THE PENTATEUCH PART I: GENESIS
LESSON 15: Genesis 33:18-37:1
Jacob's Dysfunctional Family in Canaan

Merciful Father,

You call us to image Your active and loving Fatherhood in our families and to image Jesus' merciful and caring example of brotherhood in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the human family. When we abdicate from our roles as righteous fathers and mothers of the next generation and allow anger, envy, and greed to motivate us in our human relationships, the result is always suffering and tragedy in our families and in the world. In a time when materialism, the re-definition of "tolerance" as the acceptance of each man's response to sin, and the rejection of faith appears to be making inroads into our culture, we need holy men and woman to step forward to lift up the faithful to continue the fight against sin, to resist relative morality and to embrace lives of holiness in obedience to You. We pray for righteous leaders, Lord, and for the courage to take a stand against tolerance for sin in our families, in the nation, and in the world. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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When we ascend to Bethel, that is, to the house of God, we will know the stone, I mean, the elected stone, which was made into a cornerstone, that is, Christ. We will see the one who is anointed by the Father in joy and exultation for all the creatures that live under the sky. As I said, the Son is anointed by God the Father: "Joy of us all, universal exultation" according to the words of the psalmist. And you see how this is prefigured in the words that were just said to us: "And Jacob set up a stone and poured oil upon it." That action is a symbol of the mystery of Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, would without end. Amen.
St. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444), Galaphyra on Genesis 5.5 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, page 228-29)

The climax of the last lesson was Jacob's reconciliation with Esau. Jacob compared Esau's forgiveness to God sparing his life (Gen 33:11). In humbling himself to obtain reconciliation with Esau by giving up his superiority in the spiritual blessing and his legal rights as the heir of Isaac, Jacob fully obtained God's blessing in becoming the bearer of the "promised seed" and the leader of his family. Jacob's submission prefigured Christ who in His humility gave up His rights to equality with God to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:16-21; Phil 2:6-8), a model of submission and service that is an example for every Christian.

In this part of the narrative Jacob begins a new chapter of his life. He has come back to the land of Canaan, returning not just as Jacob, but as Israel the father of a future nation. Although he has been in many ways transformed by his experiences in the past twenty years, he is still a flawed husband, father, and leader of his family. The story of the deceit, violence, and revengeful honor killing perpetrated by the sons of Jacob against the people of Shechem and Ruben's betrayal of his father with the concubine Bilhah is a warning to all Christians that those who profess belief in the One True God are not always instruments of God's will. Sometimes the "sheep" of the great Shepherd, in their descent into sin, can allow themselves to become tools of Satan. It is a tragedy when acts of unrighteousness, committed by professing believers, hinder the possibility of belief in the very population of the human family that the Church is calling to faith and salvation.

Please read Genesis 33:18-34:5: Jacob's Family in Shechem
33:18Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem in Canaanite territory, on his return from Paddan-Aram. He encamped opposite the town 19and for one hundred pieces of silver he bought from the sons of Hamor father of Shechem the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20There he erected an altar which he called 'El, God of Israel.' 34:1Dinah, who was Jacob's daughter by Leah, went out to visit some of the women of that region. 2Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, headman of the region, saw her, seized (took*) her (humbled her*) and (lay with her*) forced her to sleep with him. 3He was captivated (his heart clung to*) by Dinah, daughter of Jacob; he fell in love with the girl and tried to win her heart (spoke to the heart of the girl*). 4Accordingly Shechem said to his father Hamor, 'Get me this girl; I want to marry her.' 5Meanwhile, Jacob had heard how his daughter Dinah had been dishonored (defiled*), but since his sons were out in the countryside with his livestock, Jacob said nothing until they came back.
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible vol. I, page 89).

Jacob and his caravan crossed the Jordan River from the west bank to the east bank and settled near the prosperous Hivite (Horite) city of Shechem in the center of the "promised land." The city was named for the son of its king (see Gen 4:17 where Cain also named his town after his son). The city of Shechem was strategically located at the end of the narrow pass between Mt. Gerizim to the south and Mt. Ebal to the north, with a broad fertile plain stretching out to the east of the city. Ancient Shechem was an important Canaanite commercial center and references to the city are found in Egyptian diplomatic documents from the 19th through the 14th centuries BC. The ruins of ancient Shechem are about a mile east of the modern city of Nablus and forty miles north of Jerusalem.(1)

Question: When Jacob first arrived in Canaan he settled at Shechem. What is significant about Jacob's first settlement in the "promised land" after returning from Mesopotamia? See Genesis 12:5-6.
Answer: The first place Abraham settled was also Shechem. Jacob was repeating his grandfather's journey from Mesopotamia and his first settlement in the land God promised him.

Question: According to Jacob's "if" and "then" statement and his vow after his experience with God at Bethel twenty years earlier, what has God fulfilled of His promises to Jacob and what has been fulfilled in what Jacob required of God? See Genesis 28:15, 20-22.
Answer: God has kept every promise He made in 28:15 and everything that Jacob required of God in 28:20-22: He has been with Jacob in his journey and exile, God has kept Jacob safe, giving him a material blessing beyond what was requested, and He has brought him safely back to his homeland.

Question: What has Jacob fulfilled of his vow?
Answer: Jacob has not fulfilled his vow. He has not returned to Bethel to build the pillar into a "house of God," nor has he paid the promised tithe of ten percent of his material possessions.

