Genesis: Jacob’s Children

Genesis 29:31-30:24

The story of Jacob’s offspring shares similarities with the story of Abraham’s offspring. This story also includes a barren wife, Rachel, who believes her inability to bear children stems from god’s disapproval of her. She grows envious of her sister Leah, Jacob’s first wife, because she bears sons for Jacob. Leah finds pride in her ability to give Jacob children while her sister cannot. To Leah, her hospitable womb proves that god is rewarding her for enduring misery; Jacob does not love Leah, though it appears Leah is quite fond of Jacob. Rachel refuses to let her sister be the only one to bear sons for Jacob, so she forces her maidservant, Bilhah, to act as her surrogate. Bilhah births two sons in Rachel’s stead. Leah also gives her maidservant, Zilpah, to Jacob when she no longer conceives, and Zilpah births two sons. Rachel eventually births two sons of her own once god comes around, and Leah gives birth to two more sons and a daughter.

Since the Bible is held as the measure of morality by many because they consider it the literal word of god, one must ask: what moral lesson do we learn from this story? Here we have two women married to the same man, who follow the precedent set by the mother of the Judeo-Christian faith, Sarah, by giving their servants to their husband to have sex with, and their god condones this action. First, what right do these women have to force their servants to be sex slaves? Second, how can the Judeo-Christian god be considered moral if he supports this action? Today, almost no one would agree that this action is moral, because morality evolves as civilization progresses. Religious texts are not the culmination of revealed morality, but the reflection of the morality at the time in which they are conceived. Hence, why the moral teachings of the Bible change. If the Bible were written by god, then its moral teachings could not change because that would mean god changed. God cannot change because god must be perfect and infallible. And if one changes their position, they admit to being fallible. (This line of argument stems from Anselm’s argument for the existence of god.)

So if the Bible is not the literal word of god, then why do people want to live by its teachings? Why can we not all admit that morality will not be revealed to us, instead it must be sought.

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Genesis: Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

Genesis 29:14-30

Jacob stays with his uncle Laban for a whole month. Laban then says to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

Laban has two daughters: the eldest Leah, and the youngest Rachel. Jacob tells his uncle that he will work for him for seven years, if in return he can marry Rachel. Laban agrees, and Jacob works for Laban for seven years. After completing his time of servitude, Jacob went to his uncle demanding to lay with Rachel. Laban throws a feast to celebrate the occasion, but when night fell it was not Rachel who was in the sack consummating with Jacob. Laban deceives Jacob, and instead of sending Rachel, he tells his daughter Leah to lay with Jacob. Of course, Jacob was surprised when in the morning he awakes to see Leah, and not Rachel. Treachery seems to be a trait inherent in all relatives of Abraham.

Jacob goes to his uncle to ask why he has deceived him. His answer:

“It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

Jacob finishes the bridal week with Leah. After the week was over, his uncle gave him Rachel to marry, and Jacob lays with her–again, polygamy in the Bible. Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, which is not surprising. Laban gave each women a maidservant: Leah had Zipah, and Rachel had Bilhah. Jacob then works for his uncle for another seven years as agreed.

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Genesis: Jacob Arrives in Paddan Aram

Genesis 29:1-14

After Jacob’s dream he continues on his journey. When he reaches the land of the eastern peoples he finds shepherds out tending the flocks. He asks these shepherds where they are from. They tell him they are from Haran. Jacob asks if they know of Laban, and they say they do. Jacob asks if Laban is well, to which they reply that he is, and point off into the distance to show that Laban’s daughter Rachel is coming toward them with some sheep. When Rachel arrives with the sheep, Jacob helps move the stone to the well and watered his uncle’s sheep, then he kissed his cousin Rachel and started to weep. Jacob informs Rachel that he is a relative of her’s and she runs to tell her father. Once Laban heard the news of Jacob’s arrival, he rushed out to greet and kiss him, and then take him back to his home.

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Genesis: Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob does what his mother had asked of him, and cowardly runs off to avoid any repercussion for swindling what was rightfully his brother’s–though such actions should be expected from the descendant of an incestuous, fraud, and perjurer like Abraham. Jacob finds a rock to lay his head on and sleeps. During his slumber he dreams of a stairway reaching towards heaven with angels of God ascending and descending on it–the one saving grace the Judaeo-Christian religion might have, is that at least this risible dream produced one of the greatest rock songs of all time. At the summit stood the Lord.

“I am the Lord, the God of your Father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants this land on which you are lying. 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 south. 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.”

