Monday, July 27, 2020

2020.07.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 30:25–43

Questions from the Scripture text: What event triggers Jacob’s request in Genesis 30:25? Where does he ask to be sent? What does he ask to be given (Genesis 30:26)? What point does he make for his request? What does Laban ask in Genesis 30:27? What reason does he give for his request? What offer does he make in Genesis 30:28? What point does Jacob make about the livestock in Genesis 30:29-30? What does Jacob say that he does not want to do (Genesis 30:31)? What does he request to receive instead (Genesis 30:32)? Why does he suggest that this will be a good way of dividing between the two (Genesis 30:33)? How does Laban answer in Genesis 30:34?  Whom would we expect (based upon verse 32) is taking the action in Genesis 30:35? Whom do we discover is actually doing it in Genesis 30:36? What does Jacob do in Genesis 30:37-38? What result does this have in Genesis 30:39? What does he do with the two flocks in Genesis 30:40? How did he decide when to do what in Genesis 30:41-42? What was the result for Jacob in Genesis 30:43
Could it really be that God’s chosen one would toil for so long and still have nothing? That’s our question at the end of Genesis 30:30, when even Jacob is just seeing himself as a useful worker, but we are thinking about God’s covenant and how feebly it seems to be getting along so far. In God’s faithfulness, there are a bunch of boys now; but, how will they be taken care of?

By this time, Jacob had served at least fourteen years, but had nothing material to show for it. In fact, as he had come Laban to be known as a hard man, the request for his wives and children in Genesis 30:26 was not altogether certain. Genesis 31:43 opens our eyes to the fact that Laban did, in fact, consider the children to be rightfully his! (Children born in servitude were considered by many to belong to the master and not the servant, cf. Exodus 21:4 and other contemporary writings like the Nuzi documents).

So, Jacob insists upon the completeness of his service (Genesis 30:26b) and that the wives and children are his (verse 26a), and tells Laban to send him away. He’s basically arguing that he’s no ordinary servant.

The demand seems to take Laban by surprise. His literal response is, “If—please!—I have found grace in your eyes—I have divined that Yahweh blesses me because of you! Name your wage unto me, and I give.” Or at least that’s what Laban wants Jacob to think.

This is the second time that Laban makes an offer like this. We remember what he did with the wife—now wives. And sure enough, Laban is ready in Genesis 30:34-36 to take advantage of Jacob’s proposal in Genesis 30:31-33. In fact, he can hardly contain his pleasure at such an apparently naïve proposal, “Behold! May it be!” (Genesis 30:34a).

Genesis 30:37-42 has been the occasion of many old wives’ tales about how vivid images upon a mother while conceiving will impress themselves upon her offspring. This is not only ridiculous, but misses the point of this long and drawn out part of the passage. Yahweh Himself explains in Genesis 31:10–13 that He told Jacob that He was the One who miraculously made the streaked/speckled/spotted appear (remember, Laban had removed them! ... Genesis 30:36) to mate with the females.

What Jacob does in response to the dream is either an obedient response of faith that Yahweh had commanded (but Jacob does not tell his wives), or a silly attempt at trying to take some of the credit for himself after Yahweh had told him what would happen. Either way, the point is the same: this rather intricate procedure is not at all naturally able to produce this result; the usefulness is not in the action taken, but in the God who Himself is acting!

The same can be said of reading a very old book. Or pouring a little water on a baby’s head. Or eating a bit of bread and drinking a bit of wine. Is this how the dead are transformed or the powerless gain strength? Yes, because God commanded it. And not because the thing in itself does it, but because it is His Word. His sacrament. His Spirit who powerfully uses them to faithfully keep His promises. It’s all about Him!

So, is it possible that God’s chosen one would toil for so long and still have nothing? Genesis 30:43 answers the question. “Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous.” That may or may not be materially true for us in the short term. But, if we genuinely have Christ, it will be spiritually true for us—in an increasing (if originally small) way in this life, and perfectly so in the life to come!
What situation, earthly or spiritual, seems stacked against you? What means has God ordained for your care in that situation? How have you been employing those means? Whom do you trust to make them work?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH105C “O Praise the LORD, His Deeds Make Known”

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