Thursday, December 26, 2013

Compassionate Brother (part 2)

In the thirteenth chapter of Genesis, after instructing Abram to “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west” (13:14b), the Creator God is said to have informed Abram that “I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever.  And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted” (13:15-16).  In chapter fifteen, Abram is told to “Gaze into the sky and count the stars---if you are able to count them… So will your descendants be” (15:5b).  In chapter eighteen, allusion is made to the previously offered covenant, and it is said that “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name” (18:18). 

Finally, in the twenty-second chapter, the Creator God reiterates His covenantal promise to Abraham in the wake of the willingness to sacrifice his son (in light of the promises related to his son and therefore demonstrating what would appear to be Abraham’s hope in a resurrection), saying “I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies.  Because you have obeyed Me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants” (22:17-18).

So in the course of this study, why make mention of the tower of Babel?  Why rehearse the compilation of statements related to the Abrahamic covenant?  Well, apart from the obvious connection between the words of the story about the tower that would reach to the heavens (followed by the introduction of Abram and the Creator God’s covenant) and the Jacobin stairway “with its top reaching to the heavens,” what can be found immediately following this vision of the stairway (or ladder as it is sometimes translated), while bearing in mind that Genesis is presented in a narratival format, is really quite interesting. 

In the eleventh chapter, the reader finds that “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had started building” (11:5), and that the story ends by reporting that “the Lord scattered them from there across the face of the entire earth… and from there the Lord scattered them across the face of the entire earth” (11:8a,9b).  Twice, for emphasis, the story reports that the very thing against which the tower was meant to guard against is what took place.  

The contrast could not be more stark, as with Jacob’s stairway the story reports that “the Lord stood at its top.  He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac” (28:13).  Echoing the breadth of the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord goes on to say “I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on.  Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south.  All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants” (28:14).  Whereas the builders of the tower that was intended to reach into the heaven were scattered, the Creator God, speaking from the top of the stairway that did indeed reach into heaven, informs Jacob that “I am with you!  I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!” (28:15)       

No comments:

Post a Comment