Well, it seems the slower i write, the better i write. Since i ran out of ink in my Pilot Varsitys (disposable fountain style pens) i have had to switch back to ball point. As a result, my writing speed has increased. It is easier to write with ballpoint. The fountain pen is rougher and scratchier, and thereby requires a slower more careful pace. Also, the ink is is lighter in the ballpoint due to the nature of the ink and pen. As a result, i have been writing faster and much sloppier, and it has really been effecting the work. So today, i purposefully started slowing down and writing more carefully. As a result my writing definitely has improved, but by the end of the chapter i can definitely tell that it is slipping again. I really need to get myself another set of Varsitys or other fountain style.
The reality of the human condition and situation becomes darker in the face of this chapter. Here we begin to see the relationships between the siblings. We find that Joseph (Rachael’s older son) is clearly favored by his father and hated by his siblings. He tells his siblings about dreams he had that they and his father would bow down to him, and they become even more bitter and angry.
When they get a chance, a group of his brothers decide to gang up on him and kill him, but Reuben wants to protect him. So Reuben sets up a rescue plan. Unfortunately, at the last minute the other brothers change their mind and decide that money is worth more than blood on their hands, so they sell him as a slave, foiling Reuben’s plans.
Meanwhile; they kill a goat, put the blood on Joseph’s coat, bring it to their father, and allow their father to think that Joseph was killed by wild beasts. Thus their father mourns for Joseph, refuses to be comforted, and almost goes to his own grave. The brothers go on with their lives as if nothing had happened.
So who are the beasts?
It’s a time of change again, isn’t it? Here we go, Jacob / Israel is called by God yet again to leave the place where he is and go. This time move to Bethel (house of God), live there, and make an alter to God.
So what does Jacob do? He gives instruction to all his household to take their foreign household gods and emblems representing these things and get rid of them. He tells them to purify themselves and prepare to leave. In response, God puts a fear of them in all the cities that they pass. No one pursues them, no one attacks them.
While at Bethel, God renews the promise He made with Abraham and Isaac with Jacob (yet again changing his name to Israel). Jacob gets that promised blessing, but it all comes at a time of loss and despair as well. Rebekah’s nurse Deborah dies on the way, then not long afterwards Rebekah dies in childbirth. Quite the contrast. Such an opposition of turmoil and joy. Personal blessing from God (what Jacob/Israel had specifically asked for when he wrestled with God), and a new son, at the loss of his beloved wife. Add to that, the death of his father.
I just can’t find the right word to describe it. Turmoil is about correct, but turmoil emphasizes trouble over blessing. Confusion deals with the contrasting feelings, but it implies being unsure, and in this case all is clear, but it is more conflicting. Conflicting is a good word, but it has too much of a feeling of conflict, and this is not about conflict. It’s about two opposing states of being residing clearly within the same experience. It leaves the man confounded but not confused, divided but still whole, overwhelmed but still at peace, frustrated but still full of joy. It is a time of both blessing and pain all clear and jumbled at the same time. I just can’t find the right word to describe it. It’s funny, with so many words in the English language, yet it is so incomplete in so many ways.
It has all come to a head! “In this corner Laban, the father of Leah & Rachael and the previous owner of much that Jacob has! He is a lifelong member of the community with a family history that backs his name!
“In this other corner is the young upstart Jacob! He has come into Laban’s household seeking a bride, and after some trickery on Laban’s part and contention among sisters, he comes away with not 1 but 4 wives from Laban’s household! Now that ladies and gentlemen is a handful that has in turn given him a quiver full of little ones! This young Jacob has clearly been blessed by God!
“Laban throws the first punch. He has started by chasing Jacob down with a mob. This ladies and gentlemen will be a representative of our judges. Now he’s accusing Jacob of stealing! This could get ugly, but Jacob is just rolling with the punches. He’s allowing Laban to go through all of his belongings and has promised that if anyone has stolen from Laban that person will be killed!
Laban continues his search going through Jacob’s stuff, and then Leah’s and the maid’s. He hasn’t found what he’s looking for and he’s clearly getting frustrated. He comes to Rachael’s tent and she does a little 1-2 bob and weave to avoid getting caught with the goods. This little lady has definitely gotten the best of her old man.
