This blog is following the book of Genesis and the Gospel of Mark in tandem. The whole series which began on 1st January 2015, can be accessed from my archives. The headlines are chosen as reminders of the world in which we live.
GENESIS 29 from verse 15 ( Schocken Bible )
Lavan said to Yaakov:
Just because you are my brother, should you serve me for nothing?
Tell me, what shall your wages be?
Now Lavan had two daughters; the name of the elder was Lea, the name of the younger was Rahel.
Lea’s eyes were delicate, but Rahel was fair of form and fair to look at.
And Yaakov fell in love with Rahel.
I will aerve you seven years for Rahel your younger daughter.
my giving her to yours better than my giving her to another man; stay with me.
So Yaakov served seven years for Rahel,
yet they were in his eyes but a few days, because of his love for her.
Then Yaakov said to Lavan:
Come now, give me my wife, for my days of labour have been fulfilled,
so that I may come in to her.
Lavan gathered all the people together and made a drinking feast.
Now in the evening he took his daughter Lea and brought her to him
and he came into her.
Lavan also gave her Zilpa his maid
for Lea his daughter as a maid.
Now in the morning,
Look, She was Lea!
He said to Lavan
What is this that you have done to me!
Was it not for Rahel that I served you?
Why have you deceived me?
Such is not done in our place, giving away the younger before the firstborn;
Just fill out the bridal week for this one, then we shall give you that one also,
for the service which you will serve me for yet another seven years.
Yaakov did so. He fulfilled the bridal week for this one,
and then Lavan gave him his daughter Rahel as a wife.
Lavan also gave his daughter Rahel Bilha his maid
for her as a maid.
So Yaakov came into Rahenl also
and he loved Rahel also,
more than Lea.
Then he served him for another seven years.
Again I am forced to wonder at the skill of the storyteller, who manages to suggest so much in so few words. He relies on his audience remembering the way Yaakov has deceived his father in gaining the blessing of the FIRSTBORN. Here Yaakov is deceived by being given the firstborn daughter in place of the second. And just as the deception of Yitzhak was intimate and painful, so here Yaakov’s genuine love is abused by Lavan. All this could have been presented as simply a defeat for Yaakov, but is instead seen as what he is willing to do for Rahel because he loves her. Until this point the audience may have seen Yaakov as one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Now he confounds expectation by accepting that true love is worth the labour.
This does not excuse Lavan who sees his daughters as commodities – this one and that one – who can be used to exact more cheap labour from Yaakov. The situation that results mirrors that of Yaakov and Esav: two siblings, one of whom is the favourite. The audience knows that there will be trouble.
There are some beautiful touches in the narrative. I was first told this story by a very strict unmarried female infant teacher, who nevertheless told us stories on Friday afternoons. I can still remember the telltale catch in her voice when she she said, “yet they were in his eyes but as a few days, because of his love for her.”
Then there is the comic yet immensely painful moment of discovery: “Now in the morning, look she was Lea!”
This story is told without a single mention of YHWH, yet the fact that the trickster is tricked but grows as a person, suggests the hand of YHWH, although the sequence of events is perfectly comprehensible without him. As I’ve said before,these people are, scandalously, the humanity of God, bringing about by their interactions what God cannot achieve on his own.
38 And Jesus said to them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, who like to walk about in long robes, and salutations in the marketplaces,
39 and first seats in the synagogues, and first places at suppers;
40 who devour the houses of widows, and as a pretext make long prayers. These shall receive a severer judgment.
41 And Jesus, having sat down opposite the treasury, saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury; and many rich cast in much.
42 And a poor widow came and cast in two mites, which is a farthing.
43 And having called his disciples to him he said to them, Amen I say unto you, This poor widow has cast in more than all who have cast into the treasury:
44 for all have cast in of that which they had in abundance, but she of her destitution has cast in all that she had, the whole of her liviing.
My friend Kostas in Maine, USA, blogger on /orthodoxportlandmaine.org/ has written of how the church and especially it’s clergy ought to feel ashamed when reading the equivalent passage to this in Matthew’s Gospel. He’s right. How come the teacher who made the criticism of the religious leaders of his people now finds himself ‘served’ by so many self- important clergy of his own church? I have to,plead guilty every time I read his words, for I too have enjoyed being greeted in public and given prominent position at meetings and suppers. And yes, I wear a long robe. I can only say I’ve had to learn humility over the years. Indeed, I reckon I’m now outstanding for humility!!
In fact the road to humilty is no joke and is absolutely necessary for clergy, and for the church as an institution.
Jesus goes on to equate material wealth with the spiritual and social wealth he’s been denouncing: they all lead to pride, hypocrisy and power. He picks out the widow who in her humility, honesty and weakness, gives her all. The Greek word for ‘living’ is BIOS, that is, her life. Jesus holds her up as a model to his disciples, and we should take her as a model for clergy. We should give like her, aware that our lives may be a tiny offering, but that they are all we have to give.