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Author Topic: Genesis; The Road To The Top
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Gen 29:21-25

†. Gen 29:21 . .Then Jacob said to Laban; Give me my wife, for my time is fulfilled, that I may cohabit with her.

The word "cohabit" is not actually in the Hebrew. It should read "go near". What Jacob said, in the common colloquialism of our day, is what men sometimes say when they want to sleep with a particular girl. They sometimes say: Wow! I'd sure like to get next to that! (chuckle) Very expressive.

†. Gen 29:22-23 . . And Laban gathered all the people of the place and made a feast. When evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and he cohabited with her.

Jacob has got to rank as just about the dumbest groom in history. He knew both of those girls like the back of his hand. For seven years he lived right next door and saw them both every day. Leah and Rachel didn't even resemble each other. The one was shapely and beautiful. The other was not. Even if he couldn't see well enough in the dark to tell the difference, he certainly should have been able to feel the difference; and to recognize the difference in their voices.

Was that man so totally plastered with booze from the reception that he couldn't even tell who, or what, he slept with that night? Haw-Haw-Haw-Haw-Haw :-)

But the real mystery was Leah. Wouldn't you think that she would have spoke up and said something before things got out of hand? That sly girl. (chuckle) Personally I think she had a big crush on Jacob. Later on Leah will try very hard to get Jacob to transfer his affections to her and forget about Rachel.

This so reminds me of Sadie Hawkins' day in the Little Abner comics of the old days. In the town of Dog Patch, men didn't grow on trees; there just wasn't enough to go around; and on top of that, some of the hillbilly girls weren't much to look at either. Subsequently, some of the local gals had a tough time getting husbands.

So, in memorial of an old spinster lady named Sadie Hawkins, a special day was set aside each year wherein the bachelorettes had a chance to get hitched. All they had to do was run down one of the unattached men; and whoever they caught, absolutely had to marry them; no exchanges and no returns.

But hey! Where was Rachel!?! Was she tied up out in the barn or something? Well; I hate to say it, but I really don't think she ever did want to marry Mr. Jacob. He was at least 82 years old by this time. Abraham and Sarah were only ten years apart but it's really impossible to know Rachel's age. She hadn't been through menopause yet, that much can be known; but that's about all. I really think she was in on the whole scam all along and I think Rachel was seriously hoping Jacob would settle for Leah and forget all about her. But alas; such was not to happen. Jacob was very determined. He accepted his fate with Leah, but went after Rachel anyway.

NOTE: The covenant that Yhvh's people eventually agreed upon with God as per Lev 18:18 protects sisters like Rachel and Leah so that men are not permitted to cohabit with both girls at the same time.

†. Gen 29:24 . . Laban had given his maidservant Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid.

Zilpah didn't say anything either. In fact she very likely assisted Leah to bathe and prepare for her wedding night. Poor Jacob. He was so defeated. It was like the whole world, and even the stars above in their courses, were in a grand conspiracy to dupe the old boy that night.

†. Gen 29:25 . .When morning came, there was Leah! So he said to Laban: What is this you have done to me? I was in your service for Rachel! Why did you deceive me?

There is really no one to blame for this situation but Jacob himself. They say to never look a gift horse in the mouth. But I think your wedding night has to be the exception. For crying out loud, you'd think the man would have enough sense to make sure the woman in his bed was the one who was supposed to be there. Yes, Laban was a rascal. But then so was Leah, and so was Zilpah; and Rachel too. And maybe this gave Jacob cause to remember how he tricked his own dad back home into giving him Esau's blessing. (chuckle) There's an old saying: What goes around, comes around.


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Gen 29:26-30

†. Gen 29:26 . . Laban said; It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the older.

Jacob lived in "our place" for seven years. I tend to think he knew full well their customs.

Perhaps Jacob expected the locals would make an exception for him because he was a rich boy from down south. But no; local custom was local custom, and even Mr. Silver Spoon In Your Mouth was going to have to accept it.

NOTE: I suspect the wedding guests all knew that Jacob was being tricked on his wedding night, but I also suspect that they never forgot his lack of fair play back at the well when he first blew into town. You know, when you're unfair with people, you have to expect that they will be unsympathetic when unfairness comes your way.

†. Gen 29:27 . .Wait until the bridal week of this one is over and we will give you that one too, provided you serve me another seven years.

Serving Laban the first seven years for Rachel was Jacob's idea; except that instead of getting Rachel; he got Leah. Now Laban's proviso is that Jacob serve yet another seven years for Rachel; which will total fourteen for a girl he was supposed to get in seven. I think most any normal red-blooded man would have refused.

But Jacob was an Ethan Frome kind of guy. I don't think he wanted to hurt Leah, and maybe even felt partially responsible for her predicament.

That's a crummy reason to marry a girl, but I don't think Jacob could have lived with himself if he threw Leah back now. After all, Jacob was her first love, and it's not like she was used goods or anything.

It's true that Jacob was not above fraud; but basically, he was a fairly honorable man.

†. Gen 29:28-29 . . Jacob did so; he waited out the bridal week of the one, and then he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife. Laban had given his maidservant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.

Maidservants weren't just female commodities. They were actually a part of the household, and often treated with a pretty fair degree of respect.

†. Gen 29:30 . . And Jacob cohabited with Rachel also; indeed, he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served him another seven years.

I'm sure Jacob never mistreated Leah. But he wasn't crazy about her in a romantic way. It's like the relationship between Robert Philip and his fiancé Nancy Tremaine in the Disney movie Enchanted. Nancy is neither a bad girl nor a bad choice-- the chemistry just isn't there.

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, Jacob's situation probably led to some favoritism. And in this case, I think Jacob began spending most of his time with Rachel and leaving Leah out in the cold; so to speak; viz: she was in the unenviable limbo of a burden to her husband. However, since Jacob chose to keep Leah, he was morally obligated to treat her as if he was infatuated with her, even if he really wasn't.

When you get right down to it; Leah didn't do any more to Jacob than what he did to his dad; so all in all: what right had Jacob to complain? I've a pretty strong feeling that after Leah's week was fulfilled, no more was said about this incident.


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Gen 29:31-35

†. Gen 29:31 . .The Lord saw that Leah was unloved and he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

God didn't make Rachel barren. She was already that way. And Leah was too. In fact, every one of the matriarchs were barren women. It must have been in their genes. But The Lord elected to repair Leah and leave Rachel out of whack for a while longer.

I really don't think what The Lord did was punishment against Jacob and Rachel. I think it was a countermeasure to force Jacob to pay a little more attention to Leah. It's very important for spouses to bond. Allowing Jacob to focus too much of his attention on Rachel would soon make Leah the odd man out; and a very lonely woman.

But why would God do that-- take an interest in Leah's problems? Because, as Hagar discovered, Abraham's god is a sensitive god who sees people (Gen 16:13-14). And it seems very obvious to me that He was sympathetic to Leah's circumstances.

And that tells me something. It's true that Leah was in on the scheme to trick Jacob. But God didn't get upset with her for that. In fact, it looks to me like He was actually very pleased that she married Jacob. After all, it was through Leah that the man predicted in Dan 7:13-14 would come, not Rachel. I believe that is very significant.

I would even go so far as to say that Leah was the one God Himself would have picked for Jacob if he had only sought a wife in the very same manner that Abraham had sought one for Isaac. But no. Jacob took matters into his own hands, came to Haran in person, and fell in love with the wrong girl. Well; he ended up marrying Leah anyway in spite of his feelings for Rachel; just like his dad ended up blessing Jacob in spite of his feelings for Esau.

Most guys have visions of the girl they would like to marry. She's young, gorgeous, shapely, and compliant. But the reality is: most will never find a girl like that. So they settle for what they can get and become resigned to missing out on life. Big mistake. Leah was no less a woman just because she wasn't Miss Haran circa 1770 bc. And when the chips are down in life, your very best friend had better be your wife. Beauty means nothing when a man is out of work, or coming down with cancer. That's when guys need a faithful friend, not a love pet.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, he was destined to father the twelve tribes of Israel. Up to now, It had been one patriarch fathering just one descendant. But that all changed with Jacob. The nation of Israel quite literally started with him.

(chuckle) That guy lived solo for better than eighty years of his life and then all of a sudden, WHAM, in just one week's time, four women moved in with him. Then, in just seven years time, he had a posse of juveniles running around the house. Awww-Haw-Haw-Haw-Hawww :-)

†. Gen 29:32 . . Leah conceived and bore a son, and named him Reuben; for she declared: The Lord has seen my affliction. Now my husband will love me.

Reuben's name is from Re'uwben (reh-oo-bane') which means: See; a son!

Children do have a way of bonding a (normal) man to their mother. It doesn't always work, but often does.

†. Gen 29:33 . . She conceived again and bore a son, and declared; This is because The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me this one also. So she named him Simeon.

Simeon's name is Shim'own (shim-one') which means: hearing. Leah was obviously a woman of prayer and had no reservations about sharing her personal problems with the god of her choice.

†. Gen 29:34 . . Again she conceived and bore a son and declared; This time my husband will become attached to me, for I have borne him three sons. Therefore he was named Levi.

Levi's name is Leviy (lay-vee') which means: attached; viz: bonded.

Jacob was indeed a family man now. In spite of his romantic passions for Rachel, he would never again feel the same way about Leah. She could never be just another woman in the house now that she was the mother of his children. Jacob couldn't help but feel bonded to her. God's idea worked. You say: how do I know it worked? Because the next boy was named in gratitude to God for saving the marriage.

†. Gen 29:35 . . She conceived again and bore a son, and declared; This time I will praise The Lord. Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
Well done! And Judah was a real honor too. His became the tribe of Israel's kings; and from them descended David, and Christ.

The Hebrew word for "Judah" is Yehuwdah (yeh-hoo-daw') from whence the word Yehuwdiy (yeh-hoo-dee') is derived; which means a Jehudite i.e. Judaite; viz: a Jew.

The scheme God implemented to bond Jacob to Leah would probably not work with men like Esau. Not all guys are cut out to be family men. But Jacob was definitely cut out for it because he was a man who liked being home at night (Gen 25:27).


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Gen 30:1-6

†. Gen 30:1a . .When Rachel saw that she had borne Jacob no children, she became envious of her sister;

Sibling rivalry is bad enough. But when siblings compete for the affections of the same love object, it's all the worse. I don't know what it is about kin, but it's much easier to compete with someone outside the family than those within. Rivalry within family is not just a competition; it is more like the passions of a blood feud. The feelings run deep, and hot, and painful. People who never had a brother or sister cannot understand this. You just have to live it to know what it's like.

†. Gen 30:1b . . and Rachel said to Jacob: Give me children, or I shall die.

Somehow Rachel felt the fault was Jacob's as if he were doing something to deliberately prevent conception. According to Jewish folklore, it was a common practice in that day for a man with two wives to give the prettier one some sort of birth control herb to prevent her from getting pregnant and losing her figure. Thus the prettier of the two was reserved for pleasure; and the other for bearing children. Genetically, that was a pretty dumb idea since the practice results in the perpetuation of inferior stock. I seriously doubt you'll ever see breeders of dogs, cats, livestock and/or race horses conducting their business like that.

Jacob wasn't doing anything to Rachel. She was just simply unable to have children. If only she had followed her sister Leah's example in prayer instead of getting in one of those moods, then she wouldn't have been so ready to rag on Jacob for something over which he had no control.

†. Gen 30:2a . . Jacob was incensed at Rachel

Jacob's anger was no doubt an unpleasant mixture of hurt and indignation. He really did love Rachel. She wasn't just a girl toy. For her to insinuate that he was keeping her around just for pleasure must have bitten deeply into his soul. Romantic love can easily turn into hate-- very suddenly and very quickly; like turning a page in a book.

Romantic love is very different than the love of a loyal friend. Romantic love seeks its own best interests and is very fragile and easily wounded. Fraternal love is much better. It's like a strong anchor. The more a storm buffets the ship, the deeper the anchor digs into its moorage.

†. Gen 30:2b . . and said: Can I take the place of God, who has denied you fruit of the womb?

I'm sure that just as soon as Jacob lashed out at Rachel he regretted it. His retort implied that she was a sinner who didn't deserve children. What an ugly thing to say. But he was upset and felt betrayed by his best girl. So his reaction is understandable. But isn't there a better way? Yes.

Instead of attacking her husband in an attempt to put blame, Rachel would have been much better off just finding a nice quiet spot and telling God how she was feeling about her sterility-- how it was hurting her and making her feel inferior to her sister: and threatening her marriage. Would God respond to that? Yes. Because that is exactly what Rachel did do eventually. It's just too bad she didn't think of it sooner.

If Rachel felt that God cared about her at all, then she would have recognized that barrenness was serving some sort of Divine purpose; even if she couldn't think of one at the time. But Rachel's circumstances were causing her feelings to override her thinking; and making her emotional and reactive instead of objective and rational.

†. Gen 30:3-5 . . She said: Here is my maid Bilhah. Consort with her, that she may bear on my knees and that through her I too may have children. So she gave him her maid Bilhah as concubine, and Jacob cohabited with her. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son.

That was indeed a strange custom, and a cruel one at that. Why is it nobody ever thought to ask the maids how they felt about it? I just don't think it's ethical to subjugate women to the status of mere breeder stock.

Those who give their babies away in adoption, often don't want to see them when they're born-- not even a glimpse; they don't even want to know their gender. They want their baby delivered and whisked out of the room immediately with no more feeling than doing their business in the lou. Women who get abortions typically do not want to see a sonogram of their babies nor listen to its heartbeat because that's just too bonding and sensitive. Pharaoh's daughter (Ex 2:6) fell apart when she gazed upon baby Moses weeping. What normal woman can resist something like that?

The maid's baby would be legally Rachel's, but she would never be the biological mother. Nothing can ever change a thing like that.

†. Gen 30:6 . . And Rachel said: God has vindicated me; indeed, He has heeded my plea and given me a son. Therefore she named him Dan.

Dan's name means judge, and/or the past tense: judged. (or possibly: a judgment)

In Rachel's mind, Bilhah's success proved that God wasn't withholding children from her for being a sinner, as Jacob had insinuated. But Dan wasn't really Rachel's child. He was only hers by adoption.

But who was going to nurse Dan? There was no such thing as formula in those days. Somebody had to be his wet nurse. Well . . what about Dan's biological mom? Didn't she just go through a pregnancy? So Dan remained with his biological mother at least until he was weaned; and probably longer too. It wasn't like they all lived miles apart. All four women were practically living under the same roof.

So although Dan was reckoned legally Rachel's child, he wasn't taken away from home. Trouble is; Bilhah became a single mom with no husband. But she wasn't really alone. At least she had Dan; and her boy had Jacob; and everyone was together, in one way or another. (chuckle) That sounds like lyrics from the Beetles' song "I Am The Walrus"

I am he,
As you are he,
As you are me,
And we are all together.


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Gen 30:7-16

†. Gen 30:7-8 . . Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. And Rachel said; A fateful contest I waged with my sister; yes, and I have prevailed. So she named him Naphtali.

rayyyrrr! scratch! Man that woman was scrappy! No second place winner; Rachel would keep kicking at you even if her arms were pinned down on the mat. Move over Chyna! (Chyna used to be a WWF professional female wrestler)

"Naphtali" is from Naphtaliy (naf-taw-lee') which means: my wrestling. Not just any wrestling, but "my" wrestling. Apparently Rachel took things very personal. The bitter rivalry between her and Leah had become the total focus of Rachel's life.

†. Gen 30:9 . .When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as concubine.

Since Jacob favored Rachel, when did he find time for Leah and Zilpah? Well; don't women have a certain time of the month? It was very unsanitary in those days to sleep with women during their period and, in fact, was later forbidden by the laws of the covenant that Yhvh's people agreed upon with God. (Lev 15:19-24, 18:19)

So every month, like clockwork, Jacob was forced to sleep with Leah whether he liked it or not. I guess he could have slept on the couch, but that would look stupid. So Leah got a shot at him at least one week a month. And she made the most of it, you can be sure of that! So now she farmed him out to Zilpah's bed for that week to see what would happen. If Rachel could have children by her maid, then by golly Leah was going to do it too. Boy, those sisters were really at war!

†. Gen 30:10-11 . . And when Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son, Leah said: What luck! So she named him Gad.

Gad is from gad (gawd) which means: a troop. (chuckle) Leah was having enough boys to field a recon squad.

†. Gen 30:12-13 . .When Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son, Leah declared: What fortune! meaning, Women will deem me fortunate. So she named him Asher.

Well; what had the local women been deeming her up till then? Women can be so cruel to each other. Leah wasn't attractive, and she was getting up in years before she met Jacob. Women in Leah's neighborhood very likely made her the object of sneering gossip: "Oh, here comes that old maid. Hasn't she found a husband yet? Poooooor thing; tsk." And they would put on their best pity faces for Leah as she walked by.

The name "Asher" is from 'Asher (aw-share') which means: happy.

†. Gen 30:14 . . Once, at the time of the wheat harvest, Reuben came upon some mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah: Please give me some of your son's mandrakes.

Mandrake is the common name for any of a genus of herbs. The species to which the name is particularly applied has two varieties, vernal and autumnal, both native to the Mediterranean and Himalayan regions and especially to Greece. The whole plant has a fetid odor. As late as the Middle Ages, a dose of the oddly shaped root was sometimes given to patients as a narcotic before surgical operations. In the United States, mayapple is often called mandrake.

The mandrake has traditionally been an object of superstition, largely because of the resemblance of its forked root to the human figure. Used as an aphrodisiac, the mandrake was also variously regarded as a charm for pregnancy-- a sort of fertility drug --also for invulnerability, and for discovering treasure.

Leah certainly didn't need mandrakes to have children. She was doing just fine without a charm or a fertility drug. But she may have wanted them around the house for medicinal purposes and home remedies. Rueben was trained to recognize mandrakes and he brought them home because he knew his mom would want them: and of course Rachel would want them too because she was infertile.

†. Gen 30:15a . . But she said to her: Was it not enough for you to take away my husband, that you would also take my son's mandrakes?

Of the two sisters, Leah is the only one to label Jacob "my" husband. Personally, I don't think Rachel ever really thought too much of Jacob.

One of the very first social skills children learn from their parents is sharing. Jacob's family was so bitterly divided that his wives, two blood kin sisters, were not even disposed to display even the simplest of graces towards each other. In other words, Leah was saying: if you want some mandrakes, go out and find your own!

†. Gen 30:15b-16 . . Rachel replied: I promise, he shall sleep with you tonight, in return for your son's mandrakes. When Jacob came home from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said: You are to sleep with me, for I have hired you with my son's mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

Haw! Jacob became a gigolo in his own home. His wives were not only fighting amongst themselves because of him, but they were bartering for him like a commodity too. Jacob was sure in a pickle. He was probably like most men; just wanting peace and quiet in his own home. If that's what the women arranged for him that night, well alright; if it made them happy and kept the noise down then what the hey.

You would think the home life of the patriarchs would be the most sterling role models you could ever want. But no. They were actually pretty disappointing. And why was that? Becuz they were people. They weren't a celestial breed of supernatural beings whose home planet was located out in space somewhere between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud.

No, the patriarchs didn't fall down from Jupiter as a superior race of extragalactic agents, not did they draft in on the tail of a comet and drop off in the land of Palestine. None of that. They were just as human as anybody else and they were all slaves to human proclivities and predilections right along with the rest of the Adams' family.


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Gen 30:17-21

†. Gen 30:17 . . God heeded Leah, and she conceived and bore him a fifth son.

God was favorably inclined to grant Leah's wishes. But why doesn't God grant the wishes of all barren women? Is that fair? Why is God sensitive to some while ignoring the feelings of others? I wish I could answer that. The brutal fact is: God is merciful to whom He wishes to be merciful. Love it or leave it; we're stuck with a God who has a mind of His own and does as He pleases. (cf. Matt 20:1-15)

†. Gen 30:18 . . And Leah said: God has given me my reward for having given my maid to my husband. So she named him Issachar.

Issachar's name is Yissaskar (yis-saw-kawr') which means: he will bring a reward (or possibly; he is a reward). To Leah, Issachar really was worth his weight in gold to her as a mother.

I really don't understand Leah's reasoning. Why would God approve of putting her husband in bed with the maid? Sounds like a plot for a soap opera to me. But nevertheless, Leah was happy with the way things turned out.

You know, that really shows the importance that women in that day put upon children. Leah was willing to share her husband with another woman as long as it meant more babies for herself. Isn't that something? How many women would feel that way today-- especially here in abortion-prone, career-minded, day-care dependent, glass-ceiling, women's-lib, feminist-active America?

I would like to point something else out too. Leah was crazy about kids and she was crazy about her husband. That is not so apparent with Rachel. She only wanted kids out of envy for her sister's fertility. And she even sold Jacob's affections for nothing more than some wild herbs. A lordly price.

I really shouldn't be too harsh with Rachel. I truly believe she was stuck in an arranged marriage against her will. After all, it wasn't her idea to marry Jacob. Her dad engineered the whole thing. And Leah had already worn the shine off Jacob by the time Rachel got a shot at him so that was no big treat. I just don't think Rachel's heart was really in it.

I feel sorry for her. She really should have been given a home of her very own; not thrown into someone else's marriage to wreck it with strife and rivalry-- most especially not her own sister's. Rachel deserved better than that. She really got a raw deal in life, that's for sure.

†. Gen 30:19-20a . .When Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son, Leah said: God has given me a choice gift; this time my husband will exalt me, for I have borne him six sons.

So far, Leah is the only woman in the house calling Jacob "my" husband; and from one night to the other, she never really knew where he'd be-- with her, one of the maids, or with Rachel. Jacob probably had a toothbrush and shaving gear in every one of their bathrooms.

Well . . Leah wanted her husband to live at home with her, not with one of the other women. Sleeping with the others was just a fact of life around there and she was getting used to it. Leah could deal with that. But when he was done fooling around with the others, she wanted him to come home to her, not stay overnight with one of them. Since God had blessed her with the most boys, and the most children, it only seemed right in Leah's mind that she had more claim on Jacob than anybody else and he really should be bonded to her more than the others.

†. Gen 30:20b . . So she named him Zebulun.

Zebulin's name is from Zebuwluwn (zeb-oo-loon') or Zebuluwn (zeb-oo-loon'); or Zebuwlun (zeb-oo-loon') which mean: habitation. Synonyms for habitation are: occupancy, residence, domicile, and home. In other words, Zebulin is where a man hangs his hat.

†. Gen 30:21 . . Last, she bore him a daughter, and named her Dinah.

Dinah's name is from Diynah (dee-naw'). That word is the feminine of duwn (doon) which means: judgment, justice. and/or fair play.

You can bet Dinah was an instant hit with the women. Now they had someone to make dolls for, and cute little dresses, and tiny little knickers. And they could show her how to paint her fingernails, perm her hair, and put on make-up and eye shadow. I would guess that Dinah did more to help the women forget their differences and become friends than anything else around there.

And Jacob no doubt liked her immensely. It is just about impossible for a normal man to resist the charms of a bouncy little cherub. I've seen the toughest blue collar beasts you can imagine become mushy morons around little girls. When one of those teensy sweethearts puts her chubby little arms around a man's neck and says "Daddy, I love you" it's all over but the burial. If sons were indeed prized in those days, then the daughters were icing on the cake.

NOTE: Dinah is the very first girl on record born to the people of Israel.


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Gen 30:22-27

†. Gen 30:22a . . Now God remembered Rachel;

Does that mean the omniscient Almighty had somehow forgotten all about her? (chuckle) No. God's memory works just fine. But I think God has a day planner, sort of like the appointment books that professional people utilize to plan their schedules.

