Extraordinary Catholics

The Matriarchs: From Rivkah to the Children of Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah & Rachel

February 04, 2022 Hon. Rev. Dr. Jayme Mathias Season 1 Episode 7
Extraordinary Catholics
The Matriarchs: From Rivkah to the Children of Leah, Bilhah, Zilpah & Rachel
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After the death of Sarah, her widower, Avraham, secured a wife for their son, Yitzhak—an early indication of patrilocal marriage. The bride, Rivkah, was the granddaughter of Sarah’s sister, Milkah, setting in motion yet another biblical “family wreath.” Milkah’s husband, Nahor (who was Avraham’s brother) provides us the first biblical instance of concubinage, foreshadowing Yaakov’s wives, Leah and Rachel, and their slave girls and half-sisters, Bilhah and Zilpah, who became Yaakov’s concubines. Like mother, like son: Rivkah and Yaakov were tremendous cooks and connivers, depriving Yaakov’s older brother—the namesake of the Edomites—of his birthright and providing an example for Jewish men. In this episode, Father Jayme explores the misogyny against the women and goddesses of the neighboring Hittites, the shrunken-head idols of ancient peoples, and the ancient practices of castration and human sacrifice. He concludes with the story of the rape of Dinah, an act blamed on her by the misogynistic, patriarchal society that we pray might soon be buried in the past. 

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[Becky & Terry Ann  0:03]
     Welcome to “Extraordinary Catholics,” a podcast for—you guessed it—extraordinary Catholics! In a world with over a billion ordinary Catholics, the Good Samaritans of Vatican-free Catholicism are truly extraordinary, seeking to model Jesus’ inclusive spirit and his discipleship of equals. Like Roman Catholicism, Inclusive Catholicism possesses valid lines of apostolic succession and shares valid sacraments. One in every ten adult Americans self-identifies as a former Roman Catholic. If we were to band together, we would form the second-largest religion in America. In Mexico, over 1,000 Roman Catholics leave the church every single day. To learn more about Inclusive Catholicism, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith, and join our extraordinary Catholics Facebook group. And now, meet the host of Extraordinary Catholics, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, the only inclusive Catholic community in Austin, Texas: Father Jayme Mathias!

[Father Jayme Mathias  1:20]
     Welcome, extraordinary Catholics! I am Father Jayme Mathias, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
     We thank the special saints who helped make this episode possible:
     * Corey Hurt Montiel of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
     * Bishop Theodore Feldman of the Sanctuary of Divine Providence in Birmingham, Alabama;
     * Bishop Jerry Brohl of the Independent Roman Catholic Church in Wyandotte, Michigan;
     * Bishop John Gregory Von Folmar of Solomon’s Porch in Phoenix, Arizona, part of the Convergent Christian Communion;
     * Reverend Canon MichaelAngelo D’Arrigo of Agape Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia, part of the Convergent Christian Communion;
     * Bobby Duhon of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
     * Very Reverend Ben Jansen of the Congregation of the Servants Minor in San Diego, California, part of the Progressive Catholic Church International;
     * Bishop Jeffrey Montoya of the Church of Christ the Healer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin;
     * Heather Lucas and Jordan Dickenson of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
     * Luke Jensen in Farmers Branch, Texas;
     * Father Scott Carter of the Pilgrim Chapel of Contemplative Conscience in Ashland, Oregon, part of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch.
     Looking to earn your wings? Visit dwy.io/podcast to join the list of saints who are stepping up to sponsor future episodes.
     Can I ask you a favor? Will you prayerfully consider sharing a quick rating and or review of this podcast? You are a saint!
     And now, let’s continue our exploration of the theological foundations of Inclusive Catholicism!

