Saturday, February 25, 2012

Feb. 6, 2012 - Genesis 37

This is the account of Jacob.
Too much going on here for just a simple genealogy, though, so we continue to watch this family unfold in detail. We need some insights here to understand how later events unfold as they do.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers…and he brought their father a bad report about them.
Well somebody’s a little tattletale. Perhaps this was an important issue, or maybe it didn’t matter at all, or maybe Joseph just made something up. Whatever the case, though, he’s trying to get his brothers in some sort of trouble, for no apparent reason so far.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons…
Joseph, while the 11th son, is the firstborn of Rachel, the one woman Jacob really wanted and loved. And while it is true that “he had been born to him in his old age…” Benjamin was even more so an old-age son, from the same woman. Maybe Benjamin is still younger though, and Joseph is just the right age to be a man, while still remaining close to his father. Also, although this is the account of Jacob, it is Israel who loves Joseph more. So perhaps this is partly a prophetical love, since Joseph will be the one who will end up saving and providing for the family in the future.

When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Well, he is sort of a jerk, telling their father bad things about them and everything. Hate may be a strong word, but it’s at least partially understandable. Spoiled little brat.

“…my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
Yep. Still a jerk. Joseph really isn’t planning on accomplishing anything here, except annoying his brothers. There’s no other reason for him to tell them about his dream, especially not in such a high-and-mighty way.

“I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
Sun, moon, and 11 stars. So, all 11 brothers. This might be important later.

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him…
Finally, he gets called out for being a snob. And perhaps this plays an important part in him growing up, which he’s going to need to do quickly.

His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Although he called Joseph out, Jacob has had his share of weird dreams and odd things with God that he recognizes there could very well be something of importance in these dreams. And so he thinks about it.

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
Well, that’s one way to get him to stop telling you his dreams. Maybe a little extreme though…

When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands.
Although he screwed up earlier, Reuben is still the firstborn, and he tries to take charge of this situation, and figure out a way to get Joseph back safely to their father. Because he really does care about his father, and knows how much Joseph means to him.

Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him…”
Well, at least it’s not killing him, but it’s not particularly nice either. Also, they do this while Reuben is gone, so he doesn’t get a chance to plead for Joseph again.

Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.
Although he loved Joseph as Israel, he mourns as Jacob. With all the raw and over-the-top emotions. Not as the leader of a great nation, but as a broken father in despair over his lost son. And with the same stubbornness that refused to release God after their struggle, he refuses to be comforted in this time of mourning.

Feb. 5, 2012 - Genesis 36

 This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan…
Oops. Wrong answer.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters…and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together…
Too many blessings to be trapped in one place. Sound familiar? Like Abraham and Lot, perhaps?

This is the account of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.
And now we get some good old genealogy, since it has been awhile since our last batch. And this isn’t even of the main line either, but simply a brief glimpse into Esau’s family. We see his sons, make note of who was important and what kind of roles they had, and take a look at the other people who lived in the area. We see Seir and his line who were already there, as well as the line of kings that ruled the region. And at the end, we get one last list of other important chiefs that will come from Esau, and wrap up with an acknowledgement.

This was Esau the father of the Edomites.

Feb. 4, 2012 - Genesis 35

“Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God…”
Just slaughtered the city, need to move away. Also, build an altar.

“Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.”
All the women and children just captured probably still have their own gods. Also, there might be others within the family who have been trying not to be ‘intolerant.’ But now it’s time for a clean start, so Jacob buries everything, and they move out.

Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no on pursued them.
With God with them, no need to fight at all. People just look, and know that’s a group not to mess with.

So he named him Israel.
God blesses him and reaffirms the new name.

“I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number.”
Still the same from Adam and Eve.

“The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”
Why does God keep repeating so much? Because people are stupid. And forget. And God’s promise to their fathers isn’t enough. And he’s showing that he is the same God, he’s sticking with the family, and he WILL keep his promise.

And then Rachel has another child, although she dies in childbirth.
12 – Benjamin – “Don’t be afraid, for you have another son.”

Jacob set up a pillar…
Jacob. Not Israel. This is about to lead into the first real section where we get to see both names, and try to understand some of what is going on. Basically, we have two separate personalities, and while he answers to either name, they are generally used in relation to what’s going on. Right now, he’s burying his wife. The wife he worked 14 years for, as Jacob. Trickster, deceiver, yes. But also a hard worker, and definitely in love with Rachel.

