Genesis 41: Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams; Joseph Saves Egypt; Joseph’s Two Sons

seven cows joseph pharaoh rear healthy lean dreams genesis

Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Pharaoh has two disturbing dreams that initially defy interpretation. The cupbearer tells Pharaoh about Joseph, who interprets the dreams as foretelling seven plentiful years followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command and Joseph collects grain that helps during the years of famine. Joseph and an Egyptian named Asenath have two children named Manasseh and Ephraim.

II. Photo

Pharaoh dreams of seven cows: “Then came up out of the Nile seven beautiful and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.” (v. 2)

III. Outline

1-7. Pharaoh’s two dreams

1a. Two years pass

1b-4. The first dream: 7 emaciated cows eat 7 healthy ones at the Nile

5-7. The second dream: 7 emaciated ears of grain eat 7 healthy ones

8-36. Joseph’s interpretation and suggestion

8. Egypt’s wise men and magicians could not explain the dream

9-13. The cupbearer recounts his experience with Joseph to Pharaoh

15-16. Joseph tells Pharaoh that God, not Joseph, is the true interpreter

17-24. Pharaoh recounts his two dreams

25-33. Joseph’s interpretation: 7 years of bounty followed by 7 years of famine

34-36. Joseph’s suggestion: appoint someone to collect 1/5 of the bounty for the years of famine

37-45. Pharaoh appoints Joseph his second-in-command

37-41. Pharaoh chooses Joseph to be his second-in-command

42-43. Pharaoh gives Joseph his signet ring, dresses him in fine clothes, and has him ride as a ruler

44. Pharaoh gives Joseph full control of Egypt

45. Pharaoh names Joseph Zaphenath-paneah and gives him Asenath daughter of the priest Poti Phera as a wife

46-53. The seven good years, including Joseph’s two sons

46a. Joseph was 30 years old when he began to serve Pharaoh

46b-49. Joseph stores up grain beyond measure during the 7 plentiful years

50-52. Joseph has two children with Asenath: Manasseh (“forgetting”) because he has forgotten his troubles, and Ephraim (“fruitful”) because he has been fruitful

53-57. The seven bad years

53-54. The famine spread to every country, but there was bread in Egypt

55. Pharaoh sends his people to Joseph

56. Joseph gives (sells?) grain to the Egyptians

57. Foreigners came for grain too

IV. Select Verses

1-7: After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,  and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk.  Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream.

15-16: And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

42-43:  Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.

45:  Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.

49: So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure.

50-52: Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”

54b: There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 40: Joseph Interprets Two Dreams Correctly 

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Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are sent to prison, where they each have a dream. Joseph interprets their dreams, telling the cupbearer he will be restored to his position in three days and telling the baker he will be hanged in three days. Three days later, Pharaoh has a birthday party and does exactly as Joseph predicted.

II. Photo

The baker has a dream: “In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh and the birds were eating it out of the basket above my head.” (v. 17)

III. Outline

1-19. Joseph interprets two dreams

1-4. Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are sent to prison and placed under Joseph’s command

5. The two have dreams on the same night

6-8. Joseph offers to interpret the dreams in the name of God

9-11. The cupbearer’s dream: pressing wine for Pharaoh from a three branched vine

12-13. Joseph’s interpretation: in three days the cupbearer will be returned to his position

14-15. Joseph asks the cupbearer to mention him to Pharaoh and states his innocence

16-17. The baker’s dream: three baskets of bread on his head for Pharaoh with a bird eating the contents of the top

18-19. Joseph’s interpretation: in three days Pharaoh will hang the baker and the birds will eat his flesh

20-23. Joseph’s predictions come true

20. Pharaoh hosts a birthday party three days later and summons the cupbearer and baker

21. The cupbearer is restored to his position

22. The baker is hanged

23. The cupbearer forgets to mention Joseph to Pharaoh

IV. Select Verses

7-8: He asked Pharaoh’s courtiers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, saying, “Why do you appear downcast today?” And they said to him, “We had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” So Joseph said to them, “Surely God can interpret! Tell me [your dreams].”

9-13: Then the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph. He said to him, “In my dream, there was a vine in front of me. On the vine were three branches. It had barely budded, when out came its blossoms and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: The three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will pardon you and restore you to your post; you will place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as was your custom formerly when you were his cupbearer.

14-15: But think of me when all is well with you again, and do me the kindness of mentioning me to Pharaoh, so as to free me from this place.  For in truth, I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews; nor have I done anything here that they should have put me in the dungeon.”

19: In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale you upon a pole; and the birds will pick off your flesh.”

20-22: On the third day — his birthday — Pharaoh made a banquet for all his officials, and he singled out his chief cupbearer and his chief baker from among his officials. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he impaled — just as Joseph had interpreted to them.