Well; I think God had set a date for Rachel's pregnancy quite some time before this event and as He turned the pages of His planner to check His busy schedule; lo and behold there was Rachel. Most of us just mark our calendars for appointments with doctors and dentists; but someone like God no doubt sets up His appointments on a much grander scale than that. This is all just conjecture, of course, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

Personally I suspect that God's day planner is all in His head so He doesn't have to keep a literal appointment book to remind Himself; though He does seem to keep some literal books; e.g. the book of the living (Ps 36:28), the book of the earth (Jer 17:13), and the lamb's book of life Rev 21:27.

†. Gen 30:22b . . God heeded her and opened her womb.

Does the word "heeded" mean Rachel finally decided to pray for a baby? I think so. Some people are driven to drink by the problems of everyday life. God's people are often driven to their knees.

†. Gen 30:23 . . She conceived and bore a son, and said: God has taken away my disgrace.

It's one thing to adopt children, or take in foster kids, or become a step-parent. But nothing can take the place of having your very own. Rachel possessed two legal children by her maid Bilhah. But those were really and truly Bilhah's babies, not Rachel's. Until she had her very own, Rachel remained low on the totem pole of feminine esteem.

Men just can't appreciate how important babies are to (normal) women. Even tough women don't really feel like real women until they have a child. I worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman many years ago when I was very young. The owner of the business was married to a successful woman in her mid forties who had no children of her own; and actually, never wanted any.

But whenever she was in the presence of moms, they made her feel like a loser because in her mind, moms were the real women. In other words: she was a freak of nature born without a mother's heart; and that is a fatal flaw in any woman's character: business or otherwise.

That woman's confession amazed me because hers was a strong, assertive, self-confident kind of personality with scratch-proof, dent-proof hide like depleted uranium armor plating. But every suit of armor has a chink in it somewhere and that was hers.

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth." (Ps 127:3-4)

Arrows are not only weapons of war, but also tools of readiness, strength, and defense. In Rachel's day, children were old age security. They still are for many people in third world countries; and for those of us who face retirement on fixed incomes. When my wife and I finally wax old and feeble, we hope our son will care enough about us to make sure we don't die hungry and poverty-stricken.

†. Gen 30:24 . . So she named him Joseph, which is to say: May The Lord add another son for me.

Joseph's name is from Yowceph (yo-safe') which means: let him add (or perhaps simply the active participle: adding)

Yowceph is the future tense of yacaph (yaw-saf') which means: to add or augment (often adverbial, to continue to do a thing) So in colloquialism, maybe Rachel was really saying: Yeah! Keep 'em comin'.

†. Gen 30:25-26 . . After Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban: Give me leave to go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served you, that I may go; for well you know what services I have rendered you.

Jacob had agreed to remain with Laban for fourteen years. Well, time's up, and Laban had no further moral or legal claim either upon Jacob or upon his family.

†. Gen 30:27 . . But Laban said to him: If you will indulge me, I have learned by divination that The Lord has blessed me on your account.

The divination that Laban was talking about was a dark art. The word for "divination" is from nachash (naw-khash') which means: to hiss, i.e. whisper a (magic) spell; generally, to prognosticate.

Nachash was one of the sinful practices that God condemned in the Canaanite peoples. (Deut 18:9-14)

Apparently, somewhere along the line, Laban became very puzzled how Jacob was doing so well in animal husbandry. In the fourteen years that Jacob worked for him, his flocks not only increased; but they increased beyond reason.

So he consulted with a mystic seeking to find out the secret of Jacob's success. Lo and behold, the diviner discovered Jacob really had no trade secrets to hide at all. He was actually under Yhvh's auspices-- Abraham's god --whom Laban didn't worship himself but at least recognized as an option.

Laban was justifiably reluctant to let Jacob go. He prospered greatly because of Jacob's abilities and because of his faithfulness; and especially because of his connection to Abraham's god. He was willing to strike almost any bargain that would keep Jacob on the job working for him. Once before he had gotten the better part of the bargain by letting Jacob name his price; so now he made the same proposition again.


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Gen 30:28-39

†. Gen 30:28 . . And he said: Specify your wage to me and I will give it.

The wage Laban had in mind wasn't an hourly rate or monthly salary like we typically think of wages. Pay was a separate matter to be negotiated later. The deal they would make concerned what it would cost Laban to keep Jacob working for him. In other words; a signing incentive.

†. Gen 30:29-30a . . But he said: You know well how I have served you and how your livestock has fared with me. For the little you had before I came has grown to much, since the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned.

Yes, Laban knew very well how fortunate he was to have Jacob working on his ranch. But Jacob just wanted to be sure his uncle Laban didn't think Jacob was too stupid to know it. Jacob rarely stood up for himself. But this time the circumstances required him to be firm.

†. Gen 30:30b . . And now, when shall I make provision for my own household?

Jacob spent fourteen years of his life making another man rich. Well, it was high time he did himself some good for a change.

†. Gen 30:31-34 . . He said: What shall I pay you? And Jacob said: Pay me nothing! If you will do this thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flocks: let me pass through your whole flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted animal-- every dark-colored sheep and every spotted and speckled goat. Such shall be my wages.

. . . In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty toward you testify for me: if there are among my goats any that are not speckled or spotted or any sheep that are not dark-colored, they got there by theft. And Laban said: Very well, let it be as you say.

Jacob was supposed to do the culling. But Laban apparently didn't trust him so took it upon himself to cull out all the mixed breeds and then hide them three days distance in who knows what direction. So if Jacob was going to acquire any sheep and cattle, he was going to have to get them from the flocks of pure breeds; making it even more difficult for him to build a herd of his own. I'm sure Laban figured that he would be able to hang on to Jacob many, many years while the poor slob languished away waiting for the blue ribbon flocks to produce mixed breed animals.

Laban really did have a criminal mind. He was incredibly unscrupulous, greedy, selfish, and dishonest; and a very heartless man to boot. It's difficult to digest he was really related to Abraham.

†. Gen 30:35-36 . . But that same day he removed the streaked and spotted he-goats and all the speckled and spotted she-goats-- every one that had white on it --and all the dark-colored sheep, and left them in the charge of his sons. And he put a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was pasturing the rest of Laban's flock.

By keeping the mixed breeds so far away from the blue ribbon flocks, there was no chance Jacob might sneak around and put them together for mating when Laban wasn't looking. Although there is no record of Jacob ever cheating Laban, the old man surely remembered that Jacob wasn't totally honest. He stole his brother's blessing, and tricked his dad. If Jacob would scam his own close family, then he could sure do the same thing to outsiders. You can hardly blame Laban for not trusting Jacob when the chips were down.

†. Gen 30:37-39 . .Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they became hot when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.

To the modern mind, what Jacob did was purely superstition; but in that day, it wasn't. Jacob was experienced at animal husbandry. He had tended flocks for several decades; beginning with his dad Isaac's, and then with his uncle Laban's. Jacob wouldn't have tried the striped-rods trick if he hadn't seen it work already before.

Who really knows what goes on in the minds of goats and sheep? There's a patch of color down in the throats of young Great Blue Herons that when the parents see it, the color makes them gag and vomit up the contents of their stomachs into the craws of the growing youngsters. Even human beings are stimulated by sight. Food we are about to eat stimulates the saliva glands, plus there's the phenomenon of blushing, and nauseous reactions produced by gruesome sights, and the effects of pornographic pictures stimulating the reproductive apparatus are cases in point.

Jacob didn't use the striped-rods trick to produce multicolored animals, but rather as a visual aphrodisiac to stimulate the parents to mate more often than usual; thus increasing his chances of producing the kind of animals he wanted for himself. When Laban's flocks saw the stripes on the sticks, they went into what animal husbandry calls heat. From thence, Jacob counted on recessive genes to do their work. Even though he never studied Mendelian genetics, Jacob knew from experience that even blue-blooded animals produce "black sheep" once in a while.

Leaving nature to its course, it could have been many years before Laban's flock of blue-bloods produced enough hybrids for Jacob to move away anytime soon. But up ahead we'll see that he had the advantage of a higher power.


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Gen 30:40-43

†. Gen 30:40a . . And Jacob culled the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban;

That trick was expected to have the same effect as looking at striped rods.

†. Gen 30:40b-43 . . and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock. Moreover, it came about whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, that Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the water troughs, so that they might mate by the rods; but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's. So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.

Jacob's second strategy was to divide Laban's herd into two groups: the best ones by themselves, and the inferior ones by themselves, so that he had better control over the breeding process to his own advantage. Normally, Jacob's husbandry tricks would have worked more to Laban's advantage than Jacob's because statistically, the majority of the lambs born would have been Laban's had not God intervened.

Apparently Jacob's strategy was so successful that he was able to invest in other kinds of capital too; viz: slaves, camels, and donkeys. You know what? Jacob's troupe was beginning to look like that of a sheik; and before long; he's going to start acting like one too. The worm is beginning to turn.


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Gen 31:1-13

†. Gen 31:1 . . Now he heard the things that Laban's sons were saying: Jacob has taken all that was our father's, and from that which was our father's he has built up all this wealth.

People have a habit of using the "all" word just a little to the extreme. Jacob certainly didn't take all of Laban's flock; only the lambs that were born multicolored. However, what had seemed like a good bargain at the time their dad made it, took a most unexpected, and distressing downturn.

Somehow Jacob's flock of cross-breeds was increasing at an alarming rate and Laban's boys were seeing money on the hoof going to an outsider that should have been theirs. Laban, who before was pleased as punch when Jacob agreed to stay on, must now be wishing with all his heart that he would leave. But the old boy couldn't get out of the contract without losing face.

†. Gen 31:2 . . Jacob also saw that Laban's manner toward him was not as it had been in the past.

You can usually tell when people hate your guts. Often they speak away, in another direction, while you stand there talking to the side of their face, and sometimes even to the back of their head. They are so overcome with malice that they cannot even stand to look directly at you. And when they do look, it's with narrowed, beady eyes; squinting, as if into the sun.

†. Gen 31:3 . .Then the Lord said to Jacob: Return to the land of your fathers where you were born, and I will be with you.

Some people interpret that to read: And I will be waiting for you. They see it that way because they insist that Jews can't be blessed when they're out of the place of blessing; viz: out of Eretz Israel. But that's nonsense in Jacob's case. God promised He to be with him and protect him wherever he went. (Gen 28:15)

Time to go; and the timing couldn't be better. Laban really loathed Jacob by now and I'm sure he didn't want his nephew working on the ranch any longer. A falling out isn't necessarily a bad thing. I often take one as a nudge that God wants me elsewhere. Sometimes you have to burn one bridge before crossing another.

†. Gen 31:4 . . Jacob had Rachel and Leah called to the field, where his flock was,

This next conversation was for the sisters' ears only so Jacob sprung an unannounced briefing out in the pastures where no one would overhear and go tattle to Laban. Jacob wants his wives' support for his next move; and he needs to find out how they feel about their dad and if they are ready to leave home and go out on their own. Rachel and Leah had never been away from Haran, nor away from their dad's influence before now; nor has anyone till now given them a say in their destiny.

†. Gen 31:5-7 . . and said to them: I see that your father's manner toward me is not as it has been in the past. But the God of my father has been with me. As you know, I have served your father with all my might; but your father has cheated me, changing my wages time and again. God, however, would not let him do me harm.

No matter what Laban did in his nefarious efforts to thwart Jacob's prosperity, God would turn it to Jacob's advantage. He was indeed bullet proof and it must have frustrated his father-in-law to no end.

†. Gen 31:8-9 . . If he said thus "The speckled shall be your wages" then all the flocks would drop speckled young. And if he said thus: "The streaked shall be your wages" then all the flocks would drop streaked young. God has taken away your father's livestock and given it to me.

Laban's blatant lack of scruples is beyond belief. He and Jacob had agreed that all the multicolored animals would be Jacob's. But whenever the purebred flock began producing too much of a certain strain--say, the streaked ones --then Laban would change his mind and say that Jacob could only keep the spotted ones.

Well, then God made the herd produce more spotted ones. And when Laban would change the arrangement yet again and say that Jacob couldn't have any more spotted ones and could only have the ones that were striped; then God would see to it that striped babies were born. So, no matter which way Laban went, Jacob always won.

†. Gen 31:10-12 . . Once, at the mating time of the flocks, I had a dream in which I saw that the he-goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and mottled. And in the dream an angel of God said to me: Jacob! Here; I answered. And he said: Note well that all the he-goats which are mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, and mottled; for I have noted all that Laban has been doing to you.

There weren't really any streaked or speckled or mottled rams mating with the ewes because Laban's animals were all blue ribbon. But people in those days didn't know about recessive genes like we know about them today. So God showed Jacob, in a way that he could understand, that the animals doing the mating were the heterozygous ones. God, who can see past outside colors, and deep into genetic code, made sure the right ones were mating so Jacob's herd would increase to his advantage in spite of Laban's interference. (chuckle) Talk about a stacked deck!

†. Gen 31:13 . . I am the God of Beth-el, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now, arise and leave this land and return to your native land.

I wonder if Jacob could have used that as an excuse to depart; viz: tell Laban that God appeared and ordered him to return to Canaan and make good on his vow? Moses tried something like that with Pharaoh (Ex 3:18). But Pharaoh still wouldn't let them go, so God had to destroy Egypt to make him comply.

I seriously doubt that Laban would've ever let Jacob go on religious grounds. It's possible that's why Jacob sneaked away: to avoid a violent confrontation with his father-in-law that could lead to Laban's death. Leah and Rachel might have trouble dealing with that.


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Gen 31:14-21

†. Gen 31:14-15 . .Then Rachel and Leah replied and said to him: Have we then still a share and an inheritance in our father's house? Are we not considered by him as strangers? For he has sold us and even totally consumed our money!

Now the truth comes out. All along the girls had resented the calculating, business-like way that their dad sold them into marriage; like they were commodities: not even caring how they might feel about living with Jacob; and especially how the sisters might feel about sharing the same husband.

And what an incredible louse! The girls were each supposed to get a dowry, but Laban kept it back and then, of all things, spent their dowries on himself; or, worse yet, on himself and on the girls' brothers. Weasel! That reminds me of one of my favorite bumper stickers:

Pigs are gentle, sensitive, intelligent animals.

Laban was obviously some sort of maladjusted sociopath with one of those "borderline" personality disorders. I don't know what happened to him in life to make him that way, but something was very wrong with that man. The attitude he displayed toward his little girls was absolutely abnormal. It was just as abnormal as any of the psycho dads in the news from time to time who get prosecuted for abusing their own little flesh and blood daughters.

†. Gen 31:16 . .Truly, all the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, do just as God has told you.

Yaaaaaay! (cheering section activity) That's it! We're out of here. The girls are grown women with kids now and have to be thinking about their future. Leah and Rachel are ready to leave home and kiss Haran good-bye forever.

Thank God that Rachel, Leah, and Dinah knew a man like Jacob or they might have been poisoned on men all their lives. He wasn't perfect, yes that is true. But Jacob was an excellent family man. For twenty years Rachel and Leah observed and compared their brothers and their dad to Jacob. And guess what. They much preferred to live with Jacob. He was fair, sensitive, caring, accommodating, and always looking out for their best interests and letting them have their own way whenever possible.

You know, Jacob didn't have to sleep with the maids. He could have put his foot down and refused. But he did it to soothe his wives. I'm sure he was aware of their rivalry amongst themselves and tried to help keep the peace as best as he could. Life wasn't easy for Jacob; having to live with two miserable women.

But he was willing to go the extra mile; and even let the girls have a say in big decisions effecting the family's future. In the culture of that day, he really didn't have to. Do you think Laban or his boys would have been concerned about how the girls might feel about moving away to a new land? No way. Their dad and brothers were nothing like that. They would have just simply marched in and barked an announcement: Okay everybody; start packing! We leave for California in two days!

†. Gen 31:17-18 . .Thereupon Jacob put his children and wives on camels; and he drove off all his livestock and all the wealth that he had amassed, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

That must have been quite a sight. Camels and people and supplies, dust billowing everywhere, with Jacob's drovers moving the herds, followed by a remuda of burros bringing up the rear. It was a real old fashion trail drive, kind of like an 1840's wagon train. The girls must have been very excited to be making their very first long-distance trek away from home. Rueben and his brothers of course saw it as one big adventure. yahoooooo! Move 'em out! Beer-sheba or bust!

†. Gen 31:19 . . Meanwhile Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father's household idols.

Labans's household gods may have corresponded to ilani-- family gods of the Nuzi household, and to the Roman's penates --household gods who were thought to protect food supplies and assure the general well-being of the family.

Since Laban was known for divination, some have suggested that Rachel may have stolen his gods in order to prevent him from discovering Jacob's whereabouts. However, I think Rachel just wanted those gods for their potential access to providence.

†. Gen 31:20-21 . . Jacob kept Laban the Aramean in the dark, not telling him that he was fleeing, and fled with all that he had. Soon he was across the Euphrates and heading toward the hill country of Gilead.

There's a note in the JPS Tanakh concerning the phrase: "Jacob kept Laban the Aramean in the dark". The actual Hebrew says: he stole Laban's mind. So Rachel ripped off Laban's religion, and Jacob took his brains. ☺

The precise route Jacob took to go home is uncertain. It's hard to believe that he came directly south through the Syrian Desert on the back side of Mt. Hermon. Maybe he did, I don't really know; but it sure looks that way

The region of Gilead is on the east side of the Jordan Valley in between Yam Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the Dead Sea. Why Jacob didn't proceed down through Lebanon and the West Bank I'm not sure; except maybe he was in a very big hurry to get away from Laban and back on relatively safer home turf. The Gilead route would eventually take him into the Jordan Valley, one of the best sources of water and pasture for his animals. In Abraham's day, the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere, like the garden of God. It was probably still in pretty good shape yet in Jacob's.

Nowadays, usually all that travelers really need are gas stations and motels. But in that day, the selection of a route was always dictated by the need of water and pasture for the animals; not only the herds, but also the ones people rode upon. The Jordan Valley was a relatively hazardous route because lions lived in that area back in Jacob's day; so his drovers would have to guard the livestock day and night to protect them from predators.


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Gen 31:22-29a

†. Gen 31:22 . . On the third day, Laban was told that Jacob had fled.

Laban was off some distance from home shearing his sheep, which usually included a festival of some sort. The messengers probably waited till the shearing was done, and the party was over, before laying the bad news on ol' Laban.

I'd imagine he must have been absolutely livid with rage; and probably got so worked up he actually turned red and began perspiring. Defeat is one thing. But to be beaten by kin, by a nephew no less, was unbearable.

†. Gen 31:23 . . So he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days, catching up with him in the hill country of Gilead.

It took Jacob ten days to go the same distance Laban covered in seven-- that is if Laban departed right away without delay; which he probably didn't. It would take at least a day or two to round up all his relatives and prepare for the journey. Laban's contingent had an advantage though. They weren't encumbered by herds and women and children, so they could cover a whole lot more ground in one day than Jacob's troupe.

†. Gen 31:24 . . But God appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him: Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.

The Stone Tanach reads: Beware lest you speak with Jacob either good or bad.

But if God meant for Laban to stay completely away from Jacob and not say a single word to him, Laban would have gone home right then and there because he knew better than to mess with Jacob's god. Maybe Laban didn't worship Yhvh, but did at least fear Him. The book of Revelation tells of people who are absolutely terrified of God, but yet still refuse to submit. (Rev 6:12-17, Rev 16:10-11)

†. Gen 31:25 . . Laban overtook Jacob. Jacob had pitched his tent on the Height, and Laban with his kinsmen encamped in the hill country of Gilead.

Once Laban's scouts located Jacob's troupe, his contingent made camp for the night and moved on up the next day; probably very early before Jacob's caravan could get up and moving again.

What a chore that must have been. First everyone had to be fed breakfast, which meant a whole lot of cooking. Somebody had to round up firewood for the portable ovens. Then the women prepared the meals, which must have been work itself since no one had packaged foods in those days. Then they had to do the dishes, repack, dismantle the tents, and load everything back on to the camels and donkeys. Meanwhile the drovers were out tightening up the herds and rounding up strays.

Into this busy scene rode MadDog Laban and his trigger-happy posse.

†. Gen 31:26-27a . . And Laban said to Jacob: What did you mean by keeping me in the dark and carrying off my daughters like captives of the sword? Why did you flee in secrecy and mislead me and not tell me?

Duh. Like he really didn't know? Laban's kind are all alike. In my 70+ years, I've seen enough of them to know. Jerks like him are never in the wrong about anything; ever. And they always attempt to throw suspicion off themselves by trumping up a hollow charge against the very people they wronged. One of their favorite demands is: What's the matter with you; why are you acting like that? They are so aggravating with their perpetual habit of feigning a pious ignorance of their own self-generated bad circumstances.

Like captives of the sword? What does that imply-- that Jacob kidnapped Rachel and Leah and made slaves out of them? What utter nonsense! They were his wives as Laban very well knew!

And did he insinuate that Jacob dragged the girls (excuse me; the full-grown married women) away from Haran against their will? Laban himself was likely wont to drag a spouse around the whole world regardless of how she might feel about it. Why would it be wrong for Jacob to do it but not wrong for Laban? And that is another of his kind's traits. They are so quick to take the high moral ground and make the rules for everyone else to follow while at the same time fully exempting themselves from the very same standards.

NOTE: It's very interesting that Laban never even dreamed that Jacob consulted with Rachel and Leah first prior to departing for Isaac's turf. No doubt because that was something he would never do himself.

†. Gen 31:27b . . I would have sent you off with festive music, with timbrel and lyre.

What a bare-faced lie. The only music Laban would have arranged for is some to accompany himself while he danced on Jacob's grave.

†. Gen 31:28a . .You did not even let me kiss my sons and daughters good-by!

The word for "sons" is ben (bane) which means a son (as a builder of the family name), in literal and figurative relationships, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition. Ben isn't always used to denote a specific gender, nor always used in genetic applications. In Gen 6:2 it simply refers to pious men rather than God's biological progeny. The New Testament equivalent of ben is huios (hwee-os') which means a child of either gender; e.g. Gal 4:6, 1John 3:1-2

Laban probably never kissed them before anyway, so why should Jacob think he would want to do it now? Didn't it ever occur to Laban's enormous conceit that maybe his offspring might all be glad to be rid of him?

†. Gen 31:28b-29a . . It was a foolish thing for you to do. I have it in my power to do you harm;

Jacob's uncle is the king of meddlers. In Laban's imperialistic mind, Jacob deserved punishment for failing to consult with His Lordship before pulling up stakes and heading south. But Jacob has done nothing truly reprehensible. He's a grown man with a right to his own destiny. Jacob owes his uncle nothing; not even an explanation because the man is nothing less than a demon's seed; and on top of that a thoughtless bully and a stupendous bigot.


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Gen 31:29b-32

†. Gen 31:29b . . but the God of your father

The "god of your father" is all the same as saying your family's god. There a humorous difference between Jacob's family god and Laban's family gods. Jacob's family god can't be kidnapped and carried around in a saddle bag.

†. Gen 31:29c . . said to me last night: Beware of attempting anything with Jacob, good or bad.

That was a no idle threat and I think the man knew it. If Laban tried to persuade Jacob to return to Paddan-aram; he would die. If he harmed Jacob; he would die. If he attempted to take the girls, the grandkids, and all the flocks; he would die.

In other words, God told that man not to interfere with Jacob's life in any way at all or He would give him good reason to regret it. From now on, Jacob, and all that pertained to him, was off limits-- including Laban's ex-daughters, who were both married women; old enough to be on their own, and completely out their dad's jurisdiction. When they were girls living at home under their father's roof; then their dad could rule them. But married women are ruled by their husbands.

