Jim's Sunday Sermon
Written by Jim Brochu
AND HIS SONS CUT UP A TOWN
Coming next - a story of sex, incest, murder, treachery and trickery.
No, it's not a description of the new thriller from Paramount, it's the narrative of Jacob and his family. Aside from the fact that he didn't have to pay royalties, one can see why Cecil B. DeMille picked Bible stories to dramatize for the screen. They are broad in scope, sweeping in nature, full of drama and feature great characters caught in a web spun of lies and deceit.
Truth creates no conflict in drama or in life, but lies do.
The patriarchs and their tribes are ruled by avarice and the need to accumulate, an attribute which we know is blessed by God because He takes part in the plots. And the most prized possession to any tribe is land. Land with water. Real estate. Location. Location. Location.
When God created the earth, there were few men and lots of available acreage - like the Oklahoma land rush, the family who got there first owned the land. Wasn't that the case with Abram and Lot? Their possessions were so great and their flock so numerous that they couldn't share the same land and separated to claim their own? According to the Bible, God promises land to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that have already been settled by someone else.
Years ago, I took a trip to the Middle East with my father. At that time, there was a state of war between the Arab nations and Israel. The Arab nations wouldn't allow anyone who had come from or been to Israel cross into their country but Israel would allow people from the Arab nations to enter theirs.
Jerusalem was a divided city then and our taxi from the Jordanian side could only go to the edge of the Mandlebaum gate. We had to pick up our own suitcases and carry then about a hundred yards with both Jordanian and Israel marksmen stationed in towers, pointing sub machine guns at us as we walked through. Me, from Brooklyn, a terrorist?
Jordan was a colorless country, backward at best, with no development or industry of which to speak.
But as I walked into Israel, it was like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the black and white turns into color. Israel is a tremendous country. Full of beauty and passion. It's not a hospitable climate; the only time I ever fainted in my life was in front of King David's tomb on Mount Zion because the temperature was a balmy hundred and twenty degrees.
The hard work and genius of Israelis was evident at every turn. where there had been desert, there was no green, lush and fertile land that served as a backdrop for sparkling white, modern houses and office buildings.
But didn't somebody else already own the land? Wasn't it Palestine, the land of the sons of Ishmael?
But in 1948, the United Nations decided that The Big Voice had indeed promised the land to the sons of Isaac and they moved in. Imagine sitting in your house one day and a person knocks on the door and says, "God gave this house to my great-grandfather in a dream, so give me the keys and get out."
Remember that Jacob ran away from his homeland because he deceived Esau, out of his rightful blessing and subsequently learned Esau was plotting to kill him. He marries his cousins Rachel and Leah and between his two wives, his two surrogate maid-mother- slaves and a few dozen concubines, he has twelve children. When Joseph, his penultimate child and the last by Rachel is born, Jacob begins to resent the way he's been treated by his father-in-law for the last twenty years.
JACOB WRESTLES AND HIS SONS CUT UP A TOWN
Jacob goes to Laban and says he's worked for him long enough and wants his own homestead. Laban firmly believes that it's Jacob's relationship with The Big Voice that has made him so prosperous and begs Jake to stay. Jake agrees on the condition that his pay will be all the speckled and spotted livestock that are born from then on.
Laban makes the deal and Jacob takes a rod, which when dipped in the animals watering trough, will make them all spotted or speckled. Pretty soon, only speckled and spotted offspring were coming into the world, increasing Jacob's wealth and depleting Laban's.
Laban's son's begin to grumble about their brother in-law and Laban is getting tired of all the speckled sheep himself. Jacob goes to his two wives and says, "Your father has been cheating me for years. He's looking at me funny and your brothers are upset and I think they're going to steal my livestock so let's get out of here and back to my land."
The wives agree. They have no great love for daddy and before they all sneak away, Rachel steals her father's "household idols." Now, I'm not sure but I guess a household idol would equate to a Catholic's crucifixes or statues of the Virgin Mary. However, it's not clear if the idol was an image of The Big Voice or a competing god.
Jacob and his entourage get as far as Gilead when Laban comes after them with his troops. The night before they meet, Laban had a dream where The Big Voice told him that he was protecting Jacob and so he'd better be careful.
Laban is furious and confronts his son-in-law, accusing Jacob of stealing his daughters and speckling his sheep and besides that one of his gods is missing. The passive-aggressive Jacob is pretty angry himself. Twenty years of frustration erupts and he tells Laban that The Big Voice is protecting them and if he find the stolen idol, he can kill the person who swiped it. (Jake didn't know that Rachel had it.)
Laban searches everywhere for the gods and the last place he looks is the camel saddle where Rachel hid it. As her father approaches the suspect saddle, Rachel sits down on it and says she can't get up because she's having her period.
Laban says, "Yikes, she's unclean. Forget it, go in peace and let's have a barbecue to celebrate."
