Beauty tips

The land Abram came to conquer soon became harsh, arid, and cracked, and the food was running short. Abram decided to move his family into the fertile land of Egypt for a while. When they entered the city, he pulled his wife aside.

“It’s no secret that you’re stunningly beautiful,” he said to Sarai. “And when the Egyptians see you, they’ll slit my throat in the night and steal you away from my bed.” Then Abram suggested, “Tell them I’m your brother. That should neutralize the threat.”

“It will be as you desire it, my lord,” Sarai said, laying her hand over his heart.

As Abram predicted, Sarai’s matchless beauty arrested the attention of the people wherever they went, and word soon spread to Pharaoh himself. Before long, Sarai stood in rare splendor before the very god of Egypt in his own court.

Sarai became the newest installment in the royal harem, and Pharaoh treated Abram like a brother, giving him sheep, oxen, donkeys, and slaves. Pharaoh, on the other hand, acquired nothing but illness. Pharaoh dispatched spies everywhere, and putting two and two together, he became wise and confronted Abram on the matter.

“What’s going on?” Pharaoh asked. “Why’d you lie about Sarai being your wife? Thankfully, I never laid a hand on her. Get her out of here so your God will clear the air and restore our health!”

Pharaoh’s officers escorted Abram and Sarai out of Egypt along with their parting gifts.

Inspiration: Genesis 12

Abram’s call

The brawny shepherd hoisted himself onto the highest peak and surveyed the modern trading mecca below.

From Shem’s family line had come the so-called Semites, and one such shepherd, Abram, considered the Babylonian city of Ur his first home.

He and his wife Sarai had migrated north with his father’s clan to the sprawling metropolis of Haran.

As Abram stood overlooking the vast expanse of Haran, the ancient Semitic legend rang in his ears.

Canaan will bow to Shem.

Then God suddenly spoke.

“Take your herds and head south. You’ll settle in a place I’ve designated for you, and for the fulfillment of a promise I’m making to save all humankind.”

Abram listened as God’s voice echoed in his dreams.

“You’ll become a nation of glory,” God told him, “blessed and renowned. Those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed. Because of your dominion, Abram of Ur, every family in the world will have reason to celebrate.”

Abram took God at his word. When he was seventy-five years old, he straightened his spine, packed his bags, and loaded up his wife, his nephew Lot, their livestock, and all the servants they had acquired in Haran. Together they journeyed voluntarily into dust-swirled chaos.

Traveling through Canaan, they stopped at Moreh Grove in Shechem. God said, “This will be the land of your children.”

Abram had no children and knew his wife was barren, but he built an altar anyway, willing to stretch himself beyond his personal limits, believing that God’s word was His bond.

From Shechem, he and his entourage continued trekking south, living off the fruit and fat of the land. All along the route, Abram would bring order to his surroundings by building one altar after another. His confidence was itself a stone altar in its own right, and his resolve to take possession of a new kingdom was fueled by a God who would show up to repeat his promise of wide, open spaces and endless descendants.

Inspiration: Genesis 10-12; I Chronicles 1

Trumped tower

Noah’s family flourished after the flood and lived as farmers and shepherds. Every enterprise was blessed and profitable. The family vineyard, for example, put out a potent jug of wine.

One day the patriarch got so drunk, he passed out stark naked in his tent. Noah’s youngest son Ham stumbled upon his father’s undignified condition and defiled him.

He told his brothers about it, but instead of laughing, Shem and Japheth took a robe into their father’s tent, and, walking backward with their heads turned away, they covered the unconscious man.

Later, when Noah found out how his eldest son had behaved, he cursed Ham’s entire family tree throughout eternity. “Your son Canaan will bow to Shem forever,” he vowed.

The first sign of the curse landed upon Ham’s grandson, the mighty warrior Nimrod. He was the chief architect of a new real estate project in Babylonia. In the middle of that city, a mud-bricked tower of record-breaking heights would dwarf all other known human-made structures.

This project was a direct contradiction to God’s desire for humankind to be unbounded and to multiply over the whole earth. When God said to Noah “the whole earth,” he meant across its furthest breadths and depths. But everyone seemed dead set on populating a high-rise on a tiny plot of ground. Its heights would reach the sky dome and puncture it.

