Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jacob Seeks to Leave His Father-in-law’s Genesis 30:25-30


Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, "Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you." But Laban said to him, "If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account." He continued, "Name me your wages, and I will give it." But he said to him, "You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?"

The text indicates that Jacob gets his first son directly from his beloved Rachel and then approaches Laban with a proposition. We need to note that these two actions are not necessarily connected as cause and effect. It is possible that Jacob realized that he was not getting any younger and he still had not set up his own independent household. In any event, Jacob asks Laban to “send him away”. He clearly wants to go to his own country and in particular where his family lived. Was this strictly because of the fact that his family lived in Canaan or was it because he believed that Canaan was indeed the “land of promise” that God had given to his grandfather, Abraham and then his father, Isaac? Haran was nice to visit but not home. Perhaps there is a lesson here for us as well. As believers we need to realize we are just visiting this world. By virtue of our personal relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ, we are citizens of heaven and our desire should be to return there.

You may also remember, many years previously, Jacob’s mother Rebekah had promised Jacob he would only be going to his uncle Laban’s home until things improved between him and his brother Esau. For some reason, Esau may not have gotten over his anger with Jacob as quickly as everyone had hoped he would have. Rebekah never sent word to Jacob to return.

What gave rise to the request ‘send me away’? Did Jacob really need Laban’s permission? Was Jacob asking for Laban to do it so he and his family would be bestowed with gifts? He ‘asks’ Laban for his wives (and their maids we would assume) and the children they bore him. I believe this was more of a request of a ‘blessing’ or at least a concurrence. He points out to Laban that he has already worked to pay for Laban’s daughters (fourteen years in total) and that he has been a most valuable servant of Laban’s all these years (while some try to calculate the years beyond the fourteen, there is no sure evidence as to how many they would have been to this point). Jacob’s eldest son,
Reuben, would have been at least a young teenager and the other at least eleven children (ten sons and at least one daughter) were all younger right down to Joseph who would have been a toddler.

Laban however was not prepared to let him go without at least an attempt to keep him, his daughters, and grandchildren, not to mention the valuable worker that he had found in Jacob. So he asks Jacob to stay if he would. And the reason he gives for that request tells us a lot about the situation Jacob was in. The text says Laban had “divined” that the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob. The King James Version says he knew this “by experience”. The actual Hebrew word used is nachash which is translated to mean to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, and take as an omen. The translations are pretty split on the use of divination, experience, or observation with the later translations moving towards divination and observation rather than experience. It is possible that Jacob still had one foot in the occult practices of those that were not worshipping the true God alone. I have experienced that with my own ethnic people as they move from their state religion (Greek Orthodox) to becoming Protestant. They continue to celebrate and observe many of the Greek Orthodox festivals and practices. It makes, in their minds, for greater security or social integration. In reality it weakens their testimony and perhaps their reliance on, and relationship with, God.

What we do know is that Laban was aware that his good fortune was due to Jacob’s presence. He knew that his stock had handsomely increased under Jacob’s management. He had indeed learned by experience as we all can. Sometimes the sources of learning are godly and sometimes they are the consequences of our own selfishness, stubbornness, worldly gain and pursuits, and even evil.

We also must point out that Laban does credit God with blessing him regardless of how he arrives at that conclusion. I am often surprised in life to hear otherwise deceptive men and women thank God for their good fortunes and indeed they are right. Many have observed that oftentimes God blesses people with so many worldly goods who have, by their own choice, no claim to eternal rewards. I do not know the reason for that but I am sure that almost everybody reading these words can name people who fall into that category. Perhaps God’s decision to do so has less to do with those He is giving worldly success to, and more to do with us whom He is preparing to reign with Him.

For all these reasons, Laban tries to persuade Jacob to remain as his lead man mentioning how he took Jacob in when he came to Haran, adding that if this meant anything to Jacob, he should stay.

Laban was willing to pay Jacob whatever wages he wanted if he remained with him. What an opportunity. The sky was the limit. Jacob could name his price and just continue the life he had. That was a real deal. What would you have done? Sometimes people get opportunities like that in life. Someone really wants to go and serve God as a missionary, but the boss comes along and gives him/her a promotion with a sizeable salary increase. Or someone knows that he/she should not be getting involved with a certain person, but is then offered a sweetener to the relationship deal and he/she sticks around in a deal one should have refused.

From Laban’s dealing with Jacob we can learn that selfish men know how to talk sweet when they must to satisfy their greed. Laban knew it was because of Jacob’s belief in God that he himself was blessed. Two questions stem from this. The first is “am I being blessed by God because of someone else’s faith in God?” Is there a parent, sibling, friend, or even a child to which I matter a lot that has a personal relationship to God and thus God is blessing me because of them? If so, and if I realize it, does it not make sense that my blessing from God could be greater if I too had that relationship with Him?

The second question that arises from our knowledge that Laban’s blessing was due to Jacob’s relationship with God is, “Is someone else being blessed because of my relationship with God?” If I believe that is the case, then how do I best convey that to the one being blessed if indeed they are not aware of it? For example, how many employees of a Christian-owned company are blessed with continuous employment, good salaries and benefits and a healthy work-life balance because their employer has a personal relationship with God? How many children have been blessed because their parents have had a relationship with God that has enabled them to succeed and bless others? I am sure you the reader can provide more examples. The question is how do we let those being indirectly blessed know it if they do not already?

I believe there are several things one can do. First, we acknowledge publicly our own blessing by God. Secondly, we express that these people share in that blessing which is from God. Thirdly, we invite them to have a personal relationship with God and thus be blessed directly so that they too can be a means by which God can bless others.

Also, as we look at the Laban and Jacob account, we realize this indirect blessing of
God’s because of those who have a personal relationship with Him, may often be enjoyed by otherwise bad people. That is not for us to judge or complain about. As the dealer of the blessings, God is not bound by any rules whatsoever. His blessings are strictly His to give to whomever and whenever and however He wishes. Personally, I have felt more blessed as I realized and accepted that fact.

So Laban tells Jacob to “name his wages”. Whatever Jacob would have asked for, Laban was willing to pay in order to keep him. Jacob tries to explain that it’s not that simple. He reminds Laban that his herd of cattle grew from a few to a multitude and that it was he that was blessed because of Jacob, while Jacob himself was not establishing his own means to provide for his family and household. Jacob, being a smart and experienced man by now, realized that working for someone else all one’s life had its limitations and that there were advantages to being self-employed or at least self-dependent when it came to take care of one’s own.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

God Remembers Rachel -- Genesis 30:22-24


Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, "God has taken away my reproach." She named him Joseph, saying, "May the LORD give me another son."

