A brief word on “household gods.”
In the ancient world, religion looked a whole lot different than it does in our world. There wasn’t a church on every block. Nobody talked about Jesus. People didn’t believe in one god. There were lots to choose from. In a sense, they were like your local sports team. You picked your favorite, and if you were loyal to it or them, they presumably would be loyal to you.
And if your crops failed or your wife had trouble getting pregnant, you did weird stuff to get to the gods to pay attention to you. You chopped animals in pieces. You sacrificed virgins. You visited the temple prostitute. In general, you thought the gods were out to get you.
It’s into this world, and this way of expecting “the gods” that Yahweh reveals himself to be the deity of Abraham, the deity of Isaac, the deity of Jacob.
These “household gods” in Laban’s house that Rebekah steals are Laban’s good luck charms on steroids. I think we’re supposed to read this as comedy. While Jacob has these epic encounters with Yahweh, the Living God, Laban can’t seem to keep track of his statue collection.
I think we’re supposed to read here that Yahweh is no “household god.”
Now Jacob has separated from Laban, and prepares to reunite with his brother Esau. Last time we and Jacob saw Esau, he was in a murderous rage and had promised to kill Jacob.
So in verses 9–12 we get one of the very first prayers recorded in the Bible. It’s a prayer coming from a place of fear and desperation. It’s a prayer of I’m-scared-out-of-my-mind-and-have-everything-to-lose. It’s a prayer of help-me-obi-wan-kenobi-you’re-my-only-hope.
Ever prayed a prayer like that?
What about you? What do you see?