Old Testament Tales - Twelve Tribes of Israel
Twelve Tribes of Israel1. What relation is Laban to Jacob?
2. How many holy dreams did Jacob have?
3. How long after marrying one sister did Jacob get to marry a second?
4. How many children did Leah have before Jacob began sleeping with the maids?
5. What have Jacob’s sheep got to do with the Bible?
6. What happened to Laban’s household gods?
7. What happened to the hollow of Jacob’s thigh?
8. What happened to Dinah?
9. When did Jacob’s name change to Israel?
10. How did Judah become the most important son?
Jacob goes to Padamaram, or Haram, or Nahor, where he stays with his uncle Laban, brother to Rebekah and grandson of Abraham’s brother Nahor (hence that extra generation in Abraham’s age—he was indeed an elderly father). Their relationship is cordial and Jacob works 7 years for the privilege of marrying the younger daughter Rachel, but finds himself wed to Leah instead. (There really were traditions that oldest daughters should marry first, and that wives and their maids form a harem for their husband.) One week later (a week being the wedding vow’s fulfillment) Jacob marries Rachel too.
Leah’s first sons are named Reuben (God has seen her sorrow), Simeon (God must have heard), Levi (her husband must join her now), and Judah (just praising God.) Rachel persuades Jacob to sleep with her servant (as Sarah persuaded Abraham) and Bilhah bears sons Dan (God judges) and Naphtali (wrestles). Not to be outdone, Leah offers her maid Zilpah who gives birth to Gad (a troop’s coming) and Asher (happy). In a neat side-story, oldest son Reuben shares his mandrakes (a love potion perhaps) with Aunt Rachel in exchange for mother Leah’s sleeping with his father, resulting in Issachar (hired out, for mandrakes perhaps), followed by Zebulun (dowry, presumably because Jacob continued to sleep with her) and the sole daughter Dinah. Finally Rachel bears Joseph and Jacob decides it’s time to leave.
Laban offers flocks to Jacob in exchange for staying longer, promising him the multicolored sheep, then quickly removing them to a different part of the land so Jacob can’t find them. A little genetic maneuvering ensues, with multi-colored lambs conceived from mixed parentage (before the removal, Gen 31:10). Jacob is described as using striped and speckled rods, and mating strong cattle with strong, to increase his flocks (Gen 30:37). Finally he leaves, heading home as God has commanded. His wife Rachel steals her father’s household gods (small statues, many of which have been found by archeologists—presumably Laban no longer followed one true God). She hides them in her saddle and claims it’s the wrong time of the month, so she can’t move and Laban can’t find them when he follows the family. Later Jacob buries the gods to purify the family (Gen 35).
Jacob offers increasing numbers of gifts to his brother Esau as he heads home, not realizing that Esau’s already forgiven him. Then Jacob wrestles, perhaps with God, resulting in a name change to Israel (prince who prevails), injury to his thigh, and a limp (Gen 32:32). At this point, Isaac is still alive, despite the deathbed scene precipitating Jacob’s departure. Esau and Jacob separate, as Lot and Abraham did and Jacob buys land to settle in Canaan. Unfortunately, his daughter becomes entangled with a local prince Shechem. The families attempt to arrange a marriage according to local custom, and Shechem’s family even agree to circumcision to join Israel. But Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi (numbers 2 and 3) murder them. At this point, Jacob finally destroys the household gods. God repeats Jacob’s name change and his promise in a dream(35:7), and the youngest son, Benjamin, is born. Rachel dies and is buried in Bethlehem in a tomb marked with a pillar. Reuben (son number 1) seals his fate by lying with his father’s concubine (35:22), making Judah the son who will eventually inherit the promise.