God heeded Leah, but He remembered Rachel. Is there a difference? I think so. To ‘heed’ is to give serious attention to someone’s request and to take that something or person into account when acting. To ‘remember’ someone is to have them come to mind independently for the purpose of paying them attention or consideration, without any current, in one’s face if you like, request on their part. In Rachel’s case, scripture says He remembered her first and then He gave heed to her long-lasting desire to bear children, and He opened her womb. God was responding to Rachel’s request out of His love for her rather than out of her continuously asking. I would rather be remembered then heeded when it comes to how God deals with me.

So Rachel conceived and bore Jacob yet another son. Believing that God had taken away her reproach, Rachel names the 11th son of Jacob (the 5th from her side of the marriage and the very first by her) Joseph which is translated to mean ‘Jehovah has added’. There are two aspects to this name. First, that God has shown grace to Rachel in spite of her actions and secondly, that God may now continue to give Rachel children, especially another son.

Can you imagine the joy that Rachel must have felt after all these years of not being able to bare Jacob children directly? Even Jacob must have felt something special. After all, this son, Joseph, was the first child of his beloved Rachel. And as for Leah, did this birth signify the continuation of the competition between her and Rachel to bare the greatest number of children?

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

God Gives Heed To Leah -- Genesis 30:17-21


God gave heed to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, "God has given me my wages because I gave my maid to my husband." So she named him Issachar. Leah conceived again and bore a sixth son to Jacob. Then Leah said, "God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons." So she named him Zebulun. Afterward she bore a daughter and named her Dinah.

It wasn’t the mandrakes; it was God who gave ‘heed’ to Leah and that night she conceived yet another son for Jacob. He would be the fifth one from her side and the ninth son from both her side and Rachel’s. As I write these words, my family and I have just returned from a vacation where my daughter had invited a friend of hers to join us. The young lady in her thirties is a delightful, married, schoolteacher. We had a great time together. Sally, not her real name, and her husband, have done and are doing everything possible to have a child. They have spent thousands of dollars on doctors and procedures trying to succeed in their very legitimate quest, but so far nothing has worked. Through our lifestyle, friendship, and her joining us at church twice during our vacation, Sally knows that she could indeed turn her life and thus this matter over to God. It is our prayer that she does so. For when it comes to the giving of life, physical and spiritual, He alone is the cause and provider.

While Leah recognizes God’s Hand in this, she attempts to rationalize exactly why God heeded her. It is always a dangerous thing to assume we can know, at any time and in any circumstance, that when the conditions are similar, exactly what God will do or why He will do it. Unless, of course, He Himself has made that perfectly clear. I am reminded of the well-known phrase “What Would Jesus Do?” that many Christians had printed all over their tee shirts or wore as bracelets bearing “WWJD?” I remember hearing Dr. Charles Price of The Peoples’ Church in Toronto one time commenting on how audacious it was of anyone to think they could actually think like or act like Jesus, let alone predict what He would do. He went on to show from scripture that Jesus Himself never did exactly the same thing even in similar circumstances. Trying to guess at His actions is difficult enough; but trying to guess at His motives as Leah does here is even more so.

Leah believed God allowed her to get pregnant this time because she had been willing to share her husband Jacob with her maid when she herself could not conceive. This, in her mind, was God rewarding her for that. I think we need to be careful not to mistake God’s mercy as Him favoring and patronizing our thoughtless or reckless behavior, including being involved in what we know or ought to have known was not in accordance with God’s will for our lives. The belief that mandrakes could make a difference or the practice of allowing one’s maid to sleep with one’s husband for the sake of having children, may well fall into this category of behaviors. Nevertheless, based on her thinking, Leah names this son Issachar, which is translated from the Hebrew to mean ‘there is recompense’.

In fact, God blesses Leah again and she conceives once more to provide Jacob with his tenth son, and the sixth by Leah. She calls this son Zebulun, a word translated ‘exalted’. Leah had not received a dowry because of the way she became a wife to Jacob. You may remember that her father Laban had tricked Jacob into accepting Leah before he could have Rachel. Now, she sees this sixth son, and indeed all the sons before him, as God taking care of her dowry. Giving birth to a son and indeed having many sons, provides the mother with honor and respectability in the household and the community. The family itself, for Leah, becomes a very worthy dowry.

Because a man sees having sons the same way and because he recognizes that it is his wife that made this possible, Leah assumes the fact that God has given her this great dowry of six sons, she will now enjoy much more of her husband’s company than she did before. The idea being that he would want to visit her dwellings more now than ever before, even if it is to be with his sons, as compared to spending his time with Rachel.

Finally, we read that Leah bore Jacob a daughter whom she named Dinah, which translated means ‘judgment’. The reasoning for the name is not provided at this point in the story, but may well come to light later. It is also probable that Jacob had other daughters, perhaps through Leah, or Rachel, or either of their maids, but only Dinah’s name is registered in the scriptural account.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Competition for Jacob’s Attention Continues -- Genesis 30:14-16


Now in the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Please give me some of your son's mandrakes." But she said to her, "Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son's mandrakes also?" So Rachel said, "Therefore he may lie with you tonight in return for your son's mandrakes." When Jacob came in from the field in the evening, then Leah went out to meet him and said, "You must come in to me, for I have surely hired you with my son's mandrakes." So he lay with her that night.

As the sons of Jacob grew older, they started visiting the fields while others worked. On one of those occasions, Reuben, his oldest son by Leah, found some ‘mandrakes’ and brought them home to his mother. Research indicates these were a rare find. Some think they were a little orange-colored fruit that grew on bushes. Others think they were Jessamine flowers. Whatever they were, we know that they were thought to have some unique impacts with respect to love and fertility, thus they were referred to as “love apples” for their aphrodisiac powers.

Leah was indeed hoping these would allow her to conceive again. She may have even thought that, simply because she had these, Jacob would want to have sexual relations with her, if for no other reason but to have another chance at more children.

