Monthly Archives: November 2012

11/27/12 Genesis 38-39

(I was not able to attend today.) this is the story of Judah and the fact that he became part of the Canaanite culture. He married a Canaanite woman and appeared to be part of her culture. This illustrates the continued disintegration of Jacob’s family. Reuben and Levi avenged Dinah at Shecham. The brothers kidnapped and sold Joseph. Judah even had sex with his daughter-in-because he thought she was a prostitute. I guess that excuses him a little, but really a prostitute! Then she blackmailed him. Good for her, not the deception but it served him right. It is like a Shakespeare play with confusion between twins that he wouldn’t know his daughter-in-law.  Jacob must have been very upset to see his family straying from God in this way.  Jacob must have wondered who would carry on the tradition

On Nov 28, 2012, at 8:51 AM, John Grundstad wrote the following report about our study on Tuesday. Thanks so much to John for his excellent commentary.

Today, on “sexy Tuesday,” we read Genesis Chapters 38 and 39.  Chapter 38 recounts the masturbation of Judah’s son Onan to circumvent his father’s orders to send up seed to Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother Er (who had been killed by God for his wicked ways).  For this detestable act, Onan was then also put to death by God. (Note: the obscure English term “onanism” refers to masturbation).  Chapter 38 also contains the story of how Judah himself, after his wife died, had a sexual encounter with Tamar, who had disguised herself as a harlot.  In fact, he even agrees to pay her for her favors.  Upon being discovered with child, Tamar avoids being burned for harlotry by revealing who the father was. The issue of this unseemly episode were Perez and Zerah, with the former being in the direct line of genealogy of Joseph, husband of Mary. Finally, in chapter 39, we have the story of Joseph in Egypt.  Joseph was much blessed by the Lord, including being very handsome.  So much so, in fact, that Pharaoh’s wife does her best to seduce him, even tearing his garment off in the process.  She explains the left-behind garment with a vindictive canard about a Hebrew servant (presumably identifiable through circumcision) who tried to defile her. Pharoah throws Joseph in prison, but he is protected there by God?

The reading gave rise to a discussion of sexual mores, past and present.  The actions of Judah in particular are interesting because there seems to be no particular stigma or censure attached to Judah’s use of what he believes to be a prostitute.  If anything, there is embarrassment over the fact that the woman turns out to be his own daughter-in-law. It is also interesting that, if one accepts the genealogy accounts in the Bible, Jesus is descended from a woman who has prostituted herself.  Quite a contrast to his eventual miraculous birth by a woman who was sexually pure.  But then there is the question of whether the genealogy of Jesus is accurate in the first place, and not a contrivance of the biblical authors to document the dominance of the male in Jesus’ lineage. The latter would be consistent with a pervasive theme throughout the OT that women had little worth independent of their husbands.

The Genesis stories can be troubling to the modern reader and give rise to questions about God’s actions in the world, his “will,” his devotion to a morally challenged tribe of people, etc.  But then morality is a matter of time and place and cultural circumstances and perhaps it is inappropriate to judge one era from the perspective of another. The question was raised as to whether morality today is generally in decline, for instance in regard to sex outside of marriage.  There are many examples of the tragedy of wayward sexuality in our lives.  Pastor noted the reality and the challenge of ministering to couples according to the teaching of the church, while recognizing that in most cases they are not celibate when they come to the sacrament. But of over-riding importance is the idea of community in the context of marriage, that marriages are not only blessed by God, but by the community that passes its blessings on to couples along with a pledge to support them in their lives together, in the process maintaining and perpetuating itself.

We touched also on Biblical “law” and whether it should be binding as literally written, or whether it is a moving target and subject to evolution and interpretation.  Again, it is a challenge to apply centuries-old tradition to modern life.

11/20/2012 Genesis 37 (15)

Today was the beginning of the account of Joseph’s dreams. Joseph lorded it over his older brothers because his father favored him because helonged Rachel more than Leah, the older boys’ mother along with a few born to the wives’ maidservants. Jacob had quite a household with his two wives and their maidservants with sons from all of them, as well as a daughter, Dinah, with Leah. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph probably because he was the first son of his favorite wife Rachel. He showered him with gifts like the multi-colored coat and didn’t make him work on the fields like his other brothers, although he did tend sheep in nearby fields. Joseph also tattled on hus older brothers bad behavior o hi dad as well But the straw that broke the camel’s back was his interpretation of dreams where the sheaves of wheat bowed and the sun, moon and 11 stars bowed down to him. Jacob rebuked his son for interpreting the dreams as he had . The brothers born of the maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, were particularly resentful of Joseph. When the brothers were tending sheep and the fields a long way off, Jacob sent Joseph to see how they were doing. When they saw him coming they conspired how to get rid of him. They decided to take his coat, beat him and throw him in a pit to die. Then a group if Ismaelites came by and some of the brothers decided to sell him to them. The two authors talked of different groups, the Yahwist source says Ishmaelites and the source Elohist say Midionites. Reuben, the eldest son of Leah and Jacob, decided it was wrong of the brothers to leave Joseph in the pit, went back and found he was gone. They said they had sold him. They then put blood on his coat tore and told their father he had been killed by a wild animal. They sold him for 20 pieces of silver invoking a comparison with Jesus as savior.

