Bible Discussion: Genesis 30-32

April 25, 2007, 11:00 am; posted by
Filed under Bible, David, Job, Josh J, MC-B, Mike J, Steve, Tom  | 8 Comments

This week, Bweinh.com looks at the next three chapters of the Bible, Genesis 30-32.

Previous discussions from Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26 | 27-29

 
INTRODUCTION:
Rev. Joel:
Hi, I’m Rev. Joel Tom Tate, former RD of Shenawana Hall. Since I’m the pastor of the North Chittenden WESLEYAN church in North Chittenden, Vermont, you can consider yourself strangely informed.

The only profitable way to read this passage is with humility. If you read it as though it was written by and for primitive people you will find yourself resisting the obvious meaning and implications of the text.

Steve:
It’s hard for me to understand the female characters of Genesis, because I can’t possibly grasp how vitally important it was — for status and survival — for them to bear male children. Cattiness, competition, fighting over a man — all that I can grasp without any problem. But Rachel’s rage and desperation, not just at being outdone by her sister, but at failing at what was then the primary task of a woman, is very foreign.

Mike:
Jacob wrestles with those who would deceive him and those who would bless him.

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Job:
The Scripture says, “And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing.” Jacob had made deceit his own little Canaanite cottage industry, and while credit needs to be given to Moses for never painting any of the patriarchs in too good a light, it is interesting that in this verse (and this verse alone) the writer of Genesis gently reminds us that, hey, it was just an Aramean getting deceived, not a member of the chosen tribe.

David:
“And God remembered Rachel…” I have memories of myself spying the clock at work and realizing, “Agh! I forgot to pick Rachel (my daughter) up from school!” I’m sure it really wasn’t like that for God here, although it may have felt that way to Rachel.

Mike:
Bilhah bore a son as a surrogate for Rachel, and it was referred to as “bearing upon [Rachel’s] knees.” Apparently, the adoptive mother caught the baby so that from moment one, the child would imprint with the adoptive mother. How beautiful for Rachel — how difficult for Bilhah!

Josh:
I’m somewhat surprised it took Laban an entire week to catch Jacob. Jacob only had a 2-3 day head start, and all his possessions, women, children, and animals to keep track of. Jacob must have really been pushing his crew to get away.

Rev. Joel:
Jacob was the first gigolo, his sexual services being purchased with a bunch of roots.

Tom:
Rachel used her “moon time” to get away with something. It might have been the first time, but it would not be the last.

Steve:
Jacob refers to God as the “God of [his] father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac.” The “Fear of Isaac” is an interesting way to identify God, especially if we remember that little story about Abraham, Isaac and the sacrifice.

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
Mike, MC-B: My [Your] Son’s Mandrakes
Steve: Gutter Flock, Speckled Ram
Rev. Joel: Man, Drake!
Job: Changing My Wages, Stolen the Gods
Tom: Reuben’s Tasty Mandrakes, Green Poplar
David: Two Camps
Josh: Mandrakes For Hire
Rev. Joel, Josh: [The] Household Gods

 
STORY IT REMINDS YOU OF:
Josh:
After Laban caught Jacob, Jacob waited till the search yielded no idols, giving him the upper hand (unjustifiably so), and then he laid it on thick, calling Laban on the carpet in front of everyone assembled. Jacob seemed to have forgotten the squalor he himself came from, the debt he owed, even as he went to beg forgiveness from another. It reminds me of the parable of the unmerciful servant.

David:
This section always reminds of the Rich Mullins song Be With You, because of the line: “and now we wrestle in the dark/with these angels that we can’t see/we will move on although with scars/oh Lord move inside of me.”

Job:
I’m into double digits with the number of people I can’t look in the eye because of the sour way our friendship has ended. I remember hiding in a Wal*Mart lawn care center for a full twenty minutes once, wanting so passionately to avoid an encounter with one of these Esaus of mine.

Steve:
One of my favorite songs, Jacob and 2 Women (The World As Best As I Can Remember It), by Rich Mullins. “Jacob he loved Rachel/and Rachel she loved him/and Leah was just there for dramatic effect/ . . . /And her sky is just a petal/pressed in the book of a memory/of the time he thought he loved her and they kissed/And her friends say, ‘Ah, he’s a devil’/and she says, ‘No, he is a dream’/And this is the world as best as I can remember it.”

