Quirks, Queries and Commentary—Genesis 33-37
Jacob meets Esau and settles in Shechem. While there, Leah’s daughter, Dinah, is "violated." Outraged, her brothers trick the Shechemites into being circumcised and, while they are all healing, Simeon and Levi, the second and third sons of Leah, attack the city and kill every male. How old were they? How old was Dinah?
From Shechem, they move to Bethel (where Jacob had had his dream and set up a pillar to mark the place) and then to Ephrath (Bethlehem). It is during this second move that Benjamin is born and Rachel dies. There was a substantial age difference between Benjamin and Joseph. From Ephrath, they move beyond Migdal Eder (where Reuben, the eldest son, sleeps with Bilhah, Rachel’s servant who became Jacob’s concubine). When they move to Mamre, near Hebron, Isaac dies. Jacob and Esau were, at this time, 120 years old. (35:29)
All this seemingly took place before Joseph was seventeen. We don’t know that for sure but the events of Joseph’s seventeenth year, when he had the preposterous dreams that showed his family bowing down to worship him, is told after we read of the other events. It must be, because when Joseph was sent to look for his brothers on that ill-fated day when he was sold to the Ishmaelites, they were living in the Valley of Hebron. (37:14)
If Joseph was seventeen at the time he was sold into slavery, Reuben, six and a half (even seven) years older, would have been only 23 ½ or 24. Simeon and Levi would have been roughly 23 and 22. At this age or younger they killed a city filled with men? It’s amazing, especially when we remember that Ishmael was considered only a boy when he was somewhere between fifteen and seventeen years old. How different life was then than now!
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