Tag Archives: jacob

Stealing from the Blind – Jacob Receives Isaac’s Blessing

1024px-Capra_ibex_nubiana_near_Mitzpe_Ramon_in_summer_2011_(4)You hear about these cases all the time: men and women who take advantage of an elderly or infirm person for monetary gain. Sometimes, the theft is large such as a police sergeant who stole $20,000 last year near Chicago, or the Boston couple that stole $130,000 from an elderly man and his handicapped daughter. It is easy to imagine many more crimes going unreported– like credit cards used by a caretaker without permission, or easily forgotten items being sold. To take advantage of anyone in their time of need is one of the worst violation of trust that I can imagine. I did not know how common this was until I researched for this post.

And yet, this is exactly what we are told Jacob did when he conspired with his mother to steal his father’s blessing and, by extension, the patriarchy of all of Israel. It is a violation of trust on a terrible scale, made all the worse because we readers of Genesis have seen Isaac grow from a boy to a man and now finally to this humbling end. Jacob is one of the great heroes of Genesis, and this is not a great way to start his story.

It all begins with a home-cooked meal. Read on for more.

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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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Same-sex Marriage in Classical Biblical Commentary

As I researched an upcoming post on Enoch, I stumbled upon this passage in Genesis Rabbah:

“The generation of the Flood was not blotted out of the world until they had begun writing nuptial hymns for marriages between males or between man and beast.”
Genesis Rabbah 26:5:4

That does say what you think it says: Fifth century Jews, at least some of them, thought that Noah’s flood was caused by gay marriage. I was shocked by this, but more because I didn’t think of same-sex marriage as a social issue until the modern era. The very fact that it was condemned fifteen-hundred years ago means that the practice must have existed in some form. I subsequently learned that there was a controversy about it in the Roman Empire and was banned right around the time the commentary was written. It is a small world!

This isn’t a post in favor of gay marriage or against it, but rather I want to look at the two (that I found) references in early Jewish sources which talk about the practice– and if you know of early Christian sources, please share them with me. It should go without saying that while the bible doesn’t mention the practice directly, the prohibitions against same-sex relations are clear and as I strive for the “plain meaning” of the text in my blog, I won’t apologize for that. I support same-sex marriage, but this post isn’t a biblical defense of that practice.

I hope too many people don’t unfriend me for posting this. Read on for more!

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Timeline of Genesis From Adam to Joseph

According to the story in Genesis, there were around 2,300 years from the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden to the exodus of the Israelites in Egypt. Along the way, there were 23 generations, a flood, several famines, and generation after generation of lost stories. Many readers skim over these sections for the narrative portions of the book, but if we look carefully at these “begats” we can not only seeing biblical man becoming more like us, but there is also plenty of room for surprise. Did you know that Abraham could have met Noah? Or that Eber, for whom the Hebrew tribe is named, outlived his great-great-great-great grandson?

Come, take a look! There will be graphs!

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Rebekah’s Sacrifice

Isaac Blesses JacobLet me set the scene: Rebekah peered through an open doorway at her husband, Isaac. Age had wilted the once proud man, the son of Abraham, until he was only a shadow of his former self. His eyes had failed and he could no longer look upon his home or the people that he loved. He could no longer even walk. But Isaac was loved: his twin sons, Jacob and Esau, remained close to him even as they entered their fourth decades. Although Esau’s Canaanite wives caused some consternation, he remained Isaac’s favorite son. At 100 years of age, Isaac had lived a long and good life and he felt that it was time to pass on his blessing, the inheritance of God’s promise, to one of his children.

As Rebekah watched unseen, Isaac called his eldest son, Esau, to his deathbed to make his request:

Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.”
Genesis 27:2-4

As she heard these words, Rebekah’s heart hardened. In a few short minutes, she would betray her eldest son and her husband. She knew her actions could drive her family apart and that she may never see her sons together again.

Why did she do it? Because God had told her a secret. Read on for more.

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Abraham’s Oath Upon his Thigh

Abraham's Servant Swears Upon His ThighA few months ago, I stalled on Genesis 24: it was too complex a chapter to comment on and instead of commenting, I found other things to write about until real life caught up with me. I’m determined to continue, so let’s start at the beginning.

Genesis 24 begins with a very odd oath. Abraham is too old to go off to find his son a wife on his own, so he sends his faithful servant to do it. But before he leaves, he asks his servant to “put […] thy hand under my thigh. And I will make the swear by the Lord” (Genesis 24:2). Why does this swearing on a thigh come from and what does the bible have to say about it? Sounds like a great topic to dig into a little more! (Hint: It may involve testicles.)

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Much Ado About Camels… in the Bible

Somehow in all my reading of Genesis, I missed one of the great controversies of the bible: camels. Dromedaries appear in several Genesis stories, but most notably in the story of Isaac and Rebekah. In this story, Rebekah waters Abraham’s camels and fulfills a prophecy to be Isaac’s wife. I never thought twice about camels in biblical times, but science disagrees. Robert Alter summarizes the controversy best:

Archeological and extrabiblical literary evidence indicates that camels were not adopted as beasts of burden until several centuries after the Patriarchal period, and so their introduction to this story would have to be anachronistic.

Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses

Rather than point at camels as an indication that the bible is “wrong”, I argue that the rarity of camels fits the biblical narrative. The authors may even connect Abraham to the rise of camels in all of Canaan. Read on for more.

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Marriage in the Bible – Part 4: Wives as Property

In honor of my first wedding anniversary, I’m doing a week-long look at marriage in the bible. Monday was marriage in the creation story, which first depicts something akin to marriage equality, before casting women below men after Eve’s sin. Tuesday was Levirate marriage, which describes a method by which widows can be married off to their spouse’s brother. Wednesday was polygamy, the one-sided practice of marriage plurality. These all dance around an uncomfortable truth: in many cases and in many ways, wives were property.

I should make clear of course that this doesn’t mean that the women in the Torah were subservient or weak, only that they were working in a system that was unkind to them. Read on!

 

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