Genesis Chapters 49 & 50

Chapter 49

Jacob calls upon all of his sons and, in the form of a blessing, recounts their lives. Reuben is not favored because he defiled his father’s bed by laying with Bilhah. Simeon and Levi are divided because of their violence against the Shechemites. Judah will be the continuation of the line to King David (not stated here, but we all know what happens). The rest, up until Joseph, are well regarded it seems. I’m not going through all of them lest I bore you with repetition. Joseph is given the longest blessing, while Benjamin is called a ravenous wolf. This is both a recap and foreshadowing since this book was written well after the events of a lot of these books.

After he finished the blessing, he told his sons that he wants to be buried in the field of Ephron the Hittite where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and where Jacob buried Leah. Then he laid back in his bed and died.

Jacob certainly said a whole lot for someone who has one foot in the grave. That blessing/curse for his sons took twenty-seven verses and he still had to go through his burial wishes. OK, admittedly I’m nitpicking because I don’t have a lot to say about these final chapters because it’s all pretty normal. There is still a long way to go and I will have things to say. OK, on to the final chapter.

Chapter 50

Jacob’s body was embalmed by the Egyptians over a period of forty days, and they wept for him for seventy days. Joseph told Pharaoh that he swore an oath to his father to bury him in the cave in the field in Canaan. Pharaoh allowed him to do this, so all of Pharaoh’s servants and elders, as well as Joseph’s household, his brothers’ and father’s household all went on the long journey back to Canaan to bury Jacob. Only the livestock and children remained in the land of Goshen.

This section describes a funeral procession with chariots and a ton of people. They held a seven day lamentation that was so big that others noticed it, commented and named the area something that translates to the Mourning Field or something.

After the funeral stuff is over, Joseph’s brothers beg him for forgiveness and bow to him as slaves, but Joseph forgives them and tells him that he will provide for them and their families.

Joseph stayed in Egypt, but to told the Israelites that God would deliver them from Egypt. He made them swear that when that happens, they would carry his bones to the land promised to Abraham by God.

And done with Genesis.

Genesis Chapters 46, 47, & 48

Chapter 46

“So they loaded up the wagons and they moved to…the land of Goshen.” OK, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as Flatt and Scruggs (kids, ask your grandparents).

Anyway, Jacob/Israel and his entire household left Beer-Sheba and relocated to the land of Goshen in Egypt. The whole second paragraph of this chapter simply details all of the people who went. It turns out to be seventy in all, but I’ll let the reader go find out everyone’s names. It reads like a genealogy and as people know, I’m not a fan of those.

Joseph and his father, Jacob/Israel are finally reunited after many years, since that day his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites. He can now die having seen that his son is alive. Joseph is going to tell Pharaoh that the family is now moved in and tells his brothers what to say. It turns out that Egyptians don’t care much for shepherds.

I wish I had more to say about this chapter, but there’s not much going on at this point. I think we can all predict what’s going to happen, since we still have sixty-five books to go after this one.

Chapter 47]

Joseph introduces the family the family to Pharaoh and the brothers tell him what Joseph told them to say and Pharaoh instructs Joseph to set them up on the best part of the land and put them in charge of his livestock as well. Then he brings in Jacob who blesses Pharaoh and Jacob tells him that he is one-hundred and thirty years old. Joseph settled them in the land of Rameses and gave them enough food to sustain them.

The famine raged on and the people bought as much food as they could with the money they had, but that wasn’t enough. Then they sold their livestock to Pharaoh to buy more food, but that still wasn’t enough to make it through the famine, so they sold their land to him and became slaves to Pharaoh in exchange for food. See where this is going? Then they had to give one-fifth of everything that they grew to Pharaoh. The priests didn’t have to sell their land or become slaves because they’re given an allowance by the Pharaoh.

Seventeen years after moving to the land of Goshen in Egypt, Jacob/Israel would die. Before he died, he called upon Joseph to swear an oath (by touching his junk) to bury him in the land of his ancestors. Joseph agreed.

So we get the origin of how the Israelites became slaves to Egypt and we will get the naming of the Twelve Tribes of Israel in a couple chapters. This chapter just felt anti-climactic with absolutely no resistance to being enslaved. I mean, they volunteered to be enslaved.

