Tag Archives: Genesis 33-35

January 12, 2018 Bible Study — The Initial Formation of the Nation of Israel

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Genesis 33-35.

    I did not touch on this yesterday, but when Esau heard that Jacob was returning he set out with 400 men to meet him. The first thing about this which is noteworthy is that when Abraham defeated the armies which had taken Lot captive he had 318 men with him. So, Esau was coming to meet Jacob with a rather large army. The second thing which is noteworthy (from yesterday’s passage) is that Esau and his army set out before Jacob sent his messengers. Which makes me wonder if Esau knew about Laban pursuing Jacob and was coming to Jacob’s defense?

    I find the negotiations between Jacob and Esau when they met interesting as well. After greeting Jacob as his long lost brother, which Jacob was, he asks about the people accompanying Jacob. Jacob introduces his wives and children to Esau. Then Esau asks about the flocks sent on ahead by Jacob. Since Jacob had instructed the herdsmen to tell Esau that they were gifts for Esau, by asking about them Esau is telling Jacob that the gifts were not necessary for Esau to forgive Jacob. There is a little further back and forth about who should keep them before Esau accepts them. This negotiation resembles the negotiation between Abraham and Ephron the Hittite over the plot of land where Abraham would bury Sarah. By insisting that Esau accept the gift of these specific herds, Jacob is establishing that Esau has no claim to any of the rest of his possessions. This is followed up by the next stage of the negotiations between Esau and Jacob. Esau indirectly offers Jacob the opportunity to enter into Esau’s household and to come under his protection. First Esau suggests that he lead Jacob and his family back to where Esau is based (and we know from the earlier passage where Isaac grew crops that Esau was not truly nomadic). When Jacob rejects this, Esau suggests that he at least provide Jacob with some men to protect Jacob and his family. Once again, Jacob rejects this offer. In both cases, Jacob makes it clear that he is not rejecting his brother, just the offer to become part of his brother’s household. It is worth noting that we learn at the end of this passage that both Jacob and Esau set up households independent of that of Isaac, but that it was Jacob who moved back with Isaac for Isaac’s last few years.

    Finally, I mentioned yesterday that Laban’s household idols would appear once more to provide insight into the mystery of Terah, Abraham’s father, deciding to move to Canaan (although he never got there). The story of Dinah being raped at Shechem tells us more about that. The first thing I think we see is that Jacob and his family hold women in higher esteem then the peoples among whom they lived. They did not just accept that Shechem marry their sister to make up for defiling her by raping her. However, the more interesting thing is that although the sons of Jacob worshiped God at least to the degree of being circumcised and having their sons and male servants circumcised, they also had various idols as well. In the aftermath of his sons sacking and looting the town, Jacob calls on them to give up their idols and purify themselves to worship God. The idols which Jacob buried there included the idols which Rachel had stolen from Laban. There are several important things which happened as a result of this event. First, Jacob and his family became more dedicated to God and abandoned, for the most part, the worship of other gods. Second, Jacob’s sons were forced to stay together in their father’s household, rather than setting out on their own the way their father, their grandfather, and great grandfather had. Because they had sacked and looted Shechem, none of Jacob’s sons could risk leaving the protection of their father’s household.

January 12, 2017 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net” for my daily Bible reading.

Today, I am reading and commenting on Genesis 33-35.

    When Jacob returned to Canaan he was worried that Esau would still be angry with him. However, Esau was glad to welcome Jacob back. The stories we have about Isaac, Jacob, and Esau tell us a lot about good families. They made mistakes, they had disagreements, they were angry with each other. However, despite having a legitimate grievance with his brother, Esau was glad to see him return and was willing to accept him into his “household”. Reading between the lines, Esau not only welcomed Jacob back, but invited him under his protection. However, Jacob had had enough of being subordinate and wished to remain independent of Esau (it is interesting to note that today’s passage suggests that Isaac had maintained his own independent household, while his sons went off and created their own). We need to model the willingness to be reconciled which Esau and Jacob demonstrated here (note the lengths to which Jacob went to appease his brother).

    The story about the rape of Dinah and her brothers’ response tells us quite a bit about the relationship between Jacob’s family and the surrounding peoples. It, also, suggests some of the differences between the descendants of Abraham and the local people which may explain why Abraham and Isaac wanted their sons to marry women from their homeland. Shechem raped Dinah in an effort to force Jacob to allow him to marry her. He appears to have also believed that she would want to marry him because he had raped her (or, at least that the rape was not an insurmountable obstacle to winning her love). We do not know what Dinah’s thought of his suit, but reading between the lines suggests that she was not receptive. Certainly her brothers were angered by this approach. Isaac and Jacob married women who willingly came to them. Schechem forced Dinah to accept him and only failed because such force was unacceptable to her father and brothers (although Jacob was concerned about the consequences of rejecting Shechem’s court so forcefully).

January 12, 2016 Bible Study — Jacob and His Sons

This year I switched from using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible reading to the daily Bible reading schedule from “The Bible.net”.

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Today, I am reading and commenting on Genesis 33-35.

    I find the negotiations between Jacob and Esau in this passage interesting. First, when Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men, he is afraid that Esau is still angry. So, he sends a gift for Esau on ahead of the rest of his entourage. Then he divides his group up, putting his servant wives and their children first, then Leah and her children, and finally Rachel and Joseph. When they meet, Esau expresses his joy at seeing his brother once more.

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    Esau and Jacob then have an exchange where they establish their relationship. It starts with Esau questioning Jacob’s relationship with the people he is traveling with. Are these people to whom Jacob owes loyalty? Jacob responds by explaining that they are people who owe loyalty to him. Next Esau tells Jacob not to beggar himself by giving him a gift. Jacob replies by telling Esau that he can spare the gift and wants to express his desire to live in peace with Esau. Then Esau offers Jacob the opportunity to join his household, but Jacob declines. Finally, Esau offers Jacob the opportunity to at least come under his protection (thus owing some fealty to Esau). Jacob declines. It is clear to me from this exchange that Esau was not expecting Jacob and his family to join him in Seir.

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    There is more to the story about the rape of Dinah shows us something about the attitude towards women of the surrounding culture. An attitude which is still common in much of the world. Schechem saw a woman in the market who did not have any protectors which he thought he needed to be concerned about. After all, he was the ruler’s son and heir. When he and/or his father realized whose daughter Dinah was, they decided to try to take advantage of the situation. They saw it as an opportunity to bind Jacob’s interests, and his wealth, with their own. If they could convince Jacob to give his daughters and granddaughters to their sons as wives and his sons and grandsons to take their daughters as wives, they could assimilate Jacob and his family. Thus gaining control of their wealth and power. Jacob’s sons recognized the plan for what it was and refused to allow their sister to be used in this manner. Once again we see a different perspective on how women should be treated between the people of God and the culture in which they lived/