Family Matters


Isaac and Rebekah were married.

A time came when they had to move for a while, to escape famine. God told them to go to Gerar. They went to Gerar, where King Abimilech reigned. Isaac identified Rebekah to the locals as his sister, fearing that they would kill him on account of her stupendous beauty. Does this seem familiar?

Abimelech happened to be looking out a window one day and he saw Isaac fondling Rebekah. He summoned Isaac and said, "What a thing to do to us! One of the people might easily have slept with your wife. We should have incurred guilt, thanks to you." Rebekah must have been quite a gal. In spite of Isaac's dishonesty, Abimilech placed the couple under his protection. Isaac and Rebekah prospered during their time in Gerar.

Rebekah became pregnant and bore twins. Esau was born first, then Jacob. When Isaac was old and almost blind, he wished to give Esau the blessing that would confer on him leadership of the clan. Hearing this, Rebekah thought up a plan, and she and Jacob tricked the old man into giving Esau's blessing to Jacob.

When he realized what had happened, Isaac could do nothing. Esau got mad and vowed to kill Jacob. Rebekah packed Jacob off to his uncle's place to wait for Esau to cool off. On the way, God gave Jacob His blessing. He promised to make Jacob rich. Jacob told God that if He held up His end, Jacob would kick Him back ten percent, like clockwork.

Jacob's uncle was named Laban. When Jacob got there, he explained how he'd ripped-off Esau. Laban said, "You are indeed my bone and flesh." Jacob might have known he was in trouble.

Jacob met Laban's younger daughter Rachel and immediately fell in love with her. When Jacob had worked there a month, Laban asked him what sort of wages he wanted. Jacob said that he would work for seven years in exchange for Rachel, and Laban said OK.

The seven years passed like a long weekend, Jacob was so in love with Rachel. But on the wedding night, Laban snuck his older daughter Leah into bed with Jacob. Jacob didn't notice the difference until morning, when the damage had been done.

When confronted, Laban explained to Jacob that he preferred to marry off the older one first. If Jacob wanted, he could have Rachel too, if he promised to stay another seven years. Jacob went along with it, and so had both sisters as wives, and an additional seven-year commitment to Laban.

Seeing that Jacob loved Rachel, God made her barren.

Seeing that Jacob didn't love Leah, God made her fertile.

Leah bore six sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, and Issachar, and a daughter, Dinah.

Desperate, Rachel offered for impregnation her slave-girl Bilhah. Bilhah bore Dan and Naphtali.

Not to be outdone, Leah gave Jacob her slave-girl, Zilpah, who became the mother of Gad and Asher.

Finally Rachel got her turn, and bore Joseph, and later Benjamin. She died giving birth to Benjamin. He made thirteen.

Jacob then swindled his uncle/father-in-law. He told Laban that he'd continue to tend his flocks in exchange for all the dark colored lambs, and every striped, spotted or speckled goat. This seemed like a good deal to Laban, who went for it. What Laban didn't know was that Jacob had for years been busy practicing highly effective breeding techniques unrecognized by science even these millennia later.

Jacob knew that animals that mated while looking at stripes would produce striped, spotted and speckled offspring, so he made sure that the strongest animals mated while looking at branches with the bark partially peeled off, as to be striped. These were the animals Jacob kept. He removed those branches when the weaker animals mated. They went to Laban. That was how Jacob got rich.

Jacob heard Laban's sons bitching about his good fortune, and Laban didn't look at Jacob in as friendly a manner as he had before. God told Jacob that it was time to go. Waiting until Laban was away, they gathered up what was theirs, as well as a few small items of Laban's, and were off.
Three days later Laban found out they'd gone. He went after them.

When he caught up to them, he was pretty sure that they had some of his stuff. Jacob told Laban to go ahead and search. Rachel had stuffed the small items, some household idols, into a pillow upon which she then sat. When her dad came to search her tent, Rachel told him that she'd get up except that she had her period. Laban did not look inside the pillow upon which Rachel sat, and they got away with the idols.

One time on the journey, Jacob was up all night wrestling with God, who cheated and ended up dislocating Jacob's hip. Then God gave Jacob a new name: Israel.

The next night they met up with Esau. Israel had been afraid that there would be trouble, given his thievery, but Israel's older twin brother seemed to have forgotten all about it, and they got along fine.

That same evening the family arrived in the town of Shechem in Canaan. Israel bought some land on which they pitched a tent. There was also a man named Shechem. He raped Israel's only daughter, Dinah.

Shechem was also obsessed with her, and wanted to marry her. His father Hamor proposed to Israel that the two families intermarry. Shechem told Israel to demand any price for Dinah, and that he would pay. Israel's sons answered that it would be improper to marry Dinah to an uncircumcised man. They said that if Shechem and all the men of the town would be circumcised, they would agree to the combining of the families, and so all the men of Shechem had their foreskins cut off.

On the third day after, while the men were still sore, Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi swooped in and killed the rapist, his father, and all the other men in town. They took their sister and went home. Before long Jacob's other sons arrived, and thoroughly looted the town. They took all the goods, animals, and women and children for themselves.

Judah had sons named Er, Onan, and Shelah.

Er married a woman named Tamar, but then Er offended God, so God killed him. Judah told Onan to impregnate Tamar, according to the tradition. Onan was not disposed to do so, so he practiced coitus interruptus with her. This offended God, so God killed Onan too. Almost out of sons, Judah sent Tamar home to her father. He promised that she could marry Shelah as soon as he grew up. Years passed. Shelah had grown up, but Tamar was still living a widow's life at her dad's.

One time, when she knew Judah would pass by a certain place, she disguised herself as a prostitute, putting a veil on her face. When he saw her, he offered her a goat in exchange for a sexual encounter. She accepted. He didn't have a goat right with him, so he left his seal, cord and staff as security. When he tried to pay up, Tamar had already resumed her true identity, so she didn't get her goat.

About three months later, Judah was told that his daughter-in-law Tamar had been playing the harlot and had gotten pregnant. He ordered her to be burned alive. Tamar showed Judah the seal, cord and staff, and said that it was the owner of these who'd knocked her up. Recognizing them, Judah knew what happened. He said that he'd really deserved it since he hadn't given his last son Shelah to Tamar, so he didn't burn her alive.

In due time, she bore twins, Perez and Zerah. As it turned out, Perez's direct descendants included King David, and later Joseph the carpenter, Jesus' step-dad.

Joseph was Israel's favorite, and God's. His ten older brothers all hated him. When he was seventeen, they threw him down a well. Then they pulled him out again and sold him to slave traders. Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he ended up a big shot in the government. When there was starvation everywhere in the world except Egypt, the brothers made up with Joseph. The whole family moved to Egypt, and they stayed for 400 years.

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