On Genesis, Part 44: Wrath, Subsided, Subdued and Imprudent

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Genesis 33:1 – Genesis 34:31

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On Genesis, Part 44: Wrath, Subsided, Subdued and Imprudent

Since his departure from Haran and the house of Laban his father-in law, at this point in our Genesis account Jacob has faced two of the three trials which he would have even before he had reached Canaan. First, he was accosted by Laban himself, on account of the missing idols which Rachel had taken from her father. Then, he was compelled to wrestle with a strange man in the middle of the night, who with all certainty was an angel of Yahweh God, but whom Jacob had imagined to have been God Himself. Of these trials, Jacob apparently had no warnings. But he stood up to Laban and his injustices, and Laban could only answer by compelling Jacob to make a covenant with him. Then he stood up to the angel, and he even compelled the angel to bless him, which he did. Now Jacob will have to face his brother Esau, and already he has had much fear and trepidation. It was on account of Esau that twenty years earlier he had fled to Haran, as Esau had threatened to take his life. So his own parents had sent him away, warning Jacob, and now Jacob must remember the threat. In spite of the fact that Jacob was magnified greatly during his time in Haran, initially he went there on account of the wrath of Esau.

Following the meeting with Laban, two encounters with angels which Jacob had along the way since he had left Mount Gilead must have served to help prepare him for his encounter with Esau. The first was when he had seen a double encampment of angels, whereafter having heard that Esau was going to meet him with four hundred men, with trepidation Jacob had split his own party into two camps in preparation for that meeting. The second was after he had wrestled with the angel, and he had imagined that he had seen the face of God. So now, when Jacob meets with Esau, he imagines that same thing of his brother, and he expresses it, even having treated Esau as if he were God. At a much later time, Christ Himself had taught that men should treat one another in the same manner in which they would treat him, for example in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

But the encounter with this angel should also have taught Jacob that he would indeed prevail with men and with God, as that is the meaning of the name Israel by which the angel had named him: “he prevails with God”. So Jacob had apparently accepted as a lesson each of the encounters with angels, and applied them in his own immediate situation without any further instruction. These are the expressions of a simple and humble man, who did not have the advantage of having learned the Scriptures, who had no benefit of the Gospel of Christ, and who was not instructed in the laws or the ways of Yahweh, but who nevertheless had pleased God by the sincerity and forthrightness of his heart and in the purity of his motives.

Jacob’s encounter with Esau was indeed a third trial on his journey, as he had learned from his servants that Esau was much stronger than himself, having been able to come to him with a company of four hundred men. So not knowing what Esau’s attitude would be towards him, on account of his brother’s earlier wrath, he was fearful, but the meeting was already arranged and he had no manly choice but to go forward. The message which he had initially sent to him also precluded him from holding anything back from his brother, as he had told his servants, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 32: “4 … Thus shall ye speak unto my lord Esau; Thy servant Jacob saith thus, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed there until now: 5 And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.”

Now, having passed over the Jabbok River near the place which he had named Penuel, which is how the final verse of Genesis chapter 32 should have read, where we commence with Genesis chapter 33 Jacob is portrayed as having immediately seen his brother Esau, but it must have actually been from quite a distance, because he had still had some time to make certain preparations:

1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.

It is most likely, since it is early in the morning, that Jacob’s family and servants would be just getting up and ready for the day’s travel at this point, and would have awaited him before breaking camp. They most likely could not have known that Jacob had wrestled with the angel, or that he was not even in the camp until after dawn. The situation also shows that they must have been in a plain or a valley, and not in the hills, since Jacob had seen Esau approaching, but still had time to make these arrangements.

2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.

