Epistles of Thomas

January 14, 2009

Genesis 34-36

Filed under: Old Testament — Thomas @ 20:52
Tags: , , ,

Trouble soon arose with the locals when Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Shechem desired to marry her but fortunately for her Jacob’s sons had other plans and slaughtered the people of that town as they were recovering from having been circumcised! You really can’t make this stuff up. Jacob is upset with his sons because he knows this will anger the surrounding peoples. Their defence is that Shechem treated their sister like a prostitute. I have never heard of a man desiring a prostitute enough to be circumcised but they certainly prevented Shechem’s town from taking advantage of their wealth.

Jacob goes to Bethal and builds an altar there to God calling it El Bethel. We must wonder about his monotheism as this label means “God of Bethel.” Some have suggested that the early Hebrews were henotheists. That is, they believed that there were multiple gods but chose to worship the God of Abraham alone. Clearly those who fell into idolatry chose to believe that there were multiple gods but chose to worship the wrong one(s). In later periods the Old Testament makes it clear that there are not really other gods no matter what certain people believe. As to whether or not Jacob thought God was the God of a certain location (Bethel) it becomes clear that his God is always with him. When he returns from Paddan Aram God appeared to him and blessed him (35:9). The following verse reiterates that he will now be known as Israel (although the text refers to him by both names throughout his life). This is a contrast to Abram/Abraham who is never called Abram after God renames him. This may be because Israel became the collective name of the people and it would be confusing to be calling Jacob Israel; listeners might think the nation was being referred to.

Isaac dies at the end of Genesis 35 and in chapter 36 we learn about Esau’s descendants. He was the father of the nation of Edom and his sons became chiefs of those people. Esau had married women from among the surrounding peoples, including a daughter of Ishmael. The end of the chapter provides a list of Edomite kings during the period of Israel’s formation. Their religious affiliation can be glimpsed by the names of their kings. Baal-Hanan means Baal is gracious (36:38-39). His successor’s name, Hadad, is also the name of a god and is sometime synonymous with Baal. Both are the god of rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture.

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