Saturday, January 9, 2010


Genesis 24-26

Chapter 24 features the familiar story of Isaac and Rebekah.  Abraham wants to find a wife for his son Isaac from among his own people.  He sends a servant to "Aram Naharaim," to the town of Nahor, where the servant finds Rebekah drawing water from the well.  After some discussion with Rebekah, in which she responds in the way that the servant had prayed to the Lord that she would, she agrees to go back and become Isaac's bride.

In chapter 25, Abraham, having taken a new wife, fathers more children (including Midian), but still "left everything he owned to Isaac" when he died.  He was buried (by his sons Isaac and Ishmael) in the cave in Hebron with Sarah.  The rest of the chapter gives genealogies, at least for one generation, for Ishmael and Isaac.  As for Ishmael, "His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt, as you go toward Asshur. And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers."  Isaac and Rebekah have twins, Esau and Jacob.  Esau is the older, but sells his birthright to his brother Jacob in exchange for a meal, for "some bread and some lentil stew."

Chapter 26 features the third iteration of the "she's my sister, not my wife" story.  First it was Abram and Sarai in Egypt with Pharoah (GEN 12).  Then it was Abraham and Sarah in Gerar with Abimelech (GEN 20).  Now it's Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar with Abimelech.  And there's more echoing in the second half of the chapter, as Isaac and Abimelech (and Phicol the commander of his forces) negotiate a pact over a well, much as Abraham and Abimelech (and Phicol the commander of his forces) did at Beersheba (GEN 21).

    Thoughts, questions, issues
  • Isaac and Rebekah are cousins, as her grandfather Nahor was Abraham's brother.
  • We've seen a lot of tribal intermarriage in this book.
  • It's not clear to me what Rebekah's motivation would be.  If the Lord has told her to go, we don't hear about it.
  • The end of the last verse in chapter 24 is, to our modern sensibilities, odd.  Isaac marries Rebekah and "was comforted after his mother's death."  That isn't what we would normally consider to be an important outcome of a marriage.
  • Abraham took another wife and had more children, but was buried with Sarah after his death.
  • I commented earlier that I'm not sure I understand exactly what "despise" means in the Old Testament.  We see it again in chapter 25, as Esau "despised" his birthright.  There seems to be a "turned away from" or "rejected" kind of connotation.
  • It's not clear how cheaply he sold it.  If he was actually dying of hunger, well, it was the price of life.  The passage doesn't seem as if his situation were desperate, but again, it's not clear.  At least not to me.
  • I'm starting to feel very stupid about this "sister not wife" story.  How is that I've read Genesis at least a couple of times and never realized that it came over and over again?1  And if it appears over and over again, there must be a point, right?  Why don't I see it?
  • The story of the treaty between Isaac and Abimelech in chapter 26 is so similar to the story of the treaty between Abraham and Abimelech in chapter 21 that I wonder (again) if this isn't one story, corrupted and told twice.  To emphasize two of the points of similarity, in both stories, Abimelech is accompanied by Phicol, and in both stories are we given a variant of "to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba."

Proverbs 9

    Thoughts, questions, issues
  • "The fear of the LORD" in verse 10 is an echo of chapter 1.  Indeed, it's really the central point of the book.  If one came out of Proverbs with nothing else, it seems to me that it's been of value.
  • There is some practical wisdom in this chapter.  "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult" is not debatable.  Anyone who has spent any time on the internet has seen this section in action many times.

1 - I suppose that if you aren't reading it, start to finish, in a fairly short time period, it's actually not hard to miss.  And most Bible reading, at least in my experience, tends to be in small chunks from different books.  Certainly, the act of commenting as I go is forcing me to notice things that I've never really noticed before.

2 - Chapter 9 in paragraph form:
Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.  She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city.  "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment.  "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.  Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. 

"Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.  Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.  If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer." 

The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge.  She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way.  "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment.  "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"  But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

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