require religion. Here again atheists seem to be confused. Albert Einstein was not a religious man. But he believed a Greater Power had a hand in the workings of the Universe. He argued subatomic particle behavior theory with his contemporaries, he had difficulty with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, claiming that “God does not play dice” with the Universe. In the context of cosmology, it is difficult to see how, or why, any intelligent person would exclude even the merest possibility of the force of God in the birth and workings of the cosmos.

That atheism isn't satisfied to live with its own unbelief but has to tear down the faith of others should be an object lesson for those religious zealots who feel a duty to proselytize their own beliefs. One is as unseemly as the other.

As a Deist, I say, if you are an atheist, go ahead and live your life as your conscience dictates. But why spend your time engaging in a war to destroy someone else’s faith? Let the faithful have their Christmas and Easter. How is a nativity scene or midnight mass harming you in any way? It’s all in your own mind, in the strict orthodoxy of atheism. In other words, your religion! 

Theoretical physicists, cosmologists (and those who teach it) who bring atheism into their calculus are equally disingenuous as those who bring religion into theirs. If Science eventually proves the cosmos operates without the influence of a Greater Power, than I will bow to it. Until then, the seeking of truth requires the seeker to be neutral. Willing to judge on the merits, the factualness of the evidence. As long as it is factual. Not simply the theory du jour.

10.17.2013

Barack’s Bandwagon to Perdition



“Roll up!
Roll up for the magical mystery tour!
Step right this way!
Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour!”

~The Beatles

Come one, come all! It’s Barack Obama’s Traveling Three-Ring Mystery Tour.

The Band Wagon calliope plays, and politicians, mediaites, and poor, long-suffering voters climb all over one another to get into Barack’s Big Top.


The toothy smile of the Carnival Barker flashes as he promises the next act will truly be The Greatest Show on Earth. And the audience cheers, and the lions roar, and the trapezes whiz by somewhere in the darkness above.


It matters not to them that every act fails. It doesn’t matter that he makes everything up as he goes along; Universal Healthcare, Middle East Policy, Immigration, Border Security, Gun Control, Free Birth Control, Energy Policy, et al. His wide-eyed audience will believe anything. They actually seem to believe that the carny games are on the level. He spouts platitudes and worn-out Marxisms like the rich will pay their fair share and government is there to protect the little man. And the DC “reporters” do just that: scribble their notes and repeat the Marxisms to their editors like it’s all investigative reporting. And if one of them gets out of line, the Carny Barker’s clowns with their nasty smiles throw him under the Bandwagon.


Politicians on the left go forth spouting the same platitudinous baloney, promising with all their might, in a concerted effort to keep the Band Wagon rolling to a destination they don’t even comprehend. The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away. Coming to take you away.


Politicians on the right, so dreadfully eager to be loved by those on the left (whom they consider brighter, more sophisticated than themselves – and sadly, in many cases they are), just go along to get along. They try to sneak in the back of the Big Top, making deals with the Barker, casting their precious votes for bad bills because they want to stay in the good graces of the lefties who look down on them as if their flies are open or perhaps they don’t have a genuine authentic ticket to the Band Wagon.


Haven’t you wondered why, if Congress really wants something, for example border security; why after several decades we still don’t really have border security? It’s because they don’t really want it. They don’t really care what the idiots in the audience want. They just want to be on the Band Wagon. So they keep on “investigating,” calling for more hearings, getting face time on the tv news shows. Giving the plausible appearance of actually doing something about the issues their constituents care about. Pretending to be outraged, when interviewed, at how Congress can’t seem to get anything done. How it’s The House of “No.” And Reid’s Senate. Both clashing, working hard to go nowhere. But it’s difficult to convince anyone outside the Bandwagon that you are the only Congressman who doesn’t really want to be on that Band Wagon to Hell.


Of course none of us can ever know what another’s motivations are, but we can get some insight by judging their words and actions. Can you think of one good reason why an elected official would want to get on the Band Wagon to Hell? There are no reasons but bad reasons. The Band Wagon is rolling over the Constitution. The price of a ticket is all the savings of the Middle Class, a transfer ticket to uber-rich corporations and the government of clowns, allowing a few coins and stale popcorn to spill into the crowd – the New Permanent Underclass which the Bandwagon has created. The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away. Coming to take you away.


Should we not all fear where this Band Wagon is headed? We exported too much industry to foreign nations. So unemployment is rampant. But the Carny wants to give free entry tickets to immigrants to fill non-existent jobs. The immigrants are actually wanted to replace those still working with workers who will accept lower wages. We show one weakness after another in foreign affairs, leading to a terrible loss of faith in the U.S. The Carny has cast off the steam engine that propels the Wagon and calliope in favor of renewable energy that isn't up to the job. Meanwhile, so many, many good jobs never materialize because our vast resources in natural gas and oil go untapped.


Now every seat in the Big Top, every seat on the Bandwagon is bugged. The IRS and NASA are sticking their electronic noses into private affairs, intrusions which would have been considered outrageous generations ago. And all the while the audience cheers and loves Barack the Barker. Except those of us on the outside who watch in disbelief as the Bandwagon rolls across America like a snowball in hell.

But it is a seductive tune the president plays. Here’s a link if you’d like your personal invitation to
Barak’s Bandwagon to Perdition, the Magical Mystery Tour, is hoping to take you away. Hoping to take you away.

10.12.2013

The Ancient Cause of Enmity in The Middle East



Abraham walked with Allah.
             — Muhammad


...Allah took Abraham to be his friend.
             — The Holy Qur’an 4:124

Judaism and Islam are monotheistic religions; each worships its one god. Islam’s fundamental theological concept is tawhid – the belief that there is only one God. But Abraham, Patriarch of both monotheistic religions, would not “walk” with two different gods since by definition one would be a false god: logically therefore, Yahweh and Allah must be different names for the same diety. 

Herewith, the full and fascinating story:

Abraham, Sarah and Yahweh

Without a firm conviction in his
preordained role as the progenitor of the Chosen people,
Abraham would have been a tragic figure.
His faith made him heroic.
        
           — Max I. Dimont
               "Jews, God and History"


According to Genesis, Sarah (Sarai) was Abraham’s wife. Abraham (Abram) had two sons; Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was first born, but not by Sarah. Sarah and Abraham were unable to conceive a child, so Sarah gave Abraham her blessing to father a child with her handmaiden, Hagar. Thus was born Ishmael.

