From the very first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelations, family relationships in the Bible are viewed from a Middle Eastern tribal perspective.
We must be careful to not superimpose our modern views of the nuclear family and Western social structures onto the Scriptures.
In fact, the reason many of us grossly misunderstand the Middle Eastern conflict we see being played out on our TV sets night after night is because we don’t understand this tribalism.
We don’t understand it in our Bibles and we don’t recognize it when dealing with the modern political realities of those very Mid-eastern countries and cultures from which the Bible sprang.
Fortunately, if your reading this, this misunderstanding is about to be put to rest.
Remember I told you that Esau is viewed somewhat paradoxically in the Bible.
I said that “simultaneously, Esau in the bible is cast as an unrighteous and wicked person AND as a brother who should be shown deference”.
Well, understanding this paradox can help us understand the somewhat schizophrenic behavior that Muslims in the Middle East will exhibit.
A good example is the conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims.
These two modern day Muslim tribes will commit the most horrific and unspeakable atrocities against each other.
They will behead each other, blow up each other’s mosques, and send suicide bombers to each other’s neighborhoods.
Yet, when the United States steps in to help one of these tribes, that very tribe who is receiving the most generous assistance from America will in an about face suddenly turn against us and claim brotherhood with the very tribe they were warring with.
The reason is because in their minds, the United States has overstepped boundaries by intervening in a family matter where they shouldn’t have.
It’s kind of like if you were invited as a guest to a family’s house and while there you witness two brothers fighting.
Since things are starting to look ugly, you decide to step in and stop the fight.
As soon as you do, the two brothers and the other family members are looking at you with shocked disbelief.
While on some level they might have appreciated what you did to bring “peace” to what could have evolved into an ugly conflict, on another level, there is anger and rage and thoughts like “who the hell does this guy think he is, so arrogantly and boldly intervening in a family matter?!”.
While this is admittedly an imperfect analogy because there are times when these Mid Eastern nations have specifically requested our help, like during the Gulf War.
However, even during this war against Saddam Hussein, representatives from various Arab nations came forward saying that they did not want to go to war against another Arab nation.
And the reason is because they simply viewed Saddam as a mischievous and misbehaving brother.
They didn’t view him as a ruthless dictator hellbent on taking over the world as the Western media has often portrayed him.
In their minds, Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was an action that deserved more of a strong slap on the wrist NOT complete destruction.
So here is the reality we have to deal with.
When we hear about other Arab tribes viciously attacking and committing atrocities against each other, they are simply acting out an ancient way of life that has existed since the Bible days.
In their minds, it is simply the age old battle to achieve tribal dominance and here’s the kicker, this is the preferred way of doing things for the majority of leadership in the Middle East.
This is why the US will be fighting on behalf of one tribal war lord and then the next day find itself fighting against the very people they were defending.
This also explains why we have aided those very groups such as Al Qaida that are now our sworn enemies.
That’s why these Muslim countries while seeming to hate each other will band together to fight against the Western countries when all they are trying to do is reach out and help.
And this is because they view themselves as the collective descendants of the tribes of Esau and Ishmael.
In other words, in spite of all the violence they will inflict upon each other to gain tribal dominance, when it comes down to it, they still consider themselves family.
And this is the mindset prevalent throughout the Bible.
Esau may be a misbehaving bad boy.
Ishmael may not be the chosen one.
However, from a distant, overall tribal perspective they are still the family of Israel.
Keep this in mind as we move forward in the Torah.