Settling near Shechem, Jacob purchased land from the Hivite (Horite) landowners, who welcomed the Aramaean immigrants from Mesopotamia. The Hivites, a corruption of the name "Horites" (Hebrew = Hori) in the Old Testament (and "Hurrians" in Greek), were a non-Semitic people of western Asia who entered Mesopotamia in the 22nd century BC and later expanded their settlements into Syria and Canaan (see Genesis 10:17; Josh 9:7; 11:3, 19; Judg 3:3). Some commentators suggest that the land Jacob purchased at Shechem for 100 qesita (an unknown monetary term) and the altar he built were the one-tenth tithe he vowed to God. This is, however, unlikely. The land belonged to Jacob not to God, and the vow was to return to Bethel to build a shrine dedicated to Yahweh in addition to paying the tithe. The altar Jacob built at Shechem could not have cost a tenth of Jacob's entire wealth in animals, men and women slaves, and silver. Jacob's purchase at Shechem was the second parcel of land that his family now owned in their "promised land" (the first was the field and cave at Machpelah in Gen 23:17-20).

Question: What did Jacob name the altar he built, what was significant about the name, and what historical action was he repeating? See Gen 12:6-7.
Answer: Jacob named the altar "El-elohe-israel," which literally means "God (singular) - the God (plural; from elohim) -of Israel." The name Jacob gave the altar honoring God distinguished his God from the Canaanite deity "El." In building an altar near Shechem Jacob followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Abraham (Gen 12:6-7), symbolically staking his claim to the "promised land."

History repeated itself in Jacob's failure as a father to properly protect and guide his children. Esau didn't know he wasn't to marry Canaanite women (Gen 28:8), and now Jacob did not properly protected his daughter, Dinah the child of Leah. Young girls of marriageable age should not wander about unprotected. Jacob's lack of supervision for his daughter among the sensual Canaanites was a recipe for disaster.

Genesis 34:1-4: 34:1Dinah, who was Jacob's daughter by Leah, went out to visit some of the women of that region. 2Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, headman of the region, saw her, seized (took*) her (humbled her*) and (lay with her*) forced her to sleep with him. 3He was captivated (his heart clung to*) by Dinah, daughter of Jacob; he fell in love with the girl and tried to win her heart (spoke to the heart of the girl*). 4Accordingly Shechem said to his father Hamor, 'Get me this girl; I want to marry her.'
* = literal translation (Interlineal Bible vol. I, page 89).

The young son (34:19) of the ruler of Shechem (likely the firstborn son and heir since the city was named after him) formed a romantic attachment to Jacob's daughter Dinah and had intercourse with her. The Hebrew translation describes the seduction of Dinah with the Hebrew words "saw, "his soul clung to Dinah," "he humbled her," "took her," and "lay with her." The Hebrew verbs "saw" and "took" are the same verbs used to describe the actions of the "sons of gods" who looked at the "daughters of men" and took them as their wives in Genesis 6:2. The narrative also states that Prince Shechem "loved the girl, "spoke to the heart of the girl," and urged his father to "take this girl for my wife." Some scholars interrupt what happened between Shechem and Dinah as rape, others as a seduction that ended in consensual sex. It cannot be denied that Prince Shechem loved Dinah, but since her feelings are blanked in the narrative we cannot know what really happened.

Genesis 34:5: Meanwhile, Jacob had heard how his daughter Dinah had been dishonored (defiled*), but since his sons were out in the countryside with his livestock, Jacob said nothing until they came back.

Jacob heard Dinah had been "dishonored/defiled;" the same Hebrew word is often used to describe ritual defilement, therefore, the use of the word does not necessarily point to rape but can also be applied to a virgin consenting to sexual intercourse before marriage (see Lev 11:43-44; 13:46; Num 19:20; Ps 79:1; Ez 5:11; 23:38; 28:18; Ho5:3; 6:10; etc).

It is interesting that Jacob lodged no complaint with Shechem's father but instead waited for his sons to return before deciding on a course of action. Either Jacob was afraid to confront Hamor and Shechem, or he considered the girl equally at fault. Later, under the laws of the Sinai Covenant, the punishment for a man taking advantage of a virgin required that the man marry the girl, that he make a payment of fifty silver shekels to the girl's father, and that as long as he lived he could not divorce the girl (Dt 22:28-29). Even if Dinah had consented to Shechem romantically the liaison would be considered unacceptable because it was the custom of the Aramaeans that the families arranged marriages. The girl was given the right of refusal (Gen 24:58), but it was the family's prerogative to make the selection of a husband or a wife.

In addition, the incident between Shechem and Dinah was complicated by the fact that up to this time the people of God were expected to maintain a separation from the cursed line of Canaan, from whom the Hivites/Horites were descended (Gen 10:17; 24:3; 26:34-35; 28:1; Dt 7:3). However, later Judah son of Jacob/Israel would take Canaanite brides for himself and for his sons (Gen 38:1-6), so a suggestion that a marriage to a Shechemite prince on the grounds that Israelites would not marry Canaanites is not supportable. That it was unacceptable for an Israelite girl to marry an uncircumcised male was a legitimate complaint, but Shechem's circumcision should have removed that objection and allowed for a valid marriage. Circumcision was established with Abraham as a sign of the covenant whether the male was a descendant of Abraham or a foreigner (Gen 17:11-12).

Please read Genesis 34:6-19: The Proposed Covenant Alliance with the Shechemites
34:6Hamor father of Shechem was visiting Jacob to discuss the matter with him, 7when Jacob's sons returned from the countryside and heard the news; the men were outraged and infuriated that Shechem had insulted Israel by sleeping with Jacob's daughter - a thing totally unacceptable. 8Hamor reasoned with them as follows, 'My son Shechem's heart is set on your daughter. Please allow her to marry him. 9Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughter for yourselves. 10We can live together, and the country will be open to you, for you to live in, and move about in, and acquire holdings.' 11Then Shechem addressed the girl's father and brothers, 'Grant me this favor, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12Demand as high a bride-price from me as you please, and I will pay as much as you ask. Only let me marry the girl.' 13Jacob's sons gave Shechem and his father Hamor a crafty (deceitful*) answer, speaking as they did because he had dishonored their sister Dinah. 14'We cannot do this,' they said to them. 'To give our sister to an uncircumcised man would be a disgrace for us. 15We can agree only on one condition: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16Then we will give you our daughters, taking yours for ourselves; and we will stay with you to make one nation. 17But if you will not agree to our terms about being circumcised, we shall take our daughter and go.' 18Hamor and Shechem son of Hamor were pleased with what they heard. 19The young man did not hesitate about doing this, for he was deeply in love with Jacob's daughter. Moreover he was the most respected member of his entire family.
* = literal translation, Interlinear Bible, vol. I, page 90

Question: What kind of father was Hamor? What was his response to his son's petition?
Answer: He immediately went to Jacob to discuss the matter and to present his son as a bridegroom for Dinah, pleading with Jacob to approve the marriage.