Abraham truly loved Ishmael. Later, when Abraham and Sarah were quite old, Abraham lamented that he did not have a “legal” heir. Their god Yahweh made it possible for Sarah to bear a child. Thus was born Isaac.

When Hagar was pregnant with Ishmael, Sarah was personally offended by her handmaiden’s haughty attitude and made Hagar’s life miserable. After Sarah gave birth to Isaac, who became Abraham’s “legal” heir, she claimed she had seen Ishmael bullying his younger brother Isaac. She demanded that Abraham, against his will, send Hagar and Ishmael away. At first he refused. But Sarah persisted. Turning to his god, Abraham was persuaded to acquiesce to Sarah’s demand. Hagar and Ishmael were given supplies and turned out into the inhospitable desert. There, but for the intercession of emissaries of Yahweh, mother and son almost perished. The emissaries promised Hagar that Ishmael would father a people as great as those fathered by Isaac.

Whatever seminal enmity persisted between the houses of Ishmael and Isaac, it was a result of that between Sarah and Hagar. It is fair to say that Ishmael, at least, was an innocent victim of Sarah’s hard heart.


The full story is very complex, with many
obscure aspects, but fascinating archeological history.
They are joined together here from
a multitude of sources and viewpoints
including that of linguists such as
Zecharia Sitchen.

According to biblical scholars, The Patriarch Abraham is the first actual historic figure mentioned in The Old Testament. While to date there may be no definitive archaeological evidence corroborating the existence of the biblical Abraham, the detail which surrounds his story is so complex, correlating so well with extra-biblical ancient texts, and his personality so vivid that it is difficult to imagine him not being an actual historic figure.


Jews and Arabs agree Abraham is their Patriarch – we are told the name itself conveys the meaning “Father of Nations.” The Tanakh, the Hebrew Old Testament, tells us Abraham was the tenth generation in a direct line of descent from Noah, and the first human since Noah – therefore the first human after the Flood – to come face to face with the Elohim Yahweh. The Elohim (who play a major role in this epic) were the olden gods, sometimes referred to as Anunnaki or Anakim, superior beings who reigned over the ancient world; Bal, Marduk, Enki, Ishtar, et al. The supreme diety on Earth was Enlil, first born son of Anu, the celestial diety. The Egyptian pantheon of gods included the mysterious diety Amun-Ra, who as the “transcendental, self-created creator” may be the same diety as Anu. As we develop this thesis we shall learn how the ancient Elohim evolved into today’s Creator diety, who still is known by various names including Jehovah and Allah.

Jews, Christians, and Arabs consider Abraham a Patriarch. For Jews and Christians this is through his son Isaac by his wife Sarah. For the Arabian peoples, Abraham is a great Prophet of Islam, the ancestor of Muhammad through Abraham’s other son Ishmael. Thus Abraham is Patriarch of the peoples who became Arab. Now, to review the seminal point:

Yahweh and Allah must be different names for the same diety or Elohim. Interestingly, the Qur’an suggests that the proper name Muslim was introduced by Abraham.

While Abraham’s life and accomplishments are a major subject in The Old Testament, many researchers believe references to “the priest’s son” in Babylonian and other contemporaneous Mesopotamian texts are references to Abraham. To the authors of Genesis, Abraham represented the embodiment of the most ancient tradition of the Hebrews, the first to live in the Land of Canaan.

Genesis relates how a mysterious figure, Yahweh (also called Jehovah), appears to Abraham repeatedly – in person! – throughout his life. Yahweh too was an Elohim – the diety to whom Abraham’s complete and lifelong loyalty was willfully given. Abraham’s devotion may have been virtuous, but in return he received the divine promise of a great reward for his seed. What exactly was this Elohim’s interaction with Abraham, his chosen whom he anointed?

It is written that at times Yahweh appeared to Abraham in human form, but the exposition of Abraham’s Elohim was the first clear step in this god’s evolution from a flesh-and-blood humanoid to – as we know him now – an incorporeal, eternal, Almighty God. In the context of evolving religious belief systems, Abraham (whose Nippurian birth name was Abram) is perhaps the most pivotally important figure, for through him and his seed evolved the Hebrew people, as well as Judaism, then Christianity, and Islam. Understanding events surrounding Abraham’s life and time are the key to understanding how we arrived at our modern day concept of God, and why there often seems to be animus of a virtually genetic origin between Jew and Arab.

On the other side, some critics claim the historicity of Abraham is at best dubious. This, they say, is due to the inability of researchers to locate any direct archeological evidence. The names Abram and Abraham were very common in that era, so there were many Abrahams. While there may not be any unambiguous archaeological evidence to date to prove the existence of the actual Abraham, assertions of the patriarch’s historicity as accounted in Genesis remain vibrantly alive because disproving the existence of a specific Abraham and his story is no less difficult.

Genesis contains a literal tracing of Abraham’s lineage both backward and forward in time. His father, Terah, was the son of Nahor, whose lineage goes back in time directly through Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Arpachshad, to Shem, one of the sons of Noah. It is interesting to note the Hebrews specified ten generations from Adam to Noah, then ten more from Noah to Abraham. This very neatly dovetails with the early Sumerian King List which counts ten kings from the beginning of Elohim kingship on Earth to the Great Flood. The Sumerian King List was certainly known to the ancient Hebrews, and it can be safely assumed that they deliberately mirrored the “divine” number ten in their own version of the history of Adam, Noah and Abraham’s bloodline. But why did the Hebrew writers of the Tanakh make such a point of tracing Abraham’s lineage all the way back to Adam through Noah? What was the point? They clearly wanted to establish the “purity” of Abraham’s blood line. Just as the writers of The New Testament wanted to make it clear that the blood line of Jesus was the same as Abraham’s and Noah’s all the way back to the first biblical human, Adam. What we have here is the establishment, whether real or symbolic, of a unique and special blood line which goes back to the beginning of civilized Man.

Now, one can argue that we are all decendants of the first human man and woman. While this seems logical, it is only conditionally true. According to Sumerian texts as well as biblical legend, there were other “non-civilized” humans, hominids, other species of early Homo sapiens living alongside Adam’s blood line. Any one of these might have co-mixed with one of Adam’s offspring; as when Cain was sent away after murdering his brother, Abel, and then fathered children. His mate must not have been in Adam’s blood line, corrupting the original blood line in Cainanite offspring, which is why the Old Testament focuses on the offspring of Shem, Abel’s “replacement.” If one accepts there was an Adam, there had to have been, therefore, other humans – primitive as they may have been – living at that time. So the very special new and unique human blood line was passed from Adam to his offspring. The Old Testament makes it clear that Abraham was of “pure” lineage.

