Bible blog 1669

This blog follows the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem, using very literal translations. The series began on 1st January 2015 and can be accessed from my archives. The headlines are chosen as reminders of the world in which we live.

BRAZIL PETROBAS SCANDAL MEANS LOSS OF JOBS  

protest against corruption in Brazil

protest against corruption in Brazil

GENESIS 28:10

Yaakov went out from Be’er- sheva and went towards Harran

And encountered a certain place.

he had to spend the night there, for the sun had come in.

and he took one of the stones of the place and set it at his head

and lay down in that place.

and he dreamt:

Look, a ladder set up from the Earth,

it’s reaching the heavens,

and look: messengers of God were going up and down on it.

and look:

YHWH was standing over against him.

He said:

I am YHWH,

the God of Avraham your father and the God of Yitzhak.

the land on which you lie

I give to you are your seed.

Your seed will be like the dust of the earth;

Look,

you will burst forth, to the sea, to the east, to the North, to the Negev.

all the cllans of the soil will find blessing through you and through your seed.

Look, I am with you

I will watch over you wherever you go

and will bring you back to this soil;

indeed I will not leave you,

until I have done what I have spoken to you.

Yaakov awoke from his sleep

and said:

Why,

YHWH is in this place,

and I, I did not know it!

He was awestruck and said:

this is none other than a house of God,

and that is the gate of heaven!

Yaakov started early in the morning

he took the stone that he had set at his head

and set it up as a standing-pillar

And poured oil on top of it.

and he called the name of the place Bet- El / House of God  –

however Luz was the name of the city in former times.

and Yaakov vowed a vow, saying:

if God will be with me

and will watch over me on this way that I go,

and will give me food to eat and a garment to wear,

and if I come back in peace to my father’s house –

YHWH shall be God to me,

and this stone that I have set up as a standing-pillar shall become a house of God

and everything that You give me

I shall tithe, tithe it to you.

Yaakov lifted his feet and went to the land of the Easterners.

Catacomb painting 4th cent.

Catacomb painting 4th cent.

Yaakov’s journey started because of his deception of Yitzkak and his cheating of Esav, with Rivka’s complicity. Human actions have brought about his flight to Harran, but the storyteller shows that YHWH wants to claim this development for his own purposes. He does not intervene but merely shows himself to Yaakov in a dream, and gives him a slightly amplified version of the promise made to Avraham. The author’s knowledge of the  expansion of the Davidic kingdom is added to the details of the promise. Again, as in the stories of YHWH’s appearances to the fathers and mothers of Israel the emphasis is on seeing and hearing.

But in this case the seeing is amplified into a vision of YHWH ‘s continual engagement with the earth, as his messengers hurry down and up the ladder. Behind the resolutely secular stance of this storyteller, is the conviction that heaven and earth are secretly linked and that the commerce between them never ceases. The now almost-forgotten poet Francis Thompson used this story in his poem “The Kingdom of Heaven”:

The Angels keep their ancient places

turn but a stone and start a wing;

‘Tis you, with your estrang-ed faces

that miss the many-splendoured thing.

But Yaakov is no mystical poet. He wants to test if this vision is meat or moonshine. He will commit himself to this divine partner if he produces the goodies: protection, food and clothing, and a safe return home. yes, that would certainly be worth a tenth of his goods!

With the saga of Yaakov, the storyteller gives greater importance to the character of his hero. Avraham and Yitzhak are admirable human beings, but Yaakov initially seems to be  a wide boy with an eye for the main chance. The theme of his character plays alongside, sometimes almost in opposition to the theme of God’s purpose. The audience is teased by the storyteller into following the relationship of Yaakov with YHWH: is YHWH using Yaakov or vice versa; or may it be that out of love for each other they are secretly playing into each other’s hands?

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