While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.
Israel. Not Jacob. This is a matter which will concern the family line. Although Israel doesn’t seem to do anything to punish Reuben here, he does withhold the blessing from him. Reuben will not be the ‘chosen one’ to continue the line. Also, after their episode slaughtering the city, Simeon and Levi also forfeit their rights to this honor. Which brings us to Judah as the 4th oldest, who will eventually be the one to carry on the line to Jesus.

Jacob had twelve sons:
Immediately after Israel hearing of Reuben’s treachery, we see that Jacob still has twelve sons. Regardless of how these sons have screwed up, or what blessings they might miss out on because of their actions, they are still part of the family, and no one is getting disowned. Israel is forming God’s nations through all of Jacob’s sons.

Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Just like Ishmael and Isaac buried Abraham together, even though they didn’t exactly get along, Esau and Jacob come together to do the same thing. To put aside whatever conflicts they have had, and honor a father.  

Feb. 3, 2012 - Genesis 34

Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
Well that’s a nice good love story. Except I think somebody got confused about the order in which you generally pursue a lady. I don’t seem to recall the book: “Rape. Woo. Marry. The guide to a successful marriage.” Maybe that’s just me. Oh wait, no. He’s just wrong.

They were filled with grief and fury…
Yep, that sounds about right.

“Intermarry with us…the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”
Hey, we’re not so bad. We’re good people. Don’t be so intolerant. Just because we have different beliefs is no reason for us not to accept each other and live together.

…Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully…
Wonder where they learned that from…

“We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males.”
Really? You think you’re going to convince them to circumcise everybody just to please you?

Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem.
Oh…well then.

So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to their fellow townsmen….“Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?”
Hey guys, they’re strangers, they don’t know anything. We’ll end up with all their stuff, and this is the only way they’ll let us marry any of their daughters.

…and every male in the city was circumcised.
Seriously. The whole city. Because of one family. These girls must have their fair dose of Sarah’s genes. Remember Sarah? Catch the king’s eye at 90? Yep. That’s what I’m thinking. Because this whole city goes through some serious stuff just to get a shot at one of these girls.

Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.
Yep. If you’re going to pull a scheme over on somebody, might as well make it count, right?

They carried off all their wealth…
Hey look. That’s what you get when you try to mess with this family, or trick them into something. It comes back to get you. Laban tried to outdo Jacob, and lost everything. This city thinks they’ll outsmart the foreigners and take everything, but end up having their stuff taken. Not that they were alive to think about the irony…

You have brought trouble on my by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land.
We’re outsiders. They could drive us out, and you guys just gave them a pretty good reason to. Jacob again shows some of his new-found maturity and understanding of the situation, but his sons have already acted on their violent impulses. Deceit, plunder, and revenge first, think about the consequences later.

Feb. 2, 2012 - Genesis 33

Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men…
Here it is. The big showdown.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
Aww. It’s all happiness and butterflies. How sweet.

“Who are these with you?”
“They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”
Now surely Esau gets a little bit of a sinking feeling here, because it’s obvious that Jacob is reaping the benefits of the family blessing, and his own family is large and growing. And Esau was so close to having all that for himself. So close. However, Jacob introduces his family, and everyone maintains their humility and shows Esau the greatest of respect, and everything stays calm.

“For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.”
Oh, ha. He’s funny. Because he did just see God and everything. Get it?

“Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”
“So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly…”
Instead of heading home all together, Jacob explains that his animals have a lot of young, so they need to take their time and come slow.

“Then let me leave some of my men with you.”
“But why do that?”
And while Jacob is glad to see his brother, and be received favorably, he also knows that he must remain separate from him. Since Esau has intermarried with other cultures, it’s all the more important for Jacob to keep his family pure, and not get mixed up with Esau’s family.

So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. Jacob, however, went to Succoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock.
As he said, Jacob is taking it slow, and sets up a temporary camp while he tends to the flock and lets some of the younger animals mature for the rest of the trip.

…he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city…There he set up an altar…
Jacob has grown up, and realizes the importance of some things. Like an altar. And so he continues the tradition, and sets one up. Follow the altars, track the family.

Feb. 1, 2012 - Genesis 32

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him…
He’s not going to risk just showing up, since there’s no telling what Esau’s first reaction will be, or how he’ll be received. Instead, he sends notice in advance that he’s on the way, and begs for favor from his brother.

“We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”
Uh-oh. He’s bringing an army. And he’s totally still mad and coming to kill everybody. It’s not looking too good.

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD…Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother…”
I know I don’t deserve it God, but save me! For the first time recorded, Jacob is asking for help. So far he’s just been scheming his way out of tough situations, but now something is different.