Nor was Abraham a nomad, a wanderer who lived in tents, as was believed for a long time. Abram (Abraham’s birth name) was born in the holy city of Nippur, and raised in the the great cultural center Ur, in Mesopotamia; according to some researchers it was in the year 2123 BC. There is much debate over his birth date; we are favoring the estimate arrived at by Sitchen by comparisons of Mesopotamian texts calendrically aligned with events mentioned in biblical references relating to the life of Abraham. 

The Old Testament records that Abram’s father, Terah, was a Chaldean, probably employed as a Tirhu – an omen priest skilled in astronomy – in the service of one of the Mesopotamian gods. Terah himself had three sons; Nahor, Haran and Abram (the youngest), as well as a daughter, Sarai, who became Abram’s wife. Sarai, we learn in Genesis, was born to Terah by a different mother from Abram’s mother, so according to tradition their marriage was considered legal as well as honorable. Also living with Terah was his grandson, Lot, whose father, Haran, died when Lot was a child.

Though the word “Chaldean” now commonly refers to the whole of Mesopotamia, Chaldea proper was the vast plain in the south formed by the deposits of the Euphrates and the Tigris (“Mesopotamia” means “the plain between two rivers”). Chaldea ran roughly north-south about four hundred miles along the course of these rivers, extending about a hundred miles wide. Chaldeans were simply “people of the plain,” referring essentially to the city-states of Sumer; Nippur, Babylon, Ur and others. According to many archeologists Sumer was Earth’s, or at least the Eastern World’s first high civilization. It was succeeded by Akkadia, Assyria, then in Abram’s time, Babylonia. Nippur was a religious center, where Terah was very probably a high priest in the service of one or more of Babylonia’s olden gods. At that time, Chaldean high priests were not simply religious officials but generally were renowned astronomers, because religion (the formal worship of the olden gods) and astronomy (the ancient form of astrology employed in the prediction of divine events) were interdependent. This would place Terah and his family in the upper class of Babylonian society.

Now it must be remembered that in those days, each of Mesopotamia’s major cities was dedicated to a specific deity, an Elohim, but was ruled by a human king personally selected by the Elohim to rule in his name. Ten years after Abram was born, a new human king, Ur-Nammu, was chosen by the Elohim Nannar to rule in the nearby city of Ur. One of the olden gods, Nannar (also known as ZU-EN or simply in Akkadian: Sin) was the principle deity who resided and was worshiped in Ur. King Ur-Nammu brought about significant improvements, both in the infrastructure as well as the culture of his kingdom. The new human king also assumed guardianship of Nippur, combining the religious power of that city with Ur. Thus, Ur became a major religious, cultural center, whereupon Terah and his family moved there to serve the king and gods.

Biblical scholars had always thought Ur was nothing more than a simple desert oasis where nomads pitched their tents. This idea was completely overturned in the mid-1800’s when the ruins of Ur were excavated. Four thousand years ago, this desert region was rich, arable land watered by a major system of highly engineered irrigation canals running from the banks of the Euphrates. Ur revealed itself as a royal city, dominated by an immense ziggurat, surrounded by paved streets lined with two-story stucco houses with as many as ten rooms. Thus, Terah and his family were prosperous members of society in one of the largest cities in the ancient world! Sadly, over time, the course of the Euphrates River was altered, shifting more than fifty miles, leaving Ur to dry up, crumble to dust, and again become one with the desert.

In his capacity as an advisor to king and gods, Terah (and soon his son Abram) would have been accustomed to dealing directly with high state officials and other high priests. Thus Abram was undoubtedly known to the olden gods who ruled that region. All this is to say that while Abram may have done some shepherding in his long life, he was most certainly not a simple shepherd; because of his family, Abram enjoyed the benefits of position and influence.

Abram was almost thirty years old in the year 2095 B.C., when King Ur-Nammu died ignominiously, though quite by accident we are told, in battle. Since kings were chosen by, and supported by the olden gods, Ur-Nammu’s untimely death was seen by his people as a betrayal by the god of Ur, Nannar/Sin, and even by Nannar’s father, Enlil, the supreme god on Earth. The king’s subjects knew the Elohim could have and should have protected their king. Thus there was dissent as Shulgi, the new choice of the Elohim, ascended the throne in Ur. Perhaps this is why, according to Islamic texts, the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) was “thrown into the fire” at Ur – probably meaning he was thrown into the middle of the ensuing political and religious turmoil. There were rebellions in western provinces of Sumer as subjects loyal to gods other than Nannar/Sin and Enlil became more and more of a threat to the Enlilite kingdoms. There was great lamentation among the Sumerians over their suffering and the despoiling of their great cities, but house of Enlil had good reason to punish Ur, for there is a suggestion that Nannar/Sin attempted to overthrow and seize power from his own father, Enlil.

Being first-born of Enlil, Nannar/Sin was spared execution but was forced into exile. Though Ur remained for all time a city dedicated to Nannar/Sin and his spouse Ningal, the couple fled northward out of Mesopotamia. They took refuge in Haran, northeast of Canaan (probably in modern-day Turkey), a Hurrian city protected by rivers and mountainous territory. The entire region of Sumer was once again in a period of confusion, with gods fighting among themselves, and human citizens unsure which god deserved their allegiance and worship.

Probably not coincidentally, this is when Terah and his clan abruptly left Ur. Their destination was to be the land of Canaan, but they were diverted and also took up residence at Haran. The Hurrian people are also known as the Mitannians. Nannar/Sin and Ningal, and Terah must have found comfort in Haran because in many ways Haran was made to mirror Ur. Its temples, buildings, and streets were almost exact copies of Ur, though typical homes, tulli, remained of the traditional Hurrian design, in the style of open-topped beehives. In these, interior warm air collects in the funneled top where it is vented out. This style of home survives to this day. The Hurrians/ Mitannians, who thought of themselves as aristocratic, were great horsemen and warriors. Scholars believe Haran survived the millennia, and is still in existence in modern-day Turkey, though now spelled Harran.

During the period in which Abram resided with his father in Haran, their growing clan became known as “Hebrews.” There are differing theories as to how this name came to be. One is that the word ibri connotes the idea of “crossing.” As we know, Terah and his family were originally from Nippur, a city whose original Sumerian name Ni-ib-ri meant “The Crossing Place” (the original “Navel of the Earth”). In translating Ni-ib-ri from Sumerian to Akkadian (the original source of all semitic languages) it became ibri: eventually “Hebrew.” The first Hebrews simply were people from Nippur; Ni-ib-ri.

