Day 2: Genesis 18-30

Derek Ouellette —  January 3, 2011

Last night I began to feel it, but today it hit me hard. The evil head cold. So this morning I drugged myself up with two 400mg Ibuprofen and loads of Dayquil all day long. So I spent some time slurping soup while zoning out. “Stoned” is the term my wife used.

With or without the drugs, reading 12 pages of scripture off and on today was a challenge to be sure. Trying to concentrate, to glean, to trace themes, and think things through was nearly impossible. Still, questions and reflections arose as I read.

First I found it interesting, the occasions by which God chose to establish (or confirm) his covenant with Isaac and Jacob – times of famine for Isaac (Genesis 26), and times of exile for Jacob (Genesis 28:10-14). Second, in relation to those covenants, the point to always emphasis is that God’s covenant making is never arbitrary as though God’s call to these figures was for the blessing of only one group of people. All the way along the point of the covenant is stated explicitly: “In you and your seed, all the familes of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:14; cf. Isaac  [26:4], Abraham [12:3]). This notion that people have that God called one ethnic group to save that one ethnic group for the sake of that one ethnic group have missed the point completely.

Another thing I found interesting is that God is into families. He called one family so that he might bless all the families of the world. Now keep in mind the theme “blessing”. Some might say, “well yah, ‘bless’, but that doesn’t mean ‘save’”. But remember that to be blessed by God is to be in the  “covenant” of God which, to say the same thing another way, is to be in the “location” of God or “kingdom” (dominion) of God – the central message of Jesus in the Gospels.

It is also fascinating how messed up the family which God called are. I mean, just observe the story of Jacob and his two wives and two concumbines. Or the way Isaac (following Abraham’s example) told the Philistine king that Rebecca was his sister to save his own hide.

And speaking of “Philistines”. Another thing to observe are the many anochronisms. Philistines, for example, did not arrive in the Middle East for hundreds of years after the patriarchs. And notice the phrase, “as it is to this day” (Genesis 22:14). It is quite indisputable that the Torah was written by someone of a much later generation. It is also quite probable – by the way the story is anochranistically reflected upon – that the story accurately reflects an oral tradition that was passed down and which reflects the story as most later Israelites would have known it.

I also pondered the meaning of “Jacob’s Ladder” (Genesis 28:12); what was it’s purpose? Taking the text on its own – and for the meantime, ignoring Jesus’ use of the illustration – what did the ladder vision have to do with the covenant which God made with Jacob on that occasion. I have not looked this up yet or given it much thought (given my head cold).

I also feel it necessary to ponder for a moment the deterministic assumptions made by the patriarchs and the author of Genesis. What I found most curious is how selective God’s determinism is seen by the patriarchs. Whenever something positive happens to one of our main patriarch characters, something to the effect of, “the Lord has” done so and so or such and such. But whenever something negative happens to one of our patriarch characters the ultimate cause of the negative is never mentioned. That is, the author is careful not to lay blame on God for what they perceive to be a negative thing, but they are always quick to give the credit for something good to the Lord. The verse, “every good and perfect gift is from above” comes to mind (James 1:17).

The devotional point is this: praise God for every good gift you receive in this life. But even before the good things come, dig wells as best you can. (Genesis 26:17-22)

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.