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Bible Insights

What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?

In one of the Bible’s more horrific stories, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is taken by force and raped by the outsider, Shechem. When Jacob hears of this he does nothing. Perhaps he fears for his life should he complain or maybe it’s because all his boys are in the fields tending their livestock and he is alone.

Then, despite his barbaric act, Shechem decides he loves Dinah and wants to marry her. He demands his father bring this about. The two dads talk about a wedding.

Dinah’s brothers are furious when they hear what Shechem did to their sister. They pretend to go along with the marriage talks but insist the men in Shechem’s village all be circumcised first.

As the men recover from this painful procedure, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s brothers, massacre the city, killing every man there to avenge their sister’s mistreatment.

Though they are right in responding to Dinah’s defilement, they overreact. While the rape of one girl is terrible, wiping out an entire town is a disproportionate punishment; it is excessive.

Moses Tells Us to Take an Eye for an Eye

This is the type of thing Moses seeks to stop when he says an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Leviticus 24:19-20). In this Moses does not give permission to seek unrestringed revenge.

Instead he seeks to curtail excessive retaliation, a response unequal to the crime. An eye for an eye is a command of moderation not the authorization to pursue vengeance.

Taking an eye for an eye is a command of moderation not the authorization to pursue vengeance. Click To Tweet

Jesus later takes this principle one step further. He says “do not resist an evil person” and then go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42). This is even more countercultural than Moses’s original “eye for eye” command to make the punishment fit the crime.

May we learn from Moses’s words and follow Jesus’s.

What do you think of Moses’s “eye for an eye” command? What about Jesus’s instruction to go the extra mile? 

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 33-35, and today’s post is on Genesis 34.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

How Many Tribes Were There in Israel?

Just as we know that Jesus had twelve disciples, we know that Israel had twelve tribes, right?

Jacob (also known as Israel) had twelve sons and each son became a tribe, right? Well sort of.

Even though Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, there is no tribe named Joseph. Instead Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, both became tribes. So that ups the number of tribes to thirteen.

To make things a tad more confusing, the tribe of Manasseh split into two groups, with half receiving territory on one side of the Jordan River and the rest on the other side. Effectively, each half of Manasseh became a tribe. So the number of tribes arguably becomes fourteen.

However, Levi, while a tribe, did not receive a territory (they were assigned cities to live in throughout the nation). So Levi is a tribe without territory. Should we count them or not?

We can go crazy trying to sort this out.

Just as with the question of “How many disciples did Jesus have?” we can best resolve this by understanding that “The Twelve Tribes” was a label, a generic reference, and not a quantifiable amount.

Jesus had “twelve” disciples, symbolically matching the “twelve” tribes of Israel. The fact that the actual number of tribes and disciples may have been thirteen or even fourteen doesn’t matter.

The parallelism of “twelve” connects the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and links the nation of Israel with the salvation of Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

The Meaning Behind the Names

In ancient times, names were given to people for a reason, no matter how trivial. The meaning of the names of Jacob’s twelve sons gives great insight into the competitive struggle between his two wives, the sisters, Leah and Rachel:

Reuben means See, a son!” (Leah said, “The Lord has seen my humiliation and affliction; now my husband will love me.”)

Simeon means “God hears.” Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am despised, He has given me this son also”)

Levi means “companion.”Leah said, “Now this time will my husband be a companion to me, for I have borne him three sons.”)

Judah means “praise. (Leah said, “Now will I praise the Lord!”)

Dan means “judged. (Rachel said, “God has judged and vindicated me, and has heard my plea and has given me a son.” Rachel named him; not Bilhah.)

Naphtali means “struggled.” (Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have struggled with my sister and have prevailed.”  Rachel named him; not Bilhah.)

Gad means fortune.”(Leah said, “Victory and good fortune have come.” Leah named him, not Zilpah.)

Asher means happy.” (Leah said, “I am happy, for women will call me blessed.”Leah named him, not Zilpah.)