Chapter 48

Joseph came to his father’s bedside with his two children so that Jacob could bless them. Jacob tell Joseph that he will make him fruitful and multiply, but that Joseph’s two sons are now his (Jacob’s), because they will inherit the land that Jacob inherited. Anymore children that Joseph has will be his own.

When Jacob asked the two sons to approach and he blessed them, he put his right hand on the younger one’s head and his left on the older one’s head. This is obviously a callback to how Jacob got his father’s blessing as the younger. When Joseph tried to correct his father, he crossed his arms, still putting his right hand on the younger one’s head. Joseph wasn’t happy about this, but he didn’t seem to do anything about it. Jacob says that Ephraim, the younger, will be greater than his brother. Then he gives Joseph, I’m assuming, the land where Jacob’s ancestor’s are buried since he talks about land that he apparently took from the Amorites. The problem is that this didn’t happen, or at least it’s not anywhere in this book.

Genesis Chapters 42, 43, 44, & 45

Chapter 42

So there is a famine “in the world” as it says at the end of the last chapter. This makes me think about how God “flooded the world” in Chapter 7. The world to the people writing these stories was Egypt, Canaan, Israel, and Mesopotamia. Hardly global, if you ask me. Anyway, I digress

There is a famine and Jacob sends his son to Egypt because they have the good stuff. He sends all of his sons except Benjamin because he feared that harm might come to him (like he thought it did Joseph?). So the brothers went to Egypt and met the governor who they didn’t recognize as the brother that they sold off to the Ishmaelites. Joseph recognized them, though.

OK, I’m confused. Joseph accuses them of being spies. The brothers tell Joseph who they are and that there is one younger brother who didn’t come with them. Joseph says that he will test them by letting one of them go to get the youngest brother while the rest are imprisoned. However, after three days, he lets all but one of them go home with all the grain that can carry and they must come back with Benjamin. So did one brother go and then eight others with grain, or were they all imprisoned for three days and then nine were sent back together? This book is confusing. How do people take it literally?

Reuben points out that the brothers were being punished for the way that they treated their brother. Oh how right they are. Anyway, Joseph hears them talking and understands them, though they don’t this since he used an interpreter. He had Simeon bound and sent the rest home with free grain and provisions.

So the brothers head for home, but when they find the money, they think that they’re being set up. They make it back to Canaan and tell Jacob what happened in a word for word telling of the last section. Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go with them, but Reuben makes him an offer.

37Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 107). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

So, Reuben decides that Jacob can kill his two sons if any harm comes to Benjamin. That seems completely insane.

Chapter 43

Jacob and his sons and their families ate up all the food that brought back in the previous chapter. Jacob tells his sons to go back to Egypt and buy more food, but Judah says, in not so few words, not unless they can bring Benjamin because the governor won’t even talk to them. Jacob wants to know why they even mentioned having a younger brother to which they essentially said, “What were we supposed to say?”

Anyway, Jacob let them take Benjamin, along with gifts of fruit and honey, and double their money to pay for the first load of grain. When they arrived, Joseph directed that they brought to his house, which was apparently the equivalent of getting sent to the principal’s office. However, Joseph’s steward assured them that their God must be smiling on them because he got his money.

Joseph got a little emotional when he saw Benjamin and went off into another room to get cleaned up so it didn’t look like he was crying. Then he ordered the feast to begin and Benjamin got five times the serving of his brothers. Also, Egyptians don’t eat with Hebrews because it is an abomination which is why Joseph was eating at a separate table.

Chapter 44

The next morning, Joseph orders the steward to load up the sack with grain and put their money in the top of each sack. Then he told him to put his silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Then he sent the Steward after them and accused them of stealing his master’s silver cup. The brothers assure him that they haven’t stolen anything and have, in fact brought the money they felt they owed back with them.

I am not reading the Bible as if I know nothing about it. I know plenty about the stories throughout and I know that when somebody offers themselves as a sacrifice or a slave, it’s sure to not play out well for the person making the offer. In this case, one of the brothers makes the offer that if the cup is found, in whoever’s sack it is found, then he shall be put to death, and the rest will become slaves. Luckily, the steward, upon finding the cup in Benjamin’s sack, simply keeps him as his slave and sets the other brothers free. At this, the brothers all tore their clothes, and they returned to Joseph’s house.

