Genesis 35

Jacob Moves to Bethel

35 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau [There must be several gods because the one issuing instructions here is not the one who appeared to him when he was fleeing from his brother].” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel [you remember Genesis 13 and 28 we were introduced to a place by the same name. I don’t know whether we are still at the same place or there are several Bethel], and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods [my question still is, why had this god to appear to selectively? Wouldn’t be better if he appeared to everyone at once so no one would keep other gods?] which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem [in the last chapter, Shechem was a young man who violated Dinah and got the whole city killed, when did the transformation from person to a place occur? ].

As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob [did Jake still anything or why would someone want to pursue them?]. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel [why rename a place that already has a name? Is he going to be renaming every place a god appears to him?], because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah’s[just in case you forgot, Rebekah is Isaac’s wife] nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth [oak of weeping].

Jacob Is Named Israel

Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10 God said to him,

“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”

Thus He called him Israel [if he has just been named thus, then to what or whom does Israel refer in the previous chapter?]. 11 God also said to him,

“I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.

12 “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you [has the land fallen to possession of others not of Abraham and Isaac?].”

13 Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him [I hope we are all agreed that this god at least ain’t omnipresent, since if he goes from place to place then where he leaves is basically without god]. 14 Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel [Please tell me, I thought we have a place called Bethel? Why keep renaming places with the same name? This reminds me of  a fun mail I read a while ago about an Indian family living in the US of A writing to their son in India and telling him they moved 10 miles closer to the city and have moved with their old address & are waiting for the previous owners to remove their address so they can put theirs! How will he even trace their new home? ].

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. 17 When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” 18 It came about as her soul was departing (for she died),[I don’t know the pains of child-birth nor how it feels to die since these are two things I haven’t experienced, but tell me who when they are in pain and dying would think about naming a child?] that she named him Ben-oni[ son of my sorrow]; but his father called him Benjamin[son of my strength]. 19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day [if you should see this pillar in your travels, please be kind to share the photos with me!] . 21 Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.

22 It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it [Seriously! He heard it and that’s it?].

The Sons of Israel

Now there were twelve sons of Jacob— 23 the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; 24 the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; 25 and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; 26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram [Benjamin wasn’t born in Paddan-aram, unless the sribe here has not read the preceding verses!].

27 Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.

28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29 Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him [Our cardboard character, Isaac, finally takes his last at 180 years. There is a problem here though, many chapters earlier, the limit for a man’s life had been put at 120 years and as have said in many places, the many scribes involved in compiling this document didn’t care for consistency or accuracy. Where does Esau come into the picture? The brothers are living apart from each other!].

Genesis 34

The Treachery of Jacob’s Sons

Being a beautiful woman in the bible has now just become a terrible thing. Dinah, Leah’s daughter is forcefully kidnapped and raped by Shechem who after the rape swears she is in love and would want to have her hand in marriage. 

34 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her[when did one rape a person they claim to love?]. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young girl for a wife[does his father condone rape? I think this time you beat the hell out of your son for bringing disrepute to the family name! Where are the human right activists, I don’t hear you!].” Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him[I don’t think this father has daughters! If he had, I don’t think Shechem would have seen the light of day]. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.[the scribe here is using Israel and Jacob alternately one time to refer to an individual and another to a people, though I don’t think at this particular time there are people known as Israelites]

But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. 12 Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage [what nonsense is this? How does a father even have such an audacity to ask for the price of a young girl who has been violated without showing how he intends to deal with his sons? This is just crazy and if this is what a god inspires then by all means let me read Ludlum and Dickens]”

13 But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go[ This is letting them go so lightly! This is the height of misogyny].”

18 Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father[Is he respected for the rape or for getting the girl? or both?]. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying[ is theirs the first family? on whose authority do they gather people at the city gates if there indeed is any city with gates?], 21 “These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised[how does the other city residents benefit? it’s only Shechem who wants a wife from Jake’s family why force everyone to get circumcised?23 Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.” 24 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city [there was dissenting opinion if the commentary in The Legend of The Jews is to be believed]

25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male [in the Legend of the Jews the two brothers slaughtered 645 men, 276 boys women and took 45 men as slaves. For the sake of argument, a city should have some type of army, how could two young men decimate every male in the city without facing any resistance?] .26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. 27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot? [why plunder the city? is this not a case of over reacting. They welcomed the offending family to their home, they had an opportunity to deal with the matter then. What business have the others to do with all this that warrant their being killed?]”

 

 

Genesis 33

Jacob Meets Esau

The last few days I had taken a short break from our bible study to  read what others have been up to, visit the museum and just bum. Louis Ginzberg, in the Legends of the Jews, narrates the events prior to the meeting of the brothers, their actions, Rebekah’s involvement and god’s or his proxies participation in the whole drama.

That out-of-the-way lets hear the story of Jacob and brother, shall we;

33 Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother [what does he think of his brother? is he using the members of his family as human shields against 400 men?].

