Monthly Archives: November 2011

The consequences of having big dreams

Genesis 37

Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son. One day he has a dream in which he and his brothers were bundling grain, when his bundle floated up, and his brothers bundles formed a circle around his and the bowed down to it. His brothers already did not like him, because he was the favored son, and this dream made them like him even less. Joseph then had another dream in which the son, the moon, and eleven stars all bowed down to him. This angered his family even more. One day Jacob sends Joseph out to find his brothers who are tending their flocks. His brothers spotted him before he them, and they plotted to kill him. Reuben objects, and instead of killing Joseph, suggests that they throw him into a cistern instead. When Joseph finally meets them, they strip him of his tunic and thrown him into a cistern. They did not kill him, but instead conspired to sell him to the Ishmaelites. Reuben went back to fetch Joseph, however he was no longer in the cistern. The brothers dipped Jacobs tunic in animal blood and sent it to Jacob, their father. Jacob was inconsolable. It turns out, however, that Joseph was pulled from the well and sold to one of the Pharos officials in Egypt.

Continue reading


More biblical polygyny

Genesis 36

This chapter lists the descendants of Esau, who apparently also now goes by Edom. What little narrative is in this chapter tells us that Esau moves to Seir, because the land cannot sustain both he and Jacob. Esau also marries 3 women, one of whom is his cousin.

This does mean that I can add to the list of biblically supported non-“traditional” marriage types with this entry:

  • A man and three women, one of whom is his cousin. (Genesis 36:2-3)

The rest of this chapter might be of interest to those who enjoy biblical ancestry or building family trees, but I am not.

Your name is Israel, don’t make me tell you again…

Genesis 35

God tells Jacob to return to the place that they met when Jacob was running away from Esau. At this location God wants Jacob to settle and build an alter. Jacob has all his people get rid of the depictions they had of foreign gods, as well as their earrings before they leave. Terror falls on the nearby towns so that nobody follows Jacob and his people as they leave. At Bethel, Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse dies. God then shows up and again tells Jacob that his name is now Israel, and renews the promise of land and many descendants that he had made with Abraham and Isaac. Rachel then has a child, whom she names Ben-oni. Rachel dies during childbirth, and Jacob (Israel) names his new son Benjamin. Israel’s (Jacob’s) oldest son, Reuben, sleeps with Bilhah, one of Israel’s concubines. Israel then returns finally to his father’s home. At the age of 180, Isaac dies, and is buried by his sons Esau and Jacob (Israel).

Continue reading

Rape does not justify mass murder

Genesis 34

Dinah, Jacob’s daughter goes out to meet the local women. Unfortunately for her, Shechem sees her and is so struck by her beauty that he rapes her. Shechem then goes and asks his father, Hamor, do get Dinah as his wife. Hamor visits Jacob, and explains that Shechem has his heart set on Dinah, and would Jacob hive her to Shechem as a wife? Hamor tries to sweeten the deal by asking Jacob to intermarry with their people, and to live amongst them. Shechem then begs Jacob, saying he will do whatever it takes, and pay any bridal price, just to have Dinah as his wife. Jacobs sons replied that if all of the males among Hamor circumcise themselves they will let Shechem marry Dinah is, and they will intermarry and integrate with their people. Hamor and Shechem succeed in getting all of them men in their town to be circumcised. Three days later, while all the men were still in pain, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi slaughtered all of the men, and took Dinah back from the house of Shechem. Jacobs other sons then sacked the town, taking livestock, wealth, women, and children, looting the whole place. Jacob gets mad at Simeon and Levi for causing trouble, but they reply “Should our sister be treated like a prostitute?”

Continue reading

Mental illness and the concept of normal

This post is in response to JT Eberhard, and his call for the skeptical community to address mental illness. If you have not yet, please go watch his talk from Skepticon IV.

What is normal, psychologically speaking? The funny thing about this question is that many people you meet who qualify as having a mental illness would probably be described as normal if you met them on the street. It’s not until extremes are hit, that people usually say that someone is abnormal. These extremes usually come with helpful labels that aid us in identifying what is “wrong” with a person, be it cancer, the flu, depression or schizophrenia. These are labels that many people receive, and are tossed about in society often with the underlying context that all of these labels are dichotomous, yes/no, you either have this label or you don’t. But how is it decided whether or not an individual receives a particular label?
Continue reading

A nice chapter made gloomy by footnotes

Genesis 33
Jacob and Esau finally meet, and Esau greets his brother with embracing, kisses and tears. Esau tries to turn down the gifts Jacob sent ahead to him in the previous chapter, but Jacob convinces him to accept. Esau asks Jacob to return with him, but Jacob says that he must travel more slowly, because of his children and livestock. Esau heads home, and Jacob breaks for camp, and then builds a home in that spot.

Continue reading

Wrestling with strange men in the night

Genesis 32
Jacob sends an envoy ahead of him to tell his brother that he has returned. The envoy comes back and tells Jacob that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob then splits his camp in two, figuring that Esau can only attack one, leaving the other to get away. Then he sends ahead of him many animals as gifts for his brother. Finally, Jacob moves his immediate family across a river, leaving him alone. Then a man appears and wrestles with Jacob until sunrise. The mystery man, unable to win, dislocates Jacobs hip. The man asks to be let go, and Jacob refuses until the mystery man blesses him. The mystery man then asks Jacob’s name, then tells him his new name is Israel. Jacob then asks for the mystery mans name, who asks “why do you ask my name?”. The mystery man then blesses Jacob, and Jacob named the place Peniel (or Penuel, as it’s spelled in the next paragraph). Jacob then limps away, and we are told that this is why Israelites don’t eat the sciatic muscle of the hip socket.

Continue reading