Sister wife

From Mamre Oaks, Abraham set out toward the Negev. He and his wife established tents in Gerar, between Kadesh and Shur. Since they were new to the area, Abraham feared for his life. Just as he did in Egypt, he told everyone, “Sarah’s my sister.”

Abimelech, King of Gerar, brought Sarah into his household to take as a wife, but God visited him in a dream.

“You’re going to die,” God said, “because Sarah is married already.”

Abimelech had not yet taken Sarah into his bed. Nevertheless, God had shut up the wombs of every female in Abimelech’s house. He reasoned with God, saying, “Master, will you punish the innocent? Both Abraham and Sarah lied to me. I had no idea they were married.”

“I know you’re innocent,” God answered in the dream, “and I alone prevented you from sin. Return Sarah to Abraham, because he’s a prophet. He’ll pray for you, and you’ll live. Otherwise, you and your family will all die.”

Abimelech got up early from a sleepless night and brought his servants in for a meeting. Telling them about the vision, everyone was afraid for their lives. Then the king called Abraham and said, “What did I do to be deceived in my own house? You’ve disrespected me and my domain. What were you thinking?”

Abraham confessed that he didn’t trust a kingdom who didn’t fear God. “Besides,” he added, “she actually is my half-sister. Sarah and I share the same father. When God called me out of our father’s house, we agreed that she would play the role of sister any time we settled in a new place.”

Abimelech brought Sarah back, along with sheep, oxen, slaves of both sexes, and a thousand silver pieces. He handed them all over to Abraham and said, “Survey my land and settle wherever you like.” Then he turned to Sarah and said, “I have paid your brother with silver as a sign of your vindication.”

Abraham prayed to God, and as promised, Abimelech and his household were healed. The king’s wife and female slaves could bear children again.

Inspiration: Genesis 20

Fiery end

The two visiting angels asked Lot, “What other family do you have in Sodom? Round everyone up and get out of here. We’re on a mission from God to annihilate the whole place.”

Lot ran to the houses of his future sons-in-law by the light of a pale moon and warned them about what was about to happen. They thought he was joking and didn’t pay any attention to him.

The next morning, the angels jostled Lot from sleep and said, “Wake up! Take your wife and daughters and go, unless you want to die with the wicked.”

Lot was moving too slowly, and his wife was frantic, trying to pack everything they owned.

“There’s no time for any of this!” the angels beckoned. “It’s now or never.”

The angels literally took Lot and his immediate family by the wrists and forced them out of the city.

“What about my sons-in-law?” Lot protested.

“They’re toast. Now, run for your lives and don’t look back,” they warned with a stern countenance. “Don’t stop anywhere in the plains. Run until you reach the hill country or you’ll be swept into oblivion.”

Lot argued, “Please, masters, you’ve shown favorable kindness by saving my family and me, but I can’t go to the hills. I wouldn’t survive a week in the wild.” Lot motioned over to the other side of Gomorrah and said, “Look, that small town is close enough to escape God’s wrath.”

“Fine,” one of the angels answered. “I’ll spare this small area for your sake, but hurry. I can’t bring down fire until you get there.”

Lot, his wife, and his daughters arrived at Bela by daybreak. (Afterward, the town was renamed Zoar, or “Little.”)

As fire rained from the sky over Sodom, Gomorrah, and the rest of the plains, Lot’s wife, who was straggling behind, turned to look at the devastation behind them. At that moment, her body changed into a salt mound.

Meanwhile that morning, Abraham exited his tent at Mamre Oaks and stood on the road where he and the Master had spoken before. Looking out to the southeast, he saw smoke rising like a smoldering fire pit from the sear-marked plains of Jordan.

Inspiration: Genesis 19

Dragon’s deception

The serpentine dragon, having condescended from another dimension, cradled its head on a bough of the Knowledge Tree one afternoon and reasoned with the queen. “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 scaly 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 fruit sagging from 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 ceased. 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.

Then, 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.

In haste, they sewed the leaves of a fig tree together 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