Thursday, January 31, 2013

Genesis 25 and Early Church Writings [Polycarp to Philippians] 6-8

Genesis 25 – With Sarah deceased, Abraham marries again (Keturah) and has another six sons – a strange ending to the story of this man who was said to be 100 when his son Isaac was born. He must be nearly 120 at this point. All of the progeny of this period are sent to the east. Abraham dies at 175 and is buried with Sarah.

Isaac makes his home near the well of Lahai-roi (well of the Living One who sees me) in the Negev Desert

Ishmael’s 12 sons are listed in verses 13-15 (northern Arabian tribes), and then the story returns to Rebecca and Isaac.  “Ishmael lived for 137 years. Then he breathed his last and joined his ancestors in death. [They] occupied the region from Havilah to Shur, . .  There they lived in open hostility toward all their relatives” (25:18).

Rebekah is barren.  Her pregnancy comes as a result of Isaac’s prayers; the twins she will have struggle even within her—Esau, the hunter and Jacob, the quiet one, his mother’s favorite.  They are who they are but they also represent two rival nations—Israel and Edom (the land south of Moab, a land marked by the prominence of a reddish sandstone). 

Esau is more like his father’s half-brother—Ishmael.  Like Ishmael Esau is the first-born, but he is not the promise bearer.  Jacob, the quiet man, his mother’s favorite, is that.  Jacob [Yaakov] also means “heel-holder” or even “heel-sneak” according to the Schocken Bible.  The name he will get in the future – Israel [Yisrael] -- means “God-fighter.”

As they grow up, Esau becomes a skilled hunter, but Jacob prefers to stay at home. “One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry” (25:29). He tells his brother he’s starving and needs some “red stew.” Jacob replies “’All right, . . . but trade me your rights as the firstborn son” (25:31). Esau tells him to stop fooling around; he’s starving. Jacob makes him swear the his birthright will go to him.

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [c. mid-2nd century)
Chapter 6 – “As for the clergy, they should be men of generous sympathies, with a wide compassion for humanity. It is their business to reclaim the wanderers, keep an eye on all who are infirm, and never neglect the widow, the orphan, or the needy” (121).

They should always avoid any “show of ill-temper, partiality, or prejudice” (121); and an “eagerness for money should be a thing utterly alien to them” (121).

Chapter 7 – To deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is to be Antichrist (1 John 4:2-3). To contradict the evidence of the Cross is to be of the devil. And to pervert the Lord’s words to suit our own wishes, by asserting that there are no such things as resurrection or judgment, is to be a first-begotten son of Satan” (121-122). Strong words – tough for my modern ears. Let us pray that we will not be lead into temptation, for we know that the spirit willing, [but] the flesh is weak (122).

Chapter 8 – “Let us never relax our grasp on the Hope and Pledge of our righteousness; I mean Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in his own body on the tree; who did no sin, neither was guile found in this mouth, who steadfastly endured all things for our sakes, that we might have life in Him. Let us imitate that patient endurance of His; and if we do have to suffer for His Name’s sake, why then, let us give glory to Him” (122).

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