Sunday, March 10, 2013

All the News Fit to be Tied

Now these are the records of the generations of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah. Sarai was barren; she had no child. Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
Now the LORD said to Abram,
"Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father's house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
      An ancient family history, otherwise known as Genesis 11:27-12:5

Your roving reporter, Marcella Gibbon, traveled recently from Ur to the far distant land of Haran to find one of Ur’s favorite son’s Terah.  He wandered quite a distance with his whole family in tow—but why would he leave our fair city?  Is there something there is the outskirts of civilization that could possibly be desired more than in Ur, the capital of the world?  Marcella Gibbon will leave no mystery unturned as I interview our dashing subject.
            The dashing Terah is certainly out in the country, not a wall to speak of, but the lands around our host’s house is filled with rich livestock, fat and sassy.  Surely there is not another landowner in Haran more wealthy in Urian cattle and sheep than Terah!  After a lovely milk bath and my clothes washed and pressed by our host’s impressive array of slaves, your reporter was welcomed into a beautifully decorated stone chateau, filled with the rich aromas of cardamom and myrrh.  Our host was dressed in the dignified robes of a high priest of – the god of the moon, but they couldn’t disguise his broad shoulders or hide his handsome trimmed beard! It is difficult to interview such a man—with wealth, power and sexy features—and still maintain dignity, but your reporter is nothing, if not daring! 

After being honorably welcomed and seated upon some lush, multi-colored pillows, your reporter embarked on the quest of discovering the man behind the handsome mask.  “Terah, our readers so appreciate you opening your home to allow us to discover a bit of your life.”  

He responded in his deep, resonating voice, “Of course, Marcella, you are always welcome.  Let me ask you, did you really travel these thousand miles only to interview a simple country farmer?”  So humble as well as his faint-worthy good looks!  His gaze was so direct, that your reporter near blushed!

“Terah, please answer the question that everyone has been asking—why did you leave Ur, the hub of all civilization?  What more could you have seen, what more could you have done that was not done in Ur?”

Our host leaned back on his pillows (which I am sure was filled with the hair of less than year old goats!), “Marcella, it is a simple matter, really.  I was simply one of the high priests of Ur—“ 

“A celebrated citizen, none the less.”  

“Yes, of course.  But one of many.  I was asked by the council of priests of  Nanna to travel to Canaan, south of the end of the Euphrates, and establish a temple there.  We had received messengers from the worshippers of – there, that they desired a temple built, and not having the resources themselves, they requested our assistance.”12

“But Terah, to be asked like this, did that not upset you?  To leave your home and your high office?”

“It was hard to leave, to be sure.  All my friends, all of the authority I had established…. But it is a worthy thing to serve – in this way.  No, I do not regret the council’s decision.”

“But Canaan, are they not… barbarians?  I have heard the most gruesome stories…”

“Much of that is fiction, Marcella, as you must surely know.”  His eyes twinkled at this point.  “Surely the worshippers of – do not sacrifice their first born, or require the burning of wives.  I am sure they have the pure sexual practices of the temples in Ur, practiced with dignity of ritual and in privacy.  Would that I could have laid these unfortunate rumors to rest.”

“Of course, High Priest Terah.  At the same time, I must admit that I have noticed that you are not in Canaan, but in Haran.  Were you forced to take a detour, perhaps?”

“Of a sort.  I was well on my way, having gone as far north as we could, and we were just turning east for the second leg of the journey, when my health suddenly turned for the worse.  I knew at that point that I would have been unable to survive all the distance to Canaan, with enough health to built the requested temple.  Knowing that Haran has a major temple to Nanna, we took the shorter journey here, where I could continue my service, without endangering my health.”

“A wise decision, I am sure, Priest Terah.  I understand you have made some inroads in the temple here in Haran?”

“They have been very generous to me, Marcella.  I have been recognized a high priest here in this temple, and given much authority over many of the lands in Haran.  I regret being unable to fulfill my commission, but my life here is good, and I am able to fulfill my duties in a lesser way.”

“And what about the commission to Canaan?  What is to become of the worshippers of – there?”

“I have already sent out substitutes.  Three lower priests of – volunteered and had been commissioned to go to Canaan soon after my arrival here.”

