Beauty tips

The land of promise became arid and cracked, and 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 kill me to get to you.” Then Abram suggested, “Tell them I’m your brother. That should neutralize the threat.”

As Abram predicted, Sarai’s matchless beauty arrested the attention of the people everywhere they went, and word of her fame soon spread to Pharaoh himself. Before long, Sarai found herself standing 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. Putting two and two together, Pharaoh 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 all their parting gifts.

Inspiration: Genesis 12

Abram’s call

Your son Canaan will bow to Shem.

From Shem’s family line, the Semites, a man named Abram emerged from Ur in Babylonia. He and his wife Sarai had lived with his father’s tribe north of Ur in Haran, but God told him to take his herds and head south and settle in an area he designated for the fulfillment of his promise to save humankind.

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

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

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 bounderies, believing that God’s word was his bond.

From Shechem, he and his entourage continued south and lived off the land. All along the route, Abram would build one altar after another, 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 each enterprise was blessed and profitable. The family vineyard, for example, put out a 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 and his undignified condition, and he thought it was hilarious.

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 line. “Your son Canaan will bow to Shem.”

Ham’s grandson the mighty warrior Nimrod, was the chief architect of a monumental real estate project in Babylonia. In the middle of that city, a mud-bricked tower of record-breaking heights would dwarf all other known man-made structures.

This was an affront to God and his desire that humankind be unbounded and multiply over the whole earth. When God said to Noah “the whole earth,” he meant its furthest breadths and depths. But everyone seemed dead set on populating a grotesquely ornate high-rise on a tiny plot of ground.

God saw the people were determined, tech savvy, and unified in their endeavor. The fact that every engineer and worker on the project spoke the same language meant they’d likely accomplish, not just their present goal of ingenuity, autonomy and power, but anything else under the sun.

So God personally descended, caused vernacular confusion, and the tower’s construction was ultimately abandoned. The place was named Babel, for their speech baffled the ears of the hearer, and brick eventually fell from brick.

Thus Ham’s curse had begun, and the peoples of earth resumed their migration across the whole earth.

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 to Noah.

Seven months later, the mammoth 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 almost a year on the boat, Noah released a dove, but it too returned. He released the dove again seven days later, this time with an olive leaf in its beak. After another seven days, he released the dove for a third time, the last Noah saw of the dove.

Noah and his family decided it was safe to disembark. They had lived in the floating house for a year and two months, and 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 indefinitely. 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 give you everything. However, don’t eat the blood of animals. Blood is life. For that matter, whoever causes human bloodshed will pay with his own blood. A life for a life. The image of God is encoded 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 span extended hundreds of years, and the race vigorously propagated across the transcontinental region of Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Because rebellion against God was a genetic predisposition from the first family, population growth brought about a crescendo of violence and corruption. The crisis reached its zenith when the men of God’s valor lusted after the daughters of corruption and defiled them, bringing forth a race of giants, titans of renown, the Nephilim.

“I’m cutting them off,” God swore, deeply vexed by humanity’s wickedness. “Human lives will be shortened to no more than a hundred and twenty years.” Even so, he regretted ever creating such an insurgent breed. He decided that shortening the number of their days might not be enough.

I’ll eradicate them altogether, he thought. People, pets, wild animals, birds, you name it. If it creeped, crawled, or twitched, they were soon to be prehistoric relics.

All except for Noah.

Noah was perfect compared to any other specimen, so God brought him into his circle of one.

“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 awhile.”

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.”

Noah got to work right away.

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 canopy of 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 of God’s life raft perished.

Inspiration: Genesis 6-7

Cain’s tattoo

Adam and Eve settled in a wilderness on high ground, a far cry from the land they first knew. In time, Eve bore two sons: Cain the farmer, and Abel the shepherd.

As a gesture of faith in God’s provision, each son would offer part of their yield on an altar as a sacrifice. 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, cut the choicest sections of meat from the bone, and burn the flesh down to a charred powder.

Abel’s sacrifice pleased God, so he blessed him with healthy flocks and herds. But Cain’s offering, being no sacrifice at all, was utterly ignored. In time, his produce became diseased and ravaged by insects.