Alternatively, since the word ibri connotes the idea of “crossing” it could certainly describe people – the Ivriim – who “crossed over.” Terah and his family crossed the border, or crossed the River Euphrates when emigrating from Mesopotamia. This probably would not have been a name adopted by them but by those who wrote the story of Abraham.

Other biblical scholars suggest the word Hebrew stems from Terah’s ancestor, Eber. Archeological finds at Tel Mardiqu, in modern Syria, exposed the ancient city of Ebla, dating back more than a millennium before Abram’s time. At that time, Ebla was ruled by a king named Ebrum, who some scholars believe might have been, as the Old Testament states, Abraham’s great-great-great-great-grandfather “Eber.”

Wherever the name came from, this earliest group of Hebrews “knew” or worshiped a number of different olden gods – various gods in the pantheon of Elohim who ruled in Mesopotamia. In fact, the Old Testament says Terah himself worshiped other gods:

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord,
the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers,
including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor,
lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.’ ”

                                – Joshua 24:2

Whichever of these gods he might have been, Yahweh was well acquainted with Abram. Almost 50 years after Terah and his family were settled in Haran, Yahweh approached Abram, now about 75 years old (which for him is merely middle age; he lived to be 175). The Elohim Yahweh dispatched Abram for what eventually was an important military mission. Terah was probably passed over for the mission because he was the high priest of the disgraced Nannar/Sin, and most certainly because of his advanced age. One interpretation has it that Abram and his father had a terrible confrontation over their worshiping of different gods. The story goes that Terah “turned in” his son for punishment. Abram was by this time a loyal follower of Yahweh, who Abram believed was the only true god. 

In the year 2048 BC, the ever-ambitious Elohim Marduk, adversary to the house of Enlil, playing a game of divine chess, moved his own clan to Haran, making it his center of operations for the next two dozen years. Marduk and his son Nabu were responsible for the growing rebelliousness of the lands west of Mesopotamia, stirring up distrust and gaining the allegiance of territories from Haran through Canaan westward as far as Egypt, where Marduk was worshiped as a divine ancestor to the pharaohs. Aware of this, Yahweh ordered Abram to leave his home in Haran in that same year, and head southwest to the land of Canaan.

As the many small but rebellious nations west of Mesopotamia were becoming increasingly agressive, making deeper incursions into Mesopotamia, challenging the Enlilite gods at every opportunity, it seems clear that Yahweh was sending Abram westward to put him in a position to meet the challengers. While he was not exactly a young man, Abram was by this time well versed in the effective military ways of the Mittanians who were adept cavalry warriors. Accompanying Abram were his nephew Lot and his family whom Abram had taken under his wing, as well as many of the growing clan of Hebrews. In return for Abram’s service, Yahweh proclaimed Abram and the Hebrews his “Chosen.” They are promised in time they will be granted their own land – the region then known as Canaan.

        The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people
        and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
        I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
        I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
        I will bless those who bless you,
        and whoever curses you I will curse; 
        and all peoples on earth
        will be blessed through you.”

                             – Genesis 12:1-3

Back in Mesopotamia, just one year later according to Mesopotamian texts, King Shulgi was succeeded by Amar-Sin (possibly the biblical Amraphel). Shulgi became a victim of his own vanity, disregarding affairs of State during this stressful time, enjoying an extravagant lifestyle. The supreme god, Enlil, whose hegemony was under siege by his own nephew, Marduk, finally had enough. He called together the Divine Council of Elohim; Shulgi’s fate was debated. The verdict; thumbs down.

To complicate matters, during this time, there was a famine in Canaan in the region in which Abram and his family had settled. They were forced to travel farther south and west, making their way to Egypt where food was available. There they sojourned for several years, during which time Abram was received by the Pharaoh (further evidence that he was widely known not simply as a shepherd but as a man of substance and influence). On their approach to Egypt, Abram had a little chat with his wife (the enigmatic Genesis 12:11-13):

And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, 
that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art
a fair woman to look upon:

Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, 
that they shall say, This is his wife, and they will kill me,
but they will save thee alive.

Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me
for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

Abram knew human nature well; Pharaoh was taken with the beauty of Sarai who, he was told, was Abram’s sister. And in fact she was! As Abram claims, Sarai was the daughter of his father but not of his mother. Biblical scholar Manfred Barthel points out that in that part of the world, women’s legal and social status was so much inferior to that of men that they were scarcely considered to be human – fair game, in other words, for lustful Pharaohs and other predators. There was, however, one exception to this dreadful rule: a man’s sister was considered his social equal, off-limits to other men. Thus, for a man to acknowledge his wife as his sister actually amounted to a social promotion; “looking upon” Abram’s sister with lust, as far as other men were concerned, was strictly taboo.

It should be remembered that the olden gods order of succession fell first upon the son of an Elohim born through a union of him and his half-sister. The reason was simply a matter of keeping the gods’ bloodline as pure as possible: the union of a god and his half-sister was as close to a genetic match as was considered “decent,” given that the union of full brother and sister was forbidden. And so this tradition found its way into human culture as early man tried to emulate the behavior of his gods.

Because of Pharaoh’s attraction to Sarai, and in deference to Abram’s diplomatic status, he was well treated by the Egyptians, receiving many gifts from Pharaoh, including camels horses and cavalrymen. (Some claim camels had not been domesticated that far back, but evidence is they were domesticated at minimum for production of food, and as beasts of burden. And though had the ability to frighten off horses, they probably were not suitable for use by cavalrymen.) The Midrash (a Jewish “methodology” which attempts to fill gaps left in biblical narrative regarding events and personalities which are only hinted at) gives Lot a good deal of credit because, despite his own desire for wealth, he did not inform Pharaoh of the secret that Sarai was actually Abram’s wife.

It seems the shrewd Abram used this same ploy more than once. Years later, while Abram was sojourning at Gerar near the Negev, the king of Gerar, Abimelech, also was attracted to Sarai. In pursuing her, he too was warned off in a vision by Yahweh. Fearing terrible retribution, Abimelech (who ordinarily was a terror and feared no one) demanded of Abram why he had said Sarai was his sister and caused the wrath of Yahweh. Abram once again used the “She is the daughter of my father, but not of my mother, so she became my wife” ploy. To placate the Elohim Yahweh, Abimelech sent Abram and Sarai away with even more possessions! An interesting way to increase one’s wealth. Abram may have been righteous, but he was also a street-smart fellow with a good share of human frailties.

