Thursday, December 26, 2013

Compassionate Brother (part 3)

After Jacob’s dream, he moves on to “the land of the eastern people” (Genesis 29:1b).  There, at a well, he meets up with a woman named Rachel.  She is his cousin---the daughter of his uncle Laban.  In this, he has come into contact with the very family to whom he had set out to join himself, with this occurring according to his mother’s wishes, as the plan that Jacob’s mother had devised included Jacob living with her brother “for a little while until your brother’s rage subsides” (27:44). 

According to her, Jacob was to “Stay there until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him” (27:45a).  Rebekah concluded her plan with “I’ll send someone to bring you back from there” (27:45b).  However, the final part of Rebekah’s plan never came to pass.  When Jacob finally does return, it is said that he does so because “The Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives.  I will be with  you” (31:3).

When Jacob approaches Laban’s house, he is greeted enthusiastically.  It is reported that Laban “rushed out to meet him.  He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house,” where “Jacob told Laban how he was related to him” (29:13b).  This greeting by Laban was preceded by the fact that “When Jacob explained to Rachel that he was a relative of her father and the son of Rebekah, she ran and told her father” (29:12).  With this information, coupled with previous information in the narrative that is on offer about Laban, neither the reader or the hearer are left to wonder at the welcome that is offered to  Jacob. 

Yes, this is not the first time that Laban is encountered in the Genesis narrative.  He is present when the servant of Abraham was sent out to find a wife for Isaac.  In that story, the servant came to the house of Bethuel, Abraham’s kin.  The first person that he met, not unlike would be the case in Jacob’s story, was the woman (Rebekah) that would become the bride to one of the patriarch’s of the Creator God’s covenant people.  Indeed, there one hears Abraham’s servant exclaim that “The Lord has led me to the house of my master’s relatives!” (24:27b) 

Continuing there in that Abraham-related story, one learns that when “The young woman ran and told her mother’s household all about these things” (24:28), the author also points out the fact that “Rebekah had a brother named Laban” (24:29a), and that “Laban rushed out to meet the man at the spring” (24:29b).  It is said that he was motivated to such action “When he saw the bracelets on his sister’s wrists and the nose ring” (24:30a).  It would seem that Laban has a penchant for “rushing.”  Here, the rushing is appears to be connected to the fact that the bracelets and the nose ring were composed of a significant amount of gold (24:22).  One can simply not imagine Laban, in a time in which women were treated as little more than chattel property to be used in the pursuit of honor and wealth and children, thinking that accepting this stranger (connected to a relative) into their home could possibly be a bad thing. 

Upon settling in, Abraham’s servant, presenting the reason why he is there and building his case as to why it would be worthwhile to effectively sell Rebekah to him so that she could become the wife of Abraham’s son Isaac, informs Bethuel, Laban, and the remainder of the household that he is “the servant of Abraham” (24:34).  He adds that “The Lord has richly blessed my master and he has become very wealthy.  The Lord has give him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.  My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to him when she was old, and my master has given him everything he owns” (24:35-36).  

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