God saw the people were determined, tech-savvy, and unified in their endeavor. Every engineer and worker on the project spoke the same language, so they’d likely accomplish their goal, as well as anything else under the dome.

So God descended, stirred up vernacular chaos, and the tower’s construction was ultimately abandoned. The place was named Babel, and every brick eventually fell into ruin.

Thus Ham’s curse had spread like a contagion amidst the development of the first civilization, so the peoples of earth resumed their migration across the whole planet.

Inspiration: Genesis 9, 11

Sea sick

Noah let fly a raven through an access hatch, but the waters continued to swell for another five months. Finding no place to land, it returned.

Seven months later, the large vessel and its living cargo lodged itself in a cleft on Mount Ararat, and for three months the waters continued to drain outward into the seas.

After spending about a year on the boat, Noah released a dove, but it too returned. He rereleased the dove seven days later, and this time the dove returned with an olive leaf in its beak. After another seven days, he released the dove for the third time. Noah never saw the dove again.

Noah and his family decided it was safe to disembark from the great boat. They had lived in the floating house for a year and two months, and by that time, their claustrophobia was full blown.

Noah gathered the seven pairs of split-hooved animals, as well as the seven pairs of birds. Instead of using them for clothing or some other needful resource, he built an altar and incinerated them as a sacrifice.

This gesture so pleased God that He said, “I’ll never again curse the earth or destroy all creatures because of humankind. The human heart is hell-bent from an early age and needs supernatural help. May the seasons endure. I’ll provide a way of promise, hope, and salvation.”

Then God made a new promise between Himself and humankind. “Multiply yourselves and populate the whole earth. From this day, the animal kingdom will fear you, for they are now yours for food. I gave Adam and Eve the gardens; I now provide you with everything. However, don’t eat the blood of animals. Blood is life. For that matter, whoever causes human bloodshed will pay with his blood. I have encoded My image in human blood.”

Then God ordained a sign of his promise. “Whenever you see a rainbow,” He said, “remember that I’ll never again destroy the earth because of human evil.”

Inspiration: Genesis 7-9

Hard reboot

From Enoch’s family came a man called Noah, at a time when the average human life still extended for hundreds of years, and humanity spread across the regions of Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Humankind’s rebellious tendencies against God was a genetic mutation, so population growth brought a swift rise in violence and corruption.

The crisis reached its zenith when a band of fallen Watchers lusted after the women of humanity. Two hundred spirit creatures descended, took on human flesh, and defiled the daughters of men, bringing forth a race of giants, titans of renown called the Nephilim.

“I’m cutting them off,” God swore, sorely distressed by humanity’s evil. “People will live no more than a hundred and twenty years.”

Even so, He regretted ever creating such an insurgent breed of creature. He decided that shortening their lives wasn’t enough.

I’ll eradicate them, He thought. People, pets, wild animals, birds, nothing will survive. If it creeps, crawls, or twitches, they’re going to be relics.

Except for Noah.

Noah was perfect compared to any other individual, so God brought him into His confidence with the holy Watchers.

“I’ve decided to destroy the earth and its inhabitants with a catastrophic flood,” God told Noah. “Make a three-story vessel from cypress wood and waterproof it. When the waters appear around you, everything outside the vessel will drown.”

He further instructed Noah, “Bring a male and a female of every living thing onto the vessel, keeping them alive. Also, bring seven pairs of all split-hooved grazers and birds. Finally, store up plenty of food for your family and the animals.”

With shoulders back and hammer in hand, Noah went to work.

He was six hundred years old when he and his family, with all the animals and provisions, boarded the vessel. Just as promised, the pipes burst from deep beneath the seas, and torrential rains emptied themselves from the sky dome. It rained for forty days, and when the highest mountain peaks submerged in a sea of foaming floodwaters, every living thing outside God’s lifeboat perished.

Inspiration: Genesis 6-7

Cain’s tattoo

Adam and Eve settled in a valley somewhere east of paradise and eventually had two sons: Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd.

Each son offered to God part of their yield, a gesture of faith in His continued provision. Underneath a blistering sun, Cain would throw together an indiscriminate mix of berries and greens and scatter them upon the unwrought altar. Abel, on the other hand, would take from the firstborn of his flocks, carefully cut the choicest sections of meat from the bone, and place them in rows on a sacred stone. He would then burn them down to a charred powder.

