Torah Study Notes 12-10-11

December 10, 2011

P 226  Chapter 35

35: 1 God directs Jacob to go to Beth El. LL: It is notable that Jacob does not instruct his people to destroy their gods – only to bury them as if they may return for them. He also does not describe God as the one true god. PG: The use of the phrase “to go up” is literal and always used in a topographical fashion. Beth El is where Jacob had his original vision of the ladder.  The Torah is unfolding here. The concept of one god is rudimentary – the god is invisible and elusive. There is a spiritual journey that needs to take place. Also, Jacob is leaving the area because of the actions of Simeon and Levy against the residents of Shem. There were blood avengers in the offing. AF: Belief in God requires a “pay off” at the end of the day. That has to be interaction so individual gods for particular purposes seemed to work.

35:6 PG: This is a teleology – explaining how the Oak of Weeping came to be known as such – the loss of Rebecca.

35:9  God names Jacob “Israel” and make great promises ala Abraham and Isaac. Jacob set up a pillar of stone at the site and anointed it with oil. This is a repetition of the naming after Jacob’s wrestling the angel of God. PG: There is no mention of the wrestling here and this raises a question as to the etymology of “Israel”. The usage suggests it could mean Prince of God or Servant as well.  All three meanings are useful. The site of Beth El is known today but it is unmarked.  See page 15. “Padden-aram” means suburb of Aram. CL: There are some wonderful paintings of the wrestling match by Gauguin and Van Gogh – who had completely different interpretations of the event. The difference was between a rendition of mystical experience (Gauguin)  and clear reality (Van Gogh).

In “Jacob Wrestling with an Angel”,(1888)  Gauguin portrays pious Breton women in national costume reflecting on the sermon which they have just attended. Two supernatural figures, Jacob and the Angel, wrestle in the background. Jacob is desperate to convince the Angel that he has repented of his sins and will not let the Angel depart until he has succeeded in doing so.

35: 16 The death of Rachel during the birth of Benjamin. ML: The use of the term “to this day” suggests a travelogue. PG: This reflects the notion that one is hearing the story well after the events. The Tomb of Rachel still exists near Bethlehem. Frequently the death is noted by the presence of a cenotaph – a marker like a sarcophagus that is empty. Verses 9 through 15 appear to be stuck in here referring to earlier events. We started in the beginning of the chapter with going up – forward in time. Now they are traveling down so the reference is to earlier events by summary. This is the first time in the text that the idea of marking a grave is mentioned.

35:21  Reuben lays with his father’s concubine. Note the lack of a colon at the end of the line. This is a verse that ends with a comma – which indicates that there is more that has not been included. The equivalent of a dieresis or ellipsis in English. ML: This doesn’t explain what happened afterwards or explain why he did this. AF: This suggests something forbidden to document. PG: This may be a foreshadowing of why Reuben – as the oldest – would not be favored to carry on the legacy. Note here that Jacob changes the name of Benjamin from that given by Rachel. His name initially referred to the pain of his birth.

35:22  A recitation of the names of the twelve sons. Bilah was likely the person bringing up Rachel’s children.

35:27 Jacob dies at age 180. Again the use of squares – five times six squared. Abraham was five times seven squared. Isaac is seven times five times three. (subject to check by RR and AF.)

Note Ch. 36 which is the extensive story of Esau. This establishes the antiquity of Edom as a polity as greater than Israel.


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