Many centuries ago, as the ancient nation of Israel coalesced around Covenant and Law, the people were commanded to dedicate the firstfruits of their harvest to God. And so, once a year, they would take these firstfruits to the priests, and recount the story of their people, beginning “My father was a Wandering Aramean…“
It’s an evocative phrase, harking back to their ancestor Jacob. Jacob the trickster, Jacob the hero. Jacob the conman, Jacob the man of God. And after he ripped off his brother, he made a life for himself in Aram, and then was forced to flee and flee again, a great famine driving him and his family into Egypt, then political oppression and slavery leading them into the wilderness before entering their Promised Land.
And so when Israel remembered their story, when they gave thanks for the lives they’d been given, they remembered where they came from, remembered that their’s was a story of escape and freedom and movement and migration.
And so, centuries later, would Jesus and Joseph have brought their offerings to the priest, would they have recounted their story: “My father was a Wandering Aramean…”
It’s a distant story, one of the great origin stories of Genesis. But it feels a long way away – what do these stories of Jacob escaping death and violence and famine mean for us?
Why should we think on the identification of a Wandering Aramean?
Arameans came from Aram.
Aram is now known as Aleppo, in Syria.