Tag Archives: genesis 18

Esau’s Stolen Birthright

It was the heist of a millennium: Rebekah and her second-born son Jacob conspired to rob her first-born, Esau, of his birthright. At stake wasn’t just gold or silver, servants or sheep, but rather the patriarchy for the whole future nation of Israel. To complete the theft, they would have to manipulate a blind and crippled Isaac, husband and father, into confusing his children and blessing the wrong one. It was an inauspicious start to the tribe of Israel, to say the least.

Rightly or wrongly, Rebekah was persuaded to do this by a vision from God given to her in pregnancy. But what led Jacob down this dark path? Was it greed? Did he, too, have a vision from God? The bible is mostly silent, but for me it comes down to one bowl of delicious soup. Read on for more.

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Va-Yera – A Tale of Two Dinners

Where we left off, Abraham and Ishmael had just been circumcised, accepting the covenant with God. The following chapters (summary after the break) paint a complex story of punishment, of two men’s relationships with God, and how sometimes a weaker man can do more than a strong one.

This story also marks a turning point: The first time that a man (Abraham) argues with God and wins. It is also the moment where it appears that God’s vision of justice begins slowly to turn from the clan- or family-based justice to individual justice. It won’t get there until the Book of Ezekiel, but it’s a good start. More on that in the next post.

But what do you say about a man who selflessly puts his own butt on the line (rather literally) while trying to save a group of strangers from a rape gang? If he’s Lot, you call him a buffoon.

More after the break…

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Va-Yera – “And He Appeared”

Va-Yera is the fourth weekly Torah portion, spanning Genesis chapters 18 to 22. This portion continues the narrative of Abraham and his family through two huge events: the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah and the Binding of Isaac, where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his second son as a test of his loyalty.

The name “Va-Yera” means “And He appeared”, after the first several words of the portion. One can argue that these names are meaningless because the first words are chosen rather than a description, but the textual breaks are flexible enough that the rabbis who codified the names had a great deal of control over what each was called. In this passage, the “He” of course refers to God in his meeting with Abraham while en route to Sodom and Gomorrah. But on a more spiritual level, this portion shows God appearing in a way that He had not in previous sections of Genesis: he is showing his authority and power in a very public way that is as much a warning to others as it is a direct punishment for misdeeds. When God punished mankind in the flood narrative, the punishment was so universal that almost no one could have taken it as an example to do better. When God assisted Abraham in his struggles against Egypt and Chedorloamer, he did so privately and without spectacle. In that way, this portion shows the first time that God has “appeared” before all mankind.

More after the break.

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Lech-lecha – Abraham’s New Covenant (snip-snip)

We end Lech-Lecha on some really high notes. I was feeling for a while that the bible’s authors would be taking Abram down a peg, but I have clearly misremembered so far. As it stands, Genesis 17 ends with Abram’s head held high, he wins favor for his first son, a promise of a second son, and he only had to cut off the tip of his penis to get it! Sounds like a bargain to me.

Let’s think on that. This IS a bargain, isn’t it? Not in the sense that it’s inexpensive, but this is the third repetition of the Abraham covenant (from Genesis chapters 12 and 15), but the first that clearly stipulates that there is a cost associated. In Genesis 12, Abram’s condition was that he leave Haran and his father and journey to Canaan. In Genesis 15, God doesn’t require any conditions at all. (If anything, Abram is bargaining some conditions with God.)

More after the break.

Continue reading Lech-lecha – Abraham’s New Covenant (snip-snip)