Over the course of the days leading up to this point, when Jacob heard the messengers upon their return from Esau, we read: “7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands; 8 And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.” Now the order of their precedence here is indicative of the greater value which Jacob had placed on Rachel and Joseph, as they are positioned at the rear of his household. But Jacob himself led the way, still uncertain of how Esau would receive him:

3 And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

Perhaps it is appropriate to cite Proverbs chapter 24 here, although the context is not directly related: “16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

Bowing or prostrating oneself seven times before one’s superior was evidently a traditional custom in the ancient world, at least within the Egyptian sphere of influence, which had been an indication of complete submission to a higher authority. In an Akkadian letter discovered at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt which was written to pharaoh Akhenaten by one Abimilki, or Abimelech, who was apparently a Philistine king of Tyre in the early half of the 14th century BC, we read the following: “To the king, my lord, my pantheon, my Sun-god say: Thus Abimilki, thy servant. Seven and seven times I fall at the feet of the king, my lord. I am the dirt under the feet of the king, my lord. My lord is the Sun-god who rises over the lands day by day, as ordained by the Sun-god, his gracious father; who gives life by his sweet breath, and who lessens when he is hidden; who sets the whole land at peace by his might, who utters his battle-cry in heaven like Baal, so that the whole land quakes at his cry.” [1]

As a digression, the letter was written at the same time that the Israelites had been conquering the land of Canaan, and this Abimelech had evidently written the pharaoh seeking relief, so he must have been under siege. Therefore we read further on in the same letter: “But behold, I am guarding Tyre, the great city, for the king, my lord, until the mighty power of the king come out unto me, to give water for me to drink, and wood to warm me.” [2] During this same period, many of the kings of the city-states in the Levant were writing similar appeals to pharaoh Akhenaten, but none of them had received any relief from Egypt. The land was in a state of upheaval even where the Israelites may not have yet been involved, although the upheavals to the north may have been precipitated by them. So in similar letters, the same formula of supplication appears. For example, in a letter from a prince of Byblos who was apparently being threatened by the Amorites, we read: “Rib-Ad[di spoke] to the king, [his] lor[d, the Sun-god of the lands.] Beneath the feet [of the king, my lord,] seven times, and seven times [I fall.] I have written repeatedly for [garrison troops], but they were not given…” [3] Then in a letter from a prince of Acco to the same pharaoh: “To the king, my lord, the Sun-god from heaven: Thus Zatatna, prince of Accho, thy servant, the servant of the king; and the dirt (under) his two feet, the ground which he treads. At the two feet of the king, my lord, the Sun-god from heaven, seven times, seven times I fall, both prone and supine. Let the king, my lord, hear the word of his servant!” [4] Finally, although there are at least several other similar examples from these letters, in a letter to Akhenaten from Biridiya, an ancient ruler of Megiddo: “To the king, my lord, and my Sun-god, say: Thus Biridiya, the faithful servant of the king. At the two feet of the king, my lord, and my Sun-god, seven and seven times I fall.” [5] These letters were all written less than three hundred and fifty years after the time of the encounter with Jacob and Esau here in Genesis, and about eighty or so years after the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, forty of which the Israelites had spent wandering in the desert.

Now Jacob finally sees Esau’s response to him, and his brother’s reaction is quite contrary to his initial expectations:

4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

After twenty years, the wrath of Esau had apparently subsided and his personal enmity with Jacob seems to have been forgotten. The early life of Jacob and Esau is never portrayed in Genesis, where the entire account from the event and circumstances of their birth up to the time when, as a young man, Esau was compelled to sell his birthright to his brother is presented in only nine verses at the end of Genesis chapter 25. From there, it is only vaguely apparent that the brothers had lived very different lives until the time when Jacob had received the blessing which Esau had expected, as it is described in Genesis chapter 27. But there is never any account of direct intercourse between the two brothers, or any description of any fraternal relationship which they may have had. But here it is apparent that the two brothers must have had some degree of brotherly affection for one another, and some sort of fraternal relationship in their younger years, in spite of their many differences. Now Esau had begun to make inquiries, and perhaps he had his own underlying motives because he would beckon Jacob to join him in Mount Seir:

5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he [Jacob] said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant. 6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves. 7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

The final words of that passage would better have been organized, in part: “… and after Joseph and Rachel came near …” It is noticeable that Joseph is the only son mentioned here by name, and that he is given precedence even over his mother, things which already set him apart from the other sons.

