Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Listing of Jacob’s Sons, Grouped By Their Mother - Genesis 35:22a-26

Now there were twelve sons of Jacob –
the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s first-born, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun;
the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; and
the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; and
the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher.
These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

His grandfather Abraham had eight sons through three different women. His father Isaac had two sons and one wife. Jacob himself had twelve sons through two wives and two concubines, each being a maid of one of his two wives. Generally speaking, and especially judging by the number of sons he had, Jacob lived a blessed and prosperous life.

It is interesting to note that the text’s author takes special care to list all his sons in groups, in accordance with the women who bore them to Jacob. While we have not yet discovered it to this point in the text, we will see that these twelve sons play unique and significant roles in the history that unfolds in subsequent chapters of Genesis and other books of the Bible. Their groupings, based on their mother, are also crucial to the outcome of the history of God’s people, right up to this very day. This text, I believe, establishes for us a key foundation on which Israel’s history can continue.

In one sense, this is no different than following the story of some modern-day people of fame who have been married more than once and tracing the lives of their children. One would find that children of one spouse, as a group, often fair differently then those of another spouse. The differences are even more evident when the children are outside of marriage and a result of adultery. Even within marriage, where a person has been married more than once and has offspring from more than one spouse, the difference in the fairing of the children I believe is more profound when the subsequent marriages are a result of selfish desire or sin. Somehow, when God gets involved as He always is, the consequences are unavoidable, even if observed in generations to come.

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