Friday, 17 May 2013

Blessings and Jacob's Story - Genesis 27:1-40; 27-36

There are two parts to this post as I am retrospectively adding in more details.

Blessings

In this section the Old Testament reveals that not only God can bless us, but we can bestow blessings upon one another. In the story Jacob gets Isaac's blessing by tricking the blind old man that he is his elder brother Esau. The definition of blessing is 'God's favour and protection', and so in giving a blessing to someone else you are asking God to do so and believing He will.

27:12 "What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing."

The definition of a curse is 'A solemn utterance to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something.' This line reveals that we are also able to curse one another, asking God to do so. Jacob does indeed receive his father's blessing, but under a falsehood and so in reality it is possible that God did not respond to this requested blessing, although later in the story it seems like he is in Divine favour.

The blessing is as follows:

27:27-29 "Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed. May God give you of heaven's dew and of earth's richness - an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed."

Now either Isaac had prepared what he was going to say, or he genuinely smelt the blessing of the Lord radiating from Jacob? So is he truly blessed by God? After this an angry Esau walks in and him and his father realised what had happened. It is said that Jacob took Esau's blessing and that no more are left for him. He gives him a blessing anyway which actually is no blessing at all.

27:39-40 "Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness. away from the dew of the heavens above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But you will grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck."

This blessing really just says what will come about rather than bestowing the Lord's favour. These blessings appear to be ones that bestow human permissions and favour upon another, rather than Divine favours.

Jacob's Story


I do not want to go into too much detail here as you can read the story yourself, but I did want to comment of some points of interest. I have read the Red Tent by Anita Diamant and so was inspired to re-read the original Genesis version of the story.
To sum, Jacob flees from his brother's anger and arrives in Paddam Aram. Here he meets Rachel and asked her father Laban for her hand in marriage. This is agreed upon on the condition that Jacob serves Laban for seven years; but Jacob is tricked into marrying Rachel's sister Leah:

29: 23 "But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her."

Jacob awakes to angrily discover he was tricked - although it is unclear how this trickery actually happened (possibly the bride was veiled at the wedding, but she woudn't have been at night time...). So Jacob agrees to work another seven years for Rachel. There are children being born of Jacob and his wives and his family prospers. Jacob tricks Laban into giving his the best of his flock and understandably Laban gets jealous over Jacob's success, so Jacob flees.

Rachel steals Laban's household gods as they go causing Laban to come after them. What I found interesting here was that when Laban enters Rachel's tent to find the gods she cannot rise as she is menstruating. Diamant suggests that the gods are placed underneath her, hidden from Laban. The text does not confirm this, but I wonder why the story would deem it necessary to even mention her cycle otherwise. It is also of interest that both Laban and Rachel appear to be Pagan's, attaching value to these 'teraphim'. And so the story continues until the next point of particular interest.

Originally I had skimmed past the part about Dinah. In this story Dinah (the only daughter of Jacob) is raped by Shechem, son of King Hamor. The king and his son try to barter for Dinah's hand in marriage and eventually an agreement is made for their whole people to be circumcised. They agree to this and do so, but in the days of their painful recovery Jacob and his sons attack the city and monarch, killing every male in revenge and taking Dinah home. Jacob scolds them for bringing trouble on their family but the brothers reply:

33:31 "...Should we have treated our sister like a prostitute?"

This is the last we hear about the situation and Dinah. Diamant creates a story where the rape of Dinah was actually consensual love, which may explain Shechem's willingness to circumcise his people for to marry her; Diamant also explains the discontent of Jacob's sons was out of jealousy of Hamor's family, fearing that their own family glory will dissolve to Hamor's. Jacob and his sons are shown in a very bad light, as murderers. Jacob even changes his name to Israel on God's orders; Jacob means 'he grasps the heel', which my Bible tells me means 'deceives'; Israel means 'he struggles with God'. Nevertheless, other than the name change, that story is not what is written and so we should still refer to the original text. Jacob's story is completed through his son Joseph, to be covered next.

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