1429.) Genesis 38

October 23, 2014

“Tamar and Judah” — a spicy interpretation by Emile Jean-Horace Vernet (1789-1863)

Genesis 38   (NRSV)

Judah and Tamar

It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her. 3She conceived and bore a son; and he named him Er. 4Again she conceived and bore a son whom she named Onan. 5Yet again she bore a son, and she named him Shelah. She was in Chezib when she bore him.

It isn’t hard to see the sons of Israel rapidly and willingly being corrupted by their Canaanite neighbors, and what the future will bring if they continued in that land. God had a plan to bring them out . . .

6Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn; her name was Tamar. 7But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.

8Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your brother.”

Matthew 22:24 (New International Version)

“Teacher,” the Sadducees said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.”

This was done so the dead brother’s name would be carried on. But also it was so the widow would have children to support her. Apart from this, she would likely live the rest of her life in destitution.

9But since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his brother. 10What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also.

Onan refused to take this responsibility seriously. He was more than happy to use Tamar for his sexual gratification, but he did not want to give Tamar a son he would have to support but would be considered to be the son of his brother Er.

11Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up” —for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

One can understand Judah’s hesitancy to give his last son as a husband to Tamar.  He may have wondered — Was she the cause of the death of his sons?

12In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

13When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage.

Tamar didn’t have the option of just finding another man to marry. She was under the headship of her father-in-law Judah, and he had to give her a husband. He determined whom and when she could marry.

“Tamar, Judah’s Daughter-in-law” by Marc Chagall, 1958

15When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16He went over to her at the road side, and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law.

She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”

17He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.”

And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge, until you send it.”

18He said, “What pledge shall I give you?”

She replied, “Your signet and your cord, and the staff that is in your hand.”

“Judah and Tamar” School of Rembrandt, ca. 1650-60 (Residenzgalerie Salzburg)

So he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

20When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. 21He asked the townspeople, “Where is the temple prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?”

But they said, “No prostitute has been here.”

22So he returned to Judah, and said, “I have not found her; moreover the townspeople said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’“

23Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.”

We see how carefully and shrewdly Tamar planned this.  Now she has proof of Judah’s actions in the signet, cord, and staff, proof that Judah will be unable to deny.

24About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.”

And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.”

25As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.”

26Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.

Judah acknowledges his guilt in not taking proper care of his daughter-in-law, and in sleeping with her.

27When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. 28While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.” 29But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. 30Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

Matthew 1:1-3 (New International Version)

The Genealogy of Jesus

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar . . .

A veiled Tunisian woman, photograph by Matthias Stolt

A veiled Tunisian woman, photograph by Matthias Stolt

TAMAR
by Joyce Carr Stedelbauer

I, Tamar, am not proud of what I have done,
you must understand … not proud of what I have done.
A desperate situation and I was justified.
You ladies alone today have other options –
savings – jobs – an acceptable place in society.
I was an outcast, a foreigner, twice widowed.
My father-in-law, Judah, son of Leah and Jacob,
reluctantly promised his youngest son
to care for me, as Hebrew law provided.
Judah reneged on his word – marriage or care,
would have let his son’s memory die with no heir.
I had no other choice.

Drying tears, I painted my eyes with kohl,
my mouth red with berry juice,
plaited ribbons in my hair,
humbling myself to sit near the city gate
with other ladies of the night.
It was degrading, a miserable experience,
I prayed as I waited ….
Judah came along as if he owned the road.
Smiling shyly at him – he turned –
hesitated but a moment –
came back to me.

Armed with the law of protection,
I demanded his ring before he took me.
Some months later he denied my claim
until I held out the dishonored ring.
Judah crumbled like a clod of dirt on the road.
Somehow out of His infinite goodness
God allowed me to birth twins sons
from the house of Judah, Messiah’s branch,
and the rest is His Story.

