My Mum's Ancient Family Bible

My Mum's Ancient Family Bible
Kept in the garage of all places for so many years, it's finally been put to good use.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Statuatory "Humbling" (Genesis 32-34)

Finally I've come across one of the things in the Bible that I've been looking forward to: bizarre dietary restrictions (and reasons for). In Genesis 32, Jacob is returning to his brother Esau to be his servant (you'll recall that Esau is his people's leader because he tricked his blind father into naming him his successor). At some point in the journey, Jacob sends his wife, children and servants ahead of him, and all of a sudden, this guy appears and starts to wrestle with him: "And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day" (Gen 32:24). There's no more context here than what's in the Bible. Amazing. The guy realizes (after many hours) that he will not win the spontaneous wrestling match that he initiated so he does the standard thing and touches the "hollow of his [Jacob's] thigh," which I'm guessing is just south of the groin proper. "Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh on the sinew of the hip" (Gen 32:32). Jacob believes that this guy was actually God in human form (which I'm realizing is all over the Old Testament) but then again, that might just be what he has to tell himself to make it less homoerotic in his mind.

Another thing that's all over the Old Testament is the number seven, and I wonder why. When Jacob meets Esau in Genesis 33, he bows to him seven times, which seems like overkill to me.

Jacob and Esau find themselves in the city of Shechem (in Canaan). Dinah, one of Jacob's daughters through Leah wanders off somewhere and is spotted by Shechem himself who takes a shine to her and - as the Bible puts it - humbles her. What a spectacular euphemism. I'm starting to wonder if there is an equivalent word for rape in the Bible's original language. I'm guessing no. What's happened to Dinah is pretty awkward for everyone so Shechem's father Hamor tries to smooth things over by talking some bullshit about how his son's soul longed for hers and that they should just go ahead and get married. Jacob's objection to this proposition has little to do with the fact that Shechem is a rapist and everything to do with his uncircumcised penis. So as long as he gets circumcised, Shechem can marry Dinah and the families can be united. Great. 

Surprisingly, Dinah's brothers stick up for her after she's forced to marry her rapist (why not before?). They go into the city of Shechem with their swords drawn and kill all the males. All of them, including Shechem and Hamor. And they also swipe a bunch of stuff. Must be nice to have brothers who'll do that for you.

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