Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dysfunctional family?

Jacob has two wives, Leah and Rachel. Two sisters! He didn't plan it that way, but that's what he's got. Leah bears four sons, and Rachel doesn't:
When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!"
Genesis 30.1
How's that to start off a family discussion? If you thought your family was dysfunctional... well, maybe it is. But let's see what happens next:
  • Rachel gives her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob; she bears two sons. Then Rachel said, "I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won." So she named him Naphtali. (from Genesis 30.8)
  • Leah gives her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob; she bears two sons
  • Leah hires Jacob to go to bed with her (Genesis 30.16)! She bears two more sons and a daughter.
So there's competition, prostitution, and discord. It reminds me of that place in the New Testament where James talks about jealousy and selfish ambition leading to disorder and "every evil thing" (James 3.17).

When I read this chapter, it makes me wonder how any man would think it a Good Idea to have two wives -- or in this case two wives and two concubines.

How could all that discord have been avoided? Oh! It just hit me! A few chapters ago, Jacob disguised himself as his brother Esau, and deceived Isaac their father. Now how did Jacob get two wives? Just one chapter back, Jacob made a deal to work seven years for Rachel, but on the wedding night, her father sent her sister Leah into Jacob's tent. The shoe was on the other foot! The tables had been turned! The deceiver was now deceived!

Now, this whole thing might have happened even if Jacob hadn't deceived his father, but I can't help thinking that Jacob learned an important lesson from this experience.

As for me, there is great encouragement in this story. First, that bad guys often get their due. Second, that out of this dysfunctional family came the Savior of the world: Jesus Christ came from the tribe of Judah. In other words, that God's mercy and grace are abundant, yea, even overflowing.

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