Friday, December 27, 2013

Compassionate Brother (part 4)

Clearly, Abraham’s servant, recounting all that has been brought about for his master, makes an impressive sales pitch.  His offer will provide enrichment for Bethuel and his household.  The response, which is said to be provided by both Laban and Bethuel (24:50), is “This is the Lord’s doing.  Our wishes are of no concern.  Rebekah stands here before you.  Take her and go so that she may become the wife of your master’s son, just as the Lord has decided” (24:50b-51).  In what was the obviously hoped for response from Abraham’s servant, Laban and Bethuel watched as “he bowed down to the ground before the Lord.  Then he brought out gold, silver jewelry, and clothing and gave them to Rebekah.  He also gave valuable gifts to her brother and to her mother” (24:52b-53).  The “sale” is consummated.      

The whole of the narratival record of Laban asks to be taken into consideration when Laban rushes out to meet Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, son of his sister Rebekah, and son of the one to whom the extraordinarily wealthy Abraham has given “everything he owns.”  Presumably, with the family’s marital history (an important and weighty precedent in that day), Jacob’s arrival prompts Laban to feel as if more riches might very well be coming the way of his household, so he makes it a point to offer Jacob a grand welcome.  Perhaps another “sale” is coming his way?     

Laban’s expectations concerning Jacob, at least initially, are disappointed, as Jacob does not carry with him nor appear to represent the type of wealth that was to be found during Laban’s first encounter with the family from which Jacob sprang.  Jacob “stayed with him a month” (29:14b), and with no movement along the lines of what occurred with the servant of Abraham, Laban apparently decides to put Jacob to work.  Laban queries Jacob about his desired salary, with Jacob’s response being “I’ll serve you for seven years in exchange for your daughter Rachel” (29:18b), as he it is said that he had fallen in love with her.  Laban agrees to this arrangement, with his personal enrichment at the hands of Jacob now set to take place over a number of years, rather than all at once. 

Accordingly, Jacob puts in his seven years of labor for Rachel.  After the wedding feast, Laban swaps Leah (Rachel’s older sister) for Rachel.  Jacob discovers what Laban has done, questions him about his trickery, hears Laban’s reasoning for doing so, decides to keep Leah as a wife, strikes another deal with Laban that will enable him to obtain Rachel as his wife along with Leah, quickly takes Rachel as his second wife, and proceeds to work another seven years for Laban.   

Now, it is at this point in the telling of the story of Jacob that the Genesis narrative includes a report about the births and the circumstances surrounding the births of eleven of the twelve men that will together compose the tribes of Israel (though it is understood that Manasseh and Ephraim and the half tribes that go by those names, being the sons of Joseph, are actually the tribe of Joseph, and that Benjamin comes along later).  This, quite naturally, becomes a seminal story in the lives and minds of those that come to be called the covenant people of the Creator God, and for purposes of this study, serve as further examples of the rather fascinating life that is being led by Jacob after he has departed from his father’s house. 

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