The Bible pt. 3
This week I read the story of Rebekah and Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob. This story has been the most exciting of Genesis so far, in my opinion. It reads the most like a traditional story. It has elements of destiny, deception, love, and a whole lotta baby making.
To recap, Rebekah gives birth to twins, Esau and Jacob, and by birthright the firstborn (Esau) is meant to inherit his father’s stuff and his social position. God tells Rebekah, though, “two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” [Genesis 25:23]
Esau is short-sighted and Jacob makes some shady moves. Jacob ultimately takes Esau’s birthright, an act which makes Esau vow to kill his brother. Fearing for his life, Jacob runs away to see his mother’s brother and take one of his daughters as a wife (yikes). As luck would have it, he ends up taking both of his daughters as his wives (owing a total of fourteen years hard labor to earn their dowries, of course). He means to just marry Rachel (the hotter one) first, but his uncle tricks him into marrying Leah first instead. Crazy how those accidental marriages happen, am I right?
Joke’s on Rachel, though, because Leah can bear children and she can’t. Therefore, Jacob makes most of his babies with Leah, and then eventually a couple with Rachel after God “remembers” to bless her womb, and a couple with each of their handmaids as well.
Quick Sidebar: This section of Genesis contains the verses that were used in The Handmaid’s Tale by the dystopian Gilead patriarchy to enslave fertile women. Reading it sent a chill down my spine.
Anyway, Jacob ultimately has twelve sons and a daughter from four different women. Let’s marvel at this gnarly family tree, which I found on Wikipedia:
It’s weird how the completely appalling things in the Old Testament aren’t striking me as shocking anymore. Marrying cousins? Multiple wives? Handmaids? I hate all of those things. But within the context of the Old Testament it starts to feel “normal.” Esau and Jacob and their struggles and their wives start to feel more like a Greek epic, which makes it fun to read.
I’ve started thinking of the Old Testament as “this is a fabled origin story/history of the Jewish and Christian people” instead of “this is morality.” I've always assumed everything in the Bible was meant to teach believers how to live. Certainly, some people take it that way. To me, while the Old Testament has some good nuggets of moralism buried beneath some very messed up stories, I have started to enjoy the Old Testament by digesting it as a fable more than as a guide on how all humans should live.
How do you all feel about the Old Testament? Do you take it literally or more figuratively? How does it weave into your faith?