Thursday, March 3, 2011

Genesis 37:12-14 Shechem Check

"Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, 'As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem.  Come, I am going to send you to them.'  'Very well,' he replied.  So he said to him, 'Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.'  Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron."  (Genesis 37:12-14a NIV)

Jacob sent Joseph to Shechem to check on his sons and his flocks.
  • Shechem was the place where Abraham had first gone when he obediently left Haran for the land of Canaan. (Genesis 12:1-7)
  • At Shechem, God had appeared to Abraham and told him that Canaan was to be his offspring's possession. (Genesis 12:7)
  • Abraham also built an altar to God there. (Genesis 12:7) 
  • After Jacob came back to Canaan from Laban's household in Paddan Aram, he bought a plot of ground that was within sight of the city of Shechem. (Genesis 33:18)
  • Jacob bought this land from the sons of Hamor (who was the father of the man Shechem). (Genesis 33:19)
  • Jacob also built an altar at his plot of land near the city of Shechem. (Genesis 33:20)  He called it El Elohe Israel, which means 'God, the God of Israel' or 'Mighty is the God of Israel'.
  • Jacob's daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem (the son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area) when she went out to visit the women of the city.  In retaliation, Dinah's brothers killed all the men of Shechem.  Afterwards, Jacob's sons looted the city and took all their wealth, wives and children. (Genesis 34) 
Jacob was acutely aware of the family's history with that city.  At the time when Dinah had been raped, his sons Simeon and Levi had deceived the men of the city into becoming circumcised before they would allow Shechem (who now wanted to marry Dinah) or any of the men to intermarry with the Israelites.  While the men were still recovering, Simeon and Levi had killed all of the men of Shechem.  Jacob had not been aware of their scheme.  At that time, the Canaanites and Perizzites were living in that area.  (Genesis 34:30)  Jacob feared that these people would join forces and retaliate by destroying the Israelites.

As Jacob sent Joseph, he may have been wondering about the safety of his sons and flocks as they grazed near Shechem.  However, the flocks continually needed new land on which to graze, and water to drink.  Perhaps Jacob had figured that the area of Shechem would have remained somewhat deserted after the plundering of the city.  Also, his sons were grown men who could take care of themselves.  Nevertheless, Jacob seems to have some concern for them, so he sends Joseph to check on them.  He may have wanted to check on them for other reasons as well, after Joseph's previous bad report. (Genesis 37:2)

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