"your husband . . . he will rule over you." (Gen 3:16)

†. Gen 31:30a . .Very well, you had to leave because you were longing for your father's house.

Wrong! Jacob had to leave because God issued him marching orders. And Jacob really needed to go anyway. Life with uncle Laban was unbearable. It was humiliating, and it was suffocating. Jacob could never achieve his greatest potential with a man like that always interfering and controlling his destiny.

Leaving Laban's ranch was in truth, an act of self defense; not just for Jacob, but for Leah and Rachel too. Their dad ruled them from the day they were born. That's okay for minor children, but it is not an okay thing for married women. Married women need to be royalty in a home of their own, and be allowed to do their own thinking and to make their own decisions-- Princesses Of Quite A Lot, and Queens Of Everything.

I've heard it said that no one is truly a failure when they can always serve as a bad example. (chuckle) Sort of like ex drunks, smokers, and drug addicts. Well . . a man like Laban is a perfect example of a parent from hell. He's probably the worst case scenario there is. Hopefully most of us will never have to deal with an in-law like him.

But there are only two ways to deal with parents and in-laws from hell: 1) stand up for your rights, and 2) get as far away as possible where their meddling tendrils can't mess up your life. Jacob and the girls did both; and Yhvh's providence was right there on hand to make sure they succeeded.

†. Gen 31:30 . . but why did you steal my gods?

Laban accused Jacob of taking the gods without even first inquiring if he actually did. In the American system of criminal justice, a person is assumed innocent until proven guilty; and the burden of proof is upon the accuser. Not only is that a very good principle of civic government, but it is also an excellent social skill and will go a long way towards nurturing friendships.

†. Gen 31:31 . . Jacob answered Laban, saying: I was afraid because I thought you would take your daughters from me by force.

Jacob was probably right about that. He worked for Laban twenty years and suspected the old boy would never let Jacob take the girls away from Paddan-aram. Laban was definitely one of those over-my-dead-body kinds of people. With them; it's not a matter of doing what's right and fair all around; it's always a matter of who's going to win. But it's doubtful Laban would've traveled all that way just to retrieve his daughters or his gods: I've no doubt that what he really wanted was Jacob's livestock.

†. Gen 31:32 . . But anyone with whom you find your gods shall not remain alive! In the presence of our kinsmen, point out what I have of yours and take it. Jacob, of course, did not know that Rachel had stolen them.

It might appear that Jacob spoke rashly. But in that day, the code of Hammurabi stipulated that the theft of temple gods was a death offense. Apparently, it was truly a very serious crime in the culture of that day to steal household gods as well.

NOTE: The Code of Hammurabi dates back to about 1772 BC. Precisely when Jacob was born has not yet been accurately established. Some feel his birth took place sometime between 2000 and 1700 BC.

Anyway; if Laban had been disposed to honor Hammurabi's code, then he wouldn't have been so quick to condemn Jacob. But the man was a code unto himself; which has been pretty obvious all along.


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Gen 31:33-41

†. Gen 31:33-35 . . So Laban went into Jacob's tent and Leah's tent and the tents of the two maidservants; but he did not find them. Leaving Leah's tent, he entered Rachel's tent.

. . . Rachel, meanwhile, had taken the idols and placed them in the camel cushion and sat on them; and Laban rummaged through the tent without finding them. For she said to her father: Let not my lord take it amiss that I cannot rise before you, for the period of women is upon me. Thus he searched, but could not find the household idols.

Camel cushions were a saddle and basket assembly upon which passengers rode the beasts. Rachel feigned menstrual difficulties to throw her dad off track. (She may indeed have actually been in her period at the time. If not, then Jacob himself would have suspected she was concealing something.) You've got to hand it to Rachel. Considering the stakes, she was one cool lady under fire. Well; that was indeed one time that what some women deem "the curse" came in very handy.

†. Gen 31:36-37 . . Now Jacob became incensed and took up his grievance with Laban. Jacob spoke up and said to Laban: What is my crime, what is my guilt that you should pursue me? You rummaged through all my things; what have you found of all your household objects? Set it here, before my kin and yours, and let them decide between us two.

It's a pity Jacob didn't have a force of armed men at his disposal like grandpa Abraham did at one time. Jacob and his ranch hands were pastoral men, totally untrained for war, and certainly not prepared to deal with a bully like Laban. When people are unarmed, and unskilled in warfare, they are easy prey, and might just as well kiss their human rights good-bye. There are those who yearn for peace at any price. But freedom is not free. In this evil world; freedom is a priceless treasure retained only by those with enough mettle to defend for it.

Jacob endured countless indignities at the hands of his father-in-law, which he suffered in silence for many years. All the pent up emotion which he restrained for so long finally poured out in an unfettered tirade. Jacob demanded, in the witness of the kin they both had in common, to justify such a hot pursuit to catch him before he reached home with what was, in every way, rightfully his own private property. Laban could only maintain an embarrassed silence as Jacob spoke.

†. Gen 31:38a . .These twenty years I have spent in your service, your ewes and she-goats never miscarried,

That is an incredible record. A certain number of still births are to be expected in any herd. But they never occurred because Jacob was gentle: he never whipped the animals, nor drove and fatigued Laban's herds like some overly zealous, insensitive shepherds might do; especially with flocks that belong to someone else and are not their own. And plus, Laban knew very well himself from divination, that Jacob's god ever watched over the pregnant animals so Laban could prosper under Jacob's care.

†. Gen 31:38b . . nor did I feast on rams from your flock.

It was a shepherd's right to feed himself with meat from a flock he was hired to tend. But Jacob never exercised that right.

†. Gen 31:39 . .That which was torn by beasts I never brought to you; I myself made good the loss; you exacted it of me, whether snatched by day or snatched by night.

If Jacob had but brought the remains in to show Laban, it would have would cleared him of any suspicion of negligence in guarding the herds from predators. But by not bringing them in, he automatically took the blame for their loss and paid for them out of his own pocket rather than make Laban absorb the loss. Why Jacob did that I don't know because he sure didn't have to. All he had to do to prove to Laban that he was there on the job guarding the herd from predators, was to demonstrate that he drove them away before they could finish eating their prey. Only a man truly looking out for the best interests of his master would ever do what Jacob did.

†. Gen 31:40 . . Often, scorching heat ravaged me by day and frost by night; and sleep fled from my eyes.

Pastoral life takes its toll on men. Just look at some who have been ranching and farming for a number of years. They are old way before their time. The sun and the elements give them shoe leather faces lined with deep creases. Jacob, by the way, was at least 95 at this time and probably looked 150 after all those years out on the range with his father Isaac's herds, and later; his uncle Laban's.

†. Gen 31:41 . . Of the twenty years that I spent in your household, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flocks; and you changed my wages time and again.

Jacob reminded Laban of his service of twenty years, fourteen of which had been simply for the privilege of marrying his daughters. He didn't mention Laban's deception (probably for Leah's sake), which had doubled the length of his service in return for a woman he didn't want in the first place.

In spite of all the good, of all his conscientious service, and of all the charity that Jacob had lavished undeserving upon Laban, the man revised his agreement with Jacob ten times in an evil-minded attempt to garner all the gains for himself and to prevent his own nephew from prospering. The man sure knew how to repay loyalty. Yeah-- right in the teeth. And in the end, he fully intended to send his nephew away totally empty handed-- if indeed he would even spare Jacob's life.

It would require a college degree in criminal psychology to understand what makes a man like Laban tick. He was really too messed up to comprehend. But it's obvious that Laban so hated Jacob that he couldn't stand letting him keep a single thing that once belonged to himself. You know, even if there were no hell, one would have to be constructed to quarantine people like Laban because there is nowhere else for them to go. The kingdom of God is a place of peace and kindness. If certain undesirables like Laban were allowed in the kingdom of God; in short order they'd turn it into another kingdom of men.


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Gen 31:42-49

†. Gen 31:42 . . Had not the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, been with me, you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God took notice of my plight and the toil of my hands, and He gave judgment last night.

Anyone there that day, who had the slightest conscience at all, must have looked upon Laban as one would look upon the most crooked, and upon the most dishonest, unscrupulous, and unthankful of men with utter disgust. Jacob told it like it was, and no one objected; and no one stood up to speak in Laban's defense.

†. Gen 31:43a . .Then Laban spoke up and said to Jacob: The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks; all that you see is mine.

Oh, give it up already!! Someone really needed to teach that communistic crumb some principles related to the transfer of property. The girls were no longer his daughters. They were married women: one flesh with a man who worked very hard to both earn them and deserve them. The children were fathered by Jacob, not by Laban. And the flocks were Jacob's by right, not by loan nor by theft, nor by gift, nor by fraud. They were his honest compensation; the very wages that Laban himself had agreed upon.

Everything on that mountain pertaining to Jacob was personal property and Laban had no right to lay claim to any of it. He was just very lucky that Jacob was not of the kind to show him the business end of a shotgun and point him north, back the way he came.

When Laban finally had an opportunity to respond to Jacob's outburst, he couldn't say anything at all by way of denial to Jacob's claims and charges. Instead; he tried to divert attention away from the embarrassing facts by changing the subject. Though even himself knew very well he was in the wrong; a conceited man like Laban just can't bring himself to make public acknowledgement of his guilt. People like him typically try whatever means they can muster to shift the blame away from themselves; or at least shift the attention away from their own culpability to whatever real or imagined grievances they can find in others.

†. Gen 31:43b . .Yet what can I do now about my daughters or the children they have borne?

His question was just a smoke screen. Laban as much as said: It would be contrary to all human sensibilities to do anything to bring grief to my own flesh and blood. How could you possibly think I am capable of such a thing?

Laban's lack of integrity is almost beyond belief. He followed Jacob for seven days and at least three hundred miles for the specific purpose of murdering him and taking all the herds and all the people back to Paddan-aram. That wouldn't have caused his kin grief? --to murder his grandkids' dad, and to murder Leah's and Rachel's husband?

†. Gen 31:44 . . Come, then, let us make a pact, you and I, that there may be a witness between you and me.

Instead of ending Jacob's life, which was no doubt his original intent, Laban now proposes a very noble settlement-- a gentleman's non-aggression pact between himself and Jacob.

†. Gen 31:45-46 . .Thereupon Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsmen: Gather stones. So they took stones and made a mound; and they partook of a meal there by the mound.

Pillars were common in those days as watchers --gods who intervene in the affairs of men. (cf. Gen 28:22, Dan 4:17)

†. Gen 31:47a . . Laban named it Yegar-sahadutha,

Yegar-sahadutha is Aramaic, Laban's tongue, and means: heap of the testimony, or cairn of witness.

†. Gen 31:47b . . but Jacob named it Gal-ed.

Gal-ed is Hebrew and means pretty much the same thing.

†. Gen 31:48-49 . . And Laban declared: This mound is a witness between you and me this day. That is why it was named Gal-ed; And [it was called] Mizpah, because he said: May the Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of sight of each other.

Mizpah means watchtower. Laban wasn't the one who called it Mizpah. It went on to become known as that because of his pronouncement.

Did Laban mean to imply that Jacob needed watching? For those twenty years in Laban's employ, what had Jacob ever done on the sly to harm Laban? Doesn't Jacob's sterling twenty-year employment record count for anything? But Laban just can't stop himself from denigrating his son-in-law right up to the bitter end of their association.


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Gen 31:50

†. Gen 31:50 . . If you ill-treat my daughters or take other wives besides my daughters-- though no one else be about, remember, God Himself will be witness between you and me.

Had Jacob ever ill treated Rachel and Leah all those years in Laban's employ? When had the girls ever complained to their dad about Jacob's behavior? Was it really reasonable to assume he would ever abuse them some day? No it wasn't. Jacob had always treated the girls with kindness and consideration, and Laban had neither cause nor reason to think Jacob would ever do otherwise. And since when did Laban really care about Rachel and Leah anyway? He sold them like livestock, and spent their dowry on himself.

Marry other women? Jacob wasn't a womanizer; nor had he ever been a womanizer. He had only wanted just one in the first place; but was tricked by Laban himself into a bigamous marriage with two sisters that Israel's covenanted law would later forbid. But still, as a grown man, in the culture of that day, Jacob had every right to a harem while Laban had no right whatsoever to impose limits on the size and/or the nature of Jacob's family relations.

Laban intended for the stone pile to be a boundary between himself and Jacob so that Jacob would not come past it later on for revenge after God made him strong enough to whup Laban. But that was another evidence of his poor judgment of Jacob's character.

Jacob was definitely not a war-faring man; anybody could see that. He was just like his dad Isaac; who was also a peaceable man, satisfied to simply stop the strife between himself and his enemies. No way would Jacob ever seek revenge. It just wasn't in his nature to do that. But Laban had a wicked conscience. It wasn't beyond him to project his own base motives upon others and assume they would do the very same things he himself would do in their place.

In return, Laban would promise to not come past the monument to cause Jacob any harm; which he no doubt would if God hadn't intervened to prevent it. What a hollow covenant. All Laban did that day was put up an appearance of nobility and try his best to save face in an otherwise very embarrassing situation. And the meanwhile heaping additional indignities upon Jacob, and slurring the reputation of a very decent man.

NOTE: Bethuel's blood produced three really good women: Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. You gotta wonder what happened to the men. Why were they all such misfires? Families like that are a genetic mystery. Just look at Cain and Abel-- two brothers from the very same parents; yet one was a good man and the other not. Go figure.


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Gen 31:51-54

†. Gen 31:51 . . And Laban said to Jacob: Here is this mound and here the pillar which I have set up between you and me:

Laban didn't set up anything. He only participated in dedicating the pillar. Jacob and his sons set it up with their own hands. And it was all their own idea, not Laban's.

Laban likely reasoned that seeing as how he outranked his son-in-law in the social order, then whatever they did together should be reckoned to Laban's credit; sort of like the Pharaohs taking credit for their pyramids when it was others who did the actual construction. (cf. Dan 4:30)

†. Gen 31:52 . . this mound shall be witness and this pillar shall be witness that I am not to cross to you past this mound, and that you are not to cross to me past this mound and this pillar, with hostile intent.

I think Laban was beginning to become just a little bit nervous because there was something different about Jacob. He wasn't acting like the quiet, humble, hard working hired hand Laban knew up in Paddan-aram. Jacob was acting more like a sheik. And I think Laban was just a little unraveled by that. He wasn't accustomed to that kind of a Jacob. And he knew it would be impossible to defeat Jacob while Jacob's god watched over him. And I think he was afraid that if Jacob ever did come up against him, Yhvh would make sure he won.

†. Gen 31:53a . . May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor-- their ancestral deities --judge between us.

Laban equated Abraham's God with Nahor's gods. Big mistake. Not all gods are equal. But to a man like Laban, one is as good as another.

†. Gen 31:53b . . And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.

No way was Jacob going to honor Nahor's gods with an oath. And speaking of that:

Here in the USA, the Federal constitution protects religious liberty. However, the constitution does not protect religious equality. So then, American citizens are not required by law to regard Islam just as worthy of respect as Christianity or Judaism-- and the first amendment grants us the freedom of speech to say so if we please. If Muslims controlled America, we would risk execution for disparaging Islam, while Muslims would retain the right to condemn other religions all they want without fear of reprisal.

Should American citizens apologize for burning Korans? No, we are a nation under Constitutional law; not Islamic law. Constitutional law does not require Americans to respect the holy books of what we sincerely believe to be satanic religions; but on the contrary, the law gives us the liberty to quite disrespect them: with extreme prejudice. The US Government accommodates Islam's feelings about its holy book because it is in the country's national interests to do so. But I'm not a politician, nor do I desire to be one if it means compromising my convictions.

Anyway, that ended the meeting and Laban went back to his own camp for the night.

†. Gen 31:54 . . Jacob then offered up a sacrifice on the Height, and invited his kinsmen to partake of the meal. After the meal, they spent the night on the Height.

Jacob's sacrifice wasn't an 'olah (o-law') which is incinerated to ashes. It was a zebach (zeh'-bakh); which more resembles Passover, where the lamb is both an offering and a dinner. So then, a biblical sacrifice isn't eo ipso something given up or destroyed, but essentially pertains to something dedicated; in this case: a festive dinner in Yhvh's honor.

You can bet that was a very happy occasion. Jacob's family was finally going to be rid of ol' MadDog Laban once and for all; and without violence too. Since a good part of the day was wrecked already, they stayed and planned on leaving the next day after an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner. Next hurtle: Big Red, a.k.a. Mr. Esau ben Isaac.


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Gen 32:1-3

†. Gen 32:1 . . Early in the morning, Laban kissed his sons and daughters and bade them good-by; then Laban left on his journey homeward.

Apparently nobody wanted to kiss Laban back, nor bid him a good-bye.

The old boy didn't altogether lack at least some affection for his family. But he surely realized they must have come to deeply resent him by now; and he was probably beginning to regret some of his actions. But Laban still couldn't bring himself to apologize to Jacob. That would have been just too humiliating, especially in front of all his kin; him being their paterfamilias and all.

No further mention is made of Laban nor his sons in the Bible. He has the distinction of being one of Scripture's most outstanding examples of a worldly, covetous man; grossly infected with an acute case of unbridled avarice, and completely void of genuine faith in the one true god. He knew about Yhvh, and he was certainly given a thorough enough witness up at his ranch, and in his dreams. He had seen the reality of Yhvh in Jacob's life, along with the power of Yhvh in His blessings and protections of Jacob all those years. Laban himself had, as a consequence of associating with Jacob, enjoyed Yhvh's providence, and became wealthy on account of having Yhvh's man working for him on his ranch.

Nevertheless, Rebecca's brother remained a hard-core idolater/capitalist; seeking material gain for himself to the exclusion of all other considerations. Rather than seeking to follow only Yhvh, and gain the light of life, he merely envied, and resented, the blessings that God bestowed upon his son-in-law. Laban finally ended up with neither light nor blessings. Thus, Jacob and his community remained in association with The Light, while Laban and his clan melted into the darkness.

†. Gen 32:2 . . Jacob went on his way, and angels of God encountered him.

Since the angels had nothing to say to Jacob, they obviously weren't there as messengers. I believe the angels came for an "effect". Here's what I mean.

Jacob's primary concern during his trip back to Canaan wasn't really his father-in-law's pursuit. His real concern was the inevitable confrontation with his brother Esau. The appearance of those angels very likely boosted Jacob's courage, and assured him God was still in the area and still looking out for his safety and making good on the promise at Gen 28:15.

Today, in our time, it's very unlikely to see angels. But the messages we hear in church or in synagogue can do the job of boosting courage just the same if we but hear those messages through an ear of faith. Here's a good example.

In the third chapter of Isaiah, God predicted, through preaching, that terrible things were in store for Jerusalem. I mean really terrible things that would give you a bad case of butterflies in your stomach. You can imagine the effect that had on those who heeded what the prophet was saying. Well, God didn't want His believing followers worrying themselves that the impending doom was evident that God had tossed them aside, so this is what He said to them; through the preacher:

"Hail the just man, for he shall fare well; he shall eat the fruit of his works." (Isa 3:10)

God wanted His believing followers to know that although they would have to live through all those horrible judgments, it didn't mean they had lost His favor; they would just be collateral damage, so to speak. Well, Jacob can't escape his brother, but regardless of how it turned out; God would still be on his side.

Webster's defines "courage" as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. Courage is an excellent virtue; and it's interesting who has it and who doesn't.

Fearless people aren't courageous. Scaredy cats facing their fears are the ones with courage. Fearless people are too often reckless and take foolish chances; whereas scaredy cats tread lightly. They're the ones with true valor; which Webster's defines as strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness; viz: personal bravery.

Fearless people haven't a clue what bravery is. They wade into life afraid of nothing. Fearless people have nerves of steel; whereas those who face life with bravery, courage, and valor possess a different kind of mettle. They don't have nerves of steel; instead: they have resolve.

Well, Jacob was very nervous about meeting with his brother. His next adventure would take all the courage, and the valor, and the bravery he could muster. The appearance of those angels must have gone a long way towards beefing up his resolve to see it through.

†. Gen 32:3 . .When he saw them, Jacob said: This is God's camp. So he named that place Mahanaim.

The word "Mahanaim" is from Machanayim (makh-an-ah'-yim) which means: double camp and/or two camps. One camp was Jacob's and the other was God's. Man and God, in friendly proximity, united in a common purpose. Too cool.


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Gen 32:4-13

†. Gen 32:4 . . Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom,

The Hebrew word for "messengers" is the same word often used for angels. Since that word has such wide application, some have proposed that Jacob dispatched the holy angels on ahead to meet with Esau for him. Well, I think that might be stretching the imagination just a little too far. Jacob was in charge of his own camp, not God's, and there's no textual evidence to suggest otherwise.

Jacob had learned where Esau lived, and could have avoided contact with him if he wanted to. Esau's land was pretty far out of the way. His haunts were way down in Seir, a mountainous tract which runs along the eastern side of the Araba, once occupied by the ancient cave dwelling Horites.

If you have a map handy, it's in between the southern end of the Dead Sea and the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. Jacob's destination was Shechem, in the vicinity of modern day Nabulus, up in the West Bank about 80 miles northwest of the tip of the Red Sea; as the crow flies.

†. Gen 32:5a . . and instructed them as follows: Thus shall you say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob:

Jacob instructed his servants to acknowledge Esau as Jacob's superior. It's true the patriarchy passed to Jacob, but he must have felt it was expedient to set that aside for now and approach his brother from the standpoint of their natural birth rank. Jacob never really desired to lord it over his brother, and there was certainly no reason to assert his patriarchal rank at this time[ most especially for the purpose of this particular reunion; which was to make amends for past grievances and to set the stage for Jacob's peaceable return to the neighborhood.

This show-down was a necessity. Jacob couldn't very well be looking over his shoulder all the time, wondering if Esau was around somewhere nearby drawing a bead on him. They had to get their differences smoothed out now before Jacob settled his family in Canaan. And this meeting was going to be difficult enough without invoking the prerogatives of royalty. No; it was better that Jacob met with Esau as his younger brother, and then go from there and see what happens.

†. Gen 32:5b-6 . . I stayed with Laban and remained until now; I have acquired cattle, donkeys, sheep, and male and female slaves; and I send this message to my lord in the hope of gaining your favor.

The delegation's mission was merely to inform Esau that Jacob was back in town; and to make sure Esau knew that Jacob was not here for a fight. He was in fact inclined to seek Esau's good graces. Esau's initial reaction was probably an instinctive posture of self defense. Since it was predicted that the younger would rule the older, it may have appeared to Esau that Jacob was returning from Paddan-aram with a large body of fighting men to claim the covenanted boundaries, and to subjugate Esau under patriarchal rule as predicted in Gen 25:23.

†. Gen 32:7-9 . .The messengers returned to Jacob, saying: We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him. Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking: If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.

Jacob quite naturally jumped to the conclusion that Esau still sought his death. From all appearances, it sure looked that way. So he followed a typical caravan tactic of dividing his troupe so that if Esau should attack the lead group, the one following would have a chance to escape while Esau was busy with the first. It would have been wiser to take up positions and wait for Esau to come to Jacob. But apparently, the local terrain wouldn't permit Jacob's assembly to scatter all over the place and thereby make it difficult for Esau to attack everyone at once.

†. Gen 32:10 . .Then Jacob said: O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord, who said to me; Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you!

One can't help but admire Jacob's praying style. It's so practical-- no bombast, no pious rhetoric, no platitudes, no rote, and no siddur --just down to business, and right from the heart.

