I’ve started getting a couple hits on this blog from search engines- people searching for things like, “Esau’s good attitude in Genesis” and, “Why would Abraham ask Sarah to tell Pharaoh she’s his sister?” I’m glad to see other people exploring the questions they have about the Bible, but I have to chuckle inwardly a bit because I bet my perspective isn’t what they were expecting.
So, welcome strangers of internet-land! For anybody just joining us, if you’d like some background information about this atheist’s adventure in reading the bible, start here. I’ve also added an archive of all the posts in this series for your browsing convenience, located in the links at the top of the page.
Alrighty. Down to business.
Chapter 32- Jacob is headed back to the family homestead, but is afraid that Esau still wants to kill him. So he prays for God’s protection, and sends ahead lots of presents for Esau. That night, he wrestles with God and wins, but God damages his hip in the process and now Jacob has a limp. Also, God renames Jacob “Israel.”
I want to focus on this story about wrestling with God…or maybe with an angel…The beginning of the chapter says that angels of God were in the camp with Jacob, but verse 24 says “a Man” wrestled with Jacob and God says to him “you have struggled with God and with men.” Jacob himself says “I have seen God face to face.” So…it’s a little unclear, but I think it was God.
God cheats in this fight. Verse 25, “Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.” Apparently, being God isn’t enough of an advantage. Even with a dislocated hip, Jacob prevails. Verse 26, “And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!'” I love that. It’s like Jacob had God in a headlock, and made him “cry uncle” before he would let go. Humans, 1; God, 0.
I also have concerns about the bible contradicting itself. If I may skip ahead a little in the bible, Exodus 33:20 says, “But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live.” Also 1 John 4:12, “No one has seen God at any time.” But here in Genesis 32:30, “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (literally, ‘Face of God’). ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'” Well, which is it?
Chapter 33- Jacob and Esau reunite, and it goes swimmingly. They hug, kiss and make up. Presents are exchange and the families are introduced to one another. Esau goes on ahead, and Jacob and his herds of animals and people follow slowly behind.
Not much to say about this section. I’m happy they could make up. I suppose 20 years of separation makes the heart grow fonder or something. It’s also interesting that Jacob introduced the handmaids and their children to Esau before his actual wives and their kids. Not sure why. Maybe because the maids’ children are the eldest. *shrug*
Chapter 34- Leah and Jacob’s daughter Dinah goes out to visit with the locals. Shechem rapes her, then falls in love and wants to marry her. Shechem and his father make a deal with Jacob and his sons that they will let Shechem marry Dinah on the condition that all the men in town get circumcised. While they were still in pain recovering from the circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, sneak into the town, kill all the men, take the women and children captive, and plunder the houses.
If this story doesn’t make you extremely uncomfortable and a little pissed off, I contend that you have no morals. Nothing about this story is moral. Raping a woman, even if you love her, is wrong!! Making a deal to have the rapist marry the victim is also wrong. It says they made the deal deceitfully, but it doesn’t say that they consulted with Dinah to see if she was willing to go along with this plan for revenge. For all we know, she really thought they were okay with this, adding insult to injury.
Verse 19 says of Shechem, “He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” That’s right; the Bible just called a rapist honorable, on the sole basis of agreeing to be circumcised. One can only wonder what horrible things his family was up to.
Then the brothers murder the whole town. I’m glad to see they wanted to defend their sister’s honor, but killing people who weren’t involved with the crime is not justice. And how shady of them to make the townsfolk mutilate their penises, then kill them while they’re still recovering.
Verse 29: “All their little ones and their wives they took captive…” Terrorizing children and taking women as prisoners of war- still not justice. It doesn’t say here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those women got raped as well. Female prisoners historically haven’t been treated kindly.
Jacob’s response to what his son’s have done? Is he angry with their deceit and murder? Nope, he’s just upset that his neighbors will think he’s obnoxious and try to kill him.
This would have been a great time for God to step in and make it clear that rape is wrong. Or to make a statement against vigilante justice and murder. But God is completely silent in this chapter. I read ahead a little bit out of curiosity, and He doesn’t have anything to say until the next chapter- “Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, and go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.'” God completely ignores what just happened. Disgusting.