Genesis 31 – Conflict between Jacob & Laban

Jacob asks Laban for leave of his land with his belonging, his wives, and children:

Genesis 31:27 – And Laban said unto him, if now I have found favor in thine eyes, tarry: for I have divined that Jehovah hath blessed me for thy sake.

Laban seems to be asking for more blessings from Jehovah due to Jacob’s presence, so he would like to collect on it, and asks Jacob to negotiate a new wage and stay (tarry). Jacob, with all aforementioned belongings, asks Laban when he can finally fend for his own household. Laban asks Jacob, in a set of words “what’s your price?”

Jacob responds by asking Laban to come to an agreement: Jacob will continue to tend to his flocks, but he will remove (day by day) all the imperfect animals, and bring them into his flock, leaving the perfectly colored and strong flock with Laban. Laban agrees. In a sort of earthly spell:

31:37 – And Jacob took him rods of fresh poplar, and of the almond and of the planetree; and peeled white streaks in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set rods which he had peeled over against the flocks in the gutters in the watering-troughs where the flocks came to drink; and they conceived when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and the flocks brought forth ringstreaked, speckled, and spotted.

Stripping branches of their bark to expose the whiteness of the wood, he was able to manipulate the breeding of imperfect animals and direct the stronger animals into his flock. This is one topic that definitely requires study by the more botany minded. He directed the feeble of the lambs to Laban’s flock, strengthening his own. The sons of Laban became aware of this manipulation and passed it on to their father. Jacob realizes Laban’s attitude towards Jacob had changed (you think?) so Jehovah tells Jacob to return to the land of his fathers. Jacob calls upon his wives, daughters of Laban and accuses Laban of deceiving him due to wage changes. So, for revenge, Jacob manipulated the flock and their offspring.

Ok, so multiple times Jehovah has told Jacob that he will protect him, not to be afraid. So why couldn’t Jacob just walk away? He knew Laban was deceiving him through his wages, so why return deceit with more deceit?

Is Jacob really an example we should be following in modern times?

Jacob calls upon his cousin-wives, tells them to pack up, and explains to them the reason for his actions: he dreamed about it and God was the one who took the cattle of their father.

It wasn’t Jacob? It was God’s doing?

Rachel and Leah, knowing they no longer have an inheritance with their father, affirm with Jacob that it was time to leave. Inheritance? Was it all about money and possessions for them?

So on their way out, Rachel stole all the teraphim (household idols?) of her father, and Isaac packed up and left without informing Laban. Laban got word, and in 7 days, he caught up with Jacob and his daughters, accusing Jacob of carrying his daughters away “captives of the sword.” He also indicated, if he had told him to leave, Laban would have sent him off with mirth, songs, tabret and harp (a celebration).

31:31 – And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Lest thou should takest thy daughters from me by force.

After all the promises, dreams, visions, and miracles from Jehovah, Jacob STILL walks in fear (or does he not, but feigns fear to compromise his adversary?). He keeps breaking the promise Jehovah put on him: to not fear and go forth to where he commands. Laban, realizing his collection of gods had been stolen (Rachel) accuses Jacob of stealing them. Rachel, in an act of deception, hides them from not only her father as he searches for them, but also Jacob. The final conclusion of this conflict is both sides airing their issues: Laban claims all of Jacob’s possessions are his, Jacob claims they all belong to him because of the deceitful actions of Laban. So the form a covenant, a peace treaty, and form it using a heap of stones, which not only acts as a symbol of their treaty, but also a demarcation line that neither one will cross the stone to get to the other. The next morning, Laban says goodbye to his daughters and children, and returns home, peacefully, as he promised.

jacob laban covenant
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Moral of the story: It seems forming a peaceful covenant and demarcating it has worked somewhat well for these peoples in their culture. Where is Jehovah to create this peace between the peoples they say he created? Will he bless Laban for treating Jacob well?

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s son of Leah, Rachel, and their handmaids. Man dragons?

Rachel, envious of her sister’s births, angers Jacob by demanding he give her children, when Jacob lays the blame for her closed womb on God. In another common occurrence, Rachel demands that Jacob impregnate her hand maid, and now we are told that Jacob has lain with a woman for the purpose of bearing children.

Sons of Bilnah and Jacob (Words of Rachel who named the sons):

5. Dan – “God hath judge me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son”

6. Naphtali – “With mighty wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and have prevailed”

Rachel claims she has prevailed over Leah despite having to resort to her handmaid for her sons and being outnumbered 4 to 2. Leah, who had left off bearing, answers back by having Jacob impregnate her handmaid, Zilpah.

