Friday, October 12, 2018

Genesis Post 50 - Jacob Heads Home (Chapter 31)

The last chapter wrapped up with the crazy story of the rods and the livestock.  Through it all, the LORD prospered Jacob.  Exceedingly prosperous, we are told.  The prosperity was not because of the rods, but because it was the LORD's plan.

So now that Jacob is wealthy as heck, the LORD is preparing to return to the Promised Land.

The impetus is the whining of his cousins, the sons of Laban.  They whine to their father that Jacob is basically stealing their inheritance.  (Have you ever noticed that historically speaking, successful Jews have always been hated?)

Alrighty then.  Jacob calls his wives into a meeting and tells them it's time to go.  He explains to them everything that has transpired with Laban and the livestock.  He tells them that the LORD has prospered him in spite of Laban working to the contrary.

Somehow, these ladies still feel like they are getting the short end of the stick in spite of Jacob's wealth in verses 14 and 15:
Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house?  Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.

So while Laban is away shearing his sheep, Jacob prepares to exit the area.  He loads his wives and kids onto camels and sneaks away.

Three days later, Laban hears about it and is less than thrilled.  He chases Jacob for seven days, finally catching up with him at the mountains of Gilead, which is somewhere in modern day Jordan, east of the Jordan River.

Laban is careful though, because the LORD had sent him a dream, telling him not to speak either good or bad to Jacob (verse 24).

He carefully pitches a fit to Jacob, telling him that he would have thrown a party for him at his departure.

Something in me says, yeah, right.

Then he throws in something strange in verse 30:
And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”

Here, then, is the evidence that Laban served both the LORD and idols.  Unholy mixing.

Who knew that Rachel had taken them?  Nobody.  Jacob would never have said what he did to Laban...  kill the person with whom you find them.

And why does Rachel take them?  Because she worships them, too?  No, she steals the household gods because she is ticked at her father for blowing her inheritance (even though they were leaving with great wealth).  We know this because she had just been whining about how her inheritance had been stolen.

Rachel Hides Her Father's Household gods,
by Marc Chagall

In that ancient culture, the household gods represented the leadership and the inheritance of the family. Whoever had possession of the idols was the possessor of this leadership and inheritance.  Archaeological evidence actually shows this.

Rachel is really poking her dad in the eye at this point.  She is getting even.

What Rachel does in regard to these idols showed some fast thinking on her part in verses 34 and 35:
Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel’s saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them. And she said to her father, “Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me.” And he searched but did not find the household idols.

I can imagine Laban's reaction... oh, ew, no thanks!

What a picture we are given regarding the uncleanness of idols.  I am reminded of Isaiah 64:6, which says,
But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

The Hebrew expression for filthy rags is a little more colorful... it means menstrual rags.

How ironic it is then, that blood of Yeshua makes us clean.  It is one of the great biblical paradoxes!

So what did Rachel ever do with those filthy idols?  We are not told, but I imagine she got rid of them pretty quickly after hearing Jacob's declaration of a death sentence.  And I doubt we will ever see an Indiana Jones movie in search of them.  But these days, you never know...

Jacob pitches his own fit right back at Laban after the futile idol search beginning in verse 36, reminding Laban of the years of service he had given him, and calling Laban on his deceptive practices during those years.

Laban acquiesces and calls for a covenant with Jacob.  They erect a heap of stones as a witness, and Laban covers his bases in verse 53. swearing by the God of Abraham, the god of Nahor, and the god of their father.  Jacob, however, swears by the Fear of Isaac - the LORD.  (Fear means awe or reverence).  Laban gives the heap an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives the heap a Hebrew name, but it means the same thing:  Heap of Witness.
Random heap of stones.  I love rocks.
Jacob then makes a sacrifice on the mountain, and all share in the fellowship meal together.  They remain on the mountain overnight

The chapter ends when Laban kisses all his relatives in the morning and departs with nothing - the very thing he had hoped to leave Jacob with - nothing.

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