It seems that the Torah intentionally connects Esav’s origin story (Gen. 25:30) regarding the red stew with the nature of both Esav and the nation he will become. That is, Edom.
Many a novice Bible student has rushed over this genealogy in pursuit of the detailed dramatic epic of Joseph which follows. However, we can’t properly understand the story of Yaakov’s descendants, Joseph included, if we have not taken the time to understand how one of Israel’s greatest enemies came into being. Esav is called Edom, and throughout history, the nation of Edom will play a strong role in resisting God’s plan for the nation of Israel. One would expect that in a chapter of names there is less to observe than there is in a chapter which offers a detailed narrative. However, within just a few lines we discover that an entire world of interpretation awaits us.
Biblical names serve both history and allegory, factual account and halachic (ways of walking) principal. There is no need for binary thinking with regard to the text of the Torah. It is not a case of deciding whether we are reading history or moral allegory. To the contrary, we are gifted a mystery made up of all the colours of the rainbow. A history that is so precisely written by the hand of HaShem, that it includes the real life names of individuals while carrying an allegorical moral imperative within the meanings of these names.
It’s significant that this genealogy separates the story of Yaakov—whose 12 sons have just been listed, made complete in the land by the birth of Benyamin—from the story of his descendants, which will fill the remainder of the book of Genesis.
This concise genealogy of Esav serves one primary purpose, which is to show Esav’s development as both a man and a nation, that is Edom. In addition, Esav’s line is littered with incest and illegitimacy (1 Ch. 1:35-45), which can be interpreted to be in direct opposition to God’s redemptive plan for humanity, worked out in Yisrael.
Gen 36:1 Now these are the toledot (generations) of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish), who is Edom (Red, earth, humanity, a people who symbolize resistance to God).
Esav, like Yaakov, has two names with two distinct meanings and outcomes. First he is Esav, meaning hairy, from the root asah, meaning to make or accomplish. Second, he is Edom, meaning red, from the root adam, that is red earth, sin affected humanity. Yaakov begins as a follower after the heel and becomes one who overcomes in Elohim, thus being reconciled to the heavens; whereas Esav begins as one who seeks to accomplish his own wealth in his own strength, and by rejecting God, he returns to Edom (the earth, red). Both men have come full circle. Yaakov from blessing to blessing and Esav from curse to curse (Malachi 1:2-3). Both men are individuals, who through their personal choices, give birth to nations that will carry their brand of spirituality or lack thereof, into the future.
We could read, “Now these are the generations of one who sought his own strength and was returned to the earth from which he came.”
Rav Sforno observes that, “The overpowering desire of Esau for what attracted his eye was demonstrated when he could not remember the name, ‘lentils’ when he was tired, demanding to be given from ‘this red, red stuff’”.
It seems that the Torah intentionally connects Esav’s origin story (Gen. 25:30) regarding the red stew with the nature of both Esav and the nation he will become. That is, Edom.
Gen 36:2 Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) took his wives from the daughters of Ke’naan (lowland); Adah (generational ornament) the daughter of Elon (oak grove, strength) the Chitti (Terror), and Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation) the daughter of Anah (answer, eye), daughter of Tzibeon (Variegate, dip, dye) the Chiviy (villager, living community);
We note that Esav was forty years old when he married his three wives, as recorded in Genesis 26:34.
These wives bare different names here from those used in Genesis 26:34, where they were called Yehudit and Bosmat. This is not unusual for the time and culture, as shown by the multiple names of the patriarchs.
Rashi notes that Oholibamah is the daughter of two fathers, and seeing that verse 24 records Anah as the son of Tzibeon, concludes that Tzibeon cohabitated with his own daughter-in-law, Anah’s wife, and Oholibamah was the product of his adultery. However, the Torah often uses the terms ben and bat to refer to both sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters. Therefore, it may be that the text is simply saying, Oholibamah was the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Tzibeon.
Gen 36:3 And Basemat (Fragrance) Ishmael’s (Hears God) daughter, sister of Nebayot (Fruitfulness, flourish).
Basemat was introduced to the reader in Genesis 28:9 where she is called by her other name, “Machalat” which is from the root machal, meaning forgiveness.
Gen 36:4 And Adah (generational ornament) bore to Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) Eliphaz (My god gold); and Basemat (Fragrance) bore Reuel (Friend of God);
This first section of genealogy is making a distinction between the sons born in the land (that will become Israel) and those who will be born in the region of Seir. Those born in the land have a closer connection to their cousins, the sons of Yaakov.
There is a remez (hint) present in the names of both Adah and Basemat and their sons. Esav’s descendants are given a choice between making mammon (gold, earthly riches: Eliphaz) their god or becoming a friend of the One true Elohim (Reuel).
The name Eliphaz may well denote his following after his father’s nature. A man whose god is gold. In the same way, Reuel may have been the exception among Esav’s children, one who became a friend of God. On the other hand, his name could also denote that he was friend to a god, that is, one of his mother’s gods. The latter is more likely given that Esav disappointed his parents by marrying women who worshipped false gods and thus rejecting the God of Israel. None the less, both interpretations are valid.
Gen 36:5 And Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation) bore Yeush (Hasten), and Yaalam (Occult, conceal), and Korah (Ice): these are the sons of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish), which were born to him in the land of Ke’naan (lowland).
The names of the sons of Oholibamah show a descent into demonic idolatry. As a woman of foreign gods her tent is elevated (Oholibamah) in pride. In other words, the tent of her false ascension houses the sons born to her. With her, Esav hastens (Yeush) toward the occult (Yaalam) and is left holding the icy (Korah) isolation of idolatry.
Esav Separates himself from Yaakov
This section of the text is reminiscent of the separation of Avraham and Lot (Gen. 13:5-13), and denotes a similar motivation in Esav to that of Lot. Both men, having been shown the light of God by righteous men, chose to separate themselves from those men and subsequently from God.
Gen 36:6 And Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his household, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had acquired in the land of Ke’naan (lowland); and went into the country from the face of his brother Yaakov (Follows at the heel). Gen 36:7 For their riches were too great for them to dwell together; and the land where they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle. Gen 36:8 Thus dwelt Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) in mount Seir (Shaggy he goat): Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) is Edom (Red).
The phrase, “Esav is Edom” connects Esav to his former sin (Red stew: despising his birth-right) and links the people born of him to the land of Seir and its reddish rocky landscape. It also infers the motivation for his leaving Yaakov. That is, an underlying grudge regarding the birth-right. On a practical level, Esav’s household had simply grown too numerous to share the land.
Esav captured Mount Seir from its former inhabitants the Chori, according to the blessing of HaShem, “I have given Mount Seir to Esav as a possession”—Deuteronomy 2:5
Gen 36:9 And these are the toledot (generations) of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) the father of the Edomites (Red) in mount Seir (Shaggy he goat. Heb. Root. sa’ar: dread, storm, very afraid):
This genealogy combines the sons of Esav born in Ke’naan with those born in Seir. Additionally, the lineage of one of Israel’s greatest enemies the Amalekites is established through Timna, the concubine of Eliphaz, Esav’s son.