Judah pleads for Benjamin’s release by basically repeating the whole story from the beginning, including the part where Jacob essentially says, “Don’t show back up at this house unless Benjamin is with you.” Judah offers himself as Joseph’s slave in exchange for Benjamin.

Chapter 45

There is not a lot to say about this chapter, at least not without the context of the rest of the chapters. Joseph could no longer contain himself and finally revealed to his brothers who he is. He told them that it was God who sent him to Egypt and that he now rules over the land. He sends his brothers to bring the whole family down along with their flocks and herds and live in the land of Goshen.

Pharaoh heard about this and basically repeated everything that was stated in the previous paragraph, and he even supplied wagons for the trip. He also gave them food, garments, and money. When they got back to Jacob, he demanded to see him before he died.

Genesis Chapters 39, 40, & 41

Chapter 39

While I look at as Joseph as the Cousin Oliver of this section, I will say that he wasn’t a letch. Joseph was bought from the Ishmaelites by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. He was made the overseer of Potiphar’s house and God smiled on him. Potiphar had no concerns while Joseph was around, but that was about to change.

Potiphar’s wife (who is nameless) had eyes for Joseph and wanted him to lay with her. He refused because he was entrusted with all that is his master’s and he didn’t want to betray that trust. One day, however, while he was doing chores, she grabbed a hold of his garment and demanded that he lay with her. He ran off, leaving the garment behind. She yelled out that Joseph had attempted to lie with her and ran off when she yelled. She told this to Potiphar as well and he threw Joseph in the king’s slammer.

While in jail, Joseph endeared himself to the chief jailer, who allowed to him to care for all of the prisoners and the chief didn’t pay attention to Joseph because God was with him.

OK, so Joseph isn’t a bad guy here. He didn’t accept the advances of his master’s wife, and he seemed to care for the people in the jail. I think I can safely say that he is a Mary Sue.

Chapter 40

Pharaoh has had enough of you

One of the many issues I have with this book is that the authors refer to the leader of Egypt as Pharaoh. Pharaoh is not a name, it’s a title. This tells me that these are nothing more than stories rather than a history. If the authors were going for a concise history of the day, they would have given the name of the Pharaoh. Anyway, let’s get on with this chapter.

The Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker were imprisoned for offending their master, and they were put in Joseph’s care. During that time, they dreamt weird dreams having a lot to do with the number three. Joseph, being able to interpret dreams, interpreted each of their dreams. It turns out that the Pharaoh would lift up the cupbearer’s head, figuratively, and he would be restored to his original post in three days. Joseph told the cupbearer to remember him. As far as baker goes, Pharaoh would lift his head up, literally, and hang him from a post.

As it turns out, Joseph was right. Pharaoh gave his cupbearer his job back, but he did not remember Joseph. The baker was hanged. I wonder what he did to offend Pharaoh?

Chapter 41

Two years after the previous chapter, Pharaoh has a dream about seven fat cows being eaten by seven skinny cows and seven ears of plump grain being eaten by seven ears of blighted grain. None of the magicians of Egypt are able to interpret the completely obvious metaphors for seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, but the cupbearer finally remembered Joseph after two freakin’ years and told Pharaoh that he could interpret those dreams. So Joseph was summoned.

Joseph explained the obvious meaning of the dreams, which is as I said above, a seven year boom time followed by a seven year bust. He also tells Pharaoh to select a man who is discerning and wise (hint, hint) to organize the effort to store food for the famine to come.

Obviously there is nobody in Egypt who knows warehouse management and logistics, so he appoints Joseph to do the job and makes him the second in command. Pharaoh blinged him out, gave him a chariot, and made everyone bow before him as he rode by. He also got a wife in Potiphera’s daughter. Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim and he was put in charge of food rationing during the seven years of famine.

So Joseph found some success in Egypt. The authors just really made him a way-too-perfect character so far. He can interpret dreams, excels at resource management, and is a real people person. I’ll bet if he was around today. He would be an expert at the game, Sim City.

