Genesis 34: Circumcision, and “That’s messed up!”

January 11, 2012

In Genesis 34 there is a little story about Dinah, the sister of Simeon and Levi being sexually assaulted by Shechem. Once this happens Hamor and Shechem seek to make things right by having Jacob give his daughter to Shechem for a wife, and in this same way they will give their daughters and sisters as wives to the sons of Jacob, and the two people will become one. The sons of Jacob require the men to become circumcised first, claiming that they cannot be defiled by uncircumcised people. Shechem and Hamor agree, gladly, and tell the people to become circumcised so they may be at peace with the sons of Jacob, and intermarry. Sadly, the sons of Jacob use this ruse to kill all of the men, and then to plunder the city. And then the story ends like this:

34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought ruin on me by making me a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land – among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I am few in number; they will join forces against me and attack me, and both I and my family will be destroyed!” 34:31 But Simeon and Levi replied, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?”

Two things came to me while reading this story. First, circumcision is not so much an act you do, but rather something you become. They didn’t just go circumcise themselves, and that was it, but by doing the act of circumcision, it became a description of their being, much like someone would call a person an American, or Russian, or African. Circumcision was more about becoming something, much less just having something done. It was a way of setting themselves apart for something, rather than just an act. That fascinated me.

And secondly, and more importantly, they full on kill all the men and then take their wives and animals anyways! That’s messed up! Or at least, that is our response. But what I find so interesting is that ending to that story. So much detail is given, so much description about how they kill the men and then take their women and their cattle, and yet the story ends with Jacob afraid of his honor among the people, fear that because they are small they will be wiped out. But the sons reply, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?” I feel like some men would agree with them, that they were right to defend their sister’s honor, and that Jacob was just being a pansy, more worried about his own life than to care about his daughter. And others would condemn the actions of the brothers for murdering the people that attempted to make things right, and even show how the sons are deceiving people around them just like their father.

But the author of the story? He almost doesn’t seem to say a word. He just reports Jacob’s speech, the sons rebuttal, and then leaves it there. He continues on to the next story. It kind of makes us wonder what is really going on by telling us this story.



Genesis 26 in John 4?

January 11, 2012

Whenever I read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well I always get a little bit curious about the reference to Jacob’s well. What well is it, and why does that matter to John? But I stumbled across something a little interesting the other day while reading in Genesis in the original Hebrew:

26:19 When Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well with fresh flowing water there

What is so interesting is that in the original Hebrew the word for “fresh flowing” is actually the word living. The sentence literally says “a well waters living.” And what is funny is that many commentators of John point out that Jesus use of the phrase, “living water” is also the same phrase for fresh flowing water, thus a possible reason for the Samaritan woman’s confusion. Now albeit this story is about Isaac, and yet the parallels (and reversals) are just too interesting:

In Genesis the servants go out and find the living water whereas in John it is the Samaritans and not the disciples

In Genesis Isaac quarrels with the inhabitants whereas in John Jesus actually converses and calls them to him

Both stories have a child of promise dealing with wells

Isaac goes to Beer Sheba and worships God in that place, whereas in John Jesus claims that time is coming when worshippers will worship in spirit and truth

There is the promise of descendants that was given to Abraham, but in John we see that this is truly the son of the promise

It is hard to imagine that John isn’t in some way referencing back to Isaac’s own quarrels over living waters. And by doing so, we see that Jesus reverses the division that was established long ago in Genesis.