Yahweh will be my God "if": The vow of Jacob and his relationship to the God of his fathers (Genesis 25--35)

Nathanael E Schmiedicke, Marquette University


Previous studies of Jacob's story in Genesis have treated Jacob's vow to God in one of two general ways. One way sees Jacob's vow to God in Gen 28:20-22 as a consistent but isolated moment in the series of tricks Jacob plays on other characters. He makes his acceptance of Yahweh as his God dependent on things that he wants Yahweh to do for him first. The difficulty with this view is that "tricking" God cannot really be considered on the same level as tricking fellow humans. The other view sees a more unified and enduring function for the vow as something unique that provides the framework for the story that follows Genesis 28. This view, however, has generally been accompanied by inattentiveness to just how troubling the vow really is. This dissertation proposes to take the strong points of these views together and to bring out their implications. After reviewing past approaches to Jacob's vow it examines the story of Jacob according to the major turning points in Jacob's relationship with God. Jacob's birth and boyhood, his departure from home, his adventures away from home, and his return home go hand-in-hand with a trajectory of tension between God and Jacob that intensifies from implicit to explicit before reaching a final resolution. A brief section on Jacob and God as seen in the prophets and John's Gospel provides a window into similar readings of the Jacob story outside of Genesis. The dissertation concludes that Genesis presents Jacob's fundamental flaw as a lack of trust, and even a lack of interest, in the God who calls him. The tension between Jacob and God persists because the blessing Jacob wants to take is other than, less than, and opposed to the blessing God wants to give him. Peaceful possession of or unhappy exile from the Promised Land is understood as directly connected to the willingness Jacob-Israel to trustfully obey the God of his fathers.

Recommended Citation

Schmiedicke, Nathanael E, "Yahweh will be my God "if": The vow of Jacob and his relationship to the God of his fathers (Genesis 25--35)" (2007). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3298503.