Swearing on Avraham’s Circumcision
We continue the story of the matriarchs of our faith. Immediately after Sarah’s death in Genesis 23, we turn to the story of Sarah's son, Yitzhak, in Genesis 24. In his book, The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, Thomas Cahill writes, “Avraham does not die before setting in motion an arranged marriage for Yitzhak, a colorless figure of whom we never hear much on his own account—but then think of the poor man’s childhood trauma!”
     Sarah's widower, Avraham, called his servant, saying, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son, Yitzhak” (Gen. 24:2-4). So the servant put his hand on Avraham's thigh (Gen. 24:9), a likely euphemism for Avraham’s testicles, the equivalent of raising your right hand and putting your left hand on a bible, except that the “bible” in this case was the other person’s circumcised groin, the mark of God’s covenant. Did you know that the English word “testify” comes from the same root as “testicles”? I couldn't make that up. They come from a Latin root, testis, this meaning “witness.” Language is absolutely fascinating!

Patrilocal Marriage v. Matrilocal Marriage
A lengthy conversation ensues, which is important for its etiological explanation for the nascent patriarchal practice of patrilocal marriage among the Israelites.
     A bit of vocabulary: Patrilocal marriage in ancient times presumed that the bride would leave her family and become part of her husband’s family. The opposite, matrilocal marriage, presumed that the groom would leave his family and become part of his wife’s family. What do we see in this conversation between Avraham and his servant? The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?” (Gen. 24:5). Think matrilocal marriage.
     In this etiological explanation for patrilocal marriage, Avraham is quite clear: “Make sure that you do not take my son back there….If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there” (Gen 24:6 & 24:8). Think patrilocal marriage!

Finding Rivkah
So, the  servant set out with ten camels loaded with a sizable dowry (Gen 24:10), tasked with bringing back a wife for Yitzhak from among Yitzhak’s relatives.
     We pause here to remember that the matriarchs and patriarchs are believed by most scripture scholars to be composite figures of saga, and not historical figures who lived some 1,200 years before the stories about them were written.
     The servant was looking for an omen: The women in the town of Nahor who offered water to him and his ten camels would be the chosen one (Gen. 24:12-14).
     Sure enough, “Before he had finished praying, Rivkah [or Rebekah, if you prefer] came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel, son of Milkah, who was the wife of Avraham’s brother, Nahor [yes, the same as the name of the town]” (Gen. 24:15).
     You guessed it: Rivkah offered him water, and then she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough to drink” (Gen. 24:19)—no small task since one camel can drink up to 20 gallons at a time. 20 gallons, times 10 camels: That’s 200 gallons of water to draw!
     Rivkah was the one—and the servant offered her a gold nose ring weighing a beka (a 40th of a pound) and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels (a quarter pound) (Gen. 24:22).

Another Biblical “Family Wreath”
But wait: We just glossed over an important detail, and so we hear Rivkah repeat it: “I am the daughter of Bethuel, the son that Milkah bore to Nahor” (Gen. 24:24). It’s a detail so important that even the servant will repeat it: “I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, whom Milkah bore to him.’” (Gen. 24:47).
     Who was Rivkah? Rivkah was the daughter of whom? Bethuel. And Bethuel was the son of whom? Milkah. And who was Milkah? Sarah’s sister. Milkah is the bridge linking Rivkah to Sarah!
     That’s right. Yitzhak, who was born to his parents in old age, was destined to marry his aunt Milkah’s granddaughter, and Rivkah was destined to marry her great aunt Sarah’s son. They were first cousins once removed, so their marriage would be outlawed in six U.S. states today (Rhode Island, Ohio, Kentucky, Utah, Nevada & Washington). Quick fact: The genetic “Russian roulette” of first-cousin marriage is currently legal in 20 U.S. states. As if that weren't enough, biblical inbreeding, Sarah’s sister, Milkah, was married to Nahor, who was Avraham’s brother (Gen. 11:26-27). The author of Genesis doesn't give us a family tree. Instead, we have here a "family wreath"!