Rachel on the other hand could not stand to see these mandrakes in the hands of Leah. She had to have them even if she had to buy them somehow. And Leah pounces on the opportunity to exchange these mandrakes for what she believes is her right – the chance to be with her husband. This is indeed reminiscent of Jacob taking advantage of Esau’s hunger and desire for his stew as presented in Genesis 25. Without Rachel’s coveting the mandrakes (as Esau coveted Jacob’s stew), Rachel would not have agreed to what Leah was able to obtain in exchange for those mandrakes. At that moment Rachel’s desire for having Jacob all to herself as the most loved was at great odds with her desire for those mandrakes and need for bearing children. Left to ourselves, our inner passions will often contradict each other and take us down a path we should not go.

It is possible that mandrakes may have contained a biological agent that assisted in fertility. Alternatively, it could have been simply a placebo. In either case, there appears to be a correlation between the mandrakes and Leah’s fertility on this occasion. I tend not do agree with those that suggest God allows strange agencies (such as mandrakes) to be used to bring His will about especially if the people that engage these agencies are giving them, rather than God, the credit. The theology of that can be very misleading. What is critical to note is that God listened to Leah and heard her plea (vs. 17) for more children and/or her desire to be with her husband. She desired that blessing and prayed for it, and now through Rachel’s weakness, she gets the opportunity to be with her husband again to help make her prayers a reality.

In this whole scenario one can see some of the complications with polygamy. For starters, Jacob has no way of taking a stand against it at this point. There was clear hostility between Leah and Rachel over their common husband, whom one felt the other had stolen from her. We do not know if it was as painful to Jacob as it was for the two of them. He certainly wasn’t complaining and I imagine it did his male ego some good to have them fighting over him this way. And so he went and spent the night with Leah and had intercourse with her.

There are other things about this arrangement that somehow do not sit well with anyone who has been blessed by the wisdom of God’s original plan for marriage as He expressed it in Genesis 2:24 – one man joined to one woman in single one-flesh relationship. The thought of any wife having to ask permission from another wife to sleep with her own husband, especially as it wasn’t even in the hand of the husband to grant, is not natural nor the way God intended things to be. And then the image of Leah meeting her husband as he came in from the fields at night and asking him to come ‘home’ with her reminds me of all the broken marriages I’ve watched on television over the years. Again, this is not the way I believe God intended marriage to be. That’s why according to www.blueletterbible.org, D. G. Barnhouse, that great commentator once said about this family, “Is it any wonder that this family had a history of strife and bloodshed? Children reflect the atmosphere of the home.”

One may well stop to ask the question, “Was there some other reason, something other than the typical competition between women, especially between sisters, or even a female’s innate yearning to be a mother with child, that gave rise to this race for more and more children for Jacob at any cost?” Some have postulated, “yes”. It is possible that both Rachel and at least Leah, had a sincere desire to help fulfill the promise God had made to their great-father-in-law Abraham and the same promise God had renewed with their husband, Jacob. They knew that Jacob’s seed should be as great as the number of stars in the heavens. They also knew that through this seed “all the nations of the earth should be blessed” as we read of in Genesis 18:18, 22:18, and 26:4. That had to mean that through one of their lineage, someone would be born that somehow would impact all the people of the world positively. There is no doubt that any woman, especially one who had had a religious upbringing as both Leah and Rachel had, would want to be the one through whom this global blessing would be made possible.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leah Won’t Be Beat -- Genesis 30:9-13


When Leah saw that she had stopped bearing, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Then Leah said, "How fortunate!" So she named him Gad. Leah's maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. Then Leah said, "Happy am I! For women will call me happy." So she named him Asher.

After giving birth to four sons for Jacob, Leah stopped being able to conceive. Whether or not she had given birth to any female children is not known. It is possible she did not and the scripture account is complete. It is also possible that the writer, in keeping with a patriarchal society that focuses on male heirs, mentions only boy children. Regardless, Leah having watched her sister Rachel, who she knew was loved more by her husband Jacob than she herself was, give Jacob two sons through her maid Bilhah, now decides that two can play that game and gives her maid Zilpah to Jacob as a wife.

Jacob could have said, “Hold on here a moment. Enough is enough. You gave me children directly while Rachel could not and she gave them to me through her maid. We don’t need any more children and I certainly don’t need to take your maid as a wife.” He didn’t say that perhaps figuring that if he had three wives, having four wouldn’t make that much difference especially if it made his first wife happy. Making and keeping Leah happy was important since he clearly loved his second wife, Rachel, more.

So he takes her maid as a wife, has sexual relations with her, and Zilpah bore Jacob a son. Leah considers this to be most fortunate for herself and names the boy Gad a Hebrew word translated as ‘a troop’ but having interpretative implications for being rich and fortunate simply due to the magnitude of one’s resources – in this case, children. And Leah’s fortunate continues as Zilpah bore Jacob a second son, his eighth. For Leah, fortune brings happiness and she calls this son Asher that is translated from the Hebrew to mean ‘happy’. But was there indeed real happiness in the household of Jacob?

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rachel Wants Children -- Genesis 30:1-8


Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die." Then Jacob's anger burned against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" She said, "Here is my maid Bilhah, go in to her that she may bear on my knees, that through her I too may have children." So she gave him her maid Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, "God has vindicated me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son." Therefore she named him Dan. Rachel's maid Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. So Rachel said, "With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have indeed prevailed." And she named him Naphtali.

Even with all the potential and sometimes actual heartbreaks that children can bring upon a person, human beings, especially women, have been created in such a way to consider them a real blessing and something to be desired. On the other hand, the inability to have children when they are very much wanted, either because of one’s own physiology or that of one’s spouse has often been a devastating blow to many. In today’s world, more and more couples are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each to make having children possible. Thanks to some celebrities, the inability to have children is no longer perceived as a socially unacceptable situation, and more and more couples are turning to adoption. Things were not that different for Rachel.

Having seen that Leah had provided Jacob with four children, Rachel, unless Jacob had been refusing to sleep with her, should have realized that Jacob was not the problem in the fact that she had been unable to conceive. Instead, she does two things that come naturally to people when things aren’t going their way. First, they become jealous of others who are indeed succeeding at the very thing they want to succeed in. Rachel became jealous of her sister Leah. Others, in different circumstances, become jealous of their siblings’ financial success, or their colleagues’ promotion, or their friends’ athletic ability, etc. We tend to focus our feelings on or against an individual that has very little to do directly with the cause of our dissatisfaction. I would venture to say that Rachel was interested in having children for Jacob more than she was wishing that Leah had none. We often wish we could be as successful as someone else, more than we wish that individual to have failed. But in the midst of the hurt of not being able to succeed, we have a tendency to project our negative feelings on the one succeeding where we are failing.