Genesis Chapter 37 & 38

Chapter 37

So Jacob moved back to Canaan with the family and settled down. The author is still referring to him as both Jacob and Israel which can get confusing. Anyway, it turns out that Joseph is a little snitch and Israel loves him more than any of his other sons (he’s obviously going for father of the year). He even made him a special robe. Now, the NRSV simply calls it a long robe with sleeves, but it has been referred to as a coat of many colors, and in one musical acid trip, a technicolor dreamcoat. So take it as you will. Anyway, because of Israel’s love for Joseph, the other sons were jealous of him and hated him. And then Joseph told them about the dream he had.

6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen. 6-8, p. 95). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I’m going to guess that Joseph was a bit socially awkward and maybe wasn’t self-aware, either. I mean, the way he’s being written, he hasn’t a clue that his brothers hate him. Then he tells them about another dream where the sun, moon, and eleven stars bow down to him. His father was having none of it and rebuked him.

Joseph was sent to report on his brother who were minding the sheep, but when he got there, they were nowhere to be found. He asked a passerby where they were and he was pointed in the right direction. The brothers plotted to kill him and toss him in a pit, but Reuben didn’t like that idea, so they agreed to just throw him in a pit. So, they took his robe, threw him in the dry pit, and sat to eat lunch. Then they decided to sell him to some Midianite traders for twenty pieces of silver.

I am the younger of two brothers and I fully admit that I annoyed the crap out my brother on a near daily basis. However, I am reasonably certain that he never would have sold me to anyone for any amount (I am at least 63.275% sure of this). He probably would have killed me first.

The brothers took Joseph’s coat/robe/dreamcoat and dipped it in goat’s blood and took it back to their father who was quite upset that he tore his own clothes and then wore sackcloth and mourned. He is gonna be pissed when all those dreams come true and when he finds out that his sons got twenty pieces of silver.

Meanwhile…

The Midianite traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. I hope they made a profit (or a prophet! Guffaw).

Chapter 38

We have another soap opera chapter full of sex, wives, and deception.

1IT happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and settled near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. 2There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; he married her and went in to her.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 97). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Wow, no courtship, no dating, not even a pizza night in with Netflix or Hulu. They just go straight into the baby making. They had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah, but God saw that there was wickedness in his firstborn, Er, so God put his to death. How’d that flood work out again? Anyway, Judah instructed Onan to go into his brother’s wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Since Onan knew that the offspring would not be his (huh?) he spilled his seed on the ground. God didn’t like that either, so he struck him down as well.

Here we have another definition of Biblical marriage. If the man dies (or is struck down by God), then it his younger brother’s duty to take his wife and give him offspring.

Judah instructs Tamar to live in her father’s house as a widow until the youngest kid, Shelah, is old enough. So Tamar went home and stayed with dear ol’ dad.

OK, I’m going to summarize this part…Judah goes to Timnah to get his sheep shorn, as you do. Tamar finds out and disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah rents her services for the cost of one young goat. She asked for his signet, cord, and staff until he paid her.

Months pass and Judah has been looking everywhere for the prostitute that he promised the goat to, but she was nowhere to be found. He did find out that Tamar “played the whore” and  got herself knocked up. Judah called for her to be burned. That is until she produced Judah’s signet, cord, and staff. He said that she was in the right and that was that.

Tamar had twins, Perez and Zerah. Zerah was coming out first, but then his hand went back in and it was Perez who came out first.

Genesis Chapters 34, 35, & 36

Chapter 34

This chapter pisses me off to no end. Dinah is raped by Shechem (“he seized her and lay with her by force”) and then he wants to take her as a wife. Not surprisingly, her brothers are quite upset about this and want nothing to do with Shechem or his father, Hamor. However, it’s not because of the act of the rape, but because Shechem was uncircumcised and the best solution that they could come up with is for all the men of the city to have their junk cut off.

This is all a ruse, however, for Levi and Simeon to get their revenge by killing Hamor and Shechem, rescuing their sister, and then killing all of the men in the city and taking their wives and kids, their cattle, and their wealth. Jacob’s response to this is to say that they brought trouble on him.

