So far in Genesis we’ve seen the creation and fall of humanity as they consistently choose their own way rather than God’s way, leading them to wickedness and violence. In response, we saw God leave them to it and choose a family to partner with and journey through what it looks like to live God’s way as an example to others.
We followed the lives of Abraham and Sarah as they try to live God’s way, and watched God’s faithfulness to them even when they failed. Abraham had a son Isaac, and yesterday we read as Isaac has two sons, Esau and Jacob.
But while Jacob is destined to be a leader over his older brother, he still chooses to try achieve this on his own, tricking Esau out of his birthright, and the stealing his father’s blessing.
The last we saw of Jacob he was fleeing to his uncle’s house for safety, and God met with him on the way. Despite Jacob’s flaws and failings, God continues to commit himself to him, promising him the same blessing he had offered his grandfather Abraham. This is where we pick up today.
In the same way that the servant of Abraham went to their family in the east to find a wife for Isaac, here is Jacob going to his family in the east. Except this time it isn’t with a camel laden with gifts and it isn’t (strictly) to find a wife but to escape the threats of his brother.
But just like Abraham’s servant, Jacob finds himself at a well. There he meets a woman, and he takes the time to water her flock for her, just as Rebekah had done for the servant back in Genesis 24:19-20. This woman turns out to be Jacob’s cousin Rachel, and he quickly falls in love with her.
Take a moment to notice this pattern. A man travels to a foreign land, stops at a well, meets a woman, someones draws water for another, and the woman becomes a wife. It’s going to come up again.
Finally meeting his uncle, Laban, Jacob asks for her hand in marriage. But in Laban, Jacob has met his match. In the same way that Jacob conned both his brother Esau and his father Isaac, Laban cons Jacob into working 7 years for his daughter Rachel, who he swaps out with his other daughter Leah last minute. Laban then forces Jacob to work another 7 years for the wife he originally wanted. But Jacob serves dutifully because of the woman he loves, and eventually he takes both women to be his wife.
We then get a long section on the children of Jacob. This bit is important because it 1) sets up the family dynamic that we will see later in Genesis and 2) sets up the origins of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Those that know their Bible know that the greatest tribe was Judah. It was the tribe that King David and all the following kings came from. It was also the tribe that Jesus came from.
As we read through this bit, we see that Judah wasn’t the firstborn. In this period, normally the firstborn is considered the most significant. But God wants to make clear that he is in charge and nothing is left to chance.
Out of the children of Isaac, rather than choosing the firstborn Esau, God chose his younger brother Jacob. And then out of the children of Jacob, rather than choosing the firstborn Reuben, he chooses Judah, and as we will see soon, Joseph.
There are also comparisons to Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar here. While the Bible makes no suggestion that Bilhah and Zilpah were oppressed or abused, we still have women offering the servants up to carry children. Except here we have twice the amount of wives and servants, and just as much, if not more, conflict. The women resort to bartering amongst themselves for the affection of their husband.
We then come back to the conflict between Jacob and Laban, who convinces Jacob into agreeing to work 6 more years for all the speckled, striped, and spotted sheep. Except Laban tricks him by taking all those sheep and hiding them away, attempting to leave him with nothing.
Despite this, God blesses Jacob by causing all the strong newborns to come with speckles, stripes, and spots.
Deciding that there was no way Laban was just going to let him leave, Jacob decides to flee with his family. Laban soon catches up, and after some fierce arguing, the two agree to go their separate ways.
For 20 years Jacob, the trickster, had to experience what it was like to be the one being tricked.
This psalm is attributed to King David, and fits into the category of lament psalms, though you may not notice it straight away. This is because unlike most lament psalms that begin with the complaint and end with a declaration of trust in God, this psalm does it the other way round.
The first half of the psalm is dedicated to praise, and so to begin with it would be easy to mistake this as a praise psalm. But following a chiastic pattern (a structure that mirrors itself) as the psalm reaches its turning point, the psalmist begins to raise their complaint before God.
A) Psalm 9:1-2 - Praise
B) Psalm 9:3-6 - God has judged the enemy
C) Psalm 9:7-10 - Testimony that God saves the righteous
D) Psalm 9:11 - Praise
C) Psalm 9:12-14 - Prayer that God will save the psalmist
B) Psalm 9:15-18 - God continues to judge the wicked
A) Psalm 9:19-20 - Prayer for God to intercede
Perhaps the biggest immediate take away from this psalm is the evidence that there is no one way you have to pray. In some situations, all you can do is bring your complaint. You’re hurting and broken, and it’s only after airing all that pain before God that you can bring yourself to declare that God is good.
But other times you might decide before you bring up your complaints, you need to remind yourself of the goodness of God to put your complaints in their rightful place. It all depends on the situation and where you are at when you come to pray.
What’s so clever about this psalm is there is a secondary structure that we don’t see in the English. This psalm is an acrostic, where each section (roughly every two verses) starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
א) Psalm 9:1-2 - Praise to God
ב) Psalm 9:3-4 - God is the one that has protected and sustained the psalmist
ג) Psalm 9:5-6 - God judges the wicked
ה) Psalm 9:7-8 - God reigns, enthroned over the world
ו) Psalm 9:9-10 - God protects the oppressed
ז) Psalm 9:11-12 - Praise to God
ח) Psalm 9:13-14 - A request for God to protect the oppressed
ט) Psalm 9:15-16 - God’s judgement on the wicked
י) Psalm 9:17 - The wicked shall go the place of death for forgetting God
כ) Psalm 9:18-20 - The poor will not be forgotten by God
Interestingly, Psalm 10 continues this acrostic on with the next Hebrew letter ל.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.
Jon and Tim link these stories of finding life at a well to the message of Jesus being the water of life in the Gospel of John.
Understanding the context of your passage is always important. BibleProject always do an incredible job of breaking down each book so you can see how your passage fits into the wider story.
BibleProject have done an animated recap of Genesis 12-50 to help you fit today's passage into the overarching story of Genesis.
Spoken Gospel outlines the book of Genesis and point out some of the key themes, all in the medium of spoken word.
This Bible study devotional covers Genesis chapters 29-31. Here Spoken Gospel read through God keeping his promises to Abraham's family through the strangest human rivalries.