Saturday, December 6, 2014

2nd Millennium BCE :In the Days of Dinah and Her 12 Brothers

Nadene Goldfoot                                   

                                                     Idol from Ur
Imagine knowing that your worth as a woman depended on how many children you could produce in this god-filled world of many families of gods and goddesses but also its idol statutes replicating them.  You as a human lived in a sparsely inhabited planet in the Bronze age that only had about 25 million in it in 3,000 BCE.  By 1,000 BCE it would be heading towards having some 50 million inhabitants, the number that in 2014 CE would be  comparable to a country like Sudan that has about 44 million.  By 2012, there were already 7 billion people living on earth.  

Your husband is your Uncle Abram.    Haran, your father, is your husband's brother.   You've known him all your life.  Your name is Sarai,  and you haven't produced one child as yet, so you give your Egyptian handmaiden, Hagar, a princess in her own right,  to your husband, hoping she will get pregnant.  If she produces a child, you get the credit.  It's like adoption and the baby will be your responsibility and to your credit.  You will then have worth.  You wind up getting the credit but also asking that both Hagar and the boy leave their clan as it isn't working out as planned.  Hagar became uppity and the boy teased your child, Isaac, constantly, keeping him crying all the time.  

This pattern will be repeated.  Isaac, Sarai's actual son born much later, will marry Rebecca. They are 1st cousins once removed.   Rebecca's brother is Laban.  They will produce twins, Esau and Jacob.  Jacob's name has been found in Akkadian and Egyptian sources.  Jacob goes to his mother's brother, Laban to find a wife and must work for this uncle for 7 years to gain his beautiful  cousin Rachel for marriage.  Laben tricks him by giving him Leah, his first born daughter who had weak or tender eyes, instead for a wife, causing him to work another 7 years for Rachel.  So Jacob has married his 2 cousins, daughters of Laben, his maternal uncle.

The producing of children almost becomes competitive where Leah winds up giving her handmaiden to Jacob.  She herself becomes the mother of 6 boys and then feels she has worth. Her last child is a girl, and they name her Dinah.  Dinah, the youngest in the family is a lucky girl to have 12 brothers watch over her jealously.   Her sister has only produced 2 sons of hers naturally and then died, but in her desperation, she had given Jacob her handmaiden, Bilhah, so that she would be worthy.  Bilhah had 2 sons.
Now living in Canaan, Dinah went out one day to see if she could find other girls her own age.  Shechem, son of Hamor, prince of the region they were living in, came along and raped her.  Afterwards he wanted to marry the girl as he liked what he  saw.  At the time of this occurrence, her brothers were all in the field with their cattle.

Shechem's father talks with Jacob, hoping for an intermarriage.  Dinah's 12 brothers were incensed, feeling their sister had been defiled, having had forced  sex with an uncircumcised man. Shechem's father even says they will all become circumcised, then.  Dinah had already been taken to Shechem's house and was living with him.

 Later, Simeon and Levi, sons of Leah and two of Dinah's full brothers, got even by killing every male in Shechem's city including Hamor himself and his father.  Jacob told his 2 sons that they had done wrong and that now they were in danger of being wiped out themselves for having done this by the Canaanites and the Perizzites.
  Rachel had brought on her own death by stealing her father's house idol in order to keep him from using it, and did not tell her husband about the theft or if it was a wise move.  When her father comes and accuses Jacob of the theft, Jacob allows him to search their tents.  Not finding it, Jacob had said that whoever had taken it would die, and that's what happened to poor Rachel.  She died after giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob's 12th son.

Each wife had her own tent to live in.  No doubt they were close together, like cabins at the beach of today's world are next to each other.  This would allow for safety from roaming bands  The handmaidens would be living in the tent with their charge, being available for anything needed to be done.

Whereas Laban had tricked Jacob into working for 20 years; 7 years each for the 2 wives and 6 more years for his flock of sheep, goats and camels, Jacob, in return, also tricked him by asking for the sheep and goats for wages that were speckled or spotted with brown pigment.  Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and hazel and chestnut and peeled white streaks in them and lay bare the white of the rods and set them up in watering pots where the animals came to drink.  The Animals saw these colorations and produced like flocks, thereby giving Jacob more wages.  Since Laban had been such a deceitful rogue anyway, changing the wages on Jacob 100 times over the 20 years, Jacob felt justified in his actions.  
Long ago the patriarch of the clan, Terah, had left Ur Kasidim which would be in today's Iraq.  He had had 3 sons; Abram, Nahor and Haran.  Haran was the father of Lot and Haran died in Ur.  Abram was the responsible uncle and watched out for Lot.  So when Terah left Ur, he took with him Abraham and Nahor and Lot.

Nahor married Milcah, his niece,  who was the daughter of Haran.  Abram married his niece, Sarai, the other  daughter of Haran.  Therefore, Milcah and Sarai were sisters and daughters of the deceased brother, Haran.  They were also sisters of Lot.  This is how people in those days created families being there weren't many others to choose from.  You married into your clan.

Ur of the Chaldees had been a prominent city of the Sumerian Empire.  The city was sacked by the king of nearby Elam soon after 2,000 BCE.  A Sumerian text from 1960 BCE, which was about when Terah moved his family from Ur to Haran (a city they named for their deceased brother) told of the reason they left Ur in their opinion.  They felt "the gods had abandoned them like migrating birds.  Smoke lies on your cities like a shroud."
According to our biblical version, it was Abram who urged the leaving of Ur because it was an idol worshipping city.  In fact, his father was an idol maker.  Abram had an experience of hearing G-d speak to him and that he was to leave and start his life in a different place where the influence of other deities would be non-existent.  They went north and created Haran in the kingdom of Mari.  This was northern Mesopotamia.  The facts were recorded on clay tablets of which were found our bible names of Terah, Nahor, Serug and Peleg.  This was a powerful dynasty.
From Haran, Abraham, for his name is now changed a little, migrated to Canaan,  which is where today's Israel and Lebanon are.  Abraham's tribe is like that of other West Semitic steppe dwellers of the 18th century BCE in its tribal structure.  Their family customs and law had parallels in the Old Babylonian and Hurro-Semite law of the early and middle 2nd millennium, according to archaeologists.  That is, until G-d spoke to him and caused him to realize that idols were not gods and that there really was only one unseen g-d.  He became the father of monotheism.

The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.  Bronze is made from a mixture of melted copper and tin, both metals that are mined.  "It is more useful for tools and also better for making statues."  As bronze aged, it turned green and was melted down and recycled.  
"Its first half of the Bronze Age is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. That was the world for people living in the Middle East.

The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot. Chariot warfare and population movements lead to violent changes at the center of the millennium, a new order emerges with Greek dominance of the Aegean and the rise of the Hittite Empire. The end of the millennium sees the transition to the Iron Age.  World population begins to rise steadily, reaching some 50 million towards 1000 BC."

Resource: 2,000 BC-end/sumerian dynasty-
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
The Stone Edition Tanach, artScroll Series, Genesis

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