Old Testament Reading Guide -February 20-26, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 30:1-24        Rachel Advises Jacob

At the time of Jacob, there was not much writing going on. History was probably learned by word of mouth from one generation to the next.  As this story unfolds, it becomes clear that if the history was passed from father to son, there were certain unpleasant details left out which may explain why the same mistakes keep occurring.  Fortunately for us, Moses has left us a written record of the events which happened to Abraham and his offspring not leaving out the unfavorable details.  From these we glean that Isaac appears to be the only one who had managed to avoid certain pitfalls (i.e., temptations to “short cuts”).

We have seen that Sarah thought she could “help” the LORD along with his promise to provide an heir and son to Abraham.  She came up with the scathingly brilliant idea of giving Abraham a concubine who might provide him with a son.  That was fine until the child (Ishmael) was born.  As we have seen, things deteriorate quickly thereafter.  The upshot is that the LORD meant what he said when he promised that Abraham’s heir will be born of Sarah.  All this proved to be very funny to both Abraham and Sarah and so they carried the joke further by naming their child “Isaac” meaning “he laughs”.  (Actually it is the LORD who names Abraham’s son in Genesis Chapter 17 verse 19.)

If this oral history was transmitted to Jacob the details surrounding Ishmael and Isaac may have been omitted.  If Jacob knew that the “maidservant” was used to bring about the LORD’s will, then he paid it no heed.

We saw last week that Jacob was cheated (that in itself, is funny) by Laban into working fourteen years in order to win Rachel’s hand.  Leah, Rachel’s older sister, is given to Jacob as wages for seven (!) years of labor.  She proves to be fertile and bears Jacob quickly four sons (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah).  But Rachel is preferred by Jacob to Leah.  Rachel, to this point, is barren.  Naturally, this does not sit well with her.  What is Rachel’s solution to this problem?
[“Here is Bilhah, my maidservant.  Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.”  (Genesis 30:3 NIV)]

This plan works as well for Rachel as it did for Sarah.  What happened?
[Jacob slept with Bilhah and she became pregnant and she bore him a son.  “Then Rachel said, ‘God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.’  Because of this she named him Dan.” {meaning “he has vindicated”}. (Gen. 30:6 NIV)]

Again, as “luck” would have it, Bilhah conceives and bares another son.  What does Rachel name him and why?
[Rachel names this boy Naphtali which means my struggle, for she said: “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” (Gen. 30:8 NIV)]

Not to be outdone, and ever unsatisfied with things the way they are, Leah devises a similar scheme using one of her maidservants.  What does she do and why?
[Because Leah appears now to be barren, she sends her servant Zilpah to sleep with Jacob and he, of course, gains a son by her.]

What name is given to this latest member of Jacob’s family?
[He is named “Gad” which can mean “good fortune” or, less romantically, “a troop” – take your pick.]

If Rachel can have two boys by her maidservant, so can Leah.  Thus Zilpah again sleeps with Jacob and bears him yet another son – Asher by name.  What does the bible tell us Asher means?
[“Then Leah said, ‘How happy I am!  The women will call me happy.  So she named him Asher.” (Genesis 30:13 NIV)]

What kind of business deal do Rachel and Leah make that reminds us of a deal between Jacob and Esau?
[Rachel barters for some mandrakes Reuben (Leah’s son) brought home for his mother.  Leah is not favored by Jacob as compared to Rachel.  Rachel agrees to “let” Leah sleep with Jacob if Leah will give the mandrakes to her.  This amounts to prostitution.  A similar business arrangement was made between Jacob and Esau when Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of red stew. (Genesis Chapter 25 verses 29-34)  When Jacob comes in from the fields that night Leah announces to him that she has “hired” him; that he must sleep with her.  The bible does not tell us how Jacob “felt” about being “used” in this fashion.]

What is the end result of this bartering between Leah and Rachel?
[The LORD opens Leah’s womb and she conceives yet another son, this time, Issachar, which means reward. “Then Leah said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.” (Genesis 30:18 NIV)  I don’t know if Leah is correct in her interpretation of the facts.  The LORD likes to work through people not to be manipulated by them. – j.t.]

