Thursday, March 12, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 34 & 35

Chapter 34
Summary:Leah's daughter* Dinah went out to visit some of the neighborhood girls. When Shechem, son of King Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah he decides to rape her. He fell deeply in love with her afterward and tried to win her affection.

Shechem then pleaded with his father King Hamor to help him acquire Dinah's hand in marriage*. Word soon reached Jacob*, but since his sons were out in the fields working, he did nothing until their return.

Meanwhile King Hamor went to speak with Jacob, arriving just as Jacob's sons returned from the fields. Hamor told Jacob that Shechem was in love with Dinah and asked for Jacob's permission for them to marry. He continued on to invite Jacob's family to live amongst them and intermarry their sons and daughters between them. Shechem then addressed Jacob and his sons, begging them to let him marry Dinah, offering to pay whatever dowry they requested.

The brothers then lied to Hamor and Shechem telling them that due to family customs - that Shechem was not circumcised - they could not allow their sister to marry Shechem, however if King Hamor would get every male in his kingdom circumcised, that they would happily intermarry and become one people.

King Hamor and his son Shechem wasted no time in convincing the men of the kingdom to undergo circumcision, and soon after had the entire male population circumcised. However, three days later when the men's wounds were sore and sensitive to every move they made, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi entered the city and slaughtered every man there, including Hamor and Shechem. They rescued Dinah from Shechem's house and later all of Jacob's sons returned to the city to plunder it in retaliation for their sister's dishonor. They confiscated everything and took the women and children as their slaves.

Jacob then scolded Levi and Simeon denouncing their actions and exclaiming that they themselves were too few to fight off the Canaanites and Perizzites seeking revenge. Levi and Simeon questioned their father's scolding by claiming that Dinah was treated as a prostitute.
Notes:1.) Interesting to note that Dinah is mentioned as lineage from Leah, instead of Jacob (Israel).
2.) Unlike Jacob and Leah's technical non-consensual sex that married them, Shechem's raping Dinah did not consummate a marriage for some reason.
3.) Still yet to be referred to as Israel since being renamed in Chapter 32.
Thoughts:What constitutes marriage in biblical times can be difficult to follow. Jacob had non-consensual sex with Leah (he thought he was sleeping with Rachel) and was then considered married back in Chapter 29. Perhaps because Jacob's dowry was paid in full (by working for his Uncle Laban for seven years) a rape is not considered to have happened, and probably even more so that women raping men probably "didn't count" as rape either - such as Lot's daughters and their misadventures with their father in Chapter 19.

However, we see that - at least according to Jacob's sons - raping a girl entitles the victim's family to slaughter an entire city, plunder the wealth, and to enslave the surviving women and children. God doles out no punishment to Simeon or Levi, nor towards Jacob (who has still yet to be called by his new name of Israel), even though Jacob seems a bit angry with his sons for endangering them to the rest of the Canaanite and Perizzite people.
Chapter 35
Summary:God tells Jacob to move on and settle in Bethel, and to also build an altar to worship "the God that appeared to (him)" when he fled from Esau.

Jacob instructed all those in his household to destroy their idols that they had brought with them, and to wash themselves and put on fresh clothes. They gave all of their idols and earrings to Jacob, who buried them beneath an oak tree near Shechem.

As they started off again, the terror of God was upon all the cities they journeyed through, and they were not attacked. Finally they arrived in Luz (also called Bethel) in Canaan. Jacob erected an altar and named it "The altar to the God of Bethel".

Soon after, Rebekah's old nurse Deborah died and was buried beneath the oak tree in the valley below Bethel, which has been since called "The Oak of Weeping".

Upon Jacob's arrival at Bethel, God appeared to him once again and blessed him. He tells Jacob that he will no longer be called Jacob* (meaning "Grabber") but Israel (meaning "One who prevails from God"). God repeats his vows to Jacob to make him a great nation with many descendants, with many kings amongst those descendants. He continues on to tell Jacob/Israel that he will pass on the land to him that he had given to Abraham and Isaac as well.

Jacob builds a stone pillar at the place where God appeared to him, pours wine over it as an offering to God, and then anoints it with olive oil.

Leaving Bethel, Jacob and his household traveled on toward Ephrath (later Bethlehem), but Rachel's pains of childbirth began before they got there. After a difficult delivery she delivered a son, and with her dying breath named him "Ben-oni" (meaning "Son of my sorrow"); but his father called him "Benjamin" (meaning "Son of my right hand"). Rachel was then buried near the road to Ephrath, and Jacob set up a monument of stones upon her grave.

Israel/Jacob journeyed on and camped beyond the Tower of Eder. While he was there, his son Reuben slept with Bilhah (Rachel's slave, and his father's concubine), and someone later told Israel about it.

For good measure and a recap, the chapter lists the twelve sons of Israel:
  • Sons of Leah:
    • Reuben
    • Simeon
    • Levi
    • Judah
    • Issachar
    • Zebulun
  • Sons of Rachel:
    • Joseph
    • Bejamin
  • Sons of Bilhah (Rachel's slave):
    • Dan
    • Naphtali
  • Sons of Zilpah (Leah's slave):
    • Gad
    • Asher
Jacob/Israel came at last to Isaac, his father, at Mamre in Kiriath-arba (later called Hebron), where Abraham had also once lived. Isaac died soon afterwards at the ripe old age of 180*, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Notes:1.) It is unclear as to why this has to be repeated again, as it is certainly clear that Jacob recognized the Man from Chapter 32 as God, as he names the place where they wrestle "Peniel" (meaning "The Face of God").
2.) This is not a typo. The bible lists Isaac's actual age at death as 180 years old.
Thoughts:Another chapter that seems to be a bit disorganized and messy. There's a lot of confusing interchangeable names (Bethel and Luz are the same town, as are Jacob and Israel the same person), a list thrown towards the end of the chapter (which lists the names of the sons that we should already know had we've been reading since Chapter 29 with the birth of Leah's first four sons), God giving Jacob his new name of Israel for the second time, and the mention of Rebekah's slave Deborah's death (to whom we were never introduced) for seemingly little reason.

Rachel dies during childbirth bearing Jacob's/Israel's final son Benjamin (who also got a second name from his dying mom, "Ben-oni" - but apparently Jacob/Israel didn't care enough for it, renaming him "Benjamin") while Reuben (Jacob's/Israel's oldest son) gets it on with Rachel's slave-girl Bilhah.

Isaac finally kicks the bucket at a nice round age of 180 and is buried by Jacob/Israel and his brother Esau.

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