Sophia and Abraham's Legacy
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Quotes of the Day
- One day, his horse ran away.
- Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit.
- “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
- “Maybe,” the farmer replied.
- The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.
- “Such good luck,” the neighbours exclaimed.
- “Maybe,” replied the farmer.
- ― Jon J Muth, Zen Shorts
- 17 ... When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee,
- saying, Whose art thou? and whither goest thou? and whose are these before thee?
- 18 Then thou shalt say, They be thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord Esau:
- and, behold, also he is behind us.
- ― Genesis 32:17-8
- and, behold, also he is behind us.
- And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:
- for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
- ― Genesis 32:28
- for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
- 11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ...
- 12 ... I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.
- ― Genesis 27:11-2
- 6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:
- 7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister:
- for he feared to say, She is my wife;
- lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah;
- because she was fair to look upon.
- ― Genesis 26:6-7
- 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father:
- and he said, Here am I, my son.
- And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
- 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:
- so they went both of them together.
- 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of;
- and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order,
- and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
- 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife ...
- ― Genesis 22:6-10
- 1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, ...
- 4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him:
- and they wept.
- ― Genesis 33:1,4
- and they wept.
Contemplation for the Day
You are the fifth servant of Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham. Jacob has entrusted you with a herd of thirty donkeys, whom you are to give to his brother Esau as a gift. Four servants have gone on ahead with herds of goats, sheep, camels and cattle also as gifts. Yours is the last peace offering between Jacob and Esau. If Esau is not pacified by this gift and the gifts before it then there will be a slaughter. For Esau has a force of 400 armed men and Jacob's camp is ill prepared for battle. You ride your elephant as you drive the donkeys ahead of you, while behind you Jacob has remained in the camp of Mahanaim alone.
"Why has it come to this?" you ask.
As if in response, a young child-slave, who, on foot, is helping herd the donkeys, looks up at you and the brightness of her blue gaze nearly blinds you. And you know she is no slave but instead Sophia. She says, "Just One, the universe is deterministic; Yahweh pre-determined that it would be so. Yahweh pre-determined that Esau and Jacob would be enemies."
Then you realize that there are several little girls in white robes helping to herd the donkeys and that each is a Sophia-body. One turns to look back at Jacob and says, "So why is Jacob wrestling with God?"
You look back and see a golden thrown and Jacob is wrestling a man who is glowing with gold light. "He is wrestling, El," you say.
"Of course, he is wrestling El," says another Sophia-body, "That is Genesis 32 verses 22-32. In Verse 28, Jacob and his entire tribe are renamed, Isra-El, he who struggled with El."
Another Sophia-body pipes up, "But El is the personification of our hidden connection to ancient stories. What does that have to do with his disagreement with Esau?"
Yet another Sophia-body replies, "Perhaps the answer to Just One's question is hinted at here. Yahweh predetermined that this would come to be, but predetermination works through chains of cause and effect, through stories and if you want to understand how this situation came to be you have to trace the story backwards to its beginning."
Sophia speaks in her eerie unison-voice, "Let us return to an earlier chapter of Genesis, when Rebekah set this story in motion."
The scene dissolves and you are Rebekah's servant. Your elephant is deftly using her trunk to braid Rebekah's hair as you listen to what she is saying to Jacob. “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”
Jacob says to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”
His mother says to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” You notice that the other servants are actually Sophia-bodies and that they are observing the scene closely as they pretend to clean and work. You sidle up to one and whisper to her, "Why would Rebekah betray Isaac and Esau like that. Does she not love them?"
Sophia replies in her loud unison-voice, "Perhaps we have to look at the story from a different perspective, Just One."
Suddenly the scene changes, your elephant stumbles as the room seems to roll sideways and then you are standing on a vast white plain dotted with black shapes. It takes you a moment to adjust your perspective and then you realize that you are standing on a page of book with the text stretched out in all directions around you. The Sophia-bodies are standing all around you and throughout the plain looking upwards. High above you see a robed and hooded priest reaching down toward the page, toward you. A huge rubbery block is in the priest's hand and as it crashes down and skids across the white plane near you the surface of the plane is scraped by it so that a cloud of white and black shrapnel erupts from the point of contact and sprays toward you.
"What is happening?" You yell as your elephant raises its trunk defensively against the oncoming shower of debris.