Let's pause to talk about Nahor. With Nahor, we see the another early instance in the bible of concubinage, the practice of having concubines. The author of Genesis writes: “Milkah bore these eight sons to Avraham’s brother Nahor. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah” (Gen. 22:23-24).
     In Jewish law, a concubine had sexual relations with a man without being married to him. There was no ketubah, no marriage contract, and there was no kiddushin, no ceremony of betrothal. A man was not obliged to maintain any concubine, and, since there was no marriage, there was no monetary settlement upon the dissolution of the relationship—but the children birthed by the concubine were considered legitimate children of the man, and he could choose to leave them an inheritance—if he chose.
     In the context of patriarchy, concubinage gave men sexual access to their slaves, whom they couldn't marry, and the children born by the concubine were legitimate, free and equal to the sons of the man’s wives. In crass terms, sex was part of the slave’s “duties,” along with other work that she performed.
     In this story, we see that Nahor had a wife, Milkah, and a concubine, Reumah—who would, in turn, foreshadow Yaakov’s wives, Leah & Rachel, and Yaakov’s concubines, Zilpah & Bilhah.
     Back to the story of Rivkah. So Rivkah runs to tell her mother and her brother, Lavan (Gen. 24:28-29). Wait, have we heard that name, Lavan, before? Lavan (or Laban, if you prefer) was the father of Leah and Rachel, which, if this story were historical, means that Yitzhak’s son, Yaakov (or Jacob) would grow up to marry his first cousins, Leah, and Rachel.

The Marriage of Yitzhak & Rivkah
The servant leaves the dowry with Rivkah’s family (Gen. 24:53) and takes Rivkah and her attendants back to Avraham (Gen. 24:61). As they neared Yitzhak, who was just coming in from a field where he was meditating (Gen. 24:62-63), Rivkah covered herself with her veil, and Yitzhak married her in the tent of his mother, Sarah (Gen. 24:67).
     The Bible tells us that Yitzhak was 40 years old on his wedding day (Gen. 25:20). How old do you imagine Rivkah was? The Hebrew word for her is naarah (Gen. 24:16, 24:28, 24:55, 24:57). Though often translated “woman” or “young woman,” it is more correctly translated “young girl” or “maiden.” In her work, In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah, Judith Antonelli notes that various sources suggest that Rivkah was three or ten or fourteen years old. She suggests that Rivkah was twelve to twelve-and-a-half years old, which, in the ancient world, was defined as the start of puberty, the time at which a girl could be married off in a world that had no concept of adolescence or any notion of age 16 to 18 as the legal age of consent. (Consider this: Only in 2019 did Pope Francis raise the age of consent in the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law from 14 to 16 for girls (Canon 1083 §1), another sign of the patriarchal world in which we live. So, yes, Roman Catholic girls and boys can now marry at the same age: 16.)
     The author of Genesis notes that, like Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:8), Rivkah was a virgin (Gen. 24:16), which tells us that she was not yet subjected to the societal ritual of deflowering by the tribal leader who was…her father, Bethuel! Jewish midrash stated that Rivkah’s father was a king (Numbers Rabbah, 14:11). Various sources described him as a sinful, wicked deceiver (Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 64a; Genesis Rabbah 60:12 & 63:4; Leviticus Rabbah 23:1; Song of Songs Rabbah 2:2; Zohar 1:136b; Rashi to Gen. 25:20). Rabbi Moshe Weissman imagined: “Betuel, the depraved ruler of Aram Naharayim, claimed first fight to every girl in the country who was about to be married. When the people heard about Rivkah’s betrothal, they said, ‘Now we will see how he acts toward his own daughter.’ If he will do to her what he does to our daughters, good. If he treats her differently, we will kill him and his entire family!’” Ya gotta love the Jewish midrash tradition!

The Blurring of Avraham & Yitzhak
So, Avraham is no longer needed in this patriarchal story: He leaves everything to Yitzhak (Gen. 25:5), sends his other sons—“the sons of his concubines”—away with gifts (Gen. 25:6), dies at the “good old age” of 175 (Gen. 25:7), and is buried with Sarah (Gen. 25:10).
     Now that Avraham has left the stage, the stories of Avraham & Yitzhak begin to blur, leaving us to believe that the storytellers who continued telling these stories over the course of centuries before they were set to writing were confusing details of father and son. Like Avbrham (Gen. 15:5 & 22:17), Yitzhak is promised by God that his descendants will multiply and number like the stars (Gen. 26:4 & 26:24). Like Avbrham (Gen.12:18-19 & 20:2), Yitzhak lied to a king, saying that his wife was his sister (Gen. 26:7).