The search is over and Jacob counters with a powerhouse 1-2 punch. He accuses Laban of trying to cheat HIM! Jacob lists off all that is his that he has rightfully earned at Laban’s hands. He lists off the wives and years of toil. He’s adding in a jab or two about his wages constantly being changed. The judges are clearly eating this up. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the best defense turned offense’s i have seen in a very long time! Jacob is laying it all out, and is clearly cleaning up this match. It’s about over folks, but let’s see if Laban can make a come back.
Laban stands back up after that brutal beating and tries to build up a defense. He tries to jab in that all that Jacob owns is and was his. Nobody’s buying this one, and you can see the scorn on the judges faces for this clearly unfounded battle.
WAIT! There it is! Jacob has thrown up the white flag! He, the man who started the fight in the first place, is asking for a truce. He has clearly been boosticated, and is now trying to come out with some sort of dignity. Will Jacob accept? YES! The truce has been accepted, and the fighters will go their separate ways in peace! This, ladies and gentlemen, has been a fight for the ages!
If someone makes an accusation about your actions, will they speak as a shining example of Christ?
Well, that’s three pens i have gone through now. I ended up switching from fountain style to ball point style, and i definitely don’t like the difference in quality of the ink. The fountain style is definitely scratchier on the paper while the ball point writes smoother, but the ink and quality of writing i get with the fountain style definitely makes it a better quality pen overall.
If faith in action is the theme of Abram/Abraham’s life, and blessing the theme of Isaac’s, then wrestling / struggle appears to be a major theme of Jacob’s life. In chapter 30 we see Jacob’s wives, Leah and Rachael, struggling together to bear sons for Jacob. They go so far as to follow in his grandparents footsteps and bring their maids into service to bear children for them. Jacob gets angry at Rachael for her blaming him for her being barren, and finally God opens her womb and she is able to bear.
Meanwhile, Jacob is struggling with his uncle Laban who is expecting Jacob to work for him for basically nothing. Since Jacob’s arrival, Laban has been blessed more and more. He appears to be becoming wealthy at Jacob’s expense. Meanwhile, Laban appears to continue to have an attitude that Leah, Rachael, and their children still belong to him. With that kind of attitude it’s no wonder that Laban had struggled with being blessed before Jacob’s arrival.
By the end of the chapter progress has been made. Leah has borne six sons and one daughter, and her maid has borne to Jacob two sons. Meanwhile Rachael’s maid has borne Jacob two sons for her, and God has finally blessed her by opening her womb and she has borne Joseph. All have overcome.
Meanwhile, Jacob is finally getting paid for his services to Laban. He gets the spotted, speckled, and striped sheep and goats, and God is blessing him. He is overcoming his Uncle Laban’s greedy behaviors.
Do we feel like we are constantly struggling with no success? I know that i feel that way at times. So often it seems like i am working so hard, and the success is so limited. I know that God is taking care of me and blessing me, but it is easy to focus on the struggle and lose sight of the times and ways God has helped me to overcome. We will have trials, troubles, and tribulations in life. They can be walls that block our way, or just bumps in the road. God gives us the strength to succeed and overcome. What do you have to thank God for today?
Jacob is sent away to marry from Rebekah’s family. He is given a proper blessing by his father, and instructed not to marry from the Canaanites around him. I remember in Sunday School always being taught that Esau heard about this and ran off to marry a Canaanite woman to spite his father and mother. I have also brought that presupposition into my previous readings; so i didn’t pay that much attention.
However, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. The passage says, “So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael and married” (NASB). So Esau did not turn away, he simply attempted to fulfill his father’s wishes the only way he reasonably knew how. He did not marry from the Canaanites, he married from his uncle Ishmael, just as Jacob was sent to marry from his uncle Laban. It’s not hugely significant, but it’s one of the things that i have never really caught in the many times that i was just reading the passage through.
This chapter contains some interesting theological situations. For instance, what is described here is a ladder or staircase from earth to heaven. It is a connection point: a point at which heaven and earth almost touch each other. It’s a point at which those in heaven have access to earth and those on earth have access to heaven. Being a dream, I don’t know the extent to which this “stairway to heaven” is literal or figurative, but it does give you reason to pause and wonder how this occurs and how many other of these “stairways” might exist throughout the world. I also don’t know how important this “stairway to heaven” is overall, but it is a unique feature of this chapter.