_________________________

Music:

We read the strange story of Tamar and Judah remembering that God loves us not because of what we do — but because of who He is.  It’s all grace.  HERE  is “Grace”  sung by Michael W. Smith.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Vernet.  http://www.womeninthebible.net/images/1.9B-2_TAMAR_Tamar_and_Judah_Horace_Vernet.jpg
Chagall.  http://www.davidsongalleries.com/artists/chagall/chagall-22475_tamar.jpg
Rembrant school.  http://www.residenzgalerie.at/uploads/tx_csimageexplorer/0570_Rembrandtschule.A5Augeheller_01.jpg
veiled woman.    http://www.womeninthebible.net/VeiledTunisianWoman1.JPG

1428.) Genesis 37

October 22, 2014

Genesis 37  (NRSV)

Joseph Dreams of Greatness

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Here begins one of the remarkable life stories of the Bible and all literature.   James Montgomery Boice has written:  “He was loved and hated, favored and abused, tempted and trusted, exalted and abased. Yet at no point in the one-hundred-and-ten-year life of Joseph did he ever seem to get his eyes off God or cease to trust him. Adversity did not harden his character. Prosperity did not ruin him. He was the same in private as in public. He was a truly great man.”

–David Guzik

"Joseph and His Coat"  by Suzanne Tornquist

“Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors” by Suzanne Tornquist

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age;

Jacob’s parents played favorites with their two boys, and now Jacob plays favorites with his sons.  Neither family functions happily as a result.

and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.

I have read that the Hebrew phrase here translates as “tunic of many colors” but means a long-sleeved robe.  Such a robe indicated a life of privilege and status.  A working man could not function in such a garment.

4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

“Yosef” by Israeli artist Orna Ben-Shoshan, 2003

5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.”

8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

“Joseph’s Dreams” by contemporary Floridian artist Susan Govatos

10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Luke 2:51 (New Living Translation)

Then Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers

12Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, 15and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’“

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits (a dry cistern); then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.

“Joseph is Sold by his Brothers” by Raphael, 1518 (The Vatican)

23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed.

“Joseph is sold by his brothers” by Friedrich Overbeck, 1816 (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin)

28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:14-15 (New Living Translation)

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests  and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.

And they took Joseph to Egypt.  29When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. 30He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?”

31Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. 32They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.”

A heartless way to bring the news and an unconscionable lie.  Yet one cannot deny the poetic justice here.  Jacob, who had once deceived his own father, is now deceived by his sons.

Art:

“Joseph’s Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob”  by Velazquez Diego, 1630, now in Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial, Spain.  Click  HERE.

33He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him.

36Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Egypt was a large and thriving kingdom for at least a thousand years before Joseph came. The Egyptians were wealthy and had massive natural resources. They were educated and had no real enemies at the time. When Joseph came to Egypt, some of the pyramids already looked old and the Sphinx was already carved. But in God’s eyes, the most impressive thing about Egypt was that Joseph was now there.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Coat of Many Colors,” written and sung by Dolly Parton; how a Bible story helped her through a difficult time in her childhood.

on DVD:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. With Donny Osmond, Maria Friedman. 1999.

Joseph. Starring Ben Kingsley, Paul Mercurio.  1995.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
drawing of Joseph’s colorful coat.  http://www.holytrinityglencraig.org/Images/Joseph.gif
Tornquist.    http://suzannetornquist.com/wp-content/gallery/spirituality/joseph-sm1.jpg
Ben-Shoshan.   http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/gen-37-ben-yosef.jpg?w=450
Govatos.  http://susangovatos.com/websites/SusanGovatos/works/7836_195035m.jpg
Raphael.  http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/josephsold.jpg?w=450&h=326
Overbeck.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_Overbeck_003.jpg
Sphinx and pyramid.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/40/Giza_Plateau_-_Great_Sphinx_with_Pyramid_of_Khafre_in_background.JPG

1427.) Genesis 36

October 21, 2014

Esau of stew-for-birthright fame.

Genesis 36   (NRSV)

Esau’s Descendants

This chapter testifies to the fertility, prosperity, and political power that Easu and his descendants find in their homeland of Edom.

–Linda B. Hinton

These are the descendants of Esau (that is, Edom). 2Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah daughter of Anah son of Zibeon the Hivite, 3and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebaioth. 4Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau; Basemath bore Reuel; 5and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

6Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle, all his livestock, and all the property he had acquired in the land of Canaan; and he moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. 7For their possessions were too great for them to live together; the land where they were staying could not support them because of their livestock. 8So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.