Jacob meets Esau

Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, “Who are these with you?” So he said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids came near with their children, and they bowed down. Leah likewise came near with her children, and they bowed down; and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down. And he said, “What do you mean by all this company which I have met?” And he said, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” But Esau said, “I have plenty, my brother; let what you have be your own[ this could be one of the few honest members of Abe’s household or is he wary of his brother a great supplanter?].” 10 Jacob said, “No, please, if now I have found favor in your sight, then take my present from my hand, for I see your face as one sees the face of God, and you have received me favorably. 11 Please take my gift which has been brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have plenty.” Thus he urged him and he took it.[ I hardly meet 97 year olds running to meet each other. Jake has an elaborate greeting prepared for Esau just incase he still remembers the deceit his brother is capable of]

12 Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” 13 But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Please let my lord pass on before his servant, and I will proceed at my leisure, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth[ I thought he was going to follow the brother to Seir].

Jacob Settles in Shechem

18 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. 19 He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20 Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.[ last time a member of the first family bought land they were burying one of the beloved and laying legitimate claim to own the lot. I thought he was coming to live with his brother, why deceive him to go first if the intention is to go his separate way? ]

Great nature photos: 50 entries in National Geographic’s 2012 photo contest

Beautiful photography

Why Evolution Is True

Alert reader Michael called my attention to a selection of fifty fantastic photos submitted to this year’s National Geographic photo contest; they’re displayed at The Atlantic. It was hard to choose just seven of these to show you, so go over to the Atlantic and see all of them. Almost every one is a gem.  (If you want to submit your own photo to Nat. Geo., there’s still time: the deadline is November 30.)

You should definitely click to enlarge them.

This one is stunning:

Don’t throw stones at leopards!  I have no idea whether the guy was badly injured (it looks as if the cat is biting his neck), but I bet they shot the leopard:

And a somewhat happier felid:

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Epiricus letter to Menoeceus

Below is the whole transcript of a letter by the great thinker. All rights to The Internet Classics and translated by Translated by Robert Drew Hicks. It’s a long letter and I hope you find time to read it to the end.

Letter to Menoeceus 

By Epicurus 

Translated by Robert Drew Hicks

Greeting. 

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search thereof when he is grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studyingphilosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed toward attaining it. 

Those things which without ceasing I have declared to you, those do, and exercise yourself in those, holding them to be the elements of right life. First believe that God is a living being immortal and happy,according to the notion of a god indicated by the common sense of humankind; and so of him anything that is at agrees not with about him whatever may uphold both his happyness and his immortality. For truly there are gods, and knowledge of them is evident; but they are not such as the multitude believe, seeing that people do not steadfastly maintain the notions they form respecting them. Not the person who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them is truly impious. For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions; hence it is that the greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest blessings happen to the good from the hand of the gods, seeing that they are always favorable to their own good qualities and take pleasure in people like to themselves, but reject as alien whatever is not of their kind. 

Accustom yourself to believe that death is nothing to us, for good and evil imply awareness, and death is the privation of all awareness; therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not by adding to life an unlimited time, but by taking away the yearning after immortality. For life has no terror; for those who thoroughly apprehend that there are no terrors for them in ceasing to live. Foolish, therefore, is the person who says that he fears death, not because it will pain when it comes, but because it pains in the prospect. Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation. Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not. It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer. But in the world, at one time people shun death as the greatest of all evils, and at another time choose it as a respite from the evils in life. The wise person does not deprecate life nor does he fear the cessation of life. The thought of life is no offense to him, nor is the cessation of life regarded as an evil. And even as people choose of food not merely and simply the larger portion, but the more pleasant, so the wise seek to enjoy the time which is most pleasant and not merely that which is longest. And he who admonishes the young to live well and the old to make a good end speaks foolishly, not merely because of the desirability of life, but because the same exercise at once teaches to live well and to die well. Much worse is he who says that it were good not to be born, but when once one is born to pass with all speed through the gates of Hades. For if he truly believes this, why does he not depart from life? It were easy for him to do so, if once he were firmly convinced. If he speaks only in mockery, his words are foolishness, for those who hear believe him not. 

We must remember that the future is neither wholly ours nor wholly not ours, so that neither must we count upon it as quite certain to come nor despair of it as quite certain not to come. 

We must also reflect that of desires some are natural, others are groundless; and that of the natural some are necessary as well as natural, and some natural only. And of the necessary desires some are necessary if we are to be happy, some if the body is to be rid of uneasiness, some if we are even to live. He who has a clear and certain understanding of these things will direct every preference and aversion toward securing health of body and tranquillity of mind, seeing that this is the sum and end of a happy life. For the end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear, and, when once we have attained all this, the tempest of the soul is laid; seeing that the living creature has no need to go in search of something that is lacking, nor to look anything else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled. When we are pained pleasure, then, and then only, do we feel the need of pleasure. For this reason we call pleasure the alpha and omega of a happy life. Pleasure is our first and kindred good. It is the starting-point of every choice and of every aversion, and to it we come back, inasmuch as we make feeling the rule by which to judge of every good thing. And since pleasure is our first and native good, for that reason we do not choose every pleasure whatever, but often pass over many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues from them. And often we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the pains for a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure. While therefore all pleasure because it is naturally akin to us is good, not all pleasure is worthy of choice, just as all pain is an evil and yet not all pain is to be shunned. It is, however, by measuring one against another, and by looking at the conveniences and inconveniences, teat all these matters must be judged. Sometimes we treat the good as an evil, and the evil, on the contrary, as a good. Again, we regard. independence of outward things as a great good, not so as in all cases to use little, but so as to be contented with little if we have not much, being honestly persuaded that they have the sweetest enjoyment of luxury who stand least in need of it, and that whatever is natural is easily procured and only the vain and worthless hard to win. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, when one the pain of want has been removed, while bread an water confer the highest possible pleasure when they are brought to hungry lips. To habituate one’s se therefore, to simple and inexpensive diet supplies al that is needful for health, and enables a person to meet the necessary requirements of life without shrinking and it places us in a better condition when we approach at intervals a costly fare and renders us fearless of fortune. 