But what I really love most about his style is the appeal he makes to certain promises that God made to him. Jacob came to the point in his walk of faith where he realized that if God planned to make good on those promises, then He has to keep Jacob alive to do it; just like Abraham reasoned that God had to raise Isaac from the dead in order to keep the promises he made concerning him (cf. Heb 11:17-19) promises which, in reality, made Jacob just as bullet proof as they had made Abraham and Isaac.

†. Gen 32:11-13 . . I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. Yet You have said; I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.

Jacob was given a promise, and he held God to it. It takes real spiritual fortitude to do that. In court, we commonly make people take an oath to tell the truth and then hold them to their word. And we notarize our legal documents so they become binding and carry some weight. So why don't we do the very same thing with God? Would He be insulted? No way! If only more people would hold God to his word like Jacob did. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said; reliance upon God's testimony provides one with encouragement, and an anchor for the soul. (Heb 6:16-19)


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Gen 32:14-25a

†. Gen 32:14a . . After spending the night there,

No one knows yet just exactly where Mahanaim was located. According to a Jordanian tourism web site, it was north of the river W. Zarqa (N. Yaboq) up in some elevated ground a few miles east of Deir Alla. If your map doesn't show Deir Alla; then from 'Amman Jordan look northward to the W. Zarqa river and follow it west to its junction with the Jordan River. Deir 'Alla is about 3 or 4 miles northwest of the point where the W. Zarqa river meets the Jordan.

†. Gen 32:14b-16 . . he selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau: 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams; 30 milch camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 jenny donkeys and 10 jack donkeys.

That's a total of 580 animals altogether. I don't know what each of those species are worth on the hoof at today's prices, but all combined; it has to be a heck of a lot of money. Especially for the camels. In Birqash Egypt, prices for camels vary from 100 to 1,200 US dollars. Jacob sent Esau 30 females with their calves. Even in the median price range, that's about 16,500 US dollars worth of dromedaries.

NOTE: Milch camels are the equivalent of dairy cows. Camel's milk is much more nutritious than that from a cow. It's lower in fat and lactose, and higher in potassium, iron and Vitamin C. It's normally drunk fresh, and the warm frothy liquid, heavy and sweet, is usually an acquired taste for the Western palate. Most Saudi Arabian camels are females reared for their milk in dairy herds.

†. Gen 32:17-21a . .These he put in the charge of his servants, drove by drove, and he told his servants: Go on ahead, and keep a distance between droves. He instructed the one in front as follows: When my brother Esau meets you and asks "Whose man are you? Where are you going? And whose [animals] are these ahead of you?" you shall answer: Your servant Jacob's; they are a gift sent to my lord Esau; and [Jacob] himself is right behind us.

. . . He gave similar instructions to the second one, and the third, and all the others who followed the droves, namely: Thus and so shall you say to Esau when you reach him. And you shall add: And your servant Jacob himself is right behind us.

Some people have proposed that Jacob's tactic was an evidence of a lack of faith in God's providence. I don't accept that theory for one second! Here's a better way to look at it.

Supposing you were a university student with poor grades. So one night, in desperation, you pray and ask God to help you pass the finals. After prayers, you go to bed with all the confidence in the world that God will somehow pack all the information you need to pass the test into your brain cells while you're asleep. Next day you fail the test. You know why? Duh! You didn't prepare for it.

When men praise the Lord in battle, they should also pass the ammunition; and when a farmer prays for a good crop, he should say amen with a hoe; and when people pray for a safe trip to grandma's house, they should put gas in the tank and check the oil, the water, and the tires, and fasten all the seat belts.

Never pray for success without taking some initiative to make all the sensible preparations in your power that are necessary to get it. If you do your part to the best of your ability; the odds are in your favor that God will do His part too; i.e. if He feels like it. Please don't ever take God for granted; that's just plain bad manners.

†. Gen 32:21b-22 . . For he reasoned: If I propitiate him with presents in advance, and then face him, perhaps he will show me favor. And so the gift went on ahead, while he remained in camp that night.

The phrase "propitiate him" is from kaphar (kaw-far') which means: to cover (specifically with bitumen); figuratively, to expiate or condone, to placate or cancel. That is a very common word for atonement, and that is exactly what Jacob had in mind: to show his brother that he wished to reconcile their differences. (cf. 1John 2:2)

†. Gen 32:23 . .That same night he arose, and taking his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children, he crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

The Jabbok is in the country of Jordan and is a very loopy stream. It's path traces out a huge fish hook beginning in the hills near Amman; then goes about 7½ miles northeast to Az Zarqa. From there it goes about 6½ miles north to As Sukhnah, then about 7¼ miles northwest; passing by Al Qunayyah. From there it goes sort of west, drawing a pair of camel humps for about 10½ miles to a lake near Jarash. From there it goes dead west for about 11 miles before turning southwest for ten miles to its junction with the Jordan River.

I'm sure Jacob's decision was mostly a security measure. If he waited till daylight to get his family across, Esau might show up unexpected while they were crossing and have the camp at a disadvantage. It was to Jacob's credit that he distanced himself from the women and children. If Esau and his men were coming for Jacob's blood, the mothers and their children would very likely get hurt in the fracas if Jacob were among them.

†. Gen 32:24-25a . . After taking them across the stream, he sent across all his possessions. Jacob was left alone.

After helping his family to cross over, Jacob took some help and returned to the other side to gather up all their stuff. He stayed while they went on back over with everything and underwent a very strange close encounter of a third kind.


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Gen 32:25b

†. Gen 32:25b . . And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.

There's been some speculation regarding not only the identity of this man but also his species. Some say it was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Some say it was Esau's evil angel. Some say it was one of God's holy angels. And some say it was God himself in a human form. Hosea can help settle this.

"The Lord once indicted Judah, and punished Jacob for his conduct, requited him for his deeds. In the womb he tried to supplant his brother; grown to manhood, he strove with a divine being, he strove with an angel and prevailed-- the other had to weep and implore him. At Bethel [Jacob] would meet him, there to commune with him." (Hos 12:3-5)

There can be no doubt who Jacob communed with at Bethel. Jacob met Yhvh there on his way north when he left home. And he met Yhvh there again in Bethel after returning. The man that Jacob wrestled with that night was no evil angel, that's for sure; and Jacob very well knew it too.

How it is possible for Yhvh to appear in a human form? I don't know but He did it again in Moses' day. (Ex 24:9-11)

Their conflict shouldn't be construed as some sort of combat or an athletic event. It wasn't that at all. When Jacob perceived that the man was actually divine, he clutched and hung on; refusing to let Yhvh depart until He blessed him.

When my boy was little, sometimes he would cling to my ankles like a little boa constrictor and I would have to drag him around the room for a while before he'd let go. Well, that's what Jacob did. No one since has ever been so dogged determined with God like that. The angel was reluctant to bless Jacob for good reason: so Bible students could see just how much Jacob really valued spiritual things. Some people extol David's love for God, but I prefer to extol Jacob for his stubborn refusal to let go. It's easy to see now why God wanted the patriarchy for him instead of his brother Esau.

Juxtapose Jacob with Cain; the man who walked out on God. Well; not only did Jacob not walk out on God, but he refused to let God walk out on him. Jacob was a pretty amazing guy.

There is a really good story about a Gentile woman in the New Testament who was persistent with God like Jacob. Not quite as physical as he, but, in her own way, just as persistent nonetheless. (Matt 15:21-18)

Some people lose heart, and give up on God way too soon. It's not that He's stubborn and doesn't really want to bless, or that we have to somehow overcome His reluctance. No, that's not it. For some reason God is very pleased when we cling and show Him we mean business. Dogged prayer, like tough love, gets results and shows God we mean business and that we won't take "no" for an answer. Is God annoyed by that? Far from it. Compare the "persistence" parables at Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:2-8.

Many years prior to where we are now in Genesis, Jacob had a dream. He saw a staircase with Yhvh standing at the top. At the time, Jacob just gawked in awe; but were he to have that same dream at this point in his life, Jacob would have run up those stairs and tackled The Lord before He could get away. The man coming back down from the north isn't the same man that ran away from home. He's different.


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Gen 32:26-33

†. Gen 32:26 . .When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob's hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.

In spite of the injury, Jacob still hung on and refused to let go. The injury served a purpose. It wasn't to make Jacob let go; after all, the angel could just as easily broken both of Jacob's arms. The injury served to handicap Jacob, and force him to depend even more upon God's providence; and less upon himself.

†. Gen 32:27a . .Then he said: Let me go, for dawn is breaking.

Time is of the essence for Jacob to get ready for his brother. Dawn wasn't a problem for the angel. His carriage wasn't going to turn back into a pumpkin or anything like that nor was he going to burn up in the sunlight like a vampire.

†. Gen 32:27b . . But he answered: I will not let you go, unless you bless me.

Jacob risked giving Esau the advantage by staying too long with Yhvh; but this is one guy not to squander an opportunity with God.

†. Gen 32:28a . . Said the other: What is your name?

Like he didn't know already? Of course he knew it. But the angel's question is a type of question we call a leading question. You could restate it like this: And what *strategic pause* is your name?

†. Gen 32:28b . . He replied: Jacob.

His name was actually Ya'aqob (yah-ak-obe') which means: heel-catcher (i.e. supplanter). But that is all over now. From this point on; it won't be necessary for Jacob to supplant somebody in order to gain the advantage.

†. Gen 32:29a . . Said he: Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel

"Israel" is from Yisra'el (yis-raw-ale') which means: he will rule as God. We might call Jacob's new name his spiritual name and it's very curious. It doesn't mean rule like God; but rather: as God.

Although Jacob was a patriarch, and a great sheik, he was never a conqueror. There's a huge difference between ruling as God and ruling as a conqueror. Conquerors typically rule for their own profit, making slaves out of their subjects and exacting taxes and tributes. But God always rules for man's benefit; helping him achieve his greatest potential from within a peaceful environment.

Through the ages, God has used Jacob's spiritual name to identify the nation that sprang from him. True, Jacob's progeny has not always ruled as God. But his ultimate progeny, Messiah, certainly will. No question about it.

"In that day, the Lord will shield the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and the feeblest of them shall be in that day like David, and the House of David like a divine being— like an angel of the Lord— at their head." (Zech 12:8)

†. Gen 32:29b . . for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.

If ever any human being came close to becoming a god, it was Jacob. Lots of men have grappled with men. And some have even grappled with beasts. But not many have grappled with Yhvh the way Jacob did— one on one; up close and personal. Moses never even got to do that.

The word for "prevailed" is from yokel (yaw-kole') which means: to be able, literally (can, could) or morally (may, might). In other words: he was up to the challenge; and able to see it through. Jacob was indeed a very remarkable man.

†. Gen 32:30a . .Then Jacob inquired, and he said: Divulge, if you please, your name. And he said: Why then do you inquire of my name?

In other words: Do you really have to ask? No; Jacob knew very well who he was grappling with. But sometimes we just want things said for the record.

†. Gen 32:30b . . and he blessed him there.

I sure wish we had the wording of that blessing Jacob worked so hard to obtain.

†. Gen 32:31 . . So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel— For I have seen the Divine face to face, yet my life was spared.

I really like the Stone Tanach's version. Jacob believed the angel was not just a divine, but "the" Divine. Yes, he knew exactly who grappled with him. It's true he didn't actually see The Almighty God in his true form; but what he saw and touched was pretty close enough. (cf. 1John 1:1-3)

Jacob was ready for anything after that experience. Esau would be small potatoes what with The Almighty God and a host of His holy angels in the vicinity looking out for Jacob's safety.

†. Gen 32:32-33 . .The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping on his hip. That is why the children of Israel to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the socket of the hip, since Jacob's hip socket was wrenched at the thigh muscle.

God didn't command such a practice; it became a man-made tradition; which doesn't make it eo ipso bad. I mean; wine with Passover dinner is a rabbinical invention, but Jesus went along with it at his last supper. The Lord was sometimes a bit peeved with the Jews' traditions; but not always since they were his heritage too. Most of the world's Christians opt to celebrate Jesus' birth on Dec 25. He never asked anybody to do that but so what?

But Jacob's experience does indicate the importance of the event in the minds of the Jews. Some people think Jacob is some sort of a squeaky little gerbil when it comes to ranking the saints' mettle. But The Almighty was very impressed with him. That has to count for something.


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Gen 33:1-4

†. Gen 33:1-2 . . Looking up, Jacob saw Esau coming, accompanied by four hundred men. He divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maids, putting the maids and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.

Whether Rachel was expecting Benjamin at this time is difficult to ascertain; but if she was; then that would help explain why Jacob put her last in the caravan.

†. Gen 33:3a . . He himself went on ahead

Good move. Still keeping himself at a distance from his family just in case violence should break out. If Esau was spoiling for a fight, hopefully it would be with Jacob alone, and not with his family right in the middle of it.

†. Gen 33:3b . . and bowed low to the ground seven times until he was near his brother.

The Tell El Amarna tablets record that when approaching a king, the approacher always bowed seven times. So, as was customary in those days, Jacob bowed low before Esau as he came near as a token of respect and recognition of Esau as ruler of the region. He may not have actually been living down in Seir yet at this time, but had already subdued the indigenous peoples so that the area was his domain; and under his control.

†. Gen 33:4 . . Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they wept.

Imagine Jacob's utter surprise (and relief) when, expecting violence from his brother, he was kissed instead and Esau became emotional and started blubbering all over the place! This scene may have played out a whole lot differently if God hadn't taken a role in it.

"When the Lord is pleased with a man's conduct, He may turn even his enemies into allies." (Prv 16:7)

But what about those angels, the ones that camped nearby Jacob's camp? What part did they play in all this?

According to Jewish folklore, four bands of angels went to Esau's camp the previous night and beat him and his men savagely. When Esau realized that Jacob had men with him who could knock his teeth out, it changed his attitude and developed a respect for his brother that he didn't have before. Because of that, a saying came about that if you want an "Esau" to treat you with respect, you should beat him up because that's the only thing he understands.

Well; that's very imaginative, and somewhat amusing too. But I believe those angels served another purpose altogether, and they fought with a totally different foe too.

Invisible to the unaided eye are dark, unholy creatures in our world who go around influencing human thoughts, and manipulating people to evil ends. They would have surely interfered in Jacob's homecoming had not the holy angels restrained them. That's part of their job-- holding back the invisible forces of evil in the world of men. They don't always do that though; usually only when God has a special purpose to accomplish; for example Dan 10:10-14.

In the unseen world; sinister beings are operating covertly: manipulating the destiny of persons, and nations. (cf. Eph 2:1-2)

No wonder the world is plagued with monsters like Muammar Qaddafi, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Ill, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden; and predatory lenders; and unscrupulous investment banks the likes of Bear Sterns, Lehman Bros, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley; and dishonest securities rating firms the likes of Standard & Poor, Moody's, and Fitch.

People like that are human allies to the forces of evil; the mortal marionettes of invisible masterminds-- evil intelligences who secretly run world affairs undetected by natural means. The beauty of their system is that it is just too incredible to comprehend. Very few modern, intellectual sophisticates believe in spirits. Since hardly anyone believes in them, they have the advantage of stealth-- and their unsuspecting victims just go on about their business as usual, oblivious to their presence; and easy prey to powerful psychological suggestions and manipulations.

The dark spirits can easily cause the ruin of perfectly good marriages, friendships, and businesses; and they can control an entire nation's economy and it's politics. Take a look at the country of Israel today. Does it really look as though God is running it? No way. It is only too obvious who has control of it now. And the dark angels will stay in control until such a time as Messiah commands the holy angels to purge them out.

Dark mists could've made things go very badly between Jacob and Esau. But God foreknew their evil intentions and stepped in to thwart them by sending a detachment of His own forces to hold the mists in check while the two brothers kissed and made up; and settled their differences.

NOTE: Not too long ago I ran across an op-ed in the local paper in regards to the mental faculties of today's movers and shakers in government and big business. The op-ed's observation was that events of the last decade suggest that the patients are running the sanitarium. America's government, and America's financial institutions, seem to have taken leave of their senses and behaving as men and women with mental illness.


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Gen 33:5-11

†. Gen 33:5 . . Looking about, he saw the women and the children. Who, he asked: are these with you? He answered: The children with whom God has favored your servant.

Because Jacob's response drew Esau's attention to the lads rather than the women, Jewish folklore proposes that Jacob did that so as to take Esau's mind off the wives. What an ugly thing to say. It implies that Esau was a barbaric cave man who stole wives from their husbands; yet there is not one single incident in the entire Old Testament recording something like that about him. So that remark is unfounded, and totally uncalled for. It's highly unlikely that Esau's mind would be off the women anyway while they were standing right there in front of him; and subsequently introduced one by one.

†. Gen 33:6-7 . .Then the maids, with their children, came forward and bowed low; next Leah, with her children, came forward and bowed low; and last, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed low;

The Hebrew word for "bowed low" is from shachah (shaw-khaw') which means: to depress, i.e. prostrate. At Gen 22:5, and also in many, many other places in the Old Testament, shachah is translated "worship".

I think the scene went something like this: First Esau asked about the women and children. Then Jacob, by way of introduction, like a master of ceremonies on a variety show, moved to the side, raised his arm, gestured towards his family, and presenting them for Esau's review, proudly announced; Voila! My offspring, with whom God has favored your servant.

Why not introduce the wives first? Well; in that day, wives, were a dime a dozen. But offspring! Oh yes; offspring were to brag about. Men regarded their offspring as gold and precious stones in value.

"Sons are the provision of the Lord; the fruit of the womb, His reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are sons born to a man in his youth. Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they shall not be put to shame when they contend with the enemy in the gate." (Ps 127:3-5)

First up were Bilhah with Dan and Naphtali, then Zilpah with Gad and Asher. Then came Leah with Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dinah. Then, last of all, Rachel and Joseph.

Everybody did obeisance to Esau. I tell you the humility of Jacob's family is astounding. Nobody, not one among them, Jacob included, harbored the unbearable "chosen-people" mentality that is so prevalent today among modern Jews.

Esau has been given a very bad rap in Jewish folklore. Yet, not one single time does the Old Testament portray him as a murderer, a liar, a thief, or an adulterer. Those allegations have all been smirched upon his reputation by people with evil minds; prejudiced against him for no good reason at all but merely because his Jewish detractors can't bear to accept him either as a brother, nor as an equal. Jacob's progeny has been guilty of all the crimes and sins of which they accuse Esau, and more too; yet many Jews count their own people superior to Esau in every way imaginable.

The only reason Jacob's progeny continues to exist is because of the oath and the promises that God gave their ancestor Abraham. If not for that early covenant, they would be just as extinct today as the Edomites, and for the very same reasons.

"Fair Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city beleaguered. Had not the Lord of Hosts left us some survivors, we should be like Sodom-- another Gomorrah." (Isa 1:8-9)

†. Gen 33:8 . . And he asked: What do you mean by all this company which I have met? He answered" To gain my lord's favor. Esau said: I have enough, my brother; let what you have remain yours.

No doubt uncle Laban would have judged Esau a fool because Rachel's dad, badly infected with a serious case of unbridled avarice, would have certainly snapped up Jacob's offer immediately. But Esau's repertoire of vices apparently didn't include greed. He was actually a very simple kind of guy, and easy to satisfy.

†. Gen 33:10-11 . . But Jacob said: No, I pray you; if you would do me this favor, accept from me this gift; for to see your face is like seeing the face of God, and you have received me favorably. Please accept my present which has been brought to you, for God has favored me and I have plenty. And when he urged him, he accepted.

In accordance with oriental customs, which have continued to be practiced for thousands of years, the most certain way for one who desires reconciliation to be assured of it is to have his proffered gift accepted by the one whose favor he seeks. In any case, it would be considered a great personal favor if Esau would accept Jacob's gift, even though Jacob knew that his brother didn't really need it in any material sense.

Jacob's diplomacy was irresistible. The men used different adverbs to describe their prosperity. Esau said; "I have enough". Enough is from rab (rab) which means: abundant (in quantity, size, age, number, rank, quality) But Jacob said; "I have plenty". Plenty is from kol (kole) and/or kowl (kole) which means: the whole; hence, all. So Esau, through his own industry, had garnered for himself all that he would ever need. But Jacob, through the providence of God, had everything. So I think he was implying that he really had too much to manage and would consider it a personal favor if Esau would take some off his hands.

Here in American culture, we typically feel indebted by accepting a gift from a friend. That mind-set spoils good will, so that a present-- which should have, in all respects, represented someone's heart felt happy thoughts towards us --is typically regarded as a trap, and robs an occasion of the good feelings it was intended to generate.

Fortunately there are numerous occasions when we have implied consent to lavish gifts upon friends and loved ones without arousing suspicions of evil intent; e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, Xmas, Easter, promotions, retirements, graduations; and whatever else we can appropriate to express our affections for others. I think that too many of us have become Grinches out of fear of obligation. It just shouldn't be that way.

Esau, realizing the sincerity of Jacob's motives, and also himself desiring that there be no question he himself also earnestly desired full reconciliation with his brother, finally agreed to accept Jacob's gifts.

Something is strangely missing from the brothers' reunion. Wouldn't you think that Jacob would be asking about his mom and dad? Were they still alive? In good health? Stuff like that. Well; I think Jacob already knew. After all, he knew exactly where to find Esau.

So Jacob may have stayed current all those twenty years via caravans and messengers; which in that day were pretty much the equivalent of today's FedEx and UPS services. Somewhere along the line, Rebecca's personal nurse Deborah had joined Jacob. So there's a pretty good chance Jacob already knew all about his mom and dad before returning to Canaan. However, since Rebecca's personal nurse Deborah had already joined Jacob, and since there's no record that Jacob ever saw Rebecca alive after leaving home, his mom may have been deceased at this point.


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Gen 33:12-19

†. Gen 33:12 . . And [Esau] said: Let us start on our journey, and I will proceed at your pace.

Jacob undoubtedly told Esau his ultimate destination, which was probably Hebron, the place where their dad would later die. Isaac's last known address was Beer-sheba. Why he moved 26 miles north to Hebron is unknown; but when you're a rancher, you've got to go where the pasture is for the sake of the livestock.

†. Gen 33:13-14a . . But he 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; if they are driven hard a single day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I travel slowly, at the pace of the cattle before me and at the pace of the children,

Jacob's children were all still kids, the eldest being no more than 12 or so, and many of the female animals were caring for nursing young. Refusing to accept Esau's kind offer was a practical consideration. He was traveling light, probably on swift camels, and his rough-riding fighting men, desiring to get back home as soon as possible for R&R, were likely to grow impatient with the snail's pace of Jacob's unit.

†. Gen 33:13-14b . . until I come to my lord in Seir.

Jacob wasn't going southward to Seir; but across the Jordan up into the highlands of Canaan. The words for "go on ahead" are ya'baar which is from 'abar (aw-bar') which means: to cross over; and used very widely of any transition (literal or figurative)

Jacob promised to visit with Esau at some later date after his household was all settled in. But for now, it was necessary to take it easy and rest his herds before making the final push on up into the West Bank. It's no simple matter moving hundreds and hundreds of head of livestock; especially over rugged country. Coming down from Paddan-aram through the Syrian Desert and the Golan Heights must have been exhausting for everyone-- women, children, and animals alike.

†. Gen 33:15-17a . .Then Esau said: Let me assign to you some of the men who are with me. But he said; Oh no, my lord is too kind to me! So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed on to Succoth,

There is more than one Succoth in the Bible. The precise location of this one in particular is difficult to pin-point. But according to Judges 8:4-16, it was on the east side of the Jordan; somewhere between the river and the place where Jacob grappled with the angel.

†. Gen 33:17b . . and built a house for himself and made stalls for his cattle; that is why the place was called Succoth.

