Interpreting Scripture

In my context Jacob would have been labelled a flirt, then a namby-pamby.

Genesis 29:1-35

Reference: v.11  Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. (NIV Bible)

Explore:  Every culture has a different way of greeting people when you meet.  There are some European countries who kiss each other on the cheek, two or three times as a way of greeting.  In other countries there is, some would say, an even more intimate greeting of embracing each other in a hug.  And then in more formal settings a mere handshake is suffice to acknowledge each other.  Within smaller intimate groups they may create their own creating, a culmination of a special handshake and an embrace.  You can often feel awkward if you do not know what the standard greeting is, but once you are in the know then you can feel included and accepted.
When Jacob first met Rachel my previous Biblical knowledge reminded me that he falls in love with her.  So when I read this verse that he went up to her and kissed her then started crying, I was a little surprised.  To go up and kiss someone the very first time you meet them is being very forward in my culture.  But to then break down into tears is not really showing your masculine side.  I was starting to think that Jacob needed some tips in his pick-up lines!  However as I read on I realised that when Laban – Rachel’s dad – also met Jacob he greeted him with a kiss.  This was a known greeting, particularly for family members, which Jacob had confessed that he was.

Application:  It was natural for me to put my cultural understanding onto this story.  In my context Jacob would have been labelled a flirt, then a namby-pamby.  However, Jacob was being true to his culture by greeting his family member with a kiss and then showing his relief and exhaustion at finding his extended relatives.  We must be so carerful when reading the Bible that we do not misinterpret a situation.  It is natural for us to see each story from our own understanding, but we must not reduce the message to our own limitations.  The Bible can speak truth in to our current situation, but it helps if we have an accurate understanding of what was going on in the original context.  This is not always possible but it is an important reminder for us not just to read such ancient texts at face value.  Because our Bibles are printed and bound nicely, or we can read them clearly on our computer screens, we tend to forget how old these scriptures really are.  Each culture gleans different interpretations from them and we too must be conscious of how we read this special text.

Prayer:  Lord, we thank You for the Bible.  The knowledge and instruction we gain from reading the scriptures is invaluable.  Guide our thoughts so that we can apply Your Word to our lives.  Amen.

What are some unique elements of your culture or cultural setting?  How does this influence your reading of scripture?

This article was written by Linda Bailey

Linda started theological studies in 1999 in Australia. After working for ten years in various church ministries, she now works as the breakfast producer at 89.9 LightFM - the Christian radio station in Melbourne, Australia. She writes blogs every day about passages she is currently reading in the Bible. Follow her on Google Plus +Linda Bailey or Facebook by clicking the like button on the right of this page.