Jacob & Family at Shechem

November 26, 2010

After Jacob and his family had a happy meeting/reunion with his brother Esau,  Jacob journeyed to Succoth and built a house there (Gen. 33:17).  The time is not specified, but it must have been some years.  Then Jacob made his way to Shechem (v.18).

Shechem was the very location where Abram was when God promised him the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:6,7). It would turn out that Shechem was the site for many significant biblical events.

Shechem was the site for many impt biblical events. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo shows the city of Shechem in the foreground.  In the distance you can see Mt. Gerizim, the mountain referenced by the woman of Samaria as she conversed with Jesus in John 4 (v.20).

Jacob bought a parcel of land at Shechem (Gen. 33:19); it was here to his sorrow that his daughter Dinah was violated (Gen. 34:2). Later when the family was residing to the south in Hebron, the sons of Jacob tended sheep at Shechem before moving their flocks on to Dothan where they sold Joseph into slavery (Gen. 37:12-28).

One of the more fascinating events at Shechem was the confirmation of the covenant during the Conquest of Canaan. Shechem is situated between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim.  Prior to the Conquest, Moses instructed the nation of Israel that when they crossed over the Jordan, they were to journey to this location.  Six tribes were to stand on Mt. Gerizim (for blessing), and the other six on Mt. Ebal (for cursing).  All of the words of the law, the blessings and the curses, were to be read.  All the people were to answer, “Amen.”  Immediately, after the conquest of Jericho and Ai (Josh.6-8), Joshua led the people north to these two mountains, where they obeyed God’s instructions (Deut. 27; Josh 8:30-35).  Think of it! At the very spot where childless Abram stood when God made the land promise, now were 701,730 men of war, plus women and children, there to stake their claim on the land!

Shechem would also be the gathering point for all of Israel for Joshua’s farewell address.  It was here that he challenged the people to fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and to put away all the idols and false gods that were among them.  His own choice has been an encouragement to many down through the years: “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:14,15). Their covenant with God was then renewed there at Shechem (Josh. 24:25). Later in that same chapter, notation is made that Joseph was buried in Shechem (Josh. 24:32).

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From Gilead to Shechem

November 15, 2010

After Jacob lived in Haran for a total of twenty years (see our previous couple of posts) he made his way back to Canaan.  Besides the fact that he was ready to leave Haran for personal reasons (Gen. 31:1-2), the Lord instructed him, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you” (Gen. 31:3). He left, along with his wives (four!) and eleven sons (plus Dinah), picking the opportune time when Laban was gone shearing his sheep (Gen. 31:19).

It was on the third day that his father-in-law Laban learned of these events. It took seven days’ travel to overtake Jacob. The text says, “and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead” (Gen. 31:23). Our photo below shows a view of some of the mountains of Gilead, as viewed from the west side of the Jordan.


Mountains of Gilead. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


After he and Laban came to an understanding, Laban returned home to Haran and Jacob continued his journey to Canaan. After what turned out to be a cordial meeting with his formerly estranged brother Esau, Jacob lived a while in Succoth, then made his way to Shechem.

Our photo below shows the pass that leads from the area of Succoth (which would be to our backs) toward Shechem.  This is the route Jacob and his family and servants would have taken to Shechem.  On the right of the photo you can see the modern road which follows this ancient pass.


Pass to Shechem. Jacob would have taken this route. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for larger view.



Jacob’s Sojoun in Haran

November 9, 2010

In our previous post we made reference to Jacob’s watering Laban’s flock.  Genesis 28 tells of his flight from Canaan to Haran of Mesopotamia: “Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran” (v.10).  Jacob’s mother Rebekah had said, “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran. And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away” (Gen. 27:43-44).  Ironically, those “few days” would turn into a sojourn of some twenty years!

Previously we showed a photo of an ancient well to illustrate how Jacob watered the sheep as mentioned in Gen. 29:10. Our photo today was taken at Haran (modern spelling is Harran). Shepherds continue to lead their sheep to water and grazing these thousands of years later.

Shepherd w/Sheep at Haran. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Jacob agreed to work seven years as a shepherd for Laban in order to marry Rachel.  When the time quickly passed the wedding night arrived. But the next morning Jacob awoke to discover that he was married to Leah, Rachel’s sister.  When he demanded an explanation from Laban, he told his immeasurably shocked son-in-law that it was not their custom to marry the younger daughters before the older.  But he had a solution: let Leah have her one-week wedding festivities, then marry Rachel, on the condition that you work seven more years!  Jacob agreed to those terms.  After those fourteen (total) years had passed, Jacob worked another six years for Laban, making the total of twenty years we referenced above in our post.

Photo below shows the site of biblical Haran.

Biblcial Haran. Jacob sojourned in this area 20 years. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Later, when Isaac died, Jacob and Esau buried him.  But there is no mention of all of Jacob’s seeing his mother after sending him away to Haran for what she thought would be just a short while.

Click on photos for larger view.  Also, see our post of May 4, 2010:

Jacob Watered the Flock of Laban

November 8, 2010

Jacob left Canaan to go to Haran of Padan Aram, fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau who had determined to kill him.  Beyond that urgency however, was the fact that Isaac and Rebekah did not want Jacob to marry a Canaanite woman, as Esau had done (Gen. 27:46; 28:1-2).  Those women “were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah” (Gen. 26:35).

When Jacob arrived in the vicinity of Haran, he “saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth” (Gen. 29:2). Jacob found out from the men who were there that he was at the right place. They knew Abraham’s family.  They knew Laban, who was Rebekah’s brother.  At the very time they were speaking, Rachel, Laban’s daughter, arrived with their sheep.

Jacob removed the stone that covered the well and watered the flocks of Laban.  Our photo helps us to visualize that scene.


Ancient Well. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.


You can see the grooves worn into the stone by ropes hauling up the water. This well is in Israel, but we use it here to illustrate the Genesis text with the setting in Mesopotamia.

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Haran, of Aram Naharaim (Mesopotamia)

May 7, 2010

Our previous post pertained to the patriarchal home of Beersheba, located in the South (Negev) in OT Canaan. We saw that Jacob fled from Beersheba and traveled to Haran, “between the rivers;” hence, Mesopotamia (Greek) or Aram Naharaim (Hebrew).  The rivers, of course, are the Tigris and Euphrates. See map below:

Map, Haran. Courtesy http://bibleatlas.org

At Haran one can see “bee-hive” shaped houses that are 200 or so years old, which are said to be built along the same style of Patriarchal times.  If that is so, Jacob (and before him Abraham) would have seen houses like these below during his stay there.

Haran, Bee-hive shaped houses. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Dung mixed with straw is shaped into “cakes” and allowed to dry.  This is commonly used as fuel for cooking in what is today eastern Turkey.

Haran, Dung Cakes for Fuel. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In the photo below we show some of the excavations that have taken place at Haran.  Remember this area would have been home to Jacob for 20 years, as he worked 7 years for Leah, and 7 more for Rachel, whom he wanted in the first place, plus 6 more years for wages, thus 7+7+6=20 years.

Haran, Excavations. Photo by Leon Mauldin

Beersheba, Home of the Patriarchs

May 6, 2010

In our previous post we mentioned how Jacob fled from his home in Beersheba to Haran, of Mesopotamia.  For the short term he was running for his life; for the long term he married (four wives as it turned out) and had children, including twelve sons who would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

See map below to locate Beersheba.

Beersheba in Southern Israel. Courtesy of http://bibleatlas.org/

Beersheba was the home of the patriarch Abraham as well as at times that of Isaac, and later Jacob as we have indicated.  There was a well there which Abraham dug.  The Philistine king Abimelech received seven ewe lambs from Abraham as confirming that the well was indeed Abraham’s (Gen. 21:22-30).  “Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there” (v.31).  The text goes on to say, “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God” (v.33).

Our photo of Beersheba depicts both a well as well as a tamarisk tree.

Beersheba, with well and tamarisk tree. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A good deal of excavation has been done at Beersheba.  See photo below.

Excavations at Beersheba. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on image for higher resolution.

Mah Zzot?!? (What is this?)

May 4, 2010

“What is this you have done to me?” This was Jacob’s question to Laban, when he discovered in shock and disbelief, not to mention panic, that he had married Leah, Rachel’s sister, instead of Rachel, with whom he was in love, and for whom he had worked for seven years for her father Laban. The deceiver was himself deceived.

Jacob left Beersheba to journey to Haran to obtain a wife; that’s the reason his mother Rebekah presented to his father Isaac (Gen. 27:46). The more pressing reason for the trip was really so that Esau his brother would not kill him. Esau was bitterly angry because Jacob had deceived Isaac, who was blind at the time, into blessing Jacob who pretended to be his older brother Esau.  Jacob was acting in compliance with his mother’s instructions; she wanted her “favorite” to receive the patriarchal blessing.

When Rebekah learned of Esau’s intention to kill Jacob, she sent Jacob away some 400+miles north to Haran, where they had relatives.  She instructed Jacob to stay with her brother Laban “a few days, until your brother’s fury turns away” (Gen. 27:45). It turned out that “a few days” became twenty years!  As far as the record indicates, Jacob never saw his mother Rebekah again.

When he met Rachel he immediately fell in love with her.  He reached an agreement with her father Laban that he would work seven years for her.  The time passed quickly for Jacob because of his great love for Rachel. Then came the much-anticipated wedding night.  But Laban himself was less than honest. Everyone gathered for the wedding feast. “Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her” (Gen. 29:23).  Leah was Rachel’s older sister.  “So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah.  And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?  Was it not for Rachel that I served you?  Why then have you deceived me?” (Gen. 29:25).

The NET Bible translates, “What in the world have you done to me! Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked me?”  The NET translator note on this text reads, The use of the pronoun “this” is enclitic, adding emphasis to the question: “What in the world have you done to me?”

Laban’s answer was essentially this: “Oh I forgot to tell you one small detail; around here it is not customary for the younger daughter to marry before the older; go ahead and let Leah have her wedding celebration (lasted one week) then you can marry Rachel and work seven more years for her.”  Dave Ramsay would never have approved of this “installment plan,” but Jacob consented.

Wedding Night_Turkish Wedding. Bergama Museum (Pergamum). Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Our photo depicts the wedding night for a Turkish wedding.  These figures are posed in the Bergama Museum.  The veiled bride is seated while her attendants help.  This scene may help us to understand why Jacob did not recognize Leah. Truly the deceiver was deceived.

We have photos of Beersheba as well as Haran which we plan to share in future posts.

PostScript. On a personal note, last week I had a very enjoyable meeting with the Perry Hill congregation in Montgomery, AL., speaking on the theme, “Becoming More Like Jesus.”  On Mon-Fri we had morning services and in those lessons I covered the Letters to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2-3), using photos from our recent trip to Turkey, as well as photos from previous trips. The lessons were well received, and it was great to be at Perry Hill again. This was my third meeting with the folks there.

That schedule made me a bit behind on posting to the blog, but we hope to be back on schedule now.  Thanks for checking in.  Remember to click on photo for higher resolution.

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