Thursday, August 4, 2005

Israel Buried

I certainly have much more respect for Jacob than I did before beginning this study. He is not only the trickster and bad father that I thought him before. He is a real person with the faults and foibles of every man but who learns and strives and wants to please God. He is someone I can identify with.
The prescribed number of days of mourning for a Pharaoh was 72. That the Egyptians spent 70 days in mourning for someone of a "detestable" class of shepherds and not of their people surely says something about their regard for him. The great company sent by Pharaoh to Canaan to pay their respect, and the reaction of the Canaanites, also suggest that Jacob was highly esteemed in Egypt.

God is not just the God of the one who struggled with Him and prevailed; He is also the God of the one who schemed his way into the blessing, and struggled with Laban, and allowed his wives to keep their household gods, and who raised sons both wicked and righteous. The people who bear the name Israel are as inconstant as Jacob and as triumphant as Israel. Whether or not the name "Jacob" was intentionally chosen over "Israel" (in "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"), it seems fitting in that God is not the God of those already made perfect but of those who long to be His (and who, under the New Covenant, are given His righteousness that we might be made perfect). He is our help in spite of our sins and fearful faltering. God's people are not loved because they are worthy; they are worth much because of His transforming love. This truth is proclaimed every time someone calls on the God of Jacob.

Men like Abraham and Joseph can look like spiritual giants whose lives we can only hope to model; Jacob is more like most of us, an ordinary man with ordinary failings. That God chose him over Esau (who was the first-born and who in some respects appears more "worthy") to father his people shows that God chooses who He wants to choose and He is not limited by our ideas of worth. His choice is gratuitous, and any worth we have is based on Him.
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

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