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References to the Theocratic Ministry School
Program of the Theocratic Ministry School:Feb. 17 Bible reading: Genesis 29-31
No. 1: Genesis 29:21-35
No. 2: What the Resurrection Will Mean for Mankind in General (rs p. 336 ¶3–p. 337 ¶3)
No. 3: Abiathar—An Act of Disloyalty Can Nullify Years of Faithful Service (it-1 pp. 18-19)
Highlights of Genesis 29-31
‒‒Ge 31:30-35, 41-52
Laban was very concerned about retrieving the teraphim, or household idols, which Rachel, unknown to Jacob, had stolen. These he was unable to find, for Rachel kept them concealed. Laban may have become influenced in his religious ideas by the moon-worshiping people among whom he dwelt, and this may be indicated by his use of omens and his possession of teraphim. However, it should be noted that it was likely more than merely religious reasons that made Laban so anxious to locate and retrieve the teraphim. Tablets unearthed at Nuzi near Kirkuk, Iraq, reveal that, according to the laws of patriarchal times in that particular area, possession of such household idols by a woman’s husband could give him the right to appear in court and claim the estate of his deceased father-in-law. Hence, Laban may have thought that Jacob himself stole the teraphim in order to dispossess Laban’s own sons later. This may explain why, on failing to locate the household gods, Laban was anxious to conclude an agreement with Jacob that would ensure that Jacob would not go back with the household gods after Laban’s death to deprive his sons of their inheritance.—Ge 31:30-35, 41-52.
—Genesis 30:14, 15
Why did Rachel relinquish an opportunity to conceive in exchange for some mandrakes? In ancient times, the fruit of the mandrake plant was used in medicine as a narcotic and for preventing or relieving spasms. The fruit was also credited with the capacity to excite sexual desire and to increase human fertility or aid in conception. (Song of Solomon 7:13) While the Bible does not reveal Rachel’s motive for the exchange, she may have thought that the mandrakes would help her conceive and end her reproach of being barren. However, it was some years before Jehovah “opened her womb.”—Genesis 30:22-24.
Jacob’s love for Rachel was no infatuation. Their seven-year engagement “proved to be like some few days because of his love for her.” (Genesis 29:20) That Jacob loved Rachel until she died suggests that she must have had many endearing qualities.
Did Leah too hope to marry a faithful worshipper of Jehovah? The Bible does not say. Laban’s ideas about her marriage are clearer in the record. At the end of Rachel’s engagement, Laban held a wedding feast. But during the evening, says the Bible account, he brought Leah to Jacob “that he might have relations with her.”—Genesis 29:23.
Did Leah conspire to deceive Jacob? Or was she simply obliged to obey her father? And where was Rachel? Did she know what was going on? If so, how did she feel? Could she defy the will of her authoritarian father? The Bible provides no answer to these questions. Whatever Rachel and Leah thought about the matter, afterward the scheme outraged Jacob. And it was with Laban, not his daughters, that Jacob remonstrated: “Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? So why have you tricked me?” Laban’s response? “It is not customary . . . to give the younger woman before the firstborn. Celebrate to the full the week of this woman. After that there shall be given to you also this other woman for the service that you can serve with me for seven years more.” (Genesis 29:25-27) Thus Jacob was maneuvered into a polygamous marriage that was to spawn bitter jealousy.
‒‒Genesis 30:1 An Unhappy Family
Jacob loved Rachel. When God saw that in comparison Leah was “hated,” he opened her womb, while Rachel remained barren. But Leah wanted more than a child; she wanted Jacob’s affection. Seeing that affection go to Rachel, she felt wretched. Still, Leah hoped for Jacob’s love on account of her bearing his first son, Reuben, meaning “See, a Son!” Leah had reason for thus naming her child: “It is because Jehovah has looked upon my wretchedness, in that now my husband will begin to love me.” But Jacob did not; nor did he on the birth of another son. Leah called that son Simeon, meaning “Hearing.” She reasoned: “It is because Jehovah has listened, in that I was hated and so he gave me also this one.”—Genesis 29:30-33.
That God listened meant that Leah had prayed about her lot. She was seemingly a faithful woman. Yet, her pain persisted even after she bore a third son, Levi. His name, meaning “Adherence,” or “Joined,” is explained by Leah’s words: “Now this time my husband will join himself to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Evidently, though, Jacob felt no closer to her. Perhaps Leah resigned herself to that fact, for her fourth son’s name contained no reference to her hopes of better relations with Jacob. Instead, the naming of Judah expressed her thankfulness to God. The name “Judah” means “Lauded,” or “Object of Laudation.” Leah simply said: “This time I shall laud Jehovah.”—Genesis 29:34, 35.
If Leah felt wretched, Rachel felt no better. She begged Jacob: “Give me children or otherwise I shall be a dead woman.” (Genesis 30:1) Rachel had Jacob’s love, but she sought motherhood. Leah had children, but she sought love. Each desired what the other had, and neither was happy. Both loved Jacob and wished to bear his children. Each was jealous of the other. What a sad situation for that family!
—Genesis 30:1-8; 35:24. Why did Jehovah bless the physical and emotional efforts of Jacob and Rachel?
