Gen. 32-34 (what is honor?)

The three stories in today’s passage are Jacob’s return to Canaan and running into Esau.  They have history.  In the middle of that narrative Jacob wrestles with someone and gets a new name: Israel, one who wrestles with God.  Finally, after settling in a location, Dinah is “defiled” by a local prince and so Lea’s sons massacre a town and all of the brothers loot what’s left.  Simeon & Levi defend their actions as being a defense of Dinah’s honor.

It is hard to divorce reading a passage from ones modern sensibilities.  Esau seems, by far and away, the most admirable character here.  He accepts his brother.  (P.S. he is also not an anti-Hittite racist.)  Jacob uses more tricks in splitting up his family to make extra special sure that Esau will not take–kind of well deserved–revenge on him.  Then the brothers trick Schechem’s family in getting circumcised only to fall on them while they are healing.  Then they loot the village.  Doesn’t sound noble. 

Interesting Note: More angel inflation.  Jacob is traditionally reported as wrestling with an angel, even identified in the Spanish translation as “Jacob lucha con un angel.”  But if you read the very short passage (here) you will find no reference to an angel.  In the narrative, the person is called a “man,” and Jacob names the place as where he wrestled with God.  Curiously, the English translation titles the passage “Jacob Wrestles With God.”  Gen. 32:22-31.  Of course, the section titles are all added after the fact and not a part of any original or nearly original manuscript.

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