Saturday, May 10, 2008

No Bullshit Bible Lesson #21: God names Jacob "Israel" (again)

Genesis, Chapter 35:

After Jacob’s sons slaughtered Hamor and Shechem’s tender-dicked people, God came to Jacob with a message,
        “Jacob, you remember when you were running away from our brother and I came to you in a vision and told you I had your back?”
        “You mean in Bethel?”
        “I wasn’t running from my brother, I was going to get a wife.”
        “No, I’m pretty sure you were running from your brother. Don’t go back and re-read my account of it, just take my word for it, because I never contradict myself.”
        “Uh. Right.”
        “Anyway: Bethel. Go back there and build me an altar.”

So Jacob gathered all his people together.
        “Okay, everyone! Give me all your false gods, get yourselves cleaned up and changed, we’re going to Bethel!”

So they handed over all their little carved gods and their earrings and, while they were getting changed, he buried all these things under a tree by Shechem...which, after Levi and Simeon were done with him, could probably have been any tree in a three-mile radius.

As they passed out of town, the people in the neighboring town didn’t slaughter them because they were afraid of God. It’s good to have friends in high places.

So they arrived at Bethel, where Rebekah’s nurse promptly died and they buried her under an oak tree. The God showed up and blessed Jacob,
        “Your name is Jacob,” He said, displaying a great ability for stating the obvious, “But from now on, your name will be Israel. And your kids will be kings and you can have the land I gave your father and grandfather and all that.”

So God left and Jacob built a stone altar and poured water and oil on it. Then he named the spot Bethel. Just like he had almost 30 years prior.

They all left Bethel then and traveled to Bethlehem but before they could reach their destination, Rachel went into a difficult labor with her second child, whom the midwife assured her would be a boy. She gave birth to the boy but, tragically, the labor had been too hard on her and she passed away, the last words on her lips, the name of the child she died bringing into the world: Ben-oni.

Jacob had loved Rachel very much, from the moment he met her, and her dying wish were that her son should be named Ben-oni. Unfortunately, she was just a woman. And the wishes of a woman don’t matter, not even the dying wishes matter if they come from a lowly woman. So Jacob named his twelfth son Benjamin. Or maybe he just thought Ben-oni sounded too much like Ben Kenobi (scholars consider this latter possibility “unlikely”).

So Rachel was buried and a pillar erected in her honor.

Eventually, Jacob (now officially going by “Israel”) settled somewhere beyond the tower of Edar. While living there, his eldest son, Reuben, had sex with one of Israel’s concubines...which would be kind of like having sex with your step-mother. Israel heard about it, too. How he felt about it, though, remains unclear.

Later, Israel/Jacob traveled back to be with his father, Isaac, at the end of his days. He died at the age of one hundred eighty, and his sons buried him.

1 comment:

jtrwallace said...

Since when do women get a say in naming their children? Silly women those days...