How does the LORD continue to favor Leah?
[Leah conceives again (!) and bears Jacob a sixth son: Zebulun.  “Then Leah said, ‘God has presented me with a precious gift.  This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.’  So she named him Zebulun.” (Genesis 30:20 NIV)]

Up to this point Jacob has ten sons:
By Leah –
1. Reuben meaning “see, a son” and sounds like (in Hebrew) “he has seen my misery. (v. 29:32)
2. Simeon meaning “one who hears”.  (v. 29:33)
3. Levi meaning “attached”. (v. 29:34)
4. Judah meaning “praised”. (v. 29:35)

By Bilhah (of Rachel) –
5. Dan meaning “he has vindicated”. (v. 30:6)
6. Naphtali meaning “my struggle” (v. 30:7)

By Zilpah (of Leah) –
7. Gad meaning “good fortune” or “a troop” (v. 30:11)
8. Asher meaning “happy” (v. 30:12)

By Leah (again) –
9. Issachar meaning “reward” (v. 30:18)
10.  Zebulun meaning “honor” (v. 30:30)

We are not done yet.  Leah also gave birth to a girl and named her “Dinah” (v. 30:21).  Dinah will play a pivotal role in Chapter 34.  We are not told here what Dinah actually means.  (She was a girl, after all.)

Finally, what happens to Rachel in verse 22?
[“Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb.  She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’  She named him Joseph [yes, that one – the dreamer] and said, ‘May the LORD add to me another son.’” (Genesis 30:22-24 NIV)]

Genesis 31:1-24        Jacob Flees From Laban

Laban had acknowledged that because of Jacob he, Laban, had prospered, but now that  Jacob wanted to return to the land of his birth.  Jacob also prospered greatly during that time.  Laban did not want Jacob to leave fearing that his prosperity would then cease.  Laban had tried to cheat (!) Jacob over and over again.  “If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young.  So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.” (Genesis 31:8-9 NIV)

Jacob had a dream once in mating season, how do you interpret it?
[The dream is telling Jacob that the spotted and speckled sheep and goats were made that way by God because Laban tried to cheat Jacob out of his wages.]

What is Rachel’s and Leah’s response to this development?
[They pretty much agree with Jacob that this is the LORD’s doing.  “Then Rachel and Leah replied, ‘Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate?  Does he not regard us as foreigners?  Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us.  Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children.’”  (Genesis 31:14-16 NIV)]

So Jacob left with his wife and twelve children (eleven sons and one daughter) and returned to go to his father Isaac in the land Canaan.  What tricky thing did Rachel do?  What was Jacob’s last deceit with respect to Laban?
[Rachel steals Laban’s household gods and Jacob deceives Laban by leaving without telling him.]

While it took three days before Laban found out that Jacob had fled with his family and his flocks, he wasted no time in pursuing Jacob.  He caught up with him after seven (!) days.  How then does God intervene in this matter?
[“Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, whether good or bad.”  (Genesis 31:24 NIV)]

Genesis 31:25-50       Laban Catches Up With Jacob

What song and dance does Laban give Jacob for his indignation at Jacob’s departure without notice?
[Laban {I believe} feigns hurt and outrage at Jacob’s departure; that he did not have any opportunity to say good-bye to his daughters and grandchildren, nor did he have the opportunity to celebrate the departure with a party (or feast).

Then Laban drops a bomb!  What was it?
[He accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods and idols.  “Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.” (Genesis 31:32 NIV)

How does Rachel “dance” around this predicament?
[She “claims” to be having her period and is unable to rise.  Actually, she is sitting on the household gods.   (Genesis 31:34-35)  Please note that deception follows  and pervades this family.]

To say the least, Jacob is righteously indignant.  He then launches into a long tirade of how honest he is and, how he suffered loss without whining for over the twenty years he was with Laban.  He was laying it on pretty thick.  “I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.  But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you. {See Gen. 31:24} ” (Genesis 31:41-42 NIV)

How do Laban and Jacob resolve their differences?
[They make a covenant between them.  They pile a bunch of stones in a heap.  “Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me today. That is why it was called Galeed {means “witness heap”}.  It was also called Mizpah {which means “watchtower”}, because he said, ‘May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.  If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.’” (Genesis 31:48-52 NIV)]

Genesis 32:3-21      Jacob Extends to Esau the “Olive Branch” (Peace)

As Jacob approaches Seir in the land of Edom, he sends emissaries to his brother in order to establish peace (or reconciliation) between them.  He informs Esau how rich he has become and how much God has blessed him.  “Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.” (Genesis 32:5)

Of course, Jacob had reason to be fearful of his brother.  When last we saw Esau he was breathing threats against Jacob and just waiting for Isaac to die so that he could carry them out. (Gen. 27:41)  When Jacob’s messengers returned they told him that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men.  A show of force?  What is Jacob’s plan?
[Jacob divides his family and his wealth into two parts so that if Esau had plans for evil and not for good that all would not be lost.]

Jacob reminds the “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac” of what?
[Jacob reminds God that he told Jacob to return to the land of his birth and that he would prosper his family and begs that God would deliver him and his family from the hand of Esau.  “But you have said, ‘I will surely prosper you and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” (Genesis 32:12 NIV)]

Apparently that was not good enough…

Jacob decides to bribe his brother into peace.  What does he offer?
[“… he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys.” (Genesis 32:14-16 NIV)  “For he thought, ‘I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” (Genesis 32:20 NIV)]

Genesis 32:22-33:17     Jacob Receives a New Name (Israel)

Jacob has sent everyone else ahead and he is left alone.  What happens that night?
[Jacob wrestles with a man all night long.  Jacob does not over power the man, but the man does not over power Jacob either.]

