Posts Tagged ‘Human trafficking’

Genesis 30:1-3- CHECK MATE

Jealousy's Pawn - Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

Jealousy’s Pawn – Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

She begins the game by attacking her husband, who is standing nearby. She is jealous of Leah, her sister, whom she now considers an opponent. She blames Jacob for not concentrating. She needs his support. She is running out of time and patience! The game will be lost! Rachel pleads with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1 NLT).

Rachel has chosen the black and God has made the first move, but she seems to think that she is playing against Leah. She is ready to make her first move, but her strategy is flawed and will serve only to achieve short-term advantage and place her emotions and marriage in danger.

Focused on more than simply achieving equality on the board, Rachel feels she must develop a counterplay to unbalance Leah’s position, to neutralise her gains. She does not know how to lose graciously and she feels that her sister has put her at a disadvantage by bearing children while she remains barren. She knows that she must manoeuvre her resources and bring into play some “interferences” and “underminings” to gain a tactical gain and she is willing to make whatever “sacrifices” are necessary to achieve “check mate”.

The game has reached a critical level even at this early stage. She is flustered, not considering the consequences of her action. She refuses to see the big-picture. She is not aligning her actions with God’s strategy for her life. Her next move is too hasty and unexpected, unconventional, wild, crazy!

“Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” (Genesis 30:3 NLT)Move the pawn! But Rachel, you can’t have Check Mate in one move!

When your thinking is distorted then nothing is learned from the failures of history. Instead, they are repeated. Like Sarah, Rachel tries to manipulate the hand of God by giving her maid to Jacob in order to obtain children. Like Hagar, Bilhah is the Pawn moved around the board by Rachel.

Afterall, surrogacy is an acceptable tactical custom of the day, like polygamy, or multiple sexual partners. I guess things haven’t changed. One commentary suggests that this is why Laban provides his daughters with maids; as a back-up in case his daughters had no children; pawns in a game of Chess! Bilhah will never have full rights as a wife and mother. She is owned and her children are owned.

Today, we would call it human slavery and trafficking. For Rachel it was a part of the strategy, an ill-considered move to gain short-term advantage over Leah. Jacob is also playing the part of a pawn. Why doesn’t Jacob object? No complaints from Jacob. He’s in his 90’s and sleeping with three and soon four young women. He’s suddenly not interested in asking God about it. For Jacob and Rachel, there is an erosion of faith and trust concerning God’s promises. Neither of them seem concerned enough to pray. Doesn’t Check come before Mate? 

Without God, life is lived like a game of chess where we try to remain in control and determine the moves we play, but ultimately we lose. Each move we make effects the lives of those around us and their moves influence ours, but our selfish choices can seriously damage relationships. 

Rachel does not accept responsibility for her actions nor does she consider the consequences of the moves she makes. The invitation is to stop treating life like a game of Chess and begin to look for God’s perspective, His strategies, His plans and take His purposes for our lives into consideration. 

The strategy was planned from the beginning of time; Jesus experiences the jealousy of the religious leaders of his day and just as they think they have defeated Him, He makes His move. They are astounded. Slaves of sin are set free. The pawns have become royalty. Death defeated, sin forgiven, sacrifice sufficient! Check mate! The white King wins! He invites us to share in His victory. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:2-20 – LOVE STORY OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOAP OPERA?

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

A beautiful shepherd woman runs to tell her father of the stranger, a distant relative, who has arrived in Haran. He has greeted her with a customary kiss at the well. It is an event that will alter the course of her life.

The covering stone on the well is too heavy to be moved by only one or two children, so when all the flocks have arrived, a number of shepherd boys, helping each other, will be able to move the stone on the well. It seems that Rachel is the young adult who guides proceedings here on her father’s behalf. Laban is an influential businessman in the district and her flocks are always watered first.

Because of his age, and especially because he knows Laban, the young shepherd boys treat Jacob with respect, and Jacob is able to help them by moving the stone himself just as Rachel’s flock arrives. He’s doing alright for a 75 year old who has just walked for over 700 km! (Genesis 29:2-11).

Is this the well where Rebekah’s life had been changed forever? Rachel and her sister Leah have heard the story of how Rebekah married a man she had never seen, a relative from far away. Laban has told them of the riches a servant had brought from Isaac for the hand of his sister (Genesis 24 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-aR ). Is it happening again?

Laban is more than happy to entertain his sister’s son, Jacob. And happier still to hear Jacob’s story because Jacob is also here to find a wife and will one day inherit Isaac’s fortune (Genesis 27-28 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-mi ). A lucrative plan of deceit is already forming in Laban’s mind. For now he will embrace Jacob as his own son (Genesis 29:13).

If he is to stay, Jacob knows he must broker a deal. Custom gives him the option of working as a slave would for 7 years, knowing that he will not leave empty handed when his service is completed (Deuteronomy 15:12-13), so after a month, when Laban offers Jacob to name his own wage, Jacob proposes to work for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:15).

There is no mention of Jacob asking the Lord about whom he should marry or for that matter of him asking Rachel. How does she feel about marrying a man who will be in his 80’s by that time (Yes, I know they lived longer in those days, but still..!). It seems Rachel is much younger than Leah. Leah is obviously more Jacob’s age, but all he sees is that “There is no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel has a beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17). Isn’t there more to choosing a wife than this? I wonder what Rachel thinks of him?

Without even asking Rachel, Laban agrees to paying Jacob’s “wages”, and two dysfunctional men broker a deal more akin to the trafficking of women than to marriage. They are treating Rachel like a commodity. It seems Jacob is still trying to manipulate God’s will for his life.

(Leah and Rachel know that they are being bought like slaves. Later, when they are considering running away from Laban, they say “Are we not considered by him as foreigners? For he has SOLD us,…” Genesis 31:15 NASB). 

Jacob is determined to get what he wants by trading his work for her. “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days” (Genesis 29:20 NLT). I wonder how long it seemed for Rachel and whether his “love” was reciprocated or whether her love for him was as strong? Is this a love story or dysfunctional soap opera? I can hear the Beatles song playing in the distance; “Money can’t buy me love” but Jacob is not listening. 

Jesus, the descendant of Jacob also paid a price for a bride with His work on the Cross, but unlike Jacob He paid the price for our sin. Dying for us was His ultimate expression of love for us, but rather than entrapping us or forcing us to respond, He opens the door to freedom by removing the barrier that separates us from Him. You are free to choose whether or not to respond to His love. 

Pastor Ross

PS I see this story through Western eyes and the customs of the East are a puzzle to me, especially this kind of arranged marriage, yet the story here which is so often presented as the great love story seems flawed to me. I love how the Bible makes no judgment but presents the story as it is and leaves us to find what God is saying to us. Much of the details are not given and as this is a devotional blog, I have added my own thoughts (conjecture) about the details of the story in an effort to understand it more clearly and would encourage the reader to explore Genesis 29 themselves.