The stark difference in the attitudes which the two brothers maintained throughout their lives seems to be reflected in Jacob’s answer to Esau that those who were with him were “The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.” Esau, the worldly man, had gone out and taken wives to himself and had obtained children, without any consideration for his parents, for the God of his fathers, or even for the quality and character of his own future posterity. But on the contrary, Jacob, the pious and humble man, had waited patiently while seeking to please his parents, working for the estate of his father, and had accepted whatever it was that his God had presented to him. So even his children were not truly his own doing, but they had been given to him by God.

Now Esau must have known Jacob’s motives for having sent a great portion of his flock before him, as Jacob had commanded his servants to inform him in advance. But he nevertheless inquired with Jacob directly:

8 And he [Esau] said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he [Jacob] said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.

So Jacob had hoped to please his brother with his gift, not knowing that his brother would be pleased to see him without any gifts. Then in return, Esau expressed what is probably the only sign of humility on his part recorded in Scripture, however Jacob insisted that he accept his gift, and in his humility Esau relented. But another possibility should not go unnoticed: that if Jacob returns with Esau to Mount Seir, that in the end the gift would not matter, as the posterity of the two brothers would be joined together by the ensuing circumstances, and that seems to be what Esau had hoped.

9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10 And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11 Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he [Esau] took it.

Jacob treated his brother as if he were his master, tithing him from his flocks even where the tithe was not necessary, and here he had even told him that his face appeared as if he were God. Esau was an Adamic man, as Jacob also was, and Jacob had also perceived the face of the angel with whom he wrestled the night before to have been the face of God. So as we have asserted, Jacob accepted the wrestling with the angel as a sign of how he should treat Esau, but his victory over the angel, in attaining his blessing, also must have purposely presaged the outcome of his meeting with Esau. Furthermore, his treatment of his brother in this manner was not an act of idolatry. Jacob was not worshipping his brother here, but only deferring to him as his superior in the manner of the custom of the times, out of respect for his brother as his elder. In his humility, Jacob would prevail by having an apparent peace with a brother who had once vowed to kill him. Thus we read in Proverbs chapter 16: “6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. 7 When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Now Esau is evidently under the impression that Jacob and his family will follow him to Mount Seir, but perhaps it was his hope from the beginning, as we have already conjectured:

12 And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

So Jacob answers with what is apparently an excuse:

13 And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.

Here it is evident that Jacob wants to procrastinate, and makes an excuse that the children and the herds can only travel slowly. Now where he continues his answer, he is rather ambiguous, and while he does indicate that he will go to Esau to Mount Seir, he does not say when:

14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.

Now Esau makes a final offer to help Jacob on his way to Mount Seir:

15 And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me.

Jacob replies that the help is not necessary:

And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.

The King James translation is archaic. The New American Standard Bible translates the first part of this reply in modern English to read: “But he said, "What need is there?…’” As for the second part of the reply, the Greek of the Septuagint has an additional word, ἱκανός, which means enough or sufficient, so Brenton translated the clause to read: “it is enough that I have found favour before thee, my lord.” That seems to have been a subtle dismissal of Esau’s request.

While Esau seems to have been genuine in his concern for Jacob, he also must have been oblivious to the ultimate destiny of his own posterity, and the contrary plan which the God of his fathers had for that of Jacob. So the full implications of his not having received the blessing of Abraham must also have escaped him. But Jacob’s answers here seem to have been evasive, or at least ambiguous, and it is apparent that he did not want to accompany Esau to Mount Seir, although he seems to have feared telling him that and therefore he did not explicitly refuse his brother’s hospitality. If Jacob had relented, we may imagine that Yahweh would have had a way to prevent it, since it was not Jacob’s destiny to fall in with the Canaanites with whom Esau had already committed his own posterity. So finally, Esau departs without him:

16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.

