SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 22 Genesis 35-36

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis** 35-36**. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3
Genesis 4
Genesis 5-6
Genesis 7-9:17
Genesis 9:18-10:32
Genesis 11
Genesis 12-13
Genesis 14-15
Genesis 16
Genesis 17
Genesis 18-19
Genesis 20-22
Genesis 23-24
Genesis 25
Genesis 26:1-33
Genesis 26:34-Genesis 28:9
Genesis 30:25-31:55
Genesis 32
Genesis 33
Genesis 34

[Genesis 35

New International Version (NIV)](

Jacob Returns to Bethel

35 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. ” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty ; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,

Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:

Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:

Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Genesis 36

Esau’s Descendants

36 This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

2 Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— 3 also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

4 Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, 5 and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

6 Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. 7 Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. 8 So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

9 This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.

10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:

Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

11 The sons of Eliphaz:

Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.

12 Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13 The sons of Reuel:

Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

14 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:

Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

15 These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:
The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:

Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

17 The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:

Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

18 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:

Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

19 These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.

22 The sons of Lotan:

Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.

23 The sons of Shobal:

Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.

24 The sons of Zibeon:

Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

25 The children of Anah:

Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

26 The sons of Dishon:

Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.

27 The sons of Ezer:

Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.

28 The sons of Dishan:

Uz and Aran.

29 These were the Horite chiefs:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.

The Rulers of Edom

31 These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:

32 Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.

33 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.

34 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

35 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

36 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

37 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

38 When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

39 When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

40 These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:
Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.
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It is interesting that only after the massacre by Jacob’s sons of that town of Caananites who were willing to be circumcised so that their prince could marry Jacob’s daughter, did Jacob order his followers to get rid of other gods.

Yes, interesting indeed. However, it’s stronger than that. Back in Gen 28:20, after the ladder dream, Jacob had vowed at Bethel that, if he returned safely from his exile, “the Lord shall be my God.” So, it’s after the massacre at Shechem and before going back to Bethel, he formally rejects foreign gods.

By the way, this is the first indication in the bible of a tension between the monotheism of Israel and the polytheism of the surrounding peoples. The term “foreign gods” elohai ha-nakor always means non-Israelite. These could be the household gods taken from the spoils of Shechem in the last chapter, or the terafim that Rachel stole from Laban back in 31:19. Up till now, such household gods seem to have been tolerated; henceforth, not so much.

At Bethel, Jacob has another theophany and his name is changed to Israel. If you believe in multiple authors, this is P-version of the name-change; we had the E-version in the last chapter with the wrestling story. The two versions are different. The E-version name change is given by the nighttime assailant, some sort of divine being (angel or demon); the P-version comes directly from God. In any case, we will have Jacob referred to now and again as Israel.

The blessing in verses 11-13 parallels precisely the blessing on Abraham in Gen 17:1-8:
• “I am God Almighty” [same as in 17:1]
• “Be fertile and increase” [compare to 17:2, 6: “I will make you exceedingly numerous… I will make you exceedingly fertile”]
• “A nation and community of nations shall come from you” [compare to 17:4-6: “You shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”]
• “Kings will be among your descendents” [compare to 17:6: “Kings shall come forth from you”]
• “The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you and I will give this land to your descendents after you” [compare to 17:8: I assign the land … to you and your offspring to come.]

So we have the covenant and blessings with Abraham continued through his grandson Jacob, now Israel.

There are three deaths in this chapter.
• -Rebekah’s nurse Deborah, in 35:8 – The deaths of women are only rarely reported; we are told of the deaths of Rachel and Sarah, but not of Leah or Rebekah. The nurse has been only briefly mentioned before, in Genesis 24:59, but not named then. There has been considerable speculation, but we’re left with a question mark. Presumably there were oral traditions about Deborah, known to the ancients but not included in the Torah and so lost to us.

• Rachel (v 16-20) dies in childbirth giving birth to Benjamin. She names him Ben-oni, understood to be “son of my trouble” and Jacob replaces it with the better name “son of my right hand” or possibly “son of my old age.” The death of Rachel is critical: she is not there to help Jacob to be a better parent, and so the resentment and rivalry among the sons will become … well, difficult.

• Isaac dies at the end of the chapter. Isaac lived “old and full of years” – the same phrase used of his father Abraham in Gen 25:8. He is buried by his sons Esau and Jacob (named in birth order.)

In verse 22, we have another sexual encounter. Following Rachel’s death, Reuben “went out and slept with” Bilah, Rachel’s maid who gave birth to two of Jacob’s sons (Dan and Napthali). (There may not have been much sleeping involved.) The use of “went out” to me implies this was deliberately planned on Reuben’s part, not just an impassioned sexual encounter. Bilah is here called “concubine” rather than “maidservant” or “wife.” There’s lots of interesting speculation, in part because the story is so brief (one sentence), without explanation and seemingly without consequences. Jacob again seems to be silent when he should be outraged (there is no mention of him berating Reuben at this point, but he’ll bring it up many years later on his deathbed.)
Now, why would Reuben, ah, sleep with his father’s wife?
• Reuben is first-born. It was customary at the time for the eldest son to inherit everything of his father’s, including his wives. (Later, Leviticus will forbid a son to have sex with his father’s wife.) So, one explanation is that Reuben is prematurely claiming his inheritance.

• Bilah was Rachel’s maid, whom she gave to Jacob as cowife. By violating her, Reuben makes sure that Bilah cannot take position of chief wife now that Rachel is dead. He resented his mother’s humiliation, he argued for his mother’s status back in 30:14ff. So, another explanation is that he is protecting his mother and her status, that Jacob cannot favor Bilah over Leah.

• Taking the concubine of a subordinate is a symbol of power. This happens in 2 Samuel 3:7-8. Outside the bible, in the Iliad, this is why Achilles is so enraged when Agamemnon takes his concubine. Thus, Reuben could be asserting his position as firstborn.

In short, Reuben is both protecting his mother and challenging his father. This is an act of defiance, not sex. Ultimately, Jacob will rebuke Reuben (in Gen 49:3-4), and it will cost Reuben his birth-right. This is made explicit I Chronicles 5:1: Reuben was “the first-born of Israel, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph.”

Back to the text: we then have a list of Jacob’s twelve sons, a mystic number. This ends the stories about Jacob as an independent patriarch; in the remaining information about Jacob, his story is wound up with Joseph’s.


We start with the line of Esau; those who accept multiple authors attribute verse 1 – 30 to the P-author. There are some contradictions with other P-sources, so perhaps the Redactor made some additions. Note that, in verses 6-7, Esau’s clan is assigned the land later called Edom. Similarly, Ishmael was the “other” son who was also given a land. The Torah has a clear concept that every people is entitled to its own land.

Verses 31 – 43 are usually assigned to the J-author.

There’s a lot of scholarship about these names, clans, and kings; scholars attempt to correlate these names to other records of other peoples and to the historical record outside the bible. Frankly, I find it pretty dry and not worth commenting.

Having sex with a father/ruler’s concubine as a symbol of assertion of power or proclaiming oneself the new ruler is a constant in the OT.

The famous examples, albeit historically much later, are:

(1) Abishag (David’s bed-warmer, literally) being sought after for marriage by Adonijah after David’s death - which caused Solomon to have him executed for his presumption! Solomon took it as a given that having relations with his father’s concubine = having royal ambitions (1 Kings 2:17-25).

(2) Another example is the rebellion of Absalom, who raped David’s concubines “in the sight of all Israel” on the roof of David’s palace, specifically to cement his position as usurper. (2 Samuel 16:22).

New Thread for Genesis 37