30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 91). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I’m saying anyone is right in this story. It’s a pretty barbaric story and the fact that Jacob seems not the least bit upset over his daughter being raped is pretty fucked up (excuse my language, but there is no other way to express myself). That’s all I have to say about this chapter.

Chapter 35

God tells Jacob to hightail it back to Bethel, or Luz, or whatever it’s called, and build an altar to El, the god that appeared to him in what is now called Bethel. He gathers the family together and tells them to get rid of the foreign gods which Jacob hides under an oak tree near Shechem. God also made it abundantly clear to the cities around them that they are not to be followed. When they made it to Bethel, Jacob built the altar and called the place El-Bethel because El is the name of this particular god. And then Rachel’s nurse Deborah died, who we only ever heard of in this very story.

Was this story part of a larger story that was lost to time? It was just a couple chapters ago that Jacob wrestled with God who changed his name to Israel, and now we get a repeat here at Bethel. Did Jacob not hear him or believe him the first time?

9God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. 11God said to him, “I am God Almighty: [El Shaddai] be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 92). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

So God gives the land that he had given to Abraham and Isaac to Jacob and it will be handed down through his generations. Once again, Jacob…err…Israel build a stone pillar and pours oil on it like he did a few chapters earlier.

Rachel dies in childbirth giving birth to Ben-oni, but Jacob called him Benjamin. So she’s buried on their way to what will be called Bethlehem, and Jacob set up a pillar on the grave. So, this can get a little confusing, but the paragraph uses Jacob in one sentence and Israel in the next. Anyway, Israel set up camp at the tower of Eder.

I can’t remember if it ever comes up again, but Reuben, firstborn of Jacob and Leah, got it on with Bilhah, who was his father’s concubine. Israel heard about it. I’m guessing this will come up again, but not here. Then, with the birth of Benjamin, that makes twelve sons for Jacob, or twelve tribes of Israel.

The chapter concludes with the death of Isaac, and Jacob and Esau bury him.

Chapter 36

We find out that there has been another name change as Esau is now Edom. This whole chapter deals with the genealogy of Esau’s lineage. I am not going to bore anyone with the details. Not even the Oxford Bible Commentary has much of interest to say about this chapter.

I read it. That’s all that’s important.

Genesis Chapters 31, 32, & 33

Chapter 31

Jacob isn’t exactly winning friends and influencing people in this chapter. Laban is a bit peeved that he was breeding the strongest livestock for himself and leaving Laban the weak. So God tells Jacob to go back to his homeland, so he loaded up the truck and he moved to Beverly…sorry, he loaded up his camels with his wives and children and set out on the road, but not before Rachel snuck into her father’s house and stole his household gods.

According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, household gods were usually clay or plaster figures that were used as a source of divination. They would later be outlawed, and their use here is unknown as the story never explains.

So Laban finds out that Jacob left after three days and he goes after him. During a dream, God tells him not say anything to Jacob good or bad. Laban finally catches up with Jacob a week later, and confronts him about leaving so suddenly and about the stolen gods. Jacob assures him that he left the way he did because he thought Laban would try to take his daughters back by force, but he didn’t take the gods (he didn’t know that Rachel had taken them).

Laban checks everywhere he can except in the saddle under Rachel because she is “in the way of women”, which is old language for “on her period”. She already had Joseph, so she’s not pregnant. Laban would not search the saddle that she had been sitting on. Jacob finally gets angry and goes off on a monologue about trust and how long he served Laban.

Finally, they make a covenant. I’m not going through the details of it, but basically they draw a line in the sand and agree not cross it. They used heaps of stones and named them.

51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “See this heap and see the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor”—the God of their father—“judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice on the height and called his kinsfolk to eat bread; and they ate bread and tarried all night in the hill country.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (pp. 85-86). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Basically, this verse is the Bible version of the tape down the middle of the shared bedroom. Laban awoke the following morning, kissed his daughters and grandchildren goodbye and went home.

Chapter 32

The first part of this chapter is pretty boring. Jacob sends a messenger to ask Esau if they could bury the hatchet…after bragging about his riches. I’m sure Esau has forgotten all about Jacob buying his birthright for stew and then stealing their father’s blessing. It should be fine.