Son of Zilpah and Jacob (Words of Rachel who named the son):

7. Gad – “Fortunate!”

Reuben, the oldest son, finds mandrakes in the field during wheat harvest and brings them to his mother Leah. His aunt Rachel demands Leah give them to her (they must have had some serious value) and Leah refuses, telling Rachel that not only has she taken her husband, now she wants to take her sons mandrakes. In a telling verse, Rachel offers a trade: Reuben’s mandrakes and Leah is allowed to sleep with Jacob (does this answer the previous question: Was Jacob the father of the first four sons of Leah?)

Genesis 30:16 And Jacob came from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, Thou must come in unto me; for I have surely hired thee with my son’s mandrakes. And he lay with her that night.

Lely, Peter, 1618-1680; Reuben Presenting Mandrakes to Leah
Depiction of a young Reuben bringing mandrakes to his mother Leah. Note the ‘handmaid’ with child, most likely Dan, Naphtali, or Gad borne to handmaid Bilnah. Also note the (collared) dog in the painting, because there is correlation (warning on pursuing this connection)

We are told God hearkened unto Leah (who was no longer able to give birth aka “left off bearing” but now she was?)

Sons of Leah with Jacob (Words of Leah who named the sons:)

8. Issachar – “God hath given me my hire, because I gave my handmaid to my husband”

9. Zebulun – “God hath endowed me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons”

Daughter of Leah (no indication Jacob was the father): Dinah.

God “remembers” Rachel, who has been barren all this time, and opens her womb (no indication Jacob was the father though it’s a good assumption).

10. Joseph – “God hath taken away my reproach; Jehovah add to me another son”

Back to mandrakes: can also be translated as “man dragons”, they seem to be a plant found in parts of the middle east. It could also be a general term for a group of hallucinogenic plants. An internet search will show that some of these tubers called mandrakes actually look like humans. The context of it in this book is unknown, however the idea that Leah would trade mandrakes to Rachel for the privilege of sleeping with her/their husband means that these items were highly valuable to Rachel, enough where she’d let another woman (even though it was his wife) sleep with him. Twice.

mandrake root
Hallucinogenic? Collectible? Why would Rachel, who was highly envious of Leah for having an open womb, allow Leah to sleep with Jacob for the mandrakes that Leah’s son Reuben had gathered? Here is an example of a creature figure like root of what is commonly known as mandrake. The mandrake in this book could be an entirely different plant however.

 

Genesis 26 – Famine! Incest?

Genesis 26:1 – And there was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham.

Aren’t famines preventable with an all powerful god who created the forces that would define famine (land, water, heaven/earth, etc.)? So why a famine? If he did create the forces that would define famine, then we can assume he is the one who caused it? Was this famine one of water and drought or are we talking about a different form of famine?

The point of direction for famine relief is Egypt, however, Jehovah interrupts Isaac’s journeys and tells him to NOT go to Egypt, but to stay and that he will be with him.

26:4 – and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these lands; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Note that there is a CONDITION to this covenant. What would have happened if Abraham didn’t do these things? It is NOT a blind covenant, Abraham had to do certain things to validate it. Also, it is said “…all nations of the earth be blessed.” Will this be the case? All nations of the earth be blessed? The Canaanites, Edomites, Hittites, etc? Just who are these “nations of the earth” Jehovah is promising to bless?

After all Jehovah has done for Abraham and Isaac, while Isaac is in the land of Gerar, he duplicates the deception of his father and proclaims his wife Rebekah to be his sister, for the same exact reasons as Abraham: he feared he would be killed because of his wife.

Where is the faith of Isaac if he has the blessings and promise of Jehovah behind him? Is this yet another act of Jehovah manipulating people’s minds to prove his power?

Abimelech, as mentioned before who had reached out peaceably to Abraham and Isaac, catches Isaac being intimate with his wife, and the story repeats:

26:9 – And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die because of her. And Abimelech said, What is this though has done unto us? one of the people might easily have lain with thy wife, and thou wouldest have brought guilteness upon us.

Why the need for deceit and lies if Jehovah “will be with thee” as he stated in verse 3? Isn’t Isaac betraying Jehovah by not having faith in his words and promises? Isaac is putting an entire group of innocent people at risk of Jehovah’s wrath because he is *afraid* for his life. I wonder if there is more to the story in this verse. It pretty much rhymes with Abraham’s dealing with the Abimelech being deceived that Sarah was Abraham’s sister.

