Endangered Species is a perennial favorite around here. They source their chocolate through sustainable, fair-trade, slavery-free providers. They give 10% of profits to organizations promoting conservation through their GiveBack Partner program. And of course they offer tasty bars that deliver the value, or else we’d be leaning toward other slavery-free chocolate brands. We like what they’re doing with their fancy flavors. But how do they do with straightforward dark chocolate?
As I’m writing this, it’s about twenty past noon on Thursday, and I’ve got my laptop out in the lunchroom at work. However, we’ve had thunderstorms all day, and the overcast skies are blocking out my cell phone reception, so I can’t use my phone as a wi-fi hotspot. I can’t hit up Biblehub or BlueletterBible for Strong’s Concordance references, I can’t google for commentaries, I can’t even tweet out a link to the post that published earlier this morning. This evening, I’ll go home and finish up the post over my home internet connection, but for now I’m feeling landlocked. And I expect I’m feeling not unlike Jacob must have felt in the past couple chapters.
We left Jacob in a precarious situation. He’s safe as long as his father lives, but it’s a thinly-veiled secret that Esau plans to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac dies. However, Rebekah has a plan to get Jacob far away from his brother. She drops a hint to Isaac that she would absolutely hate it to death if Jacob married anyone from Canaan. So, in today’s chapter, Isaac sends Jacob to Rebekah’s family, so that he can marry one of Laban’s daughters.
Laban is Rebekah’s brother. Rebekah intends to save Jacob’s life under the pretext of having him marry a cousin.
Here it is: the Second Big Grift. We already saw the First Big Grift back in Genesis 25:27-34, in which Jacob takes advantage of his brother Esau’s hunger to trade a bowl of stew for the right of primogeniture. The Second Big Grift also involves food: as Isaac’s eyesight fails in his old age, Rebecca convinces Jacob to pose as Esau and deliver a savory meal to his father in order to secure the firstborn’s blessing as well. Living up to his name, Jacob once again plays the heel by grabbing the heel. And here’s the big question for today: is God getting behind all this chicanery?
In today’s chapter, Isaac travels in the land of a foreign king, in order to avoid the effects of a local famine, and to keep the inhabitants from killing him and taking his extremely attractive wife, he claims she’s his sister. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing Abraham did twice before. However, to paraphrase the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, you can’t step in the same river twice, much less the same river that your father stepped in. Isaac’s encounter doesn’t go exactly as his father’s two encounters did, but what are we to make of that?
Tip for Dungeon Masters: if you need an intriguingly foreign-sounding name for a non-player character in your tabletop RPG, put aside those random name generators and just turn to any of the genealogy chapters in Genesis. You only need open today’s text, chapter 25, and you can populate your Dungeons and Dragons game with the likes of Ishbak the Barbarian, the great wizard Zohar, or the noble king Adbeel, ruler of the plains of Eldaah. That said, if you would rather be playing Dungeons and Dragons than reading the genealogies, I wouldn’t entirely blame you.
Has God ever granted one of your requests in mid-prayer? One Saturday afternoon during my teenage years, after spending entirely too much time searching for a chapstick and getting increasingly frustrated, I began to ask God to help me find the chapstick, only to look down and see it lying on the sofa. I could tell you ten bojillion stories in which God answered my “help me find X” prayers, but all of them except the chapstick one involved some length of time between the request and the finding, ranging from a few minutes to half a year. But we are here to discuss not the Complete History of Jackson’s Answered Prayers, but rather today’s chapter of Genesis. And like my chapstick situation, today’s chapter of Genesis features a “help me find X” prayer that was answered before it was even completed.
More than once, a verse or passage in Genesis has done little more than remind me that we live in a vastly different culture than the people of the ancient Near East. And yes, we have just such a chapter today. Genesis 23 covers the death and burial of Sarah. Two verses are devoted to Abraham’s mourning over her, and fifteen verses–75% of the chapter, by verse–are devoted to the negotiation by which Abraham buys a burial plot. If you or I were recording this event, we would probably approach it somewhat differently.
Today’s chapter tells the story of the Binding of Isaac, in which God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham goes to do it, and the angel of the Lord tells him that he doesn’t actually have to sacrifice his son. It’s one of the better-known passages from the Bible, and with good reason. An ostensibly all-loving God calling for human sacrifice, only to turn around and say, “No, wait, sacrifice this ram instead,” has a way of arresting our attention. But I feel like the story, in its magnitude, has me hemmed in on all sides. How can I adequately address its scope? How can I say something worthy of the monumental matters it raises?
In today’s chapter, Abraham and Sarah finally have their son. A year from the three men’s visit, just as he said he would, God visits Sarah and enables her to conceive. An omnipotent creator of the universe is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.