Gen 36:10 These are the names of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish) sons; Eliphaz (My god gold) the son of Adah (generational ornament) the wife of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish), Reuel (Friend of God) the son of Bosemat (Fragrance) the wife of Esav (hairy, make, accomplish). Gen 36:11 And the sons of Eliphaz (My god gold) were Teman (South), Omar (To speak), Tzepho (Observant), and Gatam (Burnt valley), and Kenaz (Hunt). Gen 36:12 And Timna (Restrained) was concubine to Eliphaz (My god gold) Esav’s (hairy, make, accomplish) son; and she bore to Eliphaz (My god gold) Amalek (Valley dweller): these were the sons of Adah (generational ornament) Esav's wife. Gen 36:13 And these are the sons of Reuel (Friend of a god); Nachat (rest), and Zerah (Rising), Shammah (astonishment), and Mizzah (Fear): these were the sons of Bosmat (Fragrance) Esav's wife. Gen 36:14 And these were the sons of Aholibamah (Tent of Elevation), the daughter of Anah (answer, eye) the daughter of Tzibeon (Variegate, dip dye), Esav's wife: and she bare to Esav Yeush (Hasten), and Yaalam (Occult, conceal), and Korah (Ice). Gen 36:15 These were chiefs of the sons of Esav: the sons of Eliphaz (My god gold) the firstborn son of Esav; chief Teman (South), chief Omar (To speak), chief Tzepho (Observant), chief Kenaz (Hunt), Gen 36:16 Chief Korah (Ice), chief Gatam (Burnt valley), and chief Amalek (Valley dweller): these are the chief s that came of Eliphaz (My god gold) in the land of Edom (Red, earth); these were the sons of Adah (generational ornament). Gen 36:17 And these are the sons of Reuel (Friend of God) Esav's son; chief Nachat (rest), chief Zerah (Rising), chief Shammah (astonishment), chief Mizzah (Fear): these are the chief s that came of Reuel (Friend of a god) in the land of Edom (Red, earth); these are the sons of Bosmat (Fragrance) Esav's wife. Gen 36:18 And these are the sons of Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation) Esav's wife; chief Yeush (Hasten), chief Yaalam (Occult, conceal), chief Korah (Ice): these were the chief s that came of Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation) the daughter of Anah (answer, eye), Esav's wife. Gen 36:19 These are the sons of Esav, who is Edom (Red, earth) and these are their chiefs.
The Torah commentary Lekach Tov links Edom to Rome, showing the ongoing historical struggle between God’s chosen people and her ancient enemy.
Eliphaz – My god is gold (Adah)
Reuel – Friend of a god (Bosemat)
I have made gold my god and have become a friend of a foreign god.
Esav’s Sons and Chiefs of Edom:
Yeush – Hasten (Oholibamah)
Yaalam – Occult, conceal (Oholibamah)
Korah – Ice (Oholibamah)
I have hastened after the occult and become like ice.
Eliphaz’s Sons and Chiefs of Edom:
Teman – South
Omar – To speak
Tzepho – Observant
Gatam – Burnt valley
Kenaz – Hunt
(Eliphaz’s Illegitimate Son to Timna):
Amalek – Valley dweller: enemy of Israel (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19)
To the south, away from Jerusalem I have turned to speak with those who observe idolatrous traditions in a burned out valley, I’ve become an enemy of Israel.
Reuel’s Sons and Chiefs of Edom:
Nachat – rest
Zerah – Rising
Shammah – astonishment
Mizzah – fear
Though I once had rest I have risen in pride, become astonished by God and fearful of my future.
Sons of Seir:
Lotan – Covering
Shobal – Flowing
Tzideon – Dipped, dyed, coloured
Anah – answer, eye
Dishon – Thresher
Etzer – Treasure
Disahn - Thresher
Eliphaz is also the name of one of Job’s (so called) friends (Job 2:11) and is called a Temanite (Southerner), that is, of the region of Teman (South) or a descendant of Teman. This Eliphaz is probably not the same person as Eliphaz the son of Esav (Gen. 36:4) but rather a descendant of Teman, one of the chiefs that came from Eliphaz (Gen. 36:15). If this understanding is correct, the Eliphaz of Job lived sometime after the Patriarchs in the land of Uz (Gen. 36:28), a large territory east of the Jordan valley which included Edom (La. 4:21) in the south and Aram in the north (Gen 10:23; 22:21).
Gen 36:20 These are the sons of Seir (Shaggy he goat, very afraid) the Chori (Cave dweller, hole), who inhabited the land; Lotan (Covering), and Shobal (Flowing), and Tzibeon (coloured), and Anah (answer, eye), Gen 36:21 And Dishon (Thresher), and Etzer (treasure), and Dishan (Thresher): these are the chiefs of the Chori (Cave dweller), the children of Seir (Shaggy he goat, very afraid) in the land of Edom (Red, earth).
The Seirites were the original inhabitants of Seir (Genesis 14:6). Esav’s descendants supplanted them according to God’s gifting of Seir to Esav (Deuteronomy 2:12).
Gen 36:22 And the children of Lotan (Covering) were Chori (Cave dweller, hole) and Hemam (Exterminating); and Lotan’s (Covering) sister was Timna (Restrained).
The link between Lotan, a Chori chief and Timna, concubine to Eliphaz, son of Esav; shows that in part, Esav/Edom usurped the land of Seir through intermarriage.
Gen 36:23 And the children of Shobal (Flowing) were these; Alvan (Tall ascend), and Manachat (Rest, comfort), and Ebal (Stone), Shepho (Bold), and Onam (Vigorous).
Gen 36:24 And these are the children of Tzibeon (coloured); both Ayah (Falcon), and Anah (answer, eye): this was that Anah (answer, eye) that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Tzibeon (coloured) his father.
Anah has special mention here perhaps because he is the illegitimate son of Tzibeon, who is called his brother in verse 20. Rashi asserts that Anah was responsible, as inferred by the text, for cross breeding a mare with a donkey, thus producing the mule, an abomination by Torah standards (Rashi; Pesachim 54a).
Gen 36:25 And the children of Anah (answer, eye) were these; Dishon (Thresher), and Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation) the daughter of Anah (answer, eye). Gen 36:26 And these are the children of Dishon (Thresher); Chemdan (Desire), and Eshban (Fire of discernment), and Itran (Advantage), and Cheran (Iyre). Gen 36:27 The children of Etzer (treasure) are these; Bilhan (Their decrepitude) and Zaavan (Troubled), and Akan (Sharp sighted). Gen 36:28 The children of Dishan (Thresher) are these; Uz (Wooded), and Aran (Joyous). Gen 36:29 These are the chiefs that came from the Chori (Cave dweller); chief Lotan (Covering), chief Shobal (Flowing), chief Tzibeon (coloured), chief Anah (answer, eye), Gen 36:30 Chief Dishon (Thresher), chief Etzer (treasure), chief Dishan (Thresher): these are the chief s that came of Chori (Cave dweller), among their chief s in the land of Seir (Shaggy he goat).
Chiefs of Edom before There Were Kings in Israel:
Bela – Destruction
Yobab – Desert
Chusham – Haste
Hadad – Mighty
Samlah – Garment
Shaul – Desired, ask, enquire
Baal-Hanan – Baal (husband) is gracious
Hadar – Honour
Gen 36:31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom (Red, earth), before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.
This verse is probably a scribal addition to the original text written by Moses and completed by Joshua. It was probably added following the Kingdom age of Israel. Ibn Ezra suggests that the following listing of kings are those who reigned prior to Moses, who, as saviour and leader of Israel, was the first King of Israel. According to this interpretation, the aforementioned clause refers to Moses and is therefore not a later scribal addition.
Gen 36:32 And Bela (Destruction) the son of Beor (Burning) reigned in Edom (Red, earth): and the name of his city was Dinhabah (Judgement given). Gen 36:33 And Bela (Destruction) died, and Yobab (Desert) the son of Zerach (Rising) of Bozrah (Sheepfold, fortress) reigned in his stead. Gen 36:34 And Yobab (Desert) died, and Chusham (haste) of the land of Temani (Southward) reigned in his stead. Gen 36:35 And Chusham (haste) died, and Hadad (Mighty) the son of Bedad (Solitary), who smote Midian (Strife) in the field of Moab (Of father), reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avit (Ruins). Gen 36:36 And Hadad (Mighty) died, and Samlah (Garment) of Masrekah (Vineyard of Noble Vines) reigned in his stead. Gen 36:37 And Samlah (Garment) died, and Shaul (Desired, ask, enquire) of Rechobot (Wide place of streets) by the river reigned in his stead. Gen 36:38 And Shaul (Desired) died, and Baalhanan (Baal is gracious) the son of Achbor (Mouse) reigned in his stead. Gen 36:39 And Baalhanan (Baal is gracious) the son of Achbor (Mouse) died, and Hadar (Honour) reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau (Bleating); and his wife's name was Mehetabel (Favoured of God), the daughter of Matred (Pushing forward), the daughter of Mezahab (Waters of Gold).
