Genesis: Jacob’s Return to Bethel, The Birth of Benjamin, and the Death of Rachel and Isaac

Genesis 35:5-29

As Jacob fled from Shechem and the massacre committed by his kin, god rained terror down upon all who pursued Jacob. He returned to Bethel, in the land of Canaan, where he claimed god came to him before to warn him that Esau planned to murder him. When Jacob arrived in Bethel, El came to him. El told Jacob (again) that his name is no longer Jacob but Israel. He then promised that his descendants would be numerous, and he would acquire the land of Abraham and Isaac. Afterwards, Jacob constructed a pillar to worship El, and poured a drink offering and oil on the pillar.

Israel journeyed from Bethel with his family. Rachel gave birth while on this journey, and died from the ordeal. She named the son Ben-oni, but Israel decided to name the child Benjamin instead. Rachel was buried in Bethlehem and a pillar was constructed at her tomb. They then proceeded with their journey. Israel’s son, Reuben, then sleeps with his sex slave, Bilhah, which upsets Israel.

Israel returned to his father, Isaac, in Hebron just before his death. Esau and Israel buried their father in Hebron.

These stories were quite brief with not much of interest to comment on besides offerings at a pillar, and the encroachment of a son on his father’s sex slave.

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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: 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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