Covenants and Stones

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One thing is for sure, you can discover some odd things when you read the Old Testament (OT). Today I want to talk about one odd thing and one beautiful thing that stood out to me as I was reading through Genesis. It’s amazing how you can read through a book of the Bible and miss something over and over again until God opens your eyes to it or how you can read something and understand it in a new way. That is what happened to me with this odd discovery. Let’s start there.

He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” Genesis 24:2-4

Wait? What? Did you see it? Here it is again:

When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt,  Genesis 47:29

“Put your hand under my thigh and promise” I have to admit it didn’t catch my attention in Genesis 24, but when it was repeated in Genesis 47 I went back to take a look and did a little research. It seemed strange to me. We  raise our right hand when swearing these days, but apparently, swearing on ones testicles (thigh/loins) was common in OT times. There are a few different schools of thought on why they did this, but the most common explanation was that that thighs (or loins) were considered a source of prosperity. Think about how important it was for God’s people to multiply and increase their numbers (with children) in early Biblical times. Although we are taught in the new testament “Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.” James 5:12 swearing an oath was common and accepted and practiced in the OT.

Stone Markers were another interesting concept that repeated itself and stood out to me during my reading in Genesis.

Although I had noted this ritual before, it seemed to have a deeper impact on me as I read it this time. From Genesis 28 – 35 we see how Jacob uses stone markers to record important events, milestones and covenants.

In Genesis 28:10-22 after God comes to Jacob in a dream he says, “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (v.16) and then “Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it and named the place Bethel,[a] though previously the city was named Luz. ” (v.18-19).

In Genesis 31:13 God even says to Jacob, “I am the God of Bethel, where you poured oil on the stone marker and made a solemn vow to Me. Get up, leave this land, and return to your native land.’”

When Jacob and Laban made a covenant to end a dispute in Genesis 31:44-46 Jacob said, “Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I. Let it be a witness between the two of us.” 45 So Jacob picked out a stone and set it up as a marker. 46 Then Jacob said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a mound, then ate there by the mound.

and again in Genesis 35:14 when God spoke to Jacob, “he [Jacob] set up a marker at the place where He had spoken to him—a stone marker. He poured a drink offering on it and anointed it with oil.” 

I know that’s a lot of verses, but I really wanted you to see the pattern. Jacob uses these stones or stone mounds to signify or proclaim a memory. As I think back on my life, I can think of many times where I would have placed a stone marker because I felt His presence was close, He helped me overcome an obstacle that had hindered living my life for His glory or even the mending of a relationship that seemed like it could never be restored.

As we close today, I hope you will sit and reflect back on the moments in your life that you feel are worthy of a stone marker. Maybe even write them down on a paper to keep inside your Bible and continue to add to them as the years go by because as Jacob said so beautifully, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)

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