Chiefs of Esav:
Timnah - Restrained
Alvah - Evil
Yetet – A nail
Oholibamah – Tent of Elevation
Elah - Terebinth
Pinon - Darkness
Kenaz - Hunt
Tman - South
Mizbar - Fortress
Magdiel – Prince of God
Iram - Anguish
Gen 36:40 And these are the names of the chiefs that came of Esav, according to their families, after their places, by their names; chief Timnah (Restrained), chief Alvah (evil), chief Yetet (a nail), Gen 36:41 Chief Oholibamah (Tent of Elevation), chief Elah (Terebinth), chief Pinon (Darkness),
The phrases, “after their places, by their names” show a change in the method for naming chiefs. The earlier group of rulers (v.15) used their own names. After the death of Hadad and the end of the Edomite monarchy, the ensuing leaders were known as chiefs of their respective regions. This new procedure is supported by 1 Chronicles 1:51, “And Hadad (Hadar) died and the chiefs of Edom were: the chief of Timna…” etc. (Rashi).
Gen 36:42 Chief Kenaz (Hunt), chief Teman (South), chief Mibzar (Fortress), Gen 36:43 Chief Magdiel (Prince of God), chief Iram (Excitement, anguish): these be the chief s of Edom (Red, earth), according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esav (Hairy, make, accomplish) the father of the Edomites (Red, earth).
“He is Esav” means, the nation of Edom is like Esav, a man who rejected his priestly role in the family of God, trading it for a pot of stew. Thus Edom the nation is one that rejects the God of Israel and stands in direct and constant opposition to God’s purposes for Israel.
We are left with this chilling prophecy over the nations who reject Israel’s God and seek to destroy His ethnic chosen people.
This is Esav, (who) remained in his sin from beginning to end, for he never repented (Megillah 11a).
“Wasn’t Esav Yaakov’s brother?” declares HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). “I loved Yaakov, 3 but Esav I hated. I turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the jackals in the desert. 4 “The descendants of Esav may say, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will rebuild the ruins.’ “Yet, this is what HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) of Heavens Armies says: They may rebuild, but I will tear it down. They will be called ‘the Wicked Land’ and ‘the people with whom HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) is always angry.’ 5 You will see these things with your own eyes and say, ‘Even outside the borders of Israel HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) is great.’ –Malachi 1:2-5
© Yaakov Brown 2017
The fear of God means an end to fear.
We begin this chapter with Yaakov still fearful of the possibility of attack from the surrounding peoples as a result of the actions of Shimon and Levi.
35:1 And Elohim (God the Judge) said to Ya’akov (Follows after the heel), “Arise, go up to Beit-El (House of God, the Judge), and settle there; and make there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice) to El (God, Judge) Who appeared to you when you were fleeing from the face of Esav (Hairy) achicha (your brother).”
Approximately 22 years earlier Yaakov had vowed that the place he had dreamed of while in Beiyt El would be none other than the House of God. At that time he had set up a pillar of remembrance commemorating his meeting with God. Yaakov’s intention was to return to his father’s house and although he had settled for a short time outside the city of Shechem, he is now being reminded by God of the vow he had made following his encounter with God at Beiyt El.
“And Ya’akov vowed a neder (vow), saying, If Elohim will be with me, and will be shmaraniy (Guardian) over me in this derech (way, journey) that I go, and will give me lechem to eat, and beged (clothes) to put on, So that I return to beiyt avi (House of my father) in shalom; then shall Hashem be for me Elohim (my God). And this even (stone), which I have set for a matzevah (pillar), shall be Beiyt Elohim (House of God): and of all that You shall give me I will surely give the aser (tenth) to You.” –Genesis 28:20-22
We note that even though Yaakov is heading south, he is none the less going up (geographically speaking), making Aliyah. This is an allusion to approaching the Mountain of the Lord.
It is Elohim Who meets with Yaakov here. God instructs Yaakov to go up to Beiyt El and to build a sacrificial altar (mizbeach). Elohim speaks in the third person saying, “Make an altar to El Who appeared to you”. This indicates one of two things, either Elohim denotes the Malakh HaShem (Messenger of God/Yeshua) Who is speaking of the unity of God, thus El; or, the speaker Elohim is the unified God-head speaking of El (Yeshua). It is interesting to note that Gur Aryeh, referencing Exodus 34:6, says that in the present text the Name of God El conveys a boundless degree of mercy. Thus Elohim (Judge) and El (Mercy). In any case, the text conveys a sense of the complex unity of God, Who manifests to humanity in a number of ways.
God reminds Yaakov that his first encounter at Beiyt El took place in the days when he was fleeing Esav. It seems that God is helping Yaakov to reconnect with his calling, and to make a sober assessment of his present situation. He is no longer fleeing Esav, he is returning in freedom and is experiencing the fullness of God’s provision and protection for him. Yaakov has been in danger of returning to fear and uncertainty, being concerned about the possible repercussions of his sons’ actions against Shechem. Perhaps God is saying, “Remember that I was with you then, and I am with you now.”
2 Then Ya’akov said unto his Beito (Household) and to all that were with him, “Put away the elohei hanekhar (gods foreign) that are among you, vhitaharu (and be pure), and change your simloteiychem (garments); 3 And let us arise, v’na’aleh (and go up) to Beit-El; and I will build there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice) unto El (God, Judge) Who answered me in b’yom tzaroti (in the day of my trouble/distress), and was with me in the derech (way) in which I went.
Yaakov’s instructions to his household can be associated with the preparations of Israel as she approached Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:14), the Torah’s instructions regarding preparation for ritual service (Num. 19:7-8), and with a repentant and renewed commitment to the One true God (Joshua 24:14). What is clear is that Yaakov is taking the Holiness of God very seriously.
We last heard of household or foreign gods in the account of Rachel’s stealing of her father’s household gods. It is no coincidence that this recollection is inspired by the present text. The curse associated with the stealing of the idols comes to bear soon after these events. This instruction of Yaakov may well have been an opportunity for Rachel to come clean regarding the hidden gods of her father, however, given her premature death, it is possible that she was not among those who gave up their idols to Yaakov for burial. As far as we know she had never told Yaakov of the household idols. She had probably taken them believing (according to ancient tribal cultural standards) that the possession of them entitled her to her father’s holdings at the time of his death. We should also remember that “an undeserved curse cannot land” (Proverbs 26:2), and that Rachel qualifies as deserving of the curse pronounced unwittingly by Yaakov.
The instruction to change garments may well have to do with uncleanness associated to touching the dead (of Shechem) and possibly in regard to the clothing having touched idolatrous loot taken from Shechem.
4 And they gave to Ya’akov kol elohei hanekhar (all gods foreign) which were b’yadam (in their hands), and all their nezamiym (rings) which were in their ozneihem (ears); and Ya’akov buried them under the elah (terebinth) which was at Shechem (back).
The foreign deities are self-explanatory, however, for the modern reader the allusion to rings is difficult. These rings of the ear are associated with slavery (Exodus 12:6) or, as in this case, subservience. These rings indicate subservience to foreign gods and may well have been most prolific among the captives of Shechem who had now joined Yaakov’s retinue.
Some have asked why these idols and earrings were not melted down for use. The reality is that most often, when items are made from melted jewellery, idolatry soon follows (Golden Calf [Exodus 32], Gideon’s Ephod [Judges 8:25-27] etc.).
Why were these items buried rather than simply destroyed and thrown away? The act of burying them has all the symbolism of death and shows these gods to be dead, incapable of anything. Therefore, they’re buried, not gods (Psalm 135:15-17).
5 And they journeyed; and the chittat Elohim (terror of God, Judge) was upon the cities that were around them, and they did not pursue after the Bnei Ya’akov (children of Jacob). 6 So Ya’akov came to Luzah (Almond tree), which is in Eretz Kena’an (Land of lowland) that is, Beit-El (House of God, Judge) he and kol ha’am (all the people) that were with him.
