Monday, 29 April 2013

Reading the Bible 22 Gen 31: 1-21 God Made Me Do It

I always find it impressive – not admirable but impressive – how people are able to justify their actions and put dubious behaviour in a positive light.  Politicians are master of this of course – we need to give people the information about what basically bad people our opponents are.  We are only trying to inform the public after all and information is good (unless it does not support our policies).  This art of self-justification has been practiced from time immemorial as demonstrated in the bible. 

Today we have the further adventures of the trickster Jacob.  He a just tricked his father-in-law Laban into a large portion of Laban’s wealth.  He does this by the use of sympathetic magic.  Now of course Laban is not pleased by this and we are told that Laban’s sons are demanding that their father reclaim what is rightfully theirs.  Jacob announces to Rachael and Leah, “I see that your father does not regard me as favourably as he did before” – big surprise.  Of course we are not surprized by this but Jacob sounds almost aggrieved that Laban should react this way.  Jacob begins what can be described as a litany of self-justification:  your father cheated me many times; God is on my side; God is responsible for the results – it’s not my doing; God told me to do what I did in a dream; God did it so all the property God took belongs to us. 

One of the interesting things is that none of this was revealed before the event so it is doubtful but we don’t really know if God did send Jacob these dreams and instructions.  However, if is always easier to see God’s will after the fact and to read God’s will into events – especially if they suit our view of the world and our place in it.  AIDS is God’s punishment on sinful people; the earthquake and floods and hurricanes and tornados are evidence of God’s wrath.  Of course it is easier to see God’s hand in bad things happening to people we don’t like.  However, to take another lesson from the Bible the Israelites had to their credit no problem in seeing their misfortunes as God’s punishment – over and over again.  I think the lesson here is to take another lesson from the bible, Matt 7: 1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

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