I have the hardest time teaching the old testament to children - the story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac or all the lies and deceit that took place and seem contradictory to the message I am supposed to convey. Yesterday's lesson was on Jacob and the 12 tribes. The last time our class met, the lesson was on Jacob and Esau. We related the account of how Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Rebecca dressed Jacob in goat skin in order to trick Isaac into giving him the blessing that was supposedly given in Esau's name
It's been suggested that both parents played along as it had been revealed when Rebecca was pregnant with the two that each twin would bear nations but that the elder would serve the younger. Perhaps Rebecca and Isaac had put on the charade for Esau's sake. It's still deception. Yesterday's lesson was on Jacob returning to Haran to take a wife because no maiden in Canaan was worthy of the Abrahamic line - and yet the family continued to return to Canaan. I don't get it.
Jacob labors seven years for Rachael but is tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachael. In my mind, Laban's deception toward Jacob doesn't seem any different than Jacob's toward Esau or Isaac. It was still a part of the plan, right, that Jacob marry multiple wives and have many children? The scriptures will have us believe that it was Leah who was the most fertile as she had more children than the other three put together. But does Dinah even count? There is no evidence of our having a tribe through her.
In addition to lots of prayer, I used this summary and this video to assist my understanding, though I knew I'd be limited in what I could share with the children. My absolute favorite quote in this movie is when Jacob finds Leah in his bed instead of Rachael and she says, "Have you never wanted something so badly that you were willing to deceive even those you love in order to get it?" Duh, Jacob.
I know it's just speculation, much interpretaion is - how can one really look at the Bible (either old or new testament) and think it complete? Perhaps the details aren't important, but it would certainly help me to have more of them. In the TNT production, it shows that Laban and his family use deception for gain - not so much because it is tradition to marry off the eldest girl first, but because "Whatever Jacob touches, flourishes". Laban did not wish to lose that and thus continued to lie to Jacob until finally Jacob and the others snuck away when Laban and his servants were unable to see.
And what makes one a servant anyway? A population is just born into being? I don't relate to their customs at all. With Laban's daughter's getting married, he gives each a gift - a handmaiden. My gift to you is a person? This person is going to come in handy when you learn that you won't be able to bear children after your own sister has had four and three more after that?
My lesson that it is wrong to lie or to break a promise. I wholeheartedly agree. It is wrong! It was wrong for Laban to do it and I think it was equally just as wrong for Rebecca to do it. But it's just. It was part of the plan. But why is it just for her and Jacob and not Laban since Laban's deception also fulfilled a necessary part of the plan - not that I condone plural marriage either nor do I understand why Jacob was able to father with others if he wants us to believe that he was so devoted to Rachael?
Of course I hadn't planned on mentioning any more than the lineage. I printed two for the class to look at and ended up talking more about personal genealogy rather than Abraham and Jacob's. Thomas and Carli listen better when their hands are busy and so I don't always know they are listening, but was actually impressed at how much each of them retained and contributed.
Three more lessons about Joseph and Moses after that. I am so grateful to live in a time with easy access to the scriptures and words of the prophets and paved roads and many methods of transportation and choices of footwear, written communication and photographs. Those old testament people always seem so lost and often out of touch - and incomplete.