While one could make the presumption that the terror was due to the slaughter that had taken place at Shechem, this would be a mistaken conclusion. Yaakov was clearly concerned that the surrounding peoples outnumbered his household and that the actions of his sons’ at Shechem would only exacerbate their situation. Additionally the text states that the terror is of God. This means that it was a supernatural terror which had been imparted by God in order to protect Yaakov according to His promises (Genesis 28:10-15), made in the very place that Yaakov was now commanded to approach.
7 And he built there a Mizbe’ach (altar of blood sacrifice), and called l’makom (the place) El Beit-El (God, Judge of the House of God, Judge); because there Ha-Elohim (The God, Judge) appeared to him, when he fled from the face of achiv (his brother).
The doubling of words indicates affirmation and firm resolve. Here the doubling of the Name El upon the place of Beiyt El establishes it as a sacred land mark for proclaiming the God of gods and His intrinsic link to Yaakov/Yisrael. God the Judge will Judge, God Who is merciful will show boundless mercy. All this is stated in reference to Ha-Elohim (The God), and is a constant reminder to Israel of the present help of God in times of trouble.
8 But Devorah (Bee) meineket Rivkah (nursemaid of Rebecca: captivating) died, and she was buried under an alon (oak) below Beit-El (House of God, Judge); and was called sh’mo (by the name) Alon Bachut (Oak of weeping).
The Midrash says that this account, which deals with the death of Devorah the maid servant, none the less infers the death of Rivkah (Rebecca).
The Torah does not mention Rivkah’s death explicitly. This is explained by the Sages in various ways, none of which are convincing propositions. Suffice to say, for whatever reason Rivkah’s death is not recorded, though she is venerated and appreciated as a godly Matriarch of the Jewish people.
9 And Elohim appeared unto Ya’akov again, when he returned from Padan Aram (field of exaltation), and made a bracha (blessing) upon him.
God appears to Yaakov again in the sense that this is the second time God has come to Yaakov since his return to the Holy Land.
Rashi suggests that Elohim blessed Yaakov following news of Rivkah’s death.
10 And Elohim said to him, Shimcha (your name) is Ya’akov (Follows after the heel); no longer will shimcha (your name) be called Ya’akov (your name), but Yisra-el (Overcome in God) shall be shimecha (your name); and He called sh’mo (his name) Yisra-el.
The name Yaakov is not done away with, to the contrary, HaShem says, “Your name is Yaakov”. The second statement, “No longer will your name be called Yaakov” refers to the combined people of Yisrael. Thus we don’t call the tribes of Israel Yaakov. Alternatively, in mundane matters his name is Yaakov, however, with regard to the sacred purposes of God, he will be called Yisrael.
Unlike Avraham, whose name is changed and his former name no longer used, Scripture testifies to the ongoing use of the name Yaakov. Where Avraham represents Trust, being the Father of Trust (Faith), Yaakov represents the struggling seeker and Yisrael the overcomer. The Gospel message of sin and redemption is perpetually represented in the life of Yaakov, who, in God, becomes Yisrael.
11 And Elohim (God, Judge) said to him, “I am El Shaddai (God Almighty, all sufficient protector); be fruitful and multiply; a Goy (nation) and a Kehal Goyim (community of nations) shall be from you, and Melechim (kings) shall come out of your loins;
The Name El (unlimited mercy) is joined here with the title Shaddai which comes from the root dai, meaning sufficient, enough. Thus God is sufficient, enough. The fear of God means an end to fear.
12 And Ha-aretz (The Land) which I gave Avraham (Father of many peoples) and Yitzchak (He laughs), to you I will give it, and to your zera (seed) after you will I give Ha-aretz (The Land).
This affirmation of the covenant promise for the Land of Yisrael reiterates the covenant made with Avraham, one that was reliant on God alone. It is then placed upon Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yaakov’s descendants. Thus the covenant blessing for the Land is not reliant on the actions of the children of Israel but upon the God of Israel.
13 And Elohim ascended from him b’makom (in the place) where He talked with him.
This verse infers that Elohim was present in some manifest form. Perhaps even humanoid. Possibly as a Malakh (Angelic messenger), even Yeshua (God with us).
This phrasing also denotes the role of Yaakov as the one from whom the ladder of Genesis 28 will come forth. In other words, “Yeshua (Salvation) comes from the Jews”.
14 And Ya’akov set up a matzevah (pillar, monument) in b’makom (in the place) where He talked with him, even a matzevat even (pillar of stone); and he poured a nesech (drink offering) upon it, and he poured shamen (oil) upon it. 15 And Ya’akov called the shem (name) of ha-makom (the place) where Elohim spoke with him, Beit- El (House of God, Judge).
This is now the second pillar Yaakov has set up at Beiyt El. Why does he set up a second pillar? Most likely it is to commemorate his second encounter, however, it’s possible that the former pillar had been removed by the inhabitants of the land.
Yaakov pours out two offerings, first a drink offering, possibly water, and second an offering of oil. Both symbols are associated with the worship of HaShem. The former being a means of cleansing and the latter a symbol of the Holy Spirit and fuel for the light of the Menorah which represents the present glory of Hashem manifest in the Holy place.
This is now the third time Yaakov has named Beiyt El (Gen. 28:18-19; 35:7). Thus the completion and establishment of this sacred place and the past, present and future redemption it represents.
16 And they journeyed from Beit-El; and there was still a space of ha’aretz (the land) to get to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness); and Rachel (Ewe) travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the meyaledet (midwife) said to her, “Fear not; you shall have this ben (son) also. 18 And it came to pass, as her nefesh (core being) was in departing, (for she died) that she called sh’mo (his name) Ben-Oni (Son of Affliction); but aviv (his father) called him Binyamin (Son of my right).
The birth of Benyamin completes the tribes of Israel in the land that they will inherit. His two names, “Son of my affliction” and “Son of my right (strength)” once again reveal the Gospel journey from affliction to strength. His names are a prophetic statement concerning the captivity and freedom of Yisrael. He is the suffering of her captivity and the strength of her freedom.
Rachel is not cursing her son by naming him this way. She is simply making an observation from the position of her experience. Nor is Yaakov usurping the name Rachel has given their son, to the contrary, he is adding to it, illuminating it. Rambam observes that Yaakov simply gave the homonym Oni its alternate translation, strength.
19 And Rachel died, and was buried on the derech (way) to Ephratah (Place of fruitfulness), which is Beit-Lechem (House of bread). 20 And Ya’akov set up a matzevah (pillar) upon her kever (grave, tomb); that is matzevet kevurat (Pillar of the grave) of Rachel to this day.
1 Samuel 10:2 says that the tomb of Rachel is in the territory of Benyamin. Jeremiah 31:15 records a prophecy of Rachel weeping in Ramah, a Benjaminite city (Joshua 18:21-28). However, Beit-Lechem would become a significant town in the time of David and is therefore used here as a reference point. We note that a pillar or large stone placed over the grave may be the origin of the Jewish practice of placing stones on top of graves in remembrance of a loved one. The placing of stones atop modern Jewish graves also reminds the modern Jew that Biblical Jewish tradition saw Jews interred above ground, covered by rocks or in tombs. Biblically speaking Jews were not buried beneath the ground. This also makes clear the distinction between Kever (an above ground grave) and the spiritual holding place Sheol (a below ground spiritual location, not a grave).
21 And Yisra-el journeyed, and pitched his ohel (tent) beyond Migdal-Eder (tower of the flock). 22 And it came to pass, when Yisra-el dwelt in that land, that Reuven (behold a son) went and lay with Bilhah (troubled) pilegesh aviv (paramour of his father) and Yisra-el heard it. Now the Bnei Ya’akov (Children of Jacob) were Sheneym Asar (Twelve); 23 The Bnei Leah (Children of Leah): Reuven (Behold a son) bechor (firstborn of) Ya’akov, and Shimon (heard), and Levi (joined to), and Yehudah (Praise), and Yissakhar (exalted wages), and Zevulun (honoured, exalted); 24 The Bnei Rachel (Children of Rachel): Yosef (HaShem has added), and Binyamin (Son of my right/strength); 25 And the Bnei Bilhah (Children of Bilhah) shifchat Rachel (maid servant of Rachel): Dan (Judge) and Naphtali (wrestling); 26 And the Bnei Zilpah (Children of Zilpah) shifchat Leah (maid servant of Leah): Gad (army), and Asher (happy); these are the Bnei Ya’akov (Children of Jacob), which were born to him in Padan Aram (Field of exaltation).
