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Revolutionary Exegesis of Genesis 15:6

February 6, 2009

Every once in awhile I like to do a post here that is a little more academic and shows off the width and the breadth of my scholarly education, but also my theological erudition at the same time.  As an added bonus, you the reader are blessed, and  have your paradigms challenged and shaped in new and beneficial ways.

Today, I would like to examine two ancient writings, and using some rabbinical Jewish interpretive techniques, bring them into conversation with one another which hopefully gives us a deeper insight into life after death.

The first text is a well known passage. It was also widely quoted in many ancient Jewish writings and the New Testament: Genesis 15: 6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  The second text is from a later work Genesis Rabba 48:8 “In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance to Gehenna, and permit no circumcised Israelite to descend therein.”

One of the common ancient exegetical rabbinical practices was a method called gezera shewa an interpretive approach in which passages that used identical words or phrases could be used to understand and interpret each other.  Seeing as both of these verses are about Abraham and both contain a vav consecutive (that’s a  fancy Hebrew grammatical term that you don’t need to waste any time looking up) I believe that it is appropriate, even proper, to use these texts to understand and interpret each other.

Important in this task is considering the Rabba assertion first: Abraham will sit at the gates of Gehenna and permit no circumcised Israelite to enter.  Basically, what this passage claims is that Abraham, our great father in the faith, gets to spend his afterlife inspecting penises.

Ummm… Not really a reward is it?

I can just imagine the shock on Abraham’s face when God told him.  I picture the scene somewhat like this: Abraham rolls into heaven fist-bumping angels feeling pretty good about starting three religions…

God: Abraham I have a job for you
Abraham: (who at this point is probably thinking it involves a bunch of virgins, or bliss, or a combination of the two) No problem
God: I need you to go to the gates of Gehenna
Abraham: (confused look) Uh, OK
God: And do a package check on all the males
Abraham: What?
God: And make sure no circumcised Jeeps go into Gehenna by mistake
Abraham: Jeeps?
God: My Jewish peeps…

What would Abraham be thinking at a moment like that?

“I was going to kill my son for this?”…  “What the Sheol is going on here?”…  “I knew I shouldn’t have argued with him about Sodom and Gomorrah!”

It’s at this point we have to use Genesis 15 to understand how Abraham–the great man of faith–could end up with such a horrible assignment.  Genesis claims that “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  In our current economic situation things start to come into focus: Abraham got his righteousness on credit.  Apparently, there is no bailout for that sort of asset.

However, there are some important lessons for us to learn from his example.

First, by using the Jewish interpretive practice of qal wahomer–which argues in the fashion that if this one thing is true in this particular instance then how much more in this other instance–we gain an invaluable insight:  If the great Abraham got his righteousness on credit, and all he could purchase was an afterlife of looking at other men’s Beefy McMansticks, then what kind of job would you or I get?  If endlessly inspecting for Rumpleforeskin in Abraham’s case then how much worse in our case?  I shudder to even make a guess.

Second. The moral of the story?  Earn your righteousness.  Receive your righteousness as a gift.  But whatever you do, don’t get it on credit!

As usual Universities can start queuing up in the comment box to begin offering me scads of money for more research, writing, and exegesis, that reflects the obvious traits of brilliance above.

Shalom out!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jake permalink
    February 6, 2009 2:11 pm

    Way to use your powers for awesome buddy.

  2. February 6, 2009 10:12 pm

    If Abraham relished such a job would the LORD stone him? Just wondering.

  3. February 6, 2009 11:20 pm

    You’re scaring me…

  4. February 9, 2009 10:51 am

    Note to self: don’t read Scotteriology at work anymore. LMAOs make the cube gophers nervous

  5. February 11, 2009 6:49 am

    I bet you’re the only one in the top 50 Biblioblog to use the term ” Beefy McManstick “.

  6. February 18, 2009 12:34 pm

    Man, you are too funny! I’m going to enjoy reading more of your stuff.

  7. Tracey Sheneman permalink
    November 8, 2011 11:09 am

    In this context – employing rabbinic, and not evangelical Christian, exegetical methods – I suppose it would be in poor taste to proffer this passage from John 8:56 (via the heretical NLT) “Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”


  1. Genesis 15: God’s gifts to Abram « Carpe Scripturum
  2. » Genesis 15: God’s gifts to Abram Carpe Scriptura

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