Genesis 34 – Dinah’s Story

For better or worse, the text of the Bible doesn’t generally come with content warnings, so I feel like I should begin with one. The story in today’s chapter deals with sexual violence, and the victim is in all likelihood a minor. I often make flippant or lighthearted remarks here on Chocolate Book, but I’ve had to scrap more than one incomplete intro here because the tone wasn’t appropriate to the subject matter. The story of Dinah, Shechem, and Simeon and Levi’s revenge is intended for mature audiences, in that if you or I aren’t going to treat it with the gravity it merits, we have no business discussing it at all.

Genesis 32 – Grappling With God

Take your time machine back to late 2003, track me down on the campus of St. John’s College, and ask me who my favorite Bible character is, and I’ll tell you it’s Jacob. Why, you ask? My sophomore self tells you that it’s because God uses him in spite of his faults. In a book of hot messes, Jacob’s debatably the hot-messiest. But God gives him the name “Israel,” makes him the literal namesake of an entire race, and changes him dramatically over the course of his life. Jacob grows both in humility and courage; he learns to leave behind his swindling and cheating and to face the world honestly instead. Jacob’s story is hope for schmucks.

Genesis 31 – What Is Wrong With These People

I hope you like more bad behavior from bad people, because Genesis has got it in spades. This book is not afraid to show its protagonists’ faults and shortcomings. I don’t think I need to recapitulate all the bitterness between Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael, or how Noah and Lot both exit the narrative on a low note, or Abraham and Isaac’s habits of lying to kings. I don’t need to, but I will. The account has got no qualms about making you ask yourself, “What is wrong with these people?”

Genesis 30 – All My Children, and Also All the Sheep’s Children

Good lord, where do I begin? This chapter’s got more drama than a 1980s daytime television serial. First we pick up where we left off in Rachel and Leah’s race to have as many sons that they can call their own as humanly possible, and then Laban tries to convince Jacob to continue working for him when Jacob has clearly had enough of employment under his uncle. The friction is palpable, and all through the chapter my soul is facepalming. Remember how I ended Friday’s post with the observation that maybe, just maybe, human relationships are worth it? That’s a hard “maybe.”

Genesis 29 – Absence Makes the Heart Go Bonkers

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.

Genesis 28 – Pretexts

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.

Genesis 27 – The Big Grift

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?

Genesis 26 – Liars and Kings

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?

Genesis 25 – What’s in a Name

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.