The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Friday, November 03, 2006

VC: Go! (Season 1: Episode 3)

The last episode ended with the focus on one family of travellers settling in Charan. We begin this episode following some of them as they travel onwards: Avram, his wife, his nephew Lot, and their servants and cattle. It is an impressive procession as they head southward. As the travel montage continues, we see Avram stop twice, build altars, and bring offerings. The land gets drier; there is a drought. And once again Avram head off, heading towards Egypt.The travel scenes end as they get near to the Egyptian border. Avram stops to talk to his wife.

"Sarai, you are a beautiful woman and I'm afraid that if the Egyptians get a look at you they'll kill me and kidnap you. So, do me a favour. If they ask, tell them you're my sister, and everything will be fine."


The next ascent begins with Avram, Lot, and their baggage at the Egyptian customs post. Behind them is the fervent greenery of the Nile valley, a welcome contrast of the desert we've been travelling through lately. Customs inspectors are rooting through the baggage. They come upon a large box and open it up, staring at the contents.

They come back to their boss, still talking to Avram, Sarai in tow.

"Well, well. What have we here?" asks the chief, pointing at Sarai.

"Smuggled goods," they reply.

"Confiscated!", he shouts, to Avram's dismay, and orders her sent to Paro. Avram is waved through, with thanks for his contribution to the Egyptian king, who will be sure to provide ample compensation for Avram's generosity with his sister.

Than night, the palace is in an uproar. The king has gone to spend the night with Sarai, but we find him rolling on the floor in agony instead. And he's not the only one. As we pan through the palace, it seems everyone is in pain, in the most intimate places. Avram is summoned.

"What have you done to me?" asks Paro. "Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? You said she was your sister! Take her and go!"

So once again we see Avram and his greatly enlarged entourage travelling. Back the way they came. Returning to places we've seen before, but this time much greener.


Now we see Lot, also with lots of cattle and servants. And his servants are arguing with Avram's. The main question seems to be where to pasture all these animals. The local fields are getting crowded.

Avram comes to Lot to settle the issue.

"Look Lot," he says. "Things can't go on like this. If there isn't enough room around here for both of us, then we'll just have to go our separate ways. Look around. Let me know where you want to go with yours, and I'll take mine the other way."

Lot thinks about this and says, "That river valley, Kikar HaYarden, looks nice and fertile. I'll head down that way." So off he goes, and the camera focuses in on the inhabitants of the cities dominating the valley. What we see is very disturbing.

Returning to Avram, G-d appears to him. He promises him the entire land and children as numerous as the sand.


The scene changes to a conference in a palace somewhere. Four kings are conferring. Their five vassals in Kikar HaYarden have rebelled and it is time to punish them.

This ascent has lots of battle scenes with men armed with spears and swords, and plenty of horse-drawn chariots. The four kings attack the five. The five loose, flee, and some are captured after falling into pits of mud. The five cities are plundered, and among the captives we see Lot.

Avram is sitting by his tent talking with three friends, when a giant comes to visit. "Lot, your nephew has been captured."
Avram organizes a small posse and takes off in pursuit.

By the time they catch up it is dark. Avram attacks, the enemy army, frightened, flees, and the captives, including Lot, are rescued. All return home. Along the way they stop near the mountain top city of Shalem. The king, Malchi-Tzedek, comes out to meet them. It is a meeting of royalty, but the one he blesses is Avram.


After Malchi-Tzedek's praise, the king of S'dom asks only for his people, offering all the plunder to Avram as a reward. Avram, in a stirring speech, declares that he as taken nothing and wants nothing for himself. He then return home.

Avram is asleep in his tent when G-d appears to him and promises him his protection and great reward.

"But Lord", he asks, "what good is this to me if I have no children? There is no one to leave all this to except my servant Eliezer?"

"He will not be your heir. You will yet have children. Now come outside. Look up and try to count the stars; so will be your offspring." Avram does not respond.


The same scene as before. Again G-d promises him the land. Avram asks for a sign that this will be so, and G-d instructs him what to do.

We see slaughtered cattle lying on the ground. An ox, a goat, and a ram, each cut in half with a space between. Also two birds. Birds come out of the sky and try to eat the meat, but Avram drives them away. As the sun sets, Avram falls asleep, and receive a prophecy.

"Know that your children will dwell in a strange land 410 years. I will judge that nation and will bring them back here with great wealth. You will come peacefully to your fathers, and in the fourth generation the will come back here. Then the evil of the current inhabitants will be full to be dealt with." As darkness falls, a firey torch and smoky furnace pass between the animal parts.

We are now back by Avram's tent and Sarai comes over to him with her Egyptian maid, Hagar.

"Look, we've been here 10 years and G-d has kept me barren. So come to my maid, and perhaps I'll have children through her."

Next scene, Hagar is being insufferable to Sarai. She's pregnant.

Sarai tells Avram, "I'm sorry I even suggested you take Hagar. She's become impossible to live with."

"So do what you want. She's your maid." And Sarai makes life so miserable for Hagar that the Egyptian runs away.

Hagar is in the wilderness, sitting near a well, when she is approached by an angel.

"Hagar, Sarai's maid. What are you doing here?"

"She drove me away," Hagar replies.

A series of angles appear, swooping in to deliver their messages and then swooping away again.

"Go home to to your mistress and do what she says."

"Great and uncountable will be your offspring."

"You will become pregnant again and bear a son. Call him Ishmael, for G-d has heard you. He will be a wild man and rule his neighbours."

And soon we see Hagar with a small boy. Ishmael.

Thirteen years pass. G-d appears to Avram again to make a covenant. Avram falls on his face as G-d says, "No longer are you 'Avram', now you are 'Avraham', for you will father nations."


G-d is still speaking.

"I will be G-d forever to you and your descendants. And I will give to you and them this land of Canaan. For your part, circumcise yourself and your household, and all your sons at eight days. Thus will be my covenant in your flesh.

"As to your wife, her name I change as well. No longer 'Sarai', but now 'Sarah'. And I will bless her and she will have a son, and from him will come your nations."

So Avraham prostrates himself again, and laughs at the news. "Let Ishmael live before you," he asks.

"But Sarah will bear a son, and you will call him Yitzchak and with him will be my covenant for all generations. Ishmael I will also bless. He will have twelve sons and become a great nation. But the covenant is with Yitzchak."

The episode ends with Avraham circumcising himself and his household.

Last updated: 2006 November 9

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