Secondly, even though careful thought would have helped Rachel to realize Jacob was not at fault, she expects him to fix the problem. And not only that, she implies that if he can’t, she’ll die. Wow. Think of how Jacob must have felt. First, the woman he really loves cannot have children. Secondly, she expects him to change that. Thirdly, she tells him she’ll die, perhaps out of a broken heart and he’ll lose her. How would you feel? Had we had all our senses and were displaying all of the Christ-like character we are expected to display, we would still probably do what Jacob did – we’d get angry.

Jacob understands he is powerless to change what He believes God ordained. And he is angry at Rachel for thinking he can do anything about it. Just like Jacob’s grandmother Sarai (prior to God renaming her Sarah), his wife Rachel now takes matters into her own hands and offers her maid Bilhah to Jacob as a wife so that Rachel may bear children for him through Bilhah. There is an interesting phrase in verse three and it is that Bilhah, Rachel’s maid “may bear on my (Rachel’s) knees”. Although I have strived to avoid reference to commentaries wherever possible, this was one instance I needed help to determine whether the comment was one uttered as a fact or symbolically. David Guzik, the director of Calvary Chapel Bible College, Germany, indicates in his work that this referred to a practice whereby the husband impregnates the surrogate (in this case Bilhah, Rachel’s maid) while she is reclining on the wife’s lap. Strictly no room for romance here. This was not intended to be an original version of the much looser sex life of individuals, couples, and triads that some engage in these days and contrary to what God intended for sex and marriage. In fact, Guzik goes on to say that the surrogate may even recline on the wife as she gives birth. All of this symbolically showing that the child was legally the child of the wife, not the surrogate as the latter only substituted temporarily for the real mother both at conception and at birth.

We often hear of sisters, both married and single, who have no children of their own, symbolically adopt the children of their sibling as if they were their own and love them to death. One could have expected that of Rachel. However, it appeared that she was more interested in the idea of having her very own children legalistically, and the power and recognition that go along with that, rather than love those of her sister Leah, especially as they lived in the same household, yet different houses. Or, perhaps that was the cause of her preference. One sin (that of more than one wife) now leads to another ‘sin’, that of desire for power and recognition which in turn results in having a surrogate bear a child for her, something that although acceptable in culture, may not have been in God’s will for her.

And Jacob agrees to all of this. Could he have refused? Perhaps, but unlikely. If you’re a male reading this, just picture yourself in Jacob’s situation. The wife you love cannot have children, legally and culturally she can use her maid as a surrogate, and you are already in a polygamous marriage. He has intercourse with Bilhah and she bore Jacob a son. And Rachel, the official and legal mother names him Dan which means ‘judge’ because she believes God has justified her feelings and desires.

What is interesting is that in those days when a maid is given to the husband as a surrogate, she becomes an official wife of the husband. So for that reason, Jacob may have continued to have relations with Bilhah beyond the initial time that Rachel had used her as a surrogate. Whether this was at the request of Rachel again or whether her permission would have been required at this point is not known. In any case, Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Rachel as the official wife with authority over the surrogate wife still has naming rights and Bilhah’s second child is still Rachel’s legally. She names this son Naphtali which means ‘wrestling’ because she felt she had wrestled fervently with her sister and now with two sons of her own, she prevailed.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Leah’s Children -- Genesis 29:31-35


Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, "Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me." Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this {son} also." So she named him Simeon. She conceived again and bore a son and said, "Now this time my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Therefore he was named Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the LORD." Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.

The verses previous to this portion ended with the admission that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. What a difficult and tough situation to be in for Jacob. This was not the way he had hoped things would work out. He wasn’t expecting to be cheated by his father-in-law. It would be easy for us to say, once he had been tricked, that he should have just stuck with Leah, and said “No, it’s too late for me and Rachel; I will honor my marriage to Leah alone and learn to love her as much as I once did Rachel.” Perhaps that was an option, but most improbable considering the prevalence of polygamy in those days, his extreme love for Rachel, and the circumstances of being foiled during a wedding week celebration. While some may disagree with his decision to marry both sisters, it is difficult to not understand it or to blame him for it.

This is quite a situation for Leah to be in as well. If forced by her father to have been part of this trick, then she indeed is a victim. If this were her secret desire, she soon would have realized the consequences of being ‘number two’ in her husband’s life and love. We do not know what this did to her relationship with Rachel, nor do we really know what their relationship was like before this. Certainly this new arrangement would not help matters. And what of Leah’s image in the community? What would the neighbors say knowing she got married by trickery?

Finally, there is Rachel to consider. Was she part of the plan? Was she in agreement with it? What happened to her relationship with her father, mother, and sister after this? What was it like living in the same household, although not the same house, and having to share your husband with another woman? I am sure none of this was easy even if the culture allowed it.

Sin has a funny way of impacting many relationships that often go way beyond the sinner and those that abet it.

Another thing about sin is that once committed, God doesn’t ignore it. He often has a way of remaining very active in the situation. This was certainly the case here. The text says God was aware of the fact that Leah was unloved. This is interesting because while most of us would focus on the fact that the sin may have been polygamy, God is concerned about the fact that Leah was unloved by Jacob. From Jacob’s perspective, he just loved Rachel ‘more’ but from God’s perspective, loving one’s wife less than another, is not loving her at all. God seems to be saying, “Love your wife above any other woman and if you must have two, love them the same.” I’m not suggesting for a moment that God is condoning polygamy; He’s making a point about how each of us is to love his wife. And if by some other sin, in those days, one was to have more than one wife, then he had to love them all the same. And so God takes action when Jacob didn’t do that.

He allows Leah to have children while Rachel could not. Leah gave Jacob his first son and named him Reuben, which literally means, “Behold a son.” We now start to get some insight as to how Leah was feeling as the first wife, but second in being loved. She calls it an “affliction” which God Himself had seen. Leah verbalizes her hope that the young Reuben will be cause for Jacob to, and note the words here are not “love me more”, but just to “love me”. God and wives seem to have a similar perspective on how wives should be loved – it is not a matter of degree, but of total commitment.

