With the introduction of Jacob the Bible moves from natural events to human interaction. Up until now we have seen the power of God when it relates to the natural world. We saw God create a world out of nothingness, we saw God destroy that world and then rebuild it, and we saw God create the birth of a child where no such birth was possible, and we saw God demand the sacrifice of that same child. Lest we the listeners think that the Bible story is only about natural and supernatural phenomena, we are now introduced to Jacob and his sons and their litany of immorality and crimes against humanity and each other.
We have been convinced that the governor/God will take care of the physical world. We have also been led to believe that the governor/God can work miracles that affect such natural phenomena as childbirth and agriculture. But when it comes to dealing with our neighbors we still might think, like the discredited hunters, that it’s up to us to do whatever we need to do to survive. So now is the time for the storyteller/priest to instruct the new community on proper morality and interpersonal relationships. And the vehicle for that instruction is Jacob, who through trickery has gotten his father’s primary blessing.
Jacob is now told by his mother that she does not want him to marry a local girl. She would like Jacob to marry her brother’s daughter – his first cousin. We are somewhat sensitive to the questionable morality of this decision, but Rebecca makes her argument so strongly that we are willing to accept it. Here’s the way Rebecca maneuvers[i] it: First, after she has helped Jacob fool his blind father, she tells him that his brother Esau is planning to kill him. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him. And then, just to make sure that Jacob gets the message, this incredibly manipulative woman tells her husband Isaac I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?
So Isaac instructs Jacob: Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.
When Jacob starts off on the long and dangerous trip to the country of Aram to find a wife, the storyteller/priest introduces a new marketing message. Jacob, as we will soon see, is a new type of character. He is not passive like Isaac and he is not a visionary like Abraham. He is a realist, and the first thing he does is negotiate with God. He says: If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God. (The clear implication is that if the LORD does not take care of him, then he will find another god)
Essentially, Jacob is asking the question that challenges all salesmen and marketers: “What’s in it for me?” This is the eternal Cost/Benefit question. Every good commercial and every good marketing plan must face up to this question and answer it satisfactorily. When a consumer makes a purchase decision he, either consciously or unconsciously, evaluates the cost of his action in relation to the perceived benefit that he will receive. Packages list their benefits on the outside of the box and advertisers enumerate the benefits in their advertisements. The consumer constantly makes an evaluation in his head: “What are the benefits of this product? Do I really need it? Is the benefit worth the cost? Would I be better off using my money for something else?”
Over 35 years ago, Peter Drucker observed that a company’s first task is “to create customers.” But today’s customers face a vast array of product and brand choices, prices, and suppliers. How do customers make their choices?
We believe that customers estimate which offer will deliver the most value. Customers are value-maximizers, within the bounds of search costs and limited knowledge, mobility and income. They form an expectation of value and act on it. Whether or not the offer lives up to the value expectation affects both satisfaction and repurchase probability.[ii]
Sometimes the benefits are easily apparent, sometimes they are more subtle. Modern day marketers employ a process called Motivational Analysis in determining the optimal cost benefit ratio.
A motive is an internal force that stimulates you to behave in a particular manner. This driving force is produced by the state of tension that results from an unfulfilled need. People strive, both consciously and subconsciously, to reduce this tension through behavior they anticipate will fulfill their needs and thus relieve the stress they feel.
Needs are the basic forces that motivate you to do something.”[iii]
The need that Jacob is seeking to fulfill is a safe journey, and he promises that YHWH will be his god if he returns home safely. In the case of the marketing effort by our storyteller/priest, the benefits are safety, security, and a smoothly running marketplace. But the costs are high: the listeners are being asked to give up their freedom and to accept the yoke and burden of civilization and the rule of the governor. So they ask themselves, “Is it worth it? Am I getting enough benefits from this civilization to justify giving up my independence?”
This is a new question and it is crucial to the success of the Hebrews’ civilization. Until now, the Governor/God has ruled through fear of the unknown and his implied ability to manage it. But that is not the most efficient way for a fledgling government to get established. So, the storyteller/priest is telling his listeners that, just like Jacob, it’s OK to question the governor/god and it’s OK to expect something in return for your faith.
In this case the storyteller/priest is asking the question for his audience. They have been told in the story of the binding of Isaac that faith will be rewarded. This is an emotional appeal and it is well delivered. But eventually the listeners want greater assurance that if they agree to become subjects of the governor/God, there will be some definite benefits.Whereas Isaac was passive, Jacob is a negotiator. As it relates to the political status of the community, Isaac represents the present; Jacob represents the promise of the future. His negotiation with God might be paraphrased from the governor’s point of view thus: “If you trust me, then I (the governor/God) will take care of you (the people) and make sure that you have sufficient clothing and food and shelter, but in return you must accept my dominance”.
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[i]. Rebecca is the stereotypical “Jewish mother.” She is manipulative in a way that has been emulated by Jewish mothers through the centuries. I can imagine the conversation: Rebecca tells Jacob to go to stay with her brother knowing that her brother has two beautiful daughters. Who knows, she is thinking …worse things could happen.
[ii]. Kotler, Marketing Management, p. 34
[iii]. Wells, Burnett, Moriarty, Advertising Principles and Practice pp. 106-7