Abel’s labor of love pleased God, so He blessed him with healthy flocks and herds. But he ignored Cain’s offering, and the elements of nature showed no mercy. Over time, grubs and vermin ravaged whatever fruit the sun or frost didn’t take in their season.

God asked Cain in a dream, “If you offer your best, will you not be blessed?” Then he saw a hideous serpent showing a snarled fang and hissing like a cockroach. Cain inched closer to seize the viper and snap its neck, but the unholy creature struck his ankle and bit clean through the ligament.

Cain let out a visceral shriek and awoke with a start.

On the brisk morning after, Abel was leading Cain to a new field he thought might produce food for them. Cain, lagging a few steps behind, gathered his bronze sickle with both hands.

“Abel,” Cain said, a pipe of steam coming off his breath.

Abel turned, and Cain swung the tool swiftly, lopping his brother’s head clean off.

Cain stood stock still and watched the blood drain from his brother’s body. The soil drank eagerly, and the earth around his torso darkened like an unholy shadow.

God haunted Cain’s nightly visions with the question, “What have you done with Abel?”

“When did he fall under my watch?” Cain asked the specter, writhing in a pool of cold sweat. “I’m not his Guardian.”

A cold shadow emerged from the ground where Abel’s carcass lay rotting, and his blackened blood cast a spell on the field. Soon rumors about his treachery echoed in the valley, and Cain became a nomad with a price on his head.

Withered by malnutrition and paranoia, Cain eventually begged for God to rescue him from his misery. God met him with tenderness and mercy.

“If anyone kills you,” He vowed, “I will rain down a sevenfold punishment.” God burned a mark into the outcast’s flesh to deter anyone from assaulting him, and Cain settled in the land of Nod. From his family tree came some of the earliest civilized people, including shepherds in man-made huts, musicians, and smiths.

God eventually blessed Adam and Eve with another son, Seth. From Seth’s family tree came godly men such as Enoch the Holy.

Enoch walked with God, just as Adam and Eve had done in the beginning. Meditating on the movement of stars, the cycles of seasons, and the withering of trees, he remembered his ancestors’ prelapsarian state. He divined that nothing in nature transgresses the laws of God, so he too walked the righteous path, creating order from the chaos around him. Then one day, Enoch mysteriously vanished.

Inspiration: Genesis 4

Dragon’s deception

The serpentine dragon cradled its scaly head on a branch in the Knowledge Tree and reasoned with Eve. “You look hungry,” he garbled. “I hear you aren’t allowed to eat any of Eden’s delicious varieties. Is this a joke?”

Eve bristled at the unusual voice of the talking lizard. “We can eat anything except Knowledge.”

She pointed to the tree from which both the forbidden fruit and the dragon’s tail dangled. “We can’t even touch it, or we’ll die.”

The dragon choked on a half-chewed morsel. “Dear child, do I look dead to you?” he asked, mucous-caked eyes glinting in the sun. He dropped from his perch and crept closer. “Don’t you want to know good from evil, child? That’s what happens when you eat from Knowledge. You become distinguished and discretionary. Like a god.”

Eve regarded the sagging fruit, and the dragon saw in her gaze a well of desire.

“Why should your God be the only one who knows good from evil?”

Adam appeared from out of the brush, his brutish footfalls startling the beast. With eyes fixed on the sun-kissed fruit, he inquired, “Like a god, you say?”

“Like your God,” the coiled reptile affirmed. “He lied to you, friends.”

With that, the dragon skulked away, eyes smiling.

Eve plucked the fibrous orb from the limb. The tree snapped back as if pained by the extrusion. No sooner had she and Adam bit into it that they gained all sense of time.

Enchanted by the hypnotic sound of blood pumping through their veins, they swayed to a melody swelling in their ears. Adam drew himself erect, pulsating waves welling from his lower spine up through his crown. Eve felt her legs give way, so she knelt and listened to the harmonies playing in oscillating tempo beneath the soil.

When their rapture ended, both creatures shuddered, feeling suddenly vulnerable and exposed. A harsh wind swept through the clearing, and the sky rumbled ominously.

They patched together the leaves of a fig tree with willow string and wrapped themselves, then scurried in opposite directions in search of protection.

