Genesis: The Stay in Shechem and the Rape of Dinah

Genesis 33:18-35:5

Jacob settles in the land of Canaan, outside the city of Shechem. He traveled to the city and purchased the land which he settled for one hundred pieces of money. On his land he erected an altar to El, the god of the early Israeli religion.

This story offer an opportunity to raise an important point. The identity of the biblical god changes throughout the story. The god of genesis is replaced as the tribe of Israel changes. The stories of Jacob regard the god El, who is eventually supplanted in later stories. Even that god is eventually replaced by a deified man, but that is getting too far ahead of ourselves.

Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, went to visit the women of the city. While in the city, the son of Hamor and prince of the Hivites, Shechem, rapes her. (The annotation states that some scholars believe the Hebrew verbs used imply that the intercourse was consensual but illicit, which would still be a defilement of Dinah.) Shechem falls in love with Dinah and asked his father, Hamor, to persuade Jacob to allow him to marry her. Hamor meets Jacob, who knows of Shechem’s actions. Hamor discusses his son’s intention to marry Dinah with Jacob while his sons are out in the fields. When they return and hear what has happened to their sister, they are outraged. Hamor protests his sons affection for their sister and hopes to create a covenant with their family. Hamor hoped to marry all the sons of his region to Israel’s daughters, and for Israel’s sons to marry the his daughters. He pledged to pay any price named by the Israelis. Their demand: foreskin. They required that all Hivite men cut off the skin covering the glands of their penis before they marry any woman of Israel. By disfiguring their genitals, they would then become Israelites.

Hamor and his son agreed to this demand. With haste, Shechem cut off his foreskin to betroth Dinah. Hamor and Shechem then spoke with the men of their city and told them that the Israelis are friends. They wished to intermarry, but on one condition: all men of the city must be circumcised. They told their men, “Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours?” (Genesis 34:23) Clearly illustrating that the intent of the Hivites was to assimilate the Israelites and acquire their property. With such a tempting offer before them, the men all agreed to the demand.

Three days after disfiguring their genitals, while the men were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, entered the city of Shechem. As the direct brothers of Dinah, they felt compelled to avenge the violation of the family’s honor, so they drew their sword and began to massacre the men of Shechem. They entered the house of Shechem, murdered him and Hamor, and retrieved Dinah. Jacob’s other sons came to the city and saw the men slain. They then proceeded to plunder the city as their sister had been defiled.

Upon returning home, Jacob scolded Simeon and Levi for what they did. He feared the ramifications of their actions because the news of their actions would surely turn the Canannites and the Perizzites hostile toward them. They responded to their father saying, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” Touché. God then tells Jacob to return and settle in Bethel, and to make an altar to the god that spoke with him there. (Is that not the same god that is speaking to him now?) Jacob then gathers his family, and tells them to give him all their idols of foreign gods. He then buries them under an oak tree, and they leave Shechem.

The actions of Jacob’s sons begin the fulfillment of Noah’s curse on Ham, the father of the Canaanites. Jacob is the descendant of Shem, who Noah said would make the Canaanites his slaves. Jacob’s sons perpetuate the feud between these two families by massacring the men of the city. While Shechem’s actions toward Dinah are deplorable, if he raped her, it does not justify the massacre of all the men of the city. And according to biblical law, Shechem did as he must. In the Bible, the punishment of a rapist is to marry the woman he raped and to pay the father for damages done to his property, that is his daughter. All of which Shechem did. Today, no one would force the victim of rape to marry their rapist because that is vile, yet those who believe the Bible provides us the laws to govern our lives would have to subscribe to such a detestable law.

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Genesis: The Table of Nations

Genesis 10:1-32

The story, “The Table of Nations”, is the account of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their sons. This passage first describes the lineage of Japheth, the Japhethites. Noah says in the previous story that Japheth and his descendants would live in the tents of the people of Shem. The only additional description we are given in “The Table of Nations”, is that the descendants of Japheth’s son Javan are maritime people who each have their own language.

Next, the account of the sons of Ham, the Hamites. The son of Ham, Cush, is the father of Nimrod, a mighty warrior and great hunter before the Lord. “That is why it is said,  ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord’”. This is not the definition I associate with Nimrod. I did a little research on the word ‘nimrod’ and found that the official definition is: a skilled hunter. It wasn’t until the later half of the 20th century did youths try to change the definition to mean an idiot. This story claims that Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh are the centers of his kingdom. This passage says that from this land he went to Assyria, and accredit him with the founding of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen. The mention of Assyria gives us a time period to attach with this tale. By 1500 BCE Mesopotamia was split into two distinct political zones: Babylon in the south and Assyria to the north. The city of Nineveh is found within the northern part of the Assyrian homeland south of modern-day Armenia, where the last story said the ark had settled. An interesting point to mention, the people of Assyria were polytheistic, and believed that their king was the earthly representative of the gods.

