The Shuvah Project #10 — Reunion & Reconciliation

New to The Shuvah Projectwhat it is and why it’s necessary.

But Esau ran to meet him, hugged him, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. Then they wept.

-Genesis 33:4

Section One (Parsha Debrief):

This week’s parsha Text contained: Jacob’s preparation to meet Esau, Jacob grappling with an angelic being, Jacob renamed Israel, Jacob encountering Esau, the rape of Dinah, the birth of Benjamin, the death of Rachel and Isaac, and genealogies.

In the Midweek Reading Guide emailed to our subscribers, we suggested the stories in our parsha Text have a lot of connections to earlier stories in Genesis.

We’re going to focus on Jacob’s renaming and how it provides commentary on the two chapters it sits in the middle of — chapters that detail the Jacob and Esau reunion (Genesis 32 & 33).

At first glance the two chapters look a whole lot like Jacob is bribing Esau. In fact, your translation may even say as much. For example, the HCSB version has Jacob saying, “I want to appease Esau with the gift that is going ahead of me. After that, I can face him, and perhaps he will forgive me (Genesis 32:20).” We’ll come back to this verse 😉

But, when we start to balance what’s going on here with a similar event that happened five chapters (i.e. 20 years) prior — we gain a whole new understanding of chapters 32 and 33! Most this discussion comes from Aleph Beta material.

In Genesis 27 Jacob sought out and used deceptive tactics to snag Esau’s blessing from his father Isaac.

Do you remember Isaac’s blessing? It’s found in verses 28 and 29.

Jacob’s actions — what look like bribes and flattery — actually mirror the blessings he took. Almost as if the Text is suggesting Jacob is returning the blessing he took from his brother!

Take a look at our scale:

That’s crazy!!

There’s more! In last week’s parsha, after the blessing was given to Jacob, Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob (Genesis 27:36a)?” In Hebrew, Jacob can mean heel grabber (makes sense based on how he came out of the womb), but also to supplant or circumvent. Seems like Esau is commenting on Jacob’s crooked action.

But here, in Genesis 32 and 33, Jacob does not pretend to be someone else. He speaks truthfully and faces an angelic being face-to-face on his way to meet his brother face-to-face. No more deception!

At which point, the angelic being changes his name to Israel. Which, can mean straight with God.

Jacob’s name change is directly related to who he is becoming — a man of integrity. 

Returning to Genesis 32:20 like I promised — the idea of face is in your face! Here’s the transliterated Hebrew Text:

ebed Ya`aqob ‘achar ‘amar kaphar paniym minchah halak paniym ‘achar ra’ah paniym nasa’ paniym

-Genesis 32:20

The word for face, paniym, shows up four times! 

The word, kaphar, is not really about appeasement — it’s about atoning and reconciling!

The word, minchah, is an offering!

Jacob really was facing the truth, trying to reconcile, and offering atonement for his previous deception!

For reconciliation to take place there needs to be vulnerability and sincerity.

We tend to show one face to God, and another face to people. In the intimate privacy between me and my Creator, I can acknowledge my weaknesses and shortcomings. I can be honest about areas in my life where I’m not showing up enough or evading responsibility. But when I face other people, it’s a lot harder to show any of that. So instead I’ll hide the truth behind a facade of strength, of being on top of things and having it together.

– Rabbi Ami Silver

Reconciliation takes integrity.

Section Two (Connection to NT + haftarah):

It’s no coincidence or surprise that the author of Luke, God for that matter, uses the Greek word for firstborn son in Luke 2:7a to describe Jesus. This word is used only 9 times in the NT, but 125 times in the Septuagint.

Firstbornness, and the responsibilities that go with it, have been central to God’s redemptive narrative all along. In fact, our parsha Text picks up in the middle of a family feud over firstbornness. Above we detailed how that feud ended — with reunion and reconciliation. 

But, family feuds aren’t always reconciled. Reunions aren’t always full of warm embrace, kisses, and joyous tears. In fact, it’s often the opposite. We’ve touched on this in a previous post — remember Cain’s response when he thought God was holding out on him?

