You will find an introduction and outline of Genesis, here.
A prayer of John Calvin to use before you read:
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
III. The Story of Jacob 25:19-36:43
C. 31:55-36:43 Jacob and Esau Again
31:1-17 Jacob and Esau meet: Jacob divides his family such that those most important to him meet Esau last. Notice that Jacob, lame from his divine encounter, goes alone to meet Esau and Esau runs to greet Jacob. What does Jacob’s comment in V10 have to do (if anything) with Gen 32:22-32? Why do you think Jacob declines Esau’s offer to travel together (v 12)?
33:18-34:31 The Rape of Dinah: A story of marriage, conflict, deception and violence. This is a difficult story for modern persons to understand, particularly the close juxtaposition of and act of rape and exclamations of love. (v2-4). The use of the word “Get” (v4) is typical language of the time. Israel’s later legal tradition says that if a man rapes an unbetrothed virgin he must pay the father and marry the woman. While this is not how modern society would resolve such a situation, in the ancient world, with its concern about honor and shame, this preserves the honor of the woman. (Exodus 22:16-17, Deut 22:28-29). Hamor and Shechem try in culturally informed ways to set things right. Even to the point of paying any price (v12) and merging their families and possessions (v9-10). This time Jacob is not the deceitful one, but rather his sons are. Notice how often Shechem’s “love” for Dinah is referenced. Even given the honor/shame culture, is the action of Dinah’s brothers justified? Jacob doesn’t appear to think so, v30.
How does the story of this interaction of Abraham’s family with outsiders compare to other similar stories? What does this story have to say about violence? ( see Gen 49:5-7 also)
35:1-29 Jacob Returns to Bethel: This chapter reflects its composite character. It seems as if various parts of Jacob’s story are gathered and place and the end of Jacob’s story. Jacobs journey here echoes Abraham’s journey through the land and the covenant is restated and there is a name change ( as before Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel). You may recall that Jacob had already named Bethel and erected a pillar there (28:18-19). Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. Verse 22 tells of more family conflict. Not only is this a sexual offence it is a challenge to Israel’s authority. Isaac dies and is buried by his two sons, Israel and Esau.
36:1-43 Esau: The lists of descendants moves from family (v 1-14) to tribal units (v15-30) to nations (v 31-39). This list recalls the earlier list of Ishmael (25:12-18) and a concern for the “non chosen” brother. In verses 6-8 Israel and Esau move apart, reminiscent of Abraham and Lot in 13:5-7. Why do you think we have such a careful and extensive listing of the “non chosen”?
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of the Torah.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, “Understanding the Old Testament” Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Keck, Leander E., ed. “The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Mays, James L. ed. “HarperCollins Bible Commentary” (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds. “The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books” (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. “The Torah: A Modern Commentary” (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.