Is this ritual/repetition of Jehovah’s people of his covenant entering a foreign land, lying to the rulers because of a wife, more than a literal event? An allegory for another type of event? A simple demonstration of Jehovah’s ability to manipulate mankind, and take free will away from them? Are the stories code for something else?

Abimelech had a peace treaty with Abraham and Isaac, but because Isaac was commanded not to go to Egypt by Jehovah, he stayed in the land of the Philistines, and we are told he became so great and wealthy, that the Philistines envied him, and eventually Abimelech king asked him to leave because “…thou art much mightier than we.” Isaac moved to the Valley of Gerar where his father once dwelled, and he began to dig wells his father had dug up but which had been filled in by the Philistines (if they filled in the wells they didn’t need the water… during a time of famine?) This digging of wells by Isaac bothered the people of Gerar, until finally he dug a well at Rehoboth, which did not conflict with the people of Gerar, so he claimed that it was Jehovah that made room for him to dig this well and named it so. Isaac leaves Rehoboth (ran out of water?) and ends up in Beer-sheba where Jehovah appears to him the first night and repeats his promise to Isaac, and Isaac settles there with an altar for Jehovah and his servants/slaves digging a well, indicating a more permanent settlement.

Isaac well and altar
Isaac settles in Beer-Sheba with a well and an altar to Jehovah after wandering due to a famine.

Suddenly we jump to Esau:

26:34 – And when Esau was forty years old he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: and they were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Ok, so in this lineage of people the Bible focuses on, all marriages have been, by modern terms, incestuous. Cousins or half siblings marrying each other, etc. Suddenly one of them marries outside of incest (Esau marrying women of the Hittites) and it grieves his parents.

What’s going on here with this lineage? Why were Isaac and Rebekah so grieved? Are we talking about a lineage trying to preserve its blood line? We know Abraham demanded that Isaac not marry among the Canaanites (his distant kin) so he demanded Isaac marry within his closer family, so one can assume Isaac and Rebekah wanted the same for their child Esau.

Our only knowledge at this point in the bible is that the Hittites were indigenous to the land Jehovah had defined to Abram back in Genesis 15 at the time of his promise of the land. There is no verse that says they were evil, wicked, or sinners.  What does the future hold for the Hittites?

In modern times this situation of generational incest would be scorned (if not prosecuted) and Esau’s marriage outside of his family would be considered normal (except for the bigamy part.) For those that believe the morals and dogma of Old and New Testament are infallible, why isn’t incestuous marriage and bigamy normalized among those believers?

Genesis 25 – Abraham’s new wife & kids, his death, and his lineage. Esau/Jacob.

Genesis 25:1 – And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.

So, in his elderly age, Abraham is still able to seed new children. Or is he? We already know that Sarah gave birth to a child without him, and the child was CALLED Abraham’s, so what is going on here with Isaac’s and Ishmael’s new siblings? Were they fathered by Jehovah? Or by an elderly Abraham, well beyond the age where Sarah laughed at the thought of either of them “knowing pleasure”? Who is these children’s biological father?

We are then introduced to the SONS of Abraham’s 6 new children. Interestingly, no mention of any daughters. While not impossible to have only sons, we already know that during the introduction to Adam and Eve, we learned of Cain, Abel, and Seth, but no mention of daughters, or their names. Mention that daughters were born to Adam and eve comes after the introduction of the 3 sons, but again, no names.

These sons of his concubines were also sent off away from Isaac, into the “east country” with gifts, while Isaac receives “all that he had.” Abraham lives “one hundred, three score, and fifteen years” and passes away. He is buried in the cave he purchased from the people of Heth, alongside his wife Sarah.

We read of Ishmael’s lineage, and he dies at age 137, and as prophesied, it is said “he above over against all his brethren.”

We read of Isaac’s lineage up to his two twin sons. Another miraculous conception is given to a once barren wife of Isaac, Rebekah. Once again, it must be asked, was Rebekah give conception the way Sarah was, with a visit from Jehovah?

25:21 And Isaac entreated Jehovah for his wife, because she was barren: and Jehovah was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Once again, no details. The children of this covenant up to this point all come from barren women, only born with divine intervention.

