Friday, January 7, 2011

Genesis 24-25 Out with the Old...

Genesis 24

Abraham gives up the ghost, but not before knocking out a few more kids with a new wife.

Isaac takes a wife.

Two nations in one womb.


  1. So how do you pronounce Esau? I always said EE-sow but I guess it's something like eh-suh.

    The Hebrew is עשו, the last character (vav) can signify either a "v" consonant or a vowel.

  2. Had to laugh at "gave up the ghost." It sounded so flip. Didn't know that came from the bible.

  3. I always heard it pronounced EE-saw, but it's quite possible that was a mangled Midwest pronunciation.

  4. No, I grew up mostly on the East coast and we always said EE-saw too. Of course, that may have nothing to do with how it's pronounced in Hebrew.

  5. Ya i have always used and was taught the EE-saw was as well.

    A few audio Bibles for those hard to say words
    Audio Bible online

    Audio Treasure Nice music to it :-D

    Audio Treasure voice only
    Might help with those names. Maybe?

  6. That's what I've always heard too, David.

    I found it interesting that Abraham had another wife and six more sons that never get talked about, not to mention all of the "sons of concubines."

    There is so much made these days of the sanctity of marriage, marriage being between a man and a woman, and only having sex with your husband/wife, but there is *so much* in the old testament (and possibly the new, we haven't gotten that far yet) that completely defies these conventions. It's a thread I'll be interested to follow throughout the bible.

  7. OK. I'm not sure what this says about me, but I'm fascinated with the 'hand under the thigh' thing. I've never of heard this before in my life!

    I looked around a little on the Internet and it seems this was a way of denoting a covenant or solemn vow. It was a place you wouldn't normally place your hand (unless you were REALLY good friends!) and thus conveyed a special meaning. One commenter implied it actually meant touching the other person's junk (possibly to be sure they were circumcised?) I'm not making this up.

    Anyone with any insight into this practice?

  8. One commenter implied it actually meant touching the other person's junk (possibly to be sure they were circumcised?) I'm not making this up.

    They aint :-*

    My Oxford Study Bible actually mentions that "thigh" is possibly a euphemism for "male genitalia". It's not just a crackpot theory.

    There is a lot about the Israelites we don't know!

  9. Esau is a great character. I kind of see him as Lenny from Of Mice and Men. "I like ketchup on my pottage, George, I like ketchup." "Give me a blessing too, George, give me a blessing too." He's big, strong and dumb as dirt; How unfortunate that he had to contend with a tricky little guy like Jacob.

  10. I can't help but notice we're told nothing about *why* Rebekah agrees to go with the servant. Does she even know, at this point, that she's going to get married, or to whom?

    I'm guessing there are two ways she could have figured it out: (1) by the jewelry, or (2) because she was in the room when the servant tells his story (Gen. 24:51, "Rebekah is before thee"). But I find it maddeningly unclear, and I suspect there's an element of "whatever, the woman's knowledge isn't important, God totes made her say that so Isaac would have the right wife" in the storytelling.

    Also: did anyone else notice that, even though both Abraham and the servant mention an angel will "go before" the servant (24:7 and 24:40), that angel is not actually connected to the text in any way? In both cases, it's "an angel will go before thee, AND you'll find a wife for Isaac." Not "an angel will point her out to you," or even "an angel going before thee will somehow cause you to find her." The angel and the wife-finding are independent clauses. What's up with that?

    (Possibly just a literary convention or a quirk of translating from the Hebrew. I'm just wondering: if every jot and tittle of the Bible is supposed to be divinely inspired, what is said divinity up to in making these clauses independent and not related?)

  11. @David
    In Matthew Henry's Commentary he writes

    "And some think honour is done to the covenant of circumcision by the ceremony here used of putting his hand under his thigh."
    And that is all that is said.

    @Valerie "I found it interesting that Abraham had another wife and six more sons that never get talked about, not to mention all of the "sons of concubines.""