23: Yet the chief cupbearer did not think of Joseph; he forgot him.

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 39: Joseph is Framed by Potiphar’s Wife; Joseph in Prison


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh blesses Joseph, who is given control of his master Potiphar’s house. Joseph refuses the advances of Potiphar’s wife so she accuses him of rape. Potiphar sends Joseph to Pharaoh’s prison. Yahweh blesses Joseph again and he is put in charge of the prison.

II. Photo

Potiphar’s wife makes a move on Joseph:  “Joseph was handsome and good-looking, and after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’” (vv. 6-7)

III. Select Verses

6b-10: Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her.

16-18: Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home,  and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”

20-23: And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.

IV. Outline

1. Joseph was sold to Potiphar

2-6a. Yahweh blesses Potiphar’s house because of Joseph, who is given control of the house

6b-7. Potiphar’s wife tries to sleep with Joseph

8-9. Joseph refuses because of Potiphar and Yahweh

10. Joseph refuses many times

11-12. Joseph again refuses Potiphar’s wife, who steals his cloak

13-18. Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape

19-20. Potiphar throws Joseph in Pharaoh’s jail

21-23. Yahweh watches over Joseph, who is put in charge of the jail

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 38: Judah’s Five Sons, Including Two With Tamar


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Judah has three sons named Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er dies, his widow Tamar marries Onan, but Onan will not inseminate Tamar. Yahweh kills Onan for his sin and Judah sends Tamar away lest she marry Shelah and he die too. Later, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute and Judah impregnates her. When Judah sentences Tamar to death for being pregnant, she proves that he was the one who impregnated her and is allowed to live. Tamar gives birth to twins named Perez and Zerah.

II. Photo

Tamar disguises herself to Judah: “When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face.” (v. 15)

III. Select Verses

6-11: When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.” But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah. Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he feared that he too would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

24-26: About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the whore; moreover she is pregnant as a result of whoredom.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.

27-30: When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.” But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” Therefore he was named Perez. Afterward his brother came out with the crimson thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.

IV. Outline
1-5. Judah’s children with the daughter of Shua

    1. Judah leaves his brothers and settles near Hirah the Adullamite

    2. Judah marries Shua’s daughter, a Canaanite woman

    3-5. Shua gives birth to Er, Onan, and Shelah

6-30. Judah children with his daughter-in-law Tamar

    6. Er marries Tamar

    7. Yahweh kills Er, who is displeasing to him

    8. Judah tells Onan to take Tamar as a wife

    9. Onan does not inseminate Tamar

    10. Yahweh kills Onan for his actions

    11. Judah sends Tamar home to protect his third son, Shelah, telling her to wait for him to grow

    12. Shua’s daughter dies and Judah travels to Hirah the Adullamite at Timnah

    13-14. Tamar takes off her widow’s clothing and sees that Shelah has grown

    15-18a. Judah mistakes Tamar for a prostitute and gives her his seal and staff as collateral for a goat as payment

    18b. Judah sleeps with Tamar and she becomes pregnant

    19. Tamar leaves and puts on her widow’s clothing

    20-23. Judah sends a goat to the “prostitute” via Hirah, but she cannot be found

    24. When it is apparent Tamar is pregnant, Judah condemns her to death for whoring

    25. Tamar shows Judah the seal and the staff

    26. Judah acknowledges his wrongdoing regarding Shelah and does not lie with Tamar again

    27-30. Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez who “broke through” (paratz) first after his brother Zerah’s hand had preceded him

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 37: Joseph’s Brothers Sell Him Into Slavery


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Joseph is favored by Jacob/Israel but is hated by his brothers. Joseph relates two dreams about his own greatness, which causes his brothers to hate him even more. Instead of killing him, the brothers decide to sell Joseph into slavery. They tell their father that Joseph is dead but Joseph is actually a servant of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh in Egypt.

II. Photo

Joseph is hated by his brothers: “[Joseph’s brothers] took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (v. 24)

III. Select Verses

1-2a: Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. This, then, is the line of Jacob: At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers…

3: Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic.

6-8: He said to them, “Hear this dream which I have dreamed:  There we were binding sheaves in the field, when suddenly my sheaf stood up and remained upright; then your sheaves gathered around and bowed low to my sheaf.” His brothers answered, “Do you mean to reign over us? Do you mean to rule over us?” And they hated him even more for his talk about his dreams.

