Bible Discussion — Genesis 33-36

May 2, 2007, 12:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Bible, Chloe, David, Job, Josh J, MC-B, Mike J, Steve, Tom  | 7 Comments

This week, Bweinh.com looks at the next three chapters of the Bible, Genesis 33-36.

Previously in Genesis: 1-4 | 5-9 | 10-14 | 15-18 | 19-22 | 23-26 | 27-29 | 30-32

 
INTRODUCTION:
Maj. Jones:
I’m Major Doug Jones. My claim to fame which allows me to post as a guest contributor is that I am Josh’s father. I have served Jesus as a Salvation Army officer (pastor) for almost 31 years. I enjoy reading this weekly Bible discussion and hope to share something that will bless others as these bright young minds have been blessing me.

MC-B:
Another Old Testament story, another tale of rapes and massacres but also of the blessings and plans of God.

Steve:
Ups and downs, highs and lows, the book of Genesis has them all, as we see a happy reunion between Jacob and Esau, followed by unnecessary genocide.

Mike:
Jacob has been called back to Bethel. On the way, he has a meeting with Esau that God in his grace makes far more peaceful than it ought to be on the surface. After this, he arrives at Shechem and is tempted to stay there — the land is good and he figures he’s close enough to Bethel. But after his daughter is raped, Simeon and Levi gain revenge, forcing Jacob to leave and go to Bethel, where he meets God again.

David:
This is quite a homecoming for Jacob. God reaffirmed his name change to Israel, he suffered the loss of his wife, the birth of his most precious son, the death of Rebekah’s nurse and the death of his father. Oh, and his daughter gets raped and his sons commit murder. Plus Reuben sleeps with one of his concubines.

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Job:
With the feared coming of Esau, Jacob placed his wives and children in order of favoritism, with Rachel and Joseph in the safest position.

Tom:
Jacob starts off chapter 31 by hiding behind a bulwark of handmaids, wives, and children until Esau and his 400 men were close enough for Jacob to tell if his gifts of livestock had succeeded in pacifying the horde. What a little weasel.

Josh:
When Isaac called Esau in chapter 27 for his final blessing, it was largely because he felt his death would come soon. He certainly seemed pretty far gone — he couldn’t even recognize his own son. But in chapter 35 we learn Isaac survived the entire time Jacob was gone, a period spanning no less than twenty years.

Maj. Jones:
Running from Esau in chapter 28, Jacob ran into God at Bethel with his dream of the ladder. Now God has brought him back to Bethel to change his name to Israel.

Mike:
The random reference to Reuben sleeping with his father’s concubine, Bilhah.

MC-B:
Again, I only remember this story vaguely. How long until we get to Jonah and the whale?

Ouch. That long, huh?

Steve:
It’s quite clear that regardless of their bad decisions, Shechem loved Dinah very much. And interestingly, the author of Genesis refers to him as “more honorable than all the household of his father,” making Simeon and Levi’s behavior even worse.

David:
Rebekah’s nurse is travelling with Jacob, his mother’s nurse. She must have been of great age and great character to choose to sojourn with Jacob.

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
MC-B: Dinah and the Shechemites, All These Droves
Steve: Hide the Gods
Tom: Soul Clave
Job: Driven Hard
Mike: Cattle Booths
David: Duke Zepho
Josh: Son of My Trouble, Foreskin Dowry

 
STORY IT REMINDS YOU OF:
Maj. Jones:
The Prodigal Son. It’s ironic that Esau played the role of the one who welcomed deceitful, conniving Jacob — running to meet him, embracing him, falling on his neck and kissing him. The identical reaction of the loving father in Luke 15.

MC-B:
Jacob and Esau’s reunion reminds me of those times when you’re trying to be courteous to someone, and they’re simultaneously trying to be courteous to you, and you end up at a standstill. (“Please, go right ahead.” “Oh no, I couldn’t! You go.”) Incidentally, I believe three refusals before accepting is standard practice.

Mike:
Jacob did everything he could to rationalize and find reasons why staying in Shechem would be OK. Remarkably, he was so anxious to stay there and compromise on God’s call to Bethel that he even overlooked the rape of his daughter Dinah. In his zeal to stay, Jacob couldn’t see the great evil consequences of his action.

