Sunday, January 9, 2011

Genesis 29-31

Genesis 29

The descendants of Abraham continue to make bad deals.

Jacob and his wives bear much fruit.

Jacob run away again.


  1. All right. I suppose that one concept of blogging is to throw out three sentences and then let your commenters actually analyze the reading, but I'd like to encourage you to write more than three sentences. "Jacob run away again" doesn't say much to me. How did you feel when you read these verses? How does it fit with what you were taught in your Catholic background? Why not write more?

  2. 30:38-41 Genetic manipulation? This guy knew how to cause spots,speckles, and ringstrakes to be on the calves.

    Also note the birthright deal that Jacob did to Esau, well now Laban gets him with the daughters. He will have to work 14 years when he had agreed to 7. Reap what you sow Galatians 6:7.

  3. Something about polygamy.
    Note, One sin is commonly the inlet of another. Those that go in by one door of wickedness seldom find their way out but by another. The polygamy of the patriarchs was, in some measure, excusable in them, because, though there was a reason against it as ancient as Adam's marriage(Malachi 2:15), yet there was no express command against it; it was in them a sin of ignorance. It was not the product of any sinful lust, but for the building up of the church, which was the good that Providence brought out of it; but it will by no means justify the like practice now, when God's will is plainly made know, that one man and one woman only must be joined together, 1 Corinthians 7:2. The having of many wives suits well enought with the carnal sensual spirit of the Mahomedan imposture, which allows it; but we have not so learned Christ.

  4. Jude, you're right.
    As an excuse, once I saw the exchange going on in the comments I felt there were people more informed than me to offer insight.
    While I don't have the scholastic depth of someone like betterthanesdras or, for that matter, the desire for that kind of depth, I'll try to include more personal opinion. On the other hand, I don't wan't to overly influence the discussion before it starts.
    Thanks for the comment.

  5. While reading this I felt like I was reading some weird kind of porno. Also with the breeding of sheep I felt it was the first time so far someone has taken "the word of God" and used slight of hand to manipulate things around them to make it seem divine. There has been other events that have happened that someone could say the person was using Gods word to get their way but in those cases you could say the person was just really gullible and believed it was God doing it.

  6. @Edward

    I don't want to get sidetracked into a debate about polygamy, though polygamy is quite a feature of these chapters, I'm incredulous of this line from the MHC:

    "it (polygamy) was in them a sin of ignorance. It was not the product of any sinful lust"

    I mean, really? Repeatedly the patriarchs are lying about the identity of their wives. "What, my wife??, oh, heavens no ... she's my, uhm, my ... sister! Yea that's it!" Why? because their wife is so lovely, other men might kill for her. Unless he wants to attribute this behavior to the monotony of their times and/or a dearth of available board games, I'm going to have to conclude it's lust pure and simple.

    I also thought the genetic manipulation idea is interesting. The writers seem to be trying to devise explanations for the seemingly (to them) unexplainable differences of the flocks. It strikes me they were looking, even then, for natural explanations of phenomena they couldn't understand. Makes you wonder how many poplar trees were sacrificed in ages since testing the hypothesis!


  7. @Bruce

    Trust me, no one here feels less informed than me. I just spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what a "Mahomedan imposture" is. (best I can figure it's non-Christian prophets - like Mohammed - stealing people away from Christianity through deception and lies). That's 20 minutes I won't get back.

    Short story long - jump on in! We'd love to hear what your thoughts are!


  8. Chapter 29 is a J story that ends with the first four sons of Jacob (ie tribes of Israel) being born.

    I'll point out that Simeon, Reuben, and Judah happen to be the three southern-mostest tribes. (Levi represents the Levites, a priestly class without their own land.)

    I'll also point out that neither Simeon, Judah, or Levi are present in the earliest "list o' tribes", from the Song of Deborah.

    And unsurprisingly, each son's name is explained with a folk-etymology Hebrew pun. (If I were God crafting the most important book ever I would not include details that are lost in any translation. DEAR GOD: PUNS DON'T TRANSLATE.)

    Chapter 30 is mostly E (notice its now God, not LORD) and continues the birthings. First Issachar. Dinah (the only girl! And not a tribe. Obviously. Girls can't be tribes!) Then Joseph (who represents the tribes Ephraim and Manasseh, and dresses like a fruitcake.) These tribes neatly make up the middle region of the country. (Coincidence???)

    Weird story about goats.

    31 is E's version of the goat story... like his version of Abimelech's story, he uses J's tale as a jumping-off point to spin a yarn about dreams. And household gods. Apparently E doesn't like teraphim.

    (Sorry about this being so long, once I get started I get sucked in. Laban uses Aramaic??? NO STOP GO TO BED.)

  9. I too was expecting more content in the posts themselves... but the comment threads are so busy I said whatever, this works. It would be pretty hard for one person to go in-depth at this reading pace. This is definitely a group effort!

    Just to be clear, I do NOT have scholastic depth. I have a couple books under my belt, a couple references at my fingertips, and too much free time.

  10. @betterthanesdras - I love your commentary, makes me laugh and saves me from having to go look up the documentary hypothesis as we go through this.

