Genesis: Jacob Flees From Laban & Laban Pursues Jacob

Genesis 31:1-55

Jacob’s cleverness finally catches up with him. Laban no longer admires Jacob as he once did, because Jacob has outsmarted him. Every time Laban changed the agreement on wages, which sheep, goat, and lamb Jacob kept, Jacob found a way to profit. Jacob could sense the growing hostility between he and Laban, and believed his god told him to return to the land of his father. (Though, it is clear that he did not need a deity to inform him of his father-in-law’s disapproval.) Jacob gathers his wives, sex slaves, children, and flocks, and departs toward his homeland. Before they depart, Rachel steals Laban’s house gods—figurines of ancestral deities. Also, Jacob tells his wives of a dream where the God of Bethel came to him. The annotation in the Oxford Annotated Bible tells us that this reference to the God of Bethel indicates an older paradigm in Jewish faith. The god discussed here dwells in Bethel instead of the later believed god that dwells in Zion.

When Laban discovers that Jacob has fled and his house gods have been stolen, he pursues Jacob. Laban finds Jacob in the hill country of Gilead and confronts him. Jacob had no knowledge of Rachel stealing her father’s house gods and tells Laban to search his camp, and if he should find anything stolen, then kill whoever stole it.  Rachel hinds the household gods under a camel’s saddle and sits on it. When her father asks to search the saddle, she lies and tells him she is menstruating and does not wish to stand. Laban thus finds nothing. Laban and Jacob made a covenant that set the border of their two lands in Gilead, and agreed never to cross it in hostility. The two made sacrifices on the pillar they constructed to fulfill the covenant. Laban said goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren and returned to his land.

This story is more of a parable about the boundary covenant agreed upon by the Arameans (Laban’s people) and the Israelites (Jacob’s people). The two groups claimed Gilead in northern Transjordan. This story provides another example of questionable morals. What right does Jacob have to allow Laban to kill whoever stole his figurines? Of course, what right does anyone have to kill? The argument can be made that one has the right to kill to preserve their own life, and I would accept that as just. But here we have a crime committed that put no one’s life in jeopardy.

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Genesis: God’s Convenant With Abram

Genesis 15:1-21

The last few stories of the Bible have been jejune, except maybe the last story which gave some insight to Abram’s military prowess, but even that leaves the reader unfulfilled due to lack of detail. This passage at least offers some things to discuss.

The Lord comes to Abram in a vision: “Do not  be afraid Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” Abram replies to this by asking God what God can offer him. He has no son to be his heir, and will have to give all he has to Eliezer of Damascus since God has not given him a son. God tells him that Eliezer will not be his heir and that God will grant him a child from his own body. God takes him outside and tells Abram to look up at the stars and count them, if he can. His offspring will equal in number to the stars. Obviously not his actual descendants, those from his own loin, but must include his descendants offspring as well. This news pleases Abram. God reminds Abram that He is the one who promised this land to him. Abram asks how can he be sure that the land will be his? God orders Abram to bring Him a heifer, that’s a young virgin cow in case you don’t know, a ram and a goat, each three years old. Also, he is to bring a dove and a young pigeon. Abram brought all these animals to the altar to sacrifice to God. He cut each animal in half–I wonder in which way, hot dog or hamburger. Am I the only one who remembers these saying from school to illustrate how to fold paper in half?–except the birds. When birds of prey came to feast on the flesh of Abram’s sacrificial offerings to the Lord, Abram fought them off. As the sun set Abram fell asleep, and in a dream God came to him. God told him that his descendants “will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.” God promises to punish the nation that enslaves his descendants after four hundred years of oppression, and then will reward them with great possessions. God tells Abram that he will die before this, and die peacefully. God says he cannot give the land to Abram and his descendants yet, because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” That is the day, according to this passage, that God made his covenant with Abram, and promised him and his descendants all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates.

In this passage we see another example of God’s unquenchable appetite for the blood and flesh of animals, not only that, now His taste is even more refined. He has acquired a taste for virgin-female animals as well. This was not enough to please God, and grant Abram and his descendants the land He had promised them. More suffering had to endure before He could fulfill His obligation.

In the next story we see the conception and birth of the first child of Abram, but this child’s mother is not who you would think.

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