The messenger returned to tell Jacob that Esau is coming to meet him…with four hundred men. Maybe Esau wasn’t over it after all. So Jacob splits the men up into two companies so that if Esau drops by, at least half of Jacob’s men will survive. The other half will get red shirts. After whining to God, Jacob sends livestock as a gift to appease his brother.

I never understood the reason for the next part of this chapter which involves a wresting match of sorts between Jacob and apparently God. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, this was likely an adapted story.

“The original version strongly resembles pagan, even animistic, tales of spirits or demons guarding particular places such as streams, who attack travellers who are endeavouring to pass on their way, but who are powerful only at night; here we are told that the sun rose only when the incident was over.”

Oxford Bible Commentary, (p. 59) Barton and Muddiman

This is actually interesting, but the Bible writers turned it into, “God cheats at wrestling because he has to greet the day,” or something like that. This story is kind of key in this whole saga, but it feels shoehorned in in a very awkward place. I suppose it’s a good way to pass the time between sending the gift to Esau and his response, but in other chapters in this book, the only thing that signals the passage of years is a change of sentence.

Anyway, after God hit Jacob with a low blow (to the hip), he does that whole renaming thing. This time he tells Jacob that his name is now Israel, so now his wives, maids, and kids all have to remember that from here on out. Also, Jacob names the land Peniel (better spell that right) which means “face of the Lord.”

My question with all of these place name changes: Do they put signs up to inform others what the new name is? Did Jacob post a sign to the residents of Luz that the place is now named Bethel and their mail will no longer be delivered? Just asking.

Chapter 33

Long, boring story (with plenty of bowing and formality) short, Esau and Jacob make amends and Jacob introduces the wives and kids and makes his brother take the gift. The only thing I will add is from the beginning of this chapter.

1NOW Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 88). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I assume that this is the order of importance to Jacob if Esau came with less than friendly intentions. The maids and their kids would get killed first, followed by Leah and her kids, and Rachel and Joseph could run for the hills.

Jacob buys a plot of land in Shechem in Canaan for one hundred pieces of money. He pitches a tent and builds an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel which is God of Israel.

Genesis Chapters 29 & 30

Chapter 29

Keep reading, you’ll get it

Things start getting a bit soap opera-y in this chapter and the next. Jacob has set out toward the land of his Uncle Laban and runs across a group of shepherds who happen to be from the Haran (where his uncle lives). While he was talking to them, Laban’s daughter, Rachel, came along with her father’s sheep (cue “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright, kids ask your parents). Jacob proves his manliness by moving the stone from the well, and then kisses Rachel followed by him weeping aloud. He introduces himself which I think he should have done before the kissing and weeping, and she runs to tell her father.

Reading this section tells me again that this is a poem. There’s a lot of repetition, like the use of “his mother’s brother’s…” rather than just saying Laban. This is either poetry or the writers were getting paid by the word.

Jacob works for Laban for seven years so that when his time is up he can marry Rachel, who is Laban’s younger daughter. Leah is the older of the two (this will come up very shortly). Fast forward seven years and Jacob asks for his wife so that he may “go in to her”. So Laban throws a feast and in the evening sends Leah into Jacob’s room and he has relations with her. Also, the writer found it important at this point to give the reader a parenthetical that Laban gave Leah a maid, Zilpah. Jacob awoke the next morning to find not Rachel in his bed and went to confront Laban.

It is explained that in this land the younger daughter is not given away before the elder one. So he is made the offer that all he has to do is complete the week with Leah and he gets Rachel…after he works another seven years. So fast forward another seven years and Jacob finally gets to marry Rachel. Another parenthetical about Rachel’s maid, Bilhah). He has relations with her and loved her more than Leah. He then served Laban another seven years.

Let me work this out here, Jacob wanted to marry Rachel and served her father for seven years, and at no time in that seven years did it ever come up in conversation that the older daughter has to be married before the younger daughter? This seems unlikely. Then, on top of that, after dad pulled the old switcheroo, Jacob had to wait an addition seven years to marry Rachel? Fourteen years from meeting to marriage, plus an additional wife thrown in there. But wait, there’s more.

