Jacob Only Loves One of His Wives
January 14, 2012 Leave a comment
OT: Genesis 28-29
Isaac calls Jacob over and blesses him (what, again? after all the hubbub before?) and tells him not to marry a Canaanite woman (is that the same as a Hittite woman like Rebekah hates?), but to go marry one of Laban’s daughters – i.e. one of his first cousins. Great. Esau figures out from this that his parents hate Canaanite women like his wives, so he marries Ishmael’s daughter (his first cousin) as a third wife, as though that will fix things.
On his way to Laban’s house, Jacob has a dream about a staircase from earth to heaven, with angels going up and down, and then God appears on the staircase and tells Jacob he’ll have lots of descendants and the land he’s sleeping on will be theirs and God is protecting him – you know, the usual. Jacob wakes up and freaks out in terror of God’s presence, and takes a stone that he had set next to his head when he went to sleep (why, I don’t know) and makes it a “sacred pillar” (18) and pours oil on it. He renames that place Bethel (meaning “God’s house”), because Bible people love renaming things symbolically, and promises that if God protects him on his trip, “then the LORD will be my God” (21). The random rock that he decided was a pillar will be God’s house, and he’ll give a tenth of his earnings back to God.
Now, hold up. There have been a lot of times already in Genesis where the way people have spoken about God has made it sound like there are multiple gods to choose from. This whole thing with Jacob deciding whether to follow God is just one example. It seems less like he’s unconvinced of God’s existence and is waiting around for more evidence before committing, than that he knows God exists and is just figuring out whether or not he’s worth following, which only makes sense if there are other options. Obviously if we all knew definitively that there was exactly one God and he was in charge of everything and all that, we would follow him without a second thought. We’d have to be daft not to. But people keep talking about the God of Abraham and so on, as though in opposition to other gods. And every time somebody makes a statement about how their god is a good god and so on, that always sounds to me like they’re comparing him with other gods. Am I crazy? Or does the Old Testament seem like a vaguely polytheistic document? Not always – the actual creation story at the beginning doesn’t seem to admit of other gods, at least not ones who are concerned with the earth – but in some places it seems to tell a different story.
Jacob has an oddly technical conversation with some shepherds about proper sheep watering schedules, then sees Rachel shepherding her father’s sheep. He gives them water, then kisses Rachel and bursts into tears. Awkward. He tells Rachel who he is and they go to Laban’s house to tell him too. Jacob stays and works for Laban, and after a month Laban says Jacob shouldn’t have to work for him for free just because they’re related, and asks what payment he wants. Jacob is in love with Rachel, so he offers to work seven years for Jacob in exchange for Rachel, and Laban agrees. I’m not sure why Rachel “costs” seven years of work when Rebekah was sent off for free.
Anyway, after seven years, Jacob gets really blunt with Laban: “The time has come. Give me my wife so that I may sleep with her” (21). Laban invites everyone in town over for a feast to celebrate, but that night he sends his older daughter Leah to sleep with Jacob instead of Rachel. Why didn’t Rachel intervene? Why couldn’t Jacob tell it was Leah? Even if we imagine that it was pitch black, wouldn’t her voice sound different? Did they just not talk at all? In the morning he sees that the woman in bed with him is Leah, so he’s like, “Laban, WTF?”
Laban’s all, “Well, I don’t know what they been teachin’ you down in Canaan, but round these here parts, we don’t let the younger sisters get married until the older ones are. Like a Taming of the Shrew kind of situation. Or a 10 Things I Hate About You situation, if you prefer.” So sneaky Laban tells Jacob to enjoy his week-long honeymoon with Leah, and then, if he promises to work seven more years, he can have Rachel too. So he finishes his honeymoon, marries Rachel too, finally gets to nail her, loves her more than Leah (seriously, it says this), and then works seven more years for that prick Laban.
Why isn’t anybody in this book nice? It’s like Wuthering Heights. Except not nearly as well-written or interesting.
God sees that Leah is unloved, so he makes up for it by giving her kids and making Rachel barren, even though Leah was complicit in the trickery and this whole thing wasn’t really Rachel’s fault. Leah has four sons in a row – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah – and every time, she thinks this will be the son that will make Jacob love her. It’s really sad, actually.
I guess Jacob’s willingness to work to earn Rachel is kind of sweet in a Ferdinand-and-Miranda-in-The-Tempest kind of way, except, again, not as well-written.
Everybody is so deceitful!
OT: Psalms 7-8
I don’t like the psalms so far, but I’m guessing they’re prettier in the KJV.
David complains again about all his enemies and asks God to save him, unless he’s done anything wrong in his life, in which case he asks to be caught and killed. He asks God to get angry and establish justice, and calls God a “shield” (10) and a “righteous judge” (11) who will punish those who don’t change their ways. He also says that the wicked basically get what’s coming to them – “the trouble they cause will come back on their own heads” and so on (16). There’s actually one line in this psalm that says God “is angry at evil every single day” (11), but there’s a footnote saying that “at evil” doesn’t appear in the original Hebrew. So the translators just added it…? I think “God is angry every single day” would be a more accurate description of the character depicted so far in the OT.
God is glorious and majestic and defeats enemies and it’s amazing that he bothers to think about humans at all and gives them power over the whole earth.
The psalms are repetitive and boring. I’m always sad on the days when we have psalms to read instead of NT.