9: He dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: And this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

IV. Outline

1. Jacob (called such) lived where his ancestors sojourned
2a. Introduction to Jacob’s story
2b-4. Joseph is hated by his brothers
    2b. Joseph helps with his brothers’ flocks but speaks ill of them to Jacob
    3. Israel (called such) loves Joseph the most and gives him a special garment
    4. The other brothers hate Joseph
5-8. Joseph’s first dream
    5. Joseph tells his brothers his dream and they hate him more 
    6-7. The brothers’ sheafs bow to Joseph’s in the field
    8. The brothers ask if Joseph wishes to reign and they hate him more
9-11. Joseph’s second dream
    9. Joseph tells his brothers that the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed to him
    10. Jacob chastises Joseph for his dream
    11. The brothers grew jealous, and Jacob kept the matter in mind
12-36. Joseph is sold into slavery
    12-14a. Israel sends Joseph to his brothers who are shepherding in Shechem
    14b-17. At Shechem, Joseph learns his brothers went to Dothan, so he follows
    18-20. The brothers decide to kill Joseph
    21-22. Reuben convinces the brothers to passively kill Joseph by throwing him in a pit so that he can secretly save him
    23-24. The brothers strip Joseph of his special garment and throw him in a pit without water
    25. A caravan of Ishmaelites passes by
    26-28. Judah convinces the brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites (called Midianites) instead of killing him  
    29-30. Reuben returns to an empty pit and confronts his brothers
    31. The brothers dip Joseph’s garment in blood
    32-35. Jacob (called such) is shown the garment and mourns for his son uncontrollably
    36. The Ishmaelites (called Midianites) sell Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh

V. Comment

Joseph is called Jacob’s “child of old age” in verse 3 despite the fact that Benjamin was born after Joseph. One explanation is that this passage understands Benjamin to be older than Joseph, meaning it contradicts the previous narrative. There is an alternative explanation too. According to the medieval Jewish commentator Rashbam, Joseph was Jacob’s “child of old age” for many years before Benjamin was born. This period of time solidified Joseph’s position as his favorite child.

Two ethnic designations are mentioned in the sale of Joseph, namely, the Ishmaelites (v. 25, 28) and the Midianties (vv. 28, 36). While Rashbam thinks the Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the more straightforward explanation is that the Ishmaelites were the Midianites. The proof for this is verse 36, which says “the Midianites sold [Joseph] to Potiphar in Egypt.” If the Midianites sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the verse should have said the Ishmaelites, not the Midianites, sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 36: Esau Settles in Edom; The Genealogies of Edom

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Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Esau moves to Edom because Jacob’s livestock takes up too much space.  The sons and chiefs of Esau are listed. The sons and chiefs of Seir the Horite from Edom are also listed.

II. Photo

The inhabitants of Edom are listed: “Those are the clans of Edom by their settlements in the land which they hold; he is Esau, father of the Edomites.” (v. 43)

III. Select Verses

2-3:  Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women — Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite — and also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

6-8: Esau took his wives, his sons and daughters, and all the members of his household, his cattle and all his livestock, and all the property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land because of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too many for them to dwell together, and the land where they sojourned could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir — Esau being Edom.

31: These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites.

32: Bela son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.

IV. Outline

1-8. Introduction to Esau’s story/genealogy

    1. Introduction

    2-3. Esau’s three wives: Adah, Oholibamah, and Basemath

    4-5. Esau’s five sons born in Canaan

    6-8. Esau left Canaan with his family and many possessions because 

9-19. The genealogy of Esau

    9. Introduction

    10-14. Children

        10. Introduction to Eliphaz and Reuel

        11-12. The sons of Adah’s son Eliphaz, including Amalek

        13. The sons of Basemath’s son Reuel

        14. The sons of Oholibamah

    15-18. Chiefs

        15-16. The chiefs from Eliphaz son of Adah

        17. The chiefs of Reuel son of Basemath

        18. The chiefs who are Oholibamah’s sons

    19. Conclusion

20-30. The genealogy of Seir the Horite in Edom

    20a. Introduction

    20b-21. Seir’s seven sons

    22. The sons and sister of Lotan

    23. The sons of Shobal

    24. The sons of Zibeon; a note on the discovery of yemim (springs?) in the desert

    25. The son and daughter of Anah, who was Esau’s wife Oholibamah

    26. The sons of Dishon

    27. The sons of Ezer

    28. The sons of Dishan

    29-30. Conclusion

31-39. The kings of Edom

    31. Introduction

    32. Bela son of Beor

    33. Jobab

    34. Husham

    35. Hadad

    36. Samlah

    37. Saul

    38. Baal-hanan

    39. Hadar

40-43. The chiefs of Esau

    40a. Introduction

    40b-43a. The chiefs

    43b. Conclusion

V. Comment

There are many textual corruptions and contradictions in this chapter.

  • The wives of Esau presented in vv. 2-3 contradict those of 26:34 and 28:9.

Genesis 26:34 – When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.

Genesis 28:9 – Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

Genesis 36:2-3 – Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women — Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah daughter of Zibeon the Hivite — and also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

In 26:34, Basemath is the daughter of Elon, but here it is Adah, who is not mentioned previously. In 28:9, Mahalath is the daughter of Ishmael, but here it is Basemath. While genealogies are a fluid genre, the most likely explanation for these differences is textual corruption, that is, scribal error.

