My blade is sharpened before you, oh God Most High. I am ready to use it.
I am prostrate. I prostrate myself before you, Almighty God.
The dirt of your earth, Lord, is in my mouth. I breathe the dust from which you first made man. In your glory did you form him from the soil; in your image did you make him. Yet even then Man betrayed you and turned his face away from you. Just and forgiving was your punishment, Great El; merciful his banishment from your presence.
Great Lord, El Shaddai, your voice is as thunder to my ears; I tremble at the sound of you. Yet your sweet cadence calms my mind in the midst of my trembling. Magnificent El, I am your humble servant, do with me as you wish, for I am nought but for your forbearance.
Almighty Lord, through your design I have been rendered childless; through the barrenness of my wife have I no succession. Yet you have promised that my descendants will number more than the stars in the night. Yea, Lord, the maidservant bore me a son, but he is not of my clan, not from the loins of matrimony. I am bereft of all save your grandeur. Yet you repeat the promise of many children. Though I am riven with age you bind me to your covenant. Though my years number many and my sons nought, you foretell a nation and a multitude. Truly your mercy is boundless. Truly I am rewarded for my suffering.
Mighty Elohim, Sacred Horde Beyond The Firmament, your vision counters the emptiness of Sarai’s womb, the silence of our bed. You will keep your covenant, oh Lord, for you have spoken, and what you say is brought forth, just as the sun was born of your words, and the stars and all things below the firmament. You will reward me, oh Lord, with unfathomable riches.
Therefore I will obey and keep the covenant you demand of me. For what am I that I should do otherwise, as my forbear Adam did? I am nought but the dust of your making. I live only by the benevolence of your promise.
Is what you demand a punishment for my impatience? Did I offend you when I lay with Hagar, the maidservant? Was I unfaithful to you and my bonds of marriage? Or was Sarai unfaithful when she sent her maid to me? Yes, oh Great El, I am culpable for the words of my wife, and the flow of my seed to her maid, when you have promised me a multitude of sons. Yet even then, oh Merciful God, you heard my feeble cries and released from Hagar’s belly the boy Ishma-el: God listens shall his name forever be.
I am struck by your mercy. I am captive to the reward you promise. Flesh is nought to me in the magnificence of your light; the skin no match for the enormity of your gift. I know no pain but the deficiency of my spirit in your presence. Abrade my sins from me, El Shaddai, the Great and Merciful, that I may be pure before you. Cut away the flesh from me, as the hunter strips the hide of his prey, and renders it fit for his consumption. Let my blood flow freely like the waters of the Euphrates in flood, as a river of your Greatness and Mercy. Empty me of life that I might be filled and fill the earth as you have determined on lands that you have laid out for me.
My blade lies sharpened before you, oh God Most High. I will use it.
It is of the finest bronze. See how it catches the sun. It is long, and strongly made. It was shaped with copper hewn from the mines of Kypros, smelted with tin from as far as the mountains of Badakhshan, and forged by Caphtorian hands on the island of Mochlas. I purchased it at great expense from a Hittite trader. It cost me many goats. See its handle adorned with lapis lazuli and gold, its rich engravings of vines and fruits of the earth along its handle. See how sharp is its blade. I run my thumb along its edge, as gently as one may caress a lover, and look, blood flows willingly from my aged skin. This could bring any man’s life to an end, or prepare any animal for sacrifice. It is my gift to you, El Shaddai: I honour you with an instrument that is worthy of the covenant you have bestowed upon me.
This thing you ask of me, this task you demand: it is not easy. But I will obey, willingly oh Great God. For you are the Lord Most High, El Shaddai Adonai, the Knower Of All Things, the Doer Of All Good. What is man to you? What is my manhood, my sex and potent organ, but an instrument of your covenant. It shall prosper, it shall pass multitudinous seed to the womb of my descendants and claim the ownership of vast estates. Hence it shall be marked as the vessel of the covenant, a disfigured symbol of your mercy and benevolence. This thin sheath shall be removed by the sheer bite of this keen blade, and the covenant will be sealed with blood. I will be rewarded for my suffering.
I hold it, see how my hand is stable. I clasp the knife. See, I am strong. The sun shines above me, the sky is blue, no shadows bear upon me and no rivers weep. I shall do, my God, I shall do!
But I am old, and my legs are thin with age. Look at me, Lord. My robes cover my body from the shame of years. I am a recantation of youth. These legs that ran for prey now pray for strength. These arms that once lifted sheep from ravines, my lover from the bed, swords in battle, lie gaunt and strained from belittled shoulders. My chest, once proud and bold is a forlorn cover for an over-ripe heart. My cheeks are hollow, my beard grey, and bags as bulbous as unmilked goat udders underscore my eyes. My teeth rot in my mouth. Once I was strong, once lusty and brave, but no more. No more can this wizened frame exploit the cravings of youth.
But I will do, I will do. For the gains are manifold, and the rewards of your mercy are legion.
