All in the Family
This Sunday in Genesis 29 we read a strange story of Jacob and his Uncle Laban, his mother Rebecca’s brother. If you think your own family is strange, the biblical family is probably stranger! Abraham and his descendants do not display “biblical family values,” whatever those are – there is manipulation, deception, misuse of women, not to mention multiple wives and concubines.
Here, Rebecca does not want her favored son Jacob to marry a Canaanite woman (not our kind of people), so she encourages him to travel to her brother Laban. (Rebecca was rather controlling.) There he meets and falls in love with the beautiful Rachel, younger daughter of Laban (marriage to first cousins was common then). Jacob agrees to work 7 years for Laban in exchange for Rachel’s hand. (Modern men might balk at that!)
After 7 years, Jacob asks for his wife as agreed, and a wedding is held. But Laban slips his elder daughter Leah into the marriage tent instead of Rachel, and Jacob doesn’t notice! (Here, both deception and drunkenness seem to be at work.) So Jacob is tricked into “marrying” Leah – and ends up working another 7 years before he gets Rachel too.
What do we make of all this? Well, God’s leaders in Israel were certainly flawed and imperfect people; sin and dishonesty were at work throughout the patriarchs’ lives. God even seems to use the deviousness of dishonesty to further the patriarchal family. God also makes a pattern of raising the younger offspring over the firstborn to establish the dynasty.
In our own families, we run into controlling behaviors, manipulation, deception and infidelity with some regularity. I often wonder why we can’t be more honest with family members? If we were more open and honest, we could talk to our older kin about death and dying. We could talk with our children about our own mistakes in life, and our hopes for them. We could be more open with spouses and partners about our own hopes for our relationship, our dreams for the future, and our disappointments. Those are the kind of “family values” that could make life better and richer for us. JBM