Beauty tips

The land Abram came to conquer was harsh, arid and cracked, and the food was in short supply, so 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 for a briefing.

“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 of her fame 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, camels, and slaves. Pharaoh, on the other hand, acquired nothing but a God-given illness after a week or two. Pharaoh had 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 upon the highest hill in Haran and surveyed the modern trading mecca. On the horizon, an imposing castle of great basaltic blocks overshadowed the temple of the moon-god. Here, the old oral tradition rang in his ears.

Canaan will bow to Shem.

From Shem’s family line, the so-called Semites, that shepherd, Abram, had emerged from a Babylonian speck called Ur. He and his wife Sarai migrated north to Haran with his father’s tribe. As he stood overlooking the vast expanse of Haran, 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 order his surroundings by building one altar after another. His confidence was a magnificent stone castle in its own right, and his resolve to take possession of a new kingdom was fueled by a God who would show up indiscriminately 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, and every enterprise was blessed and profitable. The family vineyard, for example, put out a jug of wine that’d make Bacchus blush.

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 burst out laughing.

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 Ham had behaved, he cursed his entire family tree throughout eternity. “Your son Canaan will bow to Shem forever,” he vowed.

Here’s how it began: Ham’s grandson, the mighty warrior Nimrod, 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 an insult 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.

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 immediate goal of ingenuity, autonomy, and power, as well as anything else under the sun.

So God personally descended, stirred up vernacular chaos, and the tower’s construction was ultimately abandoned. The place was named Babel, for their speech baffled each other’s ears, and brick eventually fell from brick.

Thus Ham’s curse had begun, and 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, this time returning 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. 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 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 saving. 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

In Noah’s day, the average human life extended for hundreds of years, and humanity spread across the transcontinental region of Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Turns out, rebellion against God was genetic, so population growth meant a gradual rise in violence and corruption.

The crisis reached its zenith when a band of fallen angels 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. He decided that shortening their lives wasn’t enough.

I’ll eradicate them, he thought. People, pets, wild animals, birds, nothing would 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 counsel with the holy angels.

“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. Bring your family along. Things won’t go so swimmingly for a while.”

He further instructed Noah, “Bring a male and a female of every living thing into 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 your zoo.”

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

He was six hundred years old when he and his family boarded the vessel with all the animals and provisions. Just as promised, the pipes burst from deep beneath the seas, and torrential rains emptied themselves from the sky. It rained for forty days and nights, and when the highest mountain peaks submerged in a sea of foaming floodwaters, every living thing outside God’s life raft 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 religiously offered part of their yield on an altar as a sacrifice, a gesture of faith in their God’s continued provision. Underneath a blistering sun, Cain would throw together an indiscriminate mix of berries and greens and scatter them upon the unwrought stone. Abel, on the other hand, would take from the firstborn of his flocks, carefully cut the choicest sections of meat from the bone, and burn them down to a charred powder.

Abel’s labor of love pleased God, so He blessed him with healthy flocks and herds. But Cain’s offering He ignored. In time, grubs and other pesky insects consumed the farmer’s produce.

God asked Cain in a dream, “If you offer your best, will you not be blessed?” Then everything went dark, and he saw a hideous serpent bearing fangs through a curled lip, hissing under his breath. Cain inched closer to seize the viper and snap its neck, but the unholy creature struck his ankle and bit clean through the sinew.

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

The next day, he and Abel were walking together in the fields, when Cain, lagging a few steps behind, gripped his bronze sickle with both hands. Then he called to his brother, saying, “Abel.”

When Abel turned around, Cain swung the tool swiftly and lopped his brother’s head off.

God nightly visited Cain’s dreams after that, haunting him with the question, “What have you done with Abel?”

“When did I become my brother’s designated guardian?” Cain asked, writhing in a pool of cold sweat.

A thick shadow emerged from the ground where Abel’s carcass lay rotting, and his drying blood cast a spell on the fields. The stained soil no longer yielded fruit for the murderous farmer, and soon rumors about his treachery echoed in the valley, causing Cain to become a nomad with a price on his head.

Ravaged by malnutrition and paranoia, Cain eventually begged for God to rescue him from himself. God met him with tenderness and mercy.

“If anyone kills you,” He promised, “I will punish them with a multiple of seven.” God burned a mark into the outcast’s flesh to deter anyone from messing with him, and Cain settled in the land of Nod.

From his family tree came some of the earliest civilized people, including shepherds in made-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 Consecrated One.

