Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary

By Thomas L. Brodie | Go to book overview

30
Blessing and Betrothal: Jacob Deceives and Is
Deceived (26:34–29:30)

The Deceptive Blessing (26:34–27:45)
The Deceptive Betrothal (27:46–29:30)

Introductory Aspects

The Basic Story Line

Much of the story tells of blessing and betrothal. It begins with Esau's marriages—just one verse (26:34)—and moves quickly to blessing.

The blessing is a long drama. When Isaac's eyes and life are failing, Rebekah helps Jacob to put himself in Esau's place and thus gain Isaac's blessing. Esau, bitter, resolves that when the father dies he will kill the deceitful Jacob.

Rebekah, resourceful as ever, organizes Jacob's flight into exile—to her brother in Haran. The exile will not be easy, but on the journey, in two incidents involving stones, Jacob shows surprising strength. First he uses a stone as a pillow (very macho-heroic) and stands it up to form a pillar (no small feat). Then he removes a huge stone from the mouth of a well. So it is not surprising, when he reaches Laban, that he shows endurance in work. Then the story comes back to the idea with which it started, that of betrothal and marriage.

But the deception surrounding the blessing is not forgotten. When Jacob marries he finds that an elder sister has been put in the bride's place.


Literary Form

The narrative synthesizes a number of literary types or conventions—an itinerary, a last blessing, a betrothal, and a vision-like dream. Two of these types need special attention—the last blessing and the betrothal.

The convention of the last blessing, along with that of the last discourse, was generally reserved for someone facing death. Underlying the blessing is a “fixed ritual procedure” (Westermann, II, 435), but, like any literary convention, the account could be adapted to the situation (Speiser, 212). Jacob's death will provide a further example of a last blessing (47:29-chap. 48; cf. chap. 49).

Jacob's betrothal does not occur until the end of his journey (29:1–30), yet the whole narrative, including the initial blessing, is framed by images of betrothal/marriage. Both panels begin with references to Esau's Hittite marriages (26:34–35; 27:46), and the second panel, concerning Jacob's journey and betrothal, culminates with his marriages to Rachel and Leah.

Compared to the long betrothal scene (29:1–30), the vision-like dream is brief, introductory (28:10–22). In Moses' case the emphasis will be reversed: a

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