Welcome back for round four. This week’s post has a very Old Testament flavour to it.
In The Bible the Jews are also called Israel. This is because of a guy called Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph (the Andrew Lloyd Webber one) …and eleven other sons too. Jacob was also the original Stairway to Heaven guy long before Led Zepplin got there.
One of my favourite accounts in The Bible when I was younger, was the one where Jacob is alone at night as he’s waiting to meet his twin brother, Esau. They’re adults now, but when they were children they definitely should have gone for some family counselling or something because between them and their parents, the whole sibling rivalry issue was definitely driving in fifth gear.
So Jacob’s a little nervous to say the least and has put all his people – servants, women and children – on one side of the Jabbok River in case Esau is going to do something rash. Now Jacob is hanging out alone on the other side.
It’s dark and probably a little cold. You can hear the wind blowing through the trees and the river trickling nearby. Then (at least this is how I always imagined it) out of nowhere this person suddenly jumps on him from behind and starts wrestling him.
And wrestle they do. Until daybreak. The man who appeared out of nowhere sees he’s not stronger than Jacob (which is bizarre given the identity of the man) and so goes in for a violent twist of Jacob’s hip. Then the man and Jacob have a bit of a chat and the wrestle is soon over.
The whole story is terrifying and odd, mostly because the man appearing out of nowhere turns out to be God. But in the short chat God and Jacob have, God says that Jacob’s name will now be Israel which means ‘he struggles with God’. So that’s what Israel or the Jewish nation experience throughout the Old Testament: a struggle with God.
The Jewish tribes all come from the Jew formally known as Jacob and the twelve sons he had: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
And that my friends is the nation of Israel.
Also a Jew but a fair bit later in history than Jacob.
If you’re looking for the Old Testament’s version of a whiny, disobedient childish type who also just happens to be a prophet, then Jonah is your man. In fairness he doesn’t get the greatest gig. He’s told he has to go to a city called Nineveh (which has one hundred and twenty thousand people) and tell them to stop being wicked and start listening to God.
Jonah says ‘no thank-you’ and gets himself on a boat headed in pretty much the opposite direction to where he’s supposed to go. This doesn’t sit well with God. A storm starts and eventually Jonah decides he’d prefer suicide to preaching and gets himself thrown overboard.
To cut a long story short – thanks to a big fish – Jonah doesn’t die but ends up in Nineveh and delivers the message. This results in the people who were being wicked and not listening to God saying that they will stop being wicked and start listening to God.
So Jonah’s wildly happy now, right?
Wrong. He actually pulls on his cranky pants, goes and sits outside the city and gets suicidal again.
Why exactly he’s angry is that he appears to want only the Jews to be blessed by God and not anyone else. He explains that he didn’t go to Nineveh in the first place because he knew what God was like, that is, that God was going to forgive all the wicked people.
So basically Jonah is the Billy Graham of the Old Testament who decides to dig his heels in and insist on crying at his own biblengod storytelling party. He’s definitely another Old Testament guy who really needed to sign up for some professional help.
Yours in struggling,