Hebrews 12:14-17 (New International Version)

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

9These are the descendants of Esau, ancestor of the Edomites, in the hill country of Seir. 10These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz son of Adah the wife of Esau; Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. 11The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. 12(Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son; she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.) These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife. 13These were the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These were the sons of Esau’s wife, Basemath. 14These were the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, daughter of Anah son of Zibeon: she bore to Esau Jeush, Jalam, and Korah.

Edom is shown in bright red. The darker red shows the area of Idumea, from Jesus’ time.

Clans and Kings of Edom

Edom and the Edomites are mentioned some 130 times in the Bible. They were an important group of “neighbors” to Israel.

  • When the Israelites came through the wilderness to the Promised Land in the time of Moses, the Edomites refused them passage through their land (Numbers 20:21). This was a source of great discouragement for the nation (Numbers 21:4).
  • Even so, God commanded special regard for the Edomites among Israel: You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother(Deuteronomy 23:7).
  • In the days of Saul, Edom was made subject to Israel (1 Samuel 14:47), and David established garrisons there (2 Samuel 8:14). But later, in the days of Joram, the son of Ahab, the Edomites became independent of Israel (2 Kings 8:16-22).
  • Several of the prophets spoke about and against Edom, including Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:17-18) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:12-14).
  • Herod the Great — the one who tried to kill the young child Jesus — was an Edomite.  From the time Islam conquered the Middle East, the region has been virtually unoccupied, except for a few Bedouins and military outposts. It had been brought to nothing, as Obadiah had prophesied (the entire book of Obadiah records an extended prophecy against Edom).

–David Guzik

15These are the clans of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: the clans Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16Korah, Gatam, and Amalek; these are the clans of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; they are the sons of Adah. 17These are the sons of Esau’s son Reuel: the clans Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah; these are the clans of Reuel in the land of Edom; they are the sons of Esau’s wife Basemath. 18These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah: the clans Jeush, Jalam, and Korah; these are the clans born of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 19These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their clans.

20These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan; these are the clans of the Horites, the sons of Seir in the land of Edom. 22The sons of Lotan were Hori and Heman; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 23These are the sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho, and Onam. 24These are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah; he is the Anah who found the springs in the wilderness, as he pastured the donkeys of his father Zibeon. 25These are the children of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah. 26These are the sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 27These are the sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan, and Akan. 28These are the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. 29These are the clans of the Horites: the clans Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan; these are the clans of the Horites, clan by clan in the land of Seir.

31These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. 32Bela son of Beor reigned in Edom, the name of his city being Dinhabah. 33Bela died, and Jobab son of Zerah of Bozrah succeeded him as king. 34Jobab died, and Husham of the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king. 35Husham died, and Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king, the name of his city being Avith. 36Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah succeeded him as king. 37Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates succeeded him as king. 38Shaul died, and Baal-hanan son of Achbor succeeded him as king. 39Baal-hanan son of Achbor died, and Hadar succeeded him as king, the name of his city being Pau; his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Me-zahab.

40These are the names of the clans of Esau, according to their families and their localities by their names: the clans Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel, and Iram; these are the clans of Edom (that is, Esau, the father of Edom), according to their settlements in the land that they held.

Romans 9:13 (New International Version)

Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Today’s passage is in Genesis 36, covering the generations of Esau’s children.  I continue to be focused on understanding what G-D means when He says, “Esau have I hated” as I listen to this passage.  Let’s see: 

  • Esau fathered numerous sons with his three wives (and we can safely assume that there were numerous daughters among his progeny, as well; daughters who are not mentioned because they did no remarkable acts that would cause them to be remembered specially AND because, in that culture, they would have been counted in the families of their husbands estates when they married out of their father’s household).
  • He is forced to move away from his brother (Israel), not because of smoldering resentments or family feuds, but simply because the land cannot support all of the people and livestock produced by the brothers.  Sounds like a good problem to me!
  • His sons and grandsons became kings and leaders of clans.  They built cities and developed territories — the local equivalent of nations in their time.
  • It seems they didn’t know the God of their great ancestors (Abraham and Isaac), or if they did, they turned away from that faith.  Again, I note that we are never told that G-D ever spoke with Esau.  The lands that they settled and developed were the highly productive lands of Canaan, which Israel’s descendants would later come to take by force, despising the pagan practices of their distant kin in that place and acting upon the direction they received by special revelation without ever questioning the logic or rightness of their actions.

