Sunday, July 27, 2014

surprise, surprise, surprise

Genesis 29:15-28 The Voice (VOICE)

15 ... Laban spoke one day to Jacob.

Laban: Just because you are my relative, that doesn’t mean you should be working for me for nothing! Tell me what I can pay you.

16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older was Leah, and her younger sister was Rachel. 17 There was no brightness to Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful shape and was lovely to look at. 18 Jacob truly loved Rachel.

Since Jacob has no money to pay a bride-price, he offers a creative solution to the problem.

Jacob: I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll serve you for seven years in exchange for the hand of your younger daughter Rachel in marriage.

Laban: 19 Agreed. I’d rather you have her than any other man I know. You may stay here and work.

20 So Jacob served Laban for seven years in exchange for Rachel. The years went by quickly and seemed to him to be only a few days because of the immense love he had for her.

21 When the time came, Jacob approached Laban.

Jacob: I have now completed seven years of work for you. I ask you now to give me my wife so that I may consummate my marriage.

22 So Laban gathered together all of the people in the area and prepared a great feast. 23 But in the evening, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob slept with her thinking she was Rachel. 24 Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant. 25 When morning came, Jacob realized Leah was the one with him in the marriage bed.

Jacob: What have you done to me? Did we not have a deal—seven years of labor in exchange for your daughter 

Rachel? Why have you deceived me?

Laban: 26 That isn’t something we do here in this country—giving the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. 27 If you complete this wedding week with Leah, then I will also give you Rachel. But in return, you must serve me another seven years.

Wedding celebrations last seven days, plenty of time for Leah to become pregnant with Laban’s first grandchild.

28 Jacob agreed and completed his week with Leah. And then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel in marriage.

The Voice (VOICE)
The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Above, our much loved Sunday School Bible Story for today, in the presentation style of The Voice. Strictly speaking, it’s not a translation but tells the story like a play script, and has illuminating side comments imbedded in the text, highlighted in light orange, much as the storyteller around a campfire might ad lib. 

At this much too early hour to do serious brainwork, it occurs to me that The Voice offers an interesting possibility for understanding something of the art of textual criticism. How did this story originally read? Well, it's very old and is not unlikely to have suffered some "corruption" over the years, eh? Some scholars say the ancient campfire stories of the Patriarchs were written down during the Babylonian exile, which would date their literary origin to the 500s B.C.E. But they are about an earlier time in history that many scholars have placed historically at about 2000 B.C.E. or 4,000 years ago -- though see the Wikipedia reference below, that says, quote “The Bible's internal chronology places Abraham around 2000 BCE, but ‘it is now generally recognized that there is nothing specific in the Genesis stories that can be definitively related to known history in or around Canaan in the early second millennium B.C.E. ...(and)...’it is now widely agreed that the so-called “patriarchal/ancestral period” is a later literary construct, not a period in the actual history of the ancient world’ 
(Professor Paula McNutt)” unquote. That will drive some up the wall, eh, but also check the other references below. 

Anyway, textual criticism sometimes uncovers places in the Bible where a scribe’s marginal notes were incorporated into the text by a scribe transcribing a century or so later, and thus became part of the text itself. What occurs to me, thankfully now growing too late to expand on it right now, is that the illuminating side comments of The Voice that are imbedded in their presentation of text, could, by a scribe a generation or two later, who didn’t especially notice or understand the orange highlighting, have been simply copied straight through as though they were part of the original redactor’s text, and thus come down to later generations as part of the divinely inspired original.  

Some will say “what difference does it make?” It may make no difference if one only wants to read the Bible holistically; but if one loves it enough to love pursuing every possible avenue of study for enlightenment, it makes all the difference in the world.

That’s all for this morning, I guess. This wonderful Bible story is an opportunity, which I missed because of time wandering down some path, for chortling with the ancient Israelites round the campfire about how Laban really put a good one over on Jacob, 

which serves him right for the cheating tricks he played on Esau, that bumbling ginger-hairy Edomite ape. 

Modern day lawyers would have been able to weasel Jacob out of the marriage, have it annulled in court and lots of billing hours. But in Jacob’s day and age, honor was more important than it is anymore today. Besides, it’s too late: he’s spent the night with the ugly one and she’s pregnant with Reuben. From this story comes the custom of having the lights on for the wedding night.


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