    Yes this is another area where we will see things done that are talked down about today. I am glad you brought that up, it makes me think about it and do more study to give a good answer for 1. why it was allowed, 2. why it is not allowed any more. I just don't have anything on that right now.

  12. Look at us, we're discussing the text again!

    @Dani: Definitely, a lot of this stuff in the patriarchs story seems to be like the writers saying "Here's some stuff that happened to our ancestors in order for us (Israel) to exist as a nation today, but it was always just Yahweh moving them around like chess pieces because this is exactly the way he wanted things to be." Maybe that's what's up with the barren matriarchs, the patriarchs/matriarch can't even take credit for their own pregnancies without Yahweh's intervention.

    And then Yahweh the matchmaker with the servant's saying "And she shall say 'Drink, and I will give thy camels to drink also.'" - Kind of a tangent but: In my churching days I once heard a female youth pastor at an Evangelical church tell a room of teenagers about how she was inspired by Gen. 24 to ask God to select a husband for her. She prayed for God to make the right guy ask her 2 random questions (something like how she put toilet paper rolls on and squeezed toothpaste tubes) She told her friends about this plan. Eventually some guy walked right up to her and asked her the 2 questions verbatim first thing. Can you imagine that guy's conversation with her friends. "Hey your friend's pretty cute, what can you tell me about her?" "Dude, it's your lucky day."

  13. I think this is a really cool passage in Chapter 24. It's showing once again that when God makes a covenant (the one with Abraham) he keeps it. God always does what is good, right, and perfect (with respect to His holiness, not's easy for us to lose perspective on that) and when he makes a covenant it is made so that his character and holiness will be made known.

  14. @Brian - As for the "women can't take credit for babymaking without God" bit, I find it amusing that, after Sarah dies, Abraham has a bunch more kids by a different wife. Yet then we never see these kids again. I guess they weren't a part of God's plan to make a "nation" or two out of Abraham? Apparently, Hagar's kid and Sarah's kid count, but Keturah's kids don't.

    God apparently never promises to make a nation out of Keturah's kids, which makes me wonder why he placated Abraham with the news about Isaac and Ishmael in the first place. Surely Omniscient God(TM) could have just said, "dude, shut up, I'll give you kids eventually"? Wouldn't that have been a much greater test of Abraham's faith than "not only will you have kids but they will be SUPERKIDS (but not all of them)"?

    Not to mention a greater test of faith than the Isaac-as-sacrifice story. Having pondered that one for the last day or so, I'm beginning to think that Abraham's "great faith" that God won't actually make him off his kid makes ZERO sense. God just asked Abraham to do what every deity in the place asked for. He did not differentiate himself as a more compassionate/loving/no-really-don't-kill-your-kids-for-me God than any other God in the neighborhood.

    Thus, I think it far more likely that Abraham's "faith" would actually have been (a) unnecessary, given that "sacrifice your kid" would have been evidence that this deity WAS a deity and therefore not something Abraham would have needed to "believe," and (b) not likely, given that Abraham, at that point, has no evidence that God is going to say "on second thought, I don't need your kid." There is, at least at that point, no "not-my-kid" option to have faith *in.* Rather, all the evidence points to "normal kid-taking God."

    (Which raises the question: would Abraham have been so keen to jump when God said so if he'd really believed he wouldn't have to go through with it, or that God would not smite him if he didn't?)

  15. @Dani—I think it's more in line with the narrative's argument to suggest that the entire point is that God is unlike other gods; has Abraham paid close enough attention to God's previous actions to discern that? Has he learned the lessons of God consistently opening the door to mercy instead of judgment, as in the cases of Abram's mistakes in Egypt, mercy shown to Lot's family, the opportunity to bargain for a city, etc.? While all of those were seen in the discussions hereabouts as unmerciful acts, in context they read to me more as signposts noting that God is not hellbent on bringing destruction. He's teaching Abraham about the ways he's different from the other gods Abram grew up with. (Note: I'm not even engaging with the external question of whether we agree with the text; I'm simply trying to point at what the text is actually pointing at.)