This thing that the Bible describes as hatred looks like something completely different from what we think of as humans when we use the same word.  We think about punishment when we use the word hatred.  It’s not clear to me that G-D meant any such thing when He chose the word.

To an astounding degree, we humans continue to be guilty of the sin of Esau, just the same as the descendants of Israel were when they entered the land beyond the Jordan in the lust of conquest.  We are more intent upon satisfying our appetites and needs than we are on preserving the peace and well-being of the whole family of humankind.  We will sell off our future and all of the incumbent responsibilities/privileges in order to enjoy the satisfaction of our present impulse.

Strangely or not, every problem that plagues our 21st century world can really be traced back to this same type of offense at its root. 

Only Jesus found a different way to deal with human need and impulse.  He didn’t take, He didn’t clamor, He didn’t assert His rights, He simply trusted Abba God to make things come out right.  Granted, I believe He knew His calling and God’s plan when He took His stand, but there He stood.  And even in that knowing, I find guidance.  If I am not equally assured of the unshakable commitment of Abba God in my choice, then I want to exercise discretion until that comes. 

I can’t find another authentically altruistic model anywhere, however much I watch for one.

–Cat Bismuth

_________________________

Music:

Are we not “Lost in Wonder”  by all of what Jesus has done for us?  This song is by Martyn Layzell, a Curate at Holy Trinity Brompton, an Anglican Church in Central London.  HERE  is an encouragement to make the choice every day to follow Christ!

_________________________

 

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Esau and the stew pot.    http://dailycat.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/artworkesau3.jpg
map.    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/28/Edom.PNG/200px-Edom.PNG

1426.) Genesis 35

October 20, 2014

Gen35 here_i_am_to_worship

Genesis 35   (NRSV)

Jacob Returns to Bethel

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”

After the horrible episode in Shechem, God calls Jacob to return to Him.  God tells Jacob to build an altar, to turn away from his own way (or his children’s ways) to God’s way.

2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your clothes; 3then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

After Jacob makes the decision to purify himself and return to God’s will, he tells his family to do the same.  We remember that Rachel had stolen Laban’s gods; did the poor example of the mother influence the household for wrong-doing?

4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak that was near Shechem. 5As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them.

Oh, the joy and the freedom of knowing that, by the gift of grace, you are right with God!

6Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

8And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon-bacuth.

Deborah must have been dearly loved.  The name means “Oak of Weeping.”

9God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. 11God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him.

14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. 15So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

So Jacob returns to God.  He repents and worships God.  God blesses him, reminding him of the promise given to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham and repeated to Jacob’s father Isaac.  The offering shows Jacob’s gratitude for God’s lovingkindness.

Reflection:

Where have you been when God has spoken to you?

What have you done to commemorate it, and to worship?

_________________________

Music:

Sometimes I get happy just thinking about worshiping with all the saints in heaven — with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!  And my mother and father!  And Jesus there!  HERE  is “Here I Am to Worship.”

_________________________

The Birth of Benjamin and the Death of Rachel

“Birth of Benjamin and death of Rachel” (The Vatican, Sala dei Patriarchi)

16Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17When she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.” 18As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow); but his father called him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”).

The right side was associated with greater strength and honor, because most people are right handed. Benjamin therefore has the idea of “son of my strength” or “son of my honor.”

The idea is expressed in passages like Exodus 15:6: Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.

The Lord is our strength and honor, as in Psalm 16:8: I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

God’s strength and honor are for us: My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me (Psalm 138:7).

Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, the position of strength and honor, and we sit there with Him! If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).

–David Guzik

19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.

Rachel’s Tomb, photograph from the 1860’s

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (King James Version)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die.