Question: What was the response of Jacob's sons when they heard what had happened to their sister?
Answer: They were enraged over the insult to their tribe. It was the family honor that had been defiled.

Question: In order to convince the brothers to approve of the marriage, what generous offer did Hamor, the King of Shechem, make to the Israelites?
Answer: He offered to let the marriage make them one people. This was an offer of a homeland to the immigrants.
Curiously, in this part of the narrative Jacob falls silent and his sons take over the negotiations. Shechem, however, was not silent and stepped forward to personally make his case as Dinah's bridegroom and a future "brother" to her brothers.

Question: What was his heart-felt plea to Dinah's brothers?
Answer: That he was willing pay whatever bride-price they demanded, and he promised to abide by whatever stipulations they required for the marriage contract.

Question: What demand did the sons of Jacob make of Prince Shechem and his people, and what did they offer in return?
Answer: They demanded that Prince Shechem and all the males of his city must be circumcised. If they agreed, then the Israelites would take Shechemite daughters in marriage and would give their Israelite daughters in return to become one people.

Question: Did Jacob's sons present the conditions for a marriage contract and the proposal of covenant union between the two peoples in good faith? See Genesis 34:13.
Answer: No. They presented a deceitful contract that they had no intention of honoring. They demanded that all the males of the city and district of Shechem submit to circumcision.
The same Hebrew word translated as "crafty" in the NJB (also "deceitful" in other translations) is found in Psalm 5:6; 10:7; 35:20; 36:3; 43:1; 52:4; etc. The Hivites did not practice circumcision. Adult male circumcision is an extremely painful ordeal.

Question: What was Shechem's response to their demands and how did the narrator characterize Prince Shechem's reputation among his people?
Answer: He agreed to all their demands because of his love for Dinah. The narrator testified that he was a young man of good reputation: Moreover he was the most respected member of his entire family.

Please read Genesis 34:20-24: The Shechemites Accept Israel's Sons Offer of Covenant Union
34:20Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their town and spoke to their fellow-townsmen as follows, 21'These men are friendly; let them settle in the region and move about freely in it; there is plenty of room here for them; we shall marry their daughters and give our daughters to them. 22But these men will agree to settle with us and become a single nation only on this condition: that all our males be circumcised like them. 23Will not the livestock they own, all their animals, become ours? Then let us give our assent to this, so that they can settle with us.' 24All the citizens of the town agreed to the proposal made by Hamor and his son Shechem, and all the males (all who go out through the gate of his city*) were circumcised.
* = literal Hebrew (NJB note c, page 59; Interlineal Bible vol I, page 91).

Question: What steps did Hamor and his son take to fulfill their part of the marriage contract and covenant union? What argument did they use to convince their people? Were they successful? Which people had more to gain through the union of their two peoples? See Genesis 34:27-29.
Answer: They went to the city gate to convince their people that intermarriage with the Israelites would benefit the citizens of Shechem. The Israelites were rich in livestock, but the Shechemites also had livestock. The Israelites were practically landless and the Shechemites were rich in land. The entire countryside belonged to the city. It appeared to be a unification that would benefit both groups but was probably more advantageous to the Israelites who would have increased grazing and water rights for their flocks and a permanent home. Based on their respect and confidence in King Hamor and Prince Shechem, all the men agreed to be circumcised and to join in a covenant union with the Israelites to become one people.

Please read Genesis 34:25-31: The Massacre of the Shechemites
34:25Now on the third day, when the men were still in pain, Jacob's two sons Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and advanced unopposed against the town and slaughtered all the males. 26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, removed Dinah from Shechem's house and came away. 27When Jacob's other sons came on the slain, they pillaged the town in reprisal for the dishonoring of their sister. 28They seized their flocks, cattle, donkeys, everything else in the town and in the countryside, 29and all their possessions. They also took all their children and wives captive and looted everything to be found in the houses. 30Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'You have done me an ill turn by bringing me into bad odor with the people of the region, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I have few men, whereas they will unite against me to defeat me and destroy me and my family.' 31They retorted, 'Should our sister be treated like a whore?'

What happened next was one of the most unjust and abhorrent acts recorded in the Old Testament - the massacre of the city of Shechem. On the third day, when the men of Shechem were in the most pain after their circumcisions, Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi, Jacob's second and third sons by Leah, descended on the unprotected city with their men. They were probably unopposed because the citizens of the wall city of Shechem were expecting the arrival of Dinah's family for the wedding feast. That this act of violence and betrayal was perpetrated on the third day also points to its importance and significance in the unfolding history of Israel. They murdered every man of Shechem and reclaimed their betrothed sister. That they were joined in the pillage of the city by their other brothers who looted the town and the countryside, enslaving all the surviving women and children, points to the real reason for the attack. The honor killing of the Prince of Shechem became an excuse for stealing the wealth of their neighbors.

Question: Did Jacob know about his son's plans? What does this suggest?
Answer: The sons of Jacob perpetrated this atrocity without the permission of their father. This atrocity was a sign of their lack of respect for their father and his lack of leadership.

It is hard to decide which was the most disturbing, Jacob's sons unleashing this catastrophe upon an innocent and unsuspecting people or Jacob's anger with his sons only because the rightfully outraged Canaanites might attack him because of the holocaust visited upon the Shechemites. But perhaps Jacob was afraid of his violent sons.

