Genesis 29–31: On Rachel’s Junk Science, Jacob’s Ancient Eugenics, and the Fear of Isaac’s Unshakeable Sovereignty (Bible Talk, Ep. 10)

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There’s a lot of deception and re-deception going on here. There’s also some poetic justice, some pathetic names, some junk science, and a tense camel chase. In Episode 10 of Bible Talk, Alex Duke chats with Jim Hamilton and Sam Emadi about Genesis 29–31.


1:24 / Alex points out how this chunk of text is dripping with dramatic irony: Jacob the deceiver gets deceived by Laban only to then deceive Laban, his deceiver—and around and around they go.

1:52 / Why is Jacob heading to the East? And why does it matter whom Jacob marries?

5:15 / Sam explains what Laban seems to be expecting out of his encounter with Jacob at the beginning of Genesis 29 and how, when you think about it, Laban and Jacob are basically cut from the same cloth.

8:49 / Jacob gets “out-Jacobed” by his uncle and receives Leah as his wife instead of Rachel, plunging him back into a cycle of indentured servitude. Sam describes how he sees the people of Israel’s story in Jacob’s predicament.

11:01 / Was the Lord cruel to Rachel by making her barren? How does Rachel’s barrenness fit with what we’ve seen so far in Genesis? How does it prepare us for what will come in the future?

12:30 / Jim explains why Leah’s kids’ names are “totally pathetic.”

15:00 / After skipping through 14 years in 12 verses, Moses slows to a snail’s pace in Genesis 30. Sam points out why he takes so much time on this portion of the story.

17:43 / This big ol’ family drama culminates just like every other familial conflict: a knock-down, drag-out argument over some mandrakes. (But not mandrakes from Harry Potter, as Jim helpfully notes.) What in the world is going on here? Is there any merit to Leah’s “junk science”?

19:32 / Jim gives Sam props for his “odd” Jonathan Leeman impression.

20:55 / Why does Moses give a brief backstory for each of the first 11 heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel?

22:05 / Sam and Jim explain how the birth of Joseph sparks the family’s return to the land. They then discuss how later biblical authors want us to remember Joseph. Sam observes more people in the Bible look like Joseph when Israel is in exile than when they are in the land.

23:20 / Alex wonders why anyone listens to this podcast. Meanwhile, Sam tries to make sense of Jacob’s wild stick ploy, and Jim fights off an Exodus fever dream of his own!

27:00 / Jim explains what Jacob is trying to do with his “ancient eugenics.” Then he asks a convicting question: How do we try to engineer events like Jacob? What’s the godly alternative? (No, Jim does not say we should stop vaccinating our kids!)

30:00 / Camel chase! (Genesis 31:17–29)

31:27 / Jim shores up what was lacking in Alex’s summary of Genesis 31, Sam gears up for another Exodus fever dream, and Alex tries his hand at a recurring Hebrew word.

33:30 / Jim and Alex encourage Sam’s Exodus fever dream. He delivers a pretty mellow one to start, but gets fired up toward to the end!

36:12 / Why did Rachel steal Laban’s idols? Is she an idolater or a godly iconoclast? What’s the narrator trying to tell us about how these gods compare to Yahweh?

38:37 / Surprisingly, Jacob and Laban part ways peacefully. How did this happen? (It’s also at this point that Jim recounts buying Genesis 31:49 friendship bracelets, and Alex cackles at the existence of such Christian-ish kitsch.)


41:40 / Why is the Lord referred to as the “Fear of Isaac” in Genesis 29–31?

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Image: Laban Searching for his Idols, François Boucher

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