We live in a bleached and wrung culture, and people have wrong ideas – let’s say ‘historically inaccurate ‘ – about who G works with. At least the Hebrew G. At least in Genesis.
We imagine the people G uses are like our pastor or priest, or maybe like the sweater-wearing goof from The Simpsons. You know, people who are pious and worthy, ready to pay an extra hundred bucks to the government rather than cheat on their taxes.
I was reading the Hebrew scriptures today – Genesis – about Jacob, Esau, Leah and Rebekah, and Laban. Jacob, along with his two wives and their handmaidens, are the progenitors of the Jewish people. Their twelve sons are the namesakes of the twelve tribes.
If you haven’t read their stories, get a Bible. Get a modern reading version so you can hear the story and not get lost in the language. Man, let me tell you, these are some messed up folks. They lie, they steal, they connive, they rape – if they lived in your neighborhood, across the street, you’d call the cops every Saturday morning after payday and a good drunk on Friday night. These are people who take care of their own and let you float down the river. In fact, they probably put you in the river with enough camel dung stuffed in your pants to pull you under.
I can’t help but compare this story to the Christian New Testament. There, Jesus walks with people who appear to be generally good citizens. It’s hard for me to imagine Jesus sitting with Jacob, all cozy, knowing that Jacob’s wife stole her father’s idols and stuffed them in her suitcase. Discovering the theft, Jacob shouts that whoever stole his idols should die. In a mad search, his servants sift through Rebekah’s things, looking for the idols, but she feigns menstruation and can’t rise off the saddle. It’s a hoot that proves the novelist’s trope that there’s no new story under the sun. These are things men and women do and have always done.
Odd as it is, readers can take solace in these stories. You don’t have to fix yourself when you go to G. He already knows what a low bar you straddle. If the Hebrew Scriptures tell us anything, it’s that G takes you as you are. Lying, cheating, and stealing.