I see a lot of this in my life, though fortunately not to this extent. Often when I am not listening to the summons of God on my life, I don’t acknowledge all the negative consequences of that act in my life and the lives of others. Only later, when I have finally obeyed the call, do I see the negative ramifications of my actions.

Job:
B.C. — Circumcision.
A.D. — Ex-lax brownies.

 
DEEP THEOLOGICAL MEANING:
Steve:
God again refused to revoke his covenant in the face of odious behavior on the part of his chosen people, instead specifically renewing it after repentance and purification. This wouldn’t be the last time.

Chloe:
There’s so much in this passage — Jacob and Esau reunite, Dinah is violated, Jacob’s sons reveal their savagery, Jacob finally settles down, and Rachel dies. Honestly, in these chapters (and most others involving Jacob) I have trouble understanding why God chose to bless Jacob. He seems like such a conniving and selfish man. His sons are no better, sleeping with his wives and killing whole villages at a time. I don’t like Jacob. I don’t like his kids. They aren’t good enough for the kind of promise God is bestowing on them.

Which is why, of course, I am not God.

Stories in the Old Testament that revile me — the account of Jacob, David’s adultery, the kings of Judah who messed up — all of these teach me over and over again that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. None of the people in Jesus’ genealogy were perfect. Of course they weren’t! Yet they had the privilege of being noted in the beginning of Matthew as part of the line to the great King of Israel. These stories, like Levi and Simeon destroying a village of men still weak from keeping their side of a bargain, point back to my own failings. I’ve never wiped out a whole population, but I’m steeped in sin… yet God still wants me for His own, to make up His body and spread His good news all over the world.

Josh:
Recently, while preparing a Bible study on chapter 34, a footnote in my Bible alerted me to the fact that while the name of God appears in the last verse of chapter 33 and the first verse of chapter 35, it’s nowhere in chapter 34. Since that time I’ve taken note of other passages where this is the case. Each time, the implication seems to be that although these are the actions of God’s people, and no immediate recorded condemnation results, the actions are not God-endorsed.

David:
After the death of Isaac, the brothers truly split into Edom and Israel, fulfilling the scripture that Jacob would rule over Esau, but then Esau (Edom) would throw off the yoke and rule. This happened when Herod (the Idumean) reigned during the time of Christ.

Mike:
As before, God gives Jacob a new name: Israel. We may wonder why he gave him the name again–perhaps the last couple chapters make clear that Jacob had not yet grown into his new name God had given him. Of course, throughout our lives we are in the process of becoming the people God has named us to be.

MC-B:
Christianity is about love, but it’s also about justice. Shechem violated Dinah, and while his people offered terms of reconciliation, Jacob’s sons brought justice to the city. Maybe it was overkill, and maybe they should have appealed to God to administer it, but the point is that Christian love isn’t just about “being nice,” despite what the world might think.

 
RANDOM THOUGHT:
MC-B:
I have three research papers, a “think” piece, and a project about the Norwegian economy that I should be doing right now. You’re welcome, Bweinh.com!

Tom:
This was the first recorded instance of the “hitting below the belt” trick.

Job:
I wonder how much translating occurred in these early stories, what with Babel so recently transpired. It sometimes seems like Star Trek when the ancient, untouched race on the planet below somehow knows perfect English.

Josh:
When God instructs Jacob to “be fruitful and increase in number,” I’m assuming he meant it as a general directive to his people, since Jacob himself had already done a rather impressive job of procreating. Just to be on the safe side, Jacob went ahead and had one more son later in the chapter.

Mike:
If I had been circumcised three days before, and two angry brother-avengers came bearing down on me to kill me, would I summon the strength to fight back?

Maj. Jones:
If Jacob had not lied again in chapter 33, but traveled with Esau as he suggested, would we even have chapter 34?

And Hebrews 11:21 says, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed the sons of Joseph…” It’s a good thing he expressed that faith in his dying moments because he didn’t express it much in his lifetime.

David:
Acupressure proved effective in 10% of women with dementia (Reader’s Digest).

Chloe:
What did Dinah want to do?

Steve:
Jacob effectively ranked his wives and maidservants in the march toward Esau, putting the least valued out front. You’d think it would take a while for the one up front to get over something like that.

 
WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS PASSAGE:
MC-B:
Somewhere in Jacob and Leah’s DNA.

David:
Again the Seed, which Paul interprets as singular, not plural, in Galatians 3:16.