We discussed among other things the two dreams, the two visiting groups and concluded they probably came about because of the two versions of the story, Elohist and Yahwist. We also talked about dreams and people like Freud, Jung and Erik Erikson who interpreted dreams in various ways. What is it about a dream that causes you to remember it when most dreams are lost to us. Possibly it is their incongruity, their inclusion of familiar or highly unusual items.

11-13-2012 Genesis 35 (19)

Homework for next week – Read Genesis 36 about Esau’s genealogy. We will read Genesis 37 and 38 and discuss them.
Today we discussed Genesis 35, which is the story of the birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel in childbirth. It is also the death of Isaac who was then buried by his sons Jacob and Esau. Rebekah’s nurse was also buried. So I guess the authors devoted the chapter to the deaths of all these people as a precursor to moving with life in the next phase.where we talk about Joseph’s adventures.

We talked about a number of issues including the importance of Rachel’s death, the conflict seemingly between polygamy then and monogamy now, Reuban’s affair with Billpay, Rachel’s concubine, the role of foreign idols. We also talked about the way that the people at this point were very nomadic and just seemed to take over land from others based on a conversation with God. Was the conversation with God just a justification to do this. Some questions were raised about modern day Israel and how the British created modern Israel although it appears that modern Zionists owned much of the land that became Israel. More about all of these later

11-06-12 Genesis 34 (18)

This is the story of Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah and the problems she had with Shechem, the son of Hamar. Various versions of the Bible either say she was raped or or at least forced. Her brothers, particularly Simeon and Levi were very upset that their siste had been defiled. Shechem said he wanted to marry Dinah, and the brothers told him that they could not allow that unless Shechem and Hamar as well as all the other men of their tribe be circumcised. Shechem andHamar said we will be circumcised and then when we marry the daughters of these people, we will surely get all their wealth as well. On the other hand, Simeon and Levi decided that on the third day after all the men had been circumcised they went and killed them all. Then Jacob was upset that others would come after him, so he prepared to escape.

Mark indicated that this was a passage that speaks out against violence against women. The Isrealites appeard to value their women at least against foreigners and didn’t treat their women like livestock as some of the others in the area did. It is interesting that Dinah’s brothers carroed out this operation and did all the negotiations. Jacob did not appear to show indignation and was afraid for his life at the end of the episode. Curt talked about rape and said that it is a matter of control and rage. Chuck suggested that people validate their instincts by attributing it to God. The value system changes as the culture develops.

It is interesting that Hammurabi who was king of Babylon circa 1795-1750 BCE inscribed laws on a black stone monument, eight feet tall, and placed in public view. A lot of it was devoted to civil law and contracts, but there were significant parts of it about how people should treat other people. Note that this was over 1000 years before the time of Moses and the Ten Commandments. This is a link to a summary of the code: Drowning was the punishment for rape of a betrothed maiden or seduction of a daughter-in-law. I guess they were serious about this at that time.

10-30-12 Genesis 32-33 (18)

This was the story of Jacob coming home from the 20 some years he spent with Laban. He was coming back to the area controlled by Esau in Edom. He worried about the homecoming fearing that Esau would still be angry at him. He sent servants ahead with offerings to try to appease him. But Esau was happy to see him and said it wasn’t necessary for Jacob to give him gifts, but he finally agreed to take them. Then Esau invited him to come to his home, but Jacob said that he would come later, but delayed it even more by going a different route. Then Jacob wrestled with someone. It may have been an angel of God, or it might have been God. It isn’t clear which it was. After this, Jacob received a new name, Israel. That seems to be the practice when God makes a covenant with his chosen he changes their name.

Bonhaeffer talks about cheap grace as the kind where you claim the blessing of forgiveness, but then go back and do the same thing again. Was Jacob using cheap grace by his testing of God? Bonhaeffer says that costly grace is the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross. We don’t always trust God’s grace as we should. We doubt and question God! Mark says we don’t fight hard enough for the principles that God establishes for us. Mark and Tom both talked about difficult situations where they had opportunities to go but ultimately decided that it wasn’t right for them to do so.

The Lutheran Study Bible says that Israel means a prince or God’s fighter, that is, he who wriestles with God and wins. This happens through that faith which holds so firmly to God’s will, until it overcomes God’s wrath and obtains God as the gracious father. Jacob wanted absolute proof of his rival’s identity. Apart from the revealed word, we should not ask for or seek a hidden name of God. He blessed him. He repeated the blessing he gave to Jacob earlier. For through faith, in the struggle of the cross, one learns to recognize and experience God rightly.