Partly in response to this post I recently decided to knock my Bible reading plan on the head and just go ahead and read the thing from start to finish. (Or should that be ‘the Thing’?)
Anyway, I opened at page one and went to work, and it struck me pretty quickly that the book of Genesis moves through events way faster than I’m used to in a book. The author (Author?) decided that descriptions that would give you a sense of time or position are simply not as important as the things that needed recording, so a conversation is recorded over 500 words, immediately followed by hundreds of years of people having babies over 500 words, with seemingly random bits and bobs thrown in here and there.
I was thinking this when I was reading Genesis 14. Verse 10′s an odd one, which shows this off perfectly. Right in the middle of an account of a battle we’re told that ‘the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits, and as the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some fell into them, and the rest fled to the hill country.’ Why are we told that some fell into the bitumen pits? Who knows? Nothing else happens to them, and they’re never mentioned again in the entire Bible. Maybe they’re still there now!
But the reason it really stood out to me was that a couple of chapters earlier I’d just been introduced to bitumen.
…they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens…” (from Genesis 11)
That’s the start of the Tower of Babel, which led to the peoples of the earth being scattered and unable to communicate with one another. But again we have this question: why mention the bitumen so specifically?
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is useful: why is this useful?
Well, I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the material used to build a tower designed to escape from God is the same material that ends up as the downfall of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah! At this point none of the horrific scene involving Lot and the angels has happened yet, but it just goes to show that God is in complete control. Every little detail in the Bible is there for a reason.
But the reason for the bitumen is even more mind-boggling.
Bitumen is mentioned one other time in the whole of Scripture, in Exodus 2. It’s the material that’s used to keep the baby Moses’ basket waterproof. This is how God shows redemption in bitumen:
- Man used it to try to become like God.
- Man fell into it and suffered as a direct result.
- God took what we intended for evil, and used it for good.
God’s grace is phenomenal.