The next son of Ham mentioned is Mizraim. A footnote in the NIV version of the Bible says that Mizraim may refer to Egypt, or the ruler of Egypt. Based on the time period we are given from the mention of Assyria, more accurately this is probably a reference to the Hyksos. The Hyksos, which translates to “Princes of Foreign Lands”, were a semitic people from the Syria-Palestine region who moved into the Nile Delta and conquered Egypt around 1640 BCE. The Hyksos had superior military technology compared to the Egyptians. The Hyksos used horse-drawn war chariots to defeat the Egyptians, but they were not the first to develop this technology; the Hittites get credit for that, but we will discuss these people later. The Hyksos married into the Egyptians and adopted their religion–polytheistic–and maintained all other aspects of the Egyptian culture. The Egyptians always saw them as outsiders though, and by 1532 BCE a native dynasty had removed them from power.

The third of Ham’s four sons mentioned is Canaan. Canaan’s firstborn is Sidon. Sidon was an important city-state on the coast of the Mediterranean sea in the land of Phoenicia. The other ten of Ham’s sons are the Hittites. The Hittites were the most formidable power in the region, and were the foremost power in Anatolia from approximately 1700 to 1200 BCE. The Hittites were technologically advance. They were the first to smith Iron in the region and kept this knowledge a secret. They also developed the horse-drawn war chariot, as I discussed earlier. These people adopted the myths, legends, and styles of art and architecture from the Mesopotamians.

Of the descendants of Shem, the Semites, two names stand out. One is Elam. Elam were a people who lived in the Zagros Mountains on the border of modern-day Iraq and Iran. The other name that could be of importance is Asshur, which after doing some research, is an alternative spelling of Ashur. Ashur is the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. This is a very interesting point to make. The Assyrian people were polytheistic, and believed that their king was the representative of the gods, as I have already mentioned. What was the name of their chief god? Ashur.

This made me think of the previous passage when Noah says, “‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem!’”. Who is the God of Shem? If his son Asshur (Ashur) is the founder of the capital city of the Assyrian Empire who believe Ashur is the chief god of their polytheistic religion, then one has to wonder.

Already it is apparent that these people–the descendants of Noah’s Sons in particular–do not believe in one deity, they don’t even believe in the same deity, or even the same deity as the modern Judaeo-Christian’s do, Yahweh. Yet, Judaeo-Christians still hold these books as “proof” of the God Yahweh and as “proof” against the evidence of science, despite the fact that they are representative of a different God(s) from a different culture(s).

Next time I will be looking at the Tower of Babel.

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Genesis: God’s Covenant With Noah & The Sons of Noah

Genesis 9:1-29

In this post I will be looking at both the story “God’s Covenant With Noah” and “The Sons of Noah”. The first story begins where the last left off. After the waters had receded and Noah sacrificed clean animals to God, God makes a covenant with Noah and all that lived in the ark. God tells Noah and his family be fruitful, and that everything that lives and moves is food, on one condition. God commands that humanity must never “eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it”. So if you like to eat meat on the rare side, you are displeasing God and be wary of his wrath. God also gives an edict in regards to murder.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

This is where the justification for the death penalty comes from in the scripture. According to this, if one person commits murder, then it is justified to murder that person.

God makes the covenant with man he will never cut off life by the waters, and he will never destroy the Earth again with a flood. As a symbol of his promise, according to this story, God creates the rainbow to symbolize this promise. God says that the rainbow will remind him that he promised to never destroy the Earth by a flood again. Now that we no longer live in the Bronze Age, and can actually explain how rainbows form, this explanation is void. We now know, thanks to science, that rainbows form because of the Sun’s light shinning on water droplets in the Earth’s atmosphere which causes the spectrum of light appear in the sky.

The second story, “The Sons of Noah”, describes the fate of Noah’s sons. According to the Bible, all the people of the Earth are descendants of Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham is the father of the people of Canaan.  Noah proceeds to plant a vineyard and grow grapes to make wine. Noah gets drunk off the wine one day and passes out naked in his tent. Ham sees his father’s nakedness and tells his brothers. His brothers walk in backwards, to avoid seeing Noah’s naked body, with a cloth, and lay it across their father’s naked body. When Noah awakes from his drunken stupor, he learns what Ham had done. The punishment of Ham seeing his drunken father’s naked body is the subjugation of him and his people as slaves to his brothers. This is the first example of the Bible’s promotion of slavery, a practice that secular philosophers have deemed immoral. Noah curses Ham, and he says:

“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers, . . . Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.” (Genesis 10:25-27)

These are the actions of the man God favored above all other humans. He spared the life of this man, according to this book, and drowned who knows how many people who would have lived on the Earth at this time. This man is a drunkard and a man who condones slavery, on his own son at that. No moral being would favorably look upon the actions of Noah, yet this is the measure of character God views dignified. I am by no means censuring drinking; I particularly enjoy to indulge in my beloved rye and relish the languid, stupor that results. Still, I would not be angered if I learned someone had found me naked while I was passed out. I would be embarrassed, ashamed, but not angry at them. I would accept responsibility for my own actions, not condemn whoever found me to slavery. It is clear, hopefully to all, that Noah is not the man to draw moral inspiration from. This story ends with the death of Noah at the age of 950 years old.

Next time I will look at “The Table of Nations”.

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