They kept Jehovah’s will in focus and cherished their heritage. They prayed earnestly for his blessing in their lives and took positive action in harmony with God’s will and their own petitions.
Like Jacob and Rachel, many today can testify that diligent effort is required to receive Jehovah’s blessing. Their efforts are often accompanied with tears, discouragement, and frustration.
—Ge 31:42, 53 Jacob referred to the Almighty as “the Dread of Isaac”
Jacob referred to the Almighty as “the Dread of Isaac,” the one that Isaac viewed with reverential awe, fearing to displease Him. That Jacob shared the viewpoint of his father Isaac is shown by his making an oath “by the Dread of his father Isaac.”—Ge 31:42, 53.
A wholesome dread of Jehovah, reflected in a desire to shun what He disapproves, is vital if a person is to remain his servant.
Feb. 17 Bible reading: Genesis 29-31
No. 1: Genesis 29:21-35
No. 2: What the Resurrection Will Mean for Mankind in General (rs p. 336 ¶3–p. 337 ¶3)How did Jesus demonstrate what resurrection will mean for mankind in general?
John 11:11, 14-44: “[Jesus said to his disciples:] ‘Lazarus our friend has gone to rest, but I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep.’ . . . Jesus said to them outspokenly: ‘Lazarus has died.’ . . . When Jesus arrived, he found he [Lazarus] had already been four days in the memorial tomb. . . . Jesus said to her [Martha, a sister of Lazarus]: ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ . . . He cried out with a loud voice: ‘Lazarus, come on out!’ The man that had been dead came out with his feet and hands bound with wrappings, and his countenance was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said to them: ‘Loose him and let him go.’” (If Jesus had thus called Lazarus back from a state of bliss in another life, that would have been no kindness. But Jesus’ raising Lazarus up from a lifeless state was a kindness both to him and to his sisters. Once again Lazarus became a living human.)
Mark 5:35-42: “Some men from the home of the presiding officer of the synagogue came and said: ‘Your daughter died! Why bother the teacher any longer?’ But Jesus, overhearing the word being spoken, said to the presiding officer of the synagogue: ‘Have no fear, only exercise faith.’ . . . He took along the young child’s father and mother and those with him, and he went in where the young child was. And, taking the hand of the young child, he said to her: ‘Tal′i•tha cu′mi,’ which, translated, means: ‘Maiden, I say to you, Get up!’ And immediately the maiden rose and began walking, for she was twelve years old. And at once they were beside themselves with great ecstasy.” (When the general resurrection takes place on earth during Christ’s Millennial Reign, doubtless many millions of parents and their offspring will be overjoyed when they are reunited.)
What prospects will await those raised to life on earth?
Luke 23:43: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.” (All the earth will be transformed into a paradise under the rule of Christ as King.)
Rev. 20:12, 13: “I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. . . . They were judged individually according to their deeds.” (The opening of scrolls evidently points to a time of education in the divine will, in harmony with Isaiah 26:9. The fact that “the scroll of life” is opened indicates that there is opportunity for those who heed that education to have their names written in that scroll. Ahead of them will be the prospect of eternal life in human perfection.)
No. 3: Abiathar—An Act of Disloyalty Can Nullify Years of Faithful Service (it-1 pp. 18-19)ABIATHAR
(A•bi′a•thar) [Father of Excellence; Father of More Than Enough (Overflow)].
A son of High Priest Ahimelech, of the tribe of Levi and of the line of Eli. (1Sa 14:3; 22:11; 23:6) He lived during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, and during David’s reign he became high priest. He had two sons, Jonathan and Ahimelech (the same name as Abiathar’s father).—2Sa 15:27, 36; 8:17.
Abiathar was living in Nob, “the city of the priests,” a short distance from Jerusalem, when King Saul had Doeg the Edomite slaughter Abiathar’s father, the high priest, and other priests (85 in all), because of their supposed support of David. Doeg also struck down with the sword all the other residents of the city. Only Abiathar escaped. He fled to David, himself a fugitive, evidently at Keilah, several miles to the SW. David, feeling a certain personal responsibility for the tragedy, told Abiathar: “I well knew on that day, because Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would without fail tell Saul. I personally have wronged every soul of the house of your father. Just dwell with me. Do not be afraid, for whoever looks for my soul looks for your soul, for you are one needing protection with me.”—1Sa 22:12-23; 23:6.
Abiathar now traveled with David during the remainder of his outlawed state and served as priest for David’s forces. First Samuel 23:6 shows that Abiathar had brought with him an ephod, and while the priests in general wore an ephod of linen (1Sa 22:18), verses 9-12 of chapter 23 indicate that this was apparently the ephod of Abiathar’s father, the high priest, containing the Urim and Thummim.
