Ancient Customs

Birthright And Blessing – Are They The Same Thing?

In Genesis 27:36, Esau laments that Jacob, “took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” The birthright usually belonged to the oldest male heir in a family. The oldest son, usually, received double the inheritance of his younger brothers. With this double portion came the responsibility of caring for the extended family which would include the widow of the deceased and any unwed sisters. Thus, the double portion of the material inheritance was to ensure that the recipient of the birthright had the means to take care of the family. 

Esau’s statement in Genesis 27:36 hints that the birthright did not necessarily confer family headship. Esau believed that Jacob had stolen both the birthright and the blessing from him. As the oldest, Esau expected to receive both.  

What this passage reveals is that the birthright and the blessing were not the same thing. Presumably they often went together, but this Old Testament passage leaves the door open to the possibility that they could go to two different brothers.

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Posted by Eddie Lawrence in Ancient Customs, Genesis

Buying A Wife?

Buying A Wife

When a modern Westerner reads about an arranged marriage in the Bible it looks to us like a man was buying a wife. For example, consider the story in Genesis 24 where Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. To us, this looks more like a business transaction than a proposal.

After Abraham’s servant encountered Rebekah at the well, her family welcomed him into their home. No doubt the golden jewelry he gave her helped pave the way for him (Gen 24:22, 47). Abraham’s servant then explained how his master had made him swear to go back to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac. After Rebekah’s family agreed for her to become Isaac’s bride, the servant gave gifts of gold and other costly items. These “presents” were given to Rebekah, her brother, and her mother (Gen 24:50-53).

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Posted by Eddie Lawrence in Ancient Customs, Genesis, Women

“Put Your Hand Under My Thigh”

Put Your Hand Under My Thigh

2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 that I may make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” (Gen. 24:2–4 ESV)

There are a lot of things in the Bible that are strange and outlandish to us. The traditions and cultures of people in the ancient Near East who lived thousands of years ago were, needless to say, very different from our own. For us it is common to place our right hand on a Bible to take an oath. Abraham had his servant swear by putting his hand under Abraham’s thigh. This is probably one of the most unusual customs in the Bible.

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Posted by Eddie Lawrence in Ancient Customs, Genesis

Why Did God Command Circumcision?

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Why did God command the circumcision of a ninety-nine year old man? God changed Abram’s name to Abraham in Genesis 17 and along with the new name came a new covenant. Why another covenant? Wasn’t one already made in Gen 15? 

It appears that Abraham participated in two covenants. (1) The unilateral covenant in Gen 15 where only God obligated Himself with no requirements from Abraham (other than faith). (2) The covenant of circumcision in Gen 17. At first these don’t appear to be two covenants, but one. However, Acts 7:8 calls the Gen 17 covenant the “covenant of circumcision” after referring to the Gen 15 covenant separately in the preceding verses. Therefore, it seems that these were two covenants

God has added the rite of circumcision to the existing covenantal relationship He established in Gen 15. Why did God add circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Gen 17:11)? In what way was circumcision a sign? What did this rite mean to people in that part of the world during that time in history?

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Posted by Eddie Lawrence in Ancient Customs, Genesis

Was Hagar Exploited And Abused?

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In certain Christian circles it is presently fashionable to opine that Hagar was sexually exploited and abused by Abraham and Sarah. Is this true? Was Hagar mistreated when Sarah gave her to Abraham as a concubine? What were the circumstances which gave rise to this situation? 

God promised Abraham a child when He called him out of Ur. Since Sarah and Abraham were a married couple, it was perfectly reasonable for them to conclude that Sarah would be the mother of Abraham’s children. However, after ten years of waiting (Gen 16:3) it seems they began to question that conclusion.

Can we blame them for questioning? After a decade of waiting they still didn’t have the child God promised. Sarah may have thought that her previous conclusion about being the mother of the promised child was in reality only an assumption. After all, God promised Abraham offspring, not Sarah (Gen 12:2, 7). Maybe Sarah decided she would not be the conduit of this blessing to her husband.

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Posted by Eddie Lawrence in Ancient Customs, Genesis