Nowhere do we learn what Pharaoh was to receive in return, but from subsequent events, one can deduce that it was related to the ongoing struggle within Egypt between the Upper (southern) Kingdom and the Lower (northern) Kingdom – a struggle over which of their gods was supreme. This has its counterpart in the struggle between the different gods of Mesopotamia, Canaan and other kingdoms of that region. Remember that while the Elohim had different names in the different regions, they were all basically the same original Sumerian pantheon. So the struggle for domination in Egypt was essentially the same struggle happening in the homeland of Abram.

Stepping back for a moment, we clearly see here the endless quarreling of the olden gods in their ambition to dominate not just their fellow gods but ever more territory – and most pertinent to our thesis – using humans to do the warring and the dying!

Thus, in the year 2042 BC, Abram left Egypt, returning to Canaan with his clan; Sarai, his nephew Lot and his family, his growing Hebrew tribe, and all his possessions. By then, his tribe most likely consisted of a good number of slaves, as was common in those days, as well as family members and perhaps “borrowed” Egyptian cavalrymen. The Old Testament suggests Abram is ordered to leave Egypt because Pharaoh somehow learns Sarai is Abram’s wife, and has been forbidden by Yahweh to cohabit with her. Whatever the reason, Abram returns to Canaan, ready to fulfill a mission for his god Yahweh.

Back in Canaan, Abram and Lot split up so their clans and large flocks wouldn’t be pressing upon one another. As Lot was a favorite of Abram, he was given first choice of all the land. Lot settled his family in the Jordan Plain near the Dead Sea and the ancient city of Sodom. Abram settled in another area of Canaan.

Genesis tells us it is at this time that Yahweh makes it very clear to Abram that he is the anointed. In doing so, Yahweh makes an appearance in person! The two climb to a rise with a panoramic view of Canaan, whereupon Yahweh tells Abram:

Look about you, and from where you are, gaze to the north
and south, east and west; all the land that you see I will give
to you and your descendants forever. I will make your
descendants (number) like the dust of the earth...

The peripatetic Abram moves his clan again, this time to Hebron. But it isn’t long before Yahweh orders Abram into battle. One year later, in 2041 BC, the so-called “War of the Kings” was launched by Amar-sin (most likely one of the Kings of Shinar [Sumer] called Amraphel in Genesis, though some believe Amraphel is a corruption of the name Hammurabi) against the rebelling cities of Canaan. The Old Testament tells us an “Alliance of Kings” from the East attacked certain cities of the plains west of Mesopotamia. These were cities whose own kings, after a dozen years of paying tribute to the Alliance’s dominant king, Chedorlaomer, and spurred on by Marduk and Nabu, decided they had had enough, and on the thirteenth year, rebelled. (Chedorlaomer may also be known as the Elamite King, Kutir-Lagamar, or the Assyrian King Kudurlagamar.) But Marduk was playing chess, setting one side against the other while he had a secret underlying plan.

With the aid of the Elohim Inanna (the exiled Nannar/Sin’s daughter, also known as Ishtar), Chedorlaomer organized the Alliance ostensibly to put down the rebellious cities of the plains. We can speculate that Inanna’s plan was to advance the Alliance forces victoriously through Canaan, but then to have them continue southward toward the Sinai. Inanna had been a dominant god in the past and she may have seen this as her chance for resurgance. Both Inanna and Marduk’s strategic goal was to capture certain restricted sites in the Sinai, critical to Marduk’s plan to depose and succeed his own uncle, the supreme god Enlil. These were sites considered sacred by all the Elohim gods, and which were under the control of Enlil. Marduk was convinced this was the time to circumvent the will of the Divine Council of the Elohim, to depose Enlil, and to establish his place as supreme Elohim on Earth. And Inanna, acting for herself and for her humiliated father, may have been part of the plan.

We see here an almost international war; fought by humans, but caused by the terrible rivalry among the younger generation of olden gods, especially Nannar/Sin, first-born of Enlil, and Marduk/Bel, first-born of Enki, but also including Nananar. This was nothing new: Enlil and Enki, sons of the supreme god of the heavens, Anu, had been rivals for supremacy on Earth since the very earliest days of the olden gods on our planet. Because of their drive to achieve supremacy at any cost, the cousins Nannar/Sin and Marduk/Bel, and Inanna/Ishtar, in separate times and for different reasons, had been sentenced to exile by the Divine Council of Elohim. In the case of Marduk, he secretly (or so he apparently thought) had his son Nabu work stealthfully to gain the allegiance of willing leaders and their followers, causing growing tensions in Canaan and other regions. This suggests the Egyptian Pharaoh would have liked to see the forces of Marduk defeated, because Marduk was worshiped as the god Amon-Ra by Pharaoh’s own opposition within Egypt.

On the other side was Yahweh and his anointed, Abram. Abram and his army of cavalrymen, now also in Canaan, were ordered to stop the advance of the Alliance of Kings.

Acting in accordance with an oracle of Nannar/Ishtar, the four kings and their army advanced southward along the ancient King’s Highway arriving first at Transjordan where they attacked a stronghold in the high land, then attacked Rabattum. They attacked important outposts along the Jordan; Ashterot-Karnaim in the north, Ham in the center, and Shaveh-Kiryatayim in the south. The Bible describes this same series of events thusly:

From the highland in the north through the district of Rabat-Amon
in the center, southward around the Dead Sea.
Thereafter, Dur-Mah-Ilani was to be captured,
and the Canaanite cities (including Gaza, and Beer-Sheba
in the Negev) were to be punished.

The next destination of the King’s Alliance, and its primary goal, was El-Paran in the Sinai, more than a thousand miles from their starting point! Considering they had no back-up and no supply line, they had to have an extremely important reason to launch such a daring attack at that distance. Indeed they did; El-Paran was a unique outpost with a long and mysterious history. Nearly a thousand years before, the Sumerian King Gilgamesh sojourned there in order to be granted entrance to the Elohim gateway hidden in a restricted region in the Sinai. The Sumerians called it BAD-GAL-DINGAR; Sargon of Akkad called it Dur-Mah-Ilani, clearly listing it in his inscriptions as a place in Tilmun – the Sinai Peninsula.

