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The Life and Struggles of Jacob

Discuss about the Genesis for Geographical, Historical & Spiritual Significance.
 

Though the other chapters of Genesis concentrate on the life of Joseph, it is through Judah that God decides to extend the appointed line[1]. The focus on Judah as per Genesis and in other chapters when Judah takes charge of leading the brothers in Egypt following the reunion of brothers with Joseph and the story thus demonstrates that this is not only about Joseph but also about Judah.

Jacob loved his son Joseph because of his love towards Rachel, who was his favorite wife. This however never went unnoticed by the other brothers who began hating Joseph for it. The coat that Jacob gifted Joseph with was no ordinary coat but was a richly ornamented coat and was more evident in tassels. The life and history of people in the Near East consider tassels located on the hem of a robe to reveal the family that one belonged to and the rank in the family[2]. It is practical that Jacob gave Joseph a robe that indicated that Joseph was higher in the family compared to his brothers despite the fact that he was the youngest and this is the sole reason why the hated Joseph. The fact that Joseph was more righteous compared to his brother was due to the fact his brothers had been raised in an older era while Joseph was raised by a father who feared God and had changed due to the special relationship with Yahweh.     

Joseph received two dreams from Yahweh that demonstrated that Joseph would rule over his entire family. It is not transparent why Joseph shared his dreams with brothers and father but what is clear is that his brothers developed hatred towards Joseph. It was later revealed that God elevated Joseph to be a leader so that he could save his family from the famine that was severe and would have killed them. The whole story circles around Joseph becoming a ruler who would save his family.

Satan used Joseph’s brothers by creating hatred in attempting to destroy the only person who would rescue the lineage of Abraham. The main struggle here is that some brothers plotted and wanted to kill Joseph, however, two of the brothers stepped aside and wanted to rescue their brother. Though Reuben the firstborn tried to rescue Joseph by developing a plan to have his brother thrown in a cistern, his plan failed and his motive was selfish. The only flaw in him was that he never agitated for an alternative plan but Instead chose to walk away from his brothers leaving Joseph unprotected. His primary reason for wanting to protect Joseph was not because killing Joseph was a sin but because he feared his father’s wrath and what he would have done to him for allowing misfortune to fall on Joseph.

Joseph: Dreams, Envy and Redemption

Judah, on the other hand, does a commendable job of saving Joseph, even though what he does is still considered as wrong. What makes Judah unique from his other brothers is that he knew killing was a sin and wrong. This is the initial hint that displays the ability of Juda’s character to become better.

Abraham was married to Sarah for more than ninety years without the success of having any child. However, Abraham was righteous and obedient to God and this made God make promises to his servant Abraham. It is important to recall that Abraham had been commanded by God to leave his father’s land so that God could bless him. Abraham heeded the voice and the call of God and moved from Ur to Haran[3]. The community that Abraham came from were moon worshippers and never had an experience of God.

The Ishmaelites were documented as the descendants of Ishmael according to the Bible. Ishmael was the elder half-brother of Isaac. Abraham got Ishmael at the ripe age of 86 years and was a product of an Egyptian maid known as Hagar. Hagar served as a personal handmaid of Abraham’s wife. The Bible puts it clear of how both Abraham and Sarah had been childless and were well advanced in years. As such since Abraham was required to have an heir, Sarah consented to have Hagar as the second wife and gave her to Abraham and as such Hagar became the mother of Ishmael who was to become heir to Abraham’s property. The name Ishmael has a symbolic meaning and is translated as may God listen and was circumcised at the tender age of thirteen years together with Abraham his father. It must be remembered that before the birth of Ishmael, Hagar had been sent away by Sarah as she perceived that the annunciation of Hagar as the second wife led to contempt on her part and this made Sarah bitter and angry.

Hagar was led into the wilderness with her child and when she reached some point she gave up since there was no water. She placed the boy at a distance as she did not want to see her boy die. Fortunately, the angel of the Lord heard the boy cry and opened Hagar’s eyes and she saw a nearby well where she fetched some water to quench the thirst of her child. God according to this case was merciful and saved both the mother and the child. Ishmael was an archer and lived in the rough country of Shur before his mother bought him an Egyptian woman.

