Sunday, January 10, 2010


Genesis 27-29

In Genesis 27, Isaac, aging and blind, wants to bless his elder son (and favorite) Esau.  He sends Esau out to hunt, telling him to return and prepare a meal for him, and receive his blessing.  Esau goes out hunting, but Rebekah, having overheard, encourages Jacob (her favorite) to kill a goat, prepare a meal, and receive Esau's blessing.  He protests that Isaac won't be fooled, as Esau is hairy and Jacob isn't, but Rebekah prepares the goatskins and hangs them on Jacob's neck and arms.  Jacob feeds Isaac and receives the blessing intended for Esau, including "be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you."  Esau returns, prepares a meal for Isaac and prepares to receive his father's blessing, only to find that his younger twin has already received it.  Isaac blesses him, but not with the same blessing.  Esau determined that he would kill has brother as soon as the days of mourning for their father had passed.  Rebekah hears this and encourages Jacob to leave for Haran, to escape his brother's wrath, and also to look for a non-Canaanite, non-Hittite wife.

Genesis 28 features the story of Jacob's journey to Haran.  He actually goes at the behest of his father, as Isaac wants him to find a wife from his own people.  He stops and sleeps in Bethel, and has a dream.  In his dream, he sees a ladder (or staircase) reaching to heaven, with Angels traveling up and down upon it.  At the top, God stands and tells him
Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.

In Genesis 29 Jacob arrives in Haran where he meets his mother's brother Laban, and Laban's daughters (Jacob's cousins) Leah and Rachel.  He stays and works for Laban, who agrees to give him Rachel as a wife after 7 years.  When the 7 years ends, there's a wedding feast and Laban brings his daughter in to Jacob, but he discovers the following morning that it was Leah rather than Rachel.  Laban explains that they don't give the younger daughter in marriage until the older is wed.  The upshot is that Jacob remains for seven more years, and then marries Rachel.  He loves her, but Leah, who is unloved, begins having children, while Rachel remains barren.  At least, that's the case through the end of chapter 29.

    Thoughts, questions, issues
  • "The Wilkes' always marry their cousins." 
    - Gone With The Wind

    There's a lot of that going on here, but I guess it lasted a lot longer than I was really thinking earlier in the week.
  • One of the striking things about the patriarchal stories is how dishonest they are.  From the repeat denials of the identity of wives to Jacob's lie to get Isaac's blessing, we actually see very little in the way of admirable behavior.
  • The issue of the "stolen" blessing is another one that doesn't sit well with our modern sensibilities.  Why is it that Isaac cannot just bless Esau the same way?  If there is some kind of essential or mystical quality to the blessing, why can't he withdraw it from Jacob?  It's an odd passage, and it reads very oddly now.
  • "We are ... climbing ... Jacob's Ladder ... Children of the cross..."
  • I've lost track, already, of how many times the LORD has promised the "promised land" to Abraham and his sons.
  • And the dishonesty shows itself again, with Laban sending Leah rather than Rachel in to Jacob.
  • How old is Rachel?  If she's of a marriageable age when promised to Jacob, well, she's 14 years older before the wedding.  That seems...unfair.  Unrealistic.  Yet another example of a time scale that seems questionable.
  • Obviously, bigamy wasn't a concern.  Polygamy was a realistic and acceptable practice.

Proverbs 10:1-6

Whereas the first several chapter of Proverbs, most of which focused on the benefits of wisdom, read best in paragraph form, with themes and "thought units" that are more than a line or two, chapter 10 begins a new style or form of text.  Here are what we generally think of as proverbs, aphorisms of advice or information or wisdom.

The verses in this section express ideas using a poetic technique of parallelism,
proverbial sayings in poetry of two lines each (distichs).  The parallelism [in this section] is almost always antithetical1.

That is, a positive quality is described as a producing a positive result, but ("but" being the key word to an antithetical parallelism) the absence or opposite of that good quality brings about a negative result.

e.g., Proverbs 10:12
Hatred stirs up dissension,
but love covers over all wrongs.

1 - Arnold, Bill T., Beyer, Bryan E. - Encountering the Old Testament, 1999, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 318

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