In the writing of The Book of Genesis, the author Crumb offers a certain opinion about religion and what he feels about it. He shows that he sees it with a cynicism and disbelief that affects the validity of everything presented in the Bible. He does not seem to agree with what Genesis presents and that God made a covenant with Abraham, to raise him up and bless him and his descendants with great lands and holdings. It is possible that Crumb thinks that God does not have the power to make such a promise to Abraham, or that Crumb doubts that any promise was made at all. He shows this skepticism through the images going along with the text of God appearing to many men in succession to make the same promise of blessing without really delivering on it. He appears to Abraham and promises to make him the father of nations, and while Abraham’s fortunes do rise he is not delivered to any such utopia as God tells him he will. Then God appears to Isaac, and then to Jacob, and continues to make these promises that do not really seem to come to fruition.
One perfect example is the sequence where Isaac encounters Abimelech. Abimelech, upon hearing that Rebekah is Isaac’s wife and how Isaac was afraid to say so for fear of losing his life, says that none shall harm Isaac or his possessions. This is good for Isaac and it seems that he is blessed, but Crumb illustrates these few images in a way that makes Abimelech look enrages and ready to kill Isaac on the spot. Instead of making him seem understanding of Isaac’s plight as what might befit someone who is blessed, Crumb chooses to make Isaac look put upon and constantly digging for favors from those above him. Even after Isaac and his people have grown wealthy and powerful, as per God’s promise, he is then shunned by Abimelech and the Philistines and made to leave. This does not seem fair at all in the light of God’s promise and Crumb’s pictures show the Philistines as looking down on Isaac’s people when they were promised to be exalted. The way that Crumb adds speech bubbles to the text as summations of what is written in Genesis shows how he interprets the moments of Isaac being forced to move from what was supposed to be his land in the first place. Genesis said that Isaac and the Philistines “quarreled”, which is unspecific, but Crumb adds the phrase, “This water is ours,” to prove that Isaac’s covenant with God is not being truly fulfilled.
Another point in Crumb’s book that shows this same point is when God appears to Jacob during his journey to Paddan-Aram. God comes down to Jacob on a ramp made of light and is escorted by messengers who by the work of Crumb all look similar to God. This vision occurs to Jacob while he is sleeping, and so Crumb uses this as permission to make the illustration more fantastic than usual. The ramp of light is more monumental a gesture than what God has done before, and Crumb could be using this in two ways. First, since it happens in Jacob’s sleep, Crumb is saying that this whole thing was just a product of Jacob’s mind and he didn’t really see God at all. He just invented this as inspiration to keep believing in the “promise” that God gave to his people, even though there has been little proof. Second, Crumb is saying that God appears in this fantastic way because he has too still do something to make Jacob believe since the promise is becoming repetitive, and if he does not do something this impressive then Jacob might not be swayed into believing the promise. Both of these interpretations point to the same thing. Crumb sees the covenant as being empty and that God has no power to raise up the descendants of Abraham. Whether or not the later visions were real or just concoctions of imagination, Crumb thinks it is a farce to just ensure people will believe in God.
This practice of illustrating the repetitive promise of God goes along with the concept that God is steadily distancing himself from men. His contact goes from the almost frequent with Abraham to the few meetings with Isaac to the one dream vision with Jacob. Crumb could be also using this as way to show the emptiness of God’s promise, that if we eventually stop seeing him then who is to say that the promise is real at all. Overall, Crumb interprets these promises of blessing as little more than gestures from a God that he does not think has the power to fulfill them.