The author of Luke, in the very same verse, forces us to face the hard truth of family political and value differences, and how they undermine the redemptive narrative of our God.

and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the inn.

– Luke 2:7b

The infamous inn.

The Greek transliteration of inn here, katalyma, is only used 3 times in the NT. Once in Mark and twice in Luke. Outside of this reference in Luke 2:7 it is used to describe the place where Jesus and His disciples assemble to share the Passover meal. This is not a coincidence. This guestroom is no Motel 6 (see footnote #1). In all cases this is someone’s home. The Text is talking about a room in a home. In Luke 2:7b, Joseph is back where he grew up. Joseph, and pregnant Mary, are among family (e.g. aunts, uncles, and cousins).

And yet, there is no one willing to open up their guestroom to them!

No vacancy, or unwillingness to reconcile differences over an unplanned pregnancy?

I think the author of Luke is inviting the latter.

At the very least, the author of Luke is alluding to how the Table should be set. Here, there’s no room, but soon…

Jesus invites all, sojourners included!

Section Three (missing the mark):

Warning: sensitive topic discussed below

The church has, for the most part, failed to equip it’s leaders to talk about healthy sexuality. Not surprisingly, some church leaders perpetuate a dangerous narrative that what women wear justifies their exploitation, or worse yet, why they are raped.

Rape isn’t something to gloss over. We talked about it when detailing the sin of Sodom. Here, in our parsha Text, we face the horrific story in which Dinah is raped by Shechem.

Here’s the deal, as ugly as the story is, the Text does not comment on whether Simeon and Levi’s reaction (i.e. murdering every male in Shechem) or Jacob’s reaction (i.e. silence and diplomacy) is the appropriate response. The Text just jumps to the next story. What!?!

Maybe the real conversation the Text is inviting is not how to respond, but how to prevent.

Lets have that convo.

I don’t know much about the organization Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), but my most recent experience was not positive.

Three male athletes were discussing Jesus and relationships. In that discussion, they determined it was best to stay away from non-Christian women. And, they determined it was best to watch how a woman acts in a group setting, because one-on-one women conform to expectations instead of being their true selves.

What’s disturbing to me about their dialogue is how they were taught to view women. At the core of the teaching — women aren’t to be trusted. Women, are temptresses to be avoided because they’ll only distract from a focus on goals and God.

Those were their exact words — distract from goals and God.

Here’s how a friend shares his alarm regarding the narrative being taught to Christian men.

While this [teaching] creates a LOT of avenues for men to abuse women, what really disturbs me is that the Christian narrative for male sexuality fundamentally excludes any empathy for women. [Instead,] the church makes women second-class humans.

Rape happens when the victim is seen as lesser, second-class.

To avoid misinterpretations, I’m not saying FCA is promoting rape. I’m not saying that male FCA students or leaders end up raping women.

I am saying, FCA seems to be telling a narrative that places the blame on women. Women are not to blame for, and men are not victims of, unhealthy sexuality.

Too often this false narrative of blame is rooted in a skewed understanding of the Garden story. You may want to revisit that story, so that you don’t fall trap to perpetuating the temptress narrative.

Section Four (real-world applications):

Eventually, we will read one of Jesus’ parables in which there are also two brothers, a birthright, oppression in a foreign land, and… reunion.

But, the reunion looks different. We’ll save the bulk of that discussion for when we get to Luke 15 (there is brilliant nugget waiting).

Here, it seems real-world applicable and noteworthy to share two things regarding our parsha Text.

  1. Esau — the victim, the person who was wronged — runs to embrace his foe. 
  2. Jacob — the deceiver — empathizes and tries to right his wrong face-to-face.

Like our parsha Text, reconciliation takes action. Pro-action.

This holiday season, live out God’s redemptive narrative — do the hard work of reconciling with family.

Next Week’s Readings: Genesis 37:1-40:23; Luke 2:41-52

  1. The author of Luke seems to recognize a difference between the guestroom used in 2:7 and 22:11 from that of lodging in 9:12.

3 thoughts on “The Shuvah Project #10 — Reunion & Reconciliation

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