“So the Canaanites needs are being met?”

He smiled so warmly that my heart nearly melted. “Certainly.  It was never my intention to leave them high and dry.”

“And how is your family, High Priest?  They have surely been missed as well.”

“Fine, fine.  My wife is doing well…”

“And what of your son, Avram and his beautiful wife, Sarai?”

At this he stammered a little, and found it difficult to speak, “I… I am not sure.”

“But surely they are in good health?”

“I frankly have no idea.”

“Are you not speaking to each other?  Has there been a split in the great family of Terah?”

“Well, we could be speaking, except that, well, he left me.”

“Oh, my!  Did he really?  This is stunning!”

“Yes, yes, it is.  I am shocked, honestly.”

“I can imagine!  What possible excuse could he give?”

“I must admit, I heard what he said, but it made no sense to me….”

Your reporter responds with the most sympathy she can muster, with a tear welling up in her eye, “Please explain, dear Terah.”

“He told me that he heard the voice of El Eloyah, the Most High God.  My son, he was the greatest treasure of my life, but how could he be so focused on by the Most High?  No one I know has been spoken to by the Most High…. In any case, my son claimed that the Most High promised him a great inheritance—to become a great nation, to be thoroughly protected, to be wealthy beyond measure.”

“This sounds wonderful.”

“Oh, yes—if it were true.  Honestly, and I say this off the record, my son and his wife were not even so blessed by any god to even have one child!  This is not the sign of blessing!  To hear such ramblings is grandiose nonsense!”

“Now, Terah, this still did not explain why he left.”

“Well, this so-called Most High supposedly told him that if he were to receive this inheritance from the gods, he would have to leave me and go to another land.”

“Is that right?  And what land is this?”

“He wouldn’t say!”

“Avram wouldn’t tell you?”

“No—the god who spoke to him wouldn’t tell him!  He was just to wander about aimlessly until he reached the land he was to be promised.  Then he was to stop and camp there.”

“To build a city?  To settle down?”

            “No—to camp!  To wander his life as a nomad, a barbarian!”

            Your truest scribe was sincerely shocked! “Surely you tried to talk him out of this foolishness!”

            “Of course I did!  I lectured him for hours!  I told him of the idiocy of listening to unknown spirits, and believing everything they said.  I told him of the dangers of the world, and how he was bringing his family into needless harm.  I told him of the inheritance I had built here, for him, and that he need go no where to obtain a rich, plentiful inheritance.  How, as my son, he could be a priest, leading many women into worship, and so gain eternal fame and life.”

            “And what did he say?”

            “Nothing.  He never spoke much.  He did as he always did.  He listens and listens without a word and then does as he wishes.  He is so stubborn.”

            “Have you heard anything from him?”

            “No.  Nothing.  And I will not.  And there is no way for me to find him.  I have lost him forever.”

            At this point we sat in silence, mourning the loss of his son, when your reporter remembered another joy in Terah’s life.

            “High Priest Terah, what about your grandson, Lot?  Surely he is well?”

            “He left with Avram to parts unknown.”

            At this point, dear readers, your favorite essayist, Marcella Gibbon, was at a loss.  Terah—dear, wonderful Terah—suffered so much at the hands of his son, that the interview was in tatters.  At the same time, your reporter has an insatiable curiosity.  How could such a celebrated young man such as Avram, turn against his father in such a ruthless way?  Did he really hear a god, or did he make it up to leave his father?  And if he did hear a god, what kind of god would require the loss of his family, the loss of all earthly inheritance, in order to receive the blessings of the god, no matter how generous?  Your reporter will not stop until she knows the answers to these questions.

            Meanwhile, the interview must be salvaged.  “High Priest Terah, I have heard so much of the temple of – in Haran.  It is truly as gorgeous as they say?”

            Shaking his head of the cobwebs of loss, Terah replied, “Of course, and more!”

            “Could you possibly offer me a tour of it, so our readers could experience it’s glory?”

            “Surely, yes…”

            “And, perhaps you could lead me in worship?”

            His full smile returned, with his eyes glistening, “Of course, Marcella.  I would be happy to.”