However, the Alliance of Kings never got that far. They were beaten back at Ein-Mishpat (also known as Kadesh-Barnea) by, as Babylonian texts record, “The son of the priest, whom the gods in their counsel had anointed,” who stood in the invaders’ way and “The despoiling prevented.” None other than Abram and his cavalry!

Having carried out his mission, Abram returned to his base near Hebron. Then, as the beaten Alliance was retreating northward through Canaan, the kings of the Cities of the Plains, who had just been defeated by this same Alliance, attempted to even the score. Genesis tells us:

...The King of Sodom and the King of Gomorrah
and the King of Admah and the King of Zebi’im
and the King of Bela, which is Zoar, marched forth
and engaged (the Alliance of Kings) in battle
in the Vale of Siddim.

But once again, the Alliance prevailed. In retribution, they:

...Seized all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah.
They took with them Lot, the nephew of Abram,
who was at that time residing in Sodom.

Hearing this news, Abram and hundreds of his cavalrymen pursued the retreating Alliance. Abram’s force caught up with them near Damascus where he forced the release of his nephew, and retrieved all the booty taken by the Alliance of Kings. When he returned, by way of the Valley of Shalem (Jerusalem), word of his victory caused Abram to be greeted as a hero:

And Malkizedek, the king of Shalem,
brought forth bread and wine,
for he was a priest unto the God Most High.
And he blessed him, saying;
Blessed be Abram
unto the God Most High,
Possessor of Heaven and Earth;
And blessed be the God Most High
Who hath delivered thine foes into thine hand.

Abram gave Malkizedek a portion of all which he had retrieved. The Canaanite kings who had lost their battle near Sodom and Gomorrah also came to thank Abram, offering him all the remaining booty as a reward. But Abram refused to take “even a sandal strap” for himself or his cavalrymen. He had acted, he said, neither out of friendship for the rebellious Canaanite kings nor out of enmity for the Eastern Alliance of Kings. It was for Yahweh, the God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth, that he went to war. As far as Abram was concerned, the battle between the Alliance of Kings and the Canaanites was of only marginal interest; it had little to do with Abram’s real mission, preventing Marduk’s Alliance of Kings from reaching El Paran and gateway to the Sinai facilities. This was the order of Yahweh.

Let us think about this. It was for Yahweh, the God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth, that Abram went to war. Abram and the Hebrews were pawns, as was the Alliance of Kings, in the gods’ game of chess. 

Why would Yahweh even care about the Alliance of Kings and the Canaanite Kings? None of them worshiped Yahweh as their god. Why did Yahweh disentangle Pharaoh from Abram’s wife in such a way that Abram was free to depart Egypt with more than he arrived with, especially the cavalry? Why did Yahweh dispatch Abram to Canaan in the first place? All these things were done because the Elohim Yahweh knew in advance, as did members of the Divine Council, that Marduk and his son were plotting against the Council. They knew Marduk and Inanna were planning to capture critical sites in the Sinai; and since they knew the route the Kings’ forces were bound to take, Yahweh positioned Abram and his cavalrymen at Kadesh-Barnea to block the way. Marduk’s plans were thwarted for the time being. He returned to his headquarters in Haran, planning his next move.

* * *
The Old Testament relates that sometime later, Abram had a vision wherein Yahweh tells him:


Fear not, Abram, I am your shield,
I will make your reward very great...

Abram laments, what good will his rewards be if he remains childless? Tradition dictated that if Abram had no son, all his possessions would pass to his head house servant, a kind of major domo – an employee, not a blood relative. Yahweh promises Abram


None shall inherit thee except he
who shall come out of thy own innards.

Because of Abram’s righteousness, Yahweh again promises Abram he will be father to a great multitude. Yahweh points to the heavens and tells Abram:


Look up at the sky and count the starts, if thee be able
to number them; that many shall be thy seed.

Eventually, Abram fathered two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, but only the latter with his wife, Sarai. How did it come to be that the two brothers were unwitting rivals for their father’s inheritance? According to the Old Testament, Sarai was unable to bear children. Significant time passed even after Yahweh promised Abram an heir of his own blood. So Sarai, being concerned Abram would have no heir, offered her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, as a surrogate. Mesopotamian customs of the time dictated that, although Hagar was the birth mother, if a child was conceived he would be considered the son of Sarai and Abram.

The Old Testament relates that when Hagar became pregnant she began to belittle Sarai who became exceedingly angry with her handmaiden. Hagar received such harsh treatment from Sarai that even though she was pregnant, she fled into the wilderness. There, an emissary of Yahweh appeared to her, telling her to return to Abram’s home, and that God would give her a son. She would call the boy Ishma-El (“God has heard”), and the boy would be the father of a great nation. Hagar returned to Abram’s house, and Ishmael was born when Abram was eighty-six years old.

Thirteen years passed – Abram was now ninety-nine years old – when Yahweh again appeared to him. The Hebrew writers of the Old Testament make it abundantly clear that Abram’s Elohim Yahweh was a physical, corporeal, human being, who looked, spoke and even ate food much like the rest of us. Abram was sitting at the entrance of his home, in the hottest time of the day, when Yahweh and two of his emissaries appeared “out of nowhere,” apparently “from above,” as Abram called to them, “My lord, if I find favor in thy eyes, please do not pass over above they servant.” These obviously were no ordinary passers-by. If we are to take the biblical words at face value, in some fashion not further described, Yahweh descended from the sky.

Abram offers them a place to rest and a meal to enjoy. During the course of their conversation, Yaweh restates his covenant, saying:


My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father
of a host of nations. No longer shall you be called Abram;
your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father
of a host of nations.... kings shall stem from you...

I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants
after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact,
to be your God and the God of your descendants...

For his part, Abram, who is renamed by Yahweh, and heretofore called Abraham, is to convince his own growing clan to forsake all other gods. They had been worshiping various different gods in Mesopotamia, and now they were to worship only Yahweh, who claimed to be the only true god, “Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” They are not to worship or pray to or have any rituals involving any of the other Elohim; nor create images of these other gods. They are also forbidden to create images of Yahweh, for he is to remain an unseen god. Yahweh claims he is the same Elohim who was there all the way back at the creation of Adam; who saved Noah from The Flood; and was now going to do something important for Abraham and his tribe. This would make Yahweh at least 35,000 years old! Perhaps we can see here why the Elohim Enlil did not want Adam and mankind to live as long as the gods lived!

