Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 34:11-16

11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.

12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:

14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:

15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

Shechem tells Jacob and his sons to name their price. Whatever they ask he will give it as a wedding dowry. Once again, this only goes to show how unrepentant he is, thinking that he can pay a lofty enough sum and then all his immorality will be excused. He doesn’t seem to realize that suggesting Dinah’s lost innocence can be compensated for with money is only heaping fresh insults on top of his prior ones.

In answer, Jacob’s sons insist that Shechem and all the people of that land must be circumcised. They promise that if the men subject themselves to this, then the blending of the two cultures they have desired will occur. This, of course, is a lie and a trick, but because of their failure to comprehend the magnitude of their offense, the men of this land don’t think twice about agreeing to these terms.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 31:30, 32-35

30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?

32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.

33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent.

34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.

35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.

Laban demanded why Jacob had stolen his idols, which Jacob obviously denied. His pledge to put to death anyone who stole the idols seems a very bold oath to make. Obviously, Jacob knew that he had not taken them, I wonder what made him so mistakenly sure that no one in his household did either. Who knows how they would have resolved things if Rachel had been discovered as the culprit.

As for her sake, Rachel adds lying to her theft. I do not mean this as an excuse for her deceitful practices, but it is worth noting that Laban was also a deceitful father. After Jacob completed his first seven years of service, she had been robbed of her intended wedding by Laban’s lies, and now she is robbing him of his gods with hers. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it is a fact of life that the wrong things we do set an example to others that are usually used against us later on. Though it may be indirect and years in the making, we are often the authors of our own harm.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:22-23, 25-26

22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.

23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.

25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?

26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

Thus far in the story Laban has treated Jacob with dignity and respect. It is interesting, then, to see this deceptive turn from him. Tricking a man into marrying a woman he did not intend is a very egregious offense. The explanation that Laban gives, that in their country the first daughter must be married before the second, in no way accounts for the fact that he did not tell this to Jacob beforehand. One would assume that he knew he would play this trick on Jacob all the seven years that his nephew labored for him, making him a liar for all of those 2,500 days!

However, I cannot help but see this as a sort of karma balancing out in Jacob’s life. He had deceived his own father and stolen the place of honor from his brother. He had done this by pretending to be someone that he was not, and now he gets to be on the receiving end of a very similar trick. Life has a way of holding up a mirror to each of us, causing us to collect the same sort of payment we have given out.

Better for Jacob to balance the cosmic scales here and now, and be clear for the rest of his life. And, as it would turn out, Leah was to become a key part of his growing heritage. So even this setback was ultimately meant for his own good.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:21-22, 24, 26-27

21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.

22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.

24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.

26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.

27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:

Isaac is showing strong skepticism that this is, in fact, Esau before him. He is surprised that his son would be back so quickly with the venison and the voice sounds more like Jacob’s. And so he attempts to settle his mind, testing Jacob by feeling him, smelling him, and asking him questions.

Later, when the real Esau arrives for his blessing, Isaac immediately realizes what Jacob has done, showing that he still had misgivings, even after giving the blessing. But in truth, it didn’t matter. For God was not fooled, and the blessing was God’s to give. Isaac was merely the mouthpiece.

This chapter is full of charade and drama, and frankly I think it is nothing more than human theater. We like to think that we determine the hand of fate in our own lives, but all of our antics are only a façade, flashy but ultimately weightless. All we really choose is what sort of person we want to be, and everything that follows is determined by God. Jacob had chosen his identity, Esau had chosen his, and then God chose their according fates. And if Jacob had not fooled his father or if Isaac had figured out the trickery earlier…nothing would have changed, God would have still worked things out just as He intended.

All or Nothing- Luke 9:61-62, 2 Nephi 28:21

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

COMMENTARY

No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God
Previously we examined the notion that we cannot follow God and indulge in our vices as well. The philosophy that we can leads to all manner of self-contradictions, not least of which is the Bible’s specific condemnation of it!
Some people try to get around this dilemma, though, by compartmentalizing their life. For them religion is an ornament on the shelf, something to add depth and dimension to the collage of their broader identity. It is a garnish to the main dish. It is living with an at-church-religious-self but also an ambitious-career-self. And because the two are separate, the ambitious-career-self does not have to answer to the expectations of the other.
The appeal of such an approach is obvious, but the simple truth is that none of us make it very long by trying to live good-ish. The above verse clearly condemns the notion of committing to God on Sunday, then looking away from Him on Monday. It is true that we play many different roles in life, but the gospel was meant to permeate them all. We should be trying to be Christ-like in how we interact with our community and our career and our friendships and our family and our side-interests, etc.

All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell
Imagine a castle wall made up of a strongly-fortified-bulwark-part, but also a gaping-hole-part. That is the effect of a compartmentalized discipleship. Are we going to hope that the enemy is kind enough to attack the strong area only? As the above verse suggests, I believe the reason why we even think that the gospel can be taken up and put back down stems from the notion that there is no enemy at all. Why bother patching the hole if there is no risk? Once again, though, which is the one entity who would be trying to convince us that there was no need to be protected?

All or Nothing- Matthew 6:24, James 1:7-8

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

COMMENTARY

No man can serve two masters
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways
There are many that are prepared to follow God…with caveats. Perhaps they wish to be His disciple, but still nurse a vice on the side. I myself have lived under the mindset that there was a cosmic set of scales in heaven, and I just needed to do enough good things to balance out all the bad things that I was doing, too.
It is an alluring philosophy, one that would permit willful indulgences while only making token good offerings now and again. However this notion is not supported in any passage of scripture. While on my mission I met quite a few people who said of their vices: “well, like the Bible says, ‘do, but don’t overdo.'” Which quotation…flummoxed me to say the least! You can open a search engine if you don’t believe me, but nowhere does the Bible say any such thing.
Obviously it is unrealistic to expect total perfection while we live in this fallen state. For sure we are going to fall short and continually depend on grace. But accepting that we need grace is not the same as condoning sin. Though this philosophy of willful indulgence may come in many different forms and compelling arguments, the source of them is always the same. There is the only being that would teach a philosophy which indulges doing things that you know are wrong. And that being does not do this to be a nice guy, his intent is strictly malicious. He is no friend of ours.