When I left off, Jacob had left his uncle’s land with his wives and household. Laban catches up with Jacob and tells Jacob that he has taken Laban’s gods, implying that somebody stole his stuff. This suggests a few things. First, that Laban, a descendant of Abraham’s doesn’t worship the same god that Abraham worshiped. This suggests a pantheon. Was the God of Abraham one god of many? And did the people see the idols (what was stolen) as gods? Or did they merely represent gods but were spoken of as if they were gods? Who were these gods? What did they look like? What did they do? It turned out that Rachel had stolen Laban’s gods, then Rachel lied about having her period so that they wouldn’t be found. Why did Rachel steal the gods? Did she worship them too? Or did she steal them to spite he father? Why didn’t Jacob’s God do anything to stop her?
Jacob said he lived with Laban for 20 years. And Jacob said that he was protected by the God of his father. That suggests that Jacob doesn’t view this god as his. Did Jacob worship other gods? Did he worship any? Or is it merely because his father is assumed to still be alive so he’s still the head of the family? Can children have different gods from their parents? Laban calls a heap and a pillar witnesses when they make their covenant. How can a pillar and heap be witnesses? Did they use magic? Are they gods? Or by witnesses do they merely mean “this is the line, don’t cross it”? Why was only Abraham’s God called on to witness other than the heap and pillar? Did Laban trust Jacob’s God? Why didn’t he call on his own gods? Could he, since Rachel stole them?
One thing that I couldn’t help but notice is that they named a lot of places. If anything significant happens someplace, it gets a new name, and sometimes two people give the same place two different names at the same time. How can anyone keep track of where something happened with all the name changes? They also see angles a lot. What do the angles look like? How do they know they’re angles? It never describes them or explains how they know they’re angles.
While waiting for Esau, Jacob wrestles with a man after he sent everybody in his household across the river. It doesn’t say anything about where the man came from or why they began to wrestle. Why did Jacob wrestle with the man all night? Why did he demand to be blessed? Why does the man change Jacob’s name to Israel? Why does Jacob wrestle with someone he doesn’t know? How does Jacob know he wrestled with God? He says he’s “seen God face to face,” but isn’t that supposed to be impossible? Why does God touching Jacob’s hip cause the Israelites to avoid eating that part of any animal? How do they know what happened?
Later, Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, is raped. The rapist claims to love her. What does this say about how the ancient Hebrew’s viewed rape and women? Why does it matter that he spoke tenderly to her? Jacob hears she’s defiled. What does that terminology say about the people? Then the rapist wants to marry her. The rape is considered worse because it was done to Jacob’s daughter in Israel. Would it not matter if it had been any other girl? Jacob’s sons lied and said no to the marriage, unless the men of the rapist’s family are all circumcised. The rapist’s family says okay. Dinah’s brothers killed all the males in the city after they were circumcised as repentance, then took all women and children. How is it okay for them to kill every man when only one committed the crime? Why do they take the innocent women and children? Jacob becomes scared that they would be killed, but his sons asked if their sister “should be treated as a prostitute.” Is that really the worst thing about what happened? That somebody might see their sister as a prostitute?
After speaking with God, Jacob told his household to get rid of all other gods (and rings). Does that mean just the idols? Or nobody is allowed to worship other gods? Jacob is once again told that his name is Israel. Why does he need to be told twice? Jacob is also told to multiply. This order is specifically to Jacob, so why do people assume applies to everyone? While still travelling Rachel died while giving birth. Jacob changed the child’s name. Why? Why is she told not to despair because she’s having a son? She’s dying.
Isaac lived 180 years.
Why do the lists of people matter when we learn nothing about most of them?
Joseph was loved by Jacob more than his other sons, so his brothers hated him. Joseph dreamed that his brothers sheep bowed down to his sheep. Joseph seems very arrogant. Israel keeps Joseph’s dreams in mind, then sends Joseph to his brothers who are grazing the sheep. Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him. Did brothers often plot to kill each other in the ancient middle east? Rueben saves Joseph by telling his brothers not to kill him. The brothers instead removed Joseph’s fancy robe and threw him into the cistern, then they sell him to the Ishmaelites. This says a lot about the tribalism at the time. Then Joseph is taken to Egypt. The brothers then told their father that Joseph was killed and it was thought to have been done by wild animals. Israel said he’d weep for Joseph until his own death. Eventually Judah left.
Why do they mention that the men make love to their wives? Isn’t that assumed? Why doesn’t God interfere with Joseph’s brothers? Why doesn’t he tell Israel what happened? Does he know?
Judah’s son Er is wicked in Gods eyes. Isn’t everyone? So he dies. How is he wicked? Or is it suggested that he must be, since he died young. Judah tells his other son to sleep with his brother’s wife to give her sons and do his duty to her. The children wouldn’t be considered his, so when he sleeps with brother’s wife he spills his semen on the ground. Why does Judah want to make sure his wicked son has children? Why not just move on to next son? Why wouldn’t the sons be his? The second son is also seen as wicked, so he’s killed. Why is he wicked for not providing children for someone who’s wicked? It says nothing about his spilling his seed being wicked. Instead it suggests he’s wicked for not doing his duty. So why do Christians say that masturbating is bad based on this? The daughter-in-law lived in her fathers household until the youngest son grew up (as a widow), but the youngest son is not given the daughter-in-law as a wife.
