Lesson 8: The Patriarchs (Genesis 24-27)

God is often identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Bible. Abraham and Jacob are especially associated with the beginnings of the Hebrew people. Isaac almost serves as a link between the two. Abraham is presented as the founder of the Jewish nation and Jacob as the father of the 12 tribes. Both changed their names to indicate the great changes taking place. Abram became Abraham and Jacob, Israel.

The name Israel means promise and that is the act used to describe the Jewish people. They are God’s chosen people in the sense that God promises to bless them in order that they extend that to all nations of the world.

Three other themes course through the lives of the three patriarchs. They struggle with the challenge of Cain and Abel but come to practical, if not perfect ways to live in peace with their brothers. They struggle with the challenge of the Babel story as they use shrewdness and some times down right cheating to obtain great wealth and deal with foreign nations. And they struggle with the challenges of sexual relationships. Constantly the stories include episodes about finding a beautiful wife, exploiting a beautiful wife, dealing withe rape, and other forms of depravity.

Rather interestingly, the idea of wives manipulating husbands to gain privilege for their favorite children appears constantly. Often it is the younger brothers who come off as God’s chosen. They are not the rugged manly types respected in that society but the quiet gentle ones, the mothers’ boys. For example, Rachel helps Jacob steal Esau’s birth right and amazingly God goes along with it.

The dominant element of the stories though is God keeping his word in spite of humans abusing his care. It becomes apparent God is determined to use this family to redeem his creation.

One of the most traumatic moments in my development was when a Sunday School class of older mothers attacked me for a sermon in which I called Jacob a scoundrel. I was saved when their teachers, two very respected elderly women, defended me as being biblically correct. Now that is what I consider good honest Bible reading: provoking people to converse about their assumptions.

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