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Characters of the Holy Bible

Pope Shenouda III | 24 April 2011

 Lessons from the Lord's Resurrection
So many miracles happened at the time of the Lord's crucifixion: there was darkness over all the land, the veil of the temple was torn in two, the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; but did everybody benefit from these lessons? 

HAPPY EASTER
Jacob the Patriarch (8)
 
Back to his home country
& wrestling with his uncle Laban
   When and how?
   Before Jacob started the journey to his uncle Laban, God promised to be with him, to keep him wherever he was to go, and to bring him back to his land (Gen 28: 15) What does this promise signify? 
   
   God did not intend to keep Jacob from suffering, but to keep him even in suffering. 
   Jacob actually suffered much, but God supported him and delivered him. He suffered due to the wrestling of his two wives, but he could manage the matter well without losing the love of any of them. He could gain their support against their father on leaving him (Gen 31: 14, 15). God also was with him, opened Rachel's womb, and gave him children from her, for she conceived and bore a son (Gen 30: 22), who became the most beloved of all his children, for God also gave him sons from his other wives.
 
   Jacob also suffered from wrestling with his uncle Laban and from fear of the meeting with his brother Esau, but God supported him in both.
 
   The second promise was to bring him back to his country, but when did this take place? 
   He spent twenty years away from his father's house, some of which he spent in work as a wages for his two wives, and the rest in having children from them. Those twenty years were a period of labor, as he said, "In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes." (Gen 31: 40, 41)
 
   God likewise was with Jacob throughout the six years in which he worked to form his wealth of sheep. With God's support he became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys (Gen 30: 43). That prosperity aroused his uncle Laban against him, and his countenance changed and became unfavorable toward him as before (Gen 31: 2).
 
   The trick of the speckled and spotted sheep was a human trick, but God consented to it so that Jacob might restore what his uncle had robbed him (Gen 30: 32- 40; 31: 16).
 
   Indeed God judges for the oppressed as he did afterwards for the children of Jacob against Pharaoh and his people who afflicted them with burdens (Gen 12: 35, 36). 
   With all that wealth they had to separate from each other, as was the case with Abram and Lot, "the land was not able to support them that they might dwell together." (Gen 13: 6) Now, after twenty years, God fulfilled His promise to Jacob to bring him back to his land (Gen 28: 15). Truly said, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority." (Acts 1: 8) The return to his father's house in that time in particular was wisely done: first that he might not return to his father's house empty, but with his children, his wives and their maids, and with great wealth. Second, after God had prepared the heart of his brother Esau, so that he might not do him harm. Jacob then began to arrange for his return journey. Here we notice:
1. He spoke to his two wives frankly and got their consent. He explained to them how with all his might he had served their father, how he deceived him and changed his wages ten times, and how his countenance changed toward him! Moreover, the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, and said, "I have seen all that Laban is doing to you" (Gen 31: 4- 12) Therefore Leah and Rachel consented and said to him, "Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? … Now then, whatever God has said to you do it." (Gen 31: 14- 16)
2. As he used to do, Jacob in fear planned to depart secretly, "He stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee." (Gen 31: 20)
 
   The wrestling with Laban: 
   Laban was not honest in dealing with Jacob, although he received him joyfully in the beginning, being his nephew. He ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house, and said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh" (Gen 29: 13, 14); and concerning his services he said to him, "Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?" (Gen 29: 15) Yet he was not honest to him, as evident from the following:
1. He deceived Jacob, giving him Leah instead of Rachel for whom he worked seven years, and when Jacob faced him with the deceit, Laban said, "It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn", and he compelled him to serve seven more years for the other daughter (Gen 29: 27, 30)!
2. Laban also was not honest concerning Jacob's wages and the nature of work. He changed Jacob's wages ten times (Gen 31: 7, 41), and concerning work, although the sheep of both grazed together, he used to make Jacob bear all the loss alone. Therefore Jacob said, "Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young …That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night ... Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed." (Gen 31: 38- 42)
3. Laban was selfish in dealing with Jacob.  Suffice when Jacob was returning to his father's house, that Laban said to him, "These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine." (Gen 31: 43) It is strange indeed that an uncle says such words to his nephew, though he said before "Surely you are my bone and my flesh" (Gen 29: 14)! Actually, when the ego and the love of money and possessions interfere values and principles and even kinship fall.
4. Laban likewise was not honest when pursuing Jacob.  He took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead. Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead (Gen 31: 23). Then Laban faced Jacob and accused him of foolishness and of carrying away his daughters like captives taken with the sword, depriving him of kissing his sons and daughters and sending him away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp (Gen 31: 26- 28).
 
   He was not true in all this. So, God interfered to save Jacob from Laban, for God saves the weak from those stronger than him. 
   God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, "Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad." (Gen 31: 24) That dream had its influence, for Laban said to Jacob, "It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying …" (Gen 31: 29) Notice that Laban said "God of your father", not 'God' or 'our God'.
 
   Is it strange that God speaks to Laban in spite of his wickedness and worship of idols? 
   Nay, for God speaks to the sinners and wicked either to punish them, to warn them, or to call them to return to him. He spoke to Adam and Eve in their sinfulness, and spoke to the serpent, and punished all of them (Gen 3: 9- 19). God also spoke twice to Cain, the first time before killing his brother, for warning, and the second time to punish him (Gen 24:6- 12). Imagine that God spoke even to Satan in the temptation of Job the Righteous (Job 1, 2)!
 
   It is not strange then that God speaks to the wicked, but what kind of talk and for what purpose, for God spoke to many people yet they perished or fell afterwards! 
 
   Strange indeed that after God had spoken to Laban, he accused Jacob of stealing his gods; for Rachel had stolen the idols of her father (Gen 31: 19, 30)! It is because Laban believed in multiple gods, as evident from his words to Abraham, "The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us." (Gen 31: 53)
 
   Jacob's anger arose against his uncle for this accusation, because stealing is something shameful. Moreover stealing idols is something against God's dignity and against Jacob's relationship with God, which he was keen on keeping. Therefore, he said to Laban, "With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live," for Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them (Gen 31: 32). Laban searched and did not find them because Rachel had put them in the camel's saddle. So, the judgment uttered by Jacob was responded by God, and Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (i.e. Bethlehem) (Gen 35: 19)
 
   She did not complete the journey with them, for it was impossible that the idols enter into the land of promise. Those idols were a proof of the pagan influence on Rachel in her father's house, therefore God wanted to rid Jacob of it before his return.
 
   Jacob blamed his uncle for this accusation, saying, "Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren that they may judge between us both!" (Gen 31: 37) The word "brethren" here refer to close relatives, for Jacob actually had no brothers at that time, nor when he set a stone up as a pillar for a witness between them (Gen 31: 45). On setting that pillar, Jacob and Laban made an agreement and a covenant between themselves that such a pillar be a witness that neither of them pass beyond it to the other for harm (Gen 31: 52) And Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac.
 
There still remains the wrestling between Jacob and his brother Esau, which we shall expound next week, God willing.
 
 
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