Now that Esau is gone, Jacob goes a different way, as he turns west towards the land of Canaan:

17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.

The word סכות or succoth (# 5523) means booths, or even tents, and here the translation of the passage in the Septuagint is quite literal, as Brenton has it in his Septuagint translation: “17 And Jacob departs to his tents; and he made for himself there habitations, and for his cattle he made booths; therefore he called the name of that place, Booths.” The words for tents and booths in that passage are all from the same Greek word σκηνή, which is literally a tent, although the Hebrew term can describe a more permanent structure. It is unlikely that one would expect mere tents to hold cattle. Where it says that Jacob built himself a house, Brenton has habitations, where the Greek word for house in the Septuagint is plural, but the corresponding Hebrew word in the Masoretic Text is singular.

Jacob must have eventually crossed the Jordan River at some point south of where the river Jabbok flows into the river Jordan, which today is about sixteen miles in latitude north of the location esteemed to be that of ancient Jericho. We read in an article for the Jordan River at a popular Bible Atlas website, under the subtitle The Fords of Jordan, that: “According to Conder, there are no less than 60 fording-places between Lake Galilee and the Dead Sea. For the most part it will be seen that these occur at rapids, or over bars deposited by the streams which descend from one side or the other, as, for example, below the mouths of the Yarmuk, Jabbok, Jalud and Kelt. These fords are, however, impassable during the high water of the winter and spring months. Until the occupation by the Romans, no bridges were built; but they and their successors erected them at various places, notably below the mouth of the Yarmuk, and the Jabbok, and nearly opposite Jericho.” [6]

But whether or not Jacob had crossed the Jordan at this time is unclear. There are several places named Succoth in Scripture. There is a place called Succoth in Egypt, in Exodus chapters 12 and 13, and another in the years of wandering in the wilderness, in Numbers chapter 33. Those places can certainly be ruled out as possible locations for the events described here. Later, in the time of Joshua, there is also a Succoth in Gilead, in the area near Mount Gilead which Jacob has already passed through and departed, east of the Jordan, which is mentioned in Joshua chapter 13 and in Judges chapter 8. The context of that chapter suggests that the Succoth in Gilead is not far from Penuel, where Jacob had wrestled with the angel by the river Jabbok. The modern identification of Biblical Succoth is with a site immediately south of the Zarqa River, the ancient river Jabbok, and just over eight miles east of the Jordan. If this is where Jacob had crossed, near Penuel, and where he had settled, then there is no reason for him to have journeyed anywhere, as this verse describes, since it is already near where he was when he met with Esau. It is apparent in Judges chapter 8 that Succoth and Penuel were indeed in relative proximity to one another.

The name Succoth would only designate a place of tents in Hebrew, which would very likely be along some route of travel. But the site identified with Succoth in Gilead is in the hills, five miles from the nearest modern road, where it is clear from the events described here that Jacob must have been on a plain, as he had seen Esau approaching him from a great distance. There is an identical passage in each of the 60th and 108th Psalms which reads: “7 God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.” So it seems to be the place in which Jacob sojourns here, if the valley of Succoth is also near the land of Shechem. But then again, in the context of each of those Psalms, Gilead is mentioned in the verse which follows. Perhaps these circumstances may all be reconciled if the term “valley of Succoth” is interpreted as the portion of the Jordan River valley which is near to the ancient land of Shechem, and both the site which is identified as Shechem and the site identified as Succoth in Gilead are at practically the same latitude, separated from one another by about twenty-four miles on opposite sides of the river Jordan.