Stalls is from cukkah (sook-kaw') which means: a hut or a lair. That has sort of a primitive ring to it. The huts, and very likely Jacob's house too, were probably just rudimentary shelters constructed of poles cut from trees (those hills grew lots and lots of trees in that day) and thatching fashioned with reeds gathered from along the banks of the Jordan and the W.Zarqa (Jabbok).

Succoth is from Cukkowth (sook-kohth') and/or Cukkoth (sook-kohth') and is just simply the plural of cukkah; ergo: huts and lairs.

There was a place by that name in Egypt too. The exact location is difficult to pin-point but it may have been somewhere north of the reed (Red) sea crossing (Ex 12:37, Ex 13:20, Ex 14:1-4). How long Jacob remained at Succoth is unknown.

It might be well to mention that not all events in the Bible relate to important spiritual truths. Many are just simply historic and mean nothing at all except that people lived normal lives in those days just like we live our lives in these days with very few events of any lasting importance; viz: we're born, we leave home, accumulate wealth, marry, buy a home, reproduce, retire, and then die; same-O, same-O.

†. Gen 33:18 . . Jacob arrived safe in the city of Shechem which is in the land of Canaan-- having come thus from Paddan-aram --and he encamped before the city.

The site wasn't originally named Shechem but probably well known as that name by the time the author wrote Genesis. It was the very first place in Canaan where God met with Abraham (Gen 12:5-7). Shechem was up in the West Bank and very likely close to present day Nablus.

†. Gen 33:19 . .The parcel of land where he pitched his tent he purchased from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred kesitahs.

The word for "kesitahs" is from qesiytah (kes-ee-taw') and means: an ingot (as definitely estimated and stamped for a coin). The exact value of a kesitah is unknown. It was probably a local money, in any kind of shape; e.g. discs, bars, rods, or chunks. The metal of which a kesitah was made is unknown.

Before paper and coins were introduced as permanent forms of money, people used a variety of objects to serve for legal tender. Examples of early forms of money include rice (China), dog teeth (Papua New Guinea), small tools (China), quartz pebbles (Ghana), gambling counters (Hong Kong), cowrie shells (India), metal disks (Tibet), and limestone disks (Yap Island).

Monies can be anything so long as everybody using them agrees upon their value. In ancient time, various articles made of metals such as silver and gold, as well as of iron and bronze, were used as money; while among primitive peoples such commodities as shells, beads, elephant tusks, furs, skins, and livestock served as mediums of exchange too. Anything that's widely accepted in payment for goods and services, and in settlement of debts, can be acceptable as money-- even Pokemon trading cards.

Why would Jacob purchase property in Canaan? For a cemetery? Maybe. But some feel he did it with the intention of making Shechem his capital. I mean, after all, God promised him complete ownership of the land; so why not pick out a location for a sort of Washington DC? At any rate, a real estate investment was, at the very least, a token of his confidence in God's promise that his progeny would one day own every bit of Canaan outright. So when Messiah takes over, whoever is squatting on Jacob's land at the time is going to have to move somewhere else and maybe even pay some back rent too.

Shechem was a prominent city throughout biblical history, located on Mount Gerazim in what later became the territory of Benjamin's tribe. It was very close to the future city of Samaria, which became capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.


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Gen 33:20

†. Gen 33:20 . . He set up an altar there, and called it El-elohe-yisrael.

El-elohe-yisrael is actually 'Eel-'Eloheey-Yisraa'eel which is a compound of three separate words.

'Eel is from 'el (ale) and means strength; as an adjective; viz: mighty.

'Eloheey is from 'elohiym (el-o-heem') and means: god(s) in a generic sense; but when used with the definite article "the" then 'elohiym identifies the Supreme Being

Yisraa'eel is from Yisra'el (yis-raw-ale') and means: he will rule as God, which, according to Gen 32:29, was Jacob's new name.

So, if we put it all together, Jacob's altar was dedicated to The Almighty God of he who will rule as God; or just simply The God Of Israel. It was the very, very, first altar to ever be named after the god of the people of Israel. A true milestone in the nation's history, and Jacob's too.

"one who will rule as God" could also refer to someone in Jacob's blood who speaks for God, speaks as God, and whose name is God. The only person in Jacob who can possibly fill that office is Messiah.

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is the one that will never be destroyed." (Dan 7:13-14)

"God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow-- in heaven and on earth and under the earth --and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:9-11)

The world has known its maker by several designations. First He was the god of creation. Later He became known as the god of Abraham. Then the god of the people of Israel. Now, He is also known, as the god of many Gentiles. So the Bible's God is available to everyone, and is everyone's god in one way or another. To some, He's a nuisance, a frightful adversary; their final judge. To others He is an enormous blessing, a faithful friend-- their rescue, and their ransom from the wrath of God.

Just exactly how much time elapsed between Jacob's temporary camp at Succoth and the events coming up in chapter 34 are unknown.

In the interval, Jacob very likely visited his dad and also traveled down to Seir to visit his brother Esau too; like he promised in verse 14. Just because the Bible doesn't say so; doesn't mean he didn't. One of the aspects of the Bible that some people find very annoying is that it doesn't record every little detail.

For example at Matt 2:22-23 it's reported that the prophets said Jesus would be called a Nazarene. But you won't find that quote in the Old Testament, so there's no use in looking for it; and that's because not every word spoken by the prophets was recorded: same as not every word spoken by Jesus was recorded in the gospels; and not every detail of the patriarchs' lives are recorded in Genesis.

Scripture's omissions can often lead people into error via a kind of logic called an Argument From Silence; which is a kind of reasoning that assumes that if something isn't clearly stated, then it's inferred from the silence that there was nothing to state.

According to Gen 36:6-8, Esau occupied two residences at this time; one in Canaan, and one in Seir. Kind of like rich movie stars who maintain a residence in Beverly Hills, plus a ranch in Montana


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Gen 34:1-7a

†. Gen 34:1 . . Now Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.

"Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals." (1Cor 15:33)

Paul's letter to the Corinthians wasn't written to bad people to encourage them to live like Christians. No, it was written to Christians to discourage them from hanging out with impious people. Even though Dinah was brought up in a God-fearing home, she is going to fall prey to the morals of the local culture.

†. Gen 34:2 . . Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force.

The words "by force" aren't in the Hebrew text. By penciling those words into the text, translators make Dinah appear to be the victim of a rape rather than a willing partner in a hot affair. Most Bible students are well aware of the oftentimes low moral character of the people of God, so if Dinah was truly accommodating in this episode, it shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, young girls are very susceptible to hero worship, and Shechem was a prince; the son of a sheik. What young girl doesn't dream of being swept off her feet by a prince? It's pretty common; and it's all part of being a real girl; for example:

I was amazed at an AeroSmith concert by the numbers of shapely, drop-dead gorgeous young girls crowded up against the stage trying to get Steven Tyler to notice them. If you've seen Mr. Tyler, I think you would agree with me he will never qualify as a hunk. But Tyler is a famous entertainer; and entertainers have a powerful sensual charisma regardless of their looks.

I witnessed an even more impressive display at a Rolling Stones concert (now there's a study in ugly). Women of all ages, sizes, and waistlines, slingshot their bras and panties up on the stage for the men to keep as love tokens. There were so many female undergarments cluttering the stage that the situation became a safety hazard. Keith Richards and the others had to kick them away to avoid tripping and falling.

†. Gen 34:3 . . Being strongly drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly.

Shechem's feelings for Dinah weren't the typical violent lusts that rapists expend upon their victims. That boy was truly overwhelmed by Dinah; just like Jack was overwhelmed by Rose in the movie Titanic. I wonder if anyone reading this can remember the last time you felt that way about somebody-- how you had difficulty catching your breath, and how utterly vulnerable you felt in their presence. No, I just can't believe Shechem raped Dinah. He really did like her as a person. She wasn't just a girl toy for Shechem to exploit; no, Dinah was "the one" and to him, she lit up the room the moment she walked in-- everything around her was a silver pool of light.

†. Gen 34:4 . . So Shechem said to his father Hamor: Get me this girl as a wife.

In modern American culture, Shechem would be regarded as a wimp for not being man enough to speak with Dinah's parents himself instead of seeking his dad's assistance. But in that day, a man's parents or relatives did all the negotiating in nuptial matters; and when it reached that stage, the romance was pretty serious business.

†. Gen 34:5a . . Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah;

From whom Jacob heard the news is not stated. Dinah had been taken into Shechem's home (Gen 34:2) and remained there until this episode was over (Gen 34:26). So news came probably by some of Dinah's girlfriends from town whose friendships she sought in Gen 34:1. By now, Dinah must be feeling very alone, and afraid to come home and face the music.

When guys lose their virginity, it's different. They feel more like a man, they feel better about themselves, and they feel highly regarded in the eyes of their male friends. But girls oftentimes feel like cheap goods: soiled and fallen; not to mention the fear of pregnancy and family disgrace. Not all girls feel the same about pre-marital trysts. Some relish the excitement. But others are scarred for life, and never really get over it.

The Bible is silent about Dinah's feelings about all this, and after chapter 34, she's mentioned only one more time at Gen 46:15 and that's it.

†. Gen 34:5b . . but since his sons were in the field with his cattle, Jacob kept silent until they came home.

If Jacob had allowed his passions to overrule his better judgment, he might have stormed out and confronted Shechem's family all by himself, and they just may have been annoyed enough to murder him on the spot. No, best to wait for back-up on this one. And besides, brothers were often key decision makers in a sister's betrothal (e.g. Gen 24:29-61). So Jacob needed his boys; if not for personal defense, then at least to take part in the decision concerning whom Dinah would wed.

†. Gen 34:6-7a . .Then Shechem's father Hamor came out to Jacob to speak to him. Meanwhile Jacob's sons, having heard the news, came in from the field.

Jacob probably sent a runner out to get the boys and have them come home as soon as possible. By luck, they arrived the same time as Shechem and his dad. So the key players are present, the stage is set, and they can all get down to business.


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Gen 34:7b-17

†. Gen 34:7b . .The men were distressed and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter-- a thing not to be done.

This is the first instance of Jewish tribalism in the Bible. Ironically; the boys were far more upset for what Shechem did to the family name then what he did to their sister. However; that's a very common reaction from male siblings. Brothers typically take it personal when a guy abuses their sister or says something derogatory about her; even when the brothers themselves don't even like her.

The phrase "a thing not to be done" didn't apply to Shechem and Hamor. Promiscuity wasn't considered immoral in their culture. Extra-marital activity was a normal social interaction in many parts of Canaan, and nobody gave it a second thought. In fact, neither Shechem nor his dad felt any inclination whatsoever to apologize for what happened and probably would have become indignant if asked to; but Israel's moral standards were God-influenced, and ran counter to common mores. (cf. Gen 18:19)

†. Gen 34:8-9 . . And Hamor spoke with them, saying: My son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves:

The only problem is: whose religion would be taught to Dinah's children? Would it be the Canaanites' religion or Jacob's religion? Would they be taught both religions; and thus create confusion in the children's minds? People for whom religion means very little; can cross breed all they want and it doesn't make any difference.

However; as a general rule, it is never, ever a good idea to marry outside your own religion. Marriage is tough enough without dividing the family with differing religious philosophies. Couples should make every effort to strive for unity in all things; especially in the area of religion.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what province hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2Cor 6:14-18)

For Jacob's family, marriage with another culture was not a good idea at all. Their granddad was called to a very high purpose-- a purpose in which they were all supposed to play a role; and that would be the role of engendering a great nation whose God would be Yhvh; and thus be a witness to the one True God: and a nation that would ultimately be a blessing to the whole world. A people like Hamor's were a serious threat to fulfilling that purpose.

†. Gen 34:10 . .You will dwell among us, and the land will be open before you; settle, move about, and acquire holdings in it.

That must have been a very tempting offer to Jacob. Hamor's people would protect his family, and let him use choice grazing lands, and sell him property to build a home on if he joined their clan instead of going off on his own with no one but Yhvh to rely upon. But then Israel would be assimilated; and that was something Jacob had to avoid at all costs.

A holy nation has got to remain separated and independent from its unholy neighbors so God can bless. Just look what assimilation has done to the people of Israel over the years. Only a measly ten percent of them today are orthodox. Many of them are secular, worldly, conformed, and totally without their God. That is truly pitiful; and totally unacceptable.

†. Gen 34:11-12 . .Then Shechem said to her father and brothers: Do me this favor, and I will pay whatever you tell me. Ask of me a bride-price ever so high, as well as gifts, and I will pay what you tell me; only give me the maiden for a wife.

Shechem really did love Dinah, and was willing to go to some pretty extreme lengths to keep her. Unfortunately, he got off on the wrong foot with Dinah's brothers; which would prove fatal to every man in his village, including Shechem's dad.

†. Gen 34:13a . . Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor

It's uncertain all eleven of Jacob's boys took part in this. Later, only two of them, Simeon and Levi, would subsequently go into town and murder all the men. Jacob apparently said nothing in the negotiations; he only witnessed it all, listening to everything, but letting his sons do all the talking.

†. Gen 34:13b-17 . . speaking with guile because he had defiled their sister Dinah-- and said to them: We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace among us. Only on this condition will we agree with you; that you will become like us in that every male among you is circumcised.

. . .Then we will give our daughters to you and take your daughters to ourselves; and we will dwell among you and become as one kindred. But if you will not listen to us and become circumcised, we will take our daughter and go.

It's difficult to ascertain what the boys were implying by the prerequisite of circumcision. Were they implying that Shechem's clan could only blend with the people of Israel via Abraham's covenant of circumcision? Apparently that's the impression they were giving, and Hamor seems to understand that if the two families were to become one clan, then Israel's religion has to be in common.

Jacob's silence suggests he was thinking the very same. As for Hamor, being a covetous man at heart; circumcision surely seemed an insignificant price to become co-owner of Jacob's possessions.


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Gen 34:18-31

†. Gen 34:18-19 . .Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor's son Shechem. And the youth lost no time in doing the thing, for he wanted Jacob's daughter. Now he was the most respected in his father's house.

Shechem took the lead and set the example for the rest of the men in his village. He apparently had quite a bit of influence, and people looked up to him.

†. Gen 34:20-24 . . So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the public place of their town and spoke to their fellow townsmen, saying: These people are our friends; let them settle in the land and move about in it, for the land is large enough for them; we will take their daughters to ourselves as wives and give our daughters to them.

. . . But only on this condition will the men agree with us to dwell among us and be as one kindred: that all our males become circumcised as they are circumcised. Their cattle and substance and all their beasts will be ours, if we only agree to their terms, so that they will settle among us. All who went out of the gate of his town heeded Hamor and his son Shechem, and all males, all those who went out of the gate of his town, were circumcised

Hamor convinced the men of his village that they would prosper by submitting to the surgery. His village apparently operated on the commune principle: What you have is mine, and what I have is yours. So everyone would benefit from assimilating Jacob's family because they would become co-owners of his possessions; which, when he departed Laban, was a goodly amount of livestock and slaves. The arrangement was appealing: it made good business sense, and would have been very lucrative for Hamor's village if only Jacob's sons had been honest about it.

†. Gen 34:25-26 . . On the third day, when they were in pain, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, brothers of Dinah, took each his sword, came upon the city unopposed, and slew all the males. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword, took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went away.

The boys did all that without Jacob's knowledge. Exactly what effect the massacre of her boyfriend and his dad had upon Dinah is not said. Family rivalries, like the old hillbilly rivalries of the Martins and the Coys, are bitter and driven solely by the code of the vendetta. There's no justice in rivalries; only pay-back.

Oh, The Martins and the Coys,
They were reckless mountain boys,
And they scarred the mountains up with shot and shell.
There was uncles, brothers, cousins,
Why; they bumped them off by dozens,
Just how many bit the dust is hard to tell.

-- Gene Autry --

†. Gen 34:27 . .The other sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the town, because their sister had been defiled.

Only two of the brothers did the killing, but apparently all who were old enough participated in the pillaging. I tell you, some of the patriarchs were brutal men; and it was from them that the nation of Israel sprang. Later, they will sell their own kid brother Joseph into slavery simply because they envied his favorite-son status with their dad.

†. Gen 34:28-29 . .They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys, all that was inside the town and outside; all their wealth, all their children, and their wives, all that was in the houses, they took as captives and booty.

What they did was what conquerors legitimately do in war. But Jacob wasn't at war with Hamor's clan. Those boys were nothing in the world but murderers, kidnappers, thugs, and thieves. To think Messiah came from that blood line is beyond belief!

†. Gen 34:30-31 . . Jacob said to Simeon and Levi: You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed. But they answered: Should our sister be treated like a harlot?

Dinah's brothers were rash and hot headed; placing their own rage above and beyond their family's safety, and their father Jacob's honor. That is the self-centered attitude of criminals; which is exactly what they were. Without God's providence, surely all of Canaan would have banded together and justly hanged every last male in Jacob's camp so that the nation of Israel would have ended right then and there. There would have been no holocaust and no crucifixion, and the Palestinians today would have a country to call their own. It's almost impossible to comprehend how those boys could have ever descended from the world's most respected religious figure the world has ever known: Abraham ben Terah.

Many years later, Yhvh's people came to the brink of annihilation again because of the pride of just one lone Jew in the book of Ruth. Boy! I tell you: God has really had His hands full keeping those people from destroying themselves. Truth be told: if it weren't for God's promise to Abraham, the Jews would have been gone as a people long ago.


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Gen 35:1-5

†. Gen 35:1 . . God said to Jacob: Arise, go up to Bethel and remain there; and build an altar there to the god who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.

That is some very strange language. Why didn't God say "build an altar to Me; who appeared to you when, etc". On the surface, it appears that God is speaking of a god other than Himself. But according to Gen 35:2, Jacob's family had a number of gods in their possession and I think God just wanted to make sure Jacob understood that He wanted no truck with them. For example:

"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, Yhvh your god, am a jealous god, (Ex 20:3-5)

†. Gen 35:2 . . So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him: Rid yourselves of the alien gods in your midst, purify yourselves, and change your clothes.

This is embarrassing. To top off the shame of recent events-- Dinah's tryst, the murders, and the subsequent looting in town-- now it turns out that the one family on earth who was supposed to be a witness to the one True God., and all that He stands for, had other gods in their midst! They were also wearing clothing taken from the dead in town, clothing that more than likely honored the religions-- and thus the morals-- of the Canaanite gods! No doubt the alien gods themselves were booty too, collected from Shechem's town after the massacre.

Precisely what Jacob meant for his household, and all who were with him, to do in order be "purified" is not said. Bathing in water was the usual means of purification in the Old Testament; and often done in preparation to meet with God; but it's more likely that he simply regarded the alien gods and the stolen booty as ill gotten gain; ergo: contamination.

†. Gen 35:3 . . Come, let us go up to Bethel, and I will build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.

Jacob thus made a distinction between the mute gods of the Canaanites, and the vocal god of Israel. Jacob's god had been extremely active and useful in his life; whereas the Canaanite gods were only inanimate pieces of superstitious statuary, like voodoo dolls.

The altar would serve a couple of important purposes, but the one that would really count in this case is its capacity as an official place of confession and absolution of sins. The people of God, whether Jew or Christian, have never been sinless. But sinless-ness is not an indicator that certifies whether or not someone is in God's family. Confession and absolution are far better indicators, e.g. Ps 32:5-7.

The advantage of being in the family of Israel's God is the latitude His own have for being themselves. Jacob's household sinned big time, yes, but their sins will effect neither their divine purpose, nor their eternal destiny.

†. Gen 35:4 . .They gave to Jacob all the alien gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the terebinth that was near Shechem.

According to Webster's, a terebinth is a small European tree (Pistacia terebinthus) of the cashew family yielding turpentine. The Hebrew word for "terebinth" is 'elah (ay-law') which just means an oak or other strong tree.

The religious items Jacob collected, were not only in the possession of his kin, but also in the possession of "all who were with him" (Gen 35:2) which would have included servants, his slaves; and the recent captives. Some of the items would have come from looting the town of Shechem, but many would have been acquired in the area up and around Laban's vicinity in Mesopotamia; which is where Jacob acquired the bulk of his labor force (Gen 30:43). Jacob lived for many years in close proximity to religions centered upon gods other than Israel's God, and the influence of those religions had a heavy impact upon the most holy community existing on the entire planet at that time.

Exactly why Jacob chose to bury those items under a terebinth, instead of just burying them in a hole out in pasture, is not said. He could have incinerated them too, but, for some undisclosed reason, didn't. Some have tried to find symbolism in that, but his decision may have been motivated by something as simple as a hot day, and Jacob would rather work in the shade than out in the open.

†. Gen 35:5 . . As they set out, a terror from God fell on the cities round about, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

The patriarchs had some very interesting advantages. Even when they deserved to die, or at least assaulted and battered, the Bible's God was often on hand to prevent it. Think about it though. If you knew that a small force of Jews were able to overpower a whole town, would you want to lock horns with them? I don't think so. Jacob's boys no doubt had a reputation in those parts now, and made their neighbors nervous.

People were very superstitious in those days and often gave the credit for military victories to their own personal gods; or to the gods of their conquerors, if that's the way things went in battle. So that the god of the people of Israel now became the one to be feared in those parts.

However, it's far better-- if at all possible --for the people of God to give a testimony to the love of God rather than to the terror of God. But because of the patriarchs' recent violent behavior, the love of God was far from the minds of the people in Jacob's vicinity. They saw the people of Israel and their god as a serious threat to the safety and well being of their communities rather than seeing Israel's God as a potential source of blessing and providence.


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Gen 35:6-12

†. Gen 35:6-7 . .Thus Jacob came to Luz-- that is, Bethel --in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. There he built an altar and named the site El-bethel, for it was there that God had revealed Himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

Bethel is located approximately 11 miles directly north of Jerusalem. Jacob erected a stone cairn there when he left home; and gave the site its name: Bethel (House Of God). At least thirty years have gone by since then. He stayed twenty years with Laban, and had lived for an undisclosed number of years in the vicinity of Schechem. Jacob was 75 when he left home, and was now easily over 100. He is not only older now, but he's a lot wiser too. The experience at Shechem changed Jacob in a remarkable way.

This time he builds an altar instead of a cairn, and names the site El-bethel (the god of the House Of God). So Jacob's focus has shifted. Previously his emphasis was upon a special site to worship God. This time, Jacob puts the emphasis where it should have been in the first place: upon the object of his worship. Because, unless God is actually present during worship, then designating a special place for worship is futile. In Rev 3:14-22, the church of the Laodicians is so entirely christless that Jesus isn't even a member, no, he's depicted on the outside of the building banging on the door trying to get someone's attention to let him in. That was a solid Christian church at one time; but as time went by; it somehow became quite christless.

†. Gen 35:8a . . Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bethel;

By now, Deborah was very aged; older than Rebecca, and had come south with her to Canaan twenty years prior to Jacob's birth (Gen 24:59, 25:20, 25:26). Deborah was already a mature woman when she came south with Rebecca because the word for nurse-- yanaq (yaw-nak') --indicates a wet nurse. So Deborah did the surrogate task of breast feeding the infant Rebecca, whose biological mom, for reasons unknown, couldn't do it herself. Jacob knew Deborah quite well, having grown up with her in his own home, and remained with her a good number of years before leaving home himself at 75.

There's pretty good reason to believe that Rebecca had died prior to Gen 35:8 because it's extremely doubtful Deborah would leave her to join Jacob's troupe otherwise.

†. Gen 35:8b . . so it was named Allon-bacuth.

Allon-bacuth means: oak of weeping. Deborah's passing was surely as emotionally painful a loss to Jacob as the loss of his own mother.