Esau & the Edomites
The narrative now shifts to the successors of Avraham and Sarah: Yitzhak and Rivkah.
     Like her great aunt , Sarah, Rivkah was childless, and then God blessed her with twins—an etiological explanation for the enmity that we shared for our enemies, the Edomites, to the south. Like the people who descended from them, the babies Esav (Esau) and Yaakov (Jacob) fought with one another even in their mother’s womb! (Gen. 25:22). Rivkah asked the Lord for the reason for this, and the Lord responded: ““Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).
     Like the Edomites, Esav (or Esau) was a ruddy, hairy red-head. Genesis 25:25 says “His whole body was like a hairy garment”—an appearance that likened him to a savage. He was an outdoorsman, a skillful hunter beloved by his father. Judith Antonelli notes that Edom, the land of Esav’s descendants, literally means “red,” and that Esav sold his birthright for a red lentil stew (Gen. 25:30). The Genesis Rabbah (63:12, 75:4) goes farther, saying: “He was red, his food red, his land red, his warriors were red, his garments were red, and his avenger will be red, clad in red.”

Yaakov: The Ideal Jewish Man
Yaakov (Jacob) was a homebody, who was content to stay inside his tent. Judith Antonelli notes how Yaakov (Jacob), the progenitor of Israel, characterized the ideal Jewish man. She writes: “Esav was a hairy, macho hunter, a ‘man’s man,’ who was favored by his father for purely sensual reasons: Isaac enjoyed eating the meat his son brought home to him. Jacob was the ‘mama’s boy’—favored by his mother, he was smooth-skinned, gentle and domestic. He preferred to stay in the tents (a female abode), cooking and studying Torah with Shem and Ever” (p. 63).
     Antonelli asks contemporary men whether they are Esav or Yaakov. She writes: “Culture modifies biology and, as such, has a crucial responsibility in shaping men’s behavior: It can encourage men either to be Jacobs or to be Esavs. Modern American society, which glorifies violence—and especially sexualized violence—and feeds men a steady diet of it as ‘entertainment,’ teaches men to be Esavs. Pornography is the most extreme and direct means today for the ‘Esaving’ of men….The media, of course, is not the only culturally-sanctioned means for training men to be Esavs, but, in our modern technological age, it is clearly the most pervasive. Sports, military training, childhood socialization, tolerance of injuries committed in male bonding (‘boys will be boys’), and other psychological and sociological factors certainly contribute to the fact that, even in this era of ‘gender equality,’ 90 percent of violence is committed by males” (pp. 65-66).
     Recognizing men’s potential for violence, the Jewish Law encouraged men to be more like Yaakov, channeling their energy toward prayer and other spiritual activities. Antonelli notes that Jewish men have traditionally remained outside of “fraternities, barrooms, stag parties, hunting expeditions, street gangs, gun clubs, and sports arenas….As a result, the traditional Jewish male has frequently been stereotyped as a ‘wimp’ by the Gentile world. Indeed, it is a label of which he should be proud! The Jewish man could (and should) be at the forefront of the feminist struggle against macho masculinity, for he has not needed bullfights and boxing matches to bolster his sense of manhood. Hunting—Esav’s greatest skill—is completely forbidden in Jewish law [Gen. 1:29]. Alas, however, as Jewish men assimilate into the gentile culture, they incorporate the values of gentile men. Thus, we increasingly find Jewish men striving to be macho and priding themselves on developing muscular bodies instead of analytical minds and gentle souls. The 'voice of Jacob’' has been interrupted, and the ‘hands of Esav’ have been reinforced. It is time to turn the tide so that the voice of Jacob can be heard again” (p. 67).