So whether Jacob had already forded the river Jordan or not before he made this settlement, we really may only conjecture, but his purpose was to go into the land of Canaan, and perhaps the name Succoth, or “valley of Succoth”, described the area on both sides of the Jordan River Valley near this latitude at this early time. Neither may we know precisely how long he remained here but it must have been for a considerable period of time, as he had built semi-permanent dwellings, and as his children are already coming of age by the time he moves to Salem, an event which is now described:

18 And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.

The furthest point south that Jacob could have crossed the Jordan is at Jericho, although there are many other fords at points north of there where he could have crossed. From Jericho, the site esteemed to be that of ancient Bethel is about fourteen miles west-northwest, and that of Shiloh about sixteen miles northwest, but eight miles north of Bethel, while the esteemed site of ancient Shechem is about twelve miles further north than that of Shiloh. The fact that Salem is called a “city of Shechem” here seems to rule out the fact that Salem may be identified with the later Jerusalem which is over thirty miles to the south of the site esteemed to be that of Shechem. So in spite of the claims of Flavius Josephus, who had identified ancient Salem with Jerusalem on three occasions in his writings [7], here it is apparent that Salem is certainly not the same as Jerusalem. Shechem is about thirty-two miles north of Jerusalem, and it is said here that Salem is a town of Shechem, which rules out Jerusalem. Although there is no other place currently identified by archaeologists with the site of ancient Salem, there is a modern town of that name about two miles east of the site identified with ancient Shechem, which is the modern city of Nablus. The name Nablus is a corruption of the Greek and Roman name Neapolis, or New City, and Vespasian is said to have built Flavia Neapolis just over a mile west of the site of ancient Shechem, in 72 AD. [8] But whether or not the modern town of Salem is the same as the ancient site, Salem must have been in close proximity to Shechem, even within relative walking distance, which is evident in the context of the events which follow, especially in Genesis chapter 34.

So now, after an undetermined number of years, Jacob settled in Salem, but not necessarily in peace, which is the meaning of the Hebrew word:

19 And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.

Here the Septuagint has “for a hundred lambs” rather than “for a hundred pieces of money”. The definition of the Hebrew word, קשיטה or qesiytah (# 7192) is uncertain. Both Strong and Gesenius explain it as “probably meaning to weigh out” or “probably something weighed out”, respectively. To that, Gesenius adds “The ancient interpreters almost all understand a lamb; but for this signification there is no support either in the etymology or in the cognate languages” and explains that at this time, trade was conducted in coins and not in barter. [9] The Brown, Driver, Briggs lexicon only admits that the term represents a “unit of (unknown) value”. [10]

The Shechem mentioned here is the man who had raped Dinah, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 34. So just as Moses had mentioned Canaan in connection with Ham even before describing the circumstances which had led to his birth, and which seems to have forebode the trouble which was to follow, here he mentioned Shechem in that same manner, which forebodes the trouble that follows. Otherwise the mentions of Canaan in Genesis 9:18, and of Shechem here, are only superfluous.

20 And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel.

The phrase rendered here as Elelohe is אל אלהי, the Hebrew word el (# 410) which is god, and a shortened form of elohim (# 430), which is gods, or used as a plural of majesty, throughout Scripture it refers to Yahweh as God. The Hebrew word el itself is apparently itself a shortened form of another word, איל or eil (# 352). So Strong’s original Concordance defines this phrase Elelohe-Israel to mean “the mighty God of Israel”, which seems appropriate. The Septuagint has the last clause of the verse to read “and called on the God of Israel.”

Now Jacob is near Shechem, and in the very next chapter his daughter Dinah is going to leave the house on her own, and she is raped by the Shechem who is mentioned here. Therefore Jacob may have lived for some years in the Valley of Succoth where he had built a house, before having come to Shechem. That is because Dinah was the last child born of Leah before Joseph was born to Rachel, Jacob was already married to Rachel for some time before she was born, and therefore she could not have been more than a few years old when her father departed from Haran. But now she must be in her late teens, at least, in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 34.

But she could not have been too late into her teens, and perhaps as young as sixteen. Dinah could not have been born much sooner than two or three years before Joseph, and Joseph was only seventeen years old when he was sold into slavery, which is stated here in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 37. In Genesis chapter 35, after the events concerning Dinah, all of Jacob’s children are older, and at least some of them had turned to idolatry. But as we shall see, the events of chapter 37 do not follow all of the events of chapter 35, but instead, Moses closed the book on the life of Isaac before commencing by turning a page and beginning his account with the adult life of Joseph. Joseph must have been sold into Egypt some years before Isaac his grandfather had passed.

