Genesis 28: This is about Isaac telling Jacob to not marry a Canaanite woman. On his trip to find a wife, he has a dream and God speaks to him: “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; ¹⁴ and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. ¹⁵ Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28.13-15) This is similar to what God said to Abraham. Just an interesting observation.
I also learned in this chapter that Esau purposefully marries more women to upset his parents.
Genesis 29: Jacob finally makes it to his destination and meets Laban, his mother’s brother, and his daughter Rachel. They make an arrangement for her hand in marriage. Jacob works for Laban for 7 years and he can marry Rachel. Yet, at the end of 7 years, Laban tricked Jacob and brings him his older daughter, Leah. Jacob is rightfully bothered by this deceitful act, because he loves Rachel. Jacob agrees to another 7 years of work and then gets Rachel. Leah has several children (4 sons) and at this point, Rachel doesn’t.
All of this deceitful activity does bother me. I have to keep reminding myself that my lens is a 21st century lens. But this still isn’t right in my view.
Genesis 30: There’s a lot of “knowing” in this chapter. Rachel’s upset that she can’t have children, so she gets mad at Jacob and then insists for him to conceive with her maid, Bilhah. They have two sons and Rachel claims them as her own. Then Leah is upset because she can’t have any more children, so she has Jacob conceive with her maid, Zilpah. They had two sons. The maids are considered surrogate wives instead of surrogate moms that we see now. Then Jacob has to lay with Leah and they have more children (2 sons and one daughter). With respect to Rachel, after Jacob has 11 sons and 1 daughter with three other women, “God remembered Rachel, and God heeded her and opened her womb” (Gen. 30.22).
Now, Jacob wants to leave Laban’s house to make his own life with his wives and children. Laban refuses because he recognizes that Jacob has brought him good fortune due to God. Laban offers him wages to stay. Jacob refuses and then offers to this: “let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages” (Gen. 30.32). Laban agrees, but then he “removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in charge of his sons” (Gen. 30.35). Pretty deceitful. However, even with the ones that remained, new offspring that had stripes and spots as well as ones that were black, were born. I read this in the notes from verses 37-40: “Ancient breeders believed that the female, at the time of conception, was influenced by visual impressions that affect the color of the offspring. Jacob produced striped animals by putting striped sticks before the females’ eyes while they were breeding” (p. 53). I did not know this. This is another example of the writers including what is known at the time in the Bible. Now scientists understand that this is genetics.
I know several people who talk about the innocence of the Bible, but I think they either don’t know about all of the “knowing” going on as well as the wars. I believe there’s a lot of things going on in Genesis that would now be considered sinful: multiple wives, violence, and deceitful tactics.
Luke 9: There is a lot going on in this chapter. First, Jesus gave his 12 disciples the power to remove demons and cure diseases. This bothered Herod the ruler. It says here that “John had been raised from the dead” (Luke 9.7). Up to this point there was no indication as to what happened to John the Baptist in Luke. I read in the notes that this was addressed in Mark 6.17-29. John the Baptist is someone that I would like to learn more about.
Second, Jesus provides food to five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. There were leftovers: “what was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces” (Luke 9.17). Third, Jesus commands his disciples to not tell anyone who he really is. At this point, the crowd think he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or an ancient prophet. We see here the first indication of what will happen to Jesus (suffering, death, and ascension to heaven). Jesus explains here that his true followers, those who are willing to lose their life for him, will save it (meaning their eternal life in heaven). One would definitely half to rely on faith for this to happen.
Third, while Jesus prayed on a mountain (with Peter, John, and James), Moses and Elijah appear. The notes call this “an intense religious experience” (p. 1848). Peter strives to build three structures to preserve this, but God’s voice appears and commands them to listen to his son, Jesus. So, they didn’t tell anyone.
Finally, the remainder of the chapter talks about his healing a boy with an evil spirit (the notes speculate that based on the description in the text, the boy had epilepsy), his prediction that he will be betrayed, an argument amongst the disciples as to who was the greatest, his rejection by the Samaritans, and his interaction with people who want to follow him.
There are lot of interesting things going on in this chapter, but the one that actually stood out to me more than anything else came from the notes and the boy with the demon. This is what the text says: “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. ³⁹ Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. ⁴⁰ I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” ⁴¹ Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” ⁴² While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. ⁴³ And all were astounded at the greatness of God.” (Luke 9.38-43). As I indicated above, the notes said this: “The description of the boy’s malady leads some scholars to conclude that the boy had epilepsy, but any diagnosis is speculative” (p. 1848).
I find it interesting that the scholars tried to explain this. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Part of me thinks it’s good that the scholars try to provide an explanation so readers can better relate to or understand what is happening. However, the other part of me questions the need for this. Why attempt to provide an explanation and then end the sentence with “any diagnosis is speculative.” Does this make this passage any less important? I wish I could talk with the scholar who wrote this and ask for the reasoning. I’m certain this isn’t the only place in the Bible where this happens, but this particular example really stood out because of the attempt at a scientific, or medical, explanation.