Day 11 (Jan. 11): Jacob leaves Laban, Laban follows Jacob, Jacob and Laban make covenant

Genesis 30:25

Questions & Observations

O. (30:30): Jacob gets it.  Remember how God told Abraham that He was his protector?  Here, Jacob is telling Laban that God has blessed Laban with good fortune, all through the hard work of Jacob.  Jacob gives the glory to God.  In Gen. 15:1, God tells Abram (Abraham) that He will protect him and “your reward will be great.”  Look at this story where Laban deceives Jacob again, yet God is with Jacob and helps him succeed — his reward.

Q. (30:32): Are we supposed to see any symbolism or significance in the appearance of the speckled goats or the black sheep?  I don’t think this question is of significance, but I was just curious.

A. I’m not aware of any particular significance to the color of the sheep.

O. (30:35): I just realized that Rebekah deceived her husband, the nearly blind Isaac, into thinking Jacob was Esau, resulting in Esau losing his blessing.  Here, Rebekah’s brother, Laban, tricks Jacob by taking the speckled goats and the black sheep.  Deception must run in their family.  Jacob is related too.  He seems to be the ultimate outwitter, (31:20) but has learned to use his gift wisely with the God’s guidance.

O. (31:3): God keeps His promises.  In Gen. 28:15, God said He would be with Jacob.  In 28:21, Jacob says that if God returns him safely to his father’s home, He will be his God.  Jacob and God have built a strong trust, like God did with his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.  The legacy has been established.

O. (31:12): Jacob has basically been a slave to Laban, but God was watching how poorly Laban treated him.  We can apply this to our own lives.  When you don’t understand why you are going through a difficult time, God is paying attention. And if you stay loyal to Him, He will reward you.

Q. (31:19): Why did Rachel take the idols from Laban’s house?

A.  There’s a few theories since the story doesn’t explicitly tell us.  One of the theories is that Rachel is getting back at her dad for mistreating her, which the text seems to support by saying that they felt their father denied them an inheritance.  Another theory is that she didn’t want her father to continue in idolatry (which I confess I don’t see much support for).  One other idea is that she didn’t believe in Jacob’s god, and was trying to steal the source of her father’s power and influence.

Q. (31:26): OK, what’s up with Laban?  He is so two-faced, he almost seems schizophrenic.  He is horribly unfair to Jacob and then asked Jacob why He snuck away.  He bargained away his daughters, then asked why Jacob dragged his daughters away like prisoners of war.  In 31:43, Laban is still delusional.  He thinks the flocks are his even after Jacob explained that the flocks grew because God blessed him.  Then, in 31:48 when he makes a covenant with Jacob, he says God will be the witness if Jacob mistreats his daughters.  How can he say this when he is the ultimate abuser?  And, does he think God will truly respect him, given his treatment of Jacob and worshipping other gods?

A. I think you’ve summed it up well.  Laban is an odd character and this is a very weird story.  I honestly don’t know a lot about Laban and his motivations (he’s not a well studied character).  One thing he does do, whether he believes in the God of Jacob or not, is call this god as a witness in the covenant between himself and Jacob.  In addition to the aspects of covenant ceremony we have already discussed, another important aspect would be witnesses to the ceremony itself, who would have been responsible for its enforcement.  So what Laban is wisely doing here is calling on Jacob’s God to keep Jacob honest.

Q. (31:36):  This is the first time that I can remember that one of God’s chosen has lashed out at someone.  Most of the stories so far show how God’s power settles an argument.  Disagreements always make me question if I am supposed to speak up or let God do my fighting for me.  Besides Rob’s answer, how do some of our bloggers deal with disputes?

A. As we discussed yesterday, it is our duty as Christians to be at peace with those around us, so resorting to this type of outburst (or even to violence) is not in keeping with the heart of the Christian message.  But we must, reasonably, be willing to speak up for God when we feel that the character of God is being challenged.  Ultimately, I believe that we are called to listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be wise when it comes to the times to speak (or yell I guess) and the times to be silent.

