A Daily Genesis

Genesis 28:22

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†. [/COLOR]Gen 28:22a . . And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, shall be God's abode;[/B]

Jacob's pillow stone wasn't really meant to be a dwelling or a container as we typically think of human habitat or animal cages. It was meant to be a sort of monitoring device. An 8th century BC Aramaic treaty inscription from Sfire, in Syria, terms each upright stone on which the treaty is inscribed as an abode of the gods.

The Hebrew word for "God" is [I]'elohiym[/I] (el-o-heem') which is a plural word meaning gods of all descriptions; both the good and the bad; and the true and the false. So that we could translate Gen 28:22a-- "shall be the abode of the gods."

The stone(s) symbolize a divine presence monitoring fulfillment and/or infractions of the terms of a treaty or a vow. So Jacob's pillar was not only the custodian of his vow, but was also its regulatory agency taking note whether Jacob and Yhvh keep their promises to each other. The very same thing turns up again in Gen 31:44-52.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:22b . . and of all that You give me, I will set aside a tithe for You.[/B]

This is probably the very first Biblical instance of the so-called "faith promise". Though coming from a wealthy family; and heir apparent to his father Isaac's personal fortune, the fulfillment of this particular vow was contingent, not upon what Jacob possessed already; but upon God's future providence.

Jacob didn't promise a set dollar figure, but promised a "tithe" which in English Bibles is commonly translated a tenth; but in reality the Hebrew word [I]'asar[/I] (aw-sar') just means to apportion; which Webster's defines as: to divide and share out according to a plan; especially to make a proportionate division or distribution of.

The value of a nondescript tithe therefore is left up to individual discretion.

"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God prefers a whole-hearted giver." (2Cor 9:7)

"And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." (2Cor 8:10-12)

Jacob was under no obligation to reciprocate and compensate God for the promises. Their fulfillment was dependent neither upon Jacob's generosity nor his piety. Fulfillment was dependent solely upon God's own personal integrity. So why should Jacob dedicate a tithe? Well; like I said, he didn't have to. Jacob's response was totally spontaneous and voluntary. His tithe was motivated from a sense of fair play, rather than a response to Holy mandates. In other words: Jacob reciprocated God's kindness with kindness of his own.

A faith that gives out of friendship, rather than obligation, is much better than a religion that mandates a tithe. And the gift should be given where the giver feels whole-hearted about it; viz: they should have some say in where their offering goes, and they should be able to feel quite satisfied about it rather than feel as though their pockets were picked.

So; how was Jacob going to transfer some of his assets into God's account? There was neither Temple nor synagogue in his day, and certainly no Aaronic priesthood. Abraham did his business with Melchizedek but there is no record of either Isaac or Jacob doing business with one of Mel's successors.

When all else fails, a very, very good way to give to God is by helping people less fortunate than yourself; in other words: pay it forward.

"He who is generous to the poor makes a loan to Yhvh: He will repay him his due." (Prv 19:17)

There are lots of charities benefiting disadvantaged people. United Way lists quite few to pick from. Believe me, those causes are a whole lot more satisfying than just mindlessly tossing money into a basket passed around on a Sunday morning.

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