Tuesday, July 24, 2012

XX - Chapters 34-36 - Dinah, Reuben, Esau

We've seen in recent chapters how the beloved patriarch Jacob has been transformed from an unlikable "trickster" to a man of God.  He has become wise, patient, honest, and hard working.  He has become a very wealthy man and has earned his stripes.  But God knows that Jacob remains in need of some more refinement.  But before we go on with Jacob, we'll take a slight detour and pick up on the unfortunate incident concerning Dinah.  Dinah was Leah's daughter.  Leah also gave birth to six sons:  Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.

Chapter 34  -   Jacob had settled around Succuth, a part of Canaan chiefly occupied by the Hivites.  The Hivites would always be a nuiscence to Israel.  The ruler of the Hivites was Hamor, a descendent of Ham.  (remember Noah's son Ham?)  Hamor had a son named Shecham, after which Hamor named a city.  Shecham seemed like a spoiled child who was unaccustomed to rejection. He saw Dinah, persued her romanticly, and when she did not return his affections, he raped her.  It says also that he demanded of his father, the ruler of the territory to "get me this girl as my wife".

Vs 5 -->:  When Jacob heard that his daughter had been defiled, he did not act on it until his sons returned from tending the flocks and herds.  While Jacob waited for his sons to return, Hamor went to talk to Jacob.  He hadn't gotten very far before the sons returned, having already heard the news about their sister being raped, and they were furious.  Hamor offered Jacob and his sons intermarriage between the families (no way would hebrews agree to such).  He also offered free range for their flocks and herds.  Hamor sensed none of this was putting a dent in the anger of Jacob and his sons, so Hamor said "name your price".  My son has his heart set on Dinah.  But in vss 13-17, Jacob's sons
interrupted this bargaining by telling them that they could not grant any intermarriages with uncircumsized men.  Remember Shechem really wanted Dinah, so he committed not only himself to be circumsized, but all the men in the Hivite region of Canaan.  (I think the reason that spoiled brat wanted Dinah so bad was just because he couldn't have her.  Remember, he is the wealthy son of the ruler, and probably had his pick of the other women anytime he wanted them.  Reminds me of Sadam Huissein's sons in Iraq.)   Hamor and his son talked the rest of the men into agreeing to
circumcision by appealing to their greed.

Vss 25-29  -    So all the Hivite men near Shechem got circumsized.  But three days after their circumcisions, when the men were still sore and not healed yet, Simeon and Levi stormed into the city, killing every man in Shechem.  Then they got their sister Dinah and went home.  Jacob's other sons pillaged the city, taking everything valuable, including their women and children for slaves.  Vs.  30 tells how Jacob scolded Simeon and Levi, saying that they will make the Hivites and the Perrizzites to join forces and come and destroy the family.  Simeon and Levi were unrepentant of their actions protecting the honor of their sister.

Chapter 35  -  The situation at Shecham became too dangerous due to Simeon's and Levi's hasty acts of revenge, so God call on Jacob to move on to Bethel.  {Succuth was north, near where Lebenon is today, while Bethel is near modern day Jerusalem.}

The last portion of chapter 34 and the beginning of chapter 35 give us some clues as to why God needed to further refine Jacob and his leadership for the new nation Israel.  Vs 2  Jacob told his entire household to get rid of all the foreign gods. (which begs the question, "What are foreign gods doing in their possession anyway?  But we cannot be too hasty in our thoughts.  The Ten Commandments have not been established yet.)  He further instructed them to bathe and change their garments.  This was like a cleansing ritual, separating them from their sins.  It says they gave to Jacob all their gods and earrings (probably considered as "magic charms").  Jacob buried them under an oak tree.  Then they began their journey to Bethel under the protection of God.  If God had not protected them, the Perrizites and Hivites would have gathered themselves together and exacted revenge upon Jacob and his entire family for what Simeon and Levi did.   Vs 5 says the terror of God fell on the towns around them.  I mentioned earlier that the God of Israel would be feared throughout the Old Testament.  Upon arriving at Bethel, Jacob built and altar and worshipped God.

Vs 8 tells that Rachel's nurse Deborah died and Jacob buried her under an oak tree and named the place Allon Bakuth, which means "oak of weeping".  In vs 9 God repeats to Jacob that his name henceforth will be Israel.  When God had finished speaking with Jacob, God departed and Jacob set up stones for another altar and it was then that Jacob named this place Bethel, which means "house of God".

During this time Rachel had concieved and was carrying Israel's twelveth son Benjamin, whoh would be the twelveth tribe of Israel.  When Benjamin was born Rachel named him Ben-oni (son of my sorrow), but Jacob changed it to Benjamin (child of fortune).  But sadly, Rachel died during childbirth.  Think about that: Rachel, like Rebekah and Sarah, wanted to bare children as being the most important thing in their lives.  And delivering a child is what ended the life of this lady that Jacob loved so so much.  At this point in our study of Jacob, I am reluctant to be critical, but all the other family members were buried in what seems to have been "special" places, but Jacob buried Rachel someplace along the way to Ephrath.  I find that strange, especially knowing that Jacob and the lesser wife Leah were both buried in the family tomb in Machepelah.

Still in chapter 35, vs 21 tells us that Israel moves on toward Ephrath.  While Israel was living in the region just south of Ephrath, Israel's oldest son Rueben slept with Bilhah, his mothers maidservant.  It says Israel learned of this but the Scripture goes into no further detail.  The remainder of the chapter relists the twelve sons of Israel.  (Joseph and Benjamin would become the favored sons).  Israel would eventually settle in Hebron, considered the home of both Abraham and Isaac.  It was in
Hebron that Isaac died at the age of 180.  Esau and Jacob were together again to bury their father.

Chapter 36 recounts the lineage of Esau.  These people were to become the Edomites (Edom means red.  Esau had red skin from birth).  The Edomites were not of the royal family because Esau was not chosen to carry the bloodline. Esau married three women, a Hittite, and Hivite, and an Ishlmaelite.  Looking over the entire chapter 36, you can see that Esau became very wealthy, powerful, and well organized.  His kinship were mighty warriors, to be feared when angered, and only by the Hand of the Mighty God of Israel would Edom be defeated in battle.

We just covered chapters 34, 35, and 36.  Once again, God chose not to hide the human imperfections of His people.  We saw the defilement of Dinah, The bloody revenge taken by her brothers Rueben and Simeon, idolatrous gods kept by Jacobs family, the adultry commited by Reuben and Bilhah.  We've also gotten to know some of these precious people and have had to read of their lives coming to an end.  But this is all within God's plan.  I've come to know Jacob a little better this time.  He's one of those men, who the more you know, the better you like him.  We've quickly studied his life, from a selfish spoiled trickster who wanted the birthright, regardless of how he got it, to a man fully committed to God and God's purpose for all of His people.  But as important about these three chapters:  This is one of the great watershed passages in the Bible.  From this point forward, the focus of the Abrahamic covenant shifts from individuals to a nation; from the great patriarchs to the twelve tribes of Israel.

Next post  -  Joseph the Dreamer

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