Judah: From Envy to Redemption

 Ishmael is considered as an influential character in the religion of Islam as he was the eldest son of Abraham and was thus regarded as an ancestor of one prophet Muhammad. Ishmael was privileged and blessed by God with twelve sons that would make him a great nation. The promise was fulfilled when God indeed blessed him with the twelve sons.

The Ishmaelites were a nomadic community who occupied the untamed country of Shur currently known as Saudi Arabia. The old capital of Shur was Midian now located at Al-Bad. Historically, the Ishmaelites were merchants who traded spices to Egypt while riding their camels. The Ishmaelites had social ties with communities such as the Amalekites, Midianites and other communities that had been conquered by Gideon. 

Following individuals that had been renamed in the Old Testament on various occasions, God renamed only a few. These included people like Abram, Sarai with the inclusion of Jacob and their names were changed to Abraham, Sarah, and Israel. The names Jacob and Israel are often interchanged throughout the Bible with reference to the second son of Isaac as per the Bible.

The name Jacob had the original meaning that was translated as a supplanter or deceiver. It was assigned to him since he was born as the second born and his hand grasped Esau’s heel. Coincidentally, Jacob was brought up and grew as a receiver and it is for this reason that he supplanted the position of his brother as the heir to Esau’s birthright.

Following Jacob’ struggle with God at Peniel, God changed the name of Jacob and assigned him a new name, Israel. God also gave the reason for changing his name and this was due to the fact that Jacob had fought with both God and people and he had overcome both battles. Later, God appeared to Jacob in Bethel and reaffirmed the change of name and made a covenant with Jacob the same way he did with Abraham. As such the heel catcher ends up being the person who wrestles with God. After a change of the name, some verses in Genesis referred to Jacob as Jacob while others referred to him as Israel.

In some of these scriptures indicate that Jacob demonstrated the old character while Israel referred to the new character following his covenant with God. There could be limited significance in such suggestion in some of the verses and it would be in line with the Christian experience. In the conclusion, however, it would not be advisable to concentrate too much of the distinction between Jacob and Israel since it has been observed that some of the passage inculcate both Jacob and Israel in the same context[4]. Also, some books in the Bible such as Psalms use both names simultaneously, for instance, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be happy. The parallelism of this poetry in the book of Psalm identifies that the names Jacob and Israel are identical and that both names can either represent either the nation as well as an individual.

The book of Genesis is critical in evaluating and analyzing characters of various people who had a significant relationship with God[5]. A good example is Jacob who was later renamed to Israel meaning that he had entered into an effective relationship with Yahweh. Jacob, however, has been through hard times right from the time he stole Esau’s birthright to the period he lived with his uncle Laban. At one-time Laban almost robbed him of his due share of the flock and that is the time God helped Jacob. Jacob also was tricked into marrying Leah who was not his favorite and as such was forced to work for an additional seven years.

Amazing Bible Timeline. 2017. Ishmael and the Ishmaelites. Accessed May 19, 2018. https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/ishmael-and-the-ishmaelites/.

Ewing, W. n.d. Gilead. Accessed May 19, 2018. https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/gilead/.

Got Questions. n.d. Why is Jacob called Jacob and Israel alternately in the book of Genesis? Accessed May 19, 2018. https://www.gotquestions.org/Jacob-Israel.html.

Gregory, Ronan. n.d. Joseph's coat - what meaning for us? . Accessed May 19, 2018. https://ronsrestingplace.blogspot.com.au/2010/09/josephs-coat-what-meaning-for-us.html.

Houdman, S. Michael. n.d. Who were the Medianites? Accessed May 19, 2018. https://www.gotquestions.org/Midianites.html.

O'Neal, Sam. n.d. Who Was Potiphar in the Bible? . Accessed May 19, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/who-was-potiphar-in-the-bible-363356.

Stiles, Wayne. 2004. The Geographical, Historical, & Spiritual significance of Shechem. Accessed May 19, 2018. https://bible.org/article/geographical-historical-spiritual-significance-shechem.

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