Common Thoughts (A Genesis Review 6)

The custom in ancient times (and in some places still now) was for parents to arrange marriages for their children. Here, in chapter 24 we find Abraham doing this for Isaac. Abraham was afraid Isaac would chose a Canaanite woman so he sends servants north to Haran where his brothers live to look for a wife for Isaac. End of story they find Rebekah.

At the ripe old age of 175 Abraham died. His two sons (though in later life he had many others) Isaac and Ishmael buried him in Hebron (formally Haran).

Years ago a favorite German author of mine, Ursula Hegi wrote The Vision of Emma Blau, that followed a woman who migrated to America building a home from which we follow several generation of that family. In Genesis chapters 25-36 we follow the story of Isaac and his children. Like all good stories there is plenty of color and intrigue beginning with the twin boys in Rebekah’s womb, Jacob and Esau.

It does turn out that God acts in our history, but not in ways that we find in those typical mythological stories. We see this first in the Flood account, then at the Tower of Babel, in doing whatever he did to make Sarah fertile, in stopping the fertility of Abimelek’s women, then returning it, again now with Rebekah who had difficulty getting pregnant. In this account we note this of interest about the babies in her womb:

The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her,“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25: 22-23.)

For the second time a famine hits the land and Isaac goes to the Philistine King Abimelek of Gerar, the same king that met with his father, Abraham. However God said to Isaac:

“Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live  Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions. So Isaac stayed in Gerar.” (Genesis 26:3-6.)

While your father, Abraham, went to Egypt during his time of famine, God tells Isaac, I want you to stay, and then God repeats the covenant to making this family a great and mighty nation in this land where they live. The Covenant is repeated generation after generation so it won’t be forgotten.

And now here we go again with a familiar family behavior, telling the king your wife is your sister out of fear he’ll take her anyway and kill you. Abimelek didn’t so easily fall for it this time and ordered his men not to touch Isaac or his wife. Isaac leaves Gerar and ends up in Beersheba where Abimelek comes and makes an alliance with him and the king says to Isaac: “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.” (verses 28-29.)

Of note here is that even if Abimelek doesn’t worship the God of Abraham, he certainly recognizes Him and believes He is a force to be reckoned with. Esau marries a Hittite woman upsetting his parents (familiar story?). Then we have some family intrigue with Jacob stealing the blessing of his father from Esau, a blessing that always went to the first son so Esau being a twin to Jacob he must have come out first.

More intrigue ensues with everyone hating Jacob and he causing nothing but trouble. Now after Laban tries to kill Jacob he ends up making a treaty with him. Later, Jacob makes his way to meet his brother, Esau. Along the way he stops for the night. We come now to a very interesting account:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

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

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Genesis 32:24-30.)

We are back to a Melchizedek kind of character. Is this just another man? The story doesn’t lend itself to this. Then who is he? Is he an angel acting on behalf of God, or God? If God how could this be? Jacob recognizes Him as God, or at least an angel of God, why else would he ask this person to bless him and by what right could he do that unless he were God or God’s angel?

Now God has a thing about changing names as we saw with Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sara, and later we see Simon changed to Peter and Saul changed to Paul. Here Jacob is changed to Israel. Names are not just something we call a person, or thing. They are descriptions of what a person is and here Israel will become the name of a people and of a nation, a people and a nation of God.

In chapter 34 we find Dinah, Israel’s daughter is raped by Shechen, son of Hamor the Hivite who ruled the area. After he raped her he fell in love with her, or just perhaps her beauty, and to prevent a war between the two families they work out a deal with Israel. If the men of Hamor would circumcise themselves there would be peace among the two families. Unbeknownst to Israel his sons Simeon and Levi had a different idea and while the men were still recovering from circumcision they attacked and killed them. God tells Israel/Jacob to move the family back to Bethel.

After a long list of Esau’s sons we learn in chapter 37 of Jacob’s son, Joseph. His brothers hated him because he was clearly Jacob’s favorite. It didn’t help that Joseph had a dream and his brothers hated him more when they heard what the dream was:

“Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Genesis 37:6-10.)