…he selected a gift for his brother Esau…
Well, just because he asked for help doesn’t me he shouldn’t try, right? I mean, who can stay mad when they keep getting presents? Anyways, we’ve got bunches of groups of gifts now, and everything else split up and spread out, and Jacob is sorting everything out until eventually they’re headed out.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.
How did this start? Maybe God walked up and put Jacob in a headlock. Or maybe not. It seems more likely to me that Jacob initiates this in some way. He’s alone. Suspicious and on edge thinking his brother is coming to kill him. Mind racing going over all his property and which things are in what group, making sure he didn’t miscount something. And then a figure approaches. And somehow they become locked in a struggle. And it continues until dawn is approaching, and God very simply throws out Jacob’s hip, making the point that he could have easily won at any time. That no matter how hard Jacob tries to fight, this isn’t something he could ever win. But Jacob hangs on. Not trying to win now, just hanging on with everything to receive a blessing.

“…because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Did he really ‘overcome’ God? Not so much. Then what did he do? What did he overcome? What was this whole thing about anyways? Humility, maybe. Remember, this is just after Jacob asked God for help. For really the first time in his life, he turned to God to help him solve a problem, instead of just trying to do it all by himself. But he also sent some gifts, just in case. And then God shows up. And this wrestling match embodies everything Jacob is fighting to understand. Jacob doesn’t trust that God is enough. He doesn’t know if God really cares about his future. And he’s not the kind of guy to just let stuff go. He’s a quick thinker, a deceiver, not going to take things at face value. He wants to understand, to dig deep. And he’s willing to fight to get to the bottom of this. And so he wrestles with God, trying to hold him down, to wrap his mind around everything. And with a simple touch, God wrenches his hip out. No matter how much Jacob wants to control the situation, he just can’t do it with God. God is in control, and Jacob just has to learn to accept it. And he overcomes himself, his nature. He submits to God, and begs for his blessing. And God gives him another name. And although he will continue to be called Jacob, he also will be called Israel as the story continues. He doesn’t lose his old nature, but he overcomes it.

…and he was limping because of his hip.
Just as Abraham was given circumcision, Jacob/Israel has a physical thing to remind him that God’s promise is no dream. It’s not make-believe, or imaginary, but constantly with him, just as his limp is.

Jan. 31, 2012 - Genesis 31

And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.
It wasn’t exactly great before, so I can only imagine what is going on now…

“Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Jacob was going to leave earlier with nothing but his family. Since he stayed, though, he has accumulated a great amount of wealth(because of God), but it’s finally time to go ahead and move on.

“You know that I’ve worked for you father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times…So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.”
Laban tried to cheat me, and got out-played. There’s nothing left for you here, so come with me as I leave go back home.

…Rachel stole her father’s household gods.
Why? Does Rachel want these gods to have for herself? To sell? Just to annoy Laban? Well, I don’t know, but it’s possible she was simply taking them so that Laban wouldn’t be able to use them. He did learn by ‘divination’ that God was blessing Jacob, so there is at least the possibility that they do have some sort of power(there are plenty of demonic powers and whatnot, especially when dealing with fortune-telling stuff). Maybe Rachel takes them in the hopes that Laban won’t be able to use their help to learn which way Jacob is heading. Or maybe she’s just trying to take them so that he won’t have them to worship anymore. Or maybe she just wants to sell them. Whatever the case, she takes them.

Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away.
Ah-ha! More trickery! Wait till he’s busy, then make a break for it! And again we see that instead of sitting down and trying to talk things out, Jacob thinks his best plan is to simply try to outsmart and outmaneuver his ‘opponent.’

“Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
No curses allowed, but no blessings either. It’s time for Jacob to be split off from Laban, and the less connecting them the better. Also, God has plenty of blessing for Jacob, and doesn’t need Laban trying to add to it. Because by now we know Laban well enough to see that if he could, he might very possibly give Jacob his ‘blessing,’ and then take all the credit for everything.

“You’ve deceived me…Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?”
“I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force.”
You tricked me! Why would you do such a terrible thing to poor innocent and unsuspecting me? Ha. This whole relationship is built entirely on trickery, deceit, and trying to outdo each other, which is probably a very good reason for some of these trust issues we have here.

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.
I’ve got a trump card – God. That’s why I came out ahead, and why you are going to leave me alone.

“All you see is mine. Yet what can I do…”
After everything, Laban just needs to get the last word in. It’s really all mine. That work you did doesn’t really cover it. I kept changing your wages to try to keep it fair, but you kept cheating somehow. You don’t deserve any of it. But, since I can’t do anything about it, let’s just make a deal to leave each other alone. I won’t go on your side, and you don’t come on my side.