Tuesday, May 20, 2014

13. Genesis 27:1-30:24 (Jacob's Trickery, Flight, and Children)

Today we catch up with Genesis 27-30.
  • Jacob the Trickster: In 27:1-29, Jacob and his mother Rebekah conspire to cheat Esau out of his blessing. It is a classic story about how one parent sometimes shows favoritism to one child and another to another (something that should avoided by parents). This is a passage that uses Yahweh for God.
  • No Repentance: Hebrews 12 uses this part of the Esau story (compare Gen. 25 for the first part) to indicate that after selling his birthright, Esau could not inherit the blessing. He sought a place of repentance diligently, but couldn't find one. For Hebrews, this indicates that those who apostatize will not be able to find their way back.
  • Run away: Esau wants to kill Jacob after he steals his blessing. Rebekah plots to send Jacob away north to her home in Haran, to her brother Laban. She is a trickster like Jacob. She convinces Isaac to send him away using the excuse of marriage but she is also concerned about protection.
  • El-Shaddai: Here is the thread of God blessing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and being called "El Shaddai."
  • Polygamy acceptable: Esau has many wives. The Pentateuch assumes without argument that having multiple wives is acceptable--there is no indication it was an issue at that time.
  • Stairway to Heaven: While Jacob is on his way north, he dreams of a stairway to heaven  Yahweh blesses him as YHWH did Abraham and Isaac, and he gives him the same promise of countless descendants. The nearby town was called Luz, but Jacob gives it the name Beth-El, "house of God." Earlier, Abraham had worshipped Yahweh here as well, but now we learn how the place got its later name.
  • Rachel and Leah: Jacob meets his cousins (Laban's daughters) when he reaches Haran. He meets Rachel in a way similar to the way Abraham's servant had met Rebekah (at a well). Jacob wants to marry Rachel and works for seven years to get her. When the seven years are up, Laban (also a trickster), gives him Leah (the oldest) instead. But when Jacob agrees to work for seven more years, Laban gives him Rachel too.
  • Marriage customs: Several interesting cultural features to this story. Once again, polygamy is acceptable. The oldest daughter needs to be married first. Jacob works for them. Apparently, whatever ceremony and even the consummation of the marriage did not involve seeing the face (veiled). Quite possibly, Rachel was too young for marriage when Jacob arrived.
  • 12 sons: The rest of Genesis 29 and half of 30 present the birth of Jacob's 12 sons, whose descendants will become the 12 tribes of Israel. It is noteworthy that Yahweh has compassion on Leah for being unloved. She has the first four sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah). Then Rachel's servant Bilhah has Dan and Naphtali. Then Zilpah, Leah's servant has Gad and Asher. Then Leah has Isaachar, Zebulun, and Dinah, a daughter. Finally, Rachel conceives and has Joseph.
  • Erotic herbs: There is a glimpse of ancient superstition in these stories. In Genesis 30 we see Rachel and Leah arguing over erotic herbs.
Previous notes:
1. Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Creation)
2. Genesis 2:4-3:24 (The Fall)
3. Genesis 4-5 (Cain and Abel)
4. Genesis 6-9 (The Flood)
5. Genesis 10-11 (The Tower of Babel)
6. Genesis 12 (The Call of Abram)
7. Genesis 13-14 (Melchizedek)
8. Genesis 15-17 (Hagar and Ishmael)
9. Genesis 18-19 (Sodom and Gomorrah)
10. Genesis 20-22 (Abraham and Isaac)
11. Genesis 23-24 (Isaac and Rebekah)
12. Genesis 25-26 (Birth of Jacob and Esau)

Next post Sunday on Genesis 30:25-35:29.

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