    @Valerie—there is certainly plenty in the life of Abraham that raises questions on sexual morality, etc. However, I don't think Keturah really brings anything to that discussion: Sarah was, after all, dead when Abraham married Keturah. Nowhere does Scripture have a problem with remarriage after the death of a spouse!

    The concubine issue is separate but related issue that we'll continue to discuss that one for a long time, as it's central all the way up through Solomon, and the narratives develop significantly in some interesting ways and offer some interesting if subtle commentary along the way.

    @Brian Hitt—Hooray for the text! I've known some Christians with similar attitudes to what you've described when it came to dating/marriage. I'm... not in that group. :p Even as a quite devout, conservative Christian, that point of view didn't really make sense in the Biblical framework. One thing a lot of Christians tend to forget is that the Biblical record doesn't spend a lot of time on ordinary Joes in their ordinary lives... so they overapply texts in ways that don't make sense. Like here: God had a unique, special way of getting a wife for Isaac. All evidence (about even the extraordinary individuals, among whom I certainly do not number) in the rest of Scripture to the contrary, that clearly means that God will have a miraculous sign for my marriage as well! *sigh*

    From the inside, one of the problems I see with evangelical Christianity is its flippancy about things like this. When God speaks in the Bible, it's a pretty big deal, and with a few, very rare exceptions, it's almost always about events and circumstances of much larger consequences than who I should date... It's also clear and unambiguous, unlike the subjective impressions on which many Christians today base their decision-making, saying "God told me so!" when what they really mean is, "I have a feeling that this is a good/bad idea!"

    This, too, is a topic I suspect we'll hit on throughout this project: whether Christians in general handle the text even on the terms they claim to (inerrancy, sufficiency, etc.). Should be a good discussion.

  16. This hand on the thigh talk definitely triggers some dim memory I have of learning (reading?) about a society where the men would hold each other's scrota when sealing a compact. Unfortunately, a dim memory is all it is.

  17. Few thoughts,

    1. Rebecca's paternal grandmother, Milcah, is named which is a bit unusual for Biblical genealogies. Rebecca is also Isaac's first cousin once and twice removed (Milcah was his first cousin and Nahor, Milcah's husband, was his uncle).

    2. Keturah's children are the names of various Arabian tribes (note Sheba). Some Jewish sources consider Keturah another name for Hagar though others consider them distinct.

    3. Ishmael is, like Jacob his nephew, the father of twelve tribes. (Twelve like seven seem to be important Biblical numbers).

    4. Both Isaac and Ishmael bury their father beside Sarah. This despite Isaac, the second born, inheriting everything. No mention of the other sons at the burial so I wonder whether we have two sources merging here (one that knows of the other sons and one that doesn't).

  18. Chris' comments reminded me of something so I'm going to go back to the sacrifice of Isaac for a minute. It reminds me of "The Taming of the Shrew." Kate is a great role for an actress and much fun to play but you always end up coming up against the very uncomfortable last speech - the "place your hand under your husband's foot" speech. When I played Kate it took me forever to find a way to become comfortable with that speech. And what I finally came up with is that when she makes that speech both she and Petruchio know that there's no way he's going to do anything but lift her up to stand beside him. They've been through the wringer and they've come to an understanding and now they're demonstrating that understanding within their cultural context. And maybe it's the same with God and Abraham. They have just almost come to a complete understanding and in this exercise God is demonstrating his belief that Abraham will trust him and Abraham is demonstrating his belief that God will be just and merciful. They kind of both know how it's going to turn out and the going though the motions teaches an important lesson about God and man.

    Okay, back to the topic of the day . . .

  19. Wow there is so much in Ch. 25 too! God once again keeps his covenant with Abraham (Isaac having sons continuing Abraham's lineage).

    When Jacob is named, he is named b/c he is grabbing the heal of Jacob. I think this is a foresight of Jacob supplanting Esau as the heir of Isaac's birthright.