Terrific Cooks & Connivers
Yitzhak’s birthright and blessing would ordinarily go to his firstborn, to his “daddy’s boy,” Esav—except that, as Thomas Cahill writes, “Yitzhak’s lively & opinionated wife (who’s also a terrific cook and a conniver worthy of her father-in-law [Avraham]), looms especially large in these stories.
     A terrific cook? Yaakov likely learned from her the recipe for the bowl of red lentil soup that was so tasty that Esav was willing to give up his birthright to have it (Gen. 25:29-30). And Rivkah “prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it” (Gen. 27:14).
     A conniver? She used goatskins to disguise her smooth-skinned “momma’s boy,” Yaakov, and pass him off to his blind father as the hairy Esav (Gen. 27:16), and Yaakov received Esav’s blessing and birthright (Gen. 27:23), which, like the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders, leaves an indelible mark that could not be undone. In the ancient world, once you gave your blessing, that “bell” couldn’t be unrung!
     And we soon see that Rivkah’s trickery is God’s will, and that Yaakov will be given a new name, Israel, to signify his place as the father, the ancestor, of all Israelites, of all Jews.
     We need to note that Rivkah’s son, Yaakov, was a conniver, too: He outright lied to his blind father, to receive his father’s blessing (Gen. 27:24)!

Hittite Women & Goddesses
We can’t leave the story of Rivkah without noting references to Hittite women and goddesses. Remember that the wandering Avraham bought land from the Hittites for the burial plot of his wife, Sarah, where he, too, was eventually buried (Gen. 23:20 & 25:10). Rivkah now finds herself in Hittite land, worried that her son, Yaakov, will marry a Hittite woman. Seemingly on the verge of suicide, Rivkah now tells her husband: “I detest life because of the Hittite women. If Yaakov marries a woman from among these Hittites, the daughters of the land [lamah li chaim], why should I go on living?” (Gen. 27:46). We recognize Rivkah’s ruse to get her son away from his angry brother, Esav (Gen. 27:43-45), but it raises the question: Who were the Hittites?
     The Hittites were one of seven people inhabiting Canaan. They ruled Anatolia. 700 years before the scriptures were written, they waged war against the Egyptians in the Battle of Qadesh, and the treaty that ended that war in 1274 B.C. is the earliest surviving written agreement in human history.
     The Hittites were known as “the nation of a thousand gods,” and their principal god—or in this case, goddess—was the sun goddess, Arinnitti, the “queen of all lands.”
     Genesis 27:46 rings of misogyny for Hittite women and Hittite goddesses—perhaps in light of the Hittite practice of castration (which enfeebled captive enemies and criminals, to humiliate them and keep them from procreating) and perhaps in light of the human sacrifice that was often linked to Mother Goddess worship.
     Judith Antonelli writes: “The association of castration and human sacrifice with other goddesses comes from the linkage of blood and fertility. Because menstrual blood was seen as the source of a woman’s fertility, blood sacrifices were believed to ensure the earth’s fertility. This is why mother goddesses were also goddesses of fertility, love, war and the hunt” (p. 70).
     Antonelli quotes Erich Neumann, who, in his book, The Origins and History of Consciousness, writes: “Her rites were bloody, her festivals orgiastic….Everywhere blood plays a leading part in fertility ritual and human sacrifice. The great terrestrial law that there can be no life without death was early understood [and]…a strengthening of life can only be bought at the cost of sacrificial death….Slaughter and sacrifice, dismemberment and offerings of blood, are magical guarantees of earthly fertility….In the matriarchal phase of fertility ritual, the Great Mother predominated, and bloody dismemberment of the young king guaranteed the earth’s fertility’” (Neumann, pp. 54 & 222, in Antonelli, p. 70).
     Antonelli notes how Hittite kings, who represented their gods, were sacrificed in ritual enactments of dying gods. She writes: “The lists of Hittite kings are usually sacrifice lists….As time went on, kings substituted others (often their firstborn sons). Then animals, such as a ram, began to be accepted instead” (p. 71). Aha! And now we better understand how our neighbors to the south influenced our own beliefs regarding the korban, the necessary sacrifice of animals at the Jerusalem temple to appease our God!