Now where Genesis chapter 34 begins, it is apparent that Jacob had given his children some degree of liberty, much in the manner that a younger Esau had enjoyed under his parents Isaac and Rebekah:

1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.

As we have explained in earlier presentations of this Commentary on Genesis, the Hivites are actually the Horites, and these Horites are another branch of those among whom Esau had settled in Mount Seir. The extent to which Esau had mingled with them becomes apparent in Genesis chapter 36, where a large family of Horites are incorporated into his genealogy. The words Hivite and Horite are confused as a result of the similarity of the Hebrew letters vav (v, ו) and resh (r, ר), which occurs often in Scripture. Likewise, the resh (r, ר) is also often confused with the daleth (d, ד).

Assessing Jacob’s relationship with his children is difficult, since we cannot know what he had taught them, or what, if anything, he had warned them of the people of Canaan. But they must have had his example, if they were educated in the family history to any degree. It seems implausible that they had not been educated in that manner. So from our viewpoint, it seems that Dinah may have been a feminist, and that her feminism had caused her this trouble. However in Canaan and Mesopotamia women seem to have had more liberty than we may generally perceive from ancient history. Without the laws of Yahweh, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had all lived under the general cultural traditions of their own time. So from her own perspective, perhaps Dinah was not what we would now consider a feminist. Even most people in the general culture of today may be appalled that we would think of Dinah as a feminist, but it may nevertheless have been true.

However the ancient world was not always as strict concerning the treatment or liberties of women as one may imagine. In ancient Mesopotamia it is evident that women had certain social and economic rights, that they could operate their own businesses and had certain property rights, and in at least some legal codes, they could even initiate divorces. In Old Assyrian legal documents dating to the 19th century BC, from Nippur, a city of ancient Sumer, in a contract related to a marriage, we read, in part:

Laqipum has married Hatala, daughter of Enishru. In the country Laqipum may not marry another — (but) in the City (i.e., Ashur) he may marry a hierodule. If within two years she (i.e., Hatala) does not provide him with offspring, she herself will purchase a slavewoman, and later on, after she will have produced a child by him, he may then dispose of her by sale wheresoever he pleases. Should Laqipum choose to divorce her, he must pay five minas of silver; and should Hatala choose to divorce him, she must pay five minas of silver. [11]

In the equally ancient laws of Eshnunna, a kingdom which had thrived after the fall of the third dynasty of nearby Ur, but before the rise of the Babylonian empire of Hammurabi, there are passages which are relative to this situation, which may reflect a general cultural norm. In any event, they must have similar to the manner in which Abraham was raised. So there we read the following:

26: If a man gives bride-money for a(nother) man's daughter, but another man seizes her forcibly without asking the permission of her father and her mother and deprives her of her virginity, it is a capital offence and he shall die.

This is the same punishment as the Hebrew law which calls for the death of a man who rapes a virgin who has been betrothed to another man. (Deuteronomy 22:23 ff.)

27: If a man takes a(nother) man's daughter without asking the permission of her father and her mother and concludes no formal marriage contract with her father and her mother, even though she may live in his house for a year, she is not a housewife. [12]

Since this Shechem had never made any contract with Jacob before taking Dinah to wife, it is evident that she is not his wife. Even in the later laws at Sinai, a man who has custody of a woman, whether a father or a husband, could negate any agreements or contracts made by the woman. This we read in Numbers chapter 30:

3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father's house in her youth; 4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. 5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.

6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; 7 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. 8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her.

So under the laws of Yahweh it is evident that women have somewhat less liberty that they had under the ancient pagan laws.

Already having corrupted Dinah, now the Canaanite wants her for a wife:

3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.

