Personal Note on Posting Timeline
I will be posting by Friday of each week the session from the previous Sunday through Good Friday. Then we will take a week break so there will not be a post on week following Easter Sunday
Gen. 25: 19 – 34: The Birth of Esau and Jacob
This passage is composed of three episodes:
- Vv. 19 – 23: focuses on the prayer of the two parents, Isaac and Rebekah, and the Lord’s response to both; presented in quite different manners.
- Vv. 24: – 26: an account of the birth revealing both the birth order, the names, the appearance of the two boys and a play on words that references a people, Edomites, at a later time in Israelite history.
- Vv. 27 – 34: Esau’s selling of his birth right for a meal; Jacob’s less than honorable manner to obtain that birth right.
Our discussion on these three episodes was a back and forth of a series of questions that were raised mostly by myself but also from other participants. I intend to leave most of our answers unreported so that if you read the discussion, you can formulate your own response. If you should choose to report in the comment section what your responses are, that would allow further dialogue.
I continue to offer a section on Our Questions and My Refrain, if these are quite familiar to you, skip to the reading and discussion section of the post.
- First who are the characters and what role does each play? To the extent that we can identify
- what the characters say and do, or
- don’t say and do but we would expect them to do so, and
- finally when they enter into the passage and leave it
We can more easily and more accurately know what their role is from the point of view of the author and / or the editor of the passage.
- The “when” question is quite complicated and again for the sake of completeness; there is
- The “when” within the story / passage itself,
- The “when” of the editor, and most importantly,
- The “when” of our life at the time we are actually reading / studying the passage.
- What is the plot, the point of the passage?
- Finally, because each passage is at one and the same time the word of human beings and the Word of God, there is revealed the values that are part and parcel of the human beings in their time and place and there is the values revealed by God for the believer. Our final question is to discern which values in the passage are attractive to us, we are drawn to and which are we repulsed by, inclined to reject? The more difficult task, if we do identify these two responses in us of the values revealed, which are of God and we are being challenged to embrace and which are not of God and we are being challenged to correct and develop.
Before we read though, let’s quiet ourselves, remember whatever we can from the background, our questions and, most importantly, pay attention to what happens inside of us as we read.
Reading of the passage http://www.usccb.org/bible/genesis/25
Discussion Gen. 25: 09 – 23: The Prayers of Isaac and Rebekah and the Lord’s response.
We quickly identified the characters in the passage; Isaac, Rebekah, the Lord and a reference to the two boys in the womb. We learn that Isaac is 40 years old, Rebekah is sterile [can also be translated barren. Sterile infers that Rebekah cannot have children while barren doesn’t carry that same inference, at least, as strongly.]
Isaac prays and God responds. Rebekah becomes pregnant. Keep in mind that the passage without much emphasis, as a mere matter of fact, reports that Isaac was 60 when Rebekah became pregnant. God takes his good old time to respond, 20 years. If you’ve lived long enough, you might be able to look back 20 years to see how, in fact, later events can be understood as an answer to an issue that began 20 or more years ago.
We learn that the pregnancy has not been easy for Rebekah; painful might be the best description. Rebekah doesn’t pray; she “consults.” Scholars believe this infers that the praying took place at a place of prayer. God’s response to Rebekah takes the form of a revelation which is to impact her and her understanding of things. It’s important to note that no one else in the story knows what God has revealed to Rebekah, just her.
These four lines are quite extraordinary. The two boys are identified with two nations; of course, the author and the author’s audience knows who those two nations are: the Israelites and the Edomites. We learn as well that the birth order is going to be subverted. It’s very difficult for this simple statement to resonate with us in the same that it must have for the characters in the story and how it actually resonated within Israelite history. This subversion of the birth order is the origin, or perhaps continuance, of the familial conflicts that are part and parcel of Israelite history.
Carol pointed out the parallels between this story and the story of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. How are the two stories similar?
Discussion Gen. 25: 24 – 26: The Birth of the Esau and Jacob
We learn in the reading of the birth order and the appearance of the two boys. The words that describe Esau, ruddy and hairy, are a play on words that refers to the Edomites. It is in the notes that we learn about this word play. Without the work of scholars we simply would not know because the word play occurs only in the original language. This evidence for me that scholarship can help us to appreciate more fully the bible and that most of us are in the position to believe the scholars. Unfortunately, scholarship can very and, it is not uncommon for scholarship to simply reinforce a given horizon of understanding of the reader.
Discussion Gen. 25: 27 – 34: Esau Exchanges his Birthright for a Meal.
The life style of the two boys is consistent with the description of at birth. It is life styles that conflict; not much different than how rural and urban Americans experience life quite differently, view life differently, and such differences are in conflict.
As you read this part of the story, what is your evaluation of the behavior of the two boys? Which, in your opinion, has acted in an upright manner? As we mulled over this question, we realized first of all that birthright was a much more significant part of the culture of the story than it is in our lives, even though we too experience the impact of birth order in our family lives.
Does Esau’s reason for selling his birth right, he was very hungry, not present him as a bit of a dunce. Isn’t Jacob taking advantage of Esau also an act that doesn’t seem very upright to us? Yet God select Jacob to be the individual through whom He intends to fulfill his promise. We pick people because we think they are good or, at least, better. In fact, it they fail, we are disappointed. God does pick by the same standard. He picks them because He is God not because his choice is good.
Cathy wondered how Jacob could want the birth right unless Rebekah had shared God’s revelation with him. What’s your thought on this question?
Ken wanted to know if the Edomites were one of the tribes of Israel. They were not, in fact, the nations warred against one another.
I raised a question that pretty much was being discussed until time ran out. In the revelations that the Lord made to Rebekah, does it mean that because the Lord said it, therefore it HAD to happen.
Ken wanted some clarification. He wondered if there were any stories in the bible that tell us that what God intended to happen, didn’t. Although he though he didn’t know, he actually did. I asked him if God intended in the story of Adam and Eve for the story to turn out as it did. Of course, this brought up the issue of predestination.
Michael took the passage as simply a prediction from God and not that it meant that it HAD to happen. Don responded that he thought it HAD to happen since God knew what was going to take place.
At this point in the conversation, I pointed out that Don had brought up for the first time the question of God’s knowledge and its relationship to what happens. Michael hadn’t done that but it doesn’t mean that Michael didn’t think it. Michael simply didn’t say it. So what is your opinion, if God knows everything, does that mean that everything that God knows HAS to happen? A hint is contained in my emphasis on the word HAS to or HAD to happen. What’s your opinion and more importantly why? Is Don correct? Is Michael correct? Is there a third choice?
Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed. See “comment” link below