What does the “man” do to Jacob as they wrestle?
[He touches the socket of Jacob’s hip “so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man”. (Genesis 32:25 NIV)]

What does Jacob require of the “man”?
[Jacob wants him to bless him.]

What does the man do for Jacob?
[The man gives Jacob a new name: Israel which means “he struggles with God”. {NIV footnotes}]

What does Jacob (Israel) name the place of the struggle?
[Jacob calls the place Peniel (which means “face of God”)  It is also called Penuel.]

Why does Jacob name the place Peniel?
[“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’” (Genesis 32:30 NIV)]

What physical affliction will Jacob suffer for the rest of his life?
[He will limp because his hip socket is out of place. (Gen. 32:31)]

What was the surprise waiting for Jacob when he meets Esau?
[While Esau had reason enough to kill his brother Jacob, rather he rushes to meet him and kisses him on the neck.  Jesus recounts a similar scene in Luke 15 in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  There are striking similarities as well as contrasts:  in both cases it was the younger son who was the offending party; both went to far countries for a long time; both return home with lowered expectations (Jacob to his brother who probably hates him; the Prodigal to his father who improbably loves him); both are very surprised at the final outcome.  Jacob was prophesied to receive the blessing of Isaac as the firstborn (though he used deception to accomplish it); the prodigal was the second born but only wanted his inheritance; The prodigal wanted his father to treat him as the “hired help” and Jacob only wanted peace with Esau.  Jacob was willing to lavish on Esau all that the father of the Prodigal had heaped on his son.]

How do we know that Jacob was fully reconciled to Esau?
[Jacob insists that the gift he offers to Esau be accepted even though Esau has great wealth of his own.  “But Esau said, ‘I already have plenty, my brother.  Keep what you have for yourself.’  ‘No, please!’ said Jacob.  ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me.  For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.’”  (Genesis 33:9-10 NIV)]

Jacob declines an offer by Esau to escort him to his destination.  Jacob went to Succoth instead and built shelters for himself and his animals.  In fine Hebrew tradition, Succoth means something too: shelters! (Gen. 33:17)

Genesis 34              The Rape of Dinah

This chapter is not part of our reading as outlined in the “Office” of the Book of Common Prayer.

… So let’s take a peek at Chapter 34…

Dinah, Leah’s daughter, went out to visit with the women of the land.  She was spotted by Shechem the son of Hamor and for him, at least, it was love (lust) at first sight.  Shechem takes her and rapes her.  He is quite remorseful and, along with his father Hamor, go to see Jacob to make an honest woman of Dinah.  Jacob is deeply grieved by this and relates it to his sons.  Dinah’s brothers (only the sons of Leah, I believe) devised an evil plan of revenge.  They tell Shechem that their sister cannot marry an uncircumcised man for that would be an abomination.  They agree that all of Shechem’s men be circumcised.  So all of Shechem’s men were circumcised – that indicates to me there was some honor in Shechem’s attempt.  Anyway, while Shechem and his men were healing two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, take it upon themselves to enter Shechem’s camp and slaughter all of the men.  Apparently they felt that rape was a capital crime.  “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the people living in this land.  We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.’  But they replied, ‘Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?’” (Genesis 34:30-31 NIV)

Genesis 35:1-20       Jacob Returns to Bethel

Bethel was the first place where Abraham camped after he left Haran.  He set up an altar there.  Also it was here that Jacob had his famous dream of the angels ascending and descending on a stairway from heaven.  Here it was that God renews his promise to Jacob that “… Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth…” (Genesis 28:14).  Let’s just say that Bethel hold some importance in Hebrew history.

What does Jacob tell all of his people to do upon setting out?
[“So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.’” (Genesis 35:2 NIV)]

What is the first thing Jacob does upon arrival in Bethel?
[The first thing that Jacob does upon arrival in Bethel is to build an altar to the LORD.  “…and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him.”  (Genesis 35:7 NIV)]

What does Jacob remember of his return trip from Paddan Aram?
[“And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number.  A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’”  (Genesis 35:11-12 NIV)]  This is a fufillment of a promise that Jacob made to God in Genesis 28:20-22.

Tragedy strikes Jacob.  What was it?
[Rachel dies in childbirth.  She gives birth to a son.]

What does Rachel name her son?  What does Jacob name her son?
[Rachel names her son Ben-Oni {meaning “son of my trouble” NIV Footnotes}.  Jacob renames him Benjamin {meaning “son of my right hand”}.]

