Tag: Jacob

Jacob Polygamy Germinates Family Tragedy

Joseph Victim of Father’s Polygamy

Jacob’s family interactions highlight inability of a man to love multiple women equally and potential to extend unequal love to the children and, thus, jeopardize positive family relationships. His unequal love for wives and children led to hatred of Joseph by older brothers and a tragic event in the family. Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him in Dothan as he visited to check on them and their flock. However, kindly interventions by Reuben and Judah changed his sentence from death to enslavement and thus launched him onto his Egypt mission.

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The life of Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob (also known as Israel), illustrates potential tragic family interactions resulting from polygamy as well as God’s grace in using an adversity to launch a positive change in a person’s life.

Joseph in dry well
Joseph pleads for mercy into a well
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His life story begins with interactions with senior brothers (half-brothers, from the same father but different mothers) that hated him: partly because they believed he “stole” their father’s love and partly a manifestation of intra-family rivalry passed to them from their mothers. The hatred culminated in a tragic event that could have ended his life. However, the tragedy triggered a sequence of events in Joseph’s life that ultimately led him to the highest administrative position in Egypt. There he had an opportunity to retaliate against his brothers. However, he did not retaliate. Instead, he put them through tests to verify their repentance so he could forgive and reconcile with them. By doing so he cleared the way for fulfillment of God’s promise to their fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to lead them to a foreign land where they will multiply and prosper before returning to the Promised Land.

In a previous bible study under Joseph Called to Mission, we focus on Joseph’s life as an illustration that God could use adversity to bring about a positive change for a person. Joseph’s mission to Egypt started with his tragic experience in Canaan: almost like burning part of a rocket to launch it into higher orbit. His brothers first threw him into a dry well, where he languished until they changed their mind about killing him and instead sold him as slave to merchants travelling to Egypt. That is, God used the adversity brought to Joseph by his brothers to “launch” him into his Egypt mission.

The current bible study focuses on understanding the tragic events among Jacob’s family in Canaan as the product of seeds of discord that Jacob sowed inadvertently through polygamy.

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Incidental Polygamist—Jacob Sows Family Expansion and Discord

Issues in Polygamy Based on Jacob and Wives

Jacob became a polygamist by responding to circumstances that arose before him regarding marriage and marital relationships. His marriages sowed seeds for family expansion but also of discord that threatened healthy interactions within his family. Thus, Jacob’s polygamy formed the foundation for fulfillment of God’s promise but also exposed features of such family structure to enable an understanding of the issues of polygamy applicable to present day husband-wife interactions and relationships.

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Conscientious Shepherd
Conscientious Shepherd
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Interactions within Jacob’s family provide opportunity to understand various issues of polygamy. Jacob found himself a polygamist by responding from the heart to circumstances before him regarding marriage and marital relationships. He loved one woman, his uncle’s daughter Rachel, and worked hard to fulfill his part of an agreement to satisfy the dowry requirements by serving her father Laban for seven years as a shepherd. However, on the wedding day he was deceived into wedding her senior sister Leah. He remained determined to marry Rachel. The girls’ father appealed to him to complete the wedding process with Leah and marry Rachel as well thereafter. Jacob accepted. He fulfilled his dream of marrying the woman he loved but also honored her senior sister’s right to wed first. He accomplished these by marrying both sisters, the older before the younger.

Later, as Rachel’s hope of having a child with Jacob began to fade, she offered her maid Bilhah to Jacob: “Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, and she will bear a child on my knees, that I also may have children by her” [Genesis 30:3]. Jacob accepted and had two male children with Bilhah. Leah became jealous of Rachel’s success with Bilhah and offered her maid Zilpah to Jacob. He accepted the offer as well. The two maids became his wives in addition to Leah and Rachel. He married Leah, Rachel, and Bilhah because of his love for Rachel. He married Zilpah to extend to Leah the same opportunity that he extended to Rachel.

Thus, he became a husband of four wives because of responding positively to circumstances that arose in his relationship with Rachel. He became an incidental polygamist, thus sowing seeds for the family expansion that God promised his grandfather Abraham. Furthermore, his polygamy sowed seeds of family discord that initially threatened to derail fulfillment of God’s promise of prosperity but ultimately became a vehicle to convey fulfillment of the promise. Thus, Jacob’s polygamy formed the foundation for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham but also exposed features of polygamous relationships to enable an understanding of the issues of polygamy applicable to present day husband-wife relationships.

We discuss Jacob’s polygamy in a two-part study. First, in the current study, we examine his becoming a polygamist by responding positively to circumstances that arose before him regarding marriage and marital relationships. Also, we examine how his polygamy sowed seeds for family expansion as well as seeds of discord that threatened healthy interactions within the family. In the second part, we examine the unhealthy family interactions and relationships that resulted from his polygamy and triggered events that initially threatened the family but ultimately led the family to multiply and prosper.

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Bridging Over Potential Dispute

Bridging Over Potential Dispute
Lessons from Isaac-Rebekah Interactions

Rebekah avoided potential dispute with husband Isaac while getting him to implement a course of action she believed in for their family. In one case, she redirected him to implement God’s instruction regarding relationships among their children by taking advantage of his failing site. In another case, she secured Isaac’s approval of Jacob fleeing to Haran, using a concern they shared to bridge over potential disagreement regarding her immediate concern of fratricide among their children.

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Interactions between Isaac and Rebekah indicate unwavering commitment to their marriage and acceptance of Isaac as leader in family affairs. Evidence for their marital commitment arises from the fact they lived for twenty years without a child but did not seek alternative solutions to childlessness. Instead, they prayed and believed God will give them children through the marriage. He did. Regarding the acceptance of Isaac as family leader, the evidence can be derived from two key events that we discuss in more detail presently.