God came down that evening, but Adam and Eve weren’t answering His call.

“Where are you?” He asked, peering into the orchard. “Adam?”

Adam responded from behind a mulberry bush, his voice shrill and weak. “I was naked and afraid, so I hid,” he explained, self-consciously.

“How’d you know you were naked unless you took fruit from the Knowledge Tree?”

Adam admitted his disobedience but quickly blamed his wife. “I was content with figs and pomegranates,” he said, “but this woman, y-your gift to me, I should say, sh-she wanted a taste of Knowledge.”

Eve appeared from behind the foliage of the weeping willow, face downcast and visibly shaken. Speechless, she pointed an accusatory finger at the creature who happened to be slinking along the path.

God seized the dragon by its throat. “Eat dirt and die! From now on, you’ll slither on your belly, with misery your only company. You may strike at His heel, but your Adversary will crush your head.”

God turned to Eve and said, “Now that you’ve tasted the difference between good and evil, childbirth will be painful and dangerous. As far as your relationship with the man, you’ll want to rule over him, but he’ll dominate you. His desire will be for wealth and power.”

To Adam he said, “You’ve cursed the soil, whose provisions weren’t enough. You’ll bleed, sweat, and cry for your bread, grasping for food, sex, and an endless string of temporal things until you return to dust.”

God’s countenance then softened. He presented them with clothes He had made from the hide of slaughtered animals. “You’ll need more than fig leaves where you’re going,” he said.

The first man and woman had just experienced a most unfathomable blow. For their safety, God separated them from the Life Tree and dispatched a host of armed guards to surround it. Had they consumed Life straight from the source, the wounded pair would have been damned to their eternal condition.

God escorted them to the east gate and drove them onto a twisted path leading into the cold darkness.

“Follow closely to the way,” God instructed. “The sun will rise again, and I will bring a source of Life back to your offspring.”

The estranged pair left the comforts of the lush garden and traveled east along the rocky road they named Suffering, and the dragon slithered behind them by the light of a fallen moon.

Inspiration: Genesis 3

Mythos rising

This story begins at the end of a brooding inertia in the abysmal recesses of amniotic space.

God hovered over the vast and shapeless deep, and after a pregnant pause, He uttered the first word:

“Light.”

A blinding shaft aroused the sleeping void and illuminated an ancient battle scene. Armed with Wisdom, the sword of eternal will, God crushed the head of the watery dragon Chaos and pierced the spirit of the raging flood.

From out of the maelstrom, a blue curtain appeared and shrouded the earth-in-flux in a dome. Its corners stretched out on the tenterhooks of four pillars. This bellowing canvass separated the waters of the chaotic underworld from the secret courts of the heavens above.

God etched boundaries into the waterways below, creating dry land, and a lush garden sprung in vibrant color from the banks of a crystalline river. Thick vegetation blanketed the ground in every direction, and two large trees, the Life Tree and the Knowledge Tree, flanked the tributary. Their outstretched boughs entangled to form a canopy over the rippling brook, dwarfing all the other plants.

“Good,” God said as He hurled the sun, moon, and an array of luminaries across the sky dome. “This is all good.”

He created sea creatures, land creatures, and sky creatures, and each multiplied by instinct across the land, air, and sea. Insects hummed, mammals groaned, and an cacophony of new life strummed their symphony. The vibratory song transcended the fabric of the dome and reaching the ears of heaven’s Watchers.

Then God made a strange creature like Himself and placed him in the middle of the garden beneath the crosshatched shadows. Like the animals before him, Adam rose mightily from the mist-moistened clay, animated by the very breath of God.

“This is very good.”

God gave His supreme achievement dominion over every realm and placed within him a link to Himself, a soul.

Adam named species, cataloged stars, and established order. He held a scepter over the new earth, but he was alone.

Considering Adam’s milieu, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, seized a portion of clay from his body, and fashioned with it another creature like himself.

Upon waking, the son of God looked upon his new partner with immense pleasure.

“I’ll call her ‘woman.’”

Their embrace satiated Adam’s need, and the first king and queen ruled together without self-awareness and without shame.

God took inventory of everything he had made, and seeing it was perfect, He rested.

Inspiration: Genesis 1-2, Psalm 74:12-17, Isaiah 51:9-10