We are introduced to the twins, who, even while in the womb, seemed to be conflicting with each other, so Rebekah calls upon Jehovah:

25:23 – And Jehovah said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, And two peoples shall be separated from thy bowels: And the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

Esau came out first, and “…he came forth red, all over like a hairy garment…” While he was coming out, his brother Jacob was holding on to his heel. I believe this is symbolic, the first born had the strength to come out on his own, the second one had to grab on his brothers heel for the ride out. That, or he was trying to keep his brother in so that he could be first. Either way, does anything like this happen with modern twins, triplets, etc.? Is it more of a cultural explanation of why two groups of people, with the same roots, conflict in more modern times?

What’s interesting is that Esau came out red and hairy. I know some babies come out red and hairy “all over”. Now I was born with a full head of hair (black), and I was probably red when I came out, but that is not “hairy all over”. I have to point back to Genesis 6 with the mention of the sons of God mixing with the daughters of men, and their creations were “men of renown.” Is Esau another example of a different breed of man coming from a heavenly being (Jehovah) and a daughter of man (Rebekah?) while Jacob was of a more normal human stock? I almost picture Esau as a Bigfoot type person.

esau jacob
Most men of this region are “hairy” so who was the abnormal one? In this depiction the artist translated “…the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment” as being a red head.

At first I thought this was a reference to a red head, but it does not specifically say he had red hair. Then I thought maybe Albino. We can scratch these references off because later we find that Esau truly was hairy all over his body.

Anthropological insight:

25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field: and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: and Rebekah loved Jacob.

Another example where a group of people, kin/related, point back to a story that explains why they live different lifestyles or culture. Same root, different modern lifestyles, in this case hunters vs tent dwellers (pastoralist?)

Looking at the verse regarding Isaac and Rebekah, can we equate “loved” in this verse to “favored”? Most women love all their children but often have favorites, same as the men. Or did, Isaac only love Esau, and Rebekah only love Jacob. What about Jehovah? After all he was involved in their, at least we are told, conception.

 

Genesis 23 – Sarah dies; Genesis 24 – Rebekah for Isaac

Genesis 23 – Sarah dies at the age of 127 years in Hebron, in the land of Canaan, among the children of Heth. Abraham pleads to the people in whose land he lives, for a burial site for his wife, and the children of Heth offer him any sepulcher of his choice, because he is a “prince of God” living among them. In a peaceful exchange of land and silver, Abraham deals with Ephron the Hittite; Abraham asked for a cave at the end of a field owned by Ephron, and Ephron offered the cave AND the field for Abraham. It was all witnessed by the children of Heth and justified and done.

Another instance where a foreign group “blesses” or treats Abram with respect. What will the future hold for the children of Heth or Ephron the Hittite? We’ve seen the maltreatment of the Pharaoh and Abimelech who treated Abraham well.

Genesis 24 – Abraham is old but well blessed by Jehovah. He makes his senior servant/slave swear a promise that Isaac will not be married to a Canaanite, those who took him in all these years, but he will take a wife from his kin, his family. The only thing that would break this vow is if the woman refuses to come with the servant, which would break his obligation with the oath. However, Abraham sternly warns not to bring Isaac back to this land for a wife. The servant packs his things and heads to Mesopotamia, the city of Nahor.

In an interesting scenario where the supplicant of prayer sets the rules, the servant prays to Jehovah, the God of his master, to have a damsel who offers him water at his request, be the chosen wife for Isaac, as he stands by a well in Nahor.

Before he could finish his words, Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah and Nahor (Abraham’s brother) appears. Rebekah = Abraham’s grand niece. The servant, realizing his prayer was being answered, inquires to Rebekah on her lineage, and inquires on lodging with her family for the night. Rebekah affirms, and the servant worships Jehovah:

Genesis 24:26 – And the man bowed his head, and worshiped Jehovah. And he said, Blessed be Jehovah, the God of my master Abraham, who hath not forsaken his lovingkindness and his truth toward my master: as for me, Jehovah hath led me in the way to the house of my master’s brethren.

Why is Jehovah not the god of the servant? Does he have his own god? He obviously recognizes the presence of Jehovah, so he is not godless in his knowledge. He doesn’t call Jehovah his own god yet he proclaims it’s Jehovah that led him to this successful trip. In other words, he acknowledges a god without claiming this god as his own, and fire and brimstone did not rain down upon him. So it was ok for the servant to worship Jehovah, who guided him through his mission, but still not acknowledge it was HIS god.

