Abraham and a Lot of Others

(This post is part of an ongoing series on my making the Old Testament into Magic: the Gathering cards.  Best to start at the beginning, which is the Word…press link here.)

Let’s pick up the pace a bit.
Where were we?  Noah.  Right.  10 generations later, Noah’s 3 kids have had an amazing amount of babies and have repopulated the Earth.  “Go forth and multiply” were their only instructions, so they took it and ran with it.  Then we get to Abram.  (His name gets extended to Abraham later.)  He’s living in a pagan city, where his dad literally makes idols for a living.  God speaks to him, Abram is called to pack up and leave, and God promises him that He will make him the Father of Nations, children as plentiful as the dust, and as numerous as the stars.  He will, after all, officially start Judaism, which later add Christianity and (not genetically but by giving them source material) Islam.  So, naturally:

Abraham, Father of Nations

Abraham, Father of Nations {3}{W/G} 3/3 Creature – Human Cleric: {x}: summon X 1/1 Descendant tokens. When an ability targets Abraham, you may also have it target any number of Descendant tokens.
“I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.” Genesis 22:17

I skipped the parts that were hard to make into a card- like how he goes to a city, and he’s so sure that people will kill him to take his wife that he tells her to pretend she’s his sister- and the King marries her. And Abram gets rich! But when the King finds out, he feels terrible about it, and lets him leave with everything he earned while the king’s brother-in-law.  A lot of people do morally-questionable stuff in the Bible, and some of them get called out by God and/or killed for it.  It’s a little Game-of-Thrones-y.

And then there’s his son Isaac. He’s in his 80’s, God tells them they’ll get pregnant, and they name him Isaac.  A few years later, God tells him, sacrifice him to me. Abram’s about to, when an angel shows up and tells him not to, because that was a test.  And Isaac never says a word about it again.  I can see the card text now: “Sacrifice a creature. Cancel that sacrifice.” Hindsight makes it a little less dramatic.

Wait a second. I almost forgot there’s this city called Sodom.

City of Sodom

City of Sodom {black}{black}: Enchantment: Target player’s creatures gain Sin. When their abilities would raise each other’s Power or Toughness or place +1/+1 counters on them, those abilities pick new targets if possible, and can now target opponents’ creatures, but now lowers Power and Toughness by the same amounts.
“Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness, and the poor suffered outside their doors.” Ezekiel 16:49

(I’ll explain Sin another day.  For now it’s just a label you stick on a card – and some other cards do worse things to cards with Sin.)

It’s actually a little less edgy than you’ve heard.  It turns out 95% of what’s ever written about them had nothing to do with being gay.  Sort of.  There are lots of verses, before and after it blows up, about how terrible these people are and how everything they do is a blight against God.  One of the few specific examples written is “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony and laziness, and the poor suffered outside their doors.” Ezekiel 16:49  (And for context, God describes Israel as acting worse than Sodom when His people are doing something terrible, like having temple prostitutes and sacrificing their children to bull-headed fire gods (Leviticus 20), which was very… MtG-black-card-ish.)

The other thing that happened is why the city got blown up.  God announced to Abraham that he was going to destroy it.  (Hold your horsemen, there’s gonna be a card for this.)  A pair of angels in disguise come to warn Lot, who takes them into his house.  And then this mob of rapists shows up – I’d repeat that, but just read it again and imagine it louder.  They demand he send out the men (the angels) for them to gang-bang (the one gay part of this encounter), like a hostage exchange.  Lot’s so desperate to bribe them and save everyone else that he offers them his adult daughters (who hear him say this, by the way).  Don’t you tell us who we can’t do, they say, “now we will treat you worse than them” – now they try to grab Lot and pull him out.  The angels start striking blind people – that came out wrong – striking people blind in the doorway, and warn Lot and his family to escape, because they’re about to destroy it.  Now you see why?

