What I’m Thinking: Bad Example

The Bible isn’t always a guide to practical ethics or ethical practice. The story of Jacob, Laban, Leah, and Rachel is a good example of things not to do.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis (Genesis 29:15-28), Jacob’s marriage to Rachel, only it turned out to be Leah, and then his marriage to Rachel as well.

We frequently expect the Scriptures to function as a guide for relationships, for communities, for ethics at large. Much of the time that works pretty well. This is not one of them. If you were looking for a model for family life, I cannot point you to the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis because then I’d be pointing you towards the valuation of women as property, and I do not believe in that, I’ll be pointing you towards a lot of deception, and I’m opposed to that, and I’d be pointing you towards non-consent in sexual and romantic relationships; I’m definitely not in favor of that.

Because you’ll find all of that there. Jacob worked for Laban in order to marry Rachel for seven years. That’s treating women as property. Then Laban insisted that Leah go beneath the veil and become Jacob spouse and share his bed that night. Did Leah consent? I’m a little skeptical. And of course all of that was a deception. Much later on, Jacob would turn the tables on Laban and that wasn’t good either.

For a well-rounded ethic of relationships or communities or nations we need to look to more of the Scriptures than a single story. Much of the Bible exists to correct other parts of the Bible. It just happens over and over and over again. In some cases you will find that there is new information that comes in what’s written later on in the course of the Scriptures, and sometimes you will find that people will point back to older material and say, “Remember this? You should remember this. We all need to remember this.”

Sometimes, however, we do need to look outside the Scriptures for the continuing presence of God, the continuing movement of God, the continuing still speaking voice of God, that informs us when our preconceptions are mistaken, possibly because they are based on some small segment of Scripture, possibly because it is a topic that Scripture has not addressed or has not been corrected before we closed the canon.

Don’t choose just one story, and don’t treat women like property. Don’t deceive. Don’t go into sexual relations without ensuring that everyone participating fully consents.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on July 25, 2023

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