†. Gen 35:9a . . God appeared again to Jacob on his arrival from Paddan-aram,

Paddam-aram was the region up north, in and around where Laban lived, and from whence Jacob fled a number of years prior to Gen 35:9. But God reckoned Jacob still on-route for the simple reason that he had yet to strictly comply with the order to "Return to the land of your fathers where you were born" and "arise and leave this land and return to your native land." (Gen 31:3, 31:13). Instead of going directly to Bethel, as God apparently expected Jacob to do, he settled in the region around Shechem-- where his daughter became promiscuous, his sons became murderers and thieves, and Jacob alienated his neighbors: thus; he, and his whole family, had become quite useless as a witness to the knowledge of the one true God in that region.

†. Gen 35:9b-10 . . and He blessed him. God said to him: You whose name is Jacob, you shall be called Jacob no more, but Israel shall be your name. Thus He named him Israel.

This wasn't news to Jacob. He was renamed Israel by the angel (Gen 32:29). But Jacob wasn't living up to his new identity. He needed urging to live as who he now is, not live as who he once was before meeting God face to face.

†. Gen 35:11a . . And God said to him: I am El Shaddai.

The patriarchs were aware of God's other name Yhvh, and often referred to Him by it; but El Shaddai is a name of God that they knew Him by in a personal way. It means: God of all might; viz; the all-power god; or the god who invented, created, and controls all natural and supernatural powers. El Shaddai is the god who can make things happen, even things that are impossible by natural means, and things that are above and beyond Man's mortal imagination; so that El Shaddai is "the" god of providence who is easily strong enough to meet any, and all, human need.

The name El Shaddai relates to Jacob's vow in Gen 28:20-21 where he said: If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father's house-- Yhvh shall be my God.

God did remain with Jacob, protected him, provided for him, and got him back home. Time to make good on that vow.

†. Gen 35:11b . . Be fertile and increase;

At this point in his life, Jacob was just about done reproducing. He had one more to go: Joseph. But Jacob's increase went way beyond his twelve sons were just the beginning.

†. Gen 35:11c . . A nation, yea an assembly of nations, shall descend from you. Kings shall issue from your loins.

That's pretty much what God promised Abraham back in chapter 17. The most important kings were those of Israel, and in particular, the ones in David's line who preceded Messiah.

†. Gen 35:12 . .The land that I assigned to Abraham and Isaac I assign to you; and to your offspring to come will I assign the land.

Ownership of the land didn't pass from Abraham down to Isaac, and then to Jacob as if it were an heirloom. God promised each patriarch full ownership along with their progeny. We might call that kind of ownership tenancy in common, community property, or joint-heirship. However, there's yet a fourth tenant in common: Christ. (Gal 3:16)


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Gen 35:13-16a

†. Gen 35:13-14 . . God parted from him at the spot where He had spoken to him; and Jacob set up a pillar at the site where He had spoken to him, a pillar of stone, and he offered a libation on it and poured oil upon it.

The pillar that Jacob erected on this same site back in Gen 28:18 received a somewhat different treatment. In that instance, Jacob poured only oil on it. In this instance, he added a libation. The precise recipe is unknown, but could have been a forerunner of the libation rituals that would come later in Israel's history-- typically an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. (e.g. Ex 29:40, Lev 23:13)

Wine is an ingredient in a formal Temple offering called the daily burnt offering (Ex 29:38-46) whose recipe lists a lamb, a paste made of flour and oil, and some wine. The entire offering is totally destroyed; incinerated by fire. The residing priests, serving at the Temple, arranged this offering every day during the course of their duties; including the Sabbath day; which normally would be illegal since it's against the law to kindle a fire on the Sabbath. (cf. Ex 36:3, Mtt 12:5)

Some have interpreted the libation as representing the offerer's life's work; which in the case of the daily burnt offering, would be the life's work of the entire nation of the people of Israel; and of course including the priests themselves. So that every twenty-four hours, the whole nation's every-day activities went up in smoke.

We could interpret Jacob's libation as a formal act of dedication-- not of the pillar; but of Jacob himself. Right after his first encounter, on this very spot, with the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, a good thirty years ago; Jacob vowed to dedicate himself to Yhvh if only He would fulfill certain stipulations.

Jacob's vow at that time included a promise to make Yhvh his god-- implying his only god --and to give God a tithe of "all that You give me". Jacob's libation implies that, from here on in, its his sincere intent to start living up to his new name, and to make good on those promises.

This is a really huge event, and marks a serious milestone in Jacob's spiritual life. And I believe it's important to point out that Jacob didn't take this turning point when he was living at home with ma and pa. Too many people are in their parents' religion just because they were born into it. Jacob chose a spiritual path for himself long after he became an adult.

†. Gen 35:15 . . Jacob gave the site, where God had spoken to him, the name of Bethel.

That could look back in time to Gen 28:10-22; or it could just simply mean that Jacob decided that the name Bethel would not just be a pet name of his own: but knowing (and believing) that this land would one day be inhabited by his progeny, Jacob willed it to be on the map as the town of Bethel when such a time as his progeny took actual physical possession of Canaan later on in the book of Joshua.

†. Gen 35:16a . .They set out from Bethel; but when they were still some distance short of Ephrath,

This is the very first mention of Ephrath; which is actually Bethlehem (Gen 35:19, Gen 48:7). Apparently this area wasn't yet on the map as either Ephrath or Bethlehem in Jacob's day, but later during the author's day. It's not uncommon for Bible authors (or later scribes and/or editors) to give the contemporary name as well as the ancient name of a city or town so that his readers knew where to look in their own day for those old-time places.

Ephrath can also be spelled Ephratah. The founder of Bethlehem was a Jewish man named Ephratah, and his name became attached to Bethlehem so that you could refer to it in compound form as Bethlehem Ephratah; or Bethlehem of Ephratah (e.g. 1Chrn 4:4, Mic 5:2). Ephrath is apparently the female spelling (1Chrn 2:19) and Ephratah is the male version.

The next incident didn't actually occur in Bethlehem, but "some distance" from it. Other than Gen 48:7 (which is a citation of the section we're in now), the only other place the phrase "some distance" is used again in the entire Old Testament is 2Kgs 5:19; where some feel it indicates a distance about equal to that required for a runner on foot to catch up with a chariot on the move; but the true meaning is lost in antiquity.


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Gen 35:16b-20

†. Gen 35:16b . . Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor.

Rachel was no longer a spring chicken. Rueben, Jacob's firstborn, is now old enough to fool around with grown women. It's probably been in the neighborhood of 40+ years since Rachel's first meeting with Jacob back in chapter 29; when she was just a youngster of perhaps 15-20 years old at the time.

†. Gen 35:17 . .When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her: Have no fear, for it is another boy for you.

Rachel, no doubt remembered why she named her other son Joseph, back in chapter 30, while they were all yet still living up north with Laban. Joseph's Hebrew name is Yowceph (yo-safe') which is a mini prayer that says: May the Lord add another son for me. (Gen 30:24)

†. Gen 35:18 . . But as she breathed her last-- for she was dying --she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

A complicated delivery in those days typically ended in tragedy. People had no surgical skills nor tools and procedures to save either the mother or her child. The exact nature of Rachel's problem isn't stated. She could have experienced severe hemorrhaging, eclampsia, or maybe her heart just couldn't take the stress, and gave out.

Ben-oni possibly means: "A Son Born In Grief". But Jacob changed it to Binyamiyn (bin-yaw-mene') which possibly means: "The Son At My Right Hand" (cf. Ps 16:8, Ps 110:1).

Benny's only a baby in this section but he's already Jacob's right hand man; viz: a dependable man. You could certainly never say the other brothers were dependable; especially Reuben, of whom Jacob would later say "As unstable as water" (Gen 49:3-4). Benjamin holds the distinction of being the only one of Jacob's children born in the land of Canaan.

NOTE: How did Jacob know Joseph was dependable? Well; the patriarchs were prophets. Thus; they new beforehand quite a bit about their kids. (cf. Gen 9:25-37, Gen 49:1-27)

†. Gen 35:19 . .Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Ephrath-- now Bethlehem.

The postscript "now Bethlehem" indicates an editorial insertion by someone later; possibly a scribe or someone assigned the task of making copies; which was a perpetual task in the ages prior to the existence of modern papers, printing presses, and electronic storage media.

†. Gen 35:20 . . Over her grave Jacob set up a pillar; it is the pillar at Rachel's grave to this day.

The pillar was probably just a pile of rocks, like a cairn. The phrase "to this day" indicates the day of the writer rather than the day upon which somebody in our own day might read this passage.

By the time of 1Sam 10:2-- roughly 1020 BC --Rachel's Tomb was a famous landmark. The traditional site, presently so-called, lies about four miles south of Jerusalem, and one mile north of Bethlehem. The current small, square shaped, domed structure isn't the original, but a relatively late monument. In 1841, the "tomb" was renovated, and in 1948 taken over by Jordanian invaders. Jews were barred from visiting it, and the area was converted into a Muslim cemetery; which was eventually liberated by Israelis in 1967.

NOTE: Loss of access to an important ancestor's grave site isn't just an archeological loss; it's a family loss.

When my father-in-law passed away in 2012 a step-daughter tried to commandeer his body from the hospital so she could get him cremated and spread his ashes somewhere over the landscape in Arizona without the slightest consideration for the feelings of his blood kin who, except for my wife, all live on the East coast.

Well; thank God my wife and her sister intervened with the appropriate legal documents in the nick of time to take custody of their father's body before the step-daughter got away with her nefarious scheme. My father-in-law certainly deserved better than just discarding his ashes somewhere out in the desert. He was a pipeline engineer with the US Army on the Ledo Road (a.k.a. Stilwell Road) in the China/Burma/India theater in the second world war. His remains are now safely buried back East in the family's cemetery; where his real kin can come and visit him on occasion.


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Gen 35:21-22a

†. Gen 35:21 . . Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond Migdal-eder.

Although Israel is Jacob's spiritual name, it's also the name of his whole household (e.g. Gen 34:7) so that when Genesis says "Israel journeyed" it means everybody associated with Jacob was on the move.

An important technicality to note is that Abraham and Isaac were no more Israelites than Noah was. The name Israel began with Jacob, and was carried forward by his sons. In its infancy, Israel was a family name rather than the name of a nation that it is now. It might sound ridiculous, but in order for Abraham and Isaac to become Israelites, it would be necessary for Jacob to legally adopt them.

Migdal-eder is a compound word. Migdal can mean a tower, a rostrum, or a pyramidal bed of flowers. 'Eder is a proper name, of either a man or a place-name in Palestine. So Migdal-eder could be 'Eder's tower, which may not have even existed in Jacob's day but was a well known landmark in the author's.

Migdal appears only three times in Genesis: once here, and twice in chapter 11 in reference to the Tower of Babel. The tower in Babel was probably an elaborate ziggurat, but 'Eder's tower may have been something very rudimentary, quite simple to construct, and used for agrarian purposes-- e.g. tending herds; and watching for rustlers and predators --rather than especially for religious purposes.

†. Gen 35:22a . .While Israel stayed in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father's concubine; and Jacob found out.

Bilhah was Rachel's maid, and quite a bit older than Reuben. She was also the mother of two of Reuben's half-brothers: Dan and Naphtali. Exactly why Reuben took an interest in Bilhah isn't stated. But, it's not like there was a shortage of girls his own age among the women in Jacob's camp. Jacob had a lot of hired help, and plenty of slaves too. If Reuben just wanted to sow some wild oats, it would have been very easy.

Reuben may have been interested in Bilhah for quite a while prior to this recorded incident; but was kept at bay by Rachel's oversight. Now, with her dead, and out of the way, the coast was clear for a carnal liaison. Exactly how Bilhah felt about the affair is not said; but may have been quite flattered by a younger man's interest; and who's to say she wasn't a cougar at heart.

One possibility, that seems quite reasonable, and actually makes much better business sense than the motions of a young man's passions, is that Reuben took a bold step to insure Rachel's maid Bilhah would not ascend to the position of favored wife over his own mom Leah. He was surely aware of the sisterly rivalry between Rachel and Leah, since he was in the middle of a conjugal struggle between the two back in Gen 30:14-16; and he must have been fully aware of his mom's feelings over being switched on Rachel's wedding night. By sleeping with Bilhah, and thus "defiling" her, Reuben may have hoped Jacob would be sufficiently revolted enough by the affair so that he'd be inclined to avoid Bilhah from then on and turn his full attention upon Leah.

If the above is true, then it only goes to show just how heartless Reuben could be. His plan, if successful, would leave Bilhah in living widowhood, and the clutches of loneliness and sexual frustration for the remainder of her life. That very scenario was a reality in the case of David and his son Absalom. (2Sam 15:16, 16:20-22, and 20:2-3)

An additional possibility is that in ancient times, firstborn sons commonly inherited not only their father's estate, but also his wives and concubines. Reuben may thus have been claiming his future inheritance. But in so doing, he was, in reality, whether intentional or not, taking steps to depose Jacob; and thus gain immediate headship in the clan. This seems likely because the boys really didn't think much of Jacob's competency. They went over his head in the incident at Shechem, and were disgusted with Jacob's lack of strong response to their sister's escapades: an episode which in reality disgraced the family of Israel. (Gen 34:30-31)

Whatever the true circumstances, and the motives, the thing Reuben did earned him Jacob's reprimand, and cost him the loss of his privileged position in the family (Gen 49:3-4). Reuben's birthright was transferred to Joseph (1Chro 5:1).


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Gen 35:22b-29

†. Gen 35:22b-26 . . Now the sons of Jacob were twelve in number. The sons of Leah: Reuben-- Jacob's first-born --Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel's maid: Dan and Naphtali. And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

By the customs of that day, a maid's children sired by her mistress's husband, belonged to the mistress. So that Leah's children, counting Dinah, totaled nine; and those of Rachel: four.

Of the four mothers, only two can be proven biologically related to Abraham. The genealogies of the maids Bilhah and Zilpah are currently unknown and wouldn't matter anyway seeing as how in the Bible, it's the father who determines a child's tribal affiliation rather than the mother.

It's sometimes assumed that Jesus' mom Mary, and Zacharias' wife Elizabeth, were members of the same tribe seeing as how the New Testament says they were cousins (Luke 1:36). However, Elizabeth was related to Aaron, who himself was related to Leah's son Levi, while Mary was related to David, who himself was related to Leah's son Judah. So Mary and Elizabeth are cousins due to their ancestry-in-common with Leah.

†. Gen 35:27 . . And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, at Kiriath-arba-- now Hebron --where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.

Modern Hebron is located about 33 kilometers (20½ miles) south of Jerusalem as the crow flies.

Although this is the first mention of a visit from Jacob since returning from up north, it probably wasn't the first instance: just the first one mentioned when his whole family, and the entire troupe-- servants and animals --came with him.

Isaac was around 135 when Jacob left home to escape his sibling's wrath in chapter 28. His eyes were going bad even then, and by now, many years later, Isaac was probably quite blind. Since there is neither a record of his reactions, nor of a cordial response to his son's visit; it's possible Isaac had gone senile as well as blind.

†. Gen 35:28 . . Isaac was a hundred and eighty years old

At the time of Isaac's death, Jacob was 120 years old, having been born when his dad was 60 (Gen 25:26). When Jacob was 130, Joseph was 39 (cf. Gen 41:46, 53, 54; 45:6, 47:9). So that when Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery at 17 (Gen 37:2), Jacob's age was 108; which was 12 years prior to Isaac's death. The insertion of Isaac's passing in the Bible record at this point, is sort of like a parenthesis because, chronologically, it's too soon.

†. Gen 35:29a . . So Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, being old and full of days.

Christ said the very hairs of our head are numbered. Well . . so's our breaths. Finally, one day, after countless thousands, we inhale that very last one, and it oozes back out as a ghastly rasp.

While some people see a glass as half full, and others see as half empty; engineers see as overkill: viz: the glass is too big. Well . . in Isaac's case, the glass was full up to the top. On Sept 11, 2003, the actor John Ritter died of a torn aorta just one week shy of his 55th birthday. That is way too young to take your last breath. His glass wasn't full yet. With adequate health care, John Ritter may have lived another 25 years.

†. Gen 35:29b . . And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

A death in the family often brings its members closer together than a birth. By this time, Jacob and his brother were older and wiser, had mended their fences, and were getting on with their lives; refusing to hold any grudges. Esau, I believe, by this time fully understood what happened concerning the stolen birthright-- that it was God's intention for Jacob to have it in the first place --and he was peaceably resigned to accept it.

After the funeral, Esau will begin planning to move away from the region; no longer having a paternal tie to the land wherein his father lived. It's not uncommon for children to settle within driving distance while their parents are living. But when your parents are dead, there's not much reason to stay in the neighborhood anymore-- and for some, it might be just the excuse they need to finally move away and start a new life elsewhere.


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Gen 36:1-12

Chapter 36 is mostly a genealogy, so I'm only going to do just twelve of its forty-three verses.

†. Gen 36:1 . .This is the line of Esau-- that is, Edom.

Edom is from the Hebrew word 'Edom (ed-ome') which is the color red; and was the tag hung on him back in Gen 25:30.

†. Gen 36:2-7 . . Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women-- Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite-- and also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. Adah bore to Esau Eliphaz; Basemath bore Reuel; and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. Those were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

. . . Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle and all his livestock, and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land because of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too many for them to dwell together, and the land where they sojourned could not support them because of their livestock.

Just as Lot had done, Esau chose to migrate rather than remain and cause problems for Jacob. Some say Esau did this out of respect for Jacob's patriarchal position; but no one really knows why. Maybe Esau just thought the grass was greener elsewhere.

Esau had done well for himself in spite of his loss of the birthright: which would have given him the lion's share of Isaac's estate-- and with no tax complications; heirs in those days made out pretty good.

†. Gen 36:8 . . So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir-- Esau being Edom.

Seir was the name of an oblong-shaped region extending south from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba-- a.k.a. Idumaea. Seir includes the ruins of Petra, which were used as a movie set in a portion of the Indiana Jones trilogy.

†. Gen 36:9-12 . .These are the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz, the son of Esau's wife Adah; Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. Timna was a concubine of Esau's son Eliphaz; she bore Amalek to Eliphaz.

Of all Esau's progeny, Mr. Amalek really stands out in the Bible as the father of a very disagreeable people. Keep in mind that all of Esau's clan, including Amalek, are just as much Abraham's biological kin as Jacob's family. (Deut 23:8)

During his journey with the people of Israel, after their liberation from Egyptian slavery, Moses was attacked by Amalek's clan. (Ex 17:8-16, Deut 25:17-19) Thus resulting in a perpetual curse upon the Amalekites as a people. An Agagite (descendant of Amalek, 1Sam 15:2-8) named Haman initiated a large-scale genocide against Israel in the book of Esther.

Haman's infamy is memorialized every year during the Jewish holiday of Purim. It's customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle noisemakers whenever the name of Haman is spoken in the Purim service.


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Gen 37:1-4

†. Gen 37:1-2a . . Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. This, then, is the line of Jacob:

Genesis doesn't list a big genealogy right here like the one for Esau in chapter 36, but rather, it's going to "follow" the line of Jacob from here on in to the end of Genesis.

†. Gen 37:2b . . At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper to the sons of his father's wives Bilhah and Zilpah.

Although "his . . .wives" is vernacularly correct; there's no record of Jacob actually marrying either of those two servant-ettes. They were his concubines in the same manner as Hagar when Sarah pushed her handmaid off on Abraham as a "wife" (Gen 16:4). But when the male possessive pronoun "his" modifies the Hebrew word 'ishshah, it typically, though not always, indicates a man's spouse; so there you are.

NOTE: Jacob was pretty much stuck with Bilhah and Zilpah because were he ever to emancipate them, he would forfeit any and all children the two servant women bore for him; which is exactly how Abraham disinherited his eldest son Ishmael. We talked about that back in chapter 21.

The words "as a helper to" aren't in the actual Hebrew of that passage. They're what is known as inserted words that translators sometimes employ to smooth out texts so they'll clearly say what the translators think the author meant to convey. Some translators insert the preposition "with" at that point, so the passage reads; "At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers; the sons of his father's wives Bilhah and Zilpah.

Actually, Joseph was in charge of his brothers Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher; who were all older than him. And it was he who was responsible to manage the flocks because the phrase; "tended the flocks" actually connotes he was shepherding the flock; i.e. Joseph was the trail boss.

Joseph's authority was also indicated by the "coat of many colors" that his dad made for him. The Hebrew word for "colors" is of uncertain meaning and some translators prefer to render it "long sleeves" rather than colors.

It seems clear that the intent of this special garment was as a badge of Joseph's authority-- sort of like a military man's uniform --and of his favored position in the family. Joseph may well have been the only one of Jacob's twelve sons that he could fully trust since, for the most part, the older men had proved themselves beyond control in the past.

The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah weren't really Joseph's full brothers, but half. The only full brother was Benjamin, and at this time, he was too young to go out on trail drives.

Genesis displayed a pretty bad case of sibling rivalry back in chapter 4, which led to a younger brother's untimely death. This case of sibling rivalry would surely have resulted in Joseph's untimely demise if God hadn't intervened to prevent it. It's really sad that the majority of Jacob's sons were dishonorable men; the kind you definitely don't want your own daughter bringing home to meet the folks.

Although Joseph was an intelligent boy, and a responsible person, he certainly lacked tact. His social skills were immature, and needed some serious refinement because he really had a way of boasting, and chafing his older brothers.

†. Gen 37:2b . . And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father.

Whether or not the "reports" could be construed as tattling is debatable. After all, Joseph, as trail boss, was directly responsible to Jacob.

It's been my experience that upper management doesn't want to hear those kinds of reports. All they want to know is whether or not the company is meeting its deadlines and operating at a profit. It's lower management's responsibility to manage the work force so that upper management can remain undistracted to do other things that are far more worthy of their time, their talents, and their attention. A lower manager who can't rectify personnel problems in their own department usually gets fired and replaced by somebody who can.

†. Gen 37:3a . . Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons

Uh-oh! Doesn't that sound familiar? Isaac had his favorite too: Mr. Esau. There's nothing like favoritism to divide a family and guarantee it becoming an ugly environment festering with sibling rivalry, yet that is so human a thing to do. Put grown-ups in a group of kids and in no time at all, the grown-ups will gravitate towards favorites, and become merely tolerant of the others.

†. Gen 37:3b . . for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic.

The "ornamented tunic" is all the same as what's usually known as the coat of many colors.

One might be tempted to think Joseph was Jacob's favorite son because of his love for Rachel; but Genesis says it was because Joseph was "the child of his old age". Well, Benjamin was a child of Jacob's old age too but not nearly as favored. So the real meaning may be that Joseph was a child of wisdom, i.e. the intelligence of an older man; viz: Joseph was smart beyond his years and thus more a peer to Jacob rather than just another mouth to feed.

†. Gen 37:4 . . And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.

Genesis doesn't say the brothers wouldn't speak a friendly word; it says they "couldn't".

Hatred does that to people. It just kills a person overcome with malice to be nice to the people they hate. They just can't do it. Their eyes narrow, their lips tighten, they look away, they become thin-skinned, their minds fill with epithets, they constantly take offense and can barely keep a civil tongue in their head, if at all, because deep in their hearts, they want the object of their hatred either dead or thoroughly disfigured and/or smitten with some sort of terrible misfortune.


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Gen 37:5-17

†. Gen 37:5-8 . . Once Joseph had a dream which he told to his brothers; and they hated him even more.

. . . He said to them: Hear this dream which I have dreamed. There we were binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf stood up and remained upright; then your sheaves gathered around and bowed low to my sheaf.

. . . His brothers answered: Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us? And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.

Joseph's dream was valid enough, and it even eventually came true; but considering the already hostile mood festering against him among his brothers, Joseph really should have kept the dream to himself. There wasn't any real need for the others to know about it anyway, and I just have to wonder if maybe Joseph wasn't gloating over them just a little.

†. Gen 37:9-11 . . He dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers, saying; Look, I have had another dream: And this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.

. . . And when he told it to his father and brothers, his father berated him. What; he said to him; is this dream you have dreamed? Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow low to you to the ground? So his brothers were wrought up at him, and his father kept the matter in mind.

As the family's prophet, Jacob's inspired intuition instantly caught the dream's message; though he was a bit indignant. However, Jacob didn't brush the dream off because his prophetic insight told him there just might be something to it.

Jacob interpreted the "moon" in the dream sequence to be Rachel. One might ask: How could she be subject to Joseph while she was dead? Well; because she's coming back; in point of fact, they're all coming back some day to live in that land when Messiah returns to rule it.

"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:28-29)

NOTE: Luke quotes Jesus as saying "kingdom of God" while Matthew quotes him as saying "kingdom of heaven" (Matt 8:11-12) which indicates that both terms speak of the same kingdom; and in both instances, the kingdom is on earth rather than somewhere out in the celestial regions.

So then, where Christ testified that one must be spirit-born to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-8) it's the same as saying one must be spirit-born to enter the kingdom of heaven. This may seem like a superfluous detail but when dealing with cultists like the Jehovah's Witnesses; it matters.

†. Gen 37:12-14a . . One time, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father's flock at Shechem, Israel said to Joseph: Your brothers are pasturing at Shechem. Come, I will send you to them. He answered: I am ready. And he said to him: Go and see how your brothers are and how the flocks are faring, and bring me back word. So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

A guy like Joseph is every supervisor's dream. When asked to do something, his response was; "I am ready."

Hebron (a.k.a. Hevron, a.k.a. Al Khalil) is still on the map. It's about 18½ miles west of the Dead Sea, as the crow flies, and about 20½ miles south of Jerusalem.

Shechem (a.k.a. Nablus) is still on the map too. It's about 48 miles north of Jerusalem; ergo: 68½ miles north of Hebron.

So Joseph had a long ways to go. It's amazing that people pastured their herds so far from home in those days; but then it wasn't unusual for out-west cattle barons during America's 1800's to pasture cows that far; and even farther.

The Prairie Cattle Company once ranged 156,000 cows on five million acres of land. At 640 acres per square mile; that factors out to something like 7,812 square miles; viz: an 88.375 mile square; which really isn't all that big when you think about it. It's a lot of area; but 88.375 miles is really not all that great a distance for an automobile; though the distance around the perimeter would be something like 353½ miles. At 55 mph it would take roughly 6½ hours start to finish-- quite a bit longer on a camel and/or a donkey's back.

Personally, I would have been concerned about Joseph's safety more than anything else; but apparently nobody interfered with Jacob's family in those days (Gen 35:5) so they pretty much had carte blanche to graze wherever they liked in those parts.

†. Gen 37:14b-17 . .When he reached Shechem, a man came upon him wandering in the fields. The man asked him: What are you looking for? He answered: I am looking for my brothers. Could you tell me where they are pasturing? The man said: They have gone from here, for I heard them say "Let us go to Dothan". So Joseph followed his brothers and found them at Dothan.

It's interesting that the man isn't on record asking Joseph who he was nor who his brothers might be. Probably everybody around Shechem knew Jacob's family personally because they had all lived around there for some time before moving south. In America's olde West, people knew each other for miles around because, quite simply, there just wasn't all that many people to know.

Dothan has yet to be precisely located. Some say it was about 12 miles north of Shechem; but that's really only an educated guess. Years later, Dothan became the stage for a pretty exciting event. (2Kgs 6:8-23)


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Gen 37:18-20

†. Gen 37:18a . .They saw him from afar,

Just how far isn't said; though it was probably the youngest among Joseph's brothers who saw and recognized him first. A few of the men were getting up in years at this time and were well past young adulthood.

Optical science is relatively recent. For millennia, people got by on just their natural eyesight without the aid of lenses. Prior to the invention of eyeglasses, Solomon rued that one of the curses of old age is failing eyesight. (Ecc 12:1-2)

The first recorded use of a "corrective" lens was by the emperor Nero (ce 37-68) who was known to watch the gladiatorial games through an emerald, presumably to correct for myopia. The gem probably wasn't ground to any specific prescription, nor even any particular shape. Nero probably discovered, like any kid does with a water glass, that the shape of the stone somehow modified light; and as luck would have it, Nero's emerald worked pretty well for him.

The Arabs had some understanding of lenses sometime around ce 1200, and eyeglasses began to come into common use in Italy around ce 1300. Practically all advances in the science of optics have taken place within just the last thousand years, so when the Bible says people like Isaac had "dim" eyes, it probably just means they could have used a pair of glasses.

†. Gen 37:18b-20 . . and before he came close to them they conspired to kill him. They said to one another: Here comes that dreamer! Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we can say a savage beast devoured him. We shall see what comes of his dreams!

The brothers' display of intended cruelty to their own kid brother Joseph is shocking coming from the sacred patriarchs of the people of Israel.

I seriously doubt the brothers were intent upon ending Joseph's life only so his dreams wouldn't come true. That was just bombastic rhetoric. Truth is: they just hated him; simple as that.

Isn't it odd that when people hate someone they want them dead? How about maybe a beating instead? Why not throw hot coffee or scalding water in their face, or maybe singe their back with a hot steam iron while they're sleeping? Why death? Because death is all that will truly satisfy the human heart's hatred. Maybe nobody reading this will ever actually murder anybody; but that doesn't mean you aren't a murder. Wishing somebody would die, is the wish of a murderer's heart; and that's the plain truth of it.

"Whosoever hates his brother is a murderer" (1John 3:15)

The koiné Greek word for "brother" in that passage is adelphos (ad-el-fos') which refers to one's kin rather than to one's neighbor.

Hatred for one's kin doesn't make the hater guilty of murder; it's only saying that someone harboring hatred for their kin has the nature of a murderer. For example: if a lion never ate meat even once in it's life, it would still be a carnivore because lions have the nature of a carnivore. In like manner, if kin-haters never get around to killing the objects of their hate; they would still be murderers because they have the nature of a murderer.


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Gen 37:21-25a

†. Gen 37:21-22 . . But when Reuben heard it, he tried to save him from them. He said: Let us not take his life. And Reuben went on: Shed no blood! Cast him into that pit out in the wilderness, but do not touch him yourselves-- intending to save him from them and restore him to his father.

The suggestion to murder Joseph was apparently discussed in private among only some of the brothers at first. When they attempted to bring Reuben in on it, he balked. Reuben, the eldest son, seems to be the one dissenting opinion in Joseph's case-- so far. Exactly why, is not stated; but even though he messed up by sleeping with his father's concubine; that doesn't mean he's okay with murdering his own kid brother.

No doubt Simeon and Levi had no reservations about ending Joseph's life on the spot; having already displayed malicious tempers and made their bones while handling their sister's scandal back in chapter 34. Reuben's balk seems honestly motivated by a sincere concern for his dad's paternal feelings. Reuben already hurt Jacob's feelings once before by sleeping with his concubine. I don't think he wanted to do that again.

†. Gen 37:23-24 . .When Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the ornamented tunic that he was wearing, and took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Some of the brothers would have sorely loved to burn that "despicable" coat to ashes since it fully represented their kid brother's lording it over them.

The Hebrew word for "pit" is bowr (bore); and means a hole (especially one used as a cistern or a prison). Bowr is variously translated cistern, well, prison, dungeon, and sometimes a pit as bottomless; viz: an abyss.

The "pit" may have been one of two widely-known natural water tanks in that area. Some commentators believe the word "Dothan" means two wells, or two natural tanks; like the Terrapin Tanks in the 1948 western movie The 3 Godfathers with John Wayne and Ward Bond. I seriously doubt that experienced drovers like Jacob's sons would have dropped Joseph in a tank with water because if he were to die in there; his putrefying body would have contaminated it; thus rendering the precious resource unfit for drovers and their herds. Natural water sources were essential to the safety of both man and beast in those days.

Ancient Jewish commentators made the tank home to some lethal critters.

T. And when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his garment, the figured garment that was on him, and took and threw him into the pit; but the pit was empty, no water was therein, but serpents and scorpions were in it. (Targum Jonathan)

†. Gen 37:25a . .Then they sat down to a meal.

Would you be comfortable sitting down to a meal while listening to somebody weeping and sobbing in the background? According to Gen 42:21 that's what Joseph's brothers did. He spent some of his time down in that tank begging for his life; and they just kept right on dining like he wasn't even there.

I read a story of the torture and mistreatment of captives in Sadaam Hussein's pre-invasion jails. This one poor Iraqi man was forced sit down upon the jagged neck of a broken glass pop bottle; and while the bottle filled with blood from his torn bowel, Iraqi police played a game of cards.


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Gen 37:25b-28

†. Gen 37:25b . . Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels bearing gum, balm, and ladanum to be taken to Egypt.

In our day, the Ishmaelites would be driving diesel trucks loaded with flat screen TVs, 501 Levi jeans, Nike sports apparel, Apple iPhones, and Doritos.

The gum may have been tragacanth, or goats-thorn gum, because it was supposed to be obtained from that plant.

The balm (or balsam) is an aromatic substance obtained from a plant of the genus Amyris, which is a native of Gilead. In point of biblical fact, Gilead was famous for its balm (Jer 8:22, Jer 46:11). Balms were of medical value in those days.

The ladanum was probably labdanum, (possibly myrrh), a yellowish brown to reddish brown aromatic gum resin with a bitter, slightly pungent taste obtained from a tree (esp. Commiphora abyssinica of the family Burseraceae) of eastern Africa and Arabia.

Gilead was located in the modern-day country of Jordan-- a mountainous region on the east side of the Jordan River extending from the Sea of Galilee down to the north end of the Dead Sea. It's about sixty miles long and twenty miles wide. Its scenery is beautiful; the hills are fertile and crowned with forests. It was on Gilead's western boundary that Jacob confronted Laban in chapter 31, and also on Gilead's western boundary where Jacob grappled with the angel in chapter 32.

The land of Gilead connected to a major trade route (spice road) from Turkey and Mesopotamia to Egypt; and all points in between. Quite possibly the Ishmaelites were following a track that would eventually take them right down the very road that Hagar had taken towards Shur on her flight from Sarah back in chapter 16.

The Ishmaelites were a blended people consisting of the families of Ishmael and Midian, who were Abraham's progeny (Gen 16:15, Gen 25:2). The two ethnic designations-- Midianites and Ishmaelites --are interchangeable (e.g. Gen 37:28, Jdgs 8:24, Jdgs 8:26). Since the Ishmaelites were Abraham's progeny, then they were blood kin to Jacob's clan; ergo: blood kin not only to Joseph, but also to all the rest of the people of Israel.

†. Gen 37:26-27 . .Then Judah said to his brothers: What do we gain by killing our brother and covering up his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let us not do away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh. His brothers agreed.

Judah's alternative made good sea sense. There was always the risk that somebody might rescue Joseph out of that tank and he would then high-tail it for home and tattle on his brothers for what they did to him. With him an anonymous slave, miles and miles away in Egypt, everything would work out just the way most of them wanted, and the brothers would get a little something in return for Joseph's hide.

†. Gen 37:28 . .When Midianite traders passed by, they pulled Joseph up out of the pit. They sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who brought Joseph to Egypt.

The money in this instance isn't by weight as it had been in the purchase of Sarah's cemetery back in chapter 23. This money is by the piece; of which the precise nomenclature and value are currently unknown. They could have been any size and worth; depending upon international merchant agreements in those days. Joseph was sold at a price that Moses' Law later fixed for juveniles. (Lev 27:5)

Incidentally, Christ was sold out for thirty pieces of silver (Matt 26:15) about which the Bible says was a "lordly" price. (Zech 11:12-13)


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Gen 37:29-36

†. Gen 37:29-30 . .When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he rent his clothes. Returning to his brothers, he said: The boy is gone! Now, what am I to do?

Precisely where, and why, Reuben wasn't present when his brothers sold Joseph isn't stated.

Reuben wasn't privy to his brothers' scheme to sell Joseph so he innocently "informs" them of their kid brother's disappearance. Imagine his dismay to discover that they, of all people, sold their own blood kin into slavery! How in blazes is he supposed to explain that to his dad!?!

Reuben is so disturbed that he can't think straight; so his brothers, in their characteristic cold, calculating way, devise yet another nefarious scheme. They will stain Joseph's ornamental garment with blood and let their dad draw his own conclusions about it.

†. Gen 37:31-32 . .Then they took Joseph's tunic, slaughtered a kid, and dipped the tunic in the blood. They had the ornamented tunic taken to their father, and they said: We found this. Please examine it; is it your son's tunic or not?

So without any explanation, nor details of the circumstances leading up to Joseph's disappearance, they let Jacob jump to his own conclusion. That is a very, very common, and very, very human way of perpetrating a lie.

†. Gen 37:33-34 . . He recognized it, and said: My son's tunic! A savage beast devoured him! Joseph was torn by a beast! Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

This is the very first mention of sackcloth in the Bible. It's a rough, coarse material like burlap commonly used for packaging grain in bags. Though an inexpensive fabric, it's prickly and chafes the skin so it's not really suitable for undergarments. Exactly where Jacob got the idea to abuse himself like that is unknown; but it's common in the Old Testament: mostly donned as an outer garment rather than under.

If Joseph was "torn" then why was his tunic still in one piece? It's not uncommon for carnivorous beasts like grizzly bears to devour a portion of people's clothing right along with their flesh.

Well . . poor Jacob is so overcome with grief over the loss of his favorite son that his logic chip just simply overheated and crashed. People who are gravely upset sometimes have trouble finding their car keys even if they're right inside their own pants pocket.

†. Gen 37:35a . . All his sons and daughters sought to comfort him

"sons and daughters" is somewhat ambiguous and can indicate not just Jacob's progeny, but every man, woman, and child in the whole family regardless of age with himself the paterfamilias of the whole bunch.

†. Gen 37:35b . . but he refused to be comforted, saying: No, I will go down to the netherworld mourning for my son.

The Hebrew word translated "netherworld" is sheol (sheh-ole') and this is its first appearance in the Bible.

Sheol is sometimes translated grave, sometimes hell, sometimes netherworld (a.k.a. the world of the dead; viz: the afterlife) and sometimes not translated at all but left as-is in Hebrew; presumably to avoid controversy.

The New Testament equivalent of sheol is haides (hah'-dace) which is an afterlife place where all the dead go, both the good dead and the bad dead, and the young and the old.

The prophet Jonah went to sheol at some time during his nautical adventure (Jonah 2:2) a place that he described as the roots of the mountains (Jonah 2:6a). Well; the mountains aren't rooted in the tummies of fish; they're rooted down deep in the earth (Jonah 2:6b).

According to Ps 16:8-10 and Acts 2:22-31, Christ spent some time in sheol/haides while waiting for his body to be restored to life.

According to Matt 12:40, sheol/haides is in the heart of the earth. Well; Christ wasn't buried in the heart of the earth; he was buried on the surface in a rock-hewn tomb. So in order for Christ to be on the surface of the earth and simultaneously in the heart of the earth, he and his body had to part company.

†. Gen 37:35c . .Thus his father bewailed him.

Sometimes it's really best to leave people alone and let them grieve through their loss. Many a well-meaning "comforter" has only succeeded in making matters worse by attempting to talk friends out of their grief with good-intentioned, but nevertheless; tiresome philosophical platitudes.

And people who stifle their grief are only forestalling the inevitable. One day, possibly when they least expect it, and quite possibly inconveniently, it will catch up to them.

†. Gen 37:36 . .The Midianites, meanwhile, sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh, and his chief steward.

Although slavery normally isn't regarded a blessing, in this case Joseph couldn't have been sold into a better situation. Potiphar was well-connected instead of just another plantation owner who would work Joseph to the bone; undernourished, inadequately housed, and poorly clothed.

Courtiers were typically royalty's personal assistants and performed a variety of duties. Potiphar was "chief steward". The Hebrew words means boss of the butchers; an ambiguous term which implies not just slaughtering and/or cooking animals for food, but also supervising capital punishments, and/or supervising Pharaoh's personal bodyguards along with the oversight of his own private jails; especially jails for political prisoners.


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Gen 38:1-2

†. Gen 38:1a . . About that time

Joseph was 17 when he arrived in Egypt (Gen 37:2) and 30 when he became prime minister (Gen 41:46). When he went to work for Pharaoh; a 14-year period began, consisting of two divisions-- seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine. After 9 of the 14 years had passed-- the 7 years of plenty, and 2 of the years of famine --Joseph summoned his dad to Egypt (Gen 45:6-9) which would add up to a period of only about 22 years or so.

Some commentators feel that chapter 38 is out of place chronologically; that it really should have followed chapter 33 because there just isn't enough time lapsed-- from Joseph's arrival in Egypt and Jacob's subsequent arrival --for all the births; and all the growing-up time needed for the particulars in chapter 38 to reach an age mature enough to sleep with a woman and father a child (see Adam Clarke's Commentary for an analysis of the circumstances).

"about that time" is so ambiguous, and so unspecific, and the above mentioned time elements so narrow; that the phrase could simply indicate that the events of chapter 38 happened not right after Joseph went to Egypt, but most likely any time during the whole time Jacob was resident in Canaan; in other words: any time between chapter 33 and chapter 47. Joseph was 7 years old when Jacob returned to Canaan, and 17 when carted off to Egypt. So, adding 10 to the 22, would make the period of "about that time" equal to about 32 years total.

†. Gen 38:1b . . Judah

Judah's saga is pretty interesting because it concerns the Israeli tribal head chosen to perpetuate the Jewish line to Messiah (Gen 49:8-12, Heb 7:14).

Some people call this section in Genesis sordid; but I think it's actually kind of humorous because a very resourceful Gentile girl is going to really get one over on the "chosen people".

†. Gen 38:1c . . left his brothers

One can hardly blame Judah for wanting to put some distance between himself and the others once in a while. They were so cruel, so selfish, and so thoughtless. People of cruelty generally make bad company what with all their complaining, their sniping, their carping criticism, their tempers, and their propensity to harm people. If those boys were hard hearted against their own kid brother, just think how cruel they must have been with animals. Judah was no prize himself, that's true, but at least he wasn't a cold blooded murderer at heart. I have no doubt he felt very bad at Josephs' sobbing and begging for his life down in that pit. But I thoroughly suspect he felt that selling his kid brother into slavery was the only way he could possibly save the boy's life. Even if Joseph had escaped his brothers that day, they would always be looking for another opportunity to finish the job.

†. Gen 38:1d . . and camped near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah.

The community of Adullum was roughly 12 miles northwest of Hebron, and later apportioned to the tribe of Judah during Joshua's campaign. (Josh 15:35)

Some translations say that Judah "turned in" to Hirah; implying he lodged in Hirah's home rather than set up his own pavilion. The Hebrew word is natah (naw-taw') which simply means to stretch or spread out; which may indicate that Judah was into a little independent ranching on his own in the area; implying that Judah's spread neighbored Hirah's range land.

Natah is one of those ambiguous words with more than one meaning; which only serves to accent a frustrating fact of life in the world of Bible scholarship that it's pretty near impossible to translate ancient Hebrew texts verbatim into the English language without making an inadvertent error here and there.

†. Gen 38:2 . .There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shua, and he married her and cohabited with her.

From the spiritual aspect; Jacob's family was practically on an island in the midst of a sea infested with caribes. The only viable option for spouses in that predicament was either for a prospective Canaanite to be a God-fearing person, e.g. Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) or sincerely convert to Jacob's religion like Ruth did. (Ru 1:16, Ru 2:11-12)

Whether the daughter converted isn't said. And since there existed no Divine prohibitions against intermarriage with Canaanites at this time-- Israel's covenanted law doesn't have ex post facto jurisdiction (Gal 3:17) --then surely no one could possibly accuse Judah of a sin for marrying outside either his religion or his ethnic identity. However, since two of Shua's boys were incorrigible and ended up dead, slain by God, and none of her three male children by Judah were selected to forward Abraham's line to Messiah; Judah's choice doesn't look good.

Gen 38:2 is tricky because at first glance it looks like the girl might be the daughter of a man named Shua. But in verse 12, the daughter's moniker in Hebrew is Bath-Shuwa' (see also 1Chrn 3:5) which is the very same moniker as Bathsheba's. (1Chrn 3:5)

NOTE: In Hebrew, a daughter is a bath; and a son is a ben (e.g. Judah ben Hur).

Bath-Shuwa' (or: Bath-Shua) just simply means a daughter of wealth; which isn't really a name at all, but a status. Exactly what the status of a "daughter of wealth" is supposed to convey about a girl is hard to tell. Perhaps it just means she's an eligible consideration for marriage-- like a girl who comes of a good family; but that doesn't necessarily mean that a blue-blooded girl is the best choice. Things like education, breeding, and wealth are no guarantee that maybe a girl from across the tracks wouldn't make a much better wife and mother. (she'd certainly tend to be more frugal)


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Gen 38:3-11b

†. Gen 38:3-5 . . She conceived and bore a son, and he named him Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and named him Onan. Once again she bore a son, and named him Shelah; he was at Chezib when she bore him.

The community of Chezib (a.k.a. Achzib and Chozeba) has been identified with Khirbet Kueizibah by somebody named Conder (Palestine Exploration, Jan. 1875). The Talmud mentions that a plain is in front of Chozeba; so Kueizibah has before it the valley of Berachoth (wady Arrub); which is a bit southwest of Adullum. So although Judah moved away from Bath-shua's parents, it wasn't far away.

†. Gen 38:6 . . Judah got a wife for Er his first-born; her name was Tamar.

Ms. Tamar is a total mystery. Neither her family, her ethnic identity, her age, her looks, her education, her material worth, nor anything else is known about her. But she's the one through whom God will bring Messiah into the world; so I think it's safe to say she was probably a much better woman than Bath-shua.

†. Gen 38:7 . . But Er, Judah's first-born, was displeasing to The Lord, and The Lord took his life.

Er has the distinction of being the very first member of the people of Israel-- the chosen people --whom God personally clipped Himself. Er was only the beginning because God's chosen people weren't chosen to be His pampered pets; no, they were selected to be the number-one caretakers, and propagators, of the knowledge of God. So then, of all the people in the world, Jews have the least excuse for failure to comply with God's wishes because they have always had that information at their fingertips while a very large portion of the rest of the world; for many, many centuries, didn't. Therefore, the status of God's chosen people isn't something to be proud of; no, it's something to be afraid of.

"Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel-- against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt --saying: You only have I known of all the families of the earth: that's why I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:1-2)

†. Gen 38:8 . .Then Judah said to Onan: Join with your brother's wife and do your duty by her as a brother-in-law, and provide offspring for your brother.

According to Deut 5:2-4, the covenant that Yhvh's people agreed upon with God as per Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy isn't retroactive. So then Judah's directive wasn't a strict by-the-book legal requirement as-stipulated by Deut 25:5-6; but was nevertheless something that God approved without it being a covenanted requirement.

The "duty" to which Judah referred was apparently a widely accepted custom, not only in his own day, but in days preceding him. Some feel that the custom had its origin in the early-day practice of purchasing a wife rather than courting; so that she became a portion of the dead man's estate. As such, she remained the "property" (and the responsibility) of the clan; thus assuring widows of a livelihood, and of protection and security after their husband's death. In that respect, being a "mail order" bride had its advantages in an era when very few women had careers of their own outside the home or were entitled to assistance programs.

