The first, and perhaps most striking thing is the strangely staggered pace of telling that occurs. Time is staggered, especially in the telling of Moses and the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt. The story progresses into the ten plagues and Moses relationship with god then retreats back in time to trace Moses and his brother Aaron's lineage in the tribe of the Levites as they branched out in Egypt.
Accompanying this diachronic mode of telling is a structure of repetition. Rules, decrees, prophesies, even songs occur as passages, then occur again a few pages later. This is evident in the end of Exodus and Leviticus, which are concerned with God's decrees for how the different offerings are to be made, and how people are to compose their lives.
Inside of all this is the fact that everything passes pretty quickly. For all their cultural/mythological significance, which makes them seem so big in a way, many of the famous stories in the bible happen fast, for example the story of samson and delilah is only a page long.
All of this makes for a situation in which reading the bible can be, a.) confusing and b.) boring. Personally, I like reading the bible because it establishes a really incredible tone and rhythm, only it takes work to get onto it. Further, no matter what one thinks of it there is really no denying that much of the subject matter illuminates many basic aspects of being a human and wrestling with this brain that we have and the sense of our place and purpose in the world. Even the non-religious think about these things, so it is really interesting that stories about these issues are delineated in a super old book.
So, in the interest of pulling out some of these more immediately interesting things, I think it is a good strategy to isolate individual stories, letting them function more as standalone fables. This is what I have done with the story of Jacob, who wrestled with god. The poem which follows is meant to capitalize on the conversational tone of the parable and is vaguely meant to function as its counterpoint.
The present passed on before him, and Jacob was left alone.
A man walked out of the dark and came upon Jacob
and began to wrestle him. Seeing he did not prevail,
the man touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh,
putting it out of joint as he wrested with him.
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”
But Jacob said, “Not unless you bless me.”
And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said,
“Jacob,” he said, “no longer shall Jacob be your name,
but striving in the face of god, or god strives, Is real.
For you have striven with god and men and prevailed.”
Jacob asked, “What is your name?”
But he said, “Why is it you ask?” And there he blessed him.
And Jacob cried, calling the place Peni’uel, that is, the face,
saying “For I have seen god face to face yet my life has been preserved.”
And he passed Penu’el limping.
-Genesis 32, 21-32
“A goose in the desert, more precious than diamonds.”
She whipped me with a strap.
Birds chirp in the snow: A-theism, A-theism!
Devils, devils everywhere, hiding in corners, hiding in the dust bin!
cannot be sought, though it is.
****The being created not preserved, You only write
when you’re stoned. Flat on your nose.
Not knowing where you are
in some motel lodge or your parent’s house.
Leprous white, falling out of a chair, drunk.
Death gathered him to his people and his people to quarreling.
Wonderment contrasts frustration
as opposing forces emanating
from the environs into the brain
and/or vice versa.
in the skull.
…F and B lose all sense of their differentiation.
…as individual’s focus broke is lost,
there remains only the focus unknown,
the phantasmagoria of dreams and death
to say the least
the private inner world,
then finally no relevance
to these process.