I suspect the writers and editors of Genesis had a real conundrum on their hands here. Yahweh appeared as a humanoid. He was an Elohim, one of the olden gods, and yet he claimed to be Almighty God, Possessor of Heaven and Earth. Of course, Almighty God could choose to appear as a man if He so desired. But this is walking on divine eggshells. It seems likely to the author that Yahweh was a composite of several Elohim created by the editors of Genesis, perhaps Enlil, Enki, and even Anu, who enlisted Abraham at various different times and places. But we should leave open the possibility that he might have been an Elohim completely outside the known pantheon of olden gods! At any rate, it is easy to see how there really must be an evolution here in the idea of who the Hebrew’s god will eventually become.

Now, to seal the new covenant, Yahweh specifies that Abraham’s clan, each and every one, must be circumcised. All male children born to Abraham’s growing tribe must be circumcised no more than eight days after their birth. No specific reason is given for this, but we can assume it is some kind of “private” sign, or mark, meant to identify a Hebrew. But the writers of the Old Testament should have been aware that this was already a common practice that, for hygienic reasons, alternately was in favor and fell out of favor at different times and places in that region of the world. So it couldn’t really be the definitive mark of a Hebrew. It seems more a ritual, perhaps for hygienic reasons, rather than a mark of identification.

Yahweh also declares Abraham’s wife, Sarai, will henceforth be known as Sarah. The Elohim Yahweh apparently has a bone to pick with the other Elohim, so Abraham and Sarah were given semitic names (languages stemming from Akkadian) with semitic spellings and pronunciation, as if to create a new tribe quite separate from the ones worshipping various Elohim of the Divine Council – the olden gods – in their polytheistic tradition. This may be one of the few recorded clues to Yahweh’s Mesopotamian background.

Yahweh told Abraham that a year from that day, despite his and Sarah’s advanced age, he will bless her and she will conceive a child with Abraham; a son who will be Abraham’s legitimate heir. Abraham seems dubious, considering their ages and how Sarah had been barren all these years. In fact, Sarah overhears the promise and laughs to herself. Yahweh apparently is able to hear her thoughts! Yahweh asks:


Wherefore did Sarah laugh, thinking; Would I really
bear a child when I have waxed old?

Sarah denies laughing, but Yahweh scolds her, saying Yes you did. After all, was not Abraham’s Elohim, a god? Is there anything a god cannot do? Interestingly, Isaac’s name in Hebrew – Itz’hak – is a play on words about Sarah’s “laughing.” Hearing he will have a son with Sarah, Abraham requests of Yahweh, and Yahweh agrees, to continue to bless Ishmael who will be the father of nations as well.

Now their conversation turns to the reason for Yahweh’s personal visit; the Canaanite cities of the plains – principly Sodom and Gomorrah.

Turning now from Genesis to various Mesopotamian texts, we are told the god’s secret places in the Sinai had been defended for the moment, but the forces of Marduk were not quelled. The efforts of Marduk and his son to gain supremacy over all the lands intensified. In this regard, the cities of the plains, bordering the Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah being the principle focus, caught the attention of Yahweh and the Divine Council of the Elohim.

For the next fifteen years, Marduk and “his side of the family” became the dominant gods of those cities, intentionally or unintentionally resulting in a corrupting of the culture where every sort of evil and perversion became commonplace. Marduk’s continuing plan to capture the Elohim’s restricted region in the Sinai was also a major factor. The Supreme Elohim, Enlil, was reaching the end of his patience with his nephew Marduk.

In the year 2024 BC, Marduk marched his forces to Sumer, fighting their way into the heart of Babylon, he enthroned himself there. Marduk made Babylon his cult center and invited all the other Elohim to come live there, each in his or her own elaborate temple. Perhaps because he had his scribes rewrite the history of the Elohim, with him as the original supreme Elohim on Earth, few if any of the other gods accepted his offer. They seem to have slunk off to parts unknown.

During Marduk’s advance through Sumer to Babylon, the Holy of Holies in the religious center Nippur was defiled. Some say it was not Marduk’s forces who committed this dastardly deed, but it was Ninurta seeking to inflame his father’s anger against Marduk and Nabu. When Enlil heard that his sacred site had been defiled, it was the last straw. He once again called together the Divine Council.

Ninurta represented the accusor, while Marduk’s son, Nabu, represented the accused. Poisonous accusations were hurled from both sides. While Marduk had some legitimate claim to supremacy, he was unable to wait for the proper time of succession, and his actions were unacceptable to the other gods. On top of these charges was piled the defilement of Nippur’s Holy of Holies. The Elohim reached a decision: though he had declared himself supreme, Marduk must be denied access to what he still wanted most: the gods’ facilities in the restricted region of the Sinai.

Nergal, another son of Marduk, was one who stood against his own father and brother, demanded that the sinning cities of the plains also should be severely punished. The Council reluctantly agreed, but with conditions. Any Elohim residing in the cities must be forewarned. This included Nabu if that is where he was residing. Nergal was unhappy with the condition and may have intended to disregard it.

It was then, Genesis tells us, that Yahweh warned Abraham that he was about to “upheaval” the evil cities of the Plains of Jordan (Canaan) because word had reached him that their perversions had become an abomination in the eyes of the gods. As for Abraham, the writers of his story allowed as how he broke from tradition wherein Man simply followed his god’s instructions. It was then that Abraham challenged Yahweh, face to face! He had the chutzpah to engage in the kind of bargaining with his Elohim that the men of the region engaged in on the streets! Abraham’s nephew Lot and his clan still resided near Sodom, so he challenged Yahweh;


“Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
~ Genesis 18:23

Abraham can’t believe Yahweh would still destroy the cities if in them there might be fifty righteous people. Abraham resorts to flattery;


“Far be it from you, the Judge of All the Earth, not to do justice!
Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do right?”

Yahweh is perhaps amused at the brashness, and pleased by the moral clarity of his anointed one, and agrees to spare the cities if there are fifty righteous people. Not yet satisfied, Abraham presses on;


“Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous.
Wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?”

Yahweh agrees he will not destroy the cities if there are forty-five righteous people. In the tradition of the region, Abraham continues to drive the hardest bargain he can without angering Yahweh. In the end Yahweh agrees to spare the cities of the Plains if his emissaries can find there just ten righteous men.

But apparently even this was too big a challenge for Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities of the region. Genesis tells us Yahweh’s emissaries are unable to find even ten righteous people. Now seeing the broader picture of the events surrounding Sodom and Gomorrah, the reader may suspect that by “righteous men” Genesis really meant followers of Yahweh or the Enlilite gods.