God asked a sulking Cain, “If you offer your best to me, will you not be blessed?”

Cain brooded over the condition of his crops versus his brother’s sturdy herds. The next time they walked together in the fields, Cain seized a blunt object and snuffed out Abel’s life.

God haunted Cain’s dreams, asking him, “What have you done with Abel.”

“When did I become my brother’s designated guardian?” Cain asked as he writhed in a bed of cold sweat.

But a dark shadow emerged, and Abel’s drying blood cast a spell on the fields. The stained soil would no longer produce a yield for the murderous farmer, so Cain became a wandering nomad with a price on his head.

When Cain finally begged for God’s help, he was met with tender mercy. “If anyone kills you,” God promised, “I will give punish them with a multiple of seven.” God put an identifiable mark on the outcast to deter anyone from messing with him, and Cain settled in the land of Nod.

His lineage brought forth some of the earliest civilized people, including shepherds who lived in made-made structures, musicians, and smiths.

God eventually blessed Adam and Eve with another son, Seth. Seth’s family line brought forth godly men like Enoch, who mysteriously vanished into thin air one day while walking with God. But before he vanished, he had a great-grandson named Noah.

Inspiration: Genesis 4

Dragon’s deception

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

Eve bristled at the sound of the talking lizard. “We can eat anything except for Morality.” She pointed to the tree from which the forbidden fruit and the scaly dragon’s tail dangled. “We can’t even touch that one or we’ll die.”

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

Eve regarded the ample fruit sagging from the lowest limb, and the dragon could see in her eyes that it looked vexingly desirable to eat.

“Why should your God be the only one to say what is good and what is evil?”

Adam appeared unexpectedly out of the brush, startling the beast who instantly recoiled. Adam took no notice. His eyes were fixed on the sun-kissed fruit. “Be like a god, you say?”

“Like your God.” The dragon’s voice trailed off as he slithered away. “Your God lied to you, friend.”

The woman plucked the fibrous orb, and its limb snapped back. No sooner had she and Adam bit into it that they felt exposed and vulnerable. A harsh wind swept through the clearing and the sky overhead rumbled ominously.

In haste, they sewed fig leaves together and wrapped themselves, scurrying confusedly for protection.

God stopped by for his evening visit, but Adam and Eve weren’t home.

“Where are you?” he asked, peering over the fence into the back yard. “Adam?”

Adam answered from behind a mulberry bush, his voice noticeably shaking. “I was naked and afraid, so I hid.”

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

Adam admitted his disobedience but quickly blamed his wife. “I was content with figs,” he said, “but this woman, your gift to me, I might add, she wanted to try Morality.”

Eve appeared from out of 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 at that moment.

God seized the dragon by its throat and cursed, “Eat dirt and die! From now on, you will be confined to isolation with misery your only company. All other living creatures will despise you and your kind. You may strike the heel, but in the end your head will be crushed. That’s a promise.”

God turned to Eve and said, “Now that you know both good and evil, childbirth will be painful. As far as your relationship goes, you’ll want to please your man, but he’ll tend to dominate you. His desire will be for power.”

To Adam he said, “You’ve cursed the soil, whose simple provisions didn’t satisfy your lusts. You’ll bleed, sweat, and cry for your bread, grasping with insatiable desire for food, sex, and an endless string of things until you return to the soil.”

God’s countenance then softened. He brought out some all-weather gear he had made from animal hide. “You’ll need an upgrade from those fig leaves where you’re going,” he said. Then he showed Adam how to make fire.

The first family had just experienced a most unfathomable blow. For their safety, God removed them from the vicinity of the Life Tree. Had they consumed it straight from the branch, they’d have been cursed to live in immortal misery. So he escorted them to the east gate, and bid them farewell. For extra measure, God dispatched a host of armed spiritual guardians to block the way back in.

As the estranged pair fled the lush country of Eden, the rogue dragon, having already consumed both Morality and Life, followed closely by the light of a fallen moon.

Inspiration: Genesis 3