Issachar means “hired. (Leah said, “God has given me my hire.”) [For the details behind this, see Genesis 30:14:18]

Zebulun means “dwelling.” (Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good marriage gift for my husband; now will he dwell with me because I have borne him six sons.”)

Joseph means “may he add. (Rachel said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”)

Benjamin means “son of my right hand.  (Rachel, as she was dying, named him Ben-Oni, which means “son of my trouble,” but Jacob called him Benjamin instead.)

[Read more in Genesis 29:1-35, Genesis 30:1-24, and Genesis 35:16-19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

More on Jacob’s Twelve Sons

So, we know that Jacob’s twelve sons had four mothers: Leah was the spurned wife; Rachel was the favorite wife; Bilhah was Rachel’s maid and Zilpah was Leah’s maid. Here is their birth order and how it all breaks down:

1. Reuben, his mom was Leah
2. Simeon, his mom was Leah
3. Levi, his mom was Leah
4. Judah, his mom was Leah

5. Dan, his mom was Bilhah, Rachel’s maid
6. Naphtali, his mom was Bilhah, Rachel’s maid

7. Gad, his mom was Zilpah, Leah’s maid
8. Asher, his mom was Zilpah, Leah’s maid

9. Issachar, his mom was Leah
10. Zebulun, his mom was Leah
(Then Leah also had a daughter, Dinah.)

11. Joseph, his mom was Rachel
12. Benjamin, his mom was Rachel

It was a tough way to have twelve sons. Just because that’s’how it happened, does not mean that God approves of such an arrangement!

[Genesis 29:1-35, Genesis 30:1-24, and Genesis 35:16-19]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Bible Insights

Jacob’s Twelve Sons.

…and Their Four Moms

In Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, a reoccurring theme is Jacob’s twelve sons. What is not apparent in Dreamcoat is that many of the sons were half brothers; Jacob was indeed the father of all, but there were four different moms.

Here is how this convoluted family tree happened:

Jacob fell in love with Rachel (his uncle’s daughter, that is, his first cousin). Since he had no dowry, he agreed to work for his uncle seven years for her hand in marriage. The morning after the wedding, he discovered that his veiled bride was actually Leah, Rachel’s older sister.

He had been duped by his Uncle Laban. After protesting, Laban also gives Jacob Rachel’s hand in exchange for another seven years of labor.

Leah begins having children (six sons in all), but Rachel is childless—so she has her husband sleep with their maid, Bilhah, to produce children in her stead; Bilhah has two sons. In an escalating competition, Leah follows suit, giving her maid, Zilpah, to sleep with Jacob; Zilpah also has two sons.

Finally, Rachel gets pregnant and has Joseph. As the first-born of Jacob’s favorite wife, Joseph is doted upon by his father; hence he is given the infamous coat of many colors, thereby earning the wrath of his brothers.

Later, Rachel also gives birth to Benjamin, the youngest of the twelve; sadly Rachel dies in childbirth.

Although the nation of Israel is launched through these twelve sons, Jacob’s family life is a lesson of everything not to do.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 27-29, and today’s post is on Genesis 29:16-30.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Reviews of Books & Movies

Video Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Reviewed by Peter DeHaan

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoatis a film adaptation of the popular and undying musical of the same name. Although initially written for children and intended to be a school production, it has transcended this original intent to become an ageless classic.

With some poetic license, Dreamcoat retells the Biblical account of Joseph being despised and disposed of by his brothers, languishing in prison, being exalted to power because of his dream-telling ability, and eventually being reunited with his family.

The snappy lyrics, catchy music, and eclectic staging move this music forward at a delightful pace.

Joseph is powerfully played by Donny Osmond (who preformed the role over 2,000 times on stage), with the narrator (Maria Friedman) holding the storyline together with her perky delivery. Also notable is Joan Collins as Potipar’s seductive wife (and the reserved piano player).

Although most enjoyable, the costuming is a bit suggestive at times and not appropriate for all audiences.

[Read more reviews by Peter DeHaan of other faith-friendly videos and movies.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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