This reading continues the story of the characters from Day 9, so check that out if you haven’t read it yet (or just need a refresher).
Genesis 32: Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau
Jacob left the land of Laban to head back to his homeland. He sent messengers to let Esau know that he was coming home. In the message, Jacob positioned himself as Esau’s servant. Which is odd to me considering Jacob stole Esau’s birthright.
The messengers return with a message from Esau that he’s coming to meet Jacob with 400 men. Jacob assumes this means Esau plans to attack. To fend him off Jacob splits his flock and servants into two groups so one can survive if Esau attacks the other.
That night, Jacob was alone, and “a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” It sounds like literal wresting because Jacob’s hip got displaced.
Jacob won, but the other man said Jacob’s name is now Israel. Jacob thinks the man he was wrestling was God. “Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.”
I had to research this because…what? But I discovered that this is part of the kosher food requirements for Jews. The most insightful information I found was from Texas A&M’s Ag & Life Sciences program.
The sciatic nerve and its adjoining blood vessels may not be eaten. The process of removing this nerve is time consuming and not cost-effective, so most American slaughterers simply sell the hind quarters to non-kosher butchers.
Fascinating! Look how much I’m learning. (If you know me, you might read that as sarcasm, but it’s 100% sincere…this kosher information is a very fun fact.)
Genesis 33: Jacob Meets Esau
Long story short: Esau hugs Jacob when they reunite. Esau meets all of Jacob’s wives and kids. Everybody travels back to Jacob and Esau’s homeland, with Esau moving quickly and Jacob moving slowly with the kids and flocks.
That’s it. Very simple chapter.
Genesis 34: Dinah and the Shechemites
Trigger warning: sexual assault.
We have a few new characters to introduce, several of whom have been mentioned in previous chapters that cover lineage.
- Dinah: Jacob’s daughter by his wife Leah
- Shechem: Son of Hamor, and I’m not sure who either of those people are, but Hamor ruled the area where Jacob’s group currently resides
Shechem saw Dinah and “he took her and he violated her.”
Shechem said he loved Dinah and needed to make her his wife.
Jacob (who I thought was called Israel now but he’s referred to as Jacob here) found out about both the violation and Shechem’s desire to marry Dinah.
Jacob’s sons (Dinah’s brothers) also knew both things.
When Shechem approached Jacob and his sons about marrying Dinah, they said it’s not possible because Shechem isn’t circumcised. I’m not going to ask how they knew. They said Shechem could have Dinah if all the males in the area got circumcised. Shechem and the males agreed. No questions asked, it seems.
Three days after the mass circumcision, while the men were likely still swollen, Simeon and Levi (two of Jacob’s sons / Dinah’s brothers) attacked the town and killed all the men. They took Dinah, their flocks, and all of the city’s riches.
In one passage, it says, “The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city…”
This was after they had ravaged the city and murdered everyone, so the phrasing “came upon” is strange to me. My gutter mind is interpreting it as something very inappropriate. But in the context of the paragraph, it really doesn’t sound great.
When Jacob finds out what his sons did, he’s pissed because it reflects poorly on them and other groups in the area may retaliate. The sons defend their actions.
I thought murder was forbidden by God a few chapters ago. These guys just murdered an entire town. Which, to be fair, God has done before as well. There’s seemingly no punishment or even disappointment by God for what Simeon and Levi did.
Genesis 35: Jacob Returns to Bethel
This chapter starts off with some great third-person references:
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’”
So God is telling Jacob (why is he not being called Israel?) to build an author to the God who wrestled him all night and broke his hip.
Jacob rallied his troops (mostly his massive family) and headed out to do as God said. God destroyed the towns around them so no one pursued them.
WHAT!? Go just killed off a few towns so a family, which included several mass murderers, could travel more safely? Why?
I don’t think I’ll ever get an answer to that question. I’m really struggling with how vengeful Genesis God is. Only people in his favor are treated well, others are murdered and burned. That’s not the type of deity I’d want to worship and follow.
God comes to Jacob and says he’ll now be called Israel. Which also happened 5 pages ago, so maybe that’s why he’s been referred to as Jacob between then and now.
As the family is traveling back home, Rachel, the most beloved of Jacob’s/Israel’s wives. She dies giving birth to a son, Benjamin.
Shortly after Jacob (and everyone else, I assume) arrived back home, Isaac, father of Esau and Jacob, die. He was 180.
There’s so much genealogy in the Bible. Tracing ancestral lines is already convoluted, and we’re only in the first book.
Curious about your genetic background? Try Ancestry.com. You won’t be able to figure out if you’re of the Semite, Hamite, or Japhethite line, but you’ll learn a lot.