Ah, Genesis… where it all began. Literally. So much good (or not) stuff here. If nothing else, it is fertile ground for vivid, interesting mental images. Some of those mental images are of massive amounts of death, but yay for creation stories! Creation stories are always interesting, regardless how nonsensical they might be.
Creation: This is a big one in terms of praiseworthy things. Creating all existence is awesome! Good on ya God! There’s some wrinkles to be ironed out in terms of how and why, but creating everything is definitely a great accomplishment and everything in history depended on it. We can quibble about impressive-good being different than moral-good, but for simplicity sake, I’m counting it.
Other things I marked as “good” was promising never to kill everyone (with a flood) again (9:13-16), and two different instances of blessing Abraham (12:2-3; 17:1-8). The blessings of Abraham were entirely arbitrary on God’s part as far as I can tell, but I think they still count. I’m still not sure if promising not to murder the population in a certain way counts as properly good—one would expect not murdering everything would be the default setting for anyone, let alone a supposedly loving, all-powerful entity—but the pickings were kinda slim.
The Garden/Fall: So many things bothered me about the story of the garden and the fall, the primary one is that a supposedly merciful, omni-benevolent creator would blame what are effectively mindless children for wrongdoing, and to so intensely punish them for a transgression they couldn’t even understand when they committed it. According to the story, Adam and Eve were wholly without knowledge of right or wrong prior to eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If we are to assume that disobeying God is evil, Adam and Eve would have had no idea that disobeying God was something they shouldn’t do. How could they be blamed for doing wrong when they didn’t know what “wrong” was or that eating from the tree was wrong? They were unequipped to know any better. And God (supposedly) knew that. They were his creations and he is (supposedly) omniscient, after all.
Imagine the scenario of a father telling his exceedingly young baby—pre-language and pre- any concept of morality—not to do something. Say, touch fire. Then the father leaves a lit candle in the middle of the baby’s room. Eventually, the baby touches it and the father loses his shit. He not only kicks the child out of the house, but inflicts horrible pain and suffering upon said child. He then predicts more hardship will befall the child out of the house, but unsatisfied with that, he promises to both enable said hardship, allow it to happen, and watch as it happens. Is this a loving father properly disciplining his child? No. It’s an abusive, likely psychopathic person who (supposedly) knows better. In a real situation like this, the father in question would be convicted of child abuse and extreme criminal neglect.
The Flood: The fact this one gets passed off as a cute story about animals for kids is likely one of the greatest examples of sickening double-speak that I can think of. The story of the flood is the story of GLOBAL GENOCIDE. I don’t think there’s even a word sufficient for purposefully killing all life on the planet, since genocide is generally limited to a race or group, and the biblical flood was dealing in whole species.
I really don’t know what to say about the flood in terms of why it is an example of pure evil. If God committing global genocide because he “was grieved” and his “heart was full of pain” over the undetailed “great wickedness” of man (6:6-8) isn’t evidence of God as evil, I don’t know what is. The fact so many Christians can reconcile this specific story—not to mention so many others of lesser, but still vastly disturbing proportions—with the idea of a loving God is truly terrifying to me.
Generally being a dick: Tower of Babel (11:6-7); tells Abraham his descendants will be slaves, but does nothing about it (15:13-14); repeatedly curses people who Abraham has lied to though they have no idea of any wrong doing, effectively acts as the strong arm for Abraham to extort stuff from people (12:10-20; 20).
Two creation stories: This is one I didn’t remember from Sunday school or my prior reading; there are two different, conflicting creation stories. There is one which follows the usual 6-days story where God creates the various elements of life in a haphazard order culminating in creation man—MALE AND FEMALE—on the sixth day (1-2:1-3). Then there is the other story where God creates the heavens and the earth with its various geographic and hydrological features, then creates Adam out of dust, then proceeds to create the plants and animals for Adam to name. Only after all other things were created and named does God then create Eve by stealing a rib from Adam (2: 4-25). Funny how the popularized version of the Biblical creation story tends to merge the two using the details that highlight the finality of man’s creation and the afterthought-like nature of woman’s creation.
No Devil in the Garden: Despite much talk of Satan/the Devil tempting Eve and indirectly causing the downfall of man, that character has not appeared yet. The snake that talked to Eve in the Garden was just a snake given the text here. And I’ve heard people say that “serpent” is one of the Devil’s many monikers, but nicknames can overlap with things that aren’t nicknames, and sometimes a snake is just a snake. The surrounding language regarding the snake suggests that it was nothing more than a “crafty” animal (3:1). All told, the snake was called: serpent, wild animal, livestock. Other translations use these related phrases: animal, beast, cattle, beast of the field, living creatures.
Details of the Garden: While we’re on the topic of what was or was not in the Garden, how many popular references do you hear to the Tree of Life? First mentioned in 2:9, the Tree of Life stands together with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of the Garden. God forbids Adam from eating from the latter, but says nothing of the former. It is only after Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God gets concerned about the Tree of Life (3:22) which apparently grants immortality. After driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden, he set heavenly guards to protect the Tree of Life, lest they try to get back in and be like God (3:23-24).
God is not so great: One of the things that really stood out to me in Genesis is how it pointedly DOES NOT describe a deity fitting modern depictions. God is not omniscient nor omnipresent (3:9-11; 18:20-21; 32:24-30), God is not infallible even in his own words (6:6-8), and as mentioned above, he does not seem to be omni-benevolent or merciful. He is also fearful of his creations besting him (3:22; 11:5-7), which suggests pride and insecurity.
Incest, lots of it: Oh… where to begin. There are of course the elements of Adam and Eve parenting the entire species, meaning that the next generations were all full siblings. Then of course there was the aftermath of the flood wherein the generation of Noah’s grandchildren all had to marry their first cousins at the most genetically distant. There’s also Abraham and Sarah being half siblings (20:12-13), Lot and his daughters (19:30-38), Jacob and his cousins Rachel and Leah (27:43 and 29:15-30).
- God is a carnivore (4: 3-5)
- Depending on which creation story you go with, first marriage is either incestuous or masterbatory
- Third marriage (seventh if all sons are assumed to have been married) discussed is a polygamous one (4:19)
- The “sons of God” and “daughters of man” produced demigod superheroes (6:1-4)
God — Good: 4 / Evil: 16
Devil — NA