Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Genesis 28 Jacob goes in search of a wife

In this myth that explains the origins of the “Children of Israel” we see Jacob travelling to his mother’s home to ask for a wife among the daughters of Laban, her brother, i.e. his cousins.
Isaac tells him to go to Padan-aram, to the “house of Bethuel thy mother’s father” and asks that God will bless him that he may be fruitful with a “multitude of people” (verses 2-3).

The Hebrew text of chapter 25 verse 20 refers to “Aramean” and not Syrian.
וַיְהִי יִצְחָק, בֶּן-אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה, בְּקַחְתּוֹ אֶת-רִבְקָה בַּת-בְּתוּאֵל הָאֲרַמִּי, מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם--אֲחוֹת לָבָן הָאֲרַמִּי, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה.
Which translates to:
And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean, of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.
This is interesting because it identifies the Arameans as descended from Haran, Abraham’s brother, and remembering the myth of how different languages came about in Genesis 11, the difference in the language spoken by the descendants of Haran, and those of Abraham, evolving with their separation, ties in with that legend.

As Jacob is travelling towards “Haran”, the home of his uncle Bethuel, he stops to rest. It is important to note that in order to rest, he piles up some stones, as a pillow, likely to support his back, to lean against while he rests.

He dreams of a ladder reaching up to the sky, with angels going up and down the rungs. God is at the top of the ladder, saying that he will give the land to Jacob, and to all his descendants. 

Further, in the dream, he says that Jacob’s descendants will cover the land, that although he is leaving, he will return. 

Jacob, on waking from his dream says that this place is the “house of God” and the “gate of heaven”. He rises from his sleep, uses the stones to make a pillar and pours oil over the stones. The place was called “Luz”; Jacob renames it “Beth-el”. 

He promises that if he returns to his “father’s house” he will accept God as his god, and that he will give a tenth of everything he owns to his god. 

It is interesting to read the last two verses (21-22) of the chapter, carefully.
So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. 
This indicates two things: one that the god worshipped by Isaac, and who spoke to Jacob in his dream, was not the only god worshipped by his family, note the “Lord be my god”.  This sounds, to me, like there were other options. The other is that until this time, no part of a man’s wealth was set aside for “God”. 

We come to the laws for making offerings, and sacrifices later in the Bible. This is the start of the idea. Also the punishments that were meted out to the people before the flood and Noah, were not as a result of not worshipping God, but because of general “sinfulness” . There were no laws about which god to worship until he was identified as the god of Noah’s descendants through Shem, to Abraham, and the rest of the patriarchs. The punishments threatened, and the legal penalties for not adhering to the worship of God and the laws handed down by him, only begin to occur at this point in the Bible narrative.

The careful assembly of the text, and the order in which it is put down, continues to demonstrate that considerable forethought was given to the writing of the Torah.

This point is missed by the average person who merely dismisses the Bible. It is anything but incoherent nonsense. However, without any extra-biblical evidence that it happened the way the Bible claims it did, it remains mythology.