Sunday, January 17, 2010

Genesis Chapters 26 & 27

Chapter 26

There is a famine in Canaan, so Isaac goes to Gerar, the capital of the land of the Philistines. God tells him not to go to Egypt like his father. He renews his promise that Isaac's descendants will inherit the land.

Eventually, the men of the place notice that Isaac has an attractive wife. Demonstrating that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Isaac says Rebekah is his sister. The ruse is discovered when the king looks down one day and sees them 'sporting' (v. 8). Now, at Jerry's school, Liberty University, students aren't even allowed to sunbathe lest they tempt each other into sin, but of course Jerry is willing to overlook public nookie if you're in the messianic line. The king confronts Isaac and asks him why he said she was his sister when she's clearly his wife. Well, if you were fooled by it the first time... Isaac explains he feared for his life. The king counters that someone could have had sex with Rebekah and got them all in trouble. He tells everyone to leave them alone.

Isaac plants crops and gets a hundredfold return on his investment, thanks to god. He becomes powerful, with servants and flocks and herds, and the Philistines are envious. They block his wells and the king asks him to leave.

So he leaves and pitches his tent in a valley and unblocks the wells. This causes tension with the local herdsmen, who tell him it's their water. He calls the first well Esek, or tension, and the second one Sitnah or enmity. Finally he digs a third well and calls it Rehoboth, which means plenty of room and the fighting ends. Nevertheless Isaac goes on to Beer-sheba. God finds him that same night and renews his promise. He builds and alter and digs yet another well.

The king comes and finds him and proposes they make a pact of mutual non-aggression. They seal the deal with a meal and the king leaves in the morning. The slaves come back and tell him they've found water. Lots of concern about water in this chapter.

The last two verses are about Esau, Isaac's son. We find out he married two women, Judith and Mashemath, and Jerry doesn't hesitate to call them heathens and evidence of Esau's spiritual depravity, after ignoring all of Abraham's transgressions with the servants. Isaac and Rebekah do not approve of their daughters-in-law. Sigh. In-law troubles.

Chapter 27

Isaac is now old and going blind, and he calls his son Esau to him. He asks him to kill a deer and make a stew for him. Remember that in Chapter 25, Esau was Isaac's favourite, despite his selling his birthright and polygamous marriage to heathens. He promises him a blessing in return.

Rebekah overhears the request and after he leaves, she goes to Jacob and tells him to kill two of his goats and she'll make a stew so Jacob can bring it and get the blessing while pretending to be Esau. Jacob points out his brother is hirsute and he is smooth, so Isaac will surely know something's up and he'll be cursed. Rebekah tells him the curse will be on her. So he goes and kills the kids and brings them back. His mother takes one of Esau's garments and tells Jacob to put them on, then she covers his hands and neck with the goat skins. This is a lot to do for a simple blessing.

Jacob takes the stew in and his father asks him who he is. He says Esau and he brought the stew. Isaac asks how he did it so quickly, and Jacob says god helped him. Isaac isn't convinced and asks to feel him to make sure he's really Esau. Isaac says he sounds like Jacob but is clearly Esau. He asks if it really is Esau, and Jacob lies bald-facedly that he is indeed. Finally he agrees to eat the stew and give the blessing.

When Isaac finishes, he tells his son to come closer so he can kiss him. He smells the clothes and Isaac gives his blessing that he'll inherit the country and its people.

Esau comes in just after the scene with his venison, and aks for his blessing. Isaac asks who he is, and he explains. Isaac says he already ate, so who was the person before? Because he already gave his blessing. Esau begs him to bless him as well, but Isaac figures out it was Jacob and the blessing is gone.

Esau bitches a bit about his brother's cunningness, but Isaac says he's now in charge and he's already given him the slaves, vineyards and fields. He asks what Esau wants.

Esau points out that surely his father has more than one blessing to give? Isaac promises him the fatness of the earth (v. 40), and that he'll live by the sword as a servant of his brother, but eventually he'll break free and be in charge.

Esau hates his brother, and really, who can blame him? He vows vengeance as soon as he's out of mourning for his father. Rebekah hears about it, because there is no privacy in a tent, and calls Jacob to her. She tells him to go to her brother Laban until everything blows over. She complains to Isaac that Esau's wives are tiresome and she doesn't want Jacob marrying any heathens.

Whew. Brothers have pretty tense relationships in this book. Cain kills Abel, Ham becomes his brothers' servant, Ishmael is banished so Isaac won't have to share his inheritance and now Esau only gets a lame pity blessing after his brother steals the real one. So is Jacob the first biblical con artist, or does he just seize the day? Is Esau's problem that he's just kinda dumb, selling his birthright for a bowl of soup? Is Rebekah Machiavellian?

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