Mike:
Jacob wrestling with God reminds me of so many times that I have wrestled with difficult issues in my life, not knowing that God was shaping me and blessing me through the wrestling.

 
DEEP THEOLOGICAL MEANING:
Josh:
When Jacob encountered God, presumably God could have easily bested him in a wrestling match, but the struggle lasted all night. It’s important for us to remember that we serve a God who wants to go through our struggles with us — even if sometimes we’re struggling with Him — and ultimately wants to bless us.

MC-B:
When making their covenant, both Jacob and Laban appealed to the Lord as judge and arbiter instead of deciding to enforce righteousness themselves. As Christians, we are required to do this with all our disputes and problems, and we can take a good lesson from their example.

Mike:
God gave Jacob a new name as a result of his striving and wrestling. It was there where Jacob found out who he truly was, there that he was given the name that would define him forever.

Similarly, it is in the struggles in our lives that God names us. We find out who we truly are when we wrestle with God and others. Our struggles characterize us somehow, imprint us forever, and are used by God to make us into new people.

Joel:
God is sovereign and providentially involved, accomplishing His goals through deeply flawed people. He is also, however, a God with whom these people can strive. This is not indulgent play-acting on God’s part.

Job:
God finally dealt with Jacob’s nature and he transitioned from Jacob (the supplanter or trickster) to Israel (a prince with God). He left his home prideful and scheming and returned limping, humbled, and entreating Esau’s goodwill, even calling him Lord.

 
RANDOM THOUGHT:
MC-B:
Have you ever tried to start watching a television show in the middle of a story arc? That’s where I am right now.

Mike:
When Jacob was ready to leave Laban, Laban first insisted on paying him and then tried to cheat him out of being paid. Why is that?

Rev. Joel:
This biblical narrative is the opposite of Greek mythology where all striving between gods and men is ultimately meaningless because fate trumps all efforts. In this passage it is Providence that gives all striving its meaning.

David:
My foot hurts.

Josh:
Rachel proved quite worthy of the family heritage of deceit. Despite there not yet being any law about the uncleanness of blood, she shrewdly realized a truth that spans thousands of years — nothing gets a guy to stop asking questions quicker than telling him it’s “that time of the month.”

Steve:
Jacob put up with a lot from Laban — twenty years of work, a healthy share of deceit and ten wage changes. I suppose it served him right, and I wonder if that’s part of why he stayed so willingly; a self-imposed penance for his deceit.

Job:
Laban got off pretty easy with his pursuit of the Israelites. His “heap” wasn’t a mess of chariot parts washing up on the shores of the Red Sea.

Tom:
The world’s oldest profession is at least as old as Jacob and Reuben’s tasty mandrakes.

 
WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS PASSAGE:
David:
The continued promise of the seed.

Job:
When God again manifested himself in human form, that of Jesus, he chose to once again wrestle with the Pharisees, be “overcome” and ostensibly defeated. But not before marking his followers with a belief as conspicuous as Jacob’s limp and a blessing available to every soul.

MC-B:
Jacob attempts to make a new covenant with Laban after a long period of separation; this is somewhat akin to the New Covenant, though since the covenant is imperfect, it is based less on love than on fear or mutual reciprocity.

Steve, Tom, Josh:
Maybe that’s him wrestling with Jake — breaking his hip, blessing his life and dubbing him Izzy.

Rev. Joel:
We all, like Jacob, have tried to send our good works ahead of ourselves, and like Jacob, our bribes turn out to be as unsuccessful as they are unnecessary. And like Jacob we find that Jesus may not arrive to kill us, but he does mean business.

 
VERSE TO REMEMBER:
Tom, Steve, Rev. Joel:
32:26 — And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

Job:
32:8 — And he said, “If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.”

Josh:
32:28 — And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

David:
31:49 — He said, “May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another.” It’s been overused, perhaps ill-used at times, but it’s still a beautiful thought.

MC-B:
32:12 — Yet you have said, “I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.”

