Design By Humans

Genesis 31. So Many Gods!

Genesis 31.

1 And he heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, Jacob hath taken away all that was our father's; and of that which was our father's hath he gotten all this glory.

    Jacob over-hears Laban's sons complaining about the way he's conned their father.

2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.

    Jacob also notices that Laban is no longer as happy with him as he once was. What did Jacob expect? He has mercilessly ripped him off.

3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.
     
    Basically Jacob beats a retreat, A wise move considering what he's done, the sentiment in the region must be getting pretty hostile. I notice that yet again we are treated to the God excuse. Is God here just a fancy way of saying that Jacob considered it a good idea? If the LORD actually suggested this retreat, for what reason did he suggest it? Is the LORD trying to preserve Jacob, to save him from what would certainly be just retribution at the hands of Laban's men? Why does the LORD, the God of Abraham favour murderers, cheats and liars?

4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock,

    Righto.

5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me.

    Can Jacob really not understand why Laban is unhappy with him?

6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father.

    What a liar! Jacob has feigned service and swindled Laban out of practically everything he has of value.

7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.

    This is an outright lie.

8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked.

    These outcomes which Jacob is attributing to fate/God were in fact engineered by himself, albeit by some as yet unexplained and wholly unfathomable biological process.

9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

    God hath done no such thing! Jacob is plain lying, he's stolen all of Laban's cattle and is now pretending that God has done this for him.

10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled.

    That's not quite how the previous chapter tells it. It's almost as if this is a different yet similar story. At least in this version a male is involved in the conception.

11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I.

    In a dream? Why is the LORD no longer showing up in person and limiting his visits to dreams and visions. Could it be that he is no longer available for personal visits?

12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee.
   
    What did Laban do to him? I admit that he fooled Jacob into marrying two of his daughters when he only wanted one of them but in all fairness, it can't have passed God's notice that Jacob has greatly 'enjoyed' both wives.

13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

    Hmm. So this is the God of Bethel? Is this the same God as the God of Isaac and his father Abraham or is this a different God, one that only appears in visions and dreams? What happened to the God of Abraham, who used to show up in person, is he gone?

14 And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?

    I doubt it, Jacob has stolen it all.

15 Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.

    Oh I see, the Ladies are justifying leaving their father.

16 For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children's: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.

    ...and agree to go with Jacob.

17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels;

    My! Jacob has become rich. How many camels does he have?

18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padanaram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan.

    OK. Off he goes, back to the land of his father, considerably richer for the journey.

19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father's.

    Images? Are we talking about paintings, or are we talking about graven images? of gods? Who does Laban worship? how many gods are there?

20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled.

    Of course he didn't tell him, he's stolen his whole flock, I don't think Laban would be very pleased.

21 So he fled with all that he had; and he rose up, and passed over the river, and set his face toward the mount Gilead.

    Right you are.

22 And it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob was fled.

    OK, I'd have thought Laban would have noticed.

23 And he took his brethren with him, and pursued after him seven days' journey; and they overtook him in the mount Gilead.

    I suppose they didn't have to carry a whole lot of stuff, unlike Jacob who is weighed down with all of Laban's belongings.

24 And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

    In a dream again? OK. God has instructed Laban not to speak to Jacob. Interestingly he hasn't asked him to stop the chase.

25 Then Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mount: and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mount of Gilead.

    OK.

26 And Laban said to Jacob, What hast thou done, that thou hast stolen away unawares to me, and carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?

    Now I thought God told him not to talk to Jacob. Why is Laban accusing Jacob of stealing his daughters. Jacob has worked off the debt for them and is married to them, surely they are now his property according to the law?

27 Wherefore didst thou flee away secretly, and steal away from me; and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret, and with harp?

    Laban claims that had Jacob told him he was leaving there would have been mirth and celebration. It seems that Jacob's rustling scam has been so successful that Laban doesn't even realise he's been ripped off.

28 And hast not suffered me to kiss my sons and my daughters? thou hast now done foolishly in so doing.

    OK.

29 It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt: but the God of your father spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.

    Is this God not Laban's God. How many gods are there?

30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father's house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

    I assume by gods Laban is talking about the idols she stole? How many gods are there? are these idols actually gods or mere representation? Who does Laban worship? Did Laban have a vision of Jacob's god because his own were held captive?

