Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Compassionate Brother (part 15)

One could go on at great length in discussing the honor and shame connotations so as to be able to gain a more robust reading of Scripture, but it seems as if the point has been made.  Considerations of honor and shame are more than necessary if there is a desire to rightly understand the stories and movement of Scripture, as this cultural component looms large.  Approaching the text from this angle allows a reader to make sense of the stories on their own terms, rather than reading terms and ideas into them (however noble or uplifting those things might be) that simply are not there. 

Additionally, as was previously said, proceeding along these lines allows for the narrative to be heard as it would have been heard by the people for whom it was written, while also allowing for a better comprehension of the movement of Scripture, and therefore an enhanced ability to comprehend and serve the God that is said to be revealed in and through those Scriptures.  This then, of course, allows a divine image-bearer to better understand the words and deeds of the God that was made manifest in human form, that being Jesus of Nazareth.    

So what has been seen in the course of this study?  What is it that prompted travel down the path that has revealed that Esau, perhaps surprisingly, was the compassionate brother?  To answer that question, the story of Jacob must be reviewed in broad terms.  Jacob, as is known, was one of two sons.  He was the younger of fraternal twins.  In a deceptive and dishonorable action, he secured for himself the blessing of his (purportedly dying---a deception in its own right) father---a blessing that rightfully belonged to his brother.  This generated anger on behalf of his brother, and most likely on the part of his father as well (due to the shame that would have been generated by the deception).  It is said that his brother was determined to kill him, so rather than staying, Jacob left, putting distance between himself and those that he had dishonored, ending up in the house of his uncle Laban. 

As was seen, Jacob lived a rather interesting and tumultuous life.  In particular, the report of his wives competing for his attention and his affection, with them offering up their female servants as wives to their husband, is revealed as being rather riotous.  When one considers the lifestyle, the adjective “wild” comes to mind.  By all indications he worked very hard for his uncle.  It appears to be the case that his labor served to increase his uncle’s wealth (and honor), but when it came to his own wealth, possessions, and honor, though he had surreptitiously secured the blessing of his father (which promised the richness of the earth along with plenty of grain and new wine), it was as if his life was gripped by famine.  Seeking to rectify this situation, he struck a deal with his uncle.  Though at first it seems like a legitimate agreement, closer inspection reveals that Laban may very well have intended to cause Jacob to become discouraged and despondent over his situation, possibly hopeful that this would result in Jacob leaving (and leaving behind his wives and children that would have been the property of his uncle). 

Eventually, after realizing that there was nothing more to be gained by staying where he was, and continuing to live in what was going to be a difficult and ultimately unsatisfying situation, Jacob expresses a desire to return to his father’s house.  He shares with his wives the reasons for acting on this desire.  However, there is the problem of his dishonored and angry brother, not to mention the dishonored and angry father, whose son had brought shame on the entire family.  Jacob had no idea how Esau would respond, and he figured that it was likely that he would meet up with Esau somewhere along the journey to his father’s house.  With this in mind, he devises a plan by which he will attempt to soothe his brother, even if it means dishonor for himself. 

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