Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year: Gen 32-34 for Jan 10

There's not two parts of the patriarch's lives in Genesis, religious-God, and regular-relationships. It's one thing. The relationship stories are great. Here we have the zeal for one's sister (34:31, 34 passim), a completely-laid out brother-brother reconciliation with all the cost involved to give it a try (32:13-15), and the success of that (33:4), and of the zeal (34:25-29).

However, not complete success, in the case of either one. In the first, the reconciliation was for that day, but there is no record of Israel joining Esau in Seir (33:14; cf. 35:29, 36:6). Also, there is an undertone in the "why this?" comment of Jacob (33:15, lit.), coupled with the fact that Jacob does not go to Seir, but to Succoth, that hints that the day was one of reconciliation, not complete unification with Esau. God was leading Jacob separately. In the second, Jacob's comment on the actions of his sons speaks for itself (34:30), as to their myopia. Yet, the story also shows that there was to be no unification with those of "the city of Shechem" (33:18) either.

The interest of the reader in the religious-God aspects of these chapters might well center on the wrestling story (32:24-32), and even more on God's comments on it (32:28-29). But the incident is integrated with the rest of Jacob's life. From pre-birth, Jacob has been a wrestler-supplanter-schemer. Even if he learned faithfulness during his twenty years with Laban (31:41), he learned it while recognizing the actions of God (31:42) as a necessity, for him not to be "empty-handed" (31:42). It was before God that he departed from Laban (31:51-55), before God that he handled the possible threat of Esau (32:9-12), and with "a man" that he wrestled and demanded a blessing (32;26). Since that "man" renamed Jacob to Israel (32:28), and we find out later that it is really God doing the renaming (35:10), we must conclude that the wrestling story is part of the great Hebrew tradition of speaking of the Lord indirectly, out of respect.

However, the name "Israel" itself (32:28, meaning "he who strives with God" / "God strives") says something about how God deals with aggressive personality types. 32:28. Such types "prevail" (in this case; 32:28) This is strangely reminiscent of the Lord's comment in Mt 11:12, about the kingdom of heaven and violent men, and God knocking Paul to the ground in Acts 9:4. You don't escape God by being a Type A person. If He wants you, He'll both bless you and make your hip hurt.

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