Reuven’s act of betrayal is not only an act of abominable sexual sin, it is also a statement of Rebellion (2 Sam. 16:20-22; 1 Kings 2:13-25), not only against his father but also against Yisrael. As a result of his sin Reuven loses the privileges of the firstborn (Gen. 49:4). His birth-right is later transferred to Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1).
Although Yisrael hears of what Reuven has done he does not react. The sages suggest that after Rachel’s death Yaakov had set up home in the tent of Bilhah. As a result, Reuven, seeking to defend his mother Leah’s honour, defiled Bilhah. Regardless of Reuven’s reasons, his sin was grievous and the consequences far reaching.
The text of verse 21 uses the name Yisrael rather than Yaakov. This conveys the idea that Reuven has sinned, not only against his father Yisrael but also against the now completed tribes of Yisrael.
27 And Ya’akov came unto Yitzchak Aviv (his father) at Mamre (strength), unto Kiriat Ha-arba (City of Four), which is Chevron (company, friends), where Avraham and Yitzchak sojourned. 28 And the days of Yitzchak were me’at shanah u’shemonim shanah (180 years). 29 And Yitzchak gave up his spirit, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being zaken (old) and full of yamim (days); and his banim (sons) Esav and Ya’akov interred him.
Yaakov has come in full circle. He had left his father in fear for his life and has returned to the land under the weight of grief. He has heard of the death of Rivkah his mother (she is not present with Yitzchak upon his return) and recently watched his beloved wife Rachel die in child birth (based on rabbinical tradition she was probably between 35 and 45 years of age).
Yitzchak will live another twenty one years in Chevron before he passes away full of days (a Hebrew idiom reserved for the righteous).
Yitzchak is “gathered to his people”. A phrase that denotes the afterlife and the latter teaching regarding the Bosom of Avraham. From ancient days Jews have understood sheol as a holding place for those who have passed from this world. A place divided into two sections, the righteous held in the Bosom of Avraham and the wicked in Gehinnom.
Twenty one years after Yaakov arrives back at Chevron, Esav journeys north-west to help Yaakov inter their father.
Rashi notes that in recording Yitzchak’s death here the Torah doesn’t follow chronological order because Joseph was sold into slavery twelve years before the death of Yitzchak.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
In the presence of Yeshua it seems that ignorance has become an opportunity to teach rather than an occasion for taking offence.
Each year as I approach Pesach (Passover) I begin to think about the yeast that I will need to remove from my home. I start to make a mental note of the loaves of bread remaining in the cupboard and the yeast supplies for my challot (Sabbath Bread). I recall small amounts of yeast granules that I know I’ve spilled on the shelf as I’ve hastily collected the ingredients for the weekly challot. I begin to clean the spills and remove the loaves and other yeast filled items and deposit them in the brazier outside my house.
I’m aware that yeast is a symbol of sin and wrong action, a manifestation of the yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination), and I am then reminded of an article I once read concerning the natural forms of yeast that are present in the atmosphere. After all my work and all the cleaning and burning I’m left with this realization: nothing I can do will ever completely remove sin and wrong action from my life (house), I need help.
Where will my help come from? It has come from HaShem. How does my help come, given that there is no longer a Temple or an operational sacrificial system? HaShem says that the life is in the blood and that He has given the blood on the altar for the covering of sin. How now am I to see my sin covered? The answer is both spiritually and historically clear: The King Messiah walked the land of Israel in the first century CE prior to the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). He was and is the promised Son of David and the Suffering servant of Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 53. He led a sinless (spotless) life and sacrificed that life for our sake. His shed blood is an everlasting covering and the complete removal of sin for all who receive His blood cleansing. Yeshua is the answer to my conundrum. His is the blood that covers my sin. His is the blood that purges even the atmosphere.
So I chant Bedikatz Chametz and watch the fire consume the yeast and I imagine even the lifting ash being consumed by light, death swallowed up by victory. I’m ready to eat the Pesach meal with my King Mashiyach, I’m excited to drink the cup of Redemption and eat the Afikomen (He is come). I remember His death until He comes. But it doesn’t end there.
The days that follow the Seder meal are seeded with self-denial. I’m limited in my cooking and food preparation because in addition to the usual dietary laws I also choose to remove yeast from my diet for a period of seven days. I soon realize that these limitations have brought me freedom. I am inventing and creating and finding new ways, ways that I might never have found if not for the limitations. Hinei (Wow, now, behold), I realize that I have entered true freedom within the limitations of Pesach, a far greater freedom than I had ever known in times of abundance. I am aware that this has become a picture of the Instruction (Torah) of Hashem. I am set free by the borders He has set in place. This Torah, this beautiful work of art has led me here to gaze upon a resurrected Pesach Lamb. I now see the goal of the Torah, His Name is Yeshua (Redemption/Salvation). It seems that the tomb is empty and the Afikomen (Bread without yeast/sin) has been transformed. The Creator has redeemed creation. If only she would awake to her redemption. Hineini (Here I am, ready, believing, willing, in awe, receiving, trusting).
And there is yet more. The Mashiyach sits on the beach with matzot and fish frying in a pan. I am transported to Yam Kineret (Lake Galilee). We sit together, we sit with my son at my side tugging on my sleeve, asking questions about the majestic figure Who is preparing the meal beside us. A well-meaning Goy (Gentile) passes by and asks about the chocolate Matzot that I’ve brought to share with the other Yehudiym. “That can’t be kosher?” he says. I’m surprised at myself when I realize I’m not offended by his ignorance. In the presence of Yeshua it seems that ignorance has become an opportunity to teach rather than an occasion for taking offence. “Friend” I say, “The idea that because something is sweet and dark, it must not be kosher, is one built on the false perception that God is interested only in observances that require self-denial and even self-flagellation.” The man appears puzzled by my response, and I’m equally surprised at the words coming from my lips, “There is no sense of discernment in obligatory religion,” I continue, “It is a device of human control rather than a guide to freedom. God is good and He has appointed occasions of both sacrifice and joy. Chocolate matzot is a product of the beautiful limitations of Pesach. And yes, it is kosher.” After a moment of intense contemplation the man asks, “May I try some?” I break him a piece and say, “Once you’ve finished this go over to the fire and ask The Rebbe for some matzah. He has matzot that will change your life”.
Pesach begins with the befriending of an innocent and spotless lamb, it continues with the death of that lamb and the blood covering of a household. From bondage we break free and the enemies of God are struck down. We are given bread from heaven for our wandering, Torah as our fuel and The Malakh HaShem (The Angel of The Lord) as our guide. Finally, Pesach begins anew with the resurrection of The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world and like Joshua, He leads us across the Jordan and into the Olam Haba (World to come). Mashiyach was and is and is to come. Mashiyach Achshav (Messiah Now)!
© 2017 Yaakov Brown
Many have focused on the actions of Shimon and Levi in this account, however, the greater lesson here is one of holiness, that is, Israel’s need to be set apart unto God alone.
Yaakov has only recently separated himself and his family from Esav in obedience to God’s instruction regarding the unique role that Israel is to have among the nations. Now, having only just returned to the Land of promise, he is faced with yet another threat to Israel’s distinctive identity in God. The threat of intermarriage with the idolatrous inhabitants of Shechem (See Gen 24; 27:46-28:9 for the lengths to which the Patriarchs will go to avoid intermarriage). As in the case of the many other events recorded early in Genesis, this story may well have acted as inspiration for the writing of later commandments (Exodus 23:27-33; Deut. 22:28-29; Deut. 7:1-5).