What IS more important though, is Jacob’s reaction to the situation. Instead of ignoring the “dream”, or running away, or trying to rationalize it away, he comes to realization. He was amazed, and he was afraid, and he was in awe of the situation and where he was; “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Beautiful isn’t it? So Jacob turns around, sets up his pillow-rock as a pillar, pours oil over it, and calls the place Bethel or House of God. Then he makes a vow to God that if He will be with him and take care of him, then Jacob will give a tithe (tenth) to God.
What is our reaction to God when He does something amazing? What do we do when He shows up? Do we run away, or try to ignore it, or rationalize it away, or try to justify ourselves; or do we fall in awe and wonder? Do we, trembling, acknowledge God and make His truth a reality in our lives? Do we pursue that God that we have had a personal experience with? Do we take God’s truth into our very being and let it change who we are as a person? Our reaction tells us who we really are.
John J. Camiolo Jr.
Sorry i missed the day yesterday, in the coming days and weeks i may miss a day or two in a row due to other things going on, but i should be back on track fully after that.
As i went into this chapter, i began to realize that Isaac’s story is much shorter. It seems like i only just started with him, and already he is an old man and Jacob’s story is beginning. Jacob’s name means “supplanter”, and here is where he, with the help and encouragement of his mother, really sees the fruition of that name. The name given to him almost seems as if it becomes his life motto / purpose. It’s funny, because a couple of days ago my friend (and teacher) Fount Shults posted a note on facebook about Death and Life in the Tongue and how what we say has power / influence.
It’s interesting to see the dynamic here between Isaac and his wife Rebekah. Isaac loved Esau and wanted him to be blessed over everyone around him. Rebekah however, favored Jacob. Isaac’s plan was for Esau to gain the honor and blessing, but God had other plans that Isaac was either not aware of, or had ignored. Either way, his plans were not God’s. Back in chapter 25, before the children were born, Rebekah inquired of the LORD about them, and God told her that the younger would be greater, and the older would serve him. Isaac’s plan was the opposite of this. You can see from the chapter that Issac had planned to bless Esau so that Esau would be master over all. He had not planned to reserve any blessing for Jacob at all. That obviously backfired so Jacob got it all.
What about us? Do we fail to check in with God about the plans and blessings we make? Are we so set in what we want that we fail to recognize that that may not be what God is planning to do? I know that i have. I also know that that can lead to some very difficult situations down the road.
One last thing that i wanted to note from going through this chapter today. It’s something that i don’t think i realized before. Rebekah said that she was sending Jacob to her brother Laban’s, and that when Esau’s anger had subsided, she would send for him to come back. We never hear of this happening. As far as we know, Rebekah never sent word to Jacob to return. When he came back he was unsure of Esau’s intent towards him.
I was tempted to title this chapter “Loose Ends” due to the beginning of the chapter being dedicated to tying up the loose ends of Abraham’s life. He got married a third time, and had six more children. He ended up sending them away to the east with gifts and giving all that he had to Isaac before dying and being buried. As i was going through though, the realization came to me that these children weren’t just loose ends. They were as much children of Abraham as Isaac and Ishmael. So while the Bible doesn’t focus on them as much, they had just as much of God’s blessing as Ishmael. They were still blessed. They would still become great nations, but their lives simply don’t continue through the story as the others do. They are not key characters, but neither are they simply loose ends. They are still the children of Abraham.
The best i could come up with is “Chosen Path”. This chapter is about multiple paths. It is about the options and opportunities taken and lost. No one in this chapter is insignificant in and of themselves. God simply chose His route. There were multiple paths and roads to choose from, but of Abraham’s eight children God chose Isaac, then Jacob of Isaac’s two. Esau squandered his opportunity, …for a bowl of stew and a slice of bread. Ultimately though, it’s about God’s choice. It’s not that the others were of less value or worth, they were just not chosen.
How about us? Do we disregard someone because they have come from a different path? Do we recognize that all people are God’s children, or do we get so caught up in the fact that they come from a different path that we automatically reject or push them away? What is more important to God, that they came from a different (wrong?) path, or that they find the Chosen One?