Jacob's Dysfunctional Polygamous Family

Continuing a plan to get through the entire Bible in a year, follow as I journal through the reading. I have chosen a straightforward approach that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation. This will not be an in-depth study or a comprehensive commentary. There are plenty of sources for such material. This is stage one Bible reading, taking the text at face value and sharing impressions.

Today’s reading comes from the book of Genesis, chapters 30 and 31, detailing the dysfunction polygamous relationship between Jacob and his several wives, plus the culmination of Laban’s fraud. Some impressions from the text:

  • God did not intend polygamy. The contest between Leah and Rachel for Jacob’s affection demonstrates the folly of their arrangement. From the start, Leah feels unloved, or at least less loved. That feeling is justified, since Jabob never really wanted Leah in the first place. So Leah tries to win his affection by bearing sons. Rachel grows jealous, as she proves infertile. So she offers Jacob her maidservant Bilhah much the same way Sarah once offered Hagar to Abraham. Leah, not to be outdone, offers her servant Zilpah. All these mothers and their children make for a politically complicated family unit with much discord that would not occur in a monogamous relationship.
  • Dinah stands out as a woman whose birth is noted in the biblical narrative. We find out why she is noteworthy later.
  • It’s interesting that Joseph ends up being, not only Jacob’s favorite son, but also his greatest legacy. After all the other sons born of all the other mothers, Joseph alone was born of Jacob’s true love and preferred wife Rachel. Again, this insinuates an indictment of polygamy.
  • After being conned by Laban once, Jacob learns his lesson. When the time comes to part ways with Laban, Jacob proposes to take as wages the spotted and speckled sheep and goats among the herd. Laban readily agrees, again thinking to commit fraud against Jacob. Laban removes the spotted and speckled sheep from his herd before giving the rest to Jacob to sort through. Prepared for such deception, Jacob launches his own scheme to bred spotted and speckled herds from among the strongest of Laban’s herd.
  • The tension between Jacob and Laban comes to a head when Jacob gathers up his family and flees without saying goodbye. Laban pursues him, presumably intent upon doing harm. But God intervenes, coming to Laban in a dream of warning. When Laban catches up to Jacob, they have it out once and for all. Jacob at long last unloads his grievances in an epic speech which might today be punctuated with the drop of a mic. “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” God served as judge between them, and justice was done.

Return soon as we continue our year-long journey through the text of the Bible.

Catch up on the previous entries:

In the Beginning: The Creation, His Rest, Our Fall – Genesis 1-3

An End of All Flesh: Abel’s Murder, Man’s Corruption, and the Great Flood – Genesis 4-7

Noah’s Flood Led to History’s First Post-Apocalyptic Society – Genesis 8-11

Abram Believed: The Pre-Gospel Gospel – Genesis 12-15

Abraham, the Father of Faith, Also Harbored Doubt – Genesis 16-18

Twin Cities of Sin: The Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah – Genesis 19-21

Was Abraham a Psychotic Child Murderer? – Genesis 22-24

Isaac Follows in His Father’s Footsteps – Genesis 25 and 26

Deception and Fraud, Not of God, But Used for His Purpose – Genesis 27-29