I have known pain. I have cut my hands on sharp blades, scraped my limbs on jagged rocks. My hips have been bruised by butting goats. I have burnt fingers on fires, and braced my feet in winter’s freezing waters. But at my centre, for all my life, my manhood has been safe. That is what men do. That is what the Lord God intended: that this peg, this swinging flesh, this lower face of ours, should be secure for its task. The task of renewal, and congress, the sacred vocation of procreation. To be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the earth and subdue it.
My Lord demands it be slit. This is El’s command. This little sacrifice is my share of the covenant. That I, and my household, and the multitude of my afterlings and their households, be cut as a sign of allegiance to God and his election of us as his people. And he who does not obey, who remains uncircumcised shall (and I note the irony, oh Lord), be cut off. This is the price of God’s clemency: to have our shield removed in offering to the Lord. And in return he will reward us with abundance. For he is our shield and protector.
I stand and fold out my member from beneath my robe with my left hand. I hold the blade with my right. Holding myself thus, penis and knife in hand, I survey the lands of Haran. Grass plains spread forward from the city into distant clouds. The blue sky, no less vast, meets the plains in a knife edge of grey. Four vultures ride thermals above carrion I neither see nor smell.
I lay my sex on a rock. It too is old. It too has withered. It is a meagre sacrifice. I am determined. I peel back the foreskin. I have done this countless times. Each time I urinate – and that is often at my age – I extract my piece from its sheath, and at each moment of congress the head emerges naked and blind like a mole rat from its den. Now, carefully, I separate the film of flesh from its treasure, and raise the knife. The mole rat is unaware of its fate.
With a solemn breath I lend the blade the slightest of weight. Blood springs from the tear, and pain scours the divine from my lips. “I am yours El Shaddai!” I scream. “This is unto you!” I cut further into my flesh and am filled with the fires of God. Heat floods me and blood begins to pour. My life’s blood for my lifeblood. Fervour for the Almighty swamps me. I am blood, I am life, I am a covenanted slice. Heed me, oh Lord, see me! I know El is here. I know you are here, Great God. Fill me with rage as I cut! I am fire as the blade twists about my shaft. I am light, I am thunder and frenzy. Hear! The denizens of heaven sound trumpets, angels sing, the Lord himself roars in my ears. Compel me, cut me, sound horns in my ears, wring battle cries from my heart! See, I carve myself. I will be rewarded!
And look, I am hard! I am erect! See me. Large and bloody, the conqueror, the victor. My shank on the ruby dagger. Delirium swarms my brain. I am enraptured by pain. Spew forth blood! Spit life! Scatter red seeds of glory from my loins. This is my pleasure. This is bliss. Red joy fills me. I am almost done. I slice more, and fix my tongue. A sharpened ecstasy punctures my being. I am here, El Shaddai! I am here, in gore and flame and glory. The sun spins as I cut, the firmament turns. The world is calling. I hear you Lord, I heed you! Yes! Yes! Cut! Eruct blood! Disgorge life! Stab my spattered flesh and spew my seed, my bloodline! Take me! Surrender! Burn! Stab! Erupt! Despoil the earth with blood! I am what you desire!
Viscous rivers of red blend with the rock. I gasp in awe: it is the Lord’s work. My manhood shines with gore. My knife is stained. Red drops like spent seed fall from my tip and stain the stone.
I am done.
I am done. My body throbs.
I hold the limp skin aloft, crimson with defeat, darkened in the yellow sun. This scrap, this bloodied strip is my entitlement! This my covenant! This my promised land! See, oh God, my offering, my token, my vestige and my requital! I am ravished. I am divested. I am purloined to the will of God! I have earned the fulfilment of his promise.
With stomach clenched I fling my foreskin to the wind. It twirls and falls laden with cruor into the grass. It will be fodder for scavengers. I have no more need of it. I am marked, as the Lord has commanded. I have jettisoned the piecemeal warrant to the fates. It is my title deed.
My mind whirls. Though I am carved, I am whole in the eyes of God. Are you pleased, oh Great El? Do you send hymns of joy on the wind? Do the heavens declare the goodness of our pact? Do you prepare what is mine under the covenant?
A bird swoops where the skin shred fell. It flies out again, the string of flesh in its beak.
I smile and my mind spins in rhapsody. Laughter escapes my lips. I hear euphoric songs of praise. I shake with divine heat. This is the Lord’s confirmation. I have kept my bargain, oh Mighty El! The lands and issue will be mine!
I sweat. Perspiration shrouds my brow. Then suddenly I am cold. A frost harangues my innards, like the hand of winter in the hills. I quake, as if with fever. What is this? Have you left me, oh God? Do you hear me? I gasp for breath. My shaking hand drops its dagger. I cling to the bloodied rock and teeter on weakened knees. All turns grey, and clouds shadow my eyes. I cry to the heavens, “Where are you, Lord? Do you see me? Have I not done your will? Why have you forsaken me?” I search the sky. It has turned black. He is not to be seen. El Shaddai is whole unto Himself, and wears not nature’s garb.