Q. (31:39): I know many of the Bible’s characters stories foreshadow our Savior, Jesus Christ.  When Jacob said He owned the responsibility for Laban’s sheep:  If one was missing, from no fault of Jacob, Jacob would have to pay for it.  Is this foreshadowing Jesus taking the punishment for our sins?

A. Certainly Jacob’s role as shepherd and protector of the sheep is in keeping with our understanding of the way Jesus spoke about himself as Good Shepherd (John 10).  And while I am not especially familiar with this particular instance of foreshadowing, you could certainly make the argument that Jacob’s actions symbolically match the way that Jesus took the “payment” for those that he considered His sheep.

O.  I joined Bible Study Fellowship (there are groups all over the nation and in many other countries) this week, which is a great study!  The speaker talked about false promises and how we set our kids up for false hope.  God tells absolutes like, “you will be the father of many nations,” “I’ll be with you,” and that He’ll give them a certain land.  God doesn’t’ say, “if we have time,” or “if we can afford it” or “we’ll have to wait and see.”  Telling kids something may or may not happen, gives them something to hope for.    Of course, I’m the master of saying “we’ll have to see.”  I always thought that was a great response to the many requests of young children.  I tested this new way of answering my daughter when she asked to get a pedicure with me.  Instead of telling her, “we need to watch our money” or something valid like that, I told her that we definitely would do it.  I don’t know when, but I know we will get a pedicure together again in the near future.  Instead of hanging her head from a vague answer, she held her head up and smiled.

Speaking of children, I bought my daughter a devotional book for Christmas, 365 Bedtime Devos for Little Girls.  It has a one-page reading every day.  It is fabulous.  It opens up conversation.  One “virtue” is presented, then you can tell about how that virtue has applied to your life.  Then she offers up and creates a scenario for the virtue also.  It is a real conversation starter.  It was $5 at Lifeway.  I think I saw a boy’s version also.

Day 10 (Jan. 10): Jacob travels to Uncle Laban, Jacob’s dream, Jacob finds Rachel, Laban tricks Jacob, Jacob’s children

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 28:6-30:24

Questions & Observations

O. (28:9): I find it interesting that Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter.  If you remember, Ishmael was Abraham’s other son (Isaac’s half brother) whom he loved by Hagar, but was not the son God chose for his “nation.”  Yet, God said Ishmael would prosper in another land.  Likewise, Esau was denied his firstborn birthright and blessing.  But, as the story goes, Esau also has a great many people, but not the great nation God is choosing for His people through Isaac and Jacob.

Q. (28:17): … the very gateway to heaven.  To me this is saying the stories of the generations of the Israelites, which includes Jesus, will show you the way to heaven.

A. That’s an interesting take on the image.  Many Christians view the bridge or ladder as an image of Christ himself, the connection between heaven (the realm of God) and earth (the realm of man).  As the bridge between them, Christ returns the proper relationship between God and man.  Jacob’s vision can be seen as a prophetic vision of the future of his family (as you have pointed to) and one (very distant) son in particular (Jesus) who will complete the reunion between God and man.

Q. (29:22-27): I understand the custom of a man’s oldest daughter must be married first.  However, why didn’t Laban just tell Jacob of this rule?  Jacob was so much in love with Rachel that he likely would have agreed to marry Leah first as long as he gets Rachel too.  Again, there is deception here.  This also sets a scene for sibling rivalry.

A. Interesting that in this story the shoe is on the other foot.  Jacob surely did not like being deceived.  It appears to be one of those “what goes around comes around” kind of moments.  Absolutely Laban deceived Jacob, and with good reason: Jacob’s love for Rachel got Laban seven additional years of free service out of Jacob.  Considering the misery Jacob caused his brother and father, it only seems fair that this is how his uncle treats him.  But this generation is especially important to keep track of, because the four women (Rachel, Leah, and their two servants) will give birth to the 12 sons of Jacob that will become the 12 tribes of Israel.  One of the things that is worth noting is that here, as in previous generations, God is not concerned with birth order (especially compared to how people are concerned with it).  Over the rest of the story (basically the rest of Genesis will focus on the lives of the 12 sons), note the way that God uses them for various roles, and the way that some of the younger sons will be the most influential.

