Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Day 29: Hellos & Goodbyes

Genesis 29, 30 & Matthew 19

The passages for today offer us hellos in the life of Jacob and some goodbyes in the life of Jesus. These hellos will change Jacob’s life forever. The goodbyes will echo in the ear of every disciple of Christ.

Genesis 29:

Jacob goes to the land of Paddan Aram, his mother’s homeland. He sits at a well in the area waiting for people to approach. Wells were gathering places in communities. Daily people came to the well for water in order to survive. Jacob knew this would be a good place to learn more about his mother’s family.
Rachel approaches leading her father’s flocks. It was not unheard of for women and girls to care for flocks, remember Rebekah was found at a well and watered Abraham’s servant’s camels. Jacob shows chivalry, he wants the stone moved so that Rachel can water her flocks. This is not the custom of the day. Economy of labor is important. To roll the stone away for each flock and then return it to its place is unnecessary labor. It is better to wait for everyone to gather and water all at once.
This reminds me of putting away the groceries with my children. They always want to put one thing away at a time which leads to repetitive trips to the pantry and the endless opening and closing of the fridge and freezer doors.
Jacob rolls away the stone for Rachel and in their conversation reveals their relationship. Jacob then says his hellos to Laban, his uncle.
Jacob works for Laban for a month and Laban finally sits down to talk about wages. Jacob and Laban strike a deal. Laban agrees to let Jacob work seven years (there is that number of completion once more) in order to wed Rachel.
We then learn that the trickster is tricked! Laban sends Leah instead of Rachel to Jacob’s tent on the wedding night. Jacob sleeps with her and then cries foul in the morning. This is one of the many times I want to smack a man in scriptures upside the head. Laban’s solution is to let Jacob marry Rachel for seven more years of work. This time Jacob takes his bride upfront.
Names are interesting in the Bible, and the names of Jacob’s children tell a story on their own. Leah has Reuben meaning he has seen my misery, then Simeon meaning he has heard or not loved, then Levi meaning attached, and Judah meaning praise.

Genesis 30:

Rachel cannot have her own children and she gives Bilhah her slave girl to Jacob in order to have children through her. (Don’t even get me started on my personal feelings toward this practice. It’s enough to say that it makes me ill) Bilhah’s sons are named Dan meaning God has vindicated, and Naphtali meaning struggle. Leah follows in Rachel’s footsteps and gives her slave girl Zilpah to Jacob. Zilpah’s sons are called Gad meaning troop or good fortune, and Asher meaning happy. Then Leah exchanges mandrake for a night with Jacob and winds up with a son named Issachar meaning reward. She then has another son named Zebulun meaning honored. As an afterthought, we are told she has a daughter sometime later named Dinah. Rachel finally conceives and has a son named Joseph meaning he adds.
Jacob’s family has grown and he decides it is time to leave. He cannot leave without a method of support for this large tribe of 12 children and 4 wives.  Jacob and Laban strike another deal. This one for sheep. Laban agrees that all spotted or dark lambs will be Jacob’s and all others will belong to Laban. Laban tries to trick his son-in-law by having his sons take all of the spotted and dark animals out of the flocks and tend them a three days journey away.
Jacob somehow manages to figure out animal husbandry to a degree that I do not understand (or by Divine assistance) and winds up with large flocks of strong specked and dark animals.

Matthew 19

This chapter of Matthew talks about goodbyes, as in divorce and the goodbye of a wealthy young man who wished to be a disciple.
John had been put in prison largely because of his teaching on divorce and marriage. The leaders are trying to put Jesus in the same boat. They want him to openly say something controversial so that they will be able to have him arrested.
This discussion of divorce is, at its heart I believe a civil rights issue for women.
Hear me out. Women were seen as property in these days and in the days of the Old Testament. We just read in Genies 29 & 30 how they were bought and sold. Women were easy to put aside especially if they had no children or no male children.
Moses’ made divorce harder because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Moses said you must give a certificate of divorce to a woman in order to set her aside. It became a public act, no longer a quiet personal matter. Remember Abraham and Hagar?
Jesus here says that marriage should be a commitment and that men should honor that commitment to their wives. A divorced woman had no rights, they had even less protection than widows. This statement is a way to protect women in a society that too often saw women as property instead of persons.
While he is giving hope to those with low standing Jesus again reminds the disciples about the importance of children. Those that are lowly in this world are exalted in God’s kingdom.
Jesus then goes on to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven being unlike the earth. He tells a young wealthy man to follow the commandments and he will inherit eternal life. The young man however wants more to do to prove his piety. Jesus invites him to be perfect by giving up all that he has to join the way. The young man says his goodbye at this point. We are left with the idea that he cannot part with his financial blessings, even for the blessing of God.

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