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Genesis 30:1-31:16 ~ Matthew 10:1-23
Psalm 12:1-8 ~ Proverbs 3:13-15
Old Testament - Today's Genesis chapter 30 readings bring us the account of several of Jacob's sons and a daughter being born - to Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah, and Rachel. Verse 21 in this chapter stood out to me - "Later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah." Why? Because it reminded me of the book called "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant. Have you read this book? I just read it for the first time two years and enjoyed it immensely. It was actually recommended to me in a Bible study a couple of years ago, when we were going through this portion of Genesis. The best overview of this book probably comes from the words of it's own back cover - "Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah's voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood—the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers—Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah—the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women's society." I think what this book did for me is really open up my imagination to the Biblical times of the patriarchs in Genesis - this book is obviously fiction, with some theology I disagreed with on occasion - but it does a wonderful job of expanding your imagination to what it may have been like to have been living in the days of Jacob and his family. I do think in some ways this book has enhanced my reading of the Bible overall... again, it just opened up my imagination a bit more, which somehow makes what I read in the Bible seem even more real. Hopefully this makes sense. I would guess that women would probably appreciate this book more then men - but hey, I'm a guy and thought it was well done! :)
In chapter 30 we read about Rachel and Leah bartering over mandrake roots. You may be asking - why the fuss over mandrake roots? Per Zondervan's NIV Study Bible - "The mandrake has fleshy, forked roots that resemble the lower part of a human body and were therefore superstitiously thought to induce pregnancy when eaten. Rachel, like Jacob in verses 37-43, tried to obtain what she wanted by magical means." The meaning of mandrake roots in the Bible.... you learn something new everyday! Below is a drawing of a mandrake root -
Today we read about Jacob gaining wealth and wanting to leave his father-in-law Laban’s house to go back home in Genesis chapter 30. In verse 37 we read - "Now Jacob took fresh shoots from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of the bark to make white streaks on them." It seems in this verse and the ones that follow that Jacob is getting a bit superstitious - and not really asking God for help. Later Jacob does admit that God did do the work of increasing his wealth, and that he didn't do it on his own with his superstitions, as we see in Chapter 31 verse 9 when Jacob is speaking to his wives Rachel & Leah - "In this way, God has made me wealthy at your father's expense." I think it's great to see that Jacob starts to realize more and more it seems that God is in control. I wonder for us, today, do we sometimes act like Jacob with the sticks - and rely on superstition or our own power, when we should be relying solely on God? Are there maybe areas in our work life or personal life where we think we are running the show? Are we really? Or is God? Will we let our superstitions go, and embrace the reality that God is in control? And - who better is there to be in control, really? :) Actually - I'll share with you a quote someone shared with me once when I was really trying to micromanage a situation - and was worrying and fretting way too much about the situation. The quote is simply this - "Let go and Let God." Let us let go of what we are hanging on so tight to if it is not of God - and let us instead let God run the show. Are there areas in your life where you need to "Let go and let God"? Below is a painting by Spanish painter Jusepe de Ribera from the early 17th century of Jacob with Laban's flock -
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus sends out the twelve disciples. Verse 7 stands out - "Jesus sent the twelve disciples out with these instructions: "Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel--God's lost sheep." Gentiles are anyone who is not a Jew. Samaritans are a race that resulted in intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles after the Old Testament exiles and captivities - as we see in 2 Kings 17:24 - "The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns." The Matthew 10 verse 7 above does indicate that Jesus' disciple's ministry was first to the Jews, but soon thereafter the ministry and the gospel message is for all people. As we see in Acts 10:34-35 - "Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." And certainly as we see in the Great Commission at the end of Matthew, in chapter 28 verses 19 & 20 - "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Below is a Spanish wood panel painting by an unknown artist from the early 12th century of Jesus and the twelve disciples -
One interesting note on the listing of names of the 12 disciples in Matthew. Peter is listed first and Judas Iscariot last. We'll read various listings of the 12 disciples throughout the New Testament. And numbers 2 through 11 always vary in order of how the disciples are listed. But in all of the listings, Peter is first. And Judas Iscariot is listed last. Below is a painting titled " The sending of the Twelve" by Duccio di Buoninsegna from the early 14th century - (looks to me like Duccio only painted in 11 here... )
Matthew 10 verse 16 stands out - ""Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves." This is good advice for us today as well. Jesus is still sending us out today as his followers. And I do think this teaching is wise - for us to be wary and harmless at the same time. It's an interesting line to walk, but I believe a wise one. I believe the only way to really walk this line well is through the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I don't think we can do it on our own...
Psalms - Psalm 12 verses 1 & 2 are intriguing verses for me - "Help, O LORD, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and insincere hearts." Are there days when you feel like this? I think there are some days when I do... but not too many. I guess I sometimes wonder about the state of my heart - or if I've gotten enough sleep the night before :) - when I feel like this Psalmist does. It is interesting how this verse goes into people talking with "flattering lips and insincere hearts". I do notice right away when that's happening... particularly the insincerity. Maybe this is something we should ask of ourselves - do we talk at times with flattering lips or insincere hearts? Or are we sincere people? I like that thought... being a sincere person. I pray that we all are and can become more and more "sincere" in our dealings with each other and that we would just simply be sincere people.
Proverbs - Proverbs 3:13-15 are amazing truths for each of us to really learn. I think these Proverbs are so different from what our world often preaches... - "Happy is the person who finds wisdom and gains understanding. For the profit of wisdom is better than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her." Where are our true wages coming from in our life? Wisdom or money? Are we investing in things eternal - or things material? Which will give us ultimately a better return on investment? Do you believe that wisdom = happiness? Are you happy?
Comments from you & Question of the Day - Based on my discussion of "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant above, are there other Biblical fiction books that you have read that you would recommend? The Red Tent is the first Biblical fiction book I have read, and I'd like to read some more. Please post up in the Comments section below any other Biblical fiction books you'd recommend? Thanks! Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!