Parallel Situations/Lives


(Mazrocon) #1

What are your guys’ thoughts on finding parallel situations (lives) found in the character descriptions/stories of the biblical text? What is the criteria for obvious parallelism versus conjectured parallelism?

Just the other day I found myself comparing the birth of two different twins in Genesis and couldn’t help but notice the similarities. My comparison was the birth of Jacob and Esau (Chapter 25) and the birth of Zarah and Pharez (Chapter 38).

First I will quote the particular passages:

Genesis 25:21-26 - Jacob and Esau

“And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren: and the Lord was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob…”

Genesis 38:27-30 - Zarah and Pharez

“And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.”

The similarities are the following:

  1. In both situations there is a brother that’s a part of the Messianic line.

  2. The brother that is apart of the Messianic line has a name that is associated with it’s “struggling birth”. Jacob means “He who grabs the heel”, while Pharez means “Breach”, indicating the peculiar situation that took place during his birth: the midwife says, “How hast thou broken forth?” indicating astonishment. Furthermore, Jacob’s name later gets changed to Israel, after wrestling with an angel. Most people infer that Israel means “struggle”.

  3. The non-Messianic child has associations with the color red. Pharez had a scarlet thread wrapped around his hand, while Esau came out red and hairy. Esau means “hairy” but the indication was that he had red hair. The red association is further emphasized later in life by the infamous soup-episode. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red pottage “Therefore is his name called Edom” which means “red”.

  4. In both scenarios unlikely things occur and are emphasized in the biblical text. The prophecy involving the birth of Jacob and Esau says, “The elder shall serve the younger”, and the action of Jacob grabbing his brother’s heel foreshadows that struggle later in life (both in their personal lives and the ensuing struggle with their respective nations), and might even indicate a bizarre desire to be born first, but failing. In the case of Zarah (the non-Messianic brother), the midwife puts a scarlet thread on his hand indicating that he was the firstborn. Yet in a bizarre twist, the other brother (Pharez) somehow beats his sibling in this struggle, much to the midwife’s astonishment.

  5. The final parallel is that both of these twins are found in Genesis, and are the only twins that I know of in the Bible (unless I’m perchance mistaken).

This is just one mere example… but I find them scattered through out the Bible. What do you guys think about this topic?

-Tim


(Christy Hemphill) #2

I think many times a certain motif that is highlighted as part of the story (and repeated in other stories) probably triggered a whole bunch of associations in the minds of the original audience and helped them ascertain meanings and implications that the author intended, but did not choose to make explicit. Probably most of those additional meanings and implications are lost on us today.


(Mazrocon) #3

How do you suppose “parallelism”, if the parallelism is convincing, affects “historicity”…? For those that notice certain parallel situations in the Bible, one can’t help but speculate whether or not it’s simply coincedence or some literacy device.

If it’s literacy device, it’s unfortunate that (as you emphasize), the meanings and associations might be lost on us today.

For instance … What are the odds that someone, in today’s world, would name a child, on the spot, because of something peculiar that happened in birth? Red hair, scarlet thread, grabbing a heel, breaching forth…? Then, in an even odder chain of events, reflect that child’s situation later in life AND the relationship of the nations, those kids will beget?

-Tim


(system) #4

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