While I was traveling in Germany during the past month I was reading “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant. I have been reading some other books about historical woman from the Bible. That's why I read the Red Tent with great interest.
Ms Diamant introduced me to Dinah, the daughter of Jacob or as she portraits her, the daughter of Leah, who was Jacob’s first wife.
I was moved by how she describes the lives of the women in those days. Their roles as daughters, sisters, and wives were defined by their femininity, mainly to give birth to children and with that to continue on the lineage. I found myself envying the women because they had a special place where they could gather and find sympathy during their difficult times when felt ill or just didn’t want to see any man. The red tent refers to the place where they would gather and sleep during their monthly menstruation, and also where they would birth their babies and be taken care of by the mid-wives and other women. That must have been very comforting for the women during the ages where luxury and cleanliness was not as easily to come by.
I had learned of all the sons Jacob had by the four different wives. I was not aware that he had only one daughter. In Genesis, Chapter 34, Dinah is mentioned as the one who was defiled by a young man from another tribe.
Dinah must have had a special role among all the girls in Jacob’s tribe, since she is the only one mentioned by name (Gen 46:15). In some accounts it is believed that she bore a daughter, Asneth, from her relationship with Shechem which was adopted by Potiphera, the priest of On, a priest in Egypt. As by Divine Guidance, she was later given to Joseph as his wife when he became the prime minister in Egypt. Aseneth became the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 41:50).
As the story goes in the Red Tent, Dinah meets her brother Joseph (by the other wife of Jacob, Rachel) and his two sons after he became a high official under the Pharaoh.
The Old Testament is very clear about lineage. God wanted to raise a pure family tree where the descendants would be obedient to God and his laws. That’s why Ephraim and Manasseh are often mentioned as example of integrity and obedience; they were raised in Egypt, but with the values and traditions of their tribal father Jacob.
One thing I didn’t like about the book was how Ms. Diamant portrayed Jacob. As Father Moon relates to us in his historical sermon on Jacob’s Course and Our Life in Faith from 5-27-1973, Jacob is the position to represent God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob obtained the birthright from his brother Esau (Genesis 27) and with the blessing of Isaac left for Haran to get married.
Jacob agreed faithfully to serve Laban, his uncle for 21 years. He was deceived by Laban who promised him to give him Rachel, the younger daughter, but as it turned out, Laban gave him Leah, the oldest daughter (Gen. 29:15-30). He had to work another seven years to get Rachel, and finally another 7 years to qualify to inherit some of the herds he had tended and multiplied. Because of Jacob’s endurance God could bless him with 12 sons and daughters, a total of 33 children (this included some grandchildren). He also inherited animals and other goods before the whole tribe went back to Canaan.
Jacob was in the position of Abel, restoring the position of the younger brother. After he fulfilled his 21 years of service in Haran, he wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel, the victor (Genesis 35:10).
It seemed that God was guiding Jacob’s family all the way. When he returned to Canaan he met his brother Esau (Gen. 33:1-14) and they embraced and united. Even after the tribe made the mistake regarding the revenge of Dinah (Gen. 34:18-31) God would blessed them again.
It seemed that many cruel things went on, when we think of the selling of Joseph into slavery by his own brothers. But God has a longer vision for the lives of his children. When Joseph arrived in Egypt (Gen. 39-41) he was able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams which gave him favors, and soon he was elevated as the ruler of Egypt because he had proven himself as a man of integrity. When the famines came to Canaan, Jacob brought his whole tribe to Egypt and they lived there for a while in plenty under the protection of Joseph.
Only when we see our lives from a higher (God’s) point of view, can we make some sense of our lives. Even that may take a lifetime, or even go beyond one generation, since restoration takes a long time.