Sermon for Sunday, July 7, 2024

Eye for an Idol

Genesis 31

Genesis 31:19–20 (NKJV): 19 Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father’s. 20 And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee.

  1. Laban is manipulator
    1. Gave Leah instead of Rachel
    1. Changed Jacob’s wage 10 times, not in a good way
    1. Always took the best for himself
  2. Jacob is a manipulator
    1. Stole Esau’s blessing
    1. Used almond branches by a stream that sectioned off a portion of the flock so that they would mate and he would get the best of the flock
    1. Divided a family using deception (lying)

This is a confusing area of Old Testament Scripture.  It appears that Laban and Jacob are too similar, yet God blessed Jacob and cursed Laban.  Jacob has the vision in Bethel of the “stairway to heaven” and is given divine providence.  What made it okay for Jacob to behave this way and not for Laban?  The key is in the details.  Laban was using Jacob to prosper.  First, Jacob was a good worker and everything that Jacob touched prospered.  Laban kept getting richer by taking more from Jacob.  This is a social injustice at play. 

  • Jacob worked 14 years for two daughters
  • 6 years taking care of Laban’s goats
  • Had his wages reduced 10 times

These things made Leah and Rachel upset as well and then Rachel does something peculiar?  She takes her dad’s idols.  Laban is angered by the idea that they ran away AND they took his gods.  When Laban caught up with them, Rachel hid them by sitting on them and claiming she was on her period.  Rachel had taken more than idols…

Family gods or idols. (Ge 31:30, 34) Although in the plural, the designation “teraphim” can also apply to a single idol. At least some of these idols may have been the size and shape of a man. (1Sa 19:13, 16) Others must have been much smaller, able to fit inside a woman’s saddle basket. (Ge 31:34) The teraphim were, on occasion, consulted for omens.​—Eze 21:21; Zec 10:2.

The findings of archaeologists in Mesopotamia and adjacent areas indicate that the possession of the teraphim images had a bearing on who would receive the family inheritance. According to one tablet found at Nuzi, the possession of the household gods could under certain circumstances entitle a son-in-law to appear in court and claim the estate of his deceased father-in-law.[1]

So, what Rachel had done was gave everything her dad owned to her husband Jacob!

Jacob had to wrestle with the way he was treated.  Jacob had to wrestle with family conflict.  Jacob had to wrestle with God.  In the end, Jacob gave it all away!  Jacob gave it all to God.

Genesis 35:1–4 (NKJV): 35 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”

2 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree* which was by Shechem.

*the terebinth is a deciduous flowering plant belonging to the cashew family

He gave it all to God.  He was no longer Jacob, he was not Israel!

John 1:43–51 (NIV): 43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree*. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

This is directly connected to our Old Testament story.  Remember, the name Jacob mean “supplanter” as well as “deceived”.  Jesus is comparing Nathanael to Jacob.

Under a tree the past was buried, both in Bethel and in Cana.

[1]  Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by J. Pritchard, 1974, pp. 219, 220, and ftn 51

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *