Epistles of Thomas

January 14, 2009

Genesis 31-33

Filed under: Old Testament — Thomas @ 20:01
Tags: , , ,

Not surprisingly, Laban’s sons are more than a little upset that Jacob seems to be gaining healthy flocks whilst their father is losing his. Jacob overhears this and also notices that Laban is becoming cold(er) towards him. The Lord commands Jacob to return to his father’s land and he decides to sneak off when Laban is away. He details his grief by saying that Laban has changed his wages ten times. His wives agree that their father has been unreasonable and they side with Jacob: “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children” (31:14-16). Although Rachel and Leah seem happy to have married Jacob they are angry with their father for “selling” them. Laban does not quite see things the same way and once he catches up with them he says “You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war” (31:26). Who has really treated them like war captives? Laban has had a vision from God and knows he cannot harm Jacob but he is very reluctant to give up his claim: “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?” (31:43). Obviously the answer is ‘nothing’ so he makes a covenant with Jacob, the key term of which is that he not mistreat Rachel and Leah, in particular he is not to take wives in addition to them (aside from their maids). Perhaps he has heard from his sister Rebekah the trouble she had competing with Hagar. Or perhaps he understands the tendency of men to seek younger women in place of the wives of their youth when they have grown old.

Jacob’s biggest problem stemmed from Rachel stealing Laban’s household gods. This is an interesting problem for the man who is the son of history’s first monotheist. Indeed it is not until 35:2 that he commands his family members to get rid of their foreign gods in preparation for his building an altar to God at Bethel.

Jacob has escaped the frying pan (Laban) only to have to face the fire (Esau). But first he must wrestle with God! He refuses to give up until he has been blessed by the mysterious figure. The Lord renames him Israel and leaves him with a permanent limp. Jacob strategizes to get on Esau’s good side by offering him his flocks and herds. He sends his possessions ahead of him in ascending order of importance with Rachel and Joseph bringing up the rear. Esau treats him well and he is able to settle in the land.

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