Genesis 33-36: Esau and Jacob reconcile, massacre of the Hivites

Esau and Jacob reconcile, with Jacob and his family bowing low to Esau and Esau graciously accepting Jacob’s gifts.  However, Jacob does not agree to live with Esau, and instead builds a house at Succoth.  Dinah goes out to visit the daughters of the land, but Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite rapes her.  Hamor begs Jacob and his sons to give Dinah in marriage to Shechem; Jacob’s sons agree on the condition that every male in Hamor’s town circumcises themselves.  Hamor agrees, and males in the entire town circumcise themselves.  Three days later, Simeon and Levi (two of Jacob’s sons) massacre all the males in the town, plundering its wealth and kidnapping its women and children.

God tells Jacob to build an altar at Bethel.  His household give him all the alien gods they had, for Jacob to bury.  He builds an altar and names it El-bethel (“The God of Bethel”).  God appears to him again, naming him Israel.  On Israel’s journey, three people die: Rebekah’s nurse Deborah, Rachel (who died while living birth to Benjamin), and Isaac.  Chapter 36 is a very detailed genealogy of Esau–that is, Edom.

Commentary:

  • Jacob opposes the massacre committed by his sons, not for moral reasons, but because it might unite the Canaanites against him (34:30).
  • Chapter 35 is very disorganized.  In 35:1, God tells Jacob to go to Bethel, but in 35:15, “Jacob gave the site, where God had spoken to him, the name of Bethel.”  In 35:9, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, but God had already changed his name to Israel under different circumstances in 32:29.
  • 35:19 reports that Rachel was buried on the road to Bethlehem, but 1 Samuel 10:2 places her tomb in the territory of Benjamin.  This could be due to the importance that Bethlehem eventually attained in Israelite religion.
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