Many have focused on the actions of Shimon and Levi in this account, however, the greater lesson here is one of holiness, that is, Israel’s need to be set apart unto God alone. With this in mind we are able to better navigate the great offense that is represented in the defiling of Dinah and the judgement that comes against the people of Shechem as a result of their prince’s sin.
34:1 And Dinah (Judgement) Bat Leah (Daughter of Leah [Weary]), which she bore unto Ya’akov (Follows after the heel), went out to see the Banot HaAretz (Daughters of the land).
Given the lengths to which Yaakov has gone to keep his family separate (camped outside the city Gen. 33:18), it is at very least foolish for Dinah to compromise cultural etiquette by leaving the camp to engage with the daughters of the of the land (Specifically the provence of Shechem). Some of our Sages suggest that Dinah was enticed by the daughters of Shechem, however, there is nothing in the text to indicate this. The plain meaning of the text simply denotes an inquisitive teenager’s poorly thought out adventure, one that ends in tragedy and heart break for Dinah.
One might ask, “Why was she not seen leaving and called back?” To which we can respond, “Her brothers were elsewhere herding the animals and Yaakov along with his wives could easily have been preoccupied at the time.”
2 And when Shechem (Back) Ben Chamor (Son of a He-ass) the Chivi (Aramaic: Serpentine or Hebrew: Hivite, villagers), Nasi HaAretz (Prince of the land) saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and violated her.
The Midrash notes that the Hebrew Chivi, does not refer to Shechem being a Hivite because he is an Amorite (Gen. 48:22). It states therefore, that the word Chivi is a borrowed Aramaic word meaning Serpentine. Thus we read, “Shechem son of a He-ass, the serpentine prince of the land”.
Some suggest that the last word of verse two simply refers to fornication (sexual relations outside of the marriage covenant). However, the combining of the terms, “took, lay, violated” denotes a violent act that can only be seen as rape. This act would have had far reaching consequences for Dinah given the stigma attached to women in this ancient culture, who were considered sexually defiled, unclean (2 Sam. 13:12-16).
It is worth noting that these events must have taken place in or near the city of Shechem and in close proximity to the daughters of the land and yet no one came to Dinah’s aid.
3 And his nefesh (Core being) had devak (Clung to, overtook, pursued) Dinah Bat Ya’akov (Judgement the daughter of the one who follows after the heel), and he loved the na’arah (Young woman), and spoke to (implored) the lev (core being, soul, heart) of hanaarah (The Young Woman). 4 And Shechem spoke unto Chamor aviv (his father), saying, “Get me this yaldah (child) for an isha (wife).”
In some sense the opening phrase could read, “With all his might he overtook Dinah”. The text is careful to show Dinah’s connection to Yaakov, thus making her rape and capture a defiling act against the household of Israel.
Having taken Dinah without any attempt to arrange betrothal through proper channels, and having ruined any chance of her having future prospects for marriage, Shechem seems to have developed a genuine love for Dinah and with no respect for her feelings or her victimization, he begs her to reciprocate. Dinah is initially described as a young woman (na’arah), however this is qualified by the term that follows; yaldah (a female child). The Sages say that Dinah was 13 years of age when these events occurred. This only adds to the despicable nature of Shechem’s crime.
5 And Ya’akov heard that he (Shechem) had made his bat Dinah (Daughter Judgement) tameh (sexually unclean, defiled); now his banim (Sons) were with his mikneh (herds) in the sadeh (field); and Ya’akov held his peace until they were come.
Yaakov had heard of Dinah’s defilement but the text infers that he had heard the information from a source other than Dinah herself, which is consistent with the latter verses explaining her residence in the house of Shechem; meaning that Shechem had, with the approval of his father Chamor, kept Dinah at his home in Shechem (city) from the time of the rape.
It seems likely that while Yaakov may have wanted to rescue his daughter at once, he realised that the residents of Shechem outnumbered his retinue and that he must consider his response carefully before acting so as not to endanger Dinah further. Thus he, “held his peace”, waiting for his sons to return so that they could aid him in the recovery of their sister.
6 And Chamor avi Shechem (He-ass, father of Back) went out unto Ya’akov to speak with him.
Having either intentionally or tacitly approved of his sons actions, Chamor, after ignoring all accepted cultural protocol for seeking a betrothal contract, goes out from the town of Shechem where Yaakov’s daughter Dinah is being held against her will, to speak with Yaakov and arrange a marriage and co-existence between their tribes. If this behaviour is vindictive of the culture in Shechem, it is proof that they are a people of dubious moral character at best.
7 And the Bnei Ya’akov (Sons of Jacob) came from the sadeh (field) when they heard it; and the anashim (men) were grieved (hurt, tortured within), and they were extremely furious, because he (Shechem) had brought nevalah (folly, disgrace, outrage) against Yisrael in lying with Bat Ya’akov (Daughter of Jacob); a thing that should not to be done.
At the beginning of this account Dinah is called the daughter of Leah (Weary), that is, a daughter of vulnerability. Here however, she is called the daughter of Yaakov, who is the daughter of the disciple of HaShem, a man who has been given the name Israel and with it the Land. Shechem’s sin, as abhorrent as it is in regard to Dinah’s personal suffering, is considered by the sons of Israel to be a defiling of their father’s name and of Israel’s identity as a set apart people unto HaShem. Thus it is, “a thing that should not be done!” (An abomination). It is in understanding the spiritual implications of Shechem’s act that we are able to better understand the actions of Shimon and Levi in avenging their sister.
8 And Chamor spoke with them, saying, “The nefesh (Inner being) of beni (my son) Shechem longs for your bat (Daughter); now give her to him as a isha (Wife).
9 So intermarry with us, and give your banot (daughters) to us, and take benoteinu (our daughters) for yourselves.
This request is offensive on many levels, however the greatest offense is against the lineage of God’s chosen people. The patriarchs have pursued marriage within their own ethnicity according to God’s instruction and Yaakov has imparted this tradition to his children. The Torah, speaking of, among others, the Amorites and Chivi, says:
“Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give unto his son, nor his daughter shall you take for your son. For they will turn away your son from following Me, that they may serve elohim acherim (other gods); so will the anger of Hashem be kindled against you, and destroy you suddenly.” –D’varim/Deut. 7:4-5
In light of God’s calling on Israel and the later instruction of the Torah, what Chamor is proposing stands in direct opposition to the will of HaShem. The Scripture shows that the primary reason for Israel’s need to avoid intermarriage is for her protection against idolatry.
10 Then you will dwell with us; and HaAretz (The land) shall be before you; dwell and trade in it, and take possession of it.”
This is a deceptive proposal given that Chamor’s intention is not that Yaakov prosper but that he and the people of Shechem might prosper at Yaakov’s expense (v.23).
11 And Shechem said to her father (Yaakov) and to her achim (Brothers), “Let me find chen (grace) in your eyes, and whatever you require of me I will give. 12 Ask me for a great mohar (bride price, dowry) and mattan (gift), and I will pay according to what you demand of me; but give me the na’arah (Young woman) as isha (a wife).”
Having defiled Dinah Shechem now pretends honour by offering a bride price (mohar), something that should have been done before he approached her to have sex with her.
13 And the Bnei Ya’akov (the sons of Jacob) answered Shechem and Chamor aviv (his father) with mirmar (cunning) when they spoke because he had made Dinah their achot (sister) tameh (Unclean, defiled);
The sons of Yaakov had arrived at the camp at the same time as Chamor and Shechem but they had time after hearing of the atrocity to formulate a plan of retaliation while the travelled back to the camp. They don’t lose their cool but devise a ruse that will gain them the time they need to rescue their sister and redeem their father’s honour. The emphasis again on the Hebrew tameh (defiled, unclean) juxtaposes the heinousness of the crime against the cunning of the response.