    When I was reading Genesis 29:29-30:24, I couldn't stop giggling. It read like some kind of bizarre sex/birthing tug of war (especially in the NIV). Also, apparently Jacob is a whore, whose "services" can be bought by mandrakes o.O

  11. @betterthanesdras - "Dinah (the only girl! And not a tribe. Obviously. Girls can't be tribes!)"

    Of course not! Next you'll be saying that ladytypes can, like, give birth or something. Pfft!

    Less flippantly - maybe this is just my inner feminist talking, but does anyone else feel like the only difference between "Jacob builds a family" and "Jacob builds a flock" is that the human offspring get names?

  12. @Dani: "anyone else feel like the only difference between "Jacob builds a family" and "Jacob builds a flock" is that the human offspring get names?"

    Love it! I'm rereading it just to appreciate the parallel.

  13. @betterthanesdras,

    Would you mind explaining what all the puns are from the names of Jacob's sons? I enjoy a good pun, and I also think it would be insightful.

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  15. But, esdras, you grasp what you read and are able to express it clearly and succinctly to the rest of us, which is a skill in itself. I LOVE getting more insight into how things are structured in the original Hebrew so you can't throw out too much of that for me!

  16. @bananacat1,

    Most Bibles have lots of notes at the bottom in this particular section. Every single name used for Jacob's sons sounds like or is a Hebrew word that relates to the circumstances of the birth. So, for example, "Reuben" (the firstborn of all the children) means like "Look! A son!" and sounds like the Hebrew for "He has seen my misery." Leah's words in the text are: "She named him Reuben, for she said, 'The LORD heard has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.' "

    There are several other names in the OT where the meaning has extra significance: for example, Isaac means "he laughs". Most Bibles put these in the textual notes at the bottom of the page, but if you're reading online they may be a bit harder to find. They'll be there though.

  17. Puns don't translate! LOL

    Is is just me, or does anyone else expect a more timeless and less culturally specific revelation from an all knowing deity? Perhaps divinely inspired annotations at the least.

  18. I'd like to see more input from Bruce as well. This will soon become a forum instead of a blog if we're not careful. I encourage Bruce to give his opinions and ask questions about stuff that doesn't make sense. It's more like Bruce is the director of conversation. That way we can stay focused on a few select topics.

  19. We are all interested in the bible, its history and its impact on society. I enjoy having that thematic question of the day to ponder and bring it all together.

    As for the text: my my what a busy fellow that Jacob is! and a geneticist too.

    And then there's Esau: see I knew he was the good guy; all forgiving and missing his little brother all this time.

    For the other women out there have you read "the Red Tent"? Fab fictionalized account of all this. Love the "custom of women is upon me" such a nicer turn of phrase don't you think?

  20. oops, spoiler alert; I'm ahead of myself again with Esau!

  21. @David
    I am a man and i to agree with it was lust. I know how some people want to hold the patriarchs up on high pedestals, however i see they are human just like you and i. Yes God used them, and yes they did things that were wrong, however if God would only use people that were perfect... well nothing would ever get done. Everyone excluding Jesus Christ (we will get to Him this year as well) has sinned and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23. It's just an example to this fallen man that God will use you if you want Him to. Even with all my screw-ups.

    Looks to me like the wealthier you are the easier it is to get more wives.

    Also remember this sex with the ladies happened over 20 year time span. Not a weekend orgy. :-D

  22. @momofatheists - I loved "The Red Tent." Especially the characterization of Sarah. I thought of that all through these last chapters.

    @Edward - well, I guess you need to be wealthier to feed all those people. The more wives you have the more people you need to support.

    I love the characterization that Professor Hayes from the Yale courses gives about the sometimes bad behavior of the Patriarchs. God made people then chose to give them free will. Then he realized that, like any parent, he was going to have to punt once in a while. People with free will won't always react the way you want them to and you won't always anticipate everything they do. So each time the kids screw up, God has to say, "Okay, I thought this would be obvious, but . . . you can't do that!"

    Of course, that comes from the point of view that God is dealing more with the big picture at that time, and not really with the minute details of everyone's lives.

  23. @hdauria
    Or the more hands you have to help with the livestock that don't have names. :-D

    You are onto something, God has the eternal perspective of time, so He knows where He needs us to be (Proverbs 16:9). The things we do in life that are wrong prepare us for the work He has prepared for us. Ephesians 2:10.

  24. Oops forgot to add

    and also the good things we do in this life prepare us as well.

  25. @David
    I would like to extend my apologies to you on the waste of time that i caused you. When i first read about "Mahomedan imposture" it was on the page like Ma-
    homedan. So i was like what is a Ma-homedan?. It was not until i typed it back out that i read it... then read it again. Smoke filled the room, and then it came back to me from my readings of the founding of America that this was a name they called Muslim people back in the day.
    So any words like that i come across again i will do my best to remember to leave a definition.

    Thanks. I am really enjoying this.

  26. @Edward

    No apologies necessary! I've been doing a lot of secondary reading with this project. I truly wasn't aggravated, just wanted to point out to Bruce that he shouldn't feel unqualified to jump into the discussions. I feel out of my depth as well, but am enjoying the process and learning a lot.