The Jewish people have three fathers and four mothers with something to teach us part 2


A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament relates how in Genesis 31:53 each of the parties to a contract swears by their own judge/ אֵל not by a common source of authority. The text also relates how Jacob and Esau, like Jacob and Laban, make their contracts in the same way the chiefs of the Afghan tribes make their contracts. They are contracts of mutual convenience, Kohlberg stage three, not for the benefit of a grander community, which does not yet exist. The contract does not come out of the lips מִּשְׁפָּטִ of a common אֵל. Their justice is merely the justice of tribal convenience.

A mountain is but a big lump upon the earth. God, as El Shaddai is the God we go to the lump, Mt. Sinai to visit and learn from

The idea of a universal God as we understand him today is a recent concept in terms of history. Most societies, as A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament relates, had gods which were tied to the clans they came from. Genesis 14:18 lists, “אֵל עֶלְיוֹן,” or “Most High God. Genesis 16:13 mentions, “אֵל רֳאִי.” Genesis 31:13 uses “הָאֵל,” “בֵּית-אֵל,” with a place name, House of God.” Genesis 17:1 calls him “אֵל שַׁדַּי,” or God of the lump/mountain.  The Gospel of St. Luke 11:24-27 has an interesting pun using “שַׁדּ.” The spirit is a שַׁדּ and the female breast is a שַׁדּ. The woman in the crowd insults Jesus by insulting his mother. Jesus sets a grand example by not falling into the trap. In either case, what we see is a tribal concept of God, and with it a tribal concept of justice. אֵל שַׁדַּי is God of the lump, where the lump is a mountain.

A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament also points out how the standard formula used of our God is, “אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיךָ.” He is God of the fathers, of the clan.

The text relates the complex characters of Genesis 12-36. Murray Bowen came up with a theory in psychology, which very much seems to apply. He posited a triangulation theory of family dynamics. In the ideal family, there is a dyad, mother, and father, with balanced subsystems of children. As with the Trinity, two members is not enough for they dyad. A third member must balance the system. With the Trinity, this is Father, Son, and Dedicated Spirit. In human systems, the third party often becomes the odd man out.

In the Abraham/Isaac/Jacob stories, we see this played out in multiple generations. At first, there is Abraham and Sarah, who, like Elizabeth in Luke, is sterile. The first third person in the triad is Lot, but he eventually goes his own way. Then Hagar comes. At first, she helps to stabilize the marital relationship by bringing in Ismail. When Isaac arrives, she becomes the third person out and is kicked out of the tribe. It is worth noting that Hagar is slave to Abraham and Sarah, and is Egyptian. The Egyptians later enslave the descendents of Abraham and Sarah.

A generation later, the triad is Isaac and Rebecca. Isaac triangulates with Esau, Rebecca with Jacob. Using cunning, Rebecca helps her favorite to win. The same triangles play out in relation to Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. Leah is the third person out. “Leah/ לֵאָהmeans weary, grieved, offended. Jeremiah 12:5 uses the name in reference to becoming weary by running with horsemen. Exodus 7:18 uses it in relation to how the Egyptians loathed the water during one of the plagues. Her maid, “Zilpah,” means one who empties herself. Rachel, of course means a Ewe. She is the pretty one of the four women in the story. Bilhah means something worn out. Leah is weary, grieved, worn out. The list of the four wives ends with one who is worn out.

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