Because God took pity on Leah because Jacob loved Rachel more, he allowed her to bear children while Rachel could not. So Leah four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Then she was done.

Chapter 30

OK, things are about to go a bit Young And The Restless over here, so try to keep up, won’t you? Rachel is mad that she can’t have children, so she gives him her maid, Bilhah, to have sex with so that Rachel can have children, and so she did. She bore Jacob Dan and Naphtali. And everyone was happy…or not.

Leah would not stand for Rachel’s maid having kids with Jacob, so she gave him her maid, Zilpah. She bore him Gad and Asher. And this made Leah happy and they lived happily ever after…or not.

Rachel wanted some of Reuben’s (Leah’s firstborn son) mandrakes, but Leah was having none of it. So Rachel offers the services of Jacob for some mandrakes. So Leah and Jacob do it again and she bears Isaachar and then one more time to produce Zebulun. Finally, they do it one final time and she bears a daughter named Dinah. Finally, after all of this, the barrenness, the maids, the wives, Rachel can finally conceive and she gives Jacob a son, Joseph.

Jacob asks Laban to allow him to take his wives and children and move back home. Laban replies saying that God blessed him because of Jacob. Jacob offers to tend Laban’s sheep and goats and remove all of the speckled, striped, and black lambs as his wages, but Laban goes through the flock himself and pulls them out and puts them in the charge of his sons instead. So Jacob tends the flock and makes striped sticks out of poplar and places them in view of the stronger mating goats and sheep and they give birth to striped, speckled, and spotted offspring.

Is the Bible truly the inspired word of God? Then he would know, to quote a GEICO commercial, “That’s not how this works, that not how any of this works.” Surely the creator of the universe would know that showing a striped stick to a goat will not result in striped offspring. I can tell that science is not the strong suit here. Anyway, Jacob grows rich with flocks, herds, and slaves.

Genesis Chapters 26, 27, & 28

Chapter 26

What a way to start the second half of Genesis, with a story we’ve heard twice before. OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one, a married couple settle in a town as aliens, but the man is afraid that the townspeople will kill him so he says that his wife is his sister. Yeah.

Once again, it’s Abimelech who was on the receiving end of this deception, but this time it’s Isaac and Rebekah pulling it.

8 When Isaac had been there a long time, King Abimelech of the Philistines looked out of a window and saw him fondling his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelech called for Isaac, and said, “So she is your wife! Why then did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought I might die because of her.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen. 26, 8-9, p. 72). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

You would think that Abimelech would be wise to these shenanigans, but he’s not.

Isaac planted crops and reaped a lot more than he planted. He got rich with plants and flocks and herds and the Philistines hated him, so they cut off his water supply by filling in all of the wells that Abraham dug (or rather, Abraham’s servants). So Isaac moved and dug new wells (or rather his servants), but the shepherds told him that the water was theirs. This is pretty much the same story as it was in chapters 12 and 20. I hope we’re done with it now. One note  up to this point, according to the Oxford Bible Commentary, the Philistines that King Abimelech led are not the same as the tribe of Goliath.

Finally in this chapter, Esau ended up adding more fuel to my upcoming marriage sermon by marrying two Hittite women. Apparently, Rebekah didn’t like them, but we really get no elaboration on that.

Chapter 27

We come to the chapter where Isaac is old and wants to give his blessing to Esau, but he can’t do it yet because he wants to have a feast. Rebekah overhears the exchange and hatches a plan that involves more repetition about savory food such as his father loved. We all know the story, food, brother’s clothes, goat skins because Jacob isn’t hairy. Isaac, God’s chosen one whom he has blessed, is fooled by a kid in kid’s clothing.

Referring back to AJ Jacob’s book, The Year Of Living Biblically, the author talked with one of his rabbi consultants about this story. In Hebrew tradition, Jacob was the wise choice to inherit his father’s fortune. Esau was wild and erratic, and remember, he sold his birthright for stew. I hope that was the greatest stew that he ever ate in his entire life, because that’s all he ever got.

