Today's reading - Genesis 31:1-39:23
What's in today's reading: Jacob leaves his father-in-law's house, gets a new name, Joseph and his adventures in Egypt.I'm struggling coming up with something to say about these stories of Isaac and Jacob. It's personal history, the story of a family. Reading it is kind of like having a great uncle visit and hearing stories about second cousins that you've never met: sort of interesting, but overall kind of boring.
If the Bible is the Word of God then there is a reason these stories have been handed down to us from so many thousands of years ago. But what is that reason?
Part of it is that these personal histories are part of a continuous story that starts with "let there be light" and ends in Revelation. I think God is showing us that He works in big ways and small ways, in the creation of the Universe, and in the lives of each one of these people.
But part of it is that we are building up to something. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the introduction, the preface if you will, to the story of the nation of Israel.
And why is it called "the nation of Israel"? Just as Abram was renamed Abraham by God, Jacob get a new name too. Jacob means "supplanter", or "one who wrongly takes the place of another". Jacob lived up to his name with his brother Esau. After a night of wrestling (so totally not sure if that was figurative or literal), God renames Jacob "Israel", which means "strives (argues, struggles, quarrels) with God". A name that would certainly be applicable to the nation of people that would be his descendants, as we will see later on.
Our reading today ends with the first part of the story of Joseph. This is one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament. Joseph is treated like crap by his brothers, ends up in Egypt. Is he mad? Maybe, but he does his job anyway and does it so well that he ends up the head servant of his boss's house. But then the boss's wife gets fresh and when Joseph scorns her advances she has him put in jail. Is he mad? Maybe, but he's a model prisoner and even though he's still a prisoner he's the right hand man to his jailers.
What happens next? And how does any of this relate to the nation of Israel that we were just talking about? Well that's tomorrow's reading.