The presence and absence of God in the Jacob narrative
This thesis explores the theological complexity of the Jacob narrative. In particular this is centred upon the paradox of divine presence and absence, and the contrast of the human and the divine. In the first part, an investigation is made of three key episodes which contain an encounter with the divine: the opening oracle (25:19ff), Bethel (28:10-22) and Peniel (32:23-33). It is concluded that the first passage is constructed as an introduction, making explicit the theme of the presence of God in the Jacob story, but also introducing the human side of the paradox. Bethel and Peniel are based on older pre-Yahwistic traditions, now shaped and incorporated into the story of Jacob to throw a theological perspective over the wider plot. The second part consists of a reading of the wider Jacob story, with particular attention to the theme of divine presence and absence and the interaction of the human and the divine. It is argued that even the most human of stories betray a theological interest and contribute to the overall paradox, but also that there are several indications of the presence of God. In the conclusion, it is noted that behind the present unity of the Jacob story there is evidence of earlier traditions, a growing together of material, and supplements offering new perspectives. It is also concluded that a close reading of the final text and a historical-critical appreciation need not be mutually exclusive, and that a cautious use of critical insights has thrown light upon the final form. Finally, it is argued that the theme of the presence and absence of God offers a way of reading the Jacob story in a theological way, that does most justice to its historical depth, final form, and canonical status.