    My question is, why would Esau hate his birthright so much that he would sell it for lentil soup?

    any takers?

  20. @Valerie
    Yes God does take care of this many wives thing
    Deuteronomy 17:17
    Sorry i knew about this but just forgot. I was talking to my brother and he mentioned about Solomon gaining many wives, and God told them not to do that. Then i remembered. We will talk more about that when we get to it.

  21. @Matt33
    I am just going to quote Matthew Henry's Commentary
    "He did eat and drink, pleased his palate, satisfied his cravings, congratulated himself on the good meal's meat he had had, and then carelessly rose up and went his way, without any serious reflections upon the bad bargain he had made, or any show of regret. Thus Esau despised his birthright; he used no means at all to get the bargain revoked, made no appeal to his father about it, nor proposed to his brother to compound the matter; but the bargain which his necessity had made (supposing it were so) his profaneness confirmed ex post facto -- after the deed; and by his subsequent neglect and contempt he did, as it were, acknowledge a fine, and by justifying himself in what he had done he put the bargain past recall. Note, People are ruined, not so much by doing what is amiss, as by doing it and not repenting of it, doing it and standing to it."

    I hope that helps.

  22. I would also like to make mention of another attribute of God. In verse 44:45 the servant of Abraham is praying. Unlike the account of the young lady that Brian Hitt mentioned. The difference is the person Brian Hitt tells us about "She told her friends about this plan." in verse 45 this servant says "And before i had done speaking in mine heart, behold Rebekah came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder;"
    Nobody knew what this servant was praying for, except God.
    Isaiah 65:24 and Matthew 6:8

    As for the angel
    Hebrews 1:13,14

    And about Esau and that birthright you can read Hebrews 12:16-17 as well.

    Have a great evening everyone.

  23. I googled "hand under the thigh" and a source written by a Rabbi said it may mean that the servant was swearing his fealty to Abraham by holding a sacred object: ie the circumcised penis. Never heard that in Sunday school!

    I did hear a lot about Jacob and Esau in SS and always felt Jacob and his mom were pretty sneaky and underhanded in the way they treated the poor big brother. I know it is covered in the text as God's will that Jacob should be served by Esau but even as a child I felt the unfairness of it.

  24. Gen 24:2-9
    Abraham: "Servant, grab my balls and swear not to let my son marry a Canaanite!"
    I lol'd at the SAB's explanation of this

  25. hdauria - Love the Shakespeare connection. As a fellow stage performer, any connections to dramatic interperetation fascinate me.

  26. I never knew about the Jacob/Esau story. Jacob's kind of a dick.

  27. @AllNats - Yay! Glad I'm not the only one . . . :)

  28. When Jacob is named, he is named b/c he is grabbing the heal of Jacob. I think this is a foresight of Jacob supplanting Esau as the heir of Isaac's birthright.

    That's a folk-etymology for the name Jacob, the story was constructed around it. It's deliberate foreshadowing.

    My question is, why would Esau hate his birthright so much that he would sell it for lentil soup?

    So the author could make a pun about the word "red" (related to the word "Edom").

    The oddly hairy Esau in the later story is just so he can make a pun about Seir.

    It's a well-crafted story.

  29. I noticed that dwellings are referred to as belonging to women, first Milcah's house and then Sarah's tent. I'm sure that property rights weren't viewed the same way as they are now, especially among nomadic people, and this probably didn't give the women much power. But it is interesting to hear it that way when everything else, including land, livestock, "servants", and children are generally referred to as belonging to men.

  30. @bananacat1 - I also find it interesting that although the Israelite religion is patriarchal, in Orthodox Judaism whether you're a Jew or not is decided by whether your mother is. If your mother is a Jew you are, no matter who your father is, and if she's not, you're not. I had this conversation once with a friend who is Orthodox and could't understand how my neighbor's kid could be having a bar mitzvah because his father is Jewish but his mother isn't. She flat-out argued that it was meaningless because no matter how much Hebrew school he went to, the kid wasn't Jewish.