Sent away to survive and prosper
Sent away to survive and prosper
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However, in contrast with what we learned from the Shunammite couple, where family leadership was shared between the man and his wife through an informal division of responsibilities, Isaac’s leadership of family affairs appears total and unyielding with little if any room for Rebekah’s choice. His style of family leadership, though probably in keeping with customary practice, resulted in the unpleasant situation of his wife Rebekah deceiving him in order to implement an instruction from God regarding important family relationships. Additionally, at least one other significant event in their life shows Rebekah concealing a point of disagreement from her husband in order to arrive at a resolution acceptable to both of them. She bridged over potential dispute by focusing on a concern they shared.

We can learn from Isaac-Rebekah interactions that God may assign to a husband or his wife the responsibility to lead an aspect of family life. For example, as we discuss in more detail presently, God assigned to Rebekah the responsibility to safeguard and see to the implementation of his choice for the propagation of family inheritance.

Collaboration to accomplish goal
Collaboration to accomplish goal
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Irrespective of whether God calls the husband or his wife, the guiding principles are the same. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Right Heart for Strategic Alliance, God expects the husband and wife to work together to accomplish the assigned objectives.

The Shunammite Couple lived according to this principle as we saw in a previous study. They shared family leadership amicably and assisted each other to accomplish family goals. God blessed them abundantly. In contrast, Isaac-Rebekah interactions provide an example of potential dispute due to unyielding family leadership by the husband. However, Rebekah devised ways to bridge over the potential dispute. In one case, she redirected her husband to implement God’s instruction regarding relationships among their children, by taking advantage of his failing site. In another, she secured Isaac’s approval of Jacob fleeing to Haran by presenting a concern they shared, thus bridging over potential disagreement regarding possible fratricide among their children

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Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent

Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

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We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.

The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.

Jacob family moves to Egypt
Jacob family moves to Egypt
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However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

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Instruction to Parent for Child—Messaging Child through Parent

We discuss three biblical examples to illustrate that God may send message to a child as a clear instruction to the parent on behalf of the child. One example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from his instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel to protect baby Jesus from King Herod’s massacre of male children.

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We continue our bible study series on parent-child relationships, focusing initially on the understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. The study purpose is to increase awareness of the potential significance of parent-child interactions as among the mechanisms through which a parent passes critical guidance to a child. As we discuss in a previous bible study under Call of Samuel Example, God’s message to a child through the parent could be in the form of a clear instruction to the parent or a hidden instruction. In the case of a hidden instruction, God prompts a parent with information the parent passes to the child with neither parent nor child knowing at the time that the information is indeed a message from God. The current study focuses on messages delivered as clear instruction to a parent.

The example regarding Call of Samuel appears to be a mixture of the two forms. We will discuss hidden-instruction examples in subsequent bible studies.

Abraham ponders over God's instruction for descendants
Childless Abraham ponders
over God’s instruction for descendants
Sweet Publishing FreeBibleImages.org

In the current study, we discuss three examples of God’s message to a child delivered as a clear instruction to the parent. A characteristic of such message is the parent has responsibility to implement the instruction either directly for the child or by guiding the child through the implementation. The first example is drawn from God’s instruction to Abraham regarding circumcision of male offspring, the second from his instruction to Rebekah regarding Jacob-Esau relationship, and the third from God’s instruction to Joseph (earthly father of Jesus) regarding the flight to Egypt and back to Israel. Each of the examples discusses a clear instruction to a parent on behalf of a child.

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Parental Responsibility Based on Childhood of Jesus

Christian Basis for Family Training

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In this bible study, we attempt to use information from the childhood of Jesus and other relevant bible passages to understand God’s purpose for parental responsibilities. We learn that God assigns parents responsibility to provide for the basic needs of children: physical basic needs (i.e., food and drink, clothing, and shelter), protection, and community values training.

Abraham and the Three Angels | wikipedia.org
Abraham and the Three Angels | wikipedia.org

CALL TO FAMILY TRAINING God issued his call to family training and definition of parents and parental responsibility when he appeared to Abraham in human form, accompanied by two angels. He said [Genesis 18:18–19]: “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Although spoken about Abraham in this account, the statement is applicable to all humankind and appears directed at defining parental responsibilities. The statement defines the responsibilities of a parent as consisting of two parts: first, providing for basic needs to bring up children; and second, training the children in the process, to direct them to follow the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Also, by corollary, the statement defines a parent as someone assigned the responsibility of providing this service to one or more children. Recall that parenthood is an appointment from God (see previous bible study at This_Link).

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Spiritual Commitment and Prayer by Head of Household

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The responsibilities of a head of household include spiritual commitment and prayer on behalf of the household. We can understand this based on interactions among Paul, Silas, the city jailer, and a lady Lydia; in Philippi during the2016-03-13_YouAndYourHousehold Second Missionary Journey. Paul and Silas found themselves in jail, where an act of compassion by Paul touched the jailer spiritually and prepared him to receive the gospel. When he asked what he needed to do to be saved, Paul and Silas advised him to make a spiritual commitment to the Lord Jesus on behalf of himself and his household.

The concept of household spiritual commitment by the head goes back to God’s covenant with Abraham, reiterated to Jacob at Bethel, and renewed at Shechem by Joshua and representatives of all Israel. Furthermore, we learn about prayer by head of household, ministering by compassion, and other principles applicable to present-day human interactions and relationships.

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