Good morning! Thank you for your sustained interest in these Daily Bible introductions and readings. I hope that this community continues to foster your interest in the Bible and your confidence in creatively engaging with these passages. That feels far more important to me than landing on any specific interpretation of a given passage.
We begin today’s reading (Genesis 26-28) with a repeat of an earlier puzzling story that has happened twice already, only this time it’s with Isaac and Rebekah. Husband and wife lie about their marriage to their host (the same Abimelech that Abraham and Sarah duped), but somehow they come out with greater blessings on the other side. I don’t know what to make of these emphasized stories, because they seem to emphasize the unsavoriness of this chosen family as well as God’s endorsement. (Do you have any theories??) In an ancient harbinger of resource wars to come, the continually growing herds, flocks and shepherds of Isaac and Rebekah run up against the limits of what the land and their neighbors could bear. Isaac finally receives a message of God’s favor, but the marriage of elder son Esau to foreign Hittite women is an unwelcome addition to the family home.
Rebekah’s favor for younger Jacob rather than Esau finds fullest expression when she commands him to trick her husband and receive the blessing traditionally reserved for the firstborn. Despite the many obvious differences between the men, Rebekah disguises Jacob enough to dupe blind Isaac. Once again, younger supplants older. The scene between Esau and his father afterward evokes compassion for this well-meaning but ultimately un-favored son. His deadly anger at Jacob compels Rebekah to act once more. She persuades Isaac to send the trickster Jacob away to find a wife among her brother Laban’s household. Dutiful Esau marries a daughter of Ishmael in an attempt to please his parents (as cousins were better marriage material than foreigners, since their family and heritage were known). I’m struck throughout this story by Rebekah’s agency, and how deceitful Jacob is, especially when his name is later given to the whole people of Israel! If “God writes straight with crooked lines” as the old proverb goes, God must work overtime to form this trickster family into the “Chosen People”!
Jacob experiences God’s presence in a dream by night, and hears the blessing of God come down through Abraham and Isaac. When he awakes and sets up an altar acknowledging the closeness of the divine in that place, he also vows to obey God (but only if he sees the providence of God’s favor). This son who seems to take for granted all the misplaced favor he has received sets off then for Laban’s family, where the tables turn….
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Genesis 29-30. Thanks for reading!