Question: What was Jacob's sons' response to their father's criticism, and why was their excuse without merit?
Answer: They defended their actions as an "honor killing" because their sister was treated "like a whore." However, the Shechemites were not treating Dinah like a prostitute or even a concubine; they were ready to accept her as the bride of the heir and the future Queen of Shechem.

Dinah's name is only recorded again in a genealogical list in Genesis 46:15. She is never mentioned again in Scripture. Jacob did not forget the role Simeon and Levi had in planning and executing the massacre at Shechem. On his deathbed he cursed both sons: Simon and Levi are brothers in carrying out their malicious plans. May my soul not enter their council nor my heart join their company, for in their rage they have killed men and hamstrung oxen at their whim. Accursed be their rage for its ruthlessness, their wrath for its ferocity. I shall disperse them in Jacob, I shall scatter them through Israel (Gen 49:5-7). Simeon's tribe was not able to secure a place in the Promised Land. The tribe of Simeon was absorbed by Judah and the half tribe of Manasseh (2 Chr 15:9). The tribe of Levi became the priestly tribe but without any inheritance in the land, and therefore the descendants of Levi lived scattered among the tribes of Israel.

The injustice of this failed covenant between Prince Shechem and his bride Dinah of Israel will be made right by Jesus in the Gospel of St. John when He came to Jacob's well in Shechem (Sychar) in the first year of His ministry and courted a bride - the people of Shechem/Samaria, calling them to turn to Him and fulfilling God's promise to "circumcise their hearts" (Dt 10:16; 30:6; Rom 2:25-29; 1 Cor 7:19; Gal 5:6; 6:15; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11; 3:11) so that they could join with the new Israel and become the bride of the Prince of Peace (John 4:1-42).

Please read Genesis 35:1-15: Jacob Returns to Bethel
35:1God said to Jacob, 'Move on, go to Bethel and settle there. Make an altar there for the God who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.' 2Jacob said to his family and to all who were with him, 'Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you; cleanse yourselves, and change your clothes. 3We must move on and go to Bethel. There I shall make an altar for the God who heard me when I was in distress, and gave me this help on the journey I made.' 4They gave Jacob all the foreign gods in their possession, and the earrings that they were wearing. 5Jacob buried them under the oak tree near Shechem. They broke camp; a divine terror struck the towns round about, and no one pursued the sons of Jacob. 6When Jacob arrived in Luz in Canaan, that is, Bethel and all the people with him, 7he built an altar there and named the place El-Bethel, since it was there that God had appeared to him when he was fleeing from his brother. 8Deborah, who had been Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried below Bethel, under the oak tree; so they named it the Oak of Tears. 9God again appeared to Jacob on his return from Paddan-Aram, and blessed him. 10God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, but from now on you will be called not Jacob but Israel.' Thus he came by the name Israel. 11God said to him, 'I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will descend from you, and kings will issue from your loins. 12The country which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I now give to you; and this country I shall give to your descendants (seed*) after you.' 13Then God went up from him. 14Jacob raised a monument at the spot where he had spoken to him, a standing-stone, on which he made a libation and poured oil. 15Jacob named the place Bethel where God had spoken to him.
* = literal translation (Interlinear Bible, vol. I, pages 92-93).

The future of the "promised seed" is again in jeopardy because of the sins of men. To protect His plan for man's salvation, God removed Jacob from harm's way by moving his family out from the scene of their crime at Shechem and telling Jacob to go to Bethel, the scene of Jacob's first experience with the God of his fathers.

Question: How did God identify Himself to Jacob? What did God tell Jacob to do when he reached Bethel? How was Jacob's present situation similar to his situation when he first encountered God at Bethel?
Answer: God reminded him of the first theophany at Bethel when Jacob was on his journey to Mesopotamia, fleeing from the murderous wrath of Esau. Now Jacob is fleeing from the murderous wrath of the Canaanites. God told Jacob to build an altar and to settle at Bethel.

Question: Mindful of the sins of his sons, how did Jacob ask his family to purify themselves before stepping on to the holy ground at Bethel?
Answer: He commanded them to relinquish their pagan idols, to wash themselves, and to put on clean clothes. Then he took their idols and buried them under the oak tree at Shechem.

Genesis 35:4-5: 35:4They gave Jacob all the foreign gods in their possession, and the earrings that they were wearing. 5Jacob buried them under the oak tree near Shechem.

Question: What significant event happened previously at the Oak of Shechem? See Genesis 12:6-7.
Answer: This was where God first appeared to Abraham after he entered the "promised land." At this site God repeated the promise to give Canaan to Abraham's descendants, and it was at that site that Abraham built the first altar to Yahweh in Canaan.

The idols that Jacob's family relinquished were probably the foreign images his sons and their men had looted from the Shechemites, and possibly the household gods Rachel brought from Paddan-Aram. The "earrings that they were wearing" can either be referring to earrings looted from Shechem that displayed pagan images or the earrings the idols were wearing. Many of the images of household gods discovered at sites in Canaan and Mesopotamia were wearing earrings (see Bible Review, August 2001, "Whose Earrings Did Jacob Bury?", pages 31-33, 54).

Genesis 35:5b-7: 35:5bThey broke camp; a divine terror struck the towns round about, and no one pursued the sons of Jacob. 6When Jacob arrived in Luz in Canaan, that is, Bethel and all the people with him, 7he built an altar there and named the place El-Bethel, since it was there that God had appeared to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

To preserve the "promised seed," God sent Jacob and his family safely from the valley of Shechem twenty-six miles south to the heights of Bethel.(2)

Question: God made two appearances to Jacob when he was facing Esau's wrath. What were those locations and when did the visions occur? See Genesis 27:42-43; 28:10-22 and 32:7/6, 23/22-33/32.
Answer: The site of Jacob's first theophany was at Bethel when he was traveling to Haran in Paddan-Aram to escape Esau's threat to kill him, and the second visitation was at Peniel after his return from Paddan-Aram when he was told that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 warriors.

