Today I was again reminded of names. I touched on it yesterday when I talked about the relational aspect of names in the Bible. I am on Day 3 of the 90 day Bible challenge which covers Genesis 28-40. Today names once again are a big deal.
One of my congregational members is sending me e-mails about her observations. Today she noted that she had thought that “Jacob was the good guy – yesterday I was rooting for Esau.” You do have to feel for Esau. But as the story unfolds it is Jacob who was blessed, Jacob quite frankly was a jerk, a blessed jerk, but a jerk none-the-less! In part I blame his over indulgent mom! From the womb this guy was toast though. His name Jacob can literally mean “ankle grabber” which is a biblical way of saying he was a cheat. He was born grasping after things, namely his brothers ankle, but that was just the beginning… he was born a cheat. Sure Esau coughed up his birth right for a bowl of lentil stew, so maybe he wasn’t so bright, but Jacob saw his opening to take advantage and took it with a vengeance. Then there is the deceit that took place around getting the blessing… don’t even get me started on that! Jacob was what his name implied.
But don’t think Jacob got away with it, as a friend of mine was once fond of saying, “what comes around goes around.” Today we read of Jacob’s search for a bride which lead him back to his ancestral homeland. Upon arrival, he does a very guy like thing, he looks at the natives and starts to boss them around! I love that… anyway soon Rachel comes with her sheep to have them watered and Jacob evidently smitten shows off a bit by moving the stone from the mouth of the well by himself, somethings never change.
Anyway… back to the deceit. Jacob is welcomed into Laban’s home and works for him and his wages will be Rachel. The seven years pass and the wedding is held, but sneakiness is a family trait so in the morning Jacob awakes and finds that he has married Leah, Rachel’s older sister. The trickster is tricked! Over and over again there is deceit, favoritism and scorn in the working out of these relationships. Doesn’t sound very “family values” oriented if you ask me. This dysfunction is laid out in the names of the kids. Leah’s names all reflect her longing to be loved, Ruben the first born means “look a son” which in that culture was a huge deal!
The key for me in these readings is that God is faithful, mostly despite the workings of his chosen people. Yes they have moments of great faith, but they also have moments of great sin. It is God who is faithful and just. It is God who is the keeper of promises. Over and over in these stories it points to the “chesed” or stead fast love of God.
For more information on Rachel and the role of the women in this story I found this to be a very interesting site. Women in the Bible http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.4.Rachel.htm They have more on the some of the names found in these stories which can be quite interesting… ie. Leah means cow! Layers upon layers! Oh it is hard to read right through, I keep wanting to stop explore and go deeper, but that will come… this summers challenge is cover to cover in 90 days!