14 And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give achoteinu (our sister) to ish (a man) that is arelah (uncircumcised); for that would be a cherpah (reproach, disgrace) to us; 15 But in this will we consent to you: If you will become like us, that every zachar (male) of you be circumcised; 16 Then will we give benoteinu (our daughters) to you, and we will take your banot (daughters) to us, and we will dwell among you, and we will become as Am Echad (One People). 17 But if you will not pay heed to us, to become circumcised; then we’ll take biteinu (our daughter), and we will go.
The brothers of Dinah clearly had no intention of honouring their proposed arrangement. They were preparing for retribution and needed a way to make their enemy vulnerable because without an advantage they would have been outnumbered and unable to rescue Dinah. It is difficult to pass judgement on their deception because it is merely being used as a ploy in order to facilitate the righteous action of rescuing their sister from wicked men.
Notice that the brothers of Dinah call her their daughter. This is to emphasize her very young age and identify her as a vulnerable and precious member of the family of Yaakov.
18 And their words pleased Chamor, and Shechem Ben Chamor (Son of Chamor).
19 And the na’ar (Young man) agreed to do the thing, because he had delight in Bat Ya’akov (The daughter of Jacob); and he was the most respected member kol Bait Aviv (of all his father’s house).
The title, “Most respected member of all his father’s house” infers Shechem’s rule over the people and his influence upon their daily practices.
20 And Chamor and Shechem bno came unto the Sha’ar of their city, and they spoke with the anashim (men) of their city, saying,
As I have alluded to in previous articles, the city gate is the location of all legal agreements and official city wide declarations and proposals in the ancient East.
21 “These anashim (men) are shlemim (peaceable) with us; therefore let them settle in HaAretz (The land), and let them trade for HaAretz (The land), hinei (behold, wow, at once), it is plenty of room for them; let us take their banot (daughters) to us as nashim (wives), and let us give them benoteinu (our daughters). 22 Only in order for these anashim (men) to consent to dwell with us, as Am Echad (One people), every zachar (male) among us must be circumcised, just as they are nimolim (ones being circumcised). 23 Shall not their mikneh (herds) and their property and every behemah (beast) of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will settle among us.”
It is verse 23 that reveals Chamor and Shechem’s true motivations. In fact, it is possible that Shechem’s raping of Dinah was part of a larger plan to gain wealth through intermarriage with Yaakov.
24 And to Chamor and to Shechem bno (his son) paid heed all those that went out of the Sha’ar (gate) of his city; and every zachar (male) was circumcised, all that went out of the Sha’ar (gate) of his city.
This verse is strategically important because it confirms that all the men of the town and surrounding province of Shechem submitted themselves to the procedure. Thus incapacitating the province’s entire force of fighting men
25 And it came to pass on Yom HaShlishi (the third day), when they were in pain, that two of the Bnei Ya’akov (sons of Jacob), Shimon (hears: Listens to God) and Levi (joined to: Priesthood), achei Dinah (brothers of), took each ish (man) his cherev (sword, long knife), and came upon the Ir (city) betach (with trust, boldly, confidently), and they slaughtered kol zachar (all the males).
The third day following an adult circumcision is said to be the most painful day of recovery, thus Shimon and Levi planned their attack to maximize the number of potential casualties. In fact, they killed every male in the town of Shechem.
It seems that the other sons of Yaakov were either unwilling to kill the men of Shechem, or simply less zealous in retribution and lagging behind. They do however, appear later in order to plunder the city.
Shimon is Leah’s third born and Levi her sixth child and the child closest in age to Dinah. It seems that these two brothers of Dinah must have had a close relationship with her and are therefore, fiercely protective of her. Their anger is later criticized by Yaakov but he does not question their reasons or their love for Dinah and the household of Israel.
26 And they slaughtered Chamor and Shechem bno (his son) with the edge of the cherev (sword), and took Dinah from the Bait Shechem (House of) and left.
Dinah, like a modern sex trafficked slave, has been kept in Shechem’s own house this entire time.
27 The Bnei Ya’akov came upon the chalalim (dead ones, slain ones), and plundered the Ir (city), because they had made their achot (sister) tameh (defiled, violated, unclean).
The remaining sons of Yaakov, though not directly involved in the slaying of the men of Shechem, none the less show tacit approval, and with the defilement of their sister in mind they plunder the entire city.
28 They seized their tzon (sheep), and their bakar (oxen), and their chamorim (asses), and that which was in the Ir (city), and that which was in the sadeh (field), 29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their nashim (wives, women) they carried off and plundered even all that was in the bayit (house).
Chamor and Shechem had planned to become rich off of Yaakov, instead, Yaakov grows rich as a consequence of Shechem’s sin. Bayit (House) is singular and denotes a counter point to Shechem’s imprisoning of Dinah in his Bayit. The Bayit, once a place where he trapped the woman whom he thought would bring him joy and riches, is now gutted of all its wealth over his dead body.
30 And Ya’akov said to Shimon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me to make me a stench among the inhabitants of HaAretz (The land) among the Kena’ani and the Perizzi; and I being few in mispar (number), they shall gather themselves together against me, and attack me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my bayit (household).”
Notice that at least at this juncture, Yaakov does not say that Shimon and Levi have acted unjustly, nor does he accuse them of wrong doing (although, on his death bed he does curse the anger of Shimon and Levi and condemns the brothers for being excessive in their zeal Gen. 49:5-7). At this point Yaakov seems less concerned with the retribution carried out on his daughter’s behalf and more concerned with the resulting effect it might have with regard to the tribes who inhabit the land around about him.
“Shimon and Levi are achim (brothers); kelei chamas (instruments of violence) are their swords. O my nefesh, enter not you into their sod (secret, council); unto their kehal (assembly), may my kavod (glory), not be united with them; for in their anger they slaughtered ish (a man), and in their ratzon (self-will) they uprooted an ox. Arur (cursed) be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel; I will dispense them in Ya’akov, and scatter them in Yisrael.” –Genesis 49:5-7
Note that it is note Shimon or Levi who are cursed but their anger and their wrath.
“Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God requires.” –Yaakov 1:20
31 And they said, “Should he deal with achoteinu (our sister) like with zonah (prostitute)?”
This is of course a rhetorical question. It goes unanswered because it need not be answered. No man should defile a woman in this way. The man who does will be judged (Dinah) and hearing God (Shimon) the Priest (Levi: joined) of HaShem will join in the task of punishing him.
© Yaakov Brown
A trickling troop walks straight after troubled judgement, wrestling, weary, seeing and hearing, are joined by praise and paid wages, exalted in judgement over the sheep to whom HaShem adds.
Yaakov has wrestled with God and humanity and has overcome, not in his own strength but through the gracious undeserved favour of God’s blessing. Having been blessed by the Man Who is God with us, Yaakov has been given the name Yisrael (He who overcomes in God). Now, just as Avraham looked up and saw, so too Yaakov/Yisrael looks up and sees his brother Esav approaching, and with the certain knowledge that God is with him, he prepares his family and goes out to meet Esav.
33:1 And Ya’akov (Follows after the heel) lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, hinei (behold, wow, truly, at once), Esav (Hairy) came, and with him arba me’ot ish (four hundred men). And he divided the yeladim (Children) unto Leah (Weary) and unto Rachel (Ewe), and unto the two shefachot (Servants).
We ask, “Is it Yaakov or Yisrael who lifts up his eyes?” In fact he will continue to be seen from two distinct perspectives. From the perspective of the Man Who is the Malakh (Messenger, Angel) of HaShem and God with us, Yaakov will hence forth always be seen complete, redeemed and whole as Yisrael (Overcomes in Elohiym). However, in the working out of that journey of completion within time and space, the readers of the Torah look upon Yaakov, the man who yet struggles while his eternal identity is being refined by God.
2 And he (Yaakov) put the shefachot (maid servants) and their yeladim (Children) rishonah (At the first, in front), and Leah and her yeladim (Children) acharonim (behind them), and Rachel and Yosef acharonim (behind them).
The order of the wives and children denotes their standing in the family structure and does not mean that Yaakov was using the former as shields for the latter. If Esav had intended to wipe Yaakov out he would have attacked all of Yaakov’s retinue, in which case the order that they approached would have made little difference.