We can all picture the slimy Canaanite, the ancestors of today’s Jews and Arabs, who lie in wait to spoil Christian women whenever they have an opportunity. In that same manner was Eve seduced in Eden. In that same fashion, Jews have corrupted Christian women, and even today Arabs in Europe routinely rape Christian women, and get away with it virtually unpunished. This scene here in Genesis evokes the words of a famous Austrian painter who had once described how “The black-haired Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people.” [13]

Now it is evident that among the Canaanites marriage was initiated by contract, and that the sexual union was comparatively insignificant:

4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. 5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.

As it should be with any father, Jacob must have felt much wrath at this point, having learned that his daughter was essentially taken from him against his will, and especially by a Canaanite. But Jacob’s wrath was subdued, and apparently he did not even express his anger. He seems to have been a living example of the words of the 4th Psalm where David wrote “4 Be ye angry, and sin not; feel compunction upon your beds for what ye say in your hearts.” Where Paul had apparently cited that Psalm in chapter 4 of his epistle to the Ephesians it reads quite differently: “26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. 8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.

As the following account unfolds, it is evident that Jacob himself took no leading role in the ensuing events. While on the surface he seems to have relinquished his authority to his sons, who handle the affair from this point, that is not entirely certain, and later, he expresses much displeasure with the manner in which they had handled the situation. So Jacob’s wrath is subdued, but later he explains that the wrath of his sons was imprudent.

Now Hamor displays the base nature of the Canaanites, who were evidently willing to mingle with anyone from whom they may profit materially, very much after the manner of modern Jews:

9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.

This reflects the typical Canaanite attitude, that it is fitting to race-mix with anyone for the benefit of commerce. This is something that international corporations and jewish bankers force on the world today.

The name Hamor is cognate to a Hebrew word חמור or chamor (# 2544) which means ass or he-ass. The name שכם or Shechem, which in the instance of this individual may have been given after the name of the city, means back or shoulder, probably in reference to some relative geographical feature of its location. In this particular context, it is tempting to make quips concerning the meanings of these names.

Shechem must have been with his father when he first went to see Jacob, but he is not mentioned until now:

11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. 12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

Here, as well as elsewhere, it is apparent that in the eyes of the Canaanites a marriage was actually only an economic decision for the mutual benefit of the families involved, and all other considerations were secondary, perhaps after the lust which led to the initial attraction.

13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: 15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; 16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

The words “and said” in verse 13 seem clumsy and unnecessary, but the Hebrew is more properly translated as “and spoke to them”, as it is in the Septuagint in Greek and in Brenton’s translation, and also in the New American Standard Bible. In the Septuagint, in verse 14, Simeon and Levi are explicitly named as having spoken these words to Hamor and Shechem, although the general term “sons of Jacob” also appears there in verse 13. Where in verse 16 the King James Version has the phrase “and we will become one people”, Brenton’s Septuagint has “and we will be as one race”, which is an accurate translation of the Greek word γένος. The corresponding Hebrew word is עם or am (# 5971), which is a people, but, at least often, it is used in the same sense of the concept of a race.

Here it does not matter, that Yahweh God had only demanded that the descendants of Abraham be circumcised. Rather, Simeon and Levi are only using circumcision as a device, so that being weakened in the pain from their wound, they would have an advantage over the men of Shechem when they moved to slay them for the rape of their sister.

18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son. 19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.

So if a rapist is the most honorable of these Canaanites, then that certainly justifies the later command by Yahweh for Israel to slay every last one of them.

20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, 21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

The business in ancient cities was always conducted at a particular gate, which was usually also the gate leading to the markets, where ancient courts were customarily held. In the opening verses of this chapter, Hamor is called “the prince of the country”, and the word for prince indicates that he was the political ruler of Shechem, so while this is presented to the inhabitants as a proposition, they actually had little say in the matter. The language in the phrase “the young man deferred not to do the thing” may be confusing, and is better translated in the New American Standard Bible: “the young man did not delay to do the thing”.

22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.

Now Hamor and Shechem reveal the economic advantages to this proposed marriage, which seems to always be the underlying motive for practically all of the activities of the materialistic Canaanites:

23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. 24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

Of course, the people of the city agreed once they had heard that they themselves may have some profit in the venture. So they were all circumcised.