Rachel’s Tomb, current photo.

21Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.

Reuben commits adultery with Bilhah.  This is not just an act of passion, but is an attempt by Reuben to gain power over Jacob or to take his father’s place as head of the family.  Through their sin, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi have “disqualified” themselves from the high calling of Abraham’s blessing. It will be up to the fourth son, Judah, to bring forth the Messiah.

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.23The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.

24The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.

25The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali.

26The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

The Death of Isaac

27Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided as aliens. 28Now the days of Isaac were one hundred eighty years. 29And Isaac breathed his last; he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

The reconciliation earlier had long-lasting and positive effects.  Here the two sons do the right thing together for their father.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Here I am to worship.    http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs70/i/2010/289/5/e/here_i_am_to_worship_by_loveisarevolution-d30wrxx.jpg
Vatican frescoes.    http://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/birthbenjamin_5.jpg?w=450
right hand print.   http://www.clker.com/cliparts/c/5/1/6/1194984651288787994right_hand_print_benji_p_01.svg.med.png
Rachel’s Tomb, old.    http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Rachel_Tomb.jpg
Rachel’s Tomb, now.    http://www.rachelstomb.org/fortress1.jpg

1425.) Genesis 34

October 17, 2014

Genesis 34   (NRSV)

The Rape of Dinah

I offer this sad story to you without interruption.

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. 2When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. 3And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her. 4So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl to be my wife.”

5Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.

6And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, 7just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

8But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. 9Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it.”

11Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.”

13The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. 16Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 17But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”

18Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. 20So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21“These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. 22Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us.”

24And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

Dinah’s Brothers Avenge Their Sister

25On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. 26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. 27And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey.

30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.”

31But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”

_________________________

Music:

Dinah does not speak at all in this chapter.  One Jewish tradition has it that, after this event,  Dinah never spoke another word for the rest of her life.  For Dinah and all those who are suffering and without a voice:  HERE  is  “He Knows My Name”  by  Maranatha Singers.

Books:

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont, 1997. A story of the women in Jacob’s household, told from Dinah’s point of view.

The Son of Laughter, by Frederick Buechner, 1993. Jacob looks back on his life and his family.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Images courtesy of:
Stop Rape poster.   http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w111/MOE_harrypotter_fan/Men%20can%20stop%20rape/mencanstoprape5.jpg

1424.) Genesis 33

October 16, 2014

“Oh, my brother!”

Genesis 33   (NRSV)

Jacob and Esau Meet

Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother. 4But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

“The Reunion of Jacob and Esau,” by Italian painter Francesco Hayez, 1844 (Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia, Italy)

5When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down.

8Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” 9But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. 11Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.”

Esau says, “I have enough.”  Jacob says, “I have everything I want.”  They have the right attitude!

1 Timothy 6:6 (New International Version)

Godliness with contentment is great gain.

So he urged him, and he took it.

In that ancient culture, one never accepted a gift from an enemy, only from a friend.  To accept the gift was to accept the friendship.

12Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” 13But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. 14Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?”

16So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

Jacob Reaches Shechem

18Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. 19And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

Upper: Jacob negotiates the purchase of the field in which he had pitched his tents. Lower: Jacob told of the rape of his daughter Dinah. Nave mosaics from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

_________________________

Music:

Oh, to be guided by God!  HERE  is Take My Hand, Precious Lord, recorded by Elvis Presley in 1957.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Jacob meets Esau, black and white.     http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Treasures%20of%20the%20Bible%20(Genesis)/images/scan0026.jpg
Hayez.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b2/Francesco_Hayez_061.jpg/350px-Francesco_Hayez_061.jpg
Mosaics.   http://www.paradoxplace.com/Perspectives/Rome%20&%20Central%20Italy/Rome/Rome_Churches/Santa_Maria_Maggiore/Santa_Maria_Maggiore_Nave_Mosiacs/Nave_Images/800/S16-Jacob-May05-DS2885sAR800.jpg

1423.) Genesis 32

October 15, 2014

“Jacob Wrestling with the Angel,” by Gustave Dore, 1855.

Genesis 32  (NRSV)

Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; 2and when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called that place Mahanaim.

Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau

3Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, 4instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; 5and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’“

6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, 8thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”

9And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ 10I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies.

Reflection:

But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
–Matthew 8:8

Mary said, “The Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.  The Mighty One has done great things for me.”
–Luke 1:48-49

Our unworthiness.  God’s love and faithfulness.  The favor of the Mighty One.  How do they all fit together in our lives?

11Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’“

13So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.”

17He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’“

19He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, 20and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’“ For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.

Proverbs 18:16 (New International Version)

A gift opens the way for the giver.

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

“Jacob Wrestling the Angel,” by contemporary American artist Karen Laub-Novak.

22The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

“Battle of Jacob and an Angel” by Jan Spychalski, 1946 (National Museum, Poznan, Poland)

25When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw

BROKEN VESSELS

It is God who wrestled with Jacob.  God is always the initiator in our liberation.  And before he blessed Jacob, he touched Jacob’s thigh.  God has to break a person before that person will surrender.  The Christian community really ought to talk more about surrender than about consecration, because human beings resist God to the end and then must ask him to break the resistance and take control of their lives and hearts.  God broke Jacob so he had a crippled leg, and then God came and began to bless him.

I never knew a person who was filled with the Holy Ghost who did not have some brokenness in him.  We want to stand straight and be self-contained and poised, but God cannot use us or bless us when we are in that position.  He wants to break us so that instead of our own power, we have the Holy Spirit’s power.  Are you willing to be broken for him?  This is the toughest of all battles, but it determines whether we will be free or in bondage.

We need to have our own Peniel where we meet Jesus face-to-face.  We must see ourselves for what we truly are.  We must cry out to God for heart cleansing, and we must let him come and fill us with His Spirit.  We must allow him to break us so he can make us into prevailers, conquerors, and overcomers.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is The Oslo Gospel Choir and “All to Jesus I Surrender,” a popular hymn first published in 1896.

________________________

26Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

27So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

Jacob demands and receives a blessing.  This blessing comes in the form of a name change.  Instead of being called Jacob (he supplants; see Genesis 25:23-26) he is now called Israel (God strives, or striver with God).  A name change is symbolic of a new identity and a new way of life.  Jacob has striven both with God and with human beings (particularly with Esau and Laban).  He has proved himself an able and willing striver who no longer will need to resort to deceit or seek to supplant anyone.

–Linda B. Hinton

29Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”

But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

30So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

"Jacob Wrestling the Angel"  by Edward Knippers

“Jacob Wrestling the Angel” by Edward Knippers

Lord, I cannot let Thee go,
Till a blessing Thou bestow:
Do not turn away Thy face,
Mine’s an urgent, pressing case.

Dost Thou ask me who I am?
Ah! my Lord, Thou know’st my name;
Yet the question gives a plea
To support my suit with Thee.

Thou didst once a wretch behold,
In rebellion blindly bold,
Scorn Thy grace, Thy power defy:
That poor rebel, Lord, was I.

Once a sinner, near despair,
Sought Thy mercy seat by prayer;
Mercy heard, and set him free:
Lord, that mercy came to me.

Many days have passed since then,
Many changes I have seen;
Yet have been upheld till now;
Who could hold me up but Thou?

Thou hast helped in every need;
This emboldens me to plead:
After so much mercy past,
Canst Thou let me sink at last?

No, I must maintain my hold;
’Tis Thy goodness makes me bold;
I can no denial take,
When I plead for Jesus’ sake.

–John Newton

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Dore.  http://www.cyberhymnal.org/img/j/a/c/Jacob%20Wrestling%20with%20an%20Angel,%20by%20Gustave%20Dore.jpg
Novak.   http://www.washingtonartsgroup.org/images/May%202003%20Russia%20Images/Novak-Jacob%20Wrestling%20the%20Angel.JPG
Spychalski.   http://artyzm.com/e_obraz.php?id=1749
hurting thigh.  http://www.chanorthopaedics.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Piriformis_Syndrome.jpg
Knippers.    http://edwardknippers.com/wp-content/gallery/new-works_large/jacob_wrestling_the_angel.jpg

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