Monday, September 14, 2009

Rebekah Acts to Save Jacob -- Genesis 27:42-45

Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, "Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! Stay with him a few days, until your brother's fury subsides, until your brother's anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?"

The first question we can ask is “Who reported the words of Esau to Rebekah?” Who even heard the words that Esau “said to himself” in the previous verses? Is this a contradiction in the text? I don’t think so and here’s why. We know there were many others in the household. For starters Esau had two wives. It is most likely that they had friends. There probably were also children. Human nature being what it is, Esau very likely shared his frustration with one of his wives. She may well have said something to one of her friends, and so on. In a small community such as the one Isaac’s family lived in, it is not inconceivable that Rebekah would have gotten wind of her son’s feelings and intentions. What is more important to the reader, however, is that this is the first noted instance in scripture where one could assume there is a contradiction when in fact, once we take human nature and probabilities into account, the apparent contradiction easily disappears. Some could argue that God should have filled in the gap for us so that no such doubt existed in anyone’s mind. But He chose not to and He continues to do that elsewhere in scripture. We then have two choices in how we view such gaps. First, we can see them from a “ha, ha, I’ve got you” point of view, causing us to discard the whole book as simply a story. Many do. Alternatively, we could apply our faith, trying to see just how the gaps could be filled in. We could search for events likely to have occurred that would explain things satisfactorily and on the basis of probability to someone not fundamentally opposed to believing scripture to be the word of God. The choice is ours. While the choice is yours to make, I can assure you that the latter approach has always been found to work in my own personal experience. Perhaps because of my own critical approach to my tenet of beliefs, the Enemy has given me plenty of such textual challenges over the course of my life. Each time, God or scripture itself, has shown me exactly how the gaps could be filled in and explained. That does, however, take an openness to want to see the truth, a believe that there is an explanation because ultimately this is God’s word, and finally a willingness to study the entire scriptures for often one scripture answers the questions posed by another.

With that knowledge, Rebekah now acts to save Jacob. She sent (likely some servants or others) and called Jacob to come to her. When he arrived, she shared with him Esau’s plans of killing him. Whether that was said as a matter of fact (and indeed it was factual) or whether she wanted to instill fear in Jacob so that he would continue to listen to her instructions is unknown. What we do know is that she asks him once again to listen to her advice, the very thing that got him into trouble in the first place.

This time she advises Jacob to flee to her brother Laban’s family in Haran. Perhaps a better word of advice from a mother would have been, “Go to your brother, apologize, ask for his forgiveness, do whatever you have to do to make things right practically and relationally, and ask God for His forgiveness and protection.” That’s the tough job of a mother. There is a time to help one’s child ‘flee’ but that time is not when he/she is in the wrong.

Haran was the place Abraham migrated to when he left Ur of the Chaldees. He stayed there until his father died after which he left for the Promised Land. He went to Canaan, just south of Haran, which became his inheritance and was passed on to his descendants, the Children of Israel. It was to Haran that Abraham sent his servant to get a wife for Isaac from his family. Now Rebekah sends Jacob there to stay with her brother’s family.

In sending Jacob to stay with Laban’s family, Rebekah tells him it will only be for a “few days” until Esau’s anger subsides and he forgets what Jacob did. But can such a deed be forgotten about in just a “few days”? We cannot expect to hurt someone in a way that somehow robs them of who they are and expect them to forget about it in just a “few days” if ever. Clearly the advice and instructions that Rebekah was giving her younger son were not wise. Perhaps part of the reason was that her motivation was not ultimately the saving of Jacob, but rather an attempt to protect her own self from losing both her sons in one day. Her treachery caused her to lose her relationship with Esau and now it could cause her to lose Jacob as well. We have a way as humans of often becoming so shortsighted that we fail to see the implications of our pursuits or actions on others and ourselves. There is much to be said about counting to ten before we react, or sleeping on a thought for a night, or mulling things over for a few days, before taking action. Even better would be developing the constant habit of taking our concerns and challenges to God and seeking His wisdom.

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