Of course the vacuous mind of this man is unable to comprehend what a dream is, and interprets this dream as a message of God. Jacob takes this dream to mean that God’s house resides where he had laid his head–this is why he calls the land Bethel, but I prefer to refer to it by its original name Luz. This quote makes apparent the Bible’s claim of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God. Don’t try to wiggle your way out of this claim. Some apologetics try claim that God is none of these things, but constantly the Bible makes the claim that he is.

Unlike many modern Jews and Christians, Jacob specifies certain conditions that must be met by this God before he will choose to devote himself. He says that if the Lord will watch over him, be with him, provide him with food and clothing, and see that he returns safely to his father; he will devote himself to the Lord. He also promises to then give a tenth of what he has to the Lord. I surmise that this is where the basis of tithing originates. Maybe someone could corroborate.

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Genesis: Jacob Flees to Laban

Genesis 27:41-46 & 28:1-9

Esau, enraged by his brothers treachery, promises that the day his father dies he will murder his brother Jacob. Rebekah hears this and warns Jacob that Esau is plotting to murder him. She tells Jacob to leave and head to the land of her brother Laban in Haran to wait for his bother to cool off. Rebekah’s prejudice towards the women of Canaan influenced her to ask Isaac to give his blessing to Jacob to find a wife while in Haran. Rebekah says of Hittite women:

“I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

Here the Bible’s promotion of intolerance is on full display. This woman, these people, are aliens living in the land of Canaan, and are only allowed to stay because of the Canaanite’s hospitality, which the descendants of Abraham undermine continuously.

Isaac blesses Jacob–as Rebekah wished–and tells him not to marry a woman from the land of Canaan, but to head to Northwestern Mesopotamia where Rebekah’s family lives to find a wife. Esau learns of his father’s blessing and his parents prejudice towards Canaanite women, so he goes shopping for a new bride, one within the family. He settles for his cousin Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael.

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Genesis: Jacob Gets Isaac’s Blessing

Genesis 27:1-40
Isaac is old and nearing death. He calls for his son Esau. Esau comes to him and Isaac tells his son that he is near death. Before Isaac dies, he wishes to bless Esau. Isaac tells Esau that he should go out and hunt the game that Isaac likes, and prepare it for him to eat. After Isaac has eaten the game he will then bless Esau. Rebekah was eavesdropping on their conversation. She then tells Jacob what Isaac had said to Esau. Rebekah then tells Jacob to go and get some goats from the field for her to prepare. Jacob does as told. His mother gives him Esau’s clothes, and Jacob goes to see his father. Jacob claims to be Esau and seeks his father’s blessing. After he convinces his father that he is Esau, Isaac gives him his blessing. Isaac says the Jacob will reside in a prosperous land and be the lord over his brothers. Esau returns as Jacob parts from his father. Esau then enters his father’s tent to seek his blessing, but of course it is too late. Isaac is angered that he was deceived, and Esau cries begging his father to bless him too. Isaac of course cannot. Isaac tells Esau that he will live away from the Earth’s richness, and will live by the sword. Isaac tells Esau that when he grows tired of living as a subject to Jacob, Isaac says to Esau, “you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

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Genesis: Isaac and Abimelech

Genesis 26:1-35

Famine has struck the land where Isaac lives. He goes to see the Abimelech, the King of the Philistines. The Lord tells Isaac not to go to Egypt, but to stay in the land that He had commanded Isaac to live in. When Isaac reaches Gerar, where Abimelech lives, the men ask Isaac about his wife. Isaac, like his father Abraham, is a liar. Isaac tells them that she is his sister. You would think that after Isaac’s father pulled this trick the men of Gerar wouldn’t trust any of the descendants of Abraham. Abimelech discovered that Isaac had lied when Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife. Abimelech summons Isaac and exposes Isaac for the liar that he is. He asks why Isaac had claimed she was his sister. Isaac’s reply is similar to the one his father would often give. Abimelech decrees that no man shall molest either Isaac or his wife; if so they will be put to death. Isaac plants crops in the land of Gerar. His harvest is bountiful. He continues to be prosperous and amasses great wealth. The Philistines grew envious of him and King Abimelech orders him to leave peacefully from their lands. Isaac settles in the Valley of Gerar. He and his people conflict with local herdsmen over wells. One day King Abimelech sends his advisor and commander of his forces, Phicol, to speak with Isaac. Phicol tells Isaac that the Philistines want to make an agreement of peace with Isaac and his people. They can see that Isaac is in league with the Lord and they do not want trouble with him. Isaac prepared a feast for them. The next morning the two men swore an oath to each other–I wonder if each had to place their hands behind the others thigh–and they parted ways. Esau marries two Hittite women (another instance of polygamy in the Bible), Judith the daughter of Berri and Basemath daughter of Elon. These two women were a source of grief for Rebekah and Isaac.

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