I hold the rock, eyes shut and waves of pain shred my soul. I try to breathe and wait for the shock of the pain to wane. The shock of revelation, the clammy welcome of God’s promise. I wait for the world to right itself. My knuckles scrape on the stone. I hit my face as I collapse upon it. Still I hope, and shake and sweat and pray. “Lord!” I cry.
Slowly the sun returns. The earth steadies. My breathing finds a rhythm.
My throat is dry.
I rise unsteadily and look down at myself. My manhood is bruised and blackened. Blood clots on the wound; some parts still seep and are sticky with a resin. I have shrunken again. I am amazed at myself. I have done as the Lord required. The rewards will flow now.
I pour water over me. Pain springs sharply when it touches my staff, but I catch my breath and persevere. I wash my legs, where rivulets of blood congealed in my hairs, like the delta of the Nile. I bend low to my ankles and wipe off the red stain. It is mixed with the dry earth. Blood has flowed from the rock to the dirt where it was absorbed, leaving only a mild discolouration. I shall inhabit lands filled with blood.
I have a woolen cloth embedded with an apothecary’s balm. A mixture of oil and myrrh, and Egyptian aloe, he told me, with other secret ingredients. I did not tell him what it would be used for, despite his questioning. I wrap it about my cosseted member. Again pain stabs when the fabric touches. I breathe deeply and will the unguent perform its task. I bind it lightly to keep it in place.
I am done.
“I am done, oh Lord!”
“I now call upon your covenant! I invoke the promises of God I have kept my bargain. I have done my piece!”
My claim is founded on the Word of the Lord. What greater authority is there? I have the might of God on my side. I have skinned my manhood, and now claim my entitlement to land and succession. The Lord El Shaddai says, all the lands shall be mine from the river of Egypt to the other great river, the Euphrates, both of whom when swollen bring riches to their realm.
All the lands therein between are given to me. The fertile lands of the Kenites, the sands of the Kenizzites, and Kadmonites, the hills and plains of the Hittites, and the open estates of the Perizzites. Yea, my kin will defeat the giant Rephaites, conquer the mountains of the Amorites, swarm the Girgashite plains and raze the Jebusite city.
For all these tribes are descended from Canaan, the one cursed by our forefather Noah as a recompense for the sins of his son Ham. And Ham saw Noah’s nakedness and Noah awoke and saw what Ham had done, and cursed his grandson Canaan and his descendants, that they should be our slaves and servants for generations to come. Cursed are they in the eyes of God. On the authority of the Most High, I will drive them from their farms, burn their homes and villages, slaughter their families, and make slaves of their young. The Lord God is righteous. The Lord God fulfils his curse. The Great El has seamed my nakedness, and by his blood treaty, has given to me all the lands of Canaan. I will be their master, they my servant and the servants of the millions of my inheritance.
They are mine, yes, for the taking! For the cause of God. By right of Godhead, I am the true claimant of Canaanite lands. I have suffered, and God has spoken. His reward will be my possession. His promise their expulsion and submission. I own all this. I wave my arm to the south, to the hills and valleys of Canaan, to the lands of the cursed tribes, who as yet do not know the strength of my hand. I laugh. I am scarred and blooded. My member is ripped, and those with foreskins will scoff, but will boast no victory against the harbinger of God. The lands are mine!
But first, I must join the household to my cause. This was also the commandment of God, that every male among us shall be circumcised; whether born in my household or bought with my money, they must be circumcised. This is my covenant in my flesh, and it is to be an everlasting covenant. I retrieve my dagger from the ground. I wipe it clean. I prepare for the onslaught of the covenanted.
Their screams shall be the songs of Elohim, their cries a paean to the Lord. Their blood shall flow as mine did, in rivers of purification. As the great Nile floods, so shall my household with the covenant of cut flesh. Those who refuse will be banished, and share not in the riches of Canaan’s despoliation. Their lives will be sheathed and shriveled; ours will be bold and brazen. For the Lord God is our defender, our protecting sheath: he commands us to his dominions, and I will take them by his authority. My lands!
And my wife? Sarai, whose womb is barren and bears me no issue? She who refuses me so often, and ignores the duties of her womb. I shall call her, command her to attend me. I shall declare my pact with the Great El Shaddai, the covenant of the flesh, and the cause for the household screams. I shall tell how the Lord has bequeathed to me, the fertile lands of the Canaanites, an inhabitants to fill them. That I will be king, their master, and the father of many generations who shall be led by the strength of Almighty God to scatter the wicked and reward the faithful who slice the foreskins from their centres.
And I shall produce to her my manhood as proof of God’s largesse, show the scars and blood upon my flesh that are the incarnation of El Shaddai’s promise, that all this shall be mine. And that she shall bear me sons, many sons, over and over to launch the great irruption. None shall stop me, neither the sons of Canaan nor my betrothed. None shall stand in my way or thwart my cause!
I shall point her with my shaft, rigid with fervour, clotted and scab encrusted, and I shall command her, “Come forth, wife, no longer shall you be called Sarai – princess – but Sarah – my princess! Prostrate yourself before me upon our bed, for the Lord has vouchsafed me my reward, and I am going to fuck you.”