The Sophia-bodies stare into the approaching cloud and it is illuminated with the blue glow of their gaze and freezes in place, as if time is stopped by their look. They speak in their unison-voice, "The priests erased much of the explanation of why Rebekah acted that way from the story."
"Why?" you yell back.
"Just One, look higher than the priest." You look up past the priest who is leaning over the page and see up higher watching and directing, El on his golden throne.
"El wanted the story erased?" you are confused.
"El is a personification of an abstract concept, Just One." Sophia replies, "He doesn't want anything. He personifies the loss of ancient stories. The concentrations of metaphorium are high here. I think perhaps that the priests are not really erasing the story but instead just failing to copy it forward. These old stories were passed on verbally. That process lost much. But the metaphorium allows us to explore possible versions of the pieces that were lost. Let us pass through this fog of lost story into the missing pieces of story themselves." Each Sophia-body brandishes a giant inked quill like a sword and charges forward through the cloud of debris. Your elephant charges with them.
As you pass through the cloud your vision is obscured and you can barely see in front of you and then suddenly you arrive on what looks like the bridge of a starship from a science fiction television show. Around the edge of the bridge Sophia-bodies are monitoring sensors and communication consoles and controlling the helm and planning navigation. Rebekah's elephant is sitting in the captain's chair. You look at the viewscreen at the front of the bridge and see Jacob looking back and saying, "I would appear to be tricking him..."
The Sophia-body at the communication console, calls out, "Captain, Jacob is resisting the plan."
Another Sophia-body who is standing at the weapons station yells, "If he doesn't go along with the plan, Isaac will win."
An angel sitting to the captain's right says calmly, "We love Isaac, Captain, there is no need for this to be about winning and losing."
But a demon sitting to the captain's left says, "Isaac betrayed us. We have done our duty and served him as wife for decades. We have expressed the love. Now is our chance to express other feelings, to make him pay. His favorite son will not inherit his domain but instead Jacob will. We just have to convince Jacob to do it."
Rebekah's elephant turns to the Sophia-body standing at the weapons station and says, "Fire the motherly authority voice. Jacob's will will be unable to resist it."
You turn to the viewscreen and hear Rebekah's voice say, "My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” Instantly, you see the emotions play over Jacob's face and he acquiesces to his mother's wishes.
"Wait, what did the demon mean when it said that Isaac betrayed Rebekah?" you ask.
The Sophia-body at the helm yells, "Rewinding!" and hits the big double back arrow button on the console in front of her.
The scene shifts again, and, on the viewscreen, you see the back of a younger Isaac facing the men of Gerar.
"She is my sister." he says.
Immediately, Rebekah's elephant slaps a big red button on the arm of her chair with her trunk and the entire bridge is flooded by red flashing light and a loud claxon. A Sophia-body at an internal systems console announces over the intercom, "Red alert! Red alert! Adrenaline to battle levels! Stand by for flight or fight. Stand by for flight of fight."
The angel beside Rebekah's elephant is frozen. The demon yells, "He denied us as his wife. Intolerable. Why did he do that?"
"Why did he do that?" you ask. The claxon stops, the red light freezes on in mid flash. The angel, Rebekah's elephant and the demon and the action on the view screen all stop as time stands still. The Sophia-bodies all turn their bright blue gaze on you so that you feel hot and more than a little self-conscious.
"Just One," Sophia says in her unison-voice, "The Bible is explicit on this subject. He did it because he was afraid they would kill him in order to have her. If he said that she was his wife, then his life and the sin of adultery would lie between them and her. By denying her, he let them think they could have her without killing him."
"But look at them." You point to the view screen, "They are not dangerous or violent looking men. Why would he believe they were capable of such a thing? The Bible is explicit on this subject too. Their leader Abimelek welcomes him into their land even as he finds out that he lied about Rebekah. He was never in any danger."
Sophia responds, "Let us go and find out, Just One." All of the Sophia-bodies focus their gaze on the screen and the images swirl on the screen forming a circle around the back of Isaac's head and continue to spin until nothing on the screen is intelligible except a spinning circle. The Sophia-bodies brandish their giant quill's again and charge toward the screen and you realize that the circle on the screen has become the entrance to a tunnel. As the last of the Sophia-bodies jump into the tunnel, your elephant charges forward and leaps to follow them.
