Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Genesis 33-36

In Genesis 33, Jacob returns home.  He meets with his brother Esau, and they throw their arms around one another and reconcile.  Esau doesn't want the gifts of sheep and cattle, but Jacob insists.  They settle back into Canaan, with Jacob buying land from "Hamor, the father of Shechem."  "There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel."

I said yesterday that Dinah had disappeared from the narrative, but she returns in chapter 34.  She is raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor.  His claims to be in love with her, and tells his father that he wants her for his wife.  Hamor tells Jacob, but Jacob's sons have found out what happened and are furious.  They deceitfully agree to intermarry with Hamor's people if, and only if, the men are all circumcised.  The "Hamorites" agree and all the men are circumcised.  Three days later, while the men are all recovering from the procedure, "still in pain," Simeon and Levi take their swords and kill every male in the city.  Then "the sons of Jacob" loot and plunder the city.  Jacob is upset, feeling that this will make it much harder and more dangerous for them to live there, but his sons think that doing otherwise would have meant allowing that their sister be treated as a prostitute.

Genesis 35 - God appears to Jacob and tells him to return to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar.  So he has his family give up all of their "foreign gods" and "rings in their ears" and he buries them "under the oak at Shechem."  The return to Bethel and Jacob builds an altar "and called the place El Bethel."  God again tells him that his name shall be Israel and that "a nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you."

As they moved on from Bethel, Rachel went in to labor and struggled to give birth.  As she was dying, she named her new-born son Ben-Oni (son of my struggle) but Jacob called him Benjamin (son of my right hand.)  Rachel was buried.  Eventually, they return to Hebron.  Isaac "died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years."  Esau and Jacob buried him.

Chapter 36 lists the descendants of Esau, sometimes called Edom.  First, he and Jacob separated, much as Abram and Lot had done earlier, because the land could not support all of their wealth (livestock).  Then we get "the account of Esau the father of the Edomites."  Notable descendants are mentioned, as well as chiefs and kings of his line.

    Thoughts, questions, issues
  • Jacob deceived his father to get his older brothers blessing on the belief that his father was on his deathbed.  He then left the area and spent 20 years in Laban's service.  But when he comes back, not only does Esau greet him, Isaac is still alive.
  • To save myself from repetitively apologizing for repeating myself, I'm going to define an acronym.  Whenever you see MSW, that's a "Modern Sensibilities Warning."  That means, "yes, I know that I'm looking at this particular issue through the lens of my chronological snobbery, and I'm aware of the potential for misunderstanding, or just plain missing, the point."
  • The reference to Israel ("Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in [or against]] Israel") in 34:7 seems anachronistic.  That same chapter refers in every instance to "Jacob's sons" and "Jacob's daughter."
  • MSW:  If he wants to marry the girl, why did Shechem "violate" here first?  Wouldn't it make more sense to wait?
  • What is there in what has gone before to make anyone thing that the kind of behavior exhibited actually warranted retribution?  Lot offered his daughters to a mob.  Simeon and Levi were sons of Leah, but several of their brothers were the product of (MSW) rape.  (Certainly there's no reason to think that Bilhah and Zilpah had any input whatsoever in their bearing Jacob's children.)
  • Sly and clever, I suppose, to deal with the Hamorites the way they did, but dishonest, too.
  • There's an odd statement in the middle of chapter 35, saying that "Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it."  There's no obvious connection between that comment and what precedes and follows it.  Presumably, there's a reason for it being there, but the placement seems very strange.
  • There are, I believe, five sons listed by three wives.  Most of which are not names that I recognize.  And presumably, many, if not most, are not to be heard from again.
  • The one notable name (to me) from the Esau genealogy was Amalek, who I presume was the father of the Amalekites.

We've now been introduced to the 12 tribes of Israel:
    Sons of Leah
  • Reuben
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah
  • Issachar
  • Zebulun
  • Sons of Rachel
  • Joseph
  • Benjamin
  • Sons of Rachel's maidservant Bilhah
  • Dan
  • Naphtali
  • Sons of Leah's maidservant Zilpah
  • Gad
  • Asher

Proverbs 11:1-15

The themes continue to repeat.  Wisdom, following wisdom, righteous vs. wicked, speaking wisely, plainly and truthfully - it's difficult to summarize a set of 16 proverbs.  To the extent that they have a common theme, well, they don't.  There are some extolling honesty in this set.  Some extolling humility.  Others condemning gossip and praising the man of understanding who "holds his tongue."

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