It appears that Jacob, however, was not moved to ‘love’ Leah any more after Reuben’s birth. Leah conceives again, bears another son, and, believing that God has heard her despair in being unloved, she names the boy Simeon, which literally is translated ‘heard’. Still, there is no apparent change from Jacob and Leah conceives a third time, again bearing a son to Jacob. She is convinced now that Jacob will love her or as she put it “become attached to me” because she has given him three sons, for it was a great honor in those days for a man to have three sons. For that reason she names her third son Levi, which means ‘joined to’. There is no indication this time as to how having three sons by Leah affected Jacob’s love for her and when Leah conceives a fourth time and bears Jacob another son, she gives praise to the Lord and calls him Judah, which means ‘praised’. It is not clear from the text whether she was praising God because of a change in Jacob or simply because she wanted to praise him in spite of Jacob’s lack of love. It is interesting to note, however, that regardless of Jacob’s love or non-love for her, God was praised, and then Leah who had bore four sons, stopped bearing. God had accomplished what He needed to do through Leah.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jacob Gets A Big Surprise -- Genesis 29:21-30


Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her." Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?" But Laban said, "It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years." Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife. Laban also gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid. So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and indeed he loved Rachel more than Leah, and he served with Laban for another seven years.

Having worked his seven-year agreed-to term, Jacob goes to Laban and officially asks for his wife in order that he can finally have sexual relations with her. The text goes directly from quoting Jacob’s request to telling us that Laban simply gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. Notice there is no recorded account of a commitment that indicates Laban would indeed give Rachel to Jacob. In addition, it appears that the party or feast that Laban threw for Jacob was exclusively, or as a minimum primarily for men. It was the first recorded stag in history. And like most stags today, alcohol and in this case, wine, was flowing freely and long into the night. Jacob himself most likely participated fully in the event. Some believe these feasts or pre-marriage celebrations went on for a whole seven days. With darkness having arrived the first night and Jacob inebriated to some extent, Laban then takes his older daughter Leah and brings her to Jacob and he has sexual intercourse with her. That immediately, in those days, seals her marriage and as a married woman, her father also gives her a maid of her own, Zilpah. All this while Jacob, after having had intercourse, is sound asleep. How was all this possible? It was the custom of the day, according to some, that a bride was to be heavily veiled until she was alone with her husband. Add to that the facts that it was dark and Jacob was likely drunk at this point and you can see how this was indeed possible.

But then there’s always the morning after. Surprise Jacob. It wasn’t Rachel you married last night; it was Leah! So how does it feel to be cheated like that? Can you empathize a little with how Esau must have felt when you cheated him out of his blessing? How about your father Isaac when you deceived him with your fake fur on your arms pretending to be Esau? Cheating doesn’t feel good from this end, does it?

It is said that we often get treated the way we treat others. God has a way of allowing that to happen. We sometimes get what we deserve. What about Leah? She was either an accomplice in agreement or a daughter in submission to her father. We do not know if she secretly loved Jacob. It may have been a combination of all these things – Laban lining up an opportunity to marry off his older daughter by cheating, Jacob getting his just desserts, a cultural tradition that had to be followed, and Leah’s secret love and/or her obedience to her father. And where was Rachel that first night? Where was her mother? Here is a perfect early example of family solidarity even when the head of the home is doing something terribly wrong and deceitful. Every member of the family is easily persuaded by both familial and community pressures to go along with, to remain silent to, to the keep the secret of, the sin being committed. In this case it was deception involving who one had to marry. But more often and especially today, it has to do with physical abuse, sexual abuse including incest, alcohol and drug addiction, theft, cheating through the family business, lying, and even covering for a serious felony. Families, friends, clubs, boards, cabinets, have a way of doing this. Those that object are slowly moved to the sidelines never to be heard of again. When they later go public, they are labeled as disgruntled former members of the group. So many remain silent. Churches themselves are not immune to this. Honesty across the board is the best policy so that these situations do not arise, but when that is not possible, honesty among those that disagree must be pursued, although the cost is often incredible.

Jacob enquires of Laban, “What have you done to me? Our deal was about Rachel. I worked for her and you have deceived me.” He is familiar with broken deals and understanding, and with deceit. Laban blames the situation on a parochial tradition (the “practice in our place”) to marry off the older daughter first. We may not be able to confirm or deny that, but assuming it was true, Laban could have made that a requirement up front and Jacob may well have agreed to it. [Certainly no guest of Laban’s that week disagreed with him, but then again it would have been very unprofitable for him or her to call the host a liar.]

Laban tries to work out a deal with Jacob. If Jacob completes the marriage week with Leah, he would then give him Rachel right after that. Jacob was to have only Leah for one week and treat her as a wife, and be a husband to her, in every way during that honeymoon week. Then he would have Rachel as well. We must not miss what really occurred here. You will remember that Jacob’s father, Isaac, had only one wife, Rebekah. His parents were most upset that Jacob’s older brother, Esau, had taken more than one wife. Jacob came to Laban’s house to find a wife from his mother’s family, but now, due to the cheating sin of Laban is about to end up with two wives. One sin often leads to another and this was certainly the case here.

But Laban wasn’t going to give Rachel to Jacob for nothing. He required another seven years of labor from Jacob, even though he would have her now. Obviously, Jacob had shown by his demeanor that he wasn’t about to flee with Rachel, or even with Leah tagging along. If he agreed to the deal, he would stay and work the second seven years. Laban gives Rachel her own maid, Bilhah, as he done for Leah. So good old Jacob inherits two wives and their maids all in one week.

The Bible gives us no information as to how Jacob actually reacted to this deal except to say that he finished his week with Leah, then had sexual intercourse with Rachel, taking her as a wife as well, and proceeded to serve Laban another seven years. Why he did all that, no one knows, except that we are told he really loved Rachel and more specifically, he loved her more than Leah.

When God created marriage, He intended for a man and a woman to become one and to love each other unequivocally and unreservedly. The love that God instilled in us reserved for our spouse leaves no room whatsoever for another person. At its intended ultimate state, total marital love can only be expressed towards one person. Those that are married and have more than one child, realize that marital love is different than the love we have for our children – a love that can be equally distributed among our children. I love my three children equally and I love my five grandchildren equally. Distance, personality, activity preferences, etc., may mean I spend more time with one over another, but the felt love is identical. My love for my wife, however, with all of life’s intricacies, experiences, memories, struggles, joys, that we have shared after thirty-eight years of marriage, cannot be shared with anyone else. Those, who outside the will of God, think it can, are only fooling themselves. In fact, I would suggest that you are not really in love with that ‘second’ person, but rather you love what that person may be offering you at any given point in your life. Some become aware of that distinction before they get involved, some afterwards and by the grace of God and their spouse they can still return to what God intended, and some when it is too late and lives are ruined.

