Posts Tagged Jacob

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

And what a story it is, sitting cozily in Genesis 34.

Again, it is an account told without commentary.

Women’s rights campaigners will not be happy.  Dinah, the rape victim has no voice at all.  Was she just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Did her “friends” set her up?  Was she perhaps successfully wooed by the Hivite chief’s popular and persuasive son? What happened to her afterward?  How did she feel about the carnage carried out on her behalf? What did she say to her former girlfriends, now captives and slaves to her family? We are given no hint.

And her Father, Jacob, now Israel.  He doesn’t precisely step up to the plate to his only daughter’s defense.  He dumps the responsibility on her brothers.  After the fact, and in his death-bed curse, he castigates Simeon and Levi for their violence, but where was his leadership at the time.  Why didn’t he at least say, “No”?

And then there is the be-smitten Shechem.  Possession by rape, and then protestations of love. “Get me this woman for my wife.” “No bride-price is too high.”

And his pitch to the greedy towns folks- “Just be circumcised, and all that is theirs will be ours as we absorb them into our culture.”  “Why not?” Religious significance – nope, a thought for the God of the Hebrews – nope, just profit motive.

And of course we have, the Knights-in-Tarnished Armor- Dinah’s brothers,  proving for sure that the most effective lie is one strengthened by a healthy truth.  But how dare they use the sign of their covenant with God to work an unholy scheme?

And then there is the outcome.  The Hivite men lie dead. Their wives, children and all they have fall to the Hebrews- and in fact the two groups get merged, but not as the Hivites envisioned. Dinah is restored to the bosom of her family.

In the final act Jacob cleans out all the foreign idols, including, presumably, the new ones acquired at Shechem. He takes his family  back to the House of God, and the true worship, and is given divine protection against attack as he moves his people out. . The covenant promises are renewed.

Should our sister be treated as a prostitute?  Apparently not.

It does make the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth of the Mosaic Law, seem most restrained and reasonable, in its meting out of just desserts, though.

Do I have a handle on this story?  I’m looking for one. After all, all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable . . .

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Return to your God

So what was Esau thinking when he went out with the men of his house- four hundred strong, to meet his twin? Was it score settling time, as Jacob feared?  Were they mounted on fast raiding camels, Lawrence of Arabia style?

They meet, embrace, weep.  Jacob eats humble pie, “My Lord, your servant,” “I see your face as the face of God.”  His gift in sheep, and goats, camels, cattle, and donkeys, is over the top. Esau is gracious, only accepting the gift after Jacob insists, offering to lead the way, or provide escorts.

Still, the bottom line remains. Esau goes south to Seir, and Jacob heads north-east to Succoth.

Bloodshed is averted, but a real home-coming, doesn’t happen.

We are left wondering about the rights and wrongs of the relationship because the writer of Genesis limits himself to recording, he doesn’t offer commentary.

Years later two of the Old Testament prophets do weigh in on the issue.

Malachi:

I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob  but I have hated Esau;(NIV)

Hosea:

 The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob  according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there—
the LORD God Almighty,
the LORD is his name of renown!

But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always. (NIV)

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Unless you Bless Me

There are passages of scripture that remain obscure until we have walked through similar life experiences.  Some, we shrink back from, because the price tag is high.

I’ve been thinking of Jacob, now renamed Israel, limping away from the ford of Jabbok with the light of the morning sun on his face.

Surely the night before was one of the darkest of his life. After twenty years of running and scheming he had run out of dodges. His past had caught up with him.

Finally, he sent everyone and everything else ahead, and spent the night alone at the Camp of God.

I think of David’s cry to God,

“Who have I in heaven, and what is there on earth to take pleasure in, other than you?”

So Jacob says, to the one he has wrestled with all night, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

It is only later, in the clear light of day, that he gulps and says somewhat shakily- I have seen the face of God and been delivered.  Limping, but alive, and blessed.

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First steps

God said,

I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. . .

All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.

I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV)

The promise of God is iron clad, comprehensive, reaching down through generations, and out to all the peoples of the earth.

Jacob responded,

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house,

then the LORD will be my God and  this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (NIV)

Jacob’s build has a limited scope, reaching only to his immediate dilemma – this journey, and limited concerns – food, clothes and a safe return.   It also includes a payback.

You will be my God, I will establish this place as a house for you, and tithe ten percent.

God, in all his graciousness, accepts that first response.

As Robyn’s mother  says,

“If an infant can take five consecutive steps alone, they’re walking.”

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Something clicked

We are not party to what went on in Isaac’s mind between his blessing of Esau, (and Jacob in disguise) and the second blessing he gave to his younger son, before sending him off to seek a non-Canaanite wife.

We are not given any details as to what conversations he might have had with God in the interim.

His first two blessings focused on plenty, and power.

But something happened. The second blessing given to Jacob, and this time truly intended for him, was markedly different. The reference to God is up-graded from God to God Almighty. This time the blessings of Abraham are bequeathed.

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.” (NASB)

Jacob left home, fleeing a wrathful brother, but with a blessing of his true inheritance,  obedient this time to both parents.

Esau, grasping something of the import, went out and added a daughter of Ishmael to his wives.

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Esau was a Redneck

A hunter, and tough.

Jacob was a wuss, cooking lentil stuff.

One strutted. One connived. Forget sucking thumbs in utero.  These two practiced kick-boxing in the womb and never grew out of it.

The apparent perfection of Genesis 24 unravels quickly in Genesis 25.  This is the “chosen family.”  Why so messy?

It’s not so hard to weigh in against the Gaston, of Beauty and the Beast but what’s to root for in Jacob?

Paul writes of the twins:

. . .though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call, Rebekah was told, “The elder will serve the younger.”
As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy.
Does this help?
I keep butting up against God saying,  “I am God, you are not.”

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Going down to Egypt

“Going down to Egypt” is something the patriarch Abraham was prohibited from doing. He was to walk by faith in the land of his promised inheritance. Once, under threat of starvation, he ran to Egypt for deliverance and paid for it, almost losing his sister/wife to Pharaoh’s harem.   His son, Isaac, didn’t repeat going to Egypt, but he did take refuge with the Philistines when hunger loomed. He also encountered a king with an eye for a beautiful woman.  Jacob knew the family history. Now facing famine himself, he apparently thought twice about making a similar expedient choice. Despite his longing to see his son, and Joseph’s own compelling certainty that this was a divine provision,  Jacob stopped first at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to his God.

He received a response.

God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said,

“Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”

He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.

I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again. . .

Genesis 46:2-4 (NASB)

Going down to Egypt, as the result of an independent risk analysis is fraught with pitfalls.  It’s different when God orchestrates and  accompanies. You see, Egypt is the kind of place you would like to eventually come back out of.

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