Revolutionary Exegesis of Genesis 15:6
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
God: And make sure no circumcised Jeeps go into Gehenna by mistake
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.