Thursday, February 23, 2012

Laban's insight

“The theological importance conveyed by Laban’s use of the personal name YHWH is that one should regard Laban’s blessing as coming only from the personal God of Jacob. This point is punctuated all the more if Laban only learns of his blessed position vis-à-vis Jacob through divination of, arguably, Laban’s own personal deities. The god of Laban is not the same God that he calls “YHWH” in 30:27. In 31:19, Rachel steals her father’s household gods, perhaps out of fear that he will learn of Jacob’s escape through divination, and in 31:47, 53, Laban swears in Aramaic by invoking the name of his own personal god. Laban’s deity (or deities) is unable to bestow the same profitable blessing on Laban as has YHWH, the God of Jacob. God’s promise is thus at work here, and the theological impact becomes all the more palpable when the recognition comes for the first time from a foreigner...

“Thus far in the narrative, the promise is still in abeyance, awaiting the future fulfillment that until now has only been partially realized. In Laban, however, the promise finds not only an outlet for blessing but also an individual who potentially could harm the heir to the promise, Jacob, by prolonging his stay with Laban and thus minimizing—or perhaps wholly negating—the possibility for blessing to all nations purposed in 12:3 and 28:14. Laban may thus be trying to arrogate for himself the conduit of his blessing, Jacob, as a guarantee of continued prosperity. Aware of this potentially deceptive tactic, the narrative next moves to display God’s intervention in accord with the promise of presence and protection, as will be discussed below in reference to Gen 31:1–16. The message, stemming from the conditional nature of the ancestral promise discussed in chap. 1—that blessing to the nations is contingent on the nations’ not impeding the sharing of the blessing with other nations—is that Laban has failed to acknowledge that the divine blessing is for Abraham and his family, not exclusively for Laban.”—Jacob and the Divine Trickster, pages 107, 108

<idle musing>
Very interesting observation...
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