Q. (29:31-30:24): Rachel and Leah obviously rival.  We also have seen it in Cain & Abel, Esau and Jacob and soon Joseph and his brothers.  Does the Bible address sibling rivalry — the causes, the reasons, the cures?

A. Like other less than perfect aspects of the people in the story, the Bible does not shy away from mentioning sibling rivalry, and even mentions some of the ways that God redeems these rivalry situations.  As far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address the particular circumstance of sibling rivalry, though it has plenty to say about respect for family and loving people in general (including family of course).  The Bible tells us that, as much as it is up to us, we should live at peace with those around us (Romans 12:18), Psalm 133 informs us that it is good when brothers live in unity.  And Luke 15 (the story of the prodigal son) describes the way that a loving God (the father) attempts to bring about peace between rival brothers.

Day 9 (Jan. 9): Jacob tricks Esau out of birthright and blessing, Isaac tricks Abimelech, dispute over water rights, Isaac and Abimelech make peace, Jacob flees to uncle Laban

Genesis 25:27-28:5

Questions & Observations

Q. (26:7): Is there any significance of Isaac going through the same scenario as his father, saying that his wife was his sister for fear of being killed to get her?  Abraham and Isaac both seemed to not realize that the rulers they were scared of actually feared them because the rulers knew the Lord was with Abraham and Isaac.  Also, this seems to be setting up, “Thou shall not commit adultery?”

A. Outside the very likely scenario that Abraham TAUGHT Isaac this method of survival in a hostile environment, I am not aware of particular significance to it.  It is interesting to me that the rulers who are deceived by this ploy (twice with Abraham, once with Isaac) have a great deal of respect for married life, and clearly take great pains to avoid committing adultery.  They don’t seem to need a command not to, though it would appear “thou shall not bear false witness” should be in order for Abraham and Isaac.  Anyway, once again, for some reason, God rewards the behavior by having the king grant Isaac protection for himself and Rebekah.

Q. (26:18): To name a well, they must have been important.  It sounds like they are geographical markers, like a town.  Were they more than a hole in the ground?

A. Since much of the story to this point takes place in a desert, you can be that water locations and rights (note the number of disputes over water in just today’s text alone!) were absolutely crucial.  Wells and other watering holes would have been community-gathering points as well, so it is unsurprising that they would be given ceremonial “nicknames” to commemorate a major event that happened there.

O. (27:4): Eating seems to be a ceremonial occasion in the Bible thus far.  When the Lord appeared to Abraham, he prepared a feast of his best animals and harvest.  Here, Isaac asks Esau to prepare a meal before giving him his birthright blessing.  Today, we still practice feasts for important occasions and every day life.  I see it as a literal taking in and sharing God’s blessings, enjoying them and praising Him for them.

Q. (27:5-35): Why is such deception allowed in the story of Jacob tricking Isaac in giving him his blessing instead of Jacob?  It doesn’t sound like something God would approve. Was this planned by God, or He just knew what would happen?  I find it difficult to understand free will when God knows everything that will happen to us.  He creates us and says that He knew us before we were formed.  So, did He create us to succeed or fail according to His plans?  I feel like I may get struck down for asking this question, but I’m sure the answer is in the Bible.

A. It is important to note that not everything the Bible reports is something the Bible approves of.  Jacob will pay a price for his deception of his brother and father: he will be forced into exile, though God will bring blessing to Jacob in spite of Jacob’s actions.  As I mentioned yesterday, God certainly knew in advance what Jacob would do, but ultimately, this is the line that God has chosen (for better or worse, see it sounds like a marriage already!) to redeem the entire world.  I tend to fall into the free will camp myself, with the understanding that just because God knows what I am going to do does not make me less responsible for it.  And God is capable of working with us in the midst of those good and bad decisions to carry out His purposes.  And the real payoff in this story for the “good things coming out of really, really bad decisions” is still coming out of the story of Jacob’s 12 sons: the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.  So, honestly, at this point, let’s let the story unfold and we can see the way that God will use Jacob’s deception to bring about the redemption that He desires.