31 And Jacob answered and said to Laban, Because I was afraid: for I said, Peradventure thou wouldest take by force thy daughters from me.

    That doesn't seem like a good reason, in no way could the theft of Laban's idols prevent Laban from taking his daughters back. This is a complete non-sequiter of an excuse. Jacob needs to better than that.

32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.

    Having made an excuse for stealing them, it turns out that he didn't even know who had stolen them. This tells me that Jacob is so accustomed to making excuses for his crimes that he doesn't even stop to think whether or not he has actually committed them any more.

33 And Laban went into Jacob's tent, and into Leah's tent, and into the two maidservants' tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah's tent, and entered into Rachel's tent.

    Uh-Oh!

34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.

    Phew!

35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.

    Wow! Rachel uses her period as a rouse to hide the stolen idols from her father. This family are truly masters of the art of deception.

36 And Jacob was wroth, and chode with Laban: and Jacob answered and said to Laban, What is my trespass? what is my sin, that thou hast so hotly pursued after me?

    Jacob, still unaware that his wife has stolen Laban's idols gets angry with Laban for chasing them.

37 Whereas thou hast searched all my stuff, what hast thou found of all thy household stuff? set it here before my brethren and thy brethren, that they may judge betwixt us both.

   Jacob challenges Laban to show him what he's found that belongs to him.

38 This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten.

    OK Jacob is angrily ranting now...

39 That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night.

    ...

40 Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.

    ...

41 Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times.
    ...

42 Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight.

    Basically Jacob is ranting about having kept to his agreement with Laban and that he's worked off the debt for his wives and worked six years for a proportion of the flocks (handily neglecting to inform Laban quite how Jacobs portion of the flock has ended up being most of them). Despite traveling with two wives, some mistresses, a lot of children, a few herds of goats, some camels and other sundry items, Jacob seems to be claiming that he has nothing to show for his work.


43 And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?

    Laban points out, a bit pedantically, that everything he sees in Jacob's camp belongs (in a non-ownership sort of way) to him...

44 Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.

    ...but he's prepared to make an agreement.

45 And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.

    Ooh, another Pillar, Why is Jacob the first to make pillars? it seems that his methods or customs are significantly different to his father's.


46 And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.

    OK.

47 And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.

    Did they speak different languages or is the difference a function of their differing religions? Also if Laban is an adherent to different faith from Jacob, why did he acknowledge a dream about Jacob's God? Is Jacob's god part of a collection of gods? How many gods are there?

48 And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;

    OK.

49 And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.

    OK, Laban is referring to Jacobs God 'the LORD' here, clearly there is scope for acknowledging the existence of more than one of these gods.

50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.

    OK. Laban reminds Jacob that God is always watching so he shouldn't be sneaky and break their agreement.

51 And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;

    They both look at the pillar of stones.

52 This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.

    Right you are. No passing the pillar!

53 The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.

    So did Abraham's brother Nahor worship a different God? is this the god that Laban now worships? The God of their father, is this yet another god? Did Terah worship a different god from both of his sons? Which one of these gods is the character doing the work in Genesis 1 and 2?

54 Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.

    Jacob has slaughtered a goat, the least he could have done is let his brethren eat it instead of making them make do with bread.

55 And early in the morning Laban rose up, and kissed his sons and his daughters, and blessed them: and Laban departed, and returned unto his place.

    Who does he consider is sons? Has Jacob taken some of his sons too?

What have we learned from this story?

Well aside from the obvious lies and the rampant deception which I've addressed over and over again in previous chapters, the real take-home message here is that there are implicitly and perhaps even explicitly a sufficient number of gods such that they each have to be identified by who they appear to. There are even house-hold gods that may or not actually inhabit the idols that represent them. There is this new practice of phallic pillar building that is unique to Jacob's faith which seems to differ significantly from his father's.

Knowing what I do of the many Abrahamic inspired faiths, I am finding it increasingly difficult to understand how they get from these stories in Genesis to universally having statements of faith that acknowledge the existence of only one God. Their founding doctrine, common to all of them, is clearly polytheistic.

I wonder how many gods we'll encounter in Genesis 32.

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Book Index

GENESIS

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|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|20|
|21|22|23|24|25|26|27|28|29|30|
|31|32|33|34|35|36|37|38|39|40|
|41|42|43|44|45|46|47|

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