As Jacob approaches his native land, he gets worried that Esau may still want to snuff him so he sends an emissary ahead to tell Esau that he's on his way with presents of livestock and slaves. The emissary comes back and says, "I told your brother and he's on his way to meet you with four hundred men." Jacob, who was never a very brave fellow, is scared to death that his brother is coming to slay them all.
He divides his troops into two contingencies in case Esau slays one, then the other will survive. Jake sends three separate appeasement parties ahead with gifts of livestock to let Esau know that he's coming. He sends his wives and children on ahead, meaning it was all right for the woman to act as his shield.
Genesis 32 records the second incarnation (the first was when he had dinner with Abram and Sarai) of God as Man and the first mention of any Hebrew dietary laws. Jacob is at the bank of the river Jabbok when a man comes along and assaults him. (Genesis 32:24) They wrestle until daybreak to a draw. I think God could have won if He really wanted to but when Jacob recognizes his opponent as The Big Voice, he asks Him two favors:
The Big Voice gives Jacob the blessing on the condition he changes his name to Israel but then He refuses to give out his name on the grounds that it's none of Jacob's business. The Big Voice dislocated Jacob's hip during their wrestling match and so to this day, believers won't eat any meat that touches the hip bone.
- 1) He wants to be blessed.
- 2) He wants to know the name of The Big Voice so He knows what to call him.
All of Jacob's fears prove unfounded because Esau is glad to see his brother and welcomes him back to the hometown. He refuses all of Jacob's gifts because he has more livestock and slaves than he knows what to do with. I guess the missing birthright and blessing didn't have much of an effect since Esau ended up doing very well for himself. Jacob and his family buy a nice piece of property just outside the city of Schechem for "a hundred pieces of money." (Genesis 33:20)
The people of Schechem were Hivites, did not believe in The Big Voice and had gods of their own. Schechem had a King named Hamor who had a son which he named after the city. Young Prince Schechem sees and falls instantly in love with Jacob's daughter, Dinah. After all, is there anyone finer?
In Genesis 34:2, it states that Schechem lays with Dinah and violates her. At first, I thought this meant rape but the next sentence goes on to say he loved her deeply, treated her kindly and wanted to marry her. Today, it would be pre-marital sex but then it was violation.
Jacob and his sons find out that Dinah slept with her boyfriend and are upset that their sister was treated like a prostitute. This is the first mention of prostitution in the Bible and so it can't be "the world's oldest profession" since we know now that the oldest profession is the fashion industry.
While Jacob is upset with what happened, he wants to take a "wait and see" approach, his hot-headed sons vow to punish Shecky for the transgression - like the Sharks wanted to punish Tony because he was a Jet who loved Maria.
Hamor comes to Jacob and says, "Okay, they slept together but they love each other so why don't we start over. Let my son marry your daughter and we'll all intermarry and become like you. "We'll believe in The Big Voice too," says Hamor, "and we can all be one big happy family." Before Jacob can answer, the brothers tell Hamor that if he wants intermarriage with their family, then every male Hivite of Schechem must be circumcised like them.
Hamor says okay, get out the knife and we'll cut the wedding cake and our genitals at the same time. The men who were with Hamor say, "Wait a minute - are you sure you want to do this?" and Hamor says that it will beneficial to everybody. Their wealth will increase and their material possessions multiply. What we do for greed.
The men of Schechem had no idea that they were being plotted against by the brothers and that the circumcision request was only a stratagem to render them helpless. But they started circumcising each other and soon all the men of the city were cut and bleeding.
While the male Hivites were recovering, two of Jacobs sons (Simeon and Levi) killed every male in the city, leaving Hamor and Schecky for last. They then stole every last animal in town and made the woman and children their slaves.
Did the punishment fit the crime? Even if Schech had raped Dinah, was it justice for every man in the city to be killed for it. The Hivites were acting responsibly by offering marriage and asking forgiveness but were met with violence and mass murder.
Jacob is upset that his sons have murdered the men and enslaved the women and children in the town and in one of the great understatements of all time, says to his sons, "What have you done. The people of Canaan will hear about this and think I'm obnoxious." (Genesis 34:30) It's a little like saying Doctor Mengele had no bedside manner.
Jacob makes everyone from Schechem leave behind their idols and earrings and they travel back to Bethel where The Big Voice reappears to Jacob and gives him the land. He reminds him that he promised to change his name to Israel and again promises to give him lots of children and descendants. Rebeccah died giving birth to her last child, Benjamin, and Israel buried her in Bethel and placed a stone, which according to Genesis 24, is still there today.
NEXT: I DREAM OF JOSEPH.
PART 1: THE ADAM FAMILY
PART 2: CAIN & ABEL
PART 3: NOAH, CAPTAIN OF THE FIRST LOVE BOAT
PART 5: SODOM, SARAH & ISAAC
PART 6: THE ISAAC FAMILY PLOTS
PART 7: JACOB & HIS WILD KIDS
PART 8: I DREAM OF JOSEPH
© 1998, 1999 by Jim Brochu.
All rights of reproduction are reserved by the author.
This book originated at Bonusround.com.