When we say, then, that pleasure is the end and aim, we do not mean the pleasures of the prodigal or the pleasures of sensuality, as we are understood to do by some through ignorance, prejudice, or willful misrepresentation. By pleasure we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul. It is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of merrymaking, not sexual love, not the enjoyment of the fish and other delicacies of a luxurious table, which produce a pleasant life; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those beliefs through which the greatest disturbances take possession of the soul. Of all this the d is prudence. For this reason prudence is a more precious thing even than the other virtues, for ad a life of pleasure which is not also a life of prudence, honor, and justice; nor lead a life of prudence, honor, and justice, which is not also a life of pleasure. For the virtues have grown into one with a pleasant life, and a pleasant life is inseparable from them. 

Who, then, is superior in your judgment to such a person? He holds a holy belief concerning the gods, and is altogether free from the fear of death. He has diligently considered the end fixed by nature, and understands how easily the limit of good things can be reached and attained, and how either the duration or the intensity of evils is but slight. Destiny which some introduce as sovereign over all things, he laughs to scorn, affirming rather that some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency. For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance or fortune is inconstant; whereas our own actions are free, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach. It were better, indeed, to accept the legends of the gods than to bow beneath destiny which the natural philosophers have imposed. The one holds out some faint hope that we may escape if we honor the gods, while the necessity of the naturalists is deaf to all entreaties. Nor does he hold chance to be a god, as the world in general does, for in the acts of a god there is no disorder; nor to be a cause, though an uncertain one, for he believes that no good or evil is dispensed by chance to people so as to make life happy, though it supplies the starting-point of great good and great evil. He believes that the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of the fool. It is better, in short, that what is well judged in action should not owe its successful issue to the aid of chance. 

Exercise yourself in these and kindred precepts day and night, both by yourself and with him who is like to you; then never, either in waking or in dream, will you be disturbed, but will live as a god amongpeople. For people lose all appearance of mortality by living in the midst of immortal blessings. 

THE END

liebster blog award

On Saturday, my good friend Daniela nominated me for a blog award, The Liebstar blog award, for which am grateful. I have a great aversion to follow rules, but I will try and obey some if not all of the rules of this award. Here you will know who the award is given.

to the questions:

  1. What was the title of the first book (including a picture book) you have read? I can’t remember
  2. Can you still remember the name of a person you first kissed? No
  3. Who is your favourite writer and why? I enjoy reading Robert Ludlum, I love drama and he does it perfectly using words in away when you start reading his book you keep turning the pages pages. He is bad for those who love sleep 🙂
  4. If you can be one famous person for a year who would you chose to be and why? Ban ki Moon, the UNSG, he has a duty to the world, to work for peace here, to avert climate crisis on another and so on. He is committed to humanity and I find this a noble undertaking.
  5. Where in the world would you like to live your last days on Earth? Anywhere close to the people I love.
  6. If you can invite five famous people to your home for dinner, who would you invite and why? I would invite the pope, I have several questions for him; Katt Williams just to have a good laugh; Dawkins just to listen to him on genetics and evolution; Denzel Washington he happens to be among my favorite actors and lastly Obama to pick his mind on how it feels like being president of the most powerful country
  7. If you can have one talent what would it be? I’d love to be able to play the piano and sing.
  8. Who is the most important person in your life? It would be difficult to mention just one person. There are several people who are important to me in different ways.
  9. Have you ever lived for more than a year outside your home country? Nope, I haven’t.
  10. What is the scariest thing you can imagine? I can’t imagine anything scary.
  11. If you have a one wish for the world that would come true what would it be? We live in a world free of weapons and hostilities.

The next requirement was that I nominate others for this award. And here is where there is a difficulty. As you have seen already, the award is for blogs with less than 200 followers, the few blogs I follow are either below or above that threshold. It is therefore hard for me to nominate any one blog for the award. It would be difficult to chose.

For all my friends who have just started blogging, therefore consider this a nomination and an encouragement to continue writing and to congratulate those of you who have been at it for a long time now. Your writings and thoughts continue to inspire and inform us. I hope my friend Daniela finds this acceptable.

Lastly as for the questions, I think the above questions will just be fine.

Thank you again Daniela for the nomination 🙂