Genesis 35:8: Deborah, who had been Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried below Bethel, under the oak tree; so they named it the Oak of Tears.

The narrative does not mention Rebekah's death, only the death of her nurse who had accompanied her from Paddan-Aram to Canaan (Gen 24:59). That the site of her grave, under an oak tree below Bethel hill, was named "Oak of Tears/weeping," in Hebrew = Allonbacuth (Jewish Study Bible, page 71) suggests that Deborah was loved and that she probably raised both Jacob and Esau. The narrative has left out the information that upon his return to Canaan Jacob had visited his father and had taken his old nurse into his household to help raise his younger children.

Genesis 35:9-15: 35:9God again appeared to Jacob on his return from Paddan-Aram, and blessed him. 10God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, but from now on you will be called not Jacob but Israel.' Thus he came by the name Israel. 11God said to him, 'I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed an assembly of nations, will descend from you, and kings will issue from your loins. 12The country which I gave to Abraham and Isaac, I now give to you; and this country I shall give to your descendants (seed*) after you.' 13Then God went up from him. 14Jacob raised a monument at the spot where he had spoken to him, a standing-stone, on which he made a libation and poured oil. 15Jacob named the place Bethel where God had spoken to him.

Most commentators suggest that God named Jacob "Israel" a second time at Bethel. God first named Jacob "Israel" after his return from Mesopotamia at Peniel when Jacob wrestled with God/an angel until daybreak. It is possible that God renamed Jacob twice, but this verse does not necessarily indicate a second naming. The passage could be a reminder of the time when God appeared again "to Jacob on his return from Paddan-Aram (at least two years earlier), and blessed him," referring to the theophany at Peniel. The encounter at Peniel was the second time God appeared to Jacob; the first appearance was at Bethel on his journey to Mesopotamia. In other words, this is the third encounter with Peniel coming between two appearances at Bethel. To suggest that God was naming Jacob a second time begs the question "why"? What would be the point for naming Jacob a second time with no reason given and no explanation of the meaning of the name, which he did receive at the visitation and naming at Peniel (Gen 32:28)? Abraham, you will recall, was only given his new name once in Genesis 17:5.

Question: How did God identify Himself at this second Bethel encounter? What was the significance of the blessing? See Genesis 1:28; and 17:4, 16.
Answer: He identified Himself as "El-Shaddai," a title by which God revealed Himself to the Patriarchs. The blessing at this second Bethel theophany encompassed the first blessing given to humankind. The first blessing to humanity is renewed through the promise of royal kings in the line of the "promised seed," and the gift of the land which will extend to the nations of the earth: "an assembly of nations."

The Significance of the second Bethel blessing (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 25:32; 28:19-20; Acts 17:26; Romans 4:17-18; Revelation 2:26).

  1. The first part of the blessing, "be fruitful and multiply" recalled the first blessing given to Adam and Eve in the Creation event and shows that God is working through Jacob to continue to bring that first blessing to all mankind.
  2. The promise that Abraham was to be the "father of many nations" and the promise that "kings" were to come from Abraham's line made to Sarah (Gen 17:16) is repeated again to Jacob in connection with the "promised seed" and a "community/assembly of nations." These are promised blessings that are fulfilled in King David (kingship over Israel) and in Jesus Christ.
  3. The Abrahamic promise of the land, including the rule of nations, is renewed with Jacob and his descendants. It is a promise that will be fulfilled in the Redeemer-Messiah and the Universal Church.

The title "El-Shaddai" is found seven times in the Pentateuch (Gen 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Ex 6:3) and twice as "Shaddai" (Num 24:4, 16).

Question: On the second visit to Bethel Jacob built an altar and rededicated the site. What did he rename the place and what did the name mean?
Answer: He renamed the place "El-Beth-el": "God (singular) the place/house of God (singular)."

Question: Did Jacob fulfill the vow he made to God at Bethel more than twenty years earlier? See Genesis 28:20-22.
Answer: From the account presented in the Genesis narrative, it does not appear that Jacob kept his vow, or it wasn't recorded.

Please read Genesis 35:16-20: The Birth of Benjamin and the Death of Rachel
35:16They left Bethel, and while they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and her pains were severe. 17When her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, 'Do not worry, this is going to be another boy.' 18At the moment when she breathed her last, for she was dying, she named him Ben-Oni. His father, however, named him Benjamin. 19So Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrath, now Bethlehem. 20Jacob raised a monument on her grave, the same monument of Rachel's Tomb which is there today.

Question: Where was Rachel buried and why is this significant? See 1 Sam 17:12; Micah 5:1/2-3/4; Mt 2:6.
Answer: She was buried near Bethlehem, the birthplace of King David and the site the Prophet Micah prophesized would be the birthplace of the Messiah. Jesus was born at Bethlehem.

Rachel's agony in giving birth to Benjamin has been seen as a metaphor for Israel's painful experience in bringing forth the promised Messiah (Jer 31:15-22, 31-34; Mt 2:18). In her dying breath Rachel named her son Ben-Omi, "son of my sorrow/suffering," but rather than giving him a name that signified an ill omen, Jacob renamed him Benjamin, "son of the right hand/son of the south," meaning "son of a happy omen" (Jewish Study Bible, page 72). The site of Rachel's tomb near Bethlehem is holy to Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Please read Genesis 35:21-29: From the Treachery of Reuben to the Death of Isaac
35:21Israel left and pitched his tent beyond Migdal-Eder. 22While Israel was living in that district, Reuben went and slept with Bilhah his father's concubine, and Israel found out. The sons of Jacob were now twelve. 23The sons of Leah: Jacob's eldest son Reuben, then Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. 24The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 25The sons of Bilhah, Rachel's slave-girl: Dan and Naphtali. 26The sons of Zilpah, Leah's slave-girl: Gad and Asher. These were the sons born to Jacob in Paddan-Aram. 27Jacob came home to his father Isaac at Mamre, at Kiriath-Arba - now Hebron - where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28Isaac was one hundred and eighty years old 29when he breathed his last. He died and was gathered to his people, an old man who had enjoyed his full span of life. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Migdal-Eder means "watchtower of the flock" (NJB, note "e", page 1549). A migdal was usually a fortified watchtower. The location of this site is unknown, but Micah 4:8 may refer to the site in association with Jerusalem: And to you, Tower of the Flock, Ophel of the daughter of Zion, to you your former sovereignty will return, the royal power of the daughter of Jerusalem. This passage compares Jerusalem to a sheepfold. The word "Ophel" refers to the palace quarter in the City of David, the old part of Jerusalem (2 Chr 27:1-3; Is 32:14).

