Today’s reading begins with the defiling of Dinah and concludes with a listing of the descendants of Esau.
Dinah is Israel’s only daughter and although the term isn’t used in the Bible, she is raped by Shechem. As the story goes, Shechem then falls in love with Dinah and asks his father to negotiate with Jacob for her hand in marriage. The series of events greatly and rightly angers Jacob’s sons and they seek out a way to take exact vengeance on Shechem for this act of violence against their sister.
The deal that Jacob’s sons make with Shechem and his father Hamor is that if all of the men of Hamor and Shechem become circumcised, then Shechem may marry their sister. Although Jacob’s sons are dealing deceitfully with Hamor and Shechem, the text makes it apparent that Hamor and Shechem intend to take advantage of the riches of Jacob and his family.
Jacob’s sons never intended to let Shechem marry their sister and while he and all of his men are recovering from their circumcisions, they raid their city and slay every single male. In addition to slaying all of the men, they take all of the livestock and riches of the city. Jacob is rightfully frightened of the backlash from the surrounding peoples and he takes his family and flees for Bethel as God instructs him. God protects Jacob and his family while they travel and it during this trip that God comes to Jacob a second time and tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob and shall instead be called Israel.
Israel and his family don’t stay at Bethel, and on their journey to their ancestral homeland Rachel gives birth to Benjamin. Unfortunately she dies while giving birth and is buried outside of Ephrath which is also called Bethlehem. Israel completes his travels and settles at Mamre where his father Isaac still lived. It is after Israel’s return to his father Isaac that shortly after Isaac passes away at the age of 180.
The reading concludes with the recording of the generations of Esau. Although Esau doesn’t play a large role in the Biblical narrative, a recording of his generations is placed in the Bible. I don’t really understand the reason for this other than he was a son of Isaac, because it’s clear that Esau was despised by his family for marrying Canaanite women. Looking in a Bible commentary from John MacArthur, he notes that this genealogy reflects back on the word of the LORD given to Rebekah in Genesis 25:23 that:
“Two nations are in you womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
The telling of the story of Israel (Jacob) would be incomplete without identifying the second nation born of Isaac and future conflicts and history will be told using this genealogy.