During the Kingships of David and Solomon. It appears that when David finally gained the throne, Abiathar was made the high priest. Some scholars suggest that, after High Priest Ahimelech’s death, King Saul had Zadok installed as high priest to replace Ahimelech, thereby not recognizing Abiathar, who was in the company of Saul’s future successor, David. They hold that, following his ascension to the throne, David made Abiathar an associate high priest along with Zadok. Such view is evidently taken due to the fact that Zadok and Abiathar are regularly mentioned together as though sharing a high position in the priesthood. (2Sa 15:29, 35; 17:15; 19:11; 20:25; 1Ki 1:7, 8, 25, 26; 4:4; 1Ch 15:11) However, the inspired record nowhere mentions any appointment of Zadok as high priest under King Saul. It is possible that Zadok’s prominence is due to his being a seer or prophet, just as the prophet Samuel received greater mention in the divine record than the high priest of his time. (2Sa 15:27) The evidence indicates that Abiathar was the sole high priest during David’s reign and that Zadok then occupied a position secondary to him.—1Ki 2:27, 35; Mr 2:26.
The text at 2 Samuel 8:17 has caused some question in this regard, since it says that “Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests” then, but does not mention Abiathar as high priest. Some suggest that the names of Ahimelech and Abiathar were transposed by a scribal error so that the text should read “Abiathar the son of Ahimelech,” even as it does in the Syriac Peshitta. However, the record at 1 Chronicles (18:16; 24:3, 6, 31) confirms the order of the names in this verse as found in the Masoretic text. It therefore appears more likely that Zadok and Ahimelech are mentioned simply as secondary priests under High Priest Abiathar, and that Abiathar’s position was, in this instance, assumed to be understood.—1Ch 16:37-40; compare Nu 3:32.
Abiathar, along with other priests, shared in the privilege of bringing the ark of Jehovah up from Obed-edom’s home to Jerusalem. (2Sa 6:12; 1Ch 15:11, 12) In addition to being high priest he was included in David’s group of advisers.—1Ch 27:33, 34.
Toward the latter part of his father David’s reign, Absalom formed a conspiracy against him. Abiathar again stayed by David when circumstances forced the king to flee from Jerusalem. As part of a plan to thwart the counsel of traitorous Ahithophel, David’s previous counselor, Abiathar and Zadok as loyal priests were sent back to Jerusalem to serve as liaison officers to keep David advised of his rebellious son’s plans. (2Sa 15:24-36; 17:15) After Absalom’s death, Abiathar and Zadok served as intermediaries to arrange David’s return to the capital.—2Sa 19:11-14.
In view of his faithful record of enduring many hardships in David’s company during his time as a fugitive from Saul and again during Absalom’s rebellion, and considering his having enjoyed David’s confidence, friendship, and favor during some four decades, it is surprising to find Abiathar linking himself up with another son of David, Adonijah, in a later conspiracy for the throne. Though the plot also had the support of Joab as head of the army, it failed; and Solomon was appointed as king, with loyal priest Zadok doing the anointing at David’s instruction. (1Ki 1:7, 32-40) Abiathar’s son Jonathan, who had previously served as a runner to bear news to David during Absalom’s insurrection, now went to advise Adonijah of the plot’s miscarriage. King Solomon took no immediate action against Abiathar, but when evidence showed that the plot was still smoldering, he ordered Adonijah’s and Joab’s death and banished priest Abiathar from Jerusalem, saying: “Go to Anathoth to your fields! For you are deserving of death; but on this day I shall not put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah before David my father, and because you suffered affliction during all the time that my father suffered affliction.” (1Ki 2:26) Zadok was now assigned to replace Abiathar in his priestly position, and with this the office of high priest passed again to the line of Aaron’s son Eleazar; and the priestly line of the house of Eli came to a complete end, in fulfillment of the prophecy at 1 Samuel 2:31.—1Ki 2:27; 1Sa 3:12-14.
While the record later, at 1 Kings 4:4, again refers to “Zadok and Abiathar” as priests of Solomon’s reign, it is likely that Abiathar is listed only in an honorary capacity or in a historical sense. Some scholars suggest that Solomon, after demoting Abiathar, then assigned him to serve as Zadok’s deputy, and that while one officiated on Mount Zion, where the Ark was kept, the other served at the tabernacle, which continued in Gibeon prior to the building of the temple. (See 1Ch 16:37-40.) However, 1 Kings 2:26 shows that Solomon sent Abiathar to his fields in Anathoth, and while Anathoth was not far from Gibeon, Solomon’s order indicates that Abiathar was being removed from any active participation in the priesthood.
At Mark 2:26 most translations have Jesus saying that David went into the house of God and ate the showbread “when Abiathar was high priest.” Since Abiathar’s father, Ahimelech, was the high priest when that event took place, such translation would result in a historical error. It is noteworthy that a number of early manuscripts omit the above phrase, and it is not found in the corresponding passages at Matthew 12:4 and Luke 6:4. However, a similar Greek structure occurs at Mark 12:26 and Luke 20:37, and here many translations use the phrase “in the passage about.” (RS; AT; JB) So, it appears that Mark 2:26 properly allows for the translation given in the New World Translation, which reads: “How he entered into the house of God, in the account about Abiathar the chief priest.” Since the account of the first exploits of Abiathar begins immediately following the record of David’s entering the house of God to eat the showbread, and since Abiathar did later become Israel’s high priest in David’s reign, this translation maintains the historical accuracy of the record.