Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nobody gets any respect!

Everybody is disrespecting everyone else in Genesis 31 and the one getting dissed the most seems to be God. Yet, he doesn't seem to be the slightest bit upset about it. Earlier in the Bible (and later) God has shown a propensity for violence when being dissed. But not this time.
Laban has been disrespecting Jacob all this time by forcing him to stay in his employ an extra seven years than he originally planned. Now, Jacob is going to disrespect his father-in-law by skipping town without even giving the old man a chance to say goodbye to his daughter and grandkids. Meanwhile, Rachel is disrespecting her father by stealing his "household gods". The mere presence of these other "gods" is disrespectful in itself and is considered a grave sin in other parts of the Bible, but ilicits no reaction here.
At the start of the chapter, God tells Jacob to go home and that "I will be with you." But does Jacob trust that the Lord will keep him safe on his journey home? Not on your life. He flees from Laban because he thinks he won't let him go and who knows what he might do if he catches him trying to sneak away. So Jacob disses God by showing no trust in him whatsoever. And recall that earlier Jacob even made God promise to bring him home safely as part of a covenant he made. And still that isn't good enough.
And then we have this strange interaction between Laban and God after he finds out that Jacob has split. God tells Laban in a dream "not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad." Assuming that is an accurate interpretation, Laban clearly blows God off and goes ahead and says quite a bit to Jacob once he tracks him down. So God is dissed once again, and still no reaction!
But then the story ends on a happy note with Jacob and Laban making nice and everyone parts as friends. So it was just as well that God didn't lose his temper this time, but maybe the point was that he already knew that.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, there is a new document out of the Vatican that may help to explain the "dark passages" of the Bible that you have pointed out. It's a matter of more than simply rejecting the inspired text when it describes immoral actions, as you seem to do in some instances:

    The “dark” passages of the Bible

    In discussing the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments, the Synod also considered those passages in the Bible which, due to the violence and immorality they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history. God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance. God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. This can be explained by the historical context, yet it can cause the modern reader to be taken aback, especially if he or she fails to take account of the many “dark” deeds carried out down the centuries, and also in our own day. In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel. So it would be a mistake to neglect those passages of Scripture that strike us as problematic. Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective which has as its ultimate hermeneutical key “the Gospel and the new commandment of Jesus Christ brought about in the paschal mystery”. I encourage scholars and pastors to help all the faithful to approach these passages through an interpretation which enables their meaning to emerge in the light of the mystery of Christ.