  • According to vv. 6-8, Esau moves to the land of Edom because Jacob is taking up too much space in Hebron, but according to Genesis 33:12-15, Esau already lived in Edom.
  • The “sons of Esau” (vv. 10-14) are nearly identical to the “chiefs of Esau” (vv. 15-18), so it is not clear why both are passages are included. One major difference: according to vv. 14, 18, Korah is the son of Oholibamah, but according to verse 15 he was the son of Eliphaz, although he is not mentioned vv. 11-12.
  • Verse 31 has played an important role in the history of Jewish Pentateuchal scholarship because it poses problems for the traditional dating of the book of Genesis. The verse introduces the kings of Edom “before any king reigned over the Israelites.” This is problematic, for if Moses wrote the Pentateuch, how would he know that the Israelites would one day have a king? Also, even if he did know, why would he mention it to his contemporary audience? This verse was so controversial that when “Yitzchaki” (Isaac Abu Ibrahim Ibn Yashush, 10th-11th centuries) wrote that it was a late addition, Ibn Ezra countered that Yitzchaki’s book was “fitting to be burned.” The most likely explanation, however, is that this verse was written after the onset of the Israelite monarchy, probably after David first conquered Edom (2 Sam 8:13–14).
  • Note that the “chiefs of Esau” in vv. 15-18, which are essentially a recapitulation of vv. 10-14, have nothing to do with “chiefs of Esau” in vv. 40-43.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo: “Dana, (wadi) North of Petra by Arassari Trek” (Google Earth)

Genesis 35: Jacob’s Second Divine Experience at Bethel; The Birth of  Benjamin and Death of Rachel; Reuben’s Wrongdoing; A Genealogy of Israel; Isaac’s Death


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob buries his family’s idols, travels to Luz, builds an altar, and renames the site Bethel. God reveals himself as El Shaddai, blesses Jacob, and changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Benjamin is born to Rachel, who dies in childbirth. Reuben sleeps with his father Jacob’s servant-wife Bilhah. The twelve sons of Jacob are listed. Isaac dies in Hebron and is buried by his sons Esau and Jacob.

II. Photo

Jacob buries his family’s idols: “They gave to Jacob all the alien gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the terebinth that was near Shechem.” (v. 4)

III. Select Verses

2, 4: So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Rid yourselves of the alien gods in your midst, purify yourselves, and change your clothes… They gave to Jacob all the alien gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the terebinth that was near Shechem.

8: Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bethel; so it was named Allon-bacuth.

10-12: God said to him, “You whose name is Jacob, You shall be called Jacob no more, But Israel shall be your name.” Thus He named him Israel. And God said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Be fertile and increase; A nation, yea an assembly of nations, Shall descend from you. Kings shall issue from your loins. The land that I assigned to Abraham and Isaac I assign to you; And to your offspring to come Will I assign the land.”

17-18: When [Rachel’s] labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for it is another boy for you.” But as she breathed her last — for she was dying — she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.

22a: While Israel stayed in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father’s concubine; and Israel found out.

22b-26: Now the sons of Jacob were twelve in number. The sons of Leah: Reuben — Jacob’s first-born — Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.  The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali. And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

28-29: Isaac was a hundred and eighty years old when he breathed his last and died. He was gathered to his kin in ripe old age; and he was buried by his sons Esau and Jacob.

IV. Outline

1-8. Jacob travels to Bethel

    1. God tells Jacob to return to Bethel, where he had a vision [Genesis 28:11-22], and build an altar

    2-3. Jacob tells his family to abandon their foreign gods and go to Bethel so that he can build his altar

    4. Jacob’s family give him their idols and Jacob buries them under the terebinth tree near Shechem

    5. God protects Jacob’s family by frightening the locals

    6-7. Jacob arrives at Luz/Bethel, builds his altar, and named the place Bethel [the house of God]

    8. Deborah, the wet nurse of Rebekah, Jacob’s mother, dies and is buried at the oak tree of Bethel, called “the oak of crying”

9-13. God appears to Jacob

    9. Introduction, blessing

    10. God names Jacob Israel

    11a. God introduces himself as El Shaddai

    11b. Jacob is blessed with many offspring, including royals

    12. Jacob is promised the land of Abraham and Isaac

    13. God departs

14-15. Jacob sets up a pillar and names the site Bethel

16-20. The death of Rachel and birth of Benjamin

    16-18a. Rachel gives birth to a boy, names him Ben-oni (son of my sorrow), and dies

    18b. Jacob calls the boy Benjamin (the son of the right side, or, the son of the south side) 

    19-20. Rachel was buried in Bethlehem, where Jacob set up a pillar to this day

21-22a. Reuