Reuben’s Loss

Was it worth it for Reuben? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jacob is about to die and has called in his sons to bless them all. We’re only going to focus on one son and that’s Reuben. Reuben was the firstborn and one would think that he would then be in the place of honor. Generally, he would, but this time, he isn’t. It’s not because Jacob has a revelation that God specifically told him to choose another. Only one reason is given.

He defiled his father’s bed.

Remember back when Reuben slept with Jacob’s concubine? Jacob didn’t do anything then, but he had heard about it. Now is the time. Jacob should be giving Reuben a great blessing and telling him what a success he will be and how he will lead his family.

Reuben has no one to blame but himself.

We live in an odd culture. In our culture, sex is treated like it’s everything. The goal of every romance? Sex. The only purpose of dating and marriage? Sex. We see it on advertising everywhere. What used to be done behind closed doors in movies is now done in the open.

At the same time, out society likes to treat sex in a way like it’s no big deal. Everyone does it. Want to have sex outside of marriage? No biggie. Marriage isn’t that important after all. Want to just live together? Go ahead. Who needs to make a promise.

Yet there is still this problem that we see that so many people when they find out the person they say they love is having sex or interested sexually in someone else and pursuing it, they think there is a betrayal going on. It stings them. We know that there is something different about this activity from all other activities.

It’s weird that the Christian community is said to be prudes in this area, and I won’t deny that many are, but in reality, we are the ones who have the highest view of sexuality. We put it in a marriage covenant because a marriage covenant is the place of a promise. You have promised total loyalty and exclusivity to someone and you are to be with them for life. (We will look at divorce more and more as we go on.)

It’s not because sex is dirty, though that impression has been given before. It’s because it’s something sacred and the more valuable something is, the more you protect it and keep it safe. The sexual revolution really hasn’t done us any favors. We now live in a culture with rampant STDs and broken families.

I sometimes surprise people by saying our culture doesn’t think a lot about sex. It’s entirely true. They do it, dream about it, talk about it, fantasize about it, etc. There’s very little real thinking about it.

Christians should know better. This is nothing to treat casually. This is God’s gift to us and if we misuse it, we will suffer the consequences. Reuben suffered some. We can do the same if we mess up.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Missing Father

Where was he? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Joseph has grown up now and started having dreams. No. I’m not talking about what you get after eating too much pizza at night or about what happens when you are highly ambitious. (Although it certainly looks like Joseph was that.) These are dreams that get the rest of his family, including Jacob, angry. In these dreams, he would see representations of his family bowing down to him.

They weren’t exactly happy to hear all of this. Even Jacob was indignant. Unfortunately, Jacob did show special favor to Joseph though, such as giving him a fancy coat which no one else got. They could have seen it as a way of trying to make the dreams come about to be true.

One day, Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers and after some journeying, he finds where they are. When they see him coming, they decide to kill him, although Reuben does have second thoughts. (Maybe he remembers what he did with his Dad’s concubine and is trying to get in his father’s grace again.)

However, these brothers decide just killing Joseph wouldn’t get them that much. They can get rid of him and still profit some themselves. They just need to sell him into slavery. Fortunately, a caravan is coming through that will purchase him.

Reuben is apparently away while this happens and when he returns, he finds the pit that they had thrown Joseph into is empty and he thinks that the boy has been killed and he tears his clothes. The text doesn’t tell us, but I suspect this still has to do with Reuben’s transgression. Reuben wants to make up somehow for what he did.

However, the brothers still have a problem here. Joseph is gone, but their Dad is going to wonder what happened to him. Somehow, they have a hunch that the message of “We sold him into slavery” isn’t going to go over well. So, they take his special coat and dip it in the blood of an animal and show it to Jacob.

In the book Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes, the authors write about this story being told to a Middle Eastern group and when they get to the trouble between the brothers someone asks a question we don’t normally think of. “Where is Jacob?” To be sure, Jacob shows up in the text, but the father is supposed to lead his family and be aware of what’s going on. This father is so unaware of what’s going on that he doesn’t see the jealousy Joseph’s brothers have and don’t realize their desire to see him dead?

Sadly, Jacob’s special care for Joseph has blinded him to the reality of his other sons. You would think Jacob would have learned about the dangers of favoritism after the trouble that he had with Esau, which fortunately did end on a positive note. Unfortunately, he did not, and while God will use this for good, it doesn’t condone that Jacob should have been a more attentive father in the life of his children.

If you’re a father today, don’t make the same mistake. The consequences can be tragic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Reuben’s Transgression

Why did Reuben do what he did? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Genesis 35, we have the deaths of Rachel and Isaac. Rachel dies giving birth to the second son she bore for Jacob. Isaac dies simply because he’s an old man and it’s his time. During this event, something strange happens also. Just after these deaths, we are told that Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, goes in and sleeps with Rachel’s concubine, Bilhah, and Jacob hears about it.

Why?

This is the first time we have a case of the son sleeping with someone that his father has slept with as well recorded in Scripture. The other case that I can think of now is when Absalom pitched a tent on the roof of David’s palace and went in and slept with his father’s concubines. Now it could be that many young men reading might think that Reuben is just wanting to get his game on and have sex and Bilhah is available. Possible, but not really likely.

In both cases, both persons are asserting a show of dominance. When Absalom sleeps with the concubines of David, he is trying to show superiority and having this be done before all of Israel is a very public statement. It’s not about sex per se. It’s about power.

In Jacob’s family, his wife has died and his Dad has died. Could Reuben then be trying to assert control? What if the vacuum keeps going and Jacob himself is removed? Reuben himself wants to be the one to lead the family then.

The text right after this seems to single out Reuben anyway. We are told a list of the descendants of Jacob. Through Leah, we are told that Reuben was born and that Reuben was the firstborn. Then, the other sons are mentioned without comment, as if they were incidental to all of this.

It’s as if the text is saying “Yes. Reuben is born. Remember him? He’s the firstborn. Then there were all these other sons that were born as well.” It’s wanting to stress that this is the position Reuben would naturally have over his family.

And sadly for him, he would have had it. Had things run their course, it could be that Reuben could have naturally been the head of the family, although that is not certain since Jacob did favor Joseph as the firstborn of Rachel, but when Jacob blesses his descendants and tells their future, he says that Reuben will no longer excel.

What is the reason? He went up on his father’s bed and defiled it. This is the only time in the text when Jacob explicitly speaks of this event. Reuben is praised greatly just before that pronouncement as the firstborn of Jacob. He was the first sign of Jacob’s strength and excelling in honor and power, but because he tried to grab it on his own, he will not have it.

Whenever and wherever sex takes place and who it is with, it is always a big deal. Proverbs warns us that adultery arouses a husband’s jealousy and he will not take any bribe when he gets his revenge in. We live in a society that may try to treat sex as if it was just something recreational, but many of us know that this is not so. When we are cheated on, we know immediately that something deeper is happening and as a man who has been divorced facing this reality, it definitely hits home every day.

Sadly, while sex can be a great power for good uniting husband and wife and bringing a new life into the world, used improperly, it can just as much cause devastation. It did for Reuben. It does for many people today.

Treat it carefully.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Rape of Dinah

How does Scripture see rape? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, is out one day visiting the women of the land where Jacob is staying. Shechem, the son of Hamor, sees her and likes what he sees and rapes her. At the same time, the text says he loved her and spoke tenderly to her and asked his Dad to get her for his wife.

Love can be expressed in funny ways. (Although I’d say it wasn’t really love but lust there.)

Jacob is approached by Hamor and during the conversation, Jacob’s sons come in and hear what happened and are shocked and furious. The sad part of this is we don’t know what Jacob thought about this. Jacob is really an absentee father in this case. A Middle Eastern audience would likely be very surprised by Jacob’s silence. Isn’t a father to protect his daughter and assure her virginity?

Jacob’s sons take the lead here and say that they will only agree to what is proposed if the men of the community are all willing to be circumcised. The text says they are speaking deceitfully, though the reader doesn’t know their plan at this point. Shechem agrees to this and all the men in the town are circumcised. While they are still in pain, Jacob’s sons come in and kill everyone and rescue Dinah.

Despite what some internet skeptics and atheist websites say, the Bible never approves of rape. It records it and tells Israel that if they are unfaithful to God, He will cease to protect them and that means the nations around them who have no problem with their men raping the women, will come in and have their way. This is not God ordaining it or approving it. He’s just not stopping every instance of evil. He has no obligation to.

The rape of Dinah is presented as an evil and no reason needs to be given for it. The text assumes at the start that you know that Dinah was treated in a way that is wrong and shameful both. Her brothers saw it immediately.

Yet another tragedy in all of this is that after the slaughter, this is when we see Jacob speak and he’s concerned about his reputation in the eyes of those around him. Whether we agree with the method of her brothers or not, they had the right idea. Should their sister have been treated like a prostitute? Simeon and Levi, the two brothers involved, are more concerned about their sister’s honor than Jacob is.

Thus, we have an account of one woman who went out to meet the other women and her honor was turned to shame. She met a man who mistreated her. This man took advantage of her entirely.

Go forward around a couple of thousand years and in this same area, the reverse will happen. One woman, who has been shamed by five different men will go out and not to meet other women. She will go out alone. She will meet a man who will honor her. This woman will then go out to other people and say “Have we met the Messiah?”

The shame of Dinah is reversed at the coming of Jesus, and Jesus can today help those who have gone through the horror of rape. Such who go through are the victims and have no need to be ashamed. Shame should belong to the perpetrator of the crime. Any person (Because men can be raped too) who has been abused can find solace in Christ and a place to have their honor restored.

If you have gone through this or know someone who has, please get some help for yourself. Please also consider the claims of Christ. You don’t have to live in defeat. You can still enjoy the freedom He offers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Jacob’s polygamy

Where did Jacob’s troubles begin? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Jacob is the patriarch who embraced polygamy. To be fair, he was kind of tricked into it, but still, he had more than one wife. Unfortunately, as we go through the story, we will see that this leads to trouble for Jacob. After all, some siblings of his will not get along with others and considering they call different women, “Mom” that could explain some of it.

For the positives, it looks like when Jacob comes in at one point, Rachel has borrowed some mandrakes from Leah to increase fertility for herself and says Leah can sleep with Jacob tonight in exchange. Thus, one can understand that it looks like Jacob knew that when he came home that evening, he’d be sleeping with someone.

It wasn’t just Rachel and Leah. They also gave their female servants to Jacob to sleep with to continue their family line. Thus, four different women in the text become mothers and all do so through Jacob.

One reason for this is that Leah was being neglected by Jacob because he had a greater love for Rachel. As a result, God allowed Leah to get pregnant more often and closed the womb of Rachel. Leah is the one who in the end provides Jacob with half of his sons and has a daughter as well.

Still, polygamy is one of those practices that never seems to end well for those involved in Scripture. Rachel always carries a position of the favorite and thus, her children carry positions of favor with Jacob as well. As we go through the history of Jacob and his family, we will see this play out more and more. In the account of the birth of most of Jacob’s children, you find some squabbling taking place and if this was the worst of the effects of polygamy, there wouldn’t be much of a case, but later on, we’ll see more.

It’s also worth noting that Jacob’s brother, Esau, also had married multiple women and they were a source of grief to Rebekkah. Esau’s solution was not to get rid of them, but to marry another woman he thought his mother would approve of. Later on in Israelite history, getting rid of wives that are outside of the covenant would be more necessary.

Thus, aside from perhaps Pharaoh and Abimelech who have harems in Genesis, Lamech, Esau, and Jacob are the only ones I can think of at least that have multiple wives. We don’t know enough about the inner workings of those other families to speak about them, but we do know enough about Jacob.

Polygamy was one of those borderline practices God tolerated in the Old Testament, but in the time of the new covenant, He was much stricter on. Most Jews at the time of Jesus were highly monogamous. Paul will later write that an elder needs to be the husband of one wife and yes, we will look at that passage a lot more when we get there.

For now, just know Jacob has rough times coming ahead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Who Are You Getting Into Bed With?

Who will you wake up to the next morning? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re looking at the way the Bible treats marriage and divorce going straight through it and looking at relevant passages. This time, we’re looking at Jacob going to get a wife. He becomes smitten with Rachel over her older sister Leah and decides to work seven years for her father in order to win her hand.

So after seven years, Jacob comes to her father, Laban, and tells him that he has done the work and he wants to sleep with Rachel.

I bet he does.

So there’s a big party for a wedding and Jacob takes his bride into the tent. All is well. He has got the woman he wanted.

Or so he thought.

When he woke up the next morning, Leah was there. Now why would this not be noticed beforehand? A few reasons. First, the intimacy would have happened at night and it would be dark and Leah could have still worn a veil. Second, Jacob could have been tremendously drunk from a wedding.

Either way, Jacob was tricked. He goes to Laban and tells him that he worked for Rachel and not Leah. Laban tells him that the older daughter needs to be married first and Jacob can get Rachel if he does seven years more work.

I’d just like to pull out a principle from this. Today in our culture, sex is treated like a recreational activity. It’s just something that two people do together when they want to have some fun. This is not to deny that having sex is something fun that can be done by two people, but is that all that it is? Could it not be more?

Many boys and girls are ready to jump into bed with most anyone they come across for various reasons. Many a boy wants to have sex because he’s convinced that will make him a man. Many a girl wants to have sex because she wants to be loved and thinks this is the way to get love. The idea is often that boys give love to get sex and girls give sex to get love.

However, sex is really a big deal and does change a relationship greatly. Unfortunately, too many people don’t know who they’re getting into bed with and can even easily have a one-night stand and then realize that the woman is pregnant or that one of the lovers has an STD. Rates of such are extremely high in our country and while sometimes unplanned pregnancy is taken care of with the evil of abortion, there isn’t always such a way to handle an STD.

Naturally, I hold that sex should be reserved for marriage and that after a time of dating in our society. Too often, sex is treated as part of the dating, as if you are testing the person to see how they are. Such a rejection after can be extremely painful. While I have never had sex outside of marriage, I can say having gone through a divorce, it is a rejection to a man deeply on this level as well. It is as if you gave yourself entirely to a person in every way and they said “Not good enough.”

My ultimate conclusion is I still encourage that you save sex for marriage, and yes, I say this as someone who knows I will have to marry before I get to enjoy this gift again. That doesn’t bring me joy to think about, but I am convinced it is still the best way to go. Mainly, this is for the women since really, the women control the market here. Guys are normally the pursuers after all.

So women, here is the deal. You are worth a lifetime covenant. Don’t give yourself to a man for anything less. You deserve better. Men do too, but men are normally not the ones in charge of the market.

In our culture, you definitely need to know who it is that you’re going to be going to bed with. As said earlier, there can be long-term consequences that do not go away if you make an unwise choice. Ultimately, what our culture needs is a much higher view of sex and marriage than we already have instead of the cheap view of both that is the norm.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Isaac and Rebekkah and Parenting

What was a big mistake in the marriage of Isaac and Rebekkah? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re quite sure Isaac loved Rebekkah. Even when he was lying and saying she was his sister, he was caught in public showing husbandly affection to her. When she was not having children, Isaac prayed for her and she conceived. However, after the children came, that’s when trouble came.

The mistake each of them made was that they each had a favorite. Isaac favored Esau who was into more of the things that would be deemed manly and Rebekkah favored Jacob who was more of a homebody and today we would likely consider a Momma’s Boy. This is always a recipe for disaster.

As someone doing online dating, I wonder when I see women whose profiles say that their children will always be #1. Really? Does that mean that if I married you, your children would come first? Husbands and wives are to love their children, to be sure, but the spouse must come before the children and be the first priority.

As the story progresses, we see where this leads. Jacob becomes a trickster who lives up to his name that means deceiver. He ends up tricking Esau out of his birthright, but then the situation gets worse. He apparently inherited this deception from his mother who not only helped Jacob secure the blessing, she did so by being an accomplice to Jacob in tricking her own husband.

Let’s also mention that Isaac was going blind at the time. Rebekkah decided that she would take advantage of her own husband’s disability and incapacity to see and use it to get her favored son what he wanted and what she wanted for him. Nothing is said here about any love that she has towards Esau. In her mind now, it’s okay to neglect him because she has to make sure that her favorite is taken care of.

Today, the same mistake can be made. If a couple gets married, no matter how many children they have, the children should not become the focus of the marriage. After all, you’re not raising those children to hold on to them forever. You’re going to let them go out into the world at some point. Someday, you are going to have an empty nest and what are you going to do then? Your spouse will be a stranger at that point.

One of the best ways you can actually bless your children is by showing a deep love for your spouse. Don’t be afraid to kiss in front of them or show affection and when they get older and you send them to their grandparents for date night and the older kids know what that means, that’s okay. What you are doing in this is modeling a biblical marriage for your children where they will learn how to love their future spouse and how to be loved by their future spouse.

Kids are a gift, but don’t let them become a means of separation and that can easily happen by making them the focus. They are to be a focus, but your first duty in marriage is to your spouse. Don’t replace them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

 

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