Job:
When Jesus assumed his full role as Savior, the old law died, calling Him “the son of my trouble” as it did so. But we call Him the son of our right hand, with exceeding joy.

Mike:
Calling Jacob to Bethel, not letting him settle for halfway; re-affirming Israel’s new identity, not letting him settle for being plain old Jacob anymore.

Josh, Tom:
35:11.

Maj. Jones:
Esau forgiving and welcoming home a sinner.

 
VERSE TO REMEMBER:
MC-B, Steve:
35:12 — The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.

David:
35:2 — And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.

Job:
35:17 — Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.”

Josh:
35:11 — “…kings shall come from your body.”

Maj. Jones, Mike:
35:10 — And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.”

 
PORTION YOU WOULD MOST LIKE EXPLAINED IN HEAVEN:
David:
Did Levi and Reuben kill all the men themselves or did they have help?

Chloe:
I would love to know what led to Esau’s friendly welcoming of his brother after the animosity between them. What had Esau been doing? Had he thought about how the birthright didn’t really mean much in the end? Or did God change his heart?

Maj. Jones:
Why did every man die for the sinful act of one? Wasn’t circumcision punishment enough??

MC-B:
With regard to the destruction of the Shechemites, I’d just like to know what God thinks about the whole thing. I have basically the same question about all of the mass slaughters of the Old Testament.

Mike:
I will always wonder why God chose people like Jacob to be bearers of the covenant. Of course, I’m very grateful he does!

 
LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
MC-B:
Listen to God if you believe He’s talking to you. How many of us would seriously consider altering our lives in the ways that Jacob has just based on what he believes God has told him?

Job:
Growing in God is never easy or breezy, but it has a snowball effect. We see Jacob anticipating God’s heart and directive, ordering his people to surrender their household gods before going up to Bethel without having to be told to by God. The more we walk in the light, the more contempt we have for the shadows. Earl Campbell, All-Pro running back for the Houston Oilers, used to say that when he ran with the ball, he kept his eyes on the defenders behind the defenders right in front of him. They were the ones that really stood between him and his touchdown.

Mike:
Don’t compromise on your calling; God called Jacob to Bethel and he had to go all the way to receive the blessing, to receive his identity. God calls us somewhere too, and if we settle for halfway, proud of ourselves for getting our own way, we only hurt ourselves.

Josh:
When Jacob and Esau reconciled, Esau’s acceptance seemed genuine, and yet Jacob could not help himself from deceiving him again and running away. Perhaps Jacob had reason not to trust Esau, but it seems like a classic case of someone dishonest attributing their own thought process to another. When you are always working an angle, you start to assume everyone else is as well, and it doesn’t take long for you to become hardened or even paranoid.

Steve:
Angry people have always justified their actions by pointing to the strength of their excuse. Fortunately for Simeon, Levi, you, and me, the God of Jacob keeps his promises.

David:
Even though he was now a changed man, with a new name and no strange gods among his people, Jacob reaped what he had sown in his family with the various problems that arose from his sons.

 
GENERAL RESPONSE TO THE PASSAGE:
MC-B:
Wow. Look at all those children!

Mike:
Jacob’s actions are so crafty and political: appeasing Esau, trying to get (and stay) on good terms with Hamor and his family. Eventually, though, God gets through to him.

Josh:
Jacob can be a rather enigmatic fellow. In chapter 34, he was quick to condemn Simeon and Levi for what he probably wanted them to do, and should have known was a likely outcome. But then in chapter 35, there’s no recorded reaction to Reuben sleeping with his concubine.

 
CONCLUSION:
Steve:
This section is quite unpleasant. We’re only about 500 years and twelve generations removed from Noah, but people are just as bad, and to make matters worse, they’re supposed to be the good guys. But of course it’s both a disappointment and a relief…


Comments

7 Comments to “Bible Discussion — Genesis 33-36”

  1. Aarong on May 2nd, 2007 12:54 pm

    MC-B:

    Given the awkwardness that followed, I envision the intial greeting/welcoming between Esau and Jacob like Tiger Woods (or any golfer) trying to high-5 his caddy.

  2. Josh J on May 2nd, 2007 7:18 pm

    By the way, thanks Major Jones for your contributions to today’s discussion. And a special thanks for identifying the fact that you’re my father as being your claim to fame.

  3. Steve on May 7th, 2007 2:41 am

    By the way, I’m not convinced Dinah was raped.

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