†. Gen 38:9 . . But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, spilled it on the ground whenever he joined with his brother's wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother.

It's been suggested that Onan's motivation for leaving his new wife childless was to make sure Er didn't posthumously cause his own inheritance to be reduced. As the firstborn, Er came in for a larger portion of Judah's estate than Onan. But with Er dead and out of the way, Onan became the firstborn by natural succession. Actually, Onan didn't have to marry Tamar; but if and when he did, it was an implied consent to try his best to engender a boy so the dead man would have someone to carry on his name. But Onan chose instead to take advantage of his brother's widow and use her like a harlot; and that was not only a cruel thing to do, but a fatal error too.

†. Gen 38:10 . .What he did was displeasing to The Lord, and He took his life also.

Some have attempted to use this passage as a proof text that it's a sin to practice contraception. But any honest examination of the facts testifies otherwise. Onan evaded his obligation, and married his brother's widow under false pretenses; apparently with the full intention of protecting his own inheritance rather than that of his dead brother. That was unforgivable because it's all the same as fraud and breech of contract; not to mention deplorably uncaring about a widow's predicament (cf. Luke 7:11-15). Tamar had a legitimate right to a baby fathered by Judah's clan, and it was their moral, if not sacred, duty to make an honest attempt to provide her with not only a baby, but also a man by her side to take care of her too.

†. Gen 38:11a . .Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar: Stay as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up

At this point, Judah did the unthinkable: he disowned his daughter-in-law. That just wasn't done. When a girl married into a clan; she became one with that clan. I can scarce believe Judah sent Tamar back to her father; and I'm honestly surprised Tamar's dad didn't march her right back to Judah's front door and get in his face about it and demand he fulfill his obligations to one of Israel's own widows.

†. Gen 38:11b . . for he thought: He too might die like his brothers.

No doubt Shelah's mom Bath-shua was by this time up in arms and protesting vehemently against any more marriages of her own sons to this "toxic" female.

I've a pretty good notion of what Judah had in mind. He had no intention of letting Tamar anywhere near his one and only surviving male heir. As far as he was concerned, Tamar was nothing less than a Black Widow-- one of the those deadly spiders in the southwest that eats her mate for dinner after the poor hormone-driven slob fulfills his one and only purpose in life.


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Gen 38:11c-17

†. Gen 38:11c . . So Tamar went to live in her father's house.

Sending Tamar back home, as an unattached girl, Judah no doubt sincerely hoped she would meet somebody in her own neighborhood; maybe an old boyfriend or two, and remarry before Shelah got old enough; thus, his last son would be safe from Ms. Black Widow. But as it turned out, Tamar had more grit than Mattie Ross of Darnel County. Judah's clan owed her dead husband a baby boy, and that was that.

You can hardly blame her. Jacob's clan was very wealthy, so that any children Tamar should produce by them, would have all the best that life had to offer in early-day Palestine; plus her grandchildren would be well taken care of too. Since nothing is said of her origin, Tamar may not have been a blue-blooded girl like her mother-in-law, but could have easily come from a low income community on the wrong side of the tracks. What would you do in the best interests of your children in that situation?

†. Gen 38:12a . . As time went by, Judah's wife Bath-shua died.

This event left Judah single, and eligible to remarry; so that Tamar and Judah are now both single adults; however, Tamar is betrothed, and that makes things a little complicated.

†. Gen 38:12b . . After he got over her passing, Judah went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, together with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

Timnah-- a.k.a. Tibneh: a deserted site southwest of Zorah, and two miles west of Ain Shems --was roughly 11 miles northwest from ancient Adullum towards Bethlehem.

†. Gen 38:13-14a . . And it was told Tamar, saying: Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep. So she took off her widow's garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah;

The Hebrew words for "open place" are weird. They mean "an open eye". One of those words-- the one for "eye" --can also mean a spring or an artesian well (e.g. Gen 16:7). A wayside rest, like as can be usually found on many modern Federal highways, would probably qualify as an example of the "open place" to which Gen 38:14 refers.

Tamar's rest stop likely included a source of water, not for cars, but for the animals that men either herded, rode upon, or used for pack animals when they traveled up and down the primitive trails and roads of ancient Palestine.

Sheep-shearing occurs sometime in the spring, so the weather in Palestine at that season was sunny and warm.

Veils weren't an eo ipso indication that a woman was loose, since Rebecca had worn one upon meeting her spouse-to-be Isaac (Gen 24:65). Although the text says that Tamar's veil covered her face (vs. 15), it likely not only covered her face, but her whole body, because veils were more like a burqa than the little mask-like nets that women sometimes wear to funerals; except that burqa's are cumbersome and ugly, whereas Tamar's veil was a lightweight wrap, and likely quite colorful and eye-catching; and conveyed an altogether different message than a woman in mourning.

†. Gen 38:14b . . for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife.

Actually, Shelah wasn't the one who owed Tamar an Israeli baby; it was Judah, the head of the clan, and that's why he's the one she's coming after rather than Judah's son. Tamar is a scary girl; and one you wouldn't want to trifle with. Not many women would have had the chutzpah to do what she did. To begin with, for a lone woman to sit out along a remote road, unescorted, like she did, was inherently dangerous, and could have led to all sorts of mischief.

†. Gen 38:15a . .When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute,

The particular kind of prostitute in this episode is from the Hebrew word qedeshah (ked-ay-shaw') which isn't your typical working girl, but rather a devotee raising money for an established religion (Gen 38:21) typically a pagan kind of religion centered upon the worship of a goddess like Ashtoreth (a.k.a. Astarte). So one might say that a qedeshah's services were for a worthy cause.

†. Gen 38:15b . . for she had covered her face.

It's just amazing how difficult it is sometimes to recognize familiar people when they turn up in places we least expect them. Take Jesus for example. When he revived after his ordeal on the cross, people didn't know him right off: close friends like Mary Magdalena didn't recognize him at first even at close proximity (John 20:13-16). Another example is when Jesus came out to his followers' boat during a storm on open water. At first they thought he was a ghost, and Peter wouldn't believe it was Jesus until he gave him the power to walk on water himself (Matt 14:25-29).

†. Gen 38:16-17 . . Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said: Come now, let me sleep with you. And what will you give me to sleep with you? she asked. I'll send you a young goat from my flock; he said. Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it? she asked.

The Hebrew word for "pledge" in that passage is 'arabown (ar-aw-bone') which means a pawn (given as security) as in pawn shop. This is the very first place in the Bible where that word is used. In the usury business, an 'arabown is forfeited if the borrower fails to repay his loan. This is a very important principle in the divine plan.

"In him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (Eph 1:13-14)

The Greek word for "pledge" in that passage is arrhabon (ar-hrab-ohn') which means essentially the same as the Hebrew word 'arabown except that the Greek word indicates a little something extra.

Real estate transactions usually involve a sum called the earnest money. Although it may be applied towards the purchase price of property, earnest money itself serves a specific purpose of its own in the real estate business. In some quarters; this is also called good faith money.

When the contract, and all the other necessary documents are submitted to Escrow, the buyer is required to also submit a token amount of the purchase price. It's usually a relatively small number of dollars compared to the full price of the property. I think ours was just $1,000 back in 1988 on a $74,000 home. When the buyer follows through on their intent to purchase the property, the good faith money (minus some Escrow fees of course) goes towards the purchase.

However, if the buyer loses interest in the property and decides to renege, then they forfeit the good faith money. No doubt that's done to discourage vacillating buyers from fiddling around with other people's time and money.

So then, since God's Spirit is the earnest depicted in Eph 1:13-14; then, according to the principles underlying the arrhabon, should God betray a believer's trust by reneging on His promise to spare people who hear and believe the gospel, then He forfeits; and the believer gets to keep the Spirit regardless of their afterlife destiny.

But of course God won't renege because doing so would not only embarrass Himself, but embarrass His son too as Jesus has given his word that believers have nothing to fear.

"I assure you, those who heed my message, and believe in God who sent me, have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." (John 5:24)

There are people who actually believe the Bible's God can get away with reneging on His promises. A belief of that nature of course eo ipso insinuates that the Bible's God is capable of dishonesty and can't be trusted to make good on anything He says.


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Gen 38:18-26

†. Gen 38:18a . . He said: What pledge should I give you? Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand; she answered.

The items that Tamar required for a pledge were akin to a photo ID or a thumb print in those days. Judah's staff wasn't just a kendo stick or a walking cane or a shepherd's crook. It was more like a king's scepter, specially made just for him, and served the express purpose of identifying him as the head of his tribe. Staffs were made of either wood or metal, and usually capped with a masthead. The quality of the staff would of course depend upon the material wherewithal of the person ordering it.

Judah's seal could have been a small, uniquely engraved cylinder, or possibly a ring (e.g. Jer 22:24) but wasn't always worn on a finger. Way back in Judah's day, seals were sometimes worn around the neck with a necklace; or attached to personal walking sticks and/or staffs with a lanyard, and forced into wax or soft clay to leave an impressed "signature". The whole shebang-- seal, cord, and staff --was often a unit; and there were no two alike.

The staff, with its cord and seal, was, of course, quite worthless for a shrine prostitute's purposes. In dollar value, it was nothing, as it couldn't be sold or traded. However, its value to Judah was why it was a good pledge item. He would certainly want it back.

†. Gen 38:18b-23 . . So he gave them to her and mated with her, and she conceived by him. After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow's clothes again.

. . . Meanwhile, Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. He asked the men who lived there: Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim? There hasn't been any shrine prostitute here; they said.

. . . So he went back to Judah and said: I didn't find her. Besides, the men who lived there said there hasn't been any shrine prostitute here. Then Judah said: Let her keep what she has or we will become a disgrace. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn't find her.

It might seem silly that Judah was concerned for his tribe's honor in this matter, but in those days, cult prostitutes did have a measure of respect in their community, and it wasn't unusual for every woman in the community to be expected to take a turn at supporting their "church" in that manner; so cult prostitution wasn't really looked upon as a vice but rather as a sacred obligation.

Judah's failure to pay up could be construed by locals as mockery of their religion's way of doing business, thus insulting those who believed and practiced it; so he emphasized his effort to find the woman and make good on his I.O.U.

This appears to me the first instance of religious tolerance in the Bible; and the circumstances are intriguing: to say the least.

†. Gen 38:24 . . And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying: Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.

At this time, Tamar was living with her dad; so Judah wouldn't have known she was expecting unless a rumor mill brought the news around.

The word for "harlot" in Gen 38:24 is zanah (zaw-naw'), and the word for "harlotry" is zanuwn (zaw-noon') and both mean adultery. Tamar is accused of adultery because at this point, she's assumed betrothed (though not yet married) to Shelah. (cf. Matt 1:18-19)

†. Gen 38:24 . . So Judah said: Bring her out and let her be burned!

Since there were no Federal, nor any State, nor any Municipal laws in existence in primitive Palestine, local sheiks like Judah were the Supreme Court of their own tribes. Though Tamar was living back at home with her dad, she remained under Judah's jurisdiction because of her past marriages to two of Judah's sons.

NOTE: I suspect Judah saw this turn of events as a golden opportunity to save his last surviving son from marrying Ms. Black Widow.

†. Gen 38:25a . .When she was brought out,

It's odd to me that Judah didn't attend Tamar's execution: possibly because he couldn't look her in the eye for reneging on his promise to give her Shelah. However; Judah was in for a very big jolt to his nervous system because Tamar produced a surprise witness.

†. Gen 38:26 . . she sent to her father-in-law, saying: By the man to whom these belong, I am with child. And she said: Please determine whose these are-- the signet and cord, and staff. So Judah acknowledged them and said: She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son. And he never saw her again.

Actually, neither Judah nor Tamar were "righteous" in this matter. His comment was relative. Though both had behaved rather badly; Tamar held the high moral ground. It's like movies today. The good guys and the bad guys are no longer distinctly moral and immoral and/or scrupulous and unscrupulous. Often both sides of the equation are immoral and unscrupulous; with the "good" guys just being more likable.


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Gen 38:27-29

†. Gen 38:27-28 . .When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb! While she was in labor, one of them put out his hand, and the midwife tied a crimson thread on that hand, to signify: This one came out first.

According to modern medicine, a baby isn't really born until it's head is outside the womb; so that it's legal (in some states) to kill babies with a so called "dilation and extraction" abortion; which is a term coined by Ohio abortionist Dr. Martin Haskell for an abortion method in which he removes a baby's brain while it's head is still partially within the womb, and then completes the delivery by extracting the corpse. But in Tamar's day, even the exit of so much as a hand was counted birth: thus Zerah became Tamar's legal firstborn son.

†. Gen 38:29 . . But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said: What a breach you have made for yourself! So he was named Perez (which means: break (as in break through a barrier or force a way through; viz: buck the line and/or go out of turn). Afterward his brother came out, on whose hand was the crimson thread; he was named Zerah (which means: a rising of light; viz: morning).

Well . . regardless of Zerah's primo-genitive prerogatives, God bypassed him in Judah's line to Messiah; which, by Divine appointment went to Perez, the second-born. (Matt 1:1-3)

NOTE: You'd think holy propriety would demand that the sacred line to Messiah be pure. I mean, after all, a child of adultery and incest hardly seems like a proper ancestor for the King of Kings. But no, an ancestry of adultery and/or incest makes no difference to Christ. In point of fact, in time a famous harlot from Jericho named Rahab produced yet another male in the line to the lamb of God (Matt 1:5). And let's not forget Ruth who descended from Lot sleeping with one of his own daughters in a cave. (cf. Gen 19:36-37, Ruth 4:10, and Matt 1:5)

According to Rom 8:3 Christ didn't come in the likeness of innocent flesh; no, he came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and his ancestry certainly proves it.


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Gen 39:1-7

†. Gen 39:1-3 . .Now when Joseph arrived in Egypt with the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, a member of the personal staff of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was the captain of the palace guard. The Lord was with Joseph and blessed him greatly as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that The Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.

The identity of the Pharaoh during this moment in history is a total mystery, and even that fact is a mystery in itself because Egypt was normally quite meticulous in recording its accomplishments, and the names of Egypt's dynastic successions are recorded practically without a break thru the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, clear on back to 3,000 BC. But for some reason, so far unexplained, a blank occurs in its history between 1730 to 1580 BC.

This absence of information puzzles Egyptologists; and thus far has only been satisfactorily explained by the conquering-- and subsequent dominance --of Egypt by an ancient people called the Hyksos; who were Semitic tribes from Syria and Canaan. The Hyksos were of a different mentality than the Egyptians and apparently weren't inclined to keep a meticulous record of their own accomplishments as had their vanquished predecessors before them.

Not only is there a dearth of documents from that period, but there aren't even any monuments to testify of it. If perchance Joseph was in Egypt during the Hyksos, that might explain why there exists not one shred of archaeological evidence to corroborate the Bible in regards to its story of Joseph in Egypt.

Joseph's success was, of course, in regards to his proficiency, and in no way says anything about his personal prosperity because as a slave, he had no income, owned no property, controlled no business ventures, nor maintained some sort of investment portfolio.

How Potiphar found out that Yhvh was Joseph's god isn't said. But in knowing, he quite naturally credited Yhvh with Joseph's proficiency because people in those days were very superstitious. Even Potiphar's own name, which in Egyptian is Pa-di-pa-ra, means "the gift of the god Ra".

†. Gen 39:3-6a . .So Joseph naturally became quite a favorite with him. Potiphar soon put Joseph in charge of his entire household and entrusted him with all his business. From the day Joseph was put in charge, Yhvh began to bless Potiphar for Joseph's sake.

. . . All his household affairs began to run smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn't have a worry in the world, except to decide what he wanted to eat!

This was all idyllic for Mr. Aristocrat; but unfortunately, there was a fly poised to plop itself into the ointment.

†. Gen 39:6b-7 . .Now Joseph was young, well built, and handsome. After a while, his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph and said; Sleep with me.

The apparent overture wasn't a request. Since Joseph was a slave, it wasn't necessary for Potiphar's wife to seduce him. She only had to give him an order, and he was expected to obey it.

It's not uncommon to find women who feel trapped in an unfulfilling marriages. Henry David Thoreau once wrote that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Well; some of that "mass of men" includes women.

Potiphar's wife (call her Anna for convenience) was an amorously active woman married to the wrong man. No children are listed for her husband so it's very possible Potiphar was a eunuch; a distinct possibility in ancient palaces. He might have been an older man too, maybe a bit too old.

Anna probably didn't marry for love; but for security. That's understandable since women of that day didn't have a lot of career options, nor a minority status, nor retirement benefits, nor entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. For women in Anna's day, marriage was often a matter of survival rather than a matter of the heart.

She was obviously still lively and maybe would have enjoyed dinner out and salsa dancing once or twice a week; while Potipher probably barely had enough energy left to plop down and fall asleep in his La-Z-Boy recliner after working 12-14 hours a day in the palace and just wanted to be left alone in his man cave with a can of beer and CNN.

There are women who prefer older men; sometimes much older. But there are other women, like Anna, who prefer the young ones; however, sometimes life just doesn't give them any options.

So then, what's a desperate housewife to do when her husband is old and boring, and here's this strapping, virile young slave guy around the house with you all day long? Well . .you're either going to drink a lot, get witchy, take pills, or make a move and see what happens. Unfortunately, Anna isn't going to be a very good sport about it.


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Gen 39:8-23

†. Gen 39:8-18 . . But Joseph refused. Look; he told her; my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do! He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I ever do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.

. . . She kept putting pressure on him day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he avoided her as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he was doing his work inside the house. She came and grabbed him by his shirt, demanding: Sleep with me! Joseph tore himself away, but as he did, his shirt came off. She was left holding it as he ran from the house.

. . .When she saw that she had his shirt and that he had fled, she began screaming. Soon all the men around the place came running. My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to humiliate us; she sobbed. He tried to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard my loud cries, he ran and left his shirt behind with me.

. . . She kept the shirt with her, and when her husband came home that night, she told him her story. That Hebrew slave you've had around here tried to humiliate me; she said. I was saved only by my screams. He ran out, leaving his shirt behind!

Joseph's situation parallels a case in Harper Lee's book To Kill A Mockingbird where a promiscuous woman accuses an innocent man of sexual misconduct in order to cover up her own indiscretions.

Scorned women can be very cruel. When I was a youthful, good-looking guy, the wife (whom I was careful to avoid) of a good friend accused me to her husband of going off on her with abusive language in a tirade. To defend myself and expose his wife for the liar that she was, would have meant causing my friend deep humiliation; so I elected to keep silent and take the pain. Our friendship was of course ruined, and we parted. A few months later, I was told they divorced. Like that was any big surprise.

†. Gen 39:19-20a . .When his master heard the story that his wife told him, namely; "Thus and so your slave did to me" he was furious. So Joseph’s master had him put in prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined.

I've no doubt Potiphar didn't believe a word of his wife's story or otherwise he would have put Joseph to death rather than in a cushy jail where political prisoners were kept, but what was he to do? Stick up for a slave over his wife? Not happening. So Joseph was sacrificed to keep peace in the home.

†. Gen 39:20-23 . . But while Joseph was there in the prison, Yhvh was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because Yhvh was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

A trustee's lot in prison is much more agreeable than regular inmates. Joseph was very fortunate to have the Lord in his corner otherwise he might have been neglected; but as a trustee, he could roam about the cell block like as if he were one of the guards.

It would appear to the uninformed that Joseph had a natural aptitude for management; but actually he didn't; no, he was supernaturally-gifted. That is quite an advantage-- a resentful rival might even say: an unfair advantage.


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Gen 40:1-4a

Joseph was 17 when he arrived in Egypt, and 30 when he became prime minister. So 13 years of his young adulthood were wasted in servitude and prison; and all that time without even so much as a date or a girlfriend. More than a full decade of the best years of his life went by with no female companionship whatsoever.

A man's libido peaks in the years between 18 and 24, then begins tapering off as he gradually gets older. Since there is no record of Joseph's association with a special girl back home in Palestine, I think it's safe to conclude that he had never cuddled with a girl in his entire life till he got married sometime in his thirties. So you can see that Joseph was not only robbed of the best years of his life, but totally missed out on something that's very important to the psychological well being of the average red-blooded guy.

As Joseph got older, and began to realize that life was passing him by, and that his youth was ebbing away, he no doubt began to wonder if maybe his current situation wasn't permanent; and as the days and years continued to go by one after another, he must have become frightened, depressed, and desperate as he saw no plausible way to remedy his predicament and get his life back.

We used to joke among ourselves as professional welders that adverse conditions in the workplace build character. (chuckle) Like as if any blue collar skull needs "character" for anything. However, people destined for greatness can benefit immensely from character-building experiences that serve to temper their success; for example Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was immensely privileged and harbored a horrid superiority complex. Polio really humbled him, and in time, Roosevelt's handicap made him a much better man and a much better leader.

I've seen people's leadership and responsibility handed to them on the silver platter of privilege; resulting in their treating lower ranking employees with thoughtless contempt. If those managers had only started out laboring in construction, selling luggage, shackled in slavery, or convicted of crimes they didn't commit; then maybe they would have developed a sensitivity that would have made them, not just managers, but great managers.

Under normal circumstances, Joseph's alleged crime was punishable by death. So then, since he wasn't executed, but instead put in a prison normally reserved for political prisoners, his circumstances tend to support the opinion that Potiphar didn't believe his wife's story at all.

†. Gen 40:1a . . Some time later,

Exactly how long Joseph had been in prison prior to this next section is uncertain. However, his age would have been near 28 since it will be just two years afterwards that he's released (Gen 41:1).

†. Gen 40:1b-4a . . the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt gave offense to their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two courtiers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody, in the house of the chief steward, in the same prison house where Joseph was confined. The chief steward assigned Joseph to them, and he attended them.

The "chief steward" was Mr. Potiphar (Gen 39:1).

Exactly what these two muckity-mucks did to warrant being placed under arrest isn't said, but since both men's functions were directly related to Pharaoh's nourishment; it's reasonable to assume their offenses most likely had something to do with the King's table. Perhaps the beverages, as well as the food, just happened to be tainted both at the same time, thus suggesting a conspiracy to poison their master. Since they weren't summarily executed, it's apparent that they're just suspects at this point, and being held without bail until Potiphar's secret service completed an investigation into the matter. It's entirely possible that some of the lower ranking members of the kitchen staff are being held too, though not in the same place.

Cupbearers weren't just flunky taste testers, but were savvy advisors: thus, in a position of great influence. They were also saddled with the responsibility of supervising the King's vineyards in order to ensure their potentate received only the very best beverages deserving of the rank. So cupbearers were very competent men who knew a thing or two about not only diplomacy, but also the wine business. Egyptian documents testify to their wealth and power (cf. Neh 2:1).

Although the baker wasn't up as high as a cupbearer, his duties were still critical. He didn't just make cookies and coffee cake, and/or supervise the kitchen staff, but did the shopping too. He sniffed all the meats, fowls, and fishes, and nibbled all the vegetables before they were ever brought inside the castle. Without the benefit of refrigeration, his responsibility was very great since his master could easily become gravely ill, and quite possibly die, from eating spoiled foods.

To be placed at the service of these two high ranking courtiers was really an honor, even though they were just as much locked up as Joseph. However, he was a slave and they were courtiers; so there was a big difference in rank even behind bars. But the two men had it pretty cushy. They weren't treated like common convicts; no, they each had a very competent, fully experienced butler with impeccable references at their service-- Mr. Joseph ben Jacob.


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