Anthropological Aspects of the Bible:
Ancient ‘scecs’ and The Private Contract
Another practical Biblical anthropological example is found when looking at Jacob. Without doubt, Jacob’s life creates lots of discussions.
However, for this material, the focus is that the personal relationship can be established and sustained via Private Contract. An example is found in Genesis 29 where Laban and Jacob contract with each other.
Admittedly, for some it seems, that Laban and Jacob’s negotiation about Rachel is at best bad taste, or is at worst unconscionable.
Importantly, this material is not to absolve Jacob or Laban’s actions, nor is the material to condemn their actions. In other words, I aim to remain focused on the Biblical narrative as it reveals a negotiation of a contract.
The Bible records the ancient Private Contract, in the following events:
– Laban offered a contract (Gen 29.15);
– Jacob stated what he would exchange for what he wanted (Gen 29.18);
– Laban accepted Jacob’s offer (Gen 29.19);
– Jacob fulfilled his part of the contract (Gen 29.20);
– Jacob wanted Laban to fulfill Laban’s part of the contract (Gen 29.21);
– Laban began to fulfill his part of the contract (Gen 29.22);
– Laban altered his part of the contract (Gen 29.23);
– Jacob recognized Laban altered the contract (Gen 29.25a);
– Jacob confronted Laban about Laban altering the contract (Gen 29.25b);
– Laban defended the contract’s alterations (Gen 29.26);
– Laban renegotiated the contract with Jacob (Gen 29.27);
– Jacob accepted the renegotiated contract (Gen 29.28);
– Laban fulfilled his part of the renegotiated contract (Gen 29.29a);
– Jacob fulfilled his part of the renegotiated contract (Gen 29.29b).
Without doubt, there are lots of ecclesiastical narratives (both Jewish and Christian) that flow from that moment.
Specifically for me, the manner in which Laban and Jacob negotiated their contract comes across as having no modern sensibilities.
Yet, it seems that Laban and Jacob negotiated a contract in a manner that followed the normatives of their ‘scecs’.
Importantly, that Biblical moment allows us to consider the concept of a Private Contract, in order to understand that the Bible itself reveals that the personal relationship is a private matter and can be governed by a Private Contract.
That moment shows that the Bible makes a practical reference to the Private Contract. The moment reveals that the relationship was private, and that the contract was private, and thus a Private Contract, even though Laban changed it.
By that, it means that the contract was not taken to some third party where the third party recorded that a Private Contract was agreed upon.
Additionally, I want to show that the Bible reveals that once the original contracted partners established and fulfilled their contract, even when renegotiated, the individuals within that established Private Contract can themselves alter their Private Contract.
That is seen when Rachel renegotiated her Private Contract with Jacob (Genesis 30.1-4).
That is seen when Leah renegotiated her Private Contract with Jacob (Genesis 30.9-13).
Biblical students write mountains of commentaries about the entire process from start (Laban and Jacob) to finish (Leah and Rachel’s renegotiations with Jacob).
However, for this material, it is necessary to see, even when the contract offends modern sensibilities, the Bible offers practical anthropological evidence about the Private Contract.
For this material, the Bible does not appear to offer any Divine judgment of the contract or the renegotiated contract. The narrative is the narrative, providing the events.
Importantly, it is Bible commentators that provide their moralizing assessment of those events.
However, one thing that can be stated with certainty is that while Jacob had a personal relationship with two sisters, later the nation of Israel will be prohibited from this type of personal relationship (Leviticus 18.18).
What can be concluded from this is evidence?
One, from start (Laban and Jacob) to finish (Leah and Rachel’s renegotiations with Jacob), the events were about a privately negotiated contract about a personal relationship.
Two, the Divine stated nothing (no judgment for or against) about Jacob negotiating with Laban, just as the Divine stated nothing about Laban altering the contract, just as the Divine stated nothing about Rachel and Jacob’s renegotiation, just as the Divine said nothing about Leah and Jacob’s renegotiation.
Therefore, how the personal relationship is established and governed by a Private Contract remains in humanity’s purview.
Three, that no matter how the Private Contract began, ultimately the Private Contract is between the individuals in that contract.
Therefore when in the Private Contract, that contract is their contract, plain and simple, between/among them as individuals and private to them.
As such, when within the Private Contract, the individuals of that Private Contract have permitted rights to renegotiate their Private Contract, even to the dismay of onlookers, even to the dismay of those who originated the contract.
Four, since Laban and Jacob negotiated according the ‘scecs’ normatives of their day, it follows that individuals in our time can negotiate Private Contracts according to our SCECS normatives.
 [Genesis 29.]18. seven years for Rachel your younger daughter. True to legalistic form, Jacob carefully stipulates the duration of the labor (in lieu of a bride-price that he does not possess), the name of the daughter, and the fact that she is the younger daughter. The Five Books of Moses, A Translation with Commentary, Robert Alter, 2004, ISBN 978-0-393-33393-0, p. 154.
 [Genesis 29.]19. Laban said Laban’s reply is a statement of consummate ambiguity naively accepted by Jacob as a binding agreement. Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary, Travel-Size Edition, 2001, ISBN 0-8276-0804-7, p. 171.