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 onto the peak of 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.

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 to the sprawling metropolis of Haran with his father’s tribe.

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 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 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, 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

From Enoch’s family tree 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 rebellion against God seemed genetic, and population growth brought 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 confidence 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.”

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. 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 part of their yield on an altar, 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 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 fang through his curled lip and hissing like a hot spring. 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 a 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 on his breath.

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

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

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

“When did he fall under my watch?” Cain asked the wraith, 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 new field. Soon rumors about his treachery echoed in the valley, and Cain became a wanted nomad.

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 promised, “I will give them 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 Consecrated One.

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 ancestor’s prelapsarian state. He divined that nothing in nature transgressed 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 of the Knowledge Tree one afternoon 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 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, 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.

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

Enchanted by the hypnotic sound of blood pumping through their veins, they swayed to a swelling melody playing 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 beneath the soil.

Then, their rapture ended. Both 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 and wrapped themselves with them, then scurried in opposite directions in search of protection.

God came down that evening, but Adam and Eve weren’t answering the door.

“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… your gift to me, I should say… she wanted a taste of Knowledge.”

Eve appeared from behind the foliage of a willow, 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 and cursed it. “Eat dirt and die! From now on, you’ll slither on your belly, with misery your only company. You may strike at the heel, but in the end, your enemy with 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 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 he had made from animal hide. “You’ll need more than fig leaves where you’re going,” he said, handing them their new 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 armed guards to surround it. Consuming Life straight from the source would have damned them to eternal anguish.

God escorted them to the east gate, 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 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 and desolate darkness.

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

“Light.”

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

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

God etched boundaries into the waterways, 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 flowing water, dwarfing all the 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, and 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 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 tree limbs above. 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 every realm. Adam named species, cataloged stars, 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 new partner with immense pleasure.

“I’ll call her ‘woman’.”

Their embrace satiated Adam’s loneliness, and the first king and queen ruled 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