Genesis 35:22: While Israel was living in that district, Reuben went and slept with Bilhah his father's concubine, and Israel found out. The sons of Jacob were now twelve.

Question: In Scripture Reuben's sin points to more then lust. What is the significance of Reuben sleeping with his father's concubine? What was the result? See Gen 49:3-4; 2 Sam 16:20-22; 1 Kgs 2:13-25.
Answer: In Scripture a son taking his father's concubine was a declaration of rebellion. Reuben's sin with his father's concubine could have been an attempt, as the firstborn son and heir, to usurp his father's authority over the tribe. The result of his sin was the loss of his position as the heir in a pronouncement given by Jacob on his death bed.

After verse 22a there is a strange anomaly in the narrative where the biblical text abruptly breaks off mid-verse without any further details concerning Reuben's sin and restarts the narrative with a list of Jacob's sons. Between 22a and 22b there is a space in the manuscript, called in Hebrew a pe'tucha, meaning "white space," suggesting to many scholars that there was more to the story but it was either purposely left out or a section of the narrative is missing (The Jewish Study Bible, page 72).

The narrative provides a list of Jacob's twelve sons, and then continues with Isaac's death.

Genesis 35:27 35:27Jacob came home to his father Isaac at Mamre, at Kiriath-Arba - now Hebron - where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28Isaac was one hundred and eighty years old 29when he breathed his last. He died and was gathered to his people, an old man who had enjoyed his full span of life. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Question: In entering the "promised land" and traveling from Shechem to Bethel and now to Hebron, what physical and spiritual journey was Jacob repeating? See Genesis 12:6-8.
Answer: In traveling to Hebron for his father's funeral, Jacob completed Abraham's spiritual conquest of his "promised land" that took Abraham from Shechem, to Bethel, to Hebron in the south-negeb in his first journey through the "promised land" in Genesis 12:6-8.

For the last time Esau and Jacob are united over their father's grave, with Esau named first as Isaac intended their rank and order.

Question: How old were the Patriarchs when they died? Do you see a pattern using the numbers 7 (perfection), 5 (grace/power) and 3 (fullness/importance)? See Genesis 25:7; 35:28 and 47:28.
Answer: Abraham was 175, Isaac was 180, and Jacob will be 147 when he dies. Abraham's life span of 175 years is 7 x 5 squared; Isaac's life span of 180 years is 5 x 6 squared, and Jacob/Israel's life span of 147 years is 3 x 7 squared.(4)

Please read Genesis 36:1-5: Esau's Descendants
36:1These are the descendants of Esau, that is, Edom. 2Esau chose his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah daughter of Anah, son of Zibeon the Horite, 3Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. 4Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, 5Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau born to him in Canaan.

Esau had five sons by three of his wives:

  1. Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite bore Eliphaz
  2. Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Ishmael's firstborn son Nebaioth bore Reuel.
  3. Oholibamah* the daughter of the Horite Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the third son of Seir (see Gen 36:2, 14, 21) bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

*Esau may have used his marriage to Oholibamah to give him a claim to the lands of the Horites (Hivites) in Seir, a region named for his wife's great-grandfather.(3)

Please read Genesis 36:6-8: Esau's Migration to Seir
36:6Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, all the member of his household, his livestock, all his cattle and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan and left for Seir, away from his brother Jacob. 7 For they had acquired too much to live together. The land in which they were at that time could not support them both because of their livestock. 8 That is why Edom settled in the mountainous region of Seir. Esau is Edom.

Jacob and Esau experienced the same problems Abraham and Lot faced concerning having enough land and water for their great herds and flocks of livestock. Esau decided to leave Canaan and to settle in the region of Seir. The mountainous region mentioned in verse 8 is probably the chain of mountains that extends southwest of the Dead Sea along the west side of the Arabah - the arid desert region that extends from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, "Seir" and "Arabah", pages 49 and 783).

Please read Genesis 36:9-14: Esau's descendants in Seir
36:9These are the descendants of Esau, ancestor of Edom in the mountainous region of Seir. 10These are the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz son of Esau's wife Adah, and Reuel son of Esau's wife Basemath. 11The sons of Eliphaz were: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. 12Elipahz son of Esau had Timna for concubine and she bore him Amalek. These were the sons of Esau's wife Adah. 13These were the sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the sons of Esau's wife Basemath. 14And these were the sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah, son of Zibeon: she bore him Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

Esau and his sons intermarried with the Horites of Seir. Esau's wife Oholibamah was a daughter of a Horite chieftain who was the son of the founder of the Horites of Seir; the region was named for the tribal ancestor (Gen 36:2). His firstborn son Eliphaz had a son by a concubine who was a granddaughter of Seir the Horite (Gen 36:12, 23).

Please read Genesis 36:15-19: The chieftains of Edom
36:15These are the chieftains of Esau. The descendants of Eliphaz, Esau's eldest son: the chieftains of Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16Gatam and Amalek. These are the chieftains of Eliphaz in Edom and are descended from Adah. 17The descendants of Esau's son Reuel: the chieftains of Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These are the chieftains of Reuel in Edom and are descended from Esau's wife Basemath. 18The descendants of Esau's wife Oholibamah: the chieftains of Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These are the chieftains of Esau's wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah. 19These were the sons of Esau - that is, Edom - and these are their chieftains.