25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, 29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.

We are never informed as to what they had done with the booty. But for this, Simeon and Levi would receive no departing blessing from their father, who professed that their wrath was imprudent, which is the best way that we can describe his reaction:

30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Where the King James Version has “Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land”, Brenton’s Septuagint has “Ye have made me hateful so that I should be evil to all the inhabitants of the land”, which is a fair rendering of the Greek text.

We will not comment here on the morality of slaying all of the Canaanites, as it is the same judgment which Yahweh Himself later passes on them. But Jacob, in his perspective and with the knowledge which was imparted to him at the time, evidently believed that it was a rash and unrighteous act, and while it is evident that he thought that the wrath of his sons was imprudent, to say the least, he may also have esteemed it to have been an injustice.

But it seems that the primary reason for his displeasure is found in the fact that throughout all of his life, Jacob had always waited on Yahweh his God for both vindication and reward. He had remained unmarried until he was at least seventy and seven years old, until his father instructed him, and then he waited on Yahweh throughout the entire time that Laban had taken advantage of him for twenty years. So it must have been, that upon hearing of the rape of Dinah, Jacob once again trusted that Yahweh would vindicate him, and his wrath was subdued. However in any event, somehow he left the matter to his sons, and now he disagrees with their reaction. So from his perspective their having acted out of wrath was imprudent, because they did not subdue their anger, and took the matter into their own hands rather than waiting on him, or on God.

However we can sympathize with them to some degree, where they answered their father:

31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

Later, it would cost them their father’s blessing, where as he blessed his sons at the end of his life, as it is recorded in Genesis chapter 49, he said: “5 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. 6 O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” We have also already explained that the name דינה or Dinah (# 1783) is a feminine form of the verb which is akin to the word dan, or judge, and therefore it means judgement, which is also quite foreboding.

So Jacob left Simeon and Levi with nothing of a blessing, on account of their actions here. But some time later, in the organization of the twelve tribes under the laws of Sinai, Levi received an inheritance from Yahweh Himself, in the form of the family priesthood. Furthermore, Yahweh chose a Levite, Moses, to record these words in Genesis and to lead His people out of captivity in Egypt. So for whatever reason, Yahweh justified Levi and rewarded him in a manner which also upheld the words of Jacob, as Levi would nevertheless be scattered in Israel. Since only Yahweh can know the heart of a man, only Yahweh can be his rightful judge, and not even his own father. However whether or not Simeon was ever rewarded is not apparent, since during the period of the Old Testament kingdom he had remained scattered in Israel and without any reward. Levi and Simeon having been the second and third sons of Jacob, without their having done this they would have stood to inherit the birthright of the oldest son which was later forfeited by Reuben, but which had fallen instead to Judah and to Joseph.

Perhaps the primary lesson to be taken from this example is that a man stands to lose his own reward if he does not wait on Yahweh his God, and instead, acts rashly by not seeking the will of his father, and devising his own methods of vengeance. Therefore in the mind of Jacob, wrath should be subdued, and an imprudent wrath is an unjust wrath, which is not to be rewarded.

Yahweh willing, we shall have more to say about these events and the rape of Dinah when we return.


1 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, p. 484.

2 ibid.

3 ibid., p. 483.

4 ibid., pp. 484-485.

5 ibid., p. 485.

6 Jordan River, https://bibleatlas.org/jordan.htm, accessed January 18th, 2024.

7 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Judaeans, 1:180 and 7:67, and Wars of the Judaeans, 6:438.

8 Shechem, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shechem, accessed January 19th, 2024.

9 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Baker Books, 1979, p. 746.

10 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 2021, p. 903.

11 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, p. 543.

12 ibid., pp. 161-162.

13 Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Volume 1, Chapter 11: Race and People, https://mk.christogenea.org/references/mein-kampf-book-1-chapter-11, accessed January 19th, 2024.

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