Agent to Sodom (1)

Agent to Sodom (4)(r): 4/4 (Creature – Angel Archer)
Hexproof, Indestructible.  Angels gain Pure and cannot lose it.  
Morph {3}{r}<i>(you may cast this card face-down as a 2/2 creature for {3}.  Turn it face-up at any time for its morph cost.)</i> When Agent of Sodom is turned face-up, all of target player’s tapped creatures gain Sin.  When Agent in Sodom attacks or blocks, put -1/-1 on all creatures with Sin.
“We are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” Genesis 19:13

So they do.  This is where we get the preacher phrase “fire and brimstone.”  Oh, and the angels said not to turn around and look at it, but Lot’s wife looks and turns into salt.  Not sure how to card that one yet.

Who’s next?  Isaac the almost-sacrificed, surprisingly, decided to have a kid anyway.  That was Jacob.  You probably didn’t hear about his brother, Esau.  Kind of a family secret.  Jacob had an older twin brother, but Jacob talked him into signing over his rights as firstborn son.  And when their father was half-blind and dying, Jacob’s own mother played favorites by getting Jacob to pretend to be Esau and have his father sign over the rest of his inheritance.  Then he runs away because he rightfully thinks his brother is gonna kill him for this.  (Jacob, if you’re reading this, you’re a much better brother than Jacob, Jacob.)

Jacob, Traitor Twin

Jacob, Traitor Twin (1)(i) 1/2 Creature – Human Nomad: When Jacob, Traitor Twin enters play, choose a creature. When target creature would be affected by a spell or ability, you may make it affect Jacob, Traitor Twin instead.
“But Jacob said “First swear that your birthright is mine!” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as a firstborn son to his twin, Jacob.” Genesis 25:33

But there’s a happy ending – decades later, Jacob’s made it rich as a shepherd (you’ll understand this if you play Settlers of Catan – it’s useless until everyone needs it).  He sends a message .  When he shows up, he sees Esau’s waiting for him, with an army of 400 people.  So he starts sending servants ahead with his animals as gifts.  Then he camps out a ways away, and hopes that sinks in.

That’s when – do you know the story of a guy in the Bible wrestling an angel?  The church simplified it a bit.  What happens is that in the dead of night, Jacob’s alone, probably remembering how terrible of a brother he was growing up… and a man comes right up to him and starts wrestling him.  No wings here.  Almost no angel is ever said to have wings.  I’m sure there was some context for this.  But then, given the army over the hill, it’s a little less unexpected to be attacked right now.  And they wrestle… the entire… night.  Total metaphorical undertones.  ‘Long, dark night of the soul,’ anyone?  Anyone?  It’s an expression, I’m actually not pretentious enough to quote whoever coined it.

Then it’s coming up on daybreak, and it says that the man knows he won’t win this wrestling match.  So the man touches Jacob’s hip and that knocks it out of place.  The man says, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”  Reading between the lines here – Jacob’s hip’s out of alignment, and he’s still wrestling?  Jacob is ballsy.  He says back to the man, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”  More between-the-lines: I know people gave each other blessings back then, but I think Jacob may know this isn’t one of Esau’s soldiers.  The man asks (probably rhetorically) “What is your name?”  “Jacob,” answers Jacob.

And the man tells him, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Pause for dramatic effect.

That’s a riddle right there.  Yes, God’s all-powerful and can turn cities into pillars of fire, but you see these moments where He walks as a man.  And for Jacob to accept his challenge and not give up or dismiss it and run, that’s a symbolic gesture.  But here’s the taunt: Jacob asks him again, “Please tell me your name.”  And the man just asks him, “Why do you want to know my name?” and blesses him.  Even the scripture isn’t willing to say that was God.  So was it an angel?  Was it someone sent to play the part in Jacob’s life?  Was it a lucid dream?  No answer.  It says Jacob struggled with God and man, but this person could have been either one.  If this had been a new chapter in a young-adult fantasy series, the forums would be on fire when this came out.


Wrestle with God (2)

Wrestle with God {1}{p}: Tap and put a -1/-1 on target creature.  It gains Hexproof, Indestructible and Pure <i>(this creature’s Power & Toughness cannot be lowered.  Pure removes Sin.)</i>
<i>“And the man said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:28<i>

Well – that’s not the end of the Bible.  There’s actually a lot more.  An insanely lot more.  But let’s make it into blog-sized pieces.  Hint for next week: Jacob has kids.  You’ve heard of one of them.


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