Deceiving a Deceiver
Like Avraham, Yitzhak couldn’t exit the stage—he couldn’t die—until he arranged the marriage of his son, Yaakov, who had received his blessing. Like Avraham, Yitzhak was convinced that his son shouldn’t marry a Canaanite, but should instead marry a relative.
     1,800 years later, the Quelle Jesus of Nazareth would say, “The same measure with which you measure will be measured back to you” (Mt. 7:2, Lk. 6:38)—and it’s only just that the conniving Yaakov should fall victim to another conniver, his future father-in-law, Lavan, who made Yaakov work for him for seven years to earn his younger daughter, Rachel, only to discover the morning after his wedding that the woman he married and made love to the previous night was his love’s older sister, Leah! Remember: Yaakov deceived his father, passing himself off as his older brother, Esav, so how could he possibly condemn Leah, the older sister, for passing herself off as her younger sister, Rachel?

Sororal Polygyny & the Shift to Patrilocal Marriage
The Genesis Rabbah shares the word play that these two daughters (bnot) of Lavan became the banot, the builders of Israel. Leah and Rachel are the “two beams running from one end of the world to the other” (Genesis Rabbah, 70:15)
     After the bridal week, Yaakov was allowed to marry the younger sister, Rachel—an instance of sororal polygyny—in return for another seven years of labor—another instance of matrilocal marriage, a vestige of a matriarchal system
     Matrilocal marriage was problematic for men: Had a war broken out between Yaakov’s father-in-law, Lavan, with whom he lived, and Yaakov’s father, Yitzhak, whose side would he choose? Hence, the rise of patrilocal marriage, with its practice of the dowry, the preference for sons, and the devaluation of daughters (even encouraging infanticide).
     Fascinatingly, as Judith Antonelli points out, Lavan represents “remnants of matrilocal marriage in a growing patrilineal kinship system: Jacob served his father-in-law and not his mother-in-law, indicating that Lavan was the head of the household” (p. 74).

The Childbearing Wife & the Sex Object Wife
And so, with Lavan’s daughters, we see repeated the pattern of which we spoke in Episode 5: where Leah was the unloved, childbearing wife (Gen. 29:31), and Rachel was the sex-object wife.
     After three sons—again, recall the ancient preference for sons—Leah remained unloved by Yaakov (Gen. 29:31-34). Judith Antonelli writes: “Leah’s desperation in hoping to gain her husband’s love by churning out boys is understandable and sad indeed. Because she was forced on Jacob, Leah was not particularly loved by him….Here we have a faint echo of polygyny at the time of the Flood: Leah, the childbearer, was hated, and lived without her husband’s companionship, while Rachel, the sterile ‘beauty,’ was loved and cleaved to her husband. By being forced into polygyny, Jacob became caught up in this misogynist dynamic” (p. 80).
     Leah gave birth to three more sons. No luck in obtaining Yaakov’s love.
     Like her mother-in-law, who had suicidal thoughts (Gen 27:46), Rachel cried to Yaakov” “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Gen 30:1). Realizing that God alone brings life (Gen. 30:2), Rachel offers her slave and half-sister, Bilhah, to her husband (Gen. 30:3), just as Sarah offered her slave, Hagar, to Avraham (Gen. 16:3).
     If you’re counting, Yaakov now has six sons. Yaakov then has two sons through his concubine Bilhah, Rachel’s slave girl and half-sister, then two sons through his concubine Zilpah, Leah’s slave girl and half-sister. That’s ten sons. Leah then gives birth to two more sons and a daughter, Dinah. That’s 13 kids for Yaakov: 12 boys and their baby sister, Dinah.
     And finally, “God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘God has taken away my disgrace.’ She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son” (Gen. 30:22-24).