The Sons of Esau: Chieftains of Edom
Eliphaz son of Adah Reuel son of Basemath Jeush son of Oholibamah Jalam son of Oholibamah Korah son of Oholibamah
Sons of Eliphaz Sons of Reuel      
Teman Nahath      
Omar Zerah      
Zepho Shammah      
Gatam Mizzah      
Kenaz +        
Amalek (son of the concubine Timna the granddaughter of Seir the Horite)*        

Also see the repeated list in 1 Chr 1:35-37. *As the son of a concubine, Amalek was not included under the protected status of Esau's legitimate sons and kinsmen of Israel (see Dt 23:8-9). The Amalekites ambushed the Israelites on their Exodus to the Promised Land. Later the Israelites were commanded to annihilate the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-16; 1 Sam 15). + The Kenizzites (Gen 15:19) will later join with the tribe of Judah. Caleb, a hero of the Exodus, was a Kenizzite (Num 13:6; 14:38; Josh 14:6-15). As a reward for his loyalty and covenant obedience, Caleb was given Hebron as his family's heritage.

Please read Genesis 36:20-30: The Descendants of Seir the Horite
36:20These are the sons of Seir the Horite, natives of the country: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21Dishon, Ezer and Dishan; these were the Horite chieftains descended from Seir, in Edom. 22The sons of Lotan were Hori and Hemam, and Lotan's sister was Timna. 23These are the sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam. 24These are the sons of Zibeon: Aiah, Anah, the Anah who found the hot springs in the desert while pasturing his father Zibeon's donkeys. 25These are the children of Anah: Dishon, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah. 26These are the sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Cheran. 27These are the sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan. 28 These are the sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran. 28These are the Horite chieftains: the chieftains of Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, anah, Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These are the chieftains of the Horites, by their clans, in Seir.

The Horites were the ancient inhabitants of the region. Those Horites inhabiting the region to the south of the Dead Sea were known by the name of their ancestor, Seir. They were dispossessed of their land by the Edomites who intermarried with the Horites (Gen 36:2; Dt. 2:12, 22). Esau's wife Oholibamah was the daughter of Anah, the granddaughter of Zibeon, and the great-granddaughter of Seir the Horite (see Gen 36:2, 14, 21).

The Descendants of Seir: the Chieftains of the Horites of Seir
Sons of Seir the Horite
Lotan* Shobal Zibeon+ Anah Dishon Ezer Dishan
Sons of Lotan Sons of Shobal Sons of Zibeon Sons of Anah Sons of Dishon Sons of Ezer Sons of Dishan
Hori Alvan Aiah Dishon** Hemdan Bilhan Uz
Hemam Manahath Anah ++ Eshban Zaavan Aran
Ebal Ithran Akan
Shepho Cheran
Onam

*Lotan's sister was Timna; she is listed as Esau's son Eliphaz's concubine in Gen 36:12 and as the mother of Amalek. Esau's wife Oholibamah was the daughter of Anah++ and the granddaughter of Zibeon+. **Dishon's sister was Oholibamah. Also see the repeated list in 1 Chr 1:38-42. According to Jewish tradition Anah++ was the first to cross-bread the horse and the donkey to produce the mule (Waltke, page 486; cross-breading was forbidden under the Sinai Covenant).

Please read Genesis 36:31-39: The Kings of Edom
36:31These are the kings who reigned in Edom before an Israelite king. 32In Edom reigned Bela son of Beor; his city was called Dinhabah. 33Bela died and Jobab son of Zerah, from Bozrah, succeeded. 34Jobab died and Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded. 35Husham died and Hadad son of Bedad succeeded; he defeated the Midianites in Moab, and his city was called Avith. 36Hadad died and Samlah of Masrekah succeeded. 37Samlah died and Dhaul of Rehoboth-ha-Nahar succeeded. 38Shaul died and Baal-Hanan son of Achbor succeeded. 39Baal-Hanan died and Hadad succeeded; his city was called Pau and his wife's name was Mehetable daughter of Matred, from Mezahab.

The Kings of Edom
These are the kings who reigned in Edom before an Israelite king.
Bela son of Beor His city was called Dinhabah
Jobab son of Zerah From Bozrah
Husham the Temanite From the land of the Temanites (probably descendants of Teman the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:11)
Hadad son of Bedad He defeated the Midianites in Moab, and his city was called Avith. "Midianites" refers to the five clans of Midian, descendant of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:1-6). This king was named for the storm god identified with Baal who replaced El as the principal deity in the Canaanite pantheon.
Samlah of Masrekah  
Shaul of Rehoboth-ha-Nahar (river) The Rehoboth river, the modern Wadi el-Hesa, is the natural border between Edom and Moab (see Gen 10:11; 26:22).
Baal-Hanan son of Achbor This king's name was a theophoric name formed from the name of the god Baal who replaced El as the principal deity in the Canaanite pantheon.
Hadad (Hadar) his city was called Pau and his wife's name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, from Mezahab. His wife is probably named because of her distinguished ancestry.

Also see Num 20:14-21 and the repeated list in 1 Chr 1:43-50

Please read Genesis 36:40-43: The Tribal Chieftains of Edom
34:40These are the names of the chieftains of Esau - according to their clans and localities: the chieftains of Timna, alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel and Iram. These are the chieftains of Edom, as settled in the territory which they own. Esau was Edom's ancestor.

The Tribal Chieftains of Edom, descendants of Esau's Grandsons
Timna Alvah Jetheth Oholibamah
Elah* Pinon + Kenaz Teman
Mibzar** Magdiel Iram  

Also see 1 Chr 1:43-50. These clan names are also names of regions: *Elah is the southern most point on the Gulf of Aqaba (Dt 2:8); ** Mibzar means "fortification" (see Ps 108:10); + Pinon is commonly identified with Feinan, a copper rich area east of the Arabah about 20 miles south of the Dead Sea. In remembrance of Esau son of Isaac, God's command to the children of Israel concerning Edom was: You must not regard the Edomite as detestable, for he is your brother... (Dt 23:7/8a).