While God never prescribed polygamy, it is true He never legislated against it in the days of Jacob. But clearly from His early words with respect to marriage, as found in Genesis 2:24, we know that He preferred monogamy. Those that pursued polygamy, did so, partially out of ignorance and partially out of greed, egoism, and sometimes the pursuit of sensual pleasure. We end this section with the knowledge that Jacob now had two wives.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jacob Agrees To Work For Rachel’s Hand in Marriage -- Genesis 29:16-20


Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, "I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel." Laban said, "It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me." So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

Before we learn how Jacob responded to Laban’s questions about how he would like to be compensated for the work he is doing for Laban, the writer of the text has to fill us in on some more background information. Laban, we are told, had two daughters. There was Rachel whom we had already met and her older sister Leah. Scripture says Leah had weak eyes and it is an interesting conjecture as to what exactly this may mean. The actual word translated as ‘eyes’ here also has the implication of referring to mental qualities and mental or spiritual faculties in addition to serving as a definition for the physical eye itself. Given the comparison made with Rachel’s appearance that follows, one can safely, but not with total assurance, make the assumption that any weakness Leah had with respect to her eyes did indeed refer to how they looked. It is also possible, as I have read, that in those Middle East lands of the time, dark brown eyes were considered to be a strong asset and bluish-grey eyes appeared blurry and thus weak. Leah may well have had blue eyes.

It is interesting how the Bible is filled with many comparative observations about people. Already we have read the various comparisons of Cain and Abel (farmer/hunter), Jacob and Esau (smooth/hairy), and now Leah/Rachel (weak eyes/beautiful form and face). To this point they have all been on external characteristics (career, skin covering, looks). Rachel was indeed beautiful in every physical aspect and it is no wonder that Jacob fell head over heels for her the moment he laid eyes on her. The text confirms that Jacob loved Rachel, providing a solid answer to our earlier question concerning the manner and intent of his kiss when he first met her. He was indeed smitten by love at first sight.

So to Laban’s question of “how then shall I reward you for your work?” Jacob replies that he is prepared to work for seven years in exchange for being allowed to marry Laban’s daughter, specifically Laban’s “younger daughter Rachel”. First of all, can you imagine anyone today willing to work for seven years for a future father-in-law as a condition for being allowed to marry one of his daughters? I don’t think so. First of all we would consider it totally unfair for a father to make such a demand and secondly, my observations tell me that most young men prefer to dissociate themselves entirely from their perspective wife’s family business and prove they can make it on their own. Most that is, except those that know a good thing when they see it. Without definitely putting Jacob in that category, we can at least say that, since he made this offer himself, he saw this as a fair arrangement. But notice that he was, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, very specific as to which daughter he was talking about and Laban knew that.

For his part, Laban either mulls it over in his mind or already has a prepared answer. He tells Jacob that it is better to give Rachel to him than any other man he knows and implicitly agrees to Jacob’s request by asking him to continue staying on. The result of that agreement remains to be discovered in the sections of scripture still before us. Suffice it to say that there remains to this day in parts of the Middle East and Europe the belief that a younger daughter should not be given in marriage before an older one. Laban knew that when he made this agreement with Jacob. While some argue there was no such expectation or custom, I side with those that have supported its existence.

So Jacob stayed for seven years, waiting to marry Rachel. Now you have to understand that in those days even engaged or betrothed individuals did not get all the freedom to be together that even our teenagers on first dates get these days. No, this was a very controlled and observed relationship between Jacob and Rachel. And still, the text says that time passed quickly because of love. In particular, Jacob felt the seven years went by quickly, almost like days, because of his love for Rachel. As I read that, I wondered whether my love for my wife would have driven me to wait seven years for her, under the conditions that Jacob had to wait for Rachel. I do know that previous to meeting the woman that would become my wife, I had two female friends (at different times) where clearly something as simple as distance was enough to end the relationship. What Jacob undertook successfully goes to his credit.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Jacob Stays and Gets Offered Work -- Genesis 29:13-15


So when Laban heard the news of Jacob his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Then he related to Laban all these things. Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh.” And he stayed with him a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?”

What exactly did Rachel tell her father and family? Clearly for him, the connection with Jacob was related to the fact that this was his nephew, or more importantly his sister’s son. So Laban runs to meet him. He embraces and kisses him, and then brings him into the house. You do not ‘invite’ someone who is family to come to your house; you just simply and unequivocally ‘bring’ them in. We have made it a practice in our home to have a “you don’t ever need an invitation to come here” policy for our extended family including those close friends we’ve adopted as family. From my experience, I find this to be quite a rare approach to life today.

Now Jacob talks to Laban, bringing him up to speed on all the news from home. What exactly he told Laban about the two reasons for his trip, or the manner of his feelings about Rachel, we do not know. But he said enough to endear Laban to count him among his own bones and flesh and to allow him to stay as long as he wanted to. And the text says he stayed one month.

What he was doing to pass the days in that month is not clear. There are some that believe Jacob didn’t do much as he himself came from a very rich household and not used to hard work. But the next statement, at face value, seems to indicate that wasn’t the case. It is likely that as a guest, and based on his performance at the well, Jacob had been quite industrious around the house, serving and helping out wherever he could. So much so in fact that Laban valued his help and indicated that if he were to continue working for Laban as he had, then he should be paid something. In fact, he asked Jacob to name his price. Again we do not know Laban’s motive for his offer. Did he think that Jacob would be very reasonable and set a value on his wages far below anything Laban would be paying if he had hired the equivalent help locally? (Besides, he did have other sons, whom we’ll learn about later.) Was the offer made to keep Jacob around longer simply because he loved his nephew as family? Was he just trying to help Jacob financially as a young man? Or, did he have any plans for Jacob in relation to his daughters?

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Jacob Meets Rachel and Kisses Her -- Genesis 29:9-12


While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah's son, and she ran and told her father.