Shrunken-head Idols
Before the story of the birth of Rachel’s second son, Benjamin, which would result in her death (Gen. 35:17-19), we find an interlude, which includes Rachel stealing her father’s terafim, the idols of his household gods (Gen. 31:19), and when her father tells Yaakov that someone stole his gods, Yaakov, not knowing that they were stolen by his wife, Rachel, assures him: “If you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live”  (Gen. 31:32).
     I hesitate to even share the origin of these terafim, these household idols. Judith Antonelli writes: “The terafim were frequently made from the shrunken heads of firstborn sons who had been sacrificed. The hair was removed, the head was salted and oiled, and a small tablet of copper or gold with a name written on it was placed under the tongue. The worshiper or diviner would then light candles in front of it and bow down to it. The head would respond to any questions asked of it ’through the power of the name that was written on it.” (p. 85). Certainly a more vivid image than imagined wood or metal idols!
     What a fascinating story that Rachel took the terafim for her own protection and, if they truly worked for divining, to keep her father from knowing her whereabouts, which perhaps due to his not having his terafim, he didn’t know for three days (Gen. 31:19-22).
     Yaakov’s later burying of idols (Gen. 35:4) shows the Jewish ideal of the abandonment of such pagan practices.

Avenging Dinah’s Rape
We also have the story of Yaakov dislocating his hip as a result of wrestling with God (Gen. 31:24-25) and of him avenging the rape of his daughter, Dinah, by Shechem, the son of the Hivite Prince Hamor (whose name means donkey or ass) by murdering the men who were newly-debilitated as a result of circumcision.
     Like warriors of the time, “They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses” (Gen. 34:28-29). Antonelli writes: “In their massive plundering…they subscribe to the notion, which is still common today, that the solution to male violence is more male violence. They also subjected the captured Hivite females to a fate not much better than Dinah’s” (p. 95).
     Incidentally, Dinah’s rape will be cited later in the deuterocanonical or apocryphal book of Judith, whose author likened the plundering of the Jerusalem temple by the Syrian-Greeks to the rape of Dinah (Jud. 9:2)

The Villainization of Dinah
Ready for the villainization of Dinah? We note that in a patriarchal society, Dinah was blamed for her own rape—because she “went out to see the daughters of the land” (lamah li chaim) (Gen. 34:1), a phrase we previously heard in reference to the Hittites in Genesis 27:46, and referring here to the Hivites.
     Like women who have been blamed by misogynists as a result of Ḥavvā’s purported action, misogynists also prooftexted Dinah to explain how women, in the words of the Genesis Rabbah “constantly wander around for no good reason” (Genesis Rabbah, 18:2, 80:5)
     We previously suggested that patriarchal societies always have means of control and separation. We see this in the story of Dinah—a story of male dominance and female seclusion. I’m personally fond of Judith Antonelli’s retort. She writes: “Imagine if an all-female rabbinate sat around thinking up such vicious commentary on men, concluding that the actions of one man in one particular set of circumstances is indicative of all men at all times. This is what it would sound like. Men possess six traits: they are cowards (Adam blamed Ḥavvā), liars (Avraham said Sarah was his sister), cheaters (Jacob pretended to be Esav), gang-rapists (the men of Benjamin, Judges 19), adulterers and murderers (King David slept with Batsheva and then had her husband killed (2Sam. 11:2-17)” (p. 91).
     And so, we continue our journey through sacred scriptures that reflect the androcentric, patriarchal and often misogynistic societies in which they were written. It’s time for us to leave that world in the past, and to create a better, more loving and egalitarian future for our children and for their children, and for all the generations who will come after us.
     Ordinary Catholics might tell these stories in ways that justify their own marginalization of our sisters, our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters. Let’s not be ordinary Catholics.
     Let’s be…extraordinary Catholics!

Swearing on Abraham’s Circumcision
Patrilocal Marriage v. Matrilocal Marriage
Finding Rivkah
Another Biblical “Family Wreath”
The Marriage of Yitzhak & Rivkah
The Blurring of Avraham & Yitzhak
Esau & the Edomites
Yaakov: The Ideal Jewish Man
Terrific Cooks & Connivers
Hittite Women & Goddesses
Deceiving a Deceiver
Sororal Polygyny & the Shift to Patrilocal Marriage
The Childbearing Wife & the Sex Object Wife
Shrunken-head Idols
Avenging Dinah’s Rape
The Villainization of Dinah