Where is Rachel buried?
[She is buried in Ephrath (that is Bethlehem).]

What very devastating thing happens next?
[Reuben took it upon himself to sleep with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Rachel’s handmaid).  This is similar to a declaration of war between father and son.]  NIV Study Bible Notes p. 61:
“35:22 Reuben’s act was an arrogant and premature claim to the rights of the firstborn (see 2 Sam. 3:7; 12:8; 16:21; 1 Kings 2:22).  For this he would lose his legal status as firstborn (see Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1).”  [Personally, I think it is much worse than this.  I think it is an act of complete disrespect for his father and, in this case, given that Bilhah was Rachel’s handmaid, I’m sure it pained Jacob all the more. – j.t.]

The next few verses recount the sons (and not the daughter) of Jacob and who their mothers were.  Note that all but one of Jacob’s children (including Dinah) were born in Paddan Aram and only Benjamin was born in the land of Canaan.

This chapter closes with the death of Isaac.  Who was there and how old was Isaac when he died?
[Isaac was 180 years old and both of his sons were with him when he died.]

Proverbs 1:20-33         Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom

How is wisdom characterized in verses 20-21?
[Wisdom is personified.  “She” takes on the characteristics of a person.  “She calls; she raises her voice; and she makes her speech.]

Do you hear the pleading of the writer in these two verses?

To whom does she pose her rhetorical questions?
[She speaks to the “simple ones” the “mockers” and the “fools”.  Wisdom wants to “sell” the benefits of herself over folly.  Wisdom represents life whereas folly always represents death.  Wisdom is not to be confused with knowledge.]

What is the benefit of positively responding to rebuke?
[“I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.”]

Verses 24 and 25 reiterate the same ideas: reject me; no one gave heed; ignored my advice; not accept my rebuke.  What is the consequence of this?
[“I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.” (Proverbs 1:26-27 NIV)]

What are the further consequences of rejecting wisdom (truth)?
[“Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.”  (Proverbs 1:28 NIV)]

This same theme comes up in Jeremiah in Chapter 29 verses 11-13: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

With what is the hatred of knowledge equated?
[The hatred of knowledge is equal to not choosing “to fear the LORD”.]

What exactly is the “fear of the LORD”?
[That is a good question.  Verse 7 of this chapter tells us “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”  That doesn’t really help.  I got some help from the ESV Study Bible Notes on page 1134: 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.  This is the core maxim of the book: the quest for wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD (cf. 9:10 and Ps. 111:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”).  “Knowledge” and “wisdom” are closely tied together in Proverbs: “knowledge” tends to focus on correct understanding of the world and oneself as creatures of the magnificent and loving God, while “wisdom” is the acquired skill of applying that knowledge rightly, or “skill in the art of godly living”.  …  The reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom is that the moral life begins with reverence and humility before the Maker and Redeemer.  The idea of a quest for knowledge sets biblical wisdom in the broad context of the ancient Near Eastern quest for truth, and this verse also validates such a quest as legitimate and good.  Thus it affirms a kind of “creational revelation,” the idea that one can find moral and theological truth through observing the world.  At the same time, it distinguishes the biblical pursuit of knowledge and wisdom from those of the surrounding cultures, for it asserts that submission to the Lord is foundational to the attainment of real understanding. (cf. Pa. 111:10; Prov. 9:10).  By using the covenant name “the LORD” in preference to the more generic “God,” this verse makes the point that truth is found through Israel’s God.  (For fearing the Lord in Proverbs as the right response to his covenant, see 1:29; 2:5; 3:7; 8:13; 10:27; 14:2, 26-27; 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21; 31:30.)  In addition, the verse asserts that fools despise wisdom and instruction, thus setting up the alternative between the two ways of wisdom and folly.  This contrast dominates the entire book, as the way of wisdom, righteousness, and the fear of the Lord is set against the way of folly, evil, and scoffing.”

The “fear of the LORD” is also seen as a profound respect for the LORD.  It must also be admitted that this fear has in it a sense of terror.  We saw earlier that Jacob had wrestled with God all night and “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Gen. 32:30 ESV)  So there is a very real sense of terror when encountering God.  That attitude seems, somehow, to be lost on us today.]

What is the fate of those who will not accept “Wisdom’s” advice?
[“…they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” (Proverbs 1:31 NIV)]

Waywardness and complacency are somewhat equated with what result?
[Waywardness will kill the simple; complacency will destroy fools.]

What are the benefits of listening to “Wisdom”?
[“… but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease without harm.” (Proverbs 1:33 NIV)  This verse might be especially meaningful given the amount of fear and terror we think we live under.  Most of our fears stem directly from a lack of belief in God and what he is able to do for us.]

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