Family quarrels, rape and violence. No, those aren't just words you'll find in today's news. They're a part of today's Bible reading.
We're getting into the last 1/3 of the book of Genesis. Have you thought how you might sum up what happens in this book? What does it all mean to the story of God? As strange (maybe confusing) as some of it may be, why is it a part of our holy scripture?
These are the kinds of question to ask yourself as you study and read the Bible. You'll be joining a thousands-year-old conversation.
DAILY NOTESGenesis 32:1-6
- God sent messengers (angels) to Jacob. Jacob sent messengers to Esau.
- Jacob's message to Esau seems to be something like, "I haven't had it all good, but here are some things I have for you. Don't be mad."
- The messengers do not give any indication of Esau's attitude.
- It's been said that Jacob prepared for three things: for a gift, for a war and for prayer.
- Did Jacob go with his family across or did he stay alone on the other side of the Jabbok? Did he forget something and needed to go back?
- The stranger is described as a man, but when Jacob presses him for his name he seems to suggest that Jacob has just "struggled" with God.
- Seems like an unfair fight.
- Jacob's name change turns our attention to the nation God will build in the future.
- Why did Jacob want to know his name? If he has his name, he knows his story. If Jacob is struggling against God, could he ever know the true mystery of God? He doesn't get his name, but he gets his blessing.
- How wonderful it is to know that God's mercies are not limited to our understanding.
- I love this encounter. None of us would probably blame Esau if he intended to due harm to Jacob. Some of us can easily imagine how he could let his anger simmer for all those years Jacob was away. And now that he had a chance, he could finally enact his vengeance.
- If you were Jacob, what would you have thought when you first saw your brother and his 400 men? Jacob's response is to organize the women in children. Can you tell who the favorites are?
- Anyone else have a hard time with the idea that Shechem "loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her" all while raping her? The text says that he humiliated her. Not only has she been violated personally, but shame, in a strange, ancient way, has been brought upon her, too.
- Besides her being raped, this would be exactly how she, or any other woman, would have been taken in marriage. We've already seen that retold in Genesis.
- The apples do not fall from the tree. Most of us probably wouldn't fault the brothers for devising their plan because of their intentions. Does the text, though, want us to see how the brothers fall in line with their father's ways?
- The brothers convince Hamor and his family to circumcise themselves. The brothers' reasoning is that their compliance will help the families become one (think of that the next time you see a unity candle at a wedding). Was Hamor so willing because his son wanted Dinah for his wife that much, or was it also a way to rectify his son's actions?
- The men are at a disadvantage because they are "still in pain."
- Dinah is rescued by her brothers. The brothers receive their end of the bargain from Hamor's family. The only thing they did not consider was their reputation with the rest of the community. Maybe they did; they just didn't care.
- Jacob doesn't commend the brothers' efforts in returning their sister. He recognizes the difficulty they have created for him. His greatest worry had subsided when he rendezvoused with his brother. Now, he has to worry about an entire city rising against him.
- They are resolve in their defense of their actions. Jacob doesn't reply. Does that mean he concedes to them?
- If God feels far away, keep holding on! Don't set your attention on what you the godless doing. Trust that God stands for those who are oppressed.
OTHER OBSERVATIONSPeople often look at Esau as a fool. How could you give up such an important thing as your birthright just for a bowl of soup? He gets played by his younger brother again when he steals his father's blessing. Esau tries to make things better by marrying someone he thinks his parents approve of, but really only makes things worse.
I call that being human. Have you ever made a mistake? Made some situation worse with one of your bright ideas?
To me, though, Esau is a biblical hero just because of what happens in Chapter 33. He didn't win any obvious spiritual battle. No mountains moved, no lions slept comfortably with him. He doesn't receive a calling to save the world like Noah or to rise from the grave. But he did the hard heart work necessary to living faithfully to God.
I'd be on Team Esau if there had been a show down between he and Jacob. That little brother had grabbed too much from him. Keep your gifts! I deserve to have my shot at you.
But that's not what Esau did. How awesome is that. I remember being a little emotional when I first read that story. It was such a powerful example of grace and healing. I know he leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to wisdom and doing the right thing. But something happened in his heart that I want to have happen in my heart every day.
So, yes, Esau is one of my heroes.