Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Genesis: God’s WWF Debut, and Family Reunions

OK, so when I left off in the last post, Jacob was on his way home to Canaan after an epic twenty-year Battle of the Bullshit with his uncle. He’s returning a rich man, with 4 wives, 11 sons, and at least one daughter, and a whole bunch of livestock.

As he’s getting closer to home, he starts to worry that Esau might still be holding a grudge. So he sends some servants to go ahead and let Esau know he’s coming, and see how he seems to feel about it. When they get back, they tell him Esau is on his way to meet him, and bringing four hundred men.

Now Jacob’s pissing his pants, afraid Esau is coming to kill him. So he quickly pulls a whole bunch of livestock out of his herd, divides them into three groups, and sends servants to take each group ahead one after the other. The servants in each group are instructed to tell Esau that the livestock are gifts from Jacob, who will be following after them (so that each time Esau encounters a group, they’re giving him another huge gift while building anticipation to meet the gift giver).

That night he sends his family across the river. And I find the phrasing interesting.

“Gen 32:22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.”

Now, back when Leah and Rachel were having the conception wars and each gave Jacob one of their servants to impregnate, the specific phrasing in each case was “she gave him her servant as a wife.” But now we see them demoted to “female servants,” and later one of them is referred to as a concubine. So the Bible is inconsistent about how it describes them, but I suspect “concubine” is the closest to what is intended. The other interesting thing about the phrasing is that it says eleven children. But I counted eleven sons and one daughter (i.e. twelve children). I guess the daughter doesn’t count.

Anyhow, he sends them across the stream, but he stays behind.

“Gen 32:24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”

Soooo… what the fuck?! One second Jacob is ushering his family across the stream, the next he’s suddenly in the middle of WWF Summer Slam? There’s literally no transition, no context… he’s alone, and then he’s wresting some dude. That’s what we call crap writing.

Now I should point out that it’s revealed later in the scene that the man Jacob is wrestling with is none other than God himself. God blesses Jacob and changes his name to Israel, though for some reason the Bible and everyone else continue to refer to him as Jacob, and God has to rename him again later.

And I just have to wonder… what the hell is the point of this scene? Are we supposed to believe Jacob actually wrestled the all-powerful maker of the universe and won? Given that this isn’t even remotely possible, either God deliberately threw the match and thus Jacob’s “victory” was meaningless, or the scene is just a metaphor. As in… not literally true. But I wonder what lesson we should learn from a metaphor in which someone wrestles with their faith and defeats it.

I’m afraid the reunion with Esau is much less exciting. Jacob meets Esau, Esau greets him with hugs and tears of joy and forgiveness. Esau tries to refuse the gifts, but Jacob insists. Then Esau offers to have them all travel home together, but Jacob says his herds and children wouldn’t be able to keep up so Esau should go ahead and they’d catch up later. Esau departs, and Jacob goes to Succoth instead (wtf? Even when reconciling he couldn’t be assed to tell the truth? But I guess untrustworthy people tend to see others as untrustworthy as well, and perhaps he wasn’t all that confident that Esau had really forgiven him).

This seems as good a break point as any. Next post will feature rape and mass murder as we continue reading from the Good Book.

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