Certainly this colorful conversation between Abraham and Yahweh, in its details, like all the others, was an invention of the writers of the Old Testament. But that does not mean the essential story is all myth. Archeological evidence has been found of the destroyed cities, along with the ancient breaching of the southern end of the Dead Sea; a result of Yaweh’s “upheavaling” of the region, causing the remnants of the cities to be inundated. The conversation may have been an invention of the writers of the Old Testament, but the upheavaling of the Cities of the Plains appears to be fact. Mesopotamian texts tell us that the Cities of the Plains were destroyed by Nergal, who hoped to destroy Marduk’s son, his own brother, Nabu in the process. At this he failed, for Nabu escaped to the Mediterranean coast, and fled to islands in the sea, where he established his own domain.

There is also ample Mesopotamian textual reference to the simultaneous destruction, by Enlil’s son Ninurta, of the Elohim’s forbidden sites in the Sinai to keep them out of the hands of Marduk. Satellite photographs of this region of the Sinai show enormous scars in the land, and vast wastelands covered with bits of charred black glass-like material are scattered across the landscape; both otherwise unexplained. All this suggests that Enlil, Ninurta and possibly Nergal were the three Elohim who came to visit Abraham.

The next morning, Abraham climbed to a high place; the place where in the past he had encountered Yahweh. He was able to look down from there toward Sodom and Gomorrah, where he saw the aftermath of terrible destruction across the entire region of the Plains. The Bible describes what Abraham sees as dense smoke over the land rising like fumes from a furnace.

Mesopotamian texts go on to describe how the poisonous clouds rising from the Cities of the Plains caught an ill wind, and to the gods’ shock drifted toward Sumer itself! There is a detailed description of how the gods fled the region before this poisonous cloud reached Sumer, killing every living thing; people, animal flocks, grains, grasses and all growing things which were exposed to it. The water and the earth itself were poisoned, rendering the entire region of Sumer in Mesopotamia, a once vibrant and thriving civilization, a dead zone. Thus ended Earth’s first civilized cities.


* * *

As Yahweh had promised, Sarah gave birth to a son. Abraham, now one hundred years old, in accordance with Yahweh’s wish, named his son Isaac.

Genesis goes on to tell us that one day, seeing (presumably) some sort of interchange between Ishmael and the much younger Isaac, Sarah became angered, whereupon she pressured Abraham to expel Ishmael and his mother. “Get rid of that slave woman and her son,” she demanded, “For that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” But Ishmael was very dear to Abraham, and at first Abraham refused. He gave in to Sarah’s demand when the Elohim Yahweh told him that He would take favorable care of Ishmael. Abraham provided Hagar and the boy with provisions and sent them into the desert of Paran. Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness and soon ran out of water. When they were reduced to great distress, an angel appeared and showed Hagar a spring of water saying “...Hagar, do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for God will make him into a great nation.”

Thereafter, Hagar and Ishmael lived in the wilderness of Paran, where the boy became an expert archer. Hagar married him to another Egyptian woman. According to the Bible, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of whom became a tribal chief. They were Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. Ishmael’s sons settled everywhere from Havilah to Shur – from Assyria to the border of Egypt. Ishmael also had a daughter named Mahalath (or Bashemath) who married Esau.

Sometime later, the Bible relates how Yahweh put Abraham’s loyalty to the test, ordering him to to take Isaac’s life; to personally sacrifice his son. Abraham fully prepared to do as his Elohim ordered, was stopped at the last moment. Because Abraham had chosen obedience to Yahweh over his personal feelings, Yahweh once again reiterated the promise of their covenant.

Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years, then died in Hebron. After a time, Abraham took Keturah for his wife. She bore him six more sons: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. But Abraham deeded everything to Isaac.

Abraham died at the age of 175 years. Jewish legend says that he was meant to live to 180 years, but Yahweh purposely took his life because he felt that Abraham did not need to go through the pain of seeing Esau’s wicked deeds. Abraham was buried by his sons Isaac (aged about 75 years) and Ishmael (aged about 89 years), in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the same cave wherein lay Sarah.

Ishmael died at the age of 137, but not before he did truly become the father of a great nation. As did Isaac, of course – each fathering a great semitic nation and, eventually, two religions grew out of these nations; Judaism and Islam. Both Jewish and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael the ancestor of the Arab people.

To say that the symbolic conflict between Isaac and Ishmael was never resolved would be a great understatement. According to Islamic doctrine, Islam was the primordial religion of mankind, professed by Adam. Eventually, we are told, Adam’s religion was corrupted (perhaps with the introduction of other gods – polytheism and paganism), whereupon God began sending human prophets to bring His revelations to the people. According to Islam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were all prophets, but their message, and the texts of the Torah and the Gospels, were corrupted by Jews and Christians.

Two thousand years later, the apostle Paul called upon the name of Abraham in his eloquent Letter to the Romans – early gentile Christians who inhabited Rome. Paul recognizes that Abraham indeed is the patriarch of the new Christian religion he was evangelizing on his missions throughout that part of the world. Jesus was, Paul claimed, the fulfillment of the Prophets, the culmination of the long bloodline which led from Abraham, through Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, all the way to Jesus. Paul made no mention, however, of Yahweh. In fact, he went so far as to tell the Hebrews of his time that Jesus’ father, God, was establishing a new covenant with them; thereby superceding the covenant made with Abraham and Moses. Through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, this unnamed, unseen God was granting them forgiveness and a new way to an eternal spiritual life. Already by Paul’s time, Yahweh had evolved into a singular Almighty God, now simply referred to as Jesus’ Father.

The important point here is whichever Elohim he was, whoever he was, Yahweh was – unlike Paul’s Almighty God – a corporeal, human being. Yahweh appeared vis-a-vis Abraham, and on more than one occasion. The Bible tells us Abraham hosted Yahweh and his emissaries for dinner. It would seem rather difficult if not pointless to have a meal if one isn’t corporeal. Years later, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, physically wrestled with a man who The Bible suggests was Yahweh (or one of his emissaries). One doesn’t get much more corporeal than that! Thus, even if we dismiss all the quasi-history and strip it of its mythology, if The Bible can be believed at all, one thing is clear: Abraham and others saw the Elohim Yahweh with their own eyes. As highly advanced as he was, still Yahweh was a corporeal being who walked, talked and took meals.


* * *

Just a few hundred years after the passing of Abraham, Yahweh’s Commandments were codified and given to Moses by Yahweh, who once again appears – now an additional 400 years older! – in the mountains of the Sinai.