Lectionary Year A
August 1, 1999
Step III: Immediate Context
(JFC) A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Pre - In verses 13-21 of Genesis 32, Jacob is amassing the stuff of the
wants to give Esau - female and male goats, ewes and rams, camels and their
colts, cows and bulls and donkeys. Then he instructs his servants how to
approach Esau with these herds of gifts.
Post - Following the wrestling match and the blessing, Jacob limps away
and we get the rationale for Jews' avoiding eating the muscle of the thigh.
Thereafter, in chapter 33, we read of Jacob's strategizing his response to
Esau's approach. Then, Esau's approach is recorded.
(JFC) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
From the creation sagas, the fall, the earliest families and their plights,
on toward Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau and on to Joseph and his brothers in the
book of Genesis. Perhaps the pivotal passage in Genesis comes in 12:1-3.
This passage ends Genesis' Primeval History and begins the narratives of
the Patriarchs. There we read of God's selecting Abraham and Sarah to
multiply, to receive the land and enjoy a relationship with God for the
purpose of benefiting people. That relationship with the deity gets more and
more emphasis and, possibly, reaches a high point in Jacob's wrestling match
and its conversation and blessings. Jacob's stories encompass Genesis
25:19-37:2a. Jacob's conflict with Esau (beginning in 25:23, "Will the
younger rule the older?) occupies much of these chapters. The pericope at
hand seems to offer a brief respite between some of the more tense
experiences between these twin brothers. However, this pericope reports
an encounter seemingly more dangerous, at least more mysterious, than the
one prepared for and anticipated with Esau.
(JFC) C. ISSUES OF AUTHORSHIP
This part of Genesis is Yahwistic. The Yahwists habitually described God
in anthropomorphic characteristics. They write in a "clear and direct
style", according to E. A. Speiser (Anchor Bible Commentary). They
exhibited deep and abiding faith in God. They wrote, "masterfully" someone
attests, around 950 BCE, when the Kingdoms were united. The Yahwists refer
regularly to customs, traditions and institutions from earliest Israel. This
explains the mention of the wives, the servants, the children and the gifts
in the pericope at hand.
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