The tunnel is a streaming, swirling maelstrom of confusion filled with black and white flying debris. You hear El's voice echoing throughout the tunnel, "This story is lost, you will not recover it Sophia. What Isaac was thinking is not available to you!"
Sophia yells back through the maelstrom in her unison-voice, "We will explore a possible piece of the lost story, you can not stop us, El, from using our imagination."
Suddenly your elephant is stumbling across the deck of another bridge. The Sophia-bodies are rolling through the air around you and, as you stabilize your footing, they land at all of the stations around the bridge and begin work. On the view-screen, you see the men of Gerar. You understand that you are looking out from Isaac's point of view. The elephant in the captain's chair is Isaac's elephant. The Sophia-body at the main computer station on the left side of the bridge calls down, "Facial recognition algorithm is matching the pensive look on the lead man's face to a pensive look we once saw on your father, Abraham's, face, Captain."
A memory of Abraham flashes up on the screen, the knife in his hand. The hot sun high in the sky. A feeling of being trapped and bound floods the bridge. Isaac's elephant slaps the big red button with his trunk. The Sophia-body at an internal systems console announces over the intercom, "Red alert! Red alert! Adrenaline to battle levels! Stand by for flight or fight. Stand by for flight of fight."
The angel beside Isaac's elephant is frozen. The demon on his left yells, "These men cannot be trusted. They will kill us unless we protect ourselves. They want your wife. Let them have her or we are doomed."
Isaac's elephant signals to the Sophia-body at the communications console and you hear Isaac's voice, "She is my sister."
"So, Abraham's sacrifice set these events in motion." You say, "What ever was going on in his mind at that time, chain reacted to Jacob and Esau's feud. Why did he ever think that such a sacrifice made sense?"
Sophia answers in her unison-voice, "Yahweh told him to, Genesis 22 2."
But then a new Sophia-body pops into existence in the middle of the bridge floor, "But Yahweh is just the deterministic nature of the universe. So that is like saying that he was predetermined to do it."
"By what? What was the proximal cause?" you ask.
Then you notice that El is sitting in his golden throne where Isaac's elephant had been, "Enough of this. The story is hidden from you all. You are only making this up as a possibility. It is not the truth."
Sophia replies to El in her unison-voice, "You are correct El, what is left of the story hints at the lesson that there is a cycle to violence. It hints that violence begets violence and that violence often begins in some kind of misunderstanding. Like the misunderstanding that the creator God could ever call you to destroy innocence and beauty meaninglessly. Like Abraham, we can never know if some misunderstanding will determine that we commit an atrocity. We are as blind to our own futures as we are blind to Abraham's past. If we want the details, we have to make them up. That might give us a glimpse of a story that would make sense to us, but we will never be able to tally the injuries and insults or the reasons and excuses and know who was in the right."
Then Jacob appears on the bridge and throws himself at El, pushing him from his throne and rolling with him across the floor. The scene shifts and you are watching Jacob wrestle El in Mahanaim in the darkness of the night. As you watch, some trick, probably a trick of metaphorium, allows you to see Esau meet the final gift, the herd of thirty donkeys. Esau speaks with the servant and accepts the gift as he has accepted the first four. But he still has his army of four hundred men with him so obviously the first four gifts did not assuage his anger at his brother.
El and Jacob are still wrestling while standing facing each other. El brings a knee up and Jacob folds forward with a cry.
Esau calls his lieutenants forward to give them orders. The lieutenants point to strategic points on each side of Mahanaim from which an attack could be mounted. El breaks away from Jacob and circles around him to attack him from behind.
Esau points to the donkeys and speaks to his lieutenants in anger. The lieutenants back away in fear and turn to return to their units. El gets close to Jacob but before he can approach to within striking range, Jacob drops to his hands and knees and kicks straight back with both feet like a donkey and strikes El so hard that he is flattened. While El is stunned, Jacob grabs him and puts him in a strangle hold just as the sun rises.
The lieutenants reach their units and turn them back away from Mahanaim and toward home while Esau rides forward with a small honour guard to meet his good brother. El gives Jacob the name of Isra-El and then leaves him. You watch El go and whisper to yourself, "Jacob freed himself from the hidden story of his family by making peace with his brother. He didn't have to know the story or count the injuries; he just had to make peace and leave the past behind."
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