As further proof of his claim to him and his progeny, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen. 35:10), which means “May God contend,” or “May God rule.” Name changes, as a sign of the unfolding of God’s work in a person’s life, will prove common in our Bible. Think of Simon becoming Peter in the Gospels. But God is still also called “The God of Jacob.” Perhaps that is because God still works with liars and cheats and con artists and sinverguenzas traviosos (reckless and shameless hucksters) at odds with their brothers, like Jacob, who may not be as bold as Cain was in killing their brothers, but who find other, more cowardly ways to despoil them, and turns them around toward integrity and reconciliation. Read his story in the next set of stories to see how Jacob’s sins set in motion more sins down the road in his family. Jacob’s sons, the people of God, who represent God to their pagan neighbors, make of themselves “a stink in the nostrils of their neighbors (34:30).” The curse of Cain rears its ugly head again when Jacob’s sons plot to kill their insufferable brother, Joseph. Many of the Old Testament heroes of faith were polygamists, but they and their family systems are poster children for the egalitarian monogamy of Eden and the New Testament. But notice also how God’s grace infiltrates and redeems the situations in which his people get themselves. “Judgment begins with the household of God (I Peter 4:17).”

“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly as his own,” Psalm 4: 4, another lament, a personal one, reflecting the alienation and estrangement of the saint from a corrupt society. Like many other laments, this one ends with an affirmation of faith.


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