Judah wants to sleep with his daughter-in-law thinking her a prostitute. So being a prostitute is bad, but it’s okay to sleep with prostitutes? Judah impregnates his daughter-in-law, and she takes his seal. The daughter-in-law is to be burned for prostitution, but proves Judah impregnated her. She’s spared because that somehow made her more righteous than Judah (who didn’t give her to his son). The morality of this entire story makes no sense.
Genesis said “the lord was with Joseph” which enabled him to prosper in Egypt. This sounds like God can only be in certain places at one time, but not just anywhere. But, since God was presumably with Joseph and Judah at the same time, he can be in multiple places at once.
Joseph says that sleeping with his master’s wife is a sin against God. Why would God care who they sleep with? The master’s wife tries to get Joseph to sleep with her, she later claims that Joseph tried to rape her and she screamed. Why doesn’t God do anything to stop this? What is this supposed to say about women and sexuality since the women, up to now have only been interested in sex to have sons? Why is it supposedly necessary in the story for Joseph to go to Egypt?
“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the kings prisoners were confined.” Prisoners in prison? You don’t say.
Why does God go to prison with Joseph? Why doesn’t he just keep Joseph out of prison. He’s already limiting Joseph’s free will by making sure everything goes right for him (except for the rape accusation, which seems to be a negative).
Why are the men sad because nobody can interpret their dreams? Why must they mean anything? Was it common to get dreams interpreted? Was it bad if dreams didn’t mean anything? Why does Joseph know what the dreams mean? Why does the baker only tell Joseph his dream when the cup barer gets a favorable interpretation? Why is this important to the story? What did the cup barer and baker do? Why was cup barer reinstated and baker impaled?
So far magicians, divination, dream interpretation, and other things related to magic have been discussed as if they are just everyday elements of life. Magic is not considered bad. So why are today’s Christians so worried about magic?
Why would God tell the Pharaoh that he’ll send 7 good years and 7 years of famine? Why is it suggested that Jacob’s God sends this knowledge, not the Egyptian gods? Why is the Pharaoh so quick to trust Joseph? Why would God randomly decide to send a 7 year famine? Why didn’t he tell others? Why didn’t he tell Israel about the famine? Couldn’t he have just protected them from the famine rather than sending Joseph to Egypt? Why didn’t his brothers recognize Joseph? What’s the point of Joseph’s test? Why did Joseph need an interpreter to understand his brothers? How old was he when he was sold? He didn’t seem that young. Why was the silver returned? Why did the money being returned scare everybody?
Why does Joseph need to leave the view of others to weep? What did it say about Joseph? The Egyptians refuse to eat with Hebrews. Would it be different if there was an Egyptian among the Hebrews? Why does Benjamin’s portions at dinner make the brothers trust Joseph? Why does Joseph frame Benjamin for theft (there are also more claims to divination being done)? What is the purpose of anything that he did? Why not just tell his brothers who he is? Why do people tear their clothes in mourning? Why does it matter that anyone hears of Joseph weeping?
Why would God send Joseph to Egypt? Is Joseph saying that Egypt is promised to the Hebrews? Why would pharaoh promise best of Egypt to the Hebrews when Egyptians won’t eat with Hebrews?
Why is Israel so easily convinced of Joseph’s life? Why is Jacob called Jacob and Israel at different times? Why do the Hebrews have a problem with marrying Canaanites but not Egyptians? Why are shepherds detestable to Egyptians? Why did Joseph need to buy the land and people for pharaoh? Weren’t they technically already his?
How and why does Israel take Joseph’s sons? And what’s up with this family? The children were clearly raised to compete with each other, parents played favorites, family feared their own family members, etc.
At Israel’s death, the 12 tribes of Israel are created. Great, more tribalism.
Why are Joseph’s brothers so afraid of him?
Joseph died at 110 in Egypt, but first it says that the Israelites will be given the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Why are the people so willing to trust this prophesy? Why is a date never given? How did we go from one people, who all came from two people, who separated into tribes after the flood, and only then began to speak different languages, and who populated the earth, to a smaller group who God favored above all others? Based on this genealogy, everybody is very closely related. So why does God favor this one small group? Why does he encourage the Israelites to kill their own relatives?
Throughout Genesis they make claims along the lines of “and this still takes place” or “and it is still called that today.” This suggests that Genesis was recorded well after the events occurred. How can anyone know that all this really happened?
June 30th, 2014 at 3:19 pm
Your question about why lists of people matter if we learn nothing about them seems to have serious implications. If everything God does has purpose, clearly inspiring the author to write lists of names about people we learn nothing about serves no purpose. Of course, I’m sure the Christian response to this would be: “God works in mysterious ways. We can never presume to understand God.”
To the rational mind, it stands to reason that those lists exist in the Bible because the author was not divinely inspired. He is just doing what we mere humans do all the time… we write lists.