Notes on Genesis (xvi)

‘Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.’ (Gen 32:24) After an absence of many years Jacob, accompanied by his two wives, two maidservants and the eleven sons these four women had by then given him, headed off to meet his estranged brother Esau. (The daughter Dinah, mentioned at 30:21, seems to have been forgotten.) […]

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Notes on Genesis (xv)

‘But when the Lord saw Leah was hated, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.’ (Gen 29:31) Having travelled to the east in search of a wife, Jacob ended up with two, the daughters of Laban, Leah, who seems to have been noteworthy only for her eyes (mentioned at 20:17; whether they were an asset or a liability is not clear), […]

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Notes on Genesis (xiv)

‘Then he dreamed, and behold a latter was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending upon it.’ (Gen 28:12) Just as Isaac married Rebekah, a woman from Mesopotamia, so now Jacob is sent by his father to find a wife among his mother’s family; unions with local women […]

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Notes on Genesis (xiii)

‘Now Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a simple man, dwelling in tents.’ (Gen 25:27) These two brothers join the list of pairs of people in Genesis who are distinguished in fundamental ways: Abel is a shepherd and Cain a tiller (Gen 4:2ff; Oscar Hammerstein’s wish that the farmer and the cowman should be […]

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Notes on Genesis (xii)

‘One shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’ (Gen 25:23) Even before they were born the twins carried by Rebekah struggled within her womb, and in what cannot be seen as good parenting, we are told that their father loved Esau, the elder, and their mother Jacob. Ambrose observes that no parent should ‘love the one and esteem the other […]

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Notes on Genesis (xi)

‘Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink.’ (Gen 24:18) The task of the servant sent by Abraham to the land and tribe from which he had come to find a wife for his son Isaac turned out to be easily accomplished. Rebekah, a virgin very beautiful to behold, appeared by a well and, behaving with generosity and […]

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Notes on Genesis (x)

‘Take now your beloved son Isaac…and offer him there as a whole burnt offering’ (Gen 22:2) The story of the ‘testing’ of Abraham by God has elicited a great deal of  comment. Some of it occurs in the New Testament, where Abraham, in his preparedness to sacrifice his son, was seen to demonstrate implicit faith in the resurrection (Heb 11:17-19) and to have […]

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Notes on Genesis (ix)

‘Cast out this maidservant and her son’ (Gen. 21:10) The significance of Abraham’s two sons has been understood differently by the Monotheistic religions. The status of the firstborn, Ishmael, and his mother, the handmaid Hagar, was undermined by the subsequent birth of Isaac to Abraham’s wife Sarah, who prevailed upon her husband to drive Hagar and her son away. They found their way into […]

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Notes on Genesis (viii)

‘And Sarah said “God has made me laugh; all who hear will laugh with me.”‘ (Gen 21:6) The conception of Isaac by the elderly Sarah opens the series of unexpected biblical  pregnancies that will culminate with that of the Theotokos. Sarah’s initial response in hearing what lay ahead had been one of laughter, perhaps of a sardonic kind (Gen 18:12), and Hagar’s laughter that follows […]

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Notes on Genesis (vii)

‘Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening…’ (Gen 19:1) Sometimes the time of day at which something is said to have occurred gives you a way of understanding its significance. God encounters Adam and Eve in the afternoon (Gen 3:8), and there is a dreadful finality in the phrase ‘and it was night’ (John 13:30). The arrival of the messengers […]

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