 
PORTION YOU WOULD MOST LIKE EXPLAINED IN HEAVEN:
David:
32:1 — “And Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him.” Literally? Did he really see this host of angels attending his return?

Steve:
A “Man” wrestled with Jacob. Some believe he was Christ, some identify him as an angel — who was this Man, why wouldn’t he identify himself, and what was the reason for the fight? Was Jacob jumped in the middle of the night, or did he start the fight? This is such a mysterious story. I wonder if his maidservants suspected he made it up to cover up tripping over a rock or something.

MC-B:
The whole wrestling with God portion. Yeah, I could impose a whole bunch of different meanings on the story, but I’m sure I won’t understand the whole thing until I can ask God about it in person. For instance, why the hip socket?

Rev. Joel:
I would like more insight into the wrestling match at Penuel.

Mike:
God’s way of granting children to Leah and Rachel. It seems either capricious or awfully forgetful — we’re constantly reading “God remembered [Leah or Rachel]:”

 
LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
MC-B:
God makes all things good in the end, sometimes while we’re still living. The cheating, the lying, the stealing, and the crazy “love” triangles all laid the foundation for the eventual rise of the greatest hope man has of achieving salvation.

Steve:
Sometimes it takes somebody just like us to teach us the lesson we need. Crafty, deceitful Jacob got taken to the woodshed over and over by old Laban, and that taught him the humility his senile father and spoiling mother obviously hadn’t.

Tom:
Animal husbandry can help you rip off your father-in-law.

Mike:
When life (and, by extension, God) calls you to wrestle, wrestle hard and listen hard.

David:
God uses flawed people to perform his will, but he does not let them stay that way. Wrestling with the angel is indicative of all that God had been doing in Jacob’s life through the 20 years of being outschemed and out tricked by his father-in-law. God chose you, as he chose Jacob, while you were still in the womb. It’s then his business to make you what you are supposed to be.

Rev. Joel:
If, on your wedding night, you do not make an effort to verify the identity of your bride, the ramifications could be unpleasant and long-lasting.

Josh:
Jacob brashly told Laban that if anyone stole his gods, “he shall not live.” Although Jacob didn’t know they’d been stolen, he certainly couldn’t have known that they weren’t in his possession (especially since they were). Jacob was fortunate that Rachel was not discovered, or he would have been put in a very difficult position. A little humility goes a long way.

Job:
Nothing is ever as bad as you think it is, especially when Jehovah is batting clean-up for you:

 
GENERAL RESPONSE TO THE PASSAGE:
Josh:
Jacob was quite the coward, first in fleeing Laban and then how he approached Esau. After dividing his camp for a potential high stakes game of two-card monte, then arranging a staggered caravan of gifts to precede him and appease Esau, he finally sent his women and children ahead of him and waited behind till the next day. No wonder God pounded on him. It was time for the bearer of the covenant to man up.

Job:
I understand there are a lot of cultural elements at play here, but Jacob still found a way to make me like him even less. I’ve met enough people like him, and have acted like him enough, to despise the deceit he employs so effortlessly. But the fact he was so unimpeachably anointed and appointed by God reminds me that often my dislike for certain people’s personality or methods (Paul, James Dobson, et al.) doesn’t make them any less providential in the goals they seek to achieve. It reminds me I am not the level plain they should be lined up against, and I must at times respect and even bend to their authority.

Rev. Joel:
I thrill at the idea of serving a God with whom I can not only authentically interact but actually contend. I thrill at the idea of serving such a God, knowing that I could strive with Him instead.

MC-B:
I’m left wanting more; I know this isn’t the end of the story, and yet we’re left with a sort of cliffhanger ending.

Mike:
One of my favorites–Jacob is such a human character, so fallen, so foolish. I love knowing God has always worked with crazy people.

 
CONCLUSION:
Rev. Joel:
Tawdry deceits, crude manipulations, cheats, ploys, and underhanded dealings are all woven into the tapestry of redemptive providence in such a gracious way as to gild the mandrake.


Comments

8 Comments to “Bible Discussion: Genesis 30-32”

  1. Steve Carroll on April 25th, 2007 7:40 pm

    Again this is the highlight of my internet lurking week.

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