Tragic loss

One afternoon, Job was deep in meditation when a servant rushed into his tent. He was short of breath, and his clothes clung to his heaving chest, heavy with sweat.

“My lord,” he rasped, clinging to the goatskin flap of the doorway with one hand, and holding a piece of splintered ox yoke in the other. “While the oxen plowed and the donkeys fed on straw, a small band of Sabean horsemen swept in and slaughtered every servant in the field except for me.”

As Job opened his mouth to respond to the man, another servant came in behind him. He smelled of acrid smoke and looked as if he hadn’t bathed all season.

“God’s fire rained down on every side, my lord. Your shepherds and flocks are consumed! I alone made it out of the pasture alive.”

The first servant spoke again. “The Sabeans, they carried off your livestock.”

While he was still speaking, a third servant, a child near collapse entered the tent. His face had the pallor of death, and his clothes were caked with blood.

“My God!” Job offered a hand to steady the young boy, then lead him to a dimly lit corner to lie down. “What news, dear boy?”

The boy’s eyes gazed into darkness, and his throat rattled with short, labored breaths. “The Chaldeans,” he sputtered, coughing up phlegm and blood. “Your servants… your camels…”

Job called for a skin bag, and with it, slowly poured water into the child’s mouth.

“Rest now,” Job said like a father to a dying son. As he turned to address the others, another man appeared under the threshold.

“We were all eating and drinking together with your sons and daughters, when a violent wind came against the house and struck it down, crushing everyone in attendance except me.”

With that, Job fled his tent and tore his robe. The messengers followed after him in silent haste, dumbstruck by the magnitude of such absolute chaos against the holy man.

“Get me a knife,” Job cried, his knees hitting the hard ground.

A servant returned and held out a short blade. The anguished man took it by its bone handle, and the servant backed away.

Job took the knife and began scraping it across his scalp. Thick clumps of bloody hair fell around him, and when he finished shaving his head, he put himself flat on the ground and prayed.

“I came into the world with nothing, and I shall return to the dust with nothing,” he chanted. “God gave to me, and God took away from me. God’s name is praised.”

The men went away amazed as Job repeated the words over and over.

After he finished praying aloud, Job sat still, his spine as straight as a winter-stripped tree, and he silently repeated the name of God until the sun descended behind the lonely mountains of Uz.

Incestuous lot

Lot was afraid to stay too long in Zoar, so he and his daughters settled in a cave in the hill country.

“Father’s old,” the older daughter said to her sister. “Consider the fact that we’re hiding out in a cave. No man will come and take us for wives.”

The older daughter said, “Let’s get him drunk and sleep with him. This way we can keep our family tree going.”

That night, they served their father more wine than usual, and when he was barely conscious, the older daughter went to bed with him. Lot never knew a thing.

The next day, she said to the younger daughter, “It’s your turn tonight.” Again they served too much wine, and Lot became very drunk. The younger daughter went in and had sex with him. Once again, Lot knew nothing about it.

Both daughters conceived sons with their father. Moab, the patriarch of Moabites, was born of the older daughter, and Ben-Ammi, the patriarch of Ammonites, was born of the younger.

Inspiration: Genesis 19

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