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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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God Has Promised!

God has not promised,

Skies always blue

Flower-strewn pathways,

All our lives through;

God has not promised,

Sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow,

Peace without pain.

 

But God has promised,

Strength for the day,

Rest for the labor,

Light for the way;

Yes, God has promised,

Grace for the trials,

Help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

(Annie Johnson Flint)

Jacob and Laban

The Nuzi Tablets were found shortly before WWII, just to the east of Mari and the Euphrates River. These are several thousand cuneiform tablets (dating back to 1500 BC) which confirm many customs that are mentioned in the Bible. Edward J. Young writes:

In the light of the texts from Nuzi we may now understand much in the account of Jacob and Laban that formerly was obscure. One of the tablets may be translated as follows:

“The adoption tablet of Nashwi the son of Puhishenni. As long as Nashwi is alive, Wullu shall give to him food and clothing. When Nashwi dies, then Wullu shall become the heir. If Nashwi begets a son, he shall divide equally with Wullu but only Nashwi’s son shall take Nashwi’s gods. If there be no son of Nashwi, then Wullu shall take the gods of Nashwi. And Nashwi has given his daughter Nuhuya as wife to Wullu. And if Wullu takes another wife he forfeits the land and buildings of Nashwi. Whoever breaks the contract shall pay one mina of silver and one mina of gold.”

When Jacob first appears before Laban, Laban agrees to give his daughter to Jacob, and it would seem that Jacob’s joining the household of Laban was actually the equivalent of an act of adoption on Laban’s part. It is of interest to note that in the tablet the legitimate heir is to receive Nashwi’s gods. We read in the Bible of Rachel taking the Teraphim and sitting upon them in the tent. In Genesis 31:30, 32 the Teraphim are called gods, as is the case also in the Nuzi texts. The possession of these gods, it seems, implied a position of leadership in the household. By this time Laban had sons of his own and hence we may understand his question, “And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?” (Genesis 31:30 ESV) Laban’s indignation, in the light of this tablet, apparently was justifiable. On the other hand, Jacob and Rachel were not going to abide by custom. Jacob evidently did not want any secondary position in the household. It would seem that the birth of Laban’s sons proved to be a hindrance to Jacob’s desires (and Jacob was a man who got what he wanted).

Laban did regard Jacob as his adopted son, for he says, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine.” (Genesis 31:43 ESV) Hence, it appears that Jacob’s plan of running away was in violation of the current customs. If Jacob was to be regarded as an adopted son, all that he had was really Laban’s, and in seeking to run away, Jacob was violating custom.

The Lord, therefore, was gracious in his revelation to Laban. “It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’” (Genesis 31:29 ESV)

But Laban also apparently violated custom for his daughters complain to him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money.” (Genesis 31:14-16 ESV) According to the Nuzi tablets there is a sharp distinction to be made between the native women (the daughters of the city Arraphka) and foreign women. These latter occupy a lower social position, but the native women must not be subjected to mistreatment. Apparently Rachel and Leah believed that Laban had treated them as though they were foreign women. (The Accuracy of Genesis, pp. 23-26)

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