Anyway, Jacob was smart enough to hightail it before Esau came home. The good news is that Isaac eats twice. The bad news is that Esau was pissed. I do wonder how legal this story is. I mean, Jacob deceived his blind father into blessing him. Couldn’t Isaac rescind his blessing if he wanted to and call the sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob for stew invalid? I might have to discuss this with a legal expert. Rebekah sends Jacob away to stay with Uncle Laban (her brother) in Haran until Esau gets over it…gets over losing his birthright for stew and losing his father’s blessing due to some strategically placed goat skins.

Chapter 28

There’s a ladder in this image.

Isaac officially blesses Jacob and forbids him from marrying a Canaanite woman and instead directs him to marry one of his cousins. I mean, I guess he has to keep it in the family. Also, hey, what’s wrong with Canaanite women?

Meanwhile, Esau married one of Ishmael’s daughters, which would make her his half-cousin, I guess. This means that he now has three wives.

Jacob sleeps at a “certain place” and has the ladder dream which is just more “I will give you this land” because of course he will. Also, Jacob uses a rock for a pillow (which is softer than many pillows I’ve slept on in hotel rooms) which he them poured oil on. He called the place Bethel even though this “certain place” was already called Luz. This chapter ends with another reference to tithing.

Genesis Chapters 23, 24, & 25

Chapter 23

Sarah’s death and burial could have been summed up in a few sentences and maybe a eulogy for her, but it’s all about Abraham trying to buy a field from the Hittites, where he lived as an alien. They offer him any land that he wants, so he asks for Ephron son of Zohar so he could get the sweet spot with a cave. Ephron gives it to him, but it sounds like an argument because Abraham insists on paying for it. They strike a deal and Abraham has himself a cave.

Judging by the translation, this story was a poem or a song in the original Hebrew. That explains the peculiar structure and the refrain of many of the lines. I still stand by my assertion that something should have been said about Sarah.

Chapter 24

Abraham is old. He makes his servant swear an oath that he will find Isaac a wife, but he can’t find the bride-to-be in the land of Canaan. Instead, he must venture back to Abraham’s homeland. The servant traveled there, came up with the contrived criteria that would determine the correct woman, Rebekah fit said criteria, he put a (nose) ring on it, paid off her family and she went with him. She met Isaac for the first time, they went into his mother’s tent, yada yada yada, they’re married.

I glossed over the story because it’s a lot of filler and repetition. The servant states his plan, then the plan work out perfectly, and then he recounts the plan and the outcome to her family. This is either bad writing or another poem/song.

The details leading up to this include the servant swearing an oath to Abraham which ends with the servant putting his hand “under Abraham’s thigh” which means “touched his junk” which is the way oaths were sworn. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, this would be the equivalent of swearing one’s life. I just hope that biblical literalists don’t want to bring this tradition back.

This is the longest chapter in Genesis and is also the influence for the start of a new series of Saturday Sermons about “biblical marriage”. I won’t talk much about it here except to comment that the Bible will never be accused of being a romance novel.

Chapter 25

Abraham marries [takes] another wife and has six more boys and probably an untold number of girls which, naturally, is not talked about. He gave everything he had to Isaac and gave the other kids gifts and sent them to the east away from Isaac.

Abraham dies at the age of one hundred seventy-five and Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave that he bought at the beginning of this post. God blessed Isaac and then we get a genealogy of Ishmael, because those are thrilling to read.

Apparently, God can’t point in the general direction of a woman who isn’t barren and requires divine intervention. Anyway, Rebekah gets pregnant with twins and is told that she has two nations in her womb (that can’t be pleasant) and that the older one will serve the younger. Esau was born first and came out all hairy while Jacob followed on his heel (he was gripping Esau’s heel when he was born). Esau, who Isaac loved, was a hunter while Jacob, who Rebekah loved, was the quiet type. I really hope that the parents loved the other boy as well, because that would be poor parenting.

So one day, Esau was out hunting and came home to find Jacob cooking and sold his birthright for a bowl of stew in one of the most anticlimactic scenes so far:

Esau: I’m hungry, give me some stew.

Jacob: Sell me your birthright.

Esau: I’m really hungry…okay.

…and scene. We are now halfway through the book of Genesis.