This puts a different spin on the word “worship”. Apparently you can worship (in this story the meaning gets redefined) a god that is not your own, because the actions of the god were good. In other words, a form of thanks. This can redefine the concept of worship from this point on when worship is mentioned in the bible.

After finishing Genesis 24 I have to ask: Just how old was Rebekah?

The servant (why is he not given a name, are slaves not worthy of names?) meets with the family of Rebekah and retells the tale.

24:47 – … and I put the ring upon her nose, and the bracelets upon her hands.

We know from verse 24:22 that the ring and bracelets were made of gold, but when I read this I thought, why would be put a ring on her nose? Then I thought of the nose ring they put through bulls. Bracelets upon her hands…. handcuffs? Did this servant, in a ritual of claiming a young virgin for his servant, ritually “claim” Rebekah with a gold nose ring and handcuffs? Don’t bracelets usually go on a person’s wrist?

The servant wishes to return in haste to Abraham, the family want’s Rebekah to stay with them for 10 days, but in the end they leave it to Rebekah and she decides to go with the servant. In the meantime, Isaac is dwelling in the land of the south:

24:63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at eventide: and he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel. And she said unto the servant, What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the servant said, It is my master: and she took her veil, and covered herself.

Rebekah meets Isaac
A Disney like rendition of the meeting of Rebekah with Isaac. Rebekah looks somewhat mature here, culturally speaking, just how young were brides chosen in this culture?

Two interesting culture concepts here:

  • Isaac is meditating… is this equivalent to prayer? Rest? This is the first mention of meditation. It doesn’t say he is meditating unto Jehovah, or God. It’d be nice to know the details of this meditation.
  • Rebekah veils herself upon meeting Isaac. Is a woman veiling herself an act of piety or humility? Is this tradition carried on today?
    • To skip forward, it is mentioned, in the New Testament, that woman cover themselves to keep the Angels from seeing their beauty, in a reference to Genesis 6 when the Angels saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and impregnated them, resulting in giants/Nephilim. Did Rebekah cover her face thinking Isaac could be one of these Angels? After all, he was conceived through Jehovah’s actions with the elderly Sarah.

In a nod to the beauty of a man and woman in union, it is noted that with Rebekah as his wife, Isaac was comforted after his mother Sarah’s death.

Genesis 4 – Anthropologists point of view

Taking a step back from a literary analysis of the Bible, I will be putting on my Anthropologist hat for some more perspective. My main focus of studies was/is the indigenous Peoples of the western hemisphere, native peoples of North and South America. My blood and my relatives. For now, I will peer across the great ocean and look into the Bible of the Middle East.

In Genesis 4 we are told that Cain is a tiller of the ground, and Abel is a herder of flocks. We can make the conclusions that Cain, or who or whatever he represents, is an agriculturalist, and Abel can represent pastoralism. Not an important fact? Obviously Jehovah preferred the pastoralists offering, though we really don’t know why. There is a bit of a hint that maybe Cain’s offering wasn’t up to snuff, didn’t follow the rules, henceforth was a sin. Is this an indication of a historical cultures transition from an agricultural society to a pastoralist society, which includes the following of a new god and a resetting of the generations of man? Of course, the Bible doesn’t say this, but it does explain the allegorical side of this story.

For even more explanation of this people’s culture, we are introduced to new generations of man born of Cain in Gensis 4, via his great-great-great grandson, Lamech. Lamech took two wives (polygamy normalized in the Bible?) and this is what we have explained to us after these generations:

  • Cain – tiller of the ground – Agriculture
  • Abel – herder of flocks – Pastoral
  • Jabal – The father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle – Pastoral
  • Jubal – The father of those who handle the harp and pipe – Musicians
  • Tubal-cain – The forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron – Metallurgy

It should be noted as these latter 3 men are introduced, so is their sister Naamah brought up. But the daughters of Adam and Eve were not? (For those under the impression Adam and Eve had daughters despite not being mentioned in Genesis.)

In many cultures, trades and skills are passed down from generation to generation and tend to stay in families, so this is not a surprise being read in Genesis.

So now we have the progenitors, the fathers of  some of the different facets of these people’s culture, a lineage to explain these facets going back to the origins of their generations.

sheep

This is not unheard of and actually quite common. Patrons of a modern culture tied to the past. When a culture changes drastically it often gets recorded in writing, in oral tradition, in art. Is this what we are dealing with in Genesis? The genesis of a new phase in the existence of this peoples? A resetting of an era?