Enoch walked with God, just as Adam and Eve had done in the beginning. Meditating on the stars in their fixed orbits, the recurring cycle of summer and winter, and of the trees withering and flourishing in their season, he remembered his ancestor’s prelapsarian state, seeing that nothing in nature transgressed the laws of God. So he walked the righteous path, creating order from the everyday chaos around him. One day, Enoch mysteriously vanished with God.

From Enoch’s tree came a man they called Noah.

Inspiration: Genesis 4

Dragon’s deception

The serpentine dragon, having condescended from another dimension, cradled its scaly head on a bough of the Knowledge Tree one afternoon and reasoned with the queen, Eve. “You look hungry,” he garbled. “I heard you aren’t allowed to eat any of Eden’s delicious varieties. Is this a joke?”

Eve bristled at the unusual sound of a 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, clutched tightly to a lower limb, and the dragon detected in her gaze and in her blush that she was vexed with desire.

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

Adam appeared unexpectedly out of the brush, his brutish footfalls startling the beast. He took little notice of the reptile recoiling at his feet. Instead, his eyes were fixed on the sun-kissed fruit. “Like a god, you say?”

“Like your God. The Elohim lied to you, friends.” The dragon’s voice trailed off as he skulked away.

The woman plucked the fibrous orb, and its limb snapped back. No sooner had she and Adam bit into it that all sense of time was lost. A swelling melody penetrated their ears so thoroughly, they became intoxicated in bliss. Adam held himself stock still, enchanted by the hypnotic sound of blood pumping through his veins. Feeling her legs give way, Eve lowered herself and listened to the harmonies playing beneath the soil.

All at once, their rapture ended. Both shuttered, 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 and wrapped themselves with them, then scurried in opposite directions in search of protection.

God appeared for Vespers that evening, but Adam and Eve weren’t answering the temple door.

“Where are you?” He asked, peering over the fence 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, breathlessly, “but this woman… your gift to me, I should say, she wanted to taste Knowledge.”

Eve appeared from behind the foliage of a willow, her face downcast. She too was 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 and cursed, “Eat dirt and die! From now on, you’ll slither on your belly, with misery your only company. Despised and isolated, you’ll strike at the heel, but in the end, your head will be crushed. That’s a promise!”

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 please 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 things until you return to dust.”

God’s countenance then softened. He presented clothes made from animal hide. “You’ll need an upgrade from those fig leaves where you’re going,” He said, handing them the weatherproof leathers.

The first family had just experienced a most unfathomable blow. For their safety, God separated them from the Life Tree and dispatched a host of invisible armed guards around it. Had they consumed Life straight from the branch, they’d have lived in eternal misery. He escorted them to the east gate, onto a twisted path leading into darkness.

“Follow closely to the way,” God instructed. “The sun will rise again, and I will bring 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 at their heel by the pale light of a fallen moon.

Inspiration: Genesis 3

Mythos rising

This story begins at the end of a brooding and desolate darkness.

The God Elohim hovered over the vast and shapeless abyss. After a long breath, He uttered the first word:

“Light.”

A brilliant shaft aroused the sleeping void, and like a searchlight, it illuminated an ancient battle scene. Armed with the wisdom of the eternal will, God crushed the head of the watery dragon Chaos and pierced the spirit of the raging flood.

From out of the storm, a bright, blue curtain appeared and shrouded the earth-in-flux like a dome, its four corners meeting to create the axes of a cross. This airy sphere separated the waters of the chaotic underworld from the secret courts of the heavens above.

Lands formed where God etched boundaries into the waterways, and a lush garden sprung in vibrant color from the banks of a crystalline river. Thick vegetation blanketed the dry land in every direction, and two large trees flanked the tributary. They tangled into an arch at their crown, forming a bridge over the flowing water. These were the Life Tree and the Knowledge Tree, and they dwarfed all other plants.

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

He created sea creatures, land creatures, sky creatures, engineering each to multiply by instinct across the land and sea. Insects hummed, mammals groaned, and an assembly of new life vibrated a symphony of praise into the far and outer reaches of space.

Then God made a strange creature like Himself and placed him in the middle of the garden beneath the crosshatched shadows of the high trees. Like the animals before him, Adam rose mightily from the mist-moistened clay. But unlike other creatures he was given a spirit, animated by the very breath of God.

“This is very good.”

God gave His supreme achievement dominion over the hierarchical realms of the new world. Adam named every species, cataloged the stars, tilled the land, and established order. He had full run of the place, but something was amiss.

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 equal with immense pleasure.

“Now that’s what I call a woman.” As their bodies intersected, Adam’s loneliness was satiated. The first king and queen ruled their kingdoms together without self-awareness, 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