A Lesson in Context – A Tale from my oft mis-spent youth.


Genesis 31:44–49 “Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I. And let it be a witness between you and me.” So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight.”

When I was a young man, I was dating a girl who was about to go off to Bible College in the mid-west. I was absolutely mad for her. And in a Christian bookstore, looking for a gift to give her, I found a piece of jewelry. It was a heart, cut into two to make two necklaces which fit together like puzzle pieces when side by side. It was almost identical to the picture above.

There was one half for each of us to wear. Jewelry, romantic AND Biblical. A grand slam.

On on the heart – when the two pieces were put together were these words from the text above: “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are out of each other’s sight” – along with the Scripture reference.

But I, like the manufacturer, never bothered to understand the context. That in fact these words are an explicit statement of distrust – and not a statement of fondness and well wishing while apart. For the text goes on to say: “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight. If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.”

There was no love-loss between Jacob and his father-in-law Laban. Jacob had deceived Laban and ran off with his wives, children and flocks out of fear and with no little amount of anger and resentment. They made this pact together as a sort of mutually assured distrust of retaliation.

Hardly the “spiritual” and romantic message I was hoping to convey.

One more example of how unthinking we can be in taking verses out of their context, and using them in ways never intended.

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