Friday, July 20, 2012
XVII - Israel Is Born
In the last two chapters we see that Jacob's life has changed drastically. He was chased out of his plush home in Beersheeba where he was coddled by his mother, and onto a difficult journey covering many miles. He had a personal encounter with God and we can already see that Jacob is a changed man, although even more changes are yet to come.
Chapter 29, vss 1-14 tells the story of how Jacob met Rachel, whose womb would carry the royal bloodline. From Bethel, Jacob continued his journey and came to the territory of his mother: The land of Nahor, Abraham's brother. The early verses tell of the custom of keeping the water well overed up until all the flocks of sheep were gathered. I guess this was done to prevent hoarding or the problems that would arise from a "first-come-first-serve" system. When Jacob asked the shepherds where they were from they said Haran. This must have been music to Jacob's ears. His journey is over. He has reached his destination. Jacob asked about Laben and his well-being. The shepherds said he was well, and in fact, here comes his daughter Rachel. (Notice what Rachel is doing. Vs 9: she was a shepherd. Rare for a woman back then. Women were usually relegated to carrying water and doing domesticated "chores" around the tents. I'll have comments about shepherds later, especially when we get to Luke.) Notice how Jacob acts toward Rachel in vss 9-14. First he opens up the well for her, disregarding the custom I mentioned earlier. He kissed Rachel (more greeting than romance) and he wept. He told Rachel he a close relative. Rachel runs to tell her father Laben who goes out to meet his nephew as "his own flesh and blood".
In the remainder of this chapter and on into the next, we'll see how God teaches Jacob some seemingly harsh lessons through Jacob's uncle Laban.
Vs 14b --> Jacob has stayed with Laban and his family for about a month. Seems to me Jacob was doing a lot of work during this time, probably trying very hard to impress Laban. It is very clear: Jacob wants to marry Rachel. Working hard to impress her father is good strategy. Laban said "why don't you stay, and I'll pay you wages", Jacob saw this as an opportunity to get Rachel as his wife. But Laban had two daughters. Rachel and her older sister Leah. It says Rachel was beautiful and shapely. But Leah had weak eyes. Sparkling bright eyes were considered beautiful. Jacob's
response to Laban urging him to stay was to offer seven years of service in exchange for the younger daughter Rachel. Vs 19 says Laban agreed. At this point it's difficult to fault Laban too much, although seven years seems like a very long time, but Laban was not the one who made that proposal. Jacob did. Also, to Laban, it was good that his daughter would be married to a pure hebrew as opposed to who knows what else. And, Although Rachel was the younger, and it was customary that the older daughter would get married first, Laban probably figured that Leah would
be married by the time the seven years was up. So this was a good situation for Laban all the way around.
So Jacob served Laban the seven years as agreed upon. And now Jacob was ready to recieve his reward for all that work: Rachel. Laban seemed to comply with the agreement. He held a banquet in their honor to celebrated the occassion. But instead of giving Jacob Rachel, sly Laban switched daughters on him and gave him Leah. (the old "bait & switch.) It says in vss 25, 26 that Jacob and Leah consumated their marriage (I can only figure that Jacob drank too much to know the difference?). In the morning Jacob realized what had happened and approached Laban in anger. Laban acted like he did nothing wrong. Laban then agreed that he would give Rachel to Jacob for another seven years of service. Plus Jacob was to fulfill his husbandly duties to Leah for a week
before he could marry Rachel, and the seven years of service would be paid after he got to marry Rachel.
Vs 31 - God blessed Leah with fertility but Rachel was barren. Now you might see some names you
1. Leah delivers a first son Rueben (name means "see" for God saw my misery)
2. Leah delivers Simeon (one who hears)
3. Leah delivers Levi (attached)
4. Leah delivers Judah (praise)
Chapter 30 - Does this story sound familiar? Rachel is jealous of her sister Leah and proposes that she give Jacob her maidservant Bilhah.
5. Bilhah delivers Dan (he has vindicated)
6. Bilhah delivers Naphtali (my struggle)
When Leah realized she was not concieving any more, she thought she would do as Rachel did and offered her maidservant Zilpah to bare Jacob more sons.
7. Zilpah delivers Gad (good fortune)
8. Zilpah delivers Aher (happy)
Vs 14 begins story of how Rueben went out and found some mandrakes and gave them to his mother Leah. Madrakes were supposed to be a fertility herb. The next few verses indicate the bitter rivalry of these sisters.
God blessed Leah again with fertility:
9. Leah delivers Issachar (reward)
10. Leah delivers Zebulun (honor)
After Zebulun was born, Leah delivers a daughter - Dinah. We'll talk more about Dinah in a couple more chapters.
Then Rachel is blessed with another pregnancy:
11. Rachel delivers Joseph (may he add)
Joseph is clearly my favorite Old Testament character. Second only to Jesus Himself, Joseph will become the most powerful man in the entire History of civilization.
This post ended with Gen. 30: 22. We'll start the next post at vs 23.