The wives and children approached Esav as follows:
A trickling troop walks straight after troubled judgement, wrestling, weary, seeing and hearing, are joined by praise and paid their wages, exalted in judgement over the sheep to whom HaShem adds.
3 And he (Yaakov) passed over ’p’neihem before faces, and bowed to the earth/land/ ground sheva pe’amim seven times (like a beat or a stroke), until he came near to achiv (his brother).
Why seven times? The p’shat (plain meaning) of the bowing down reveals Yaakov’s complete humility and reconciliatory intention. The significance of the Hebrew number seven, which means fullness, completion, rest, adds weight to the symbolic nature of Yaakov’s actions. He is not worshipping but placating. Nor is he repenting for wrong doing. After all, as we have already established in the previous chapters, Yaakov received the blessing that was rightfully his. Nowhere in this account does Yaakov admit to having taken what didn’t belong to him, nor does he confess to deceiving Esav. To the contrary, he is seeking to appease his brother Esav, who had formerly vowed to murder him (Gen 27:41, Gen 32:12).
4 And Esav ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his tzavar (neck), and kissed him; and they wept.
The Greek text of the Septuagint does not contain the word, “kissed” and the Hebrew vayishakeihu, translated as kissed has special dot pointings over every character to indicate that the latter scribes were possibly uncertain as to whether it should be included. Other views propose that the special pointing indicates an unusual meaning for the Hebrew word. Certain rabbinical commentary has suggested that the reason for the markings is that Esav’s kiss was disingenuous, while others affirm his desire for true reconciliation.
5 And he (Esav) lifted up his eyes, and saw the nashim (wives) and the yeladim (children); and said, “Who are those with you?” And he (Yaakov) said, the yeladim which Elohiym has graciously given your eved (servant).
Yaakov seems to be hedging his answer. He doesn’t mention his wives and refers to the children in general terms and with emphasis on their origin being from Elohiym. He also reaffirms his humble status as Esav’s eved (servant). Although Yaakov knows that God has made Esav and his descendants the servants of Israel.
6 Then the shefachot (maid servants) came near, they and their yeladim (children), and they bowed themselves. 7 And Leah also with her yeladim came near, and bowed themselves; and after came Yosef near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
It’s worth noting that the maid servants and Leah both approach in front of their children in a protective manner but Yosef (YHVH adds) comes before his mother, denoting that even as a young boy he had a sense of his future role as a protector and redeemer of Israel. This also acts as a poetic reconciling of the fact that YHVH has added all that have come before this meeting and that he will add all that will come after it.
8 And he (Esav) said, “Who are all these machaneh (host) which I met?” And he (Yaakov) said, “These are to find chen (grace, favour) in the eyes of adoni (my lord).
The servants of Yaakov have already explained the meaning of the droves to Esav, making his question somewhat dubious. However, Yaakov names Esav “My lord” and reasserts his desire to find favour (not forgiveness) in Esav’s eyes.
9 And Esav said, “I have enough, achi (my brother); keep that which you have for yourself.”
This seems to be a generous offer but culturally speaking may well simply be the banter of etiquette rather than a genuine refusal. However, Esav does use the more intimate term achi (My brother) rather than ach (brother).
10 And Ya’akov said, “No, now, if I have found chen (grace) in your eyes, then receive my minchah tribute at my yad (hand) based on these gifts I have seen your face, as though seeing the p’nei Elohiym (the face of G-d) vatirtzeini (and you have been appeased by me).
The reason Yaakov uses the phrase, “P’nei Elohiym” and thus connects the present meeting with the wrestling of the previous chapter, is that he wants to acknowledge that just as he had seen God’s face and lived, he has now seen his brother’s face and lived. Thus he is in literal fulfilment of the meaning of the wrestling match and his subsequent new name. In the case of the Man Who was God, Yaakov has lived through God’s grace and in the present instance it is through the provisions God has graciously given him that he has been able to appease (not pay back) Esav. In both cases Yaakov was sure he should have died and in both cases God provides for his redemption.
11 take up, now, bir’chati my blessing which has come to you; because Elohiym (Judge) has dealt graciously with me, and because yesh li khol (there is to me everything, my needs are met). And he (Yaakov) pressed him (Esav), and he (Esav) accepted.
These words show Yaakov’s gracious and humble character in that they impart to Esav the overflow of the blessing Yaakov has received from God. “Take now my blessing which has come to you.”
Note also that although Yaakov has given over a generous portion from his flocks and herds, he none the less says, “yesh li khol” I have everything. This everything is more than just human relationships, children, physical wealth and status. It is the realization that through humility and blessing God has purchased Yaakov an eternal home. HaShem is everything and in Him all things exist and move and have their being.
12 And he (Esav) said, Nise’ah (let us take our journey), and let us go, I will go next to you. 13 And he (Yaakov) said unto him (Esav), “Adoni (My lord) know that the yeladim (Children) are tender and the nursing tzon (small animals of the herds) and bakar (cattle) are upon me; and if men should overdrive them yom echad (in one day), all the tzon (small animals of the herds) will die. 14 Let now adoni (my lord), pass over before his eved (servant); and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the drove that goes before me and the pace the yeladim are able to endure, until I come unto adoni at Seiyr.” 15 And Esav said, “Let me now leave with you some of ha-am (the people) that are with me. And he (Yaakov) said, “Why do that? Let me find chen (grace, favour) in the eyes of adoni.” 16 So Esav returned that day on his derech walking to Seiyr.
We must ask why Esav felt the need to leave men with Yaakov. This has an ominous tone to it that suggests his mistrust of his brother had not subsided and that his appeasement may not last. Therefore, Yaakov again employs the title my lord and offers a reasonable excuse for remaining.
Yaakov may or may not have intended to eventually travel to Seiyr. Regardless, it seems his concern was with keeping to his calling to return to the land which the God of Beit-El had called him back to. He clearly had no intention of joining his brother. Yaakov knew that God had called him and his descendants to be set apart and had instructed Yaakov to return to the land of K’naan (Israel). Therefore, it’s likely that this is the primary reason for his using delay tactics with Esav.
17 And Ya’akov journeyed to Sukkot (shelters), and built a bayit (house), and made sukkot (shelters) for his mikneh (herds); therefore the shem (name) of ha-makom (the place) is called Sukkot (shelters).
It is interesting that Yaakov built a bayit (house) for himself rather than a temporary dwelling (sukkah). The building of a house is more permanent, and yet he had not finished his wandering. Of course, the Hebrew bayit (home) may simply denote the fact that he had settled and made a home for himself. The name of the city Sukkot seems prophetic of the future festival of HaShem and its connection to the wanderings of the people of Israel.
18 And Ya’akov came in/to shaleim (wholeness, safety, peace, completeness) a city of Shechem (Back, shoulder), which is in eretz Kena’an (land of Canaan), when he came from Padan Aram (field of exaltation); and encamped before the city. 19 And he (Yaakov) bought a chelkat hasadeh (piece of land), where he had pitched there his ohel (tent), from the yad (hand) of the Bnei (sons) of Chamor (Male Ass) Avi (father) Shechem (Back, shoulder), for a hundred pieces of kesitah (a currency).
The purchase of this parcel of land is one of three where the Torah vouches for Israel’s legitimate right of ownership. This is affirmed by the use of a common and uncontested currency. The other places are: The cave at Machpelah, brought by Avraham, and the site of the Temple, purchased by King David.
20 And he erected there a Mizbe’ach (Altar, from zabach: shed blood, slaughter, kill), and called it El Elohei Yisrael (God the God/Judge of Israel: one who overcomes in God).
As we have learned previously, an altar, when unqualified by other terms, is by nature an altar of blood sacrifice (zabach). Therefore, we can infer from the text that Yaakov also offered a sacrifice there, acknowledging through the shedding of blood that HaShem is El Elohei Yisrael. In doing so Yaakov takes ownership of his new name and the land that is attached to it.
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.