Genesis 37:1: But Jacob settled in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

Question: How was it that Jacob was left in possession of the land in Canaan? What was ironic about Jacob's clear claim to the "promised land"?
Answer: It was God's providence that Jacob was left in possession of the land. It is ironic that despite Isaac's preference for Esau and despite all Jacob's devious conniving to obtain the Abrahamic promises, Esau, of his own free will, choose to abandon his claim to Canaan in favor of the land of his father-in-law, the land of the Horites of Seir, leaving Jacob/Israel in full possession of the land promised to Abraham.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: How could the sons of Israel behave in such a barbaric manner if they were the people chosen by God? Did they ever pay a price for their sins at Shechem? See CCC 1021-22; 1038-41; 1868-69; 2268.
Answer: God will not choose Israel to be His holy people until the theophany at Sinai (Ex 19). At this time in the Genesis narrative He has chosen the descendants of Abraham to be the bearers of the "promised seed. It is a choice that is not based on the righteousness of Isaac or Jacob or Jacob's sons but entirely on the righteousness of Abraham (Gen 26:3-5; 35:11). The actions of the sons of Israel only illustrate that all men are sinners and all men are in need of salvation. Even when Israel became God's bride at Sinai she turned from a faithful bride to a "harlot", running after the false gods of other nations (Ez 16:15-22). The Church, in the Old Covenant and in the New, was called to be a sinless bride, but the Church, old and new, has always been a sinless bride who is full of sinners. A few flawed or even wicked men cannot derail God's plan for mankind's salvation, even if they are part of the assembly of leaders He has ordained. Judas's betrayal of Christ did not undo the authority of the Apostles as Christ's representatives and the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant people of God just as a collection of sinful, pedophile priests cannot negate the authority Christ entrusted to priests of faith and righteousness. Nor can a handful of bad Popes in the 2,000 year history of the Church diminish the Magisterium of the Catholic Church's authority to rule Christ's Kingdom of Heaven on earth (bind and loose = Mt 16:19; 18:18; Jn 20:22-23) in His name. The sons of Jacob were held accountable for their sins as all men and women are held accountable. Even if human justice is negligent, divine judgment is inevitable.

Endnotes:

1. Shechem: Ancient Shechem was a prosperous Horite city during the era of the Patriarchs (Hori in Hebrew but also called Hivites in the O.T.; Gen 10:17; 34:2). The city was located in central Palestine at the site of modern Tell Balatah, about 40 miles north of Jerusalem and about 1 mile east of Nablus. Shechem was situated between Mt. Gerizim to the south and Mt. Ebal to the north, the two highest mountains in central Palestine, probably giving Shechem its name, sekem, meaning "back" or "shoulder." This was a strategically significant location at the entrance of the mountain pass which was intersected by the main road that went from Jerusalem into northern Palestine. Shechem was also situated at the entrance to four extremely rich agricultural areas blessed by many natural springs: to the east of the city was the Plain of 'Askar, a broad valley that runs east from Shechem toward the Jordan River, the et-Tahtani and el-Gharbi Plains provided the city with an area of fertile valley-bottom land, and the Plain of Mukhna, which entered the 'Askar Plain from the south, gave access to the road to Jerusalem running the length of the plain. A city existed on this site in central Canaan from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Evidence that Shechem was an important Canaanite commercial center is found in the frequent mention of the city in Egyptian diplomatic correspondences from as early as the 19th century BC. In Joshua chapter 24 Joshua called upon Israel's tribes to recommit to the covenant with God at Shechem, and in Acts 7:16 St. Stephen referred to a place near Shechem (Sychem) as the burial site of the remains of Joseph son of Jacob/Israel (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, "Shechem," page 797; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, "Shechem (place)," pages 1174-75). For more information on the Horites see footnote 3.

2. Bethel is about fourteen miles north of Jerusalem near the modern city of Beitin. Bethel was named as a site of assembly for the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the period of the Judges: see Judg 20:18, 26; 21:2 (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, "Bethel," pages 91, 797).

3. The Horites (in Hebrew Hori), also known by their Greek name Hurrians, and the O.T. designation Hivites (the name Hivite, see Gen 10:17, is a corruption of the name "Horite"). The Horites/Hurrians were a people of western Asia in the 2nd millennium BC who migrated into Mesopotamia. Hurrian was their ethnic name, and Sabartu was the geographical name designating Horite/Hurrian occupation in Mesopotamia north of Akkad. Archaeologists believe that the Horites/Hurrians were neither Semitic nor Indo-European, but Armenoid (coming from the ethnic peoples of ancient Armenia). They entered Mesopotamia in the 22nd century BC and migrated into Syria and Palestine. They were widely disbursed through Mesopotamia, Syria and Canaan by the send half of the 1st millennium BC. They founded independent kingdoms in Northern Mesopotamia and Northern Syria circa the 1500 BC. The largest and most influential Hurrian kingdom was Mitanni which extended from the Zagros region to the Mediterranean and from Lake Van in Armenia to Assyria. In the time of the Patriarchs the Horites/Hurrians also occupied the hill country of Seir in what became Edom (Gen 14:6). Intermarrying with the Edomites (Esau's wife Oholibamah was a Horite), they were dispossessed by Edomites (Gen 36:6-8; Dt 2:12, 22). The residents of Shechem (Gen 34:2) were Horites/Hivites (McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, "Hurrians," pages 379-80).

4. Jewish Study Bible, page 72, note vs. 28.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2009 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references for this lesson:

Gen 34:25-31 1021-22; 1038-41; 1868-69; 2268.
Gen 35:22 2388-89