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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Women in the Old Testament, 2

Over a year ago, I posted on Jacob's family, in Genesis, and women's importance. I pointed out that Genesis says that 66 persons went with Jacob to Egypt, and names them, but there are almost no women in the list. Women almost certainly went, but just weren't included in the count. This morning, in my devotional reading, I found this verse, also about Jacob:

Genesis 37:35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. (ESV)

This is in the story of Joseph, after his brothers had sold him into slavery, and deceived their father, making Jacob believe that he was dead.

As far as I know, only one daughter, Dinah, is mentioned in Genesis by name, but this verse indicates that there must have been at least a few more of them. It is possible that all of these daughters married, and stayed behind when Jacob and his family went to Egypt, but I doubt this, for two reasons. Dinah was raped, and therefore probably not as desirable as a wife, so perhaps she didn't marry. One or more of Jacob's other daughters may not have married, either. Except for the Dinah story, there is no indication in Genesis that Jacob became related to anyone by a daughter's marriage, and that exception was temporary. Benjamin was fairly young when the family went to Egypt, and it is possible that he had half-sisters of about his own age. Since the daughters comforted Jacob, they may have still lived in the household, either unmarried, or with their husbands, and this means that it seems at least possible that some of them were still with the household when the family moved to Egypt.

As Carol Hill and others have pointed out, not only were women's roles different in the times of the patriarchs than they are in 21st century North America, but numbers in Genesis were used differently than we might use them.

Thanks for reading.


The LeRoys said...

Dr. Labar,
Just wanted to let you know that I enjoy dropping by from time to time, soaking it in. Good stuff. Great to hear from you recently. Hope all is well.
Matt LeRoy

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Matt!

We're OK, God be thanked.

Anonymous said...

What do you think, please, of Obadiah Shoher's interpretation of the story? (here: ) He takes the text literally to prove that the brothers played a practical joke on Yosef rather than intended to murder him or sell him into slavery. His argument seems fairly strong to me, but I'd like to hear other opinions.

Martin LaBar said...

I'm not an expert on the Torah, and editorials on it, so I can't say much. His suggestion that the brothers moved their flocks away so that Joseph couldn't find them seems strange to me, though.

In Genesis 45, Joseph says that his brothers sold him, whether they intended to or not.

Thanks for your comment.