Genesis 28 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Genesis 28 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

(28:1) "Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan."
I really fail to see why it is intolerant to desire the best wife for your own son.

2 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.

3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

(28:5) "Laban, son of Bethuel"
Who was Laban's father?
Laban was the son of Bethuel who was the son of Nahor. So Laban was a grandson of Nahor. In the ancient Middle East it was very common to be called a son, even when this was not true in the restricted sense we use this word.

6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;

8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;

9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

(28:9) "Esau ... took unto the wives which he had Mahalath ... to be his wife."
Esau, who already had two wives (26:34), "takes" another.
Is polygamy OK?
Not every description in the Bible is proscriptive.

10 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.

11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

(28:13-14) "To thee will I give it, and to thy seed."
God repeats the same (land/progeny) promise that he previously made to Abraham (13:15, 15:18, 17:8). Once again, the promise wasn't kept. The descendents of Jacob (the Jews) are not particularly numerous, have seldom possessed much of the land in question, and the nations on earth haven't been blessed by them.
The land was given to Abraham and his seed. And they occupied it, until their sins drove them out. And the nations have been blessed by Abraham and his seed, in particular by Jesus Christ. And the church continues from this day in the same covenant God made with Abraham.

14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

(28:19) "He called the name of that place Bethel."
Jacob names Bethel for the first time, before meeting Rachel. Later in 35:15, just before Rachel dies, he names Bethel again. (And it was called Bethel long before it was named Bethel in 12:8 and 13:3.)
When did Jacob rename Luz to Bethel?
The author of the SAB asks when was the first time the place where Jacob slept got the name Bethel. He points to chapter 12:8 as evidence it was already called Bethel at that time. But that's fairly silly arguing. If, describing the history of New York, a writer mentions that such and such went to New York while the Dutch were still occupying it, he would merely be using the modern name designing the same location. Because at that time it was called New Amsterdam. So if in chapter 12:8 the chronicler uses Bethel, it doesn't mean it already was named Bethel at that time, but merely that he used the name in use at the time of writing. Or that a later copyist updated the reference in chapter 12:8 to Bethel, a very common occurrence in the Middle East.
Obviously at the time the place received its new name, it is proper to mention its former name, so we find that it this place. This is no different than the Wikipedia article on New York mentioning New Amsterdam much later than the name New York, even though the name was initially New Amsterdam.
Upon his return to Canaan, Jacob returns to the spot where God met him, and there he reaffirms the name, see chapter 35:15.

20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, 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,

21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.