Friday, August 14, 2015

All Things New: Jacob, the 'Run for Your Life Road', part 2

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Years passed.  Jacob worked off his second seven-year obligation as bride-price for Rachel, then brokered a deal with Laban to work in exchange for flocks and herds.

Two schemers were pitted against each other.  Jacob attempted to use selective breeding to increase his herds, while Laban kept changing the specifics of precisely which animals and their offspring would belong to Jacob.  Jacob's methods don't seem to be terribly scientific; it appears he was operating under the assumption that whatever the animals were looking at as they mated influenced the appearance of the offspring.  Or maybe he thought the smell of the peeled branches would encourage the animals to mate.  Who knows what his plan was.  The plain truth was that God had promised to bless him and God did bless him, regardless of the shenanigans he attempted or the 'renegotiating' that Laban seemed to favor.  Whatever animals were designated as Jacob's...those were the ones that flourished.

Needless to say, this led to some stress in the extended family network.

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, "Jacob has taken all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth."  And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.   -- Gen 31: 1 -2.

So long as Jacob had served Laban alone, Laban had prospered.  But when Jacob began to accumulate his own flocks, his wealth grew at such a rate that the inlaws began to feel he had stolen from them.

Of course, he had not stolen from Laban any more than he had stolen the birthright from Esau all those years earlier, but the warm fuzzy family feeling was gone and replaced by something rather sinister and threatening.

It was threatening enough that Jacob was beginning to feel apprehensive.  So when he heard a word...and how he heard it is not explained...instructing him to return to his father's land, he didn't question or hesitate.

He did, however, scheme.

He called his wives and concubines and children all out to the  pasture where he was with the flock and rehearsed the whole situation with them...reminding them of how they'd all been cheated.  Rachel and Leah actually agreed on doubt they felt they had each been cheated by their father also.

Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, "Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father's house?  Are we not regarded by him as foreigners?  For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money.  All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children.  Now then, whatever God has said to you, do."  Gen 31:14 - 16.

So Jacob sent them right away...loaded wives, servants, children and all up on camels and sent them off towards Canaan.  He followed with his herdsmen, driving his flocks along as well.

However, it so happened that Rachel had somehow slipped into her father's house and stolen some small idols.  I've heard various explanations of this, but the most interesting is that apparently they were something of a signet...that is, the person who possessed them was reckoned as head of the household; the possessor of the inheritance.

They were nearly Jacob's undoing, however, even though he knew nothing of them.

Three days after they left, Laban got the word they had gone.  I don't know when he realized the idols were missing, or whether the missing idols really had anything to do with why he called all his kinsmen together and took off after Jacob. 

Ten days after Jacob headed south with his flocks and his family, Laban and his posse caught up to them.  The jig was up.

And who knows what Jacob's fate would have been had not Laban had a dream that he was convinced was God speaking to him, warning him not to do anything to Jacob.  Laban's story became
What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword?  Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre?  And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell?  Now you have done foolishly.  It is in my power to do you harm.  But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.'  And now you have gone away because you longed for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?

In my mind I hear a really deep breath following all of that...

Jacob, however, was not impressed by the story; I don't think he bought it. But the last bit made him angry.

Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.

That pretty much shows what he thought of the likelihood of being 'sent away with mirth and songs'.

And being called a thief was insult to injury.  He thew open his whole entourage to be searched in full view of everyone.

Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live.  In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours and take it.

So, with Jacob's permission, Laban began to dig through the tents.  He looked through Jacob's tent...nothing.  Bilhah's tent and Zilphah's tent...nothing.  Leah's tent...nothing.  They came to Rachel's tent, where she was sitting demurely on her camel's saddle.  I'm paraphrasing here, basically she said, 'Oh, please don't be offended that I can't get up to greet's 'that time' of the month' and I can't stand up.'

There was no 'feminine products' aisle at the local Wal-mart in those days.  They folded thick pads and sat on them.  And they spent the time in the women's tent, away from the men.  But, traveling, there was no 'women's tent', so Rachel would have to manage as best she could.  It was a huge taboo for men to have any contact with a woman on her period.  So they would not have searched anything that could possibly have been contaminated by her flow.  So consequently they did not check the saddle of her camel...where she had hidden the idols.

When the search of the camp turned up nothing, Jacob was justified in his indignation. 

What is my offense?  What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me?  For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods?  Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two.

These twenty years I have been with you.  Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks.  What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself.  From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.

There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 

These twenty years I have been in your house.  I served you fourteen years for your daughters and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed.  God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.

Laban had been called out and had nothing to show for his defense.  I kinda think his bravado withered away and he sullenly replied

The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks all all that you see is mine.  

But he also realized that he could not do anything to keep Jacob from taking what he had rightfully earned.  So he offered a compromise: they gathered a heap of stones and called on God to witness their  covenant not harm each other, and Jacob promised not to oppress Laban's daughters or marry other wives.  They called the pile 'Mizpah'.

Jacob made a sacrifice; they all ate together and in the morning Laban rose and actually kissed his daughters and grandchildren and blessed them, as he had lamented that he had not been able to do originally.

Jacob had to heave a huge sigh of relief to see Laban's back.  He wasn't out of the woods yet, though...he still had to face Esau.

What am I afraid of that God has already gone before me to protect me?  Why do I not believe He will protect what He has given into my responsibility? How can I deliberately make the choice to release those fears to Him?

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