Sunday, June 08, 2008

What's in a name?

I talked at VCC this weekend about the wrestling match in Genesis 32 between Jacob and a man/angel/God. Jacob wrestles with him until he is blessed. The blessing comes in the form of a name change. Jacob (deceiver) is re-named Israel (God-struggler). Afterward today I was thinking more about Jacob during Aidan's baseball game. There's a kid on the team named Benjamin. Benjamin was Jacob's baby - his last born son. Only the second son of Rachel, the love of Jacob's life.

Here's the passage in Genesis 35:

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, "Don't be afraid, for you have another son." 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

There's a lot of real life joy and pain packed into those three verses. A big move, the birth of a son, the death of a beloved wife. In overwhelming pain, Rachel names Jacob's twelth son Ben-Oni. Ben-Oni means "son of my troubles/pain." Ben-Oni literally killed Rachel. He caused her so much pain that she died. As a result, she curses him with his name. Trust me. If this kid tried to make it through Genesis with a name like "son of pain" it would have been ugly. Jacob steps in. Amidst his grief, he holds his baby. He looks into that little guy's eyes and says, "No. Not Ben-Oni, but Ben-jamin." Not son of pain. But, son of my right hand. Son of my glory. Son of my joy.

He removes the curse and redeems his son with a blessing. Where did Jacob, the schemer learn to do that? He didn't. Jacob doesn't do stuff like that. But an old limping man named Israel does. Those who are blessed bless best. Genesis 49 is an entire chapter devoted to Jacob's last words on earth. They are all blessings spoken over his children. His story comes full circle in redemption: Jacob, the blessing stealer, becomes Israel, the blessing giver.

3 comments:

steg stories said...

I can't find the name Kimbo in the bible. Is it in there?

Micah said...

Really good job this weekend, Joe.

j steg said...

Oni-Ben-Kenobi-wan-jamin