During the 2017 Pentecost Season, alternative readings from the Hebrew Bible are offered. Scripture in Context will discuss both readings and the reading from the Christian Scriptures.
Today’s story is the concluding part of Jacob’s journey to find a wife. As many Biblical men do, he went to a well. There he encountered Rachel, who was his first cousin. (Laban was Rebekah’s brother and Jacob’s uncle.) When Jacob saw Rachel, he kissed her (v.11), and agreed to work for her father Laban so Rachel would be his wife (v.18).
After seven years, and in an ironic twist (because Jacob himself tricked his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau, his older twin brother), Laban tricked Jacob by substituting his older daughter (Leah) for Rachel in Jacob’s tent on the wedding night (v.23). Jacob agreed with Laban to “complete Leah’s week” of marriage festivities, and Laban gave Rachel to Jacob as another wife (v.28). Jacob worked for Laban for another seven years (v.30). Leah bore Jacob’s first four sons, including Judah.
1 Kings 3:5-12
The Book of Kings is part of the “Deuteronomic History” that includes the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. These books are a didactic history of Ancient Israel from the time in the Wilderness (c. 1250 BCE) to the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BCE. They emphasize that God controls history, and when the people (and their kings) worship Yahweh properly, good things happen to them. When they worship false gods, however, tragic events overtake them.
Prior to today’s story, Solomon (who was David’s son by Bathsheba, and not the oldest of David’s sons) acceded to the throne upon David’s death in about 965 BCE through the machinations of Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan. Solomon was anointed king even before David’s death, and then ruthlessly eliminated those who might have challenged him as king.
Today’s story presents a dream sequence in which Solomon asked YHWH for wisdom, and YHWH granted him a wise and discerning mind (v.12). As events will unfold, Solomon ruled Israel harshly and married many foreign wives who turned his heart away from YHWH. According to the Deuteronomist, this contributed greatly to the breakup of the Kingdom in 930 BCE when Solomon died.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is his longest, last, and theologically most complex letter, written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written.
Today’s reading concludes Paul’s theologically dense discussion in Chapter 8. His theology includes the idea that even if matters are not going well (v.36), God’s purpose nevertheless prevails (v.28). He asserts “foreknowledge” on God’s part (v.29) and predestination (v.30).
The reading concludes with an oft-quoted affirmation that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (vv. 38-39).