As Jacob is continuing his conversation with the local shepherds, Rachel arrives at the well. The scripture says she was a shepherdess. And here all along some of us thought this was man’s work years ago. Surprise, the owner of the flock probably picked his own family member to look after his interests, especially when it came to being present at the opening of his well each day. For those of you who know the story that is still to come, Rachel plays a significant role for several more chapters in the Bible and then is referred to later on in the Old Testament and again early in the New Testament. And to think she was simply a shepherd girl. More early proof that God can, and does use, people from all walks of life to accomplish His plan for humanity.

Now notice the sequence of what happened next: first Jacob sees Rachel, the daughter of his uncle (his mother’s brother) and thus his cousin; second he immediately goes to the stone at the mouth of the well and rolls it away single-handedly; third, he waters Laban’s flock; fourth, he kisses Rachel; fifth, he lifts up his voice; sixth, he weeps; and finally seventh, he tells Rachel who he is at which news she runs off to tell her father Laban.

Can you imagine the emotion Jacob was experiencing? He had left home initially to escape the wrath of his older brother and partially to find himself a wife from his mother’s family and then he sees his cousin Rachel. Somehow all that energized him to be able to move, all by himself, the stone that the shepherds could not move without considerable help from others. Was he showing off, helping the other shepherds water their sheep so they would leave him alone with Rachel, or just generally interested in getting things going so that he can return to Laban’s house with Rachel? Scripture does not tell us and neither should we surmise.

He takes care to water Laban’s flock. That could well have been an act of kindness to his uncle’s family or it could have been an act of chivalry (long before the word was invented during medieval times) sparing the young woman from having to water her flock.

And then he kisses her. Now one may argue that this kiss was simply a way to greet a close relative or cousin in this case, seeing them anew after a real long interval or as in Jacob’s case, seeing a kin person for the first time. We have no way of knowing exactly how the kiss played out or what the motivation behind it was. However, if we accept the order of events as outlined above, it is hard to believe that the ‘long lost distant relative greeting’ would wait until after steps two and three above were accomplished. No, that greeting would have occurred after step one. When we meet a relative at the airport, we don’t see them, go and find their bags, get them a bite to eat, and then welcome them with a kiss. We kiss them as soon as we get near them, everything else can wait. I am more inclined to believe that Jacob’s kiss for Rachel was indeed a romantic one planned carefully during the rolling of the stone and the watering of the flock. In fact, he also made sure that they had not even exchanged words between them. Nothing could have stopped him from doing what he had planned to do.

Having kissed her, Jacob fully satisfied that his quest was about to be accomplished and only the details had to be worked out between himself and Laban, he lifts his voice out of sheer joy to God with thanksgiving and he weeps from gladness. God had indeed been with him and blessed him on the outward-bound part of his journey. Having kissed her and thanking God for making it all happen, what finally remains was to simply tell her who he was. And then, reminiscent of exactly what Jacob’s mother Rebekah did after she heard Abraham’s servant praise the Lord for blessing his journey, Rachel runs off to tell her family. The stories have an incredible similarity for God is a God of order and pattern, in nature as well as in the life of His people.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jacob Enquires About Laban -- Genesis 29:1-8


Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well. Jacob said to them, "My brothers, where are you from?" And they said, "We are from Haran." He said to them, "Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?" And they said, "We know him." And he said to them, "Is it well with him?" And they said, "It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep." He said, "Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them."But they said, "We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep."

He meets God, makes a vow concerning his relationship to God, and then continues on his way. We have no record of how God reacted to Jacob’s vow. Eventually and presumably because God did bless him, Jacob does get to Haran, the land of both his mother and grandfather’s families. He sees a well in one of the fields and three flocks of sheep near it. The herdsmen used that well to water the flocks they were tending. Just like today, wells had to be protected or covered somehow. A large stone blocking the mouth of the well had to be rolled aside so that the sheep could drink and then rolled back when they were finished. That may well have taken more than one person to accomplish. And as he approaches, Jacob decides to address the shepherds, calling them his ‘brothers’. Given these are not his physiological brothers, this reference is very similar to the term made well-known by many blacks and employed by others today to refer to people with a common interest or background. Today we sometimes use the term in full as ‘brother’ or in its shortened form, ‘bro’. In fact, some have even provided an explanatory exclamation for the term. When asked why they are calling someone ‘brother’, they explain, “he’s a brother from a different mother”. In Jacob’s case, they were no doubt very distant relatives.

Jacob asks them where they’re from and they respond, “Haran.” The next logical question, “do you know Laban?” A logical question, the kind we would ask if we met someone from a place where we already knew someone else. Man has this built in urge to be connected with others through known relationships. A study many years back showed that the probability is very high a person on one side of the earth could connect with someone on the other side he has never met through a series of five other strategic inter-relationships. John Guare’s play and later movie, Six Degrees of Separation, attempted to get that message across. The concept is also referred to as the Human Web and certainly Internet networking is making it all very real these days. Plainly put, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then each one of us is, at most, six steps away from any other person on Earth.

As you would expect, they responded, “Yes, we know Laban.” Although they did not say how they knew him, Jacob pursues with another question as to “how Laban is” or more literally “how things were going with him”. Again Jacob’s newfound contacts reported that all was well and in fact, “Laban’s daughter Rachel was just coming to the well with, presumably, her family’s, sheep.”

Now the text takes an interesting path. Here is the stranger Jacob telling these shepherds that it is not yet time to gather the sheep for the sun is still high in the sky or perhaps to have them just sitting around the well. Instead they should be watered and taken to pasture. But rather than telling him to mind his own business, the shepherds replied kindly, given him the reason for their waiting. They could water their own sheep until all the flocks got there (presumably Rachel’s as well). But they replied they could not because the stone in front or above the well could be rolled away until all the flock had arrived. Some commentators refer to the fact that since water was scarce the stone could only be rolled away by all the neighboring shepherds in the presence of the well’s owner or one of his representatives. This was likely Laban’s well and thus all those present had to wait for Rachel’s arrival. Again the text does not say this, but it is a possibility.

Was it also possible that Jacob wanted to get rid of the shepherds so that he could be alone with Rachel? That’s a possibility but not necessarily probable. Protocol may not have allowed that in those days. On the other hand, he knew his mission for coming to Haran was to marry one of Laban’s daughters.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Jacob’s Faith Promise -- Genesis 28:18-22


So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."

The last few days I have, for one reason or another, been awaking early in the morning – earlier than I usually do. Once I get my bearings, I open my laptop and pursue my devotional time, working on my study of scripture, section by section. The result is not just the words that you are reading today, but also more importantly, a way for me to reconnect with God each day. I seek the ‘gem’ that He has for me in His Word, apply it to my own life, and then seek His wisdom, guidance, and protection for my own activities that day, as well as those of my family and others for whom I pray. This regular, and hopefully daily, occurrence helps me to continue on the faith path and minimizes my faltering steps. This all usually takes place in my home office and over time, I have come to see that room as a place where some important spiritual and life-changing decisions have been made in my life. It is one place that I hold dear to my heart.

We read in this section of scripture that Jacob also rose early in the morning and reconnected again with the God He had met and heard during the night. He took the stone that he had used as a pillow and set it up, perhaps on its end, held in place by smaller stones or rocks. Because of what had happened during the night, Jacob wants to set up a memorial or a marker at that place and he does it with this stone. He pours oil on it to anoint the place and gives it a new name. It used to be called Luz or ‘almond-tree’ but he now names it Bethel, or the ‘house of God’. There at Bethel, Jacob made a vow.

Before we look closer at his vow, I want to raise a question that may come to the minds of some readers. Where did Jacob get the oil to anoint that rock? You will remember that Jacob left his home rather quickly without all the fanfare that had accompanied his father and his grandfather’s servant when they set out from home on their journeys recorded earlier in Genesis. There is no record that Jacob took very much with him at all. He had wanted to get away from Esau as quickly as possible. It is possible that his mother Rebekah had prepared a traveling food package for him. If so, olive oil would have been part of that, either as part of the olives he may have had, or separately, so that he could have dipped his bread (also part of his staples) in it. It is also possible, that he got it from others on his journey or as he needed it, in order to anoint that marker he was establishing. Such marking ceremonies were common in those days and continue to this day around the world in one form or another, but especially in the Middle East. People in the area would have identified with what Jacob wanted to do and may easily have supplied him with what he needed to do so.

Let us return to Jacob’s vow. I am not sure about vows that begin with conditions on God. Clearly my current understanding of who God is and who I am in comparison leaves no room whatsoever for me to make my relationship with God dependent on something that Go must do for me. In no way can I make any demands on God. However, for someone who does not have that understanding of the relationship between Creator and man, such an expectation or approach to faith, is indeed common. Certainly, Jacob took this approach in the text we have before us.

Jacob’s requirement of God was five-fold in nature. God had to: be with him; protect him; provide food; provide clothing; and a safe return home. These are the things that man normally expects from God: his presence, protection, and provision of one’s material needs. In return, Jacob would make the Lord his God and give Him a tenth of all that God blessed him with. Just as much is entailed in God’s providing all that man requests of Him, much is involved in a man (or woman) making the Lord his (or her) God. The entire Bible is a handbook as to what it means exactly to make the Lord our God. It is interesting to note though that realizing who God is involves both the need to worship Him at specific places that we establish as Bethels or “houses of God” and that we recognize Him as the giver of all that we have.

This passage is the first mention in scripture of what we now call the ‘tithe’ or giving back to God one-tenth of what He has allowed us to have. Jacob appears to be the originator of the concept. If we are to follow scripture as a roadmap in our own life, by copying what the patriarchs of the faith did, then we see that part of making God our Lord is giving back to Him a tenth of what He gives us. At this point, how exactly we do that is left up to us. We need to figure out just how God is to “receive” this tenth from us. Who or what is the “recipient” for God of our tithes? Is it the local church? Is it the poor? Is it missions? Is it being hospitable to strangers? Many Christians struggle with these very questions even today. But one option that is not available to us is not to return to God at least one tenth of what we have been given.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jacob’s Spiritual Awakening -- Genesis 28:16-17


Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this the gate of heaven.”

Can you think of anything more exciting than to be in a place where you know God Almighty is? I can’t. That is exactly what happened to Jacob as he awoke from a deep physical sleep where he had seen the vision God had presented him with. But his awakening was more than physical – it was symbolic of his spiritual awakening. Although a grandson of Abraham and a son of Isaac, Jacob may not have been personally acquainted with the God of his father and grandfather. It is more than likely he had heard about Him, but had never come to see Him as His God. For if he had, perhaps he would not have been involved in the taking of his older brother’s birthright and in the trickery, along with his mother, of robbing him of his blessing. Now Jacob recognizes God’s presence in the very place where he had laid down to sleep. He was definitely surprised by that realization and it is fair for us to wonder why.

We know that people in those days had a very parochial view of the world, life in general, and certainly of any spiritual beings they may have believed existed. Abraham’s family knew about their God, but they also knew that other people had gods of their own that they worshipped in their part of the land where they lived. We could assume that to someone like Jacob who may not have traveled far and wide like his grandfather Abraham, God, whether he knew him intimately or not, was a God who lived and ruled in the known area of which Abraham’s descendants currently dwelt. Yet Jacob had gone beyond the boundaries of that area and lo and behold, here was God!

Have you ever been somewhere or doing something where you were surprised to find out that God was there? To the Christian, that should be a rare or non-existent experience. But when it does happen, how do we react? The text says that Jacob was ‘afraid’ when he made that discovery. The active verb form of the word translated ‘afraid’ here also has the following meanings: to fear, be afraid; to stand in awe of, be awed; and to fear, reverence, honor, respect. Given the context of the verse I would tend to go with the second group of meanings – to stand in awe of or be awed by. Now once we experience this awe – are we comforted by it or do we become truly fearful of God’s presence?

Every true worshipper and lover of God has a type of ‘Jacob’s dream’ experience. It is not necessarily during one’s sleep. It is a point in time when the believer recognizes God’s active presence in his or her life. It is then we need to understand that every inch of this world and the universe beyond is indeed an awesome place – He made it and He owns it; it was not a creation commissioned for someone else. We simply have the privilege of living on it and serving Him. It is His house and therefore, especially in that context, it is ‘awesome’. For Jacob this realization was the opening up on his life to the eternal (what he called the ‘gate of heaven’). Up to now he was involved in the material and the temporal concerns of life. From now on, his life had to consider the spiritual and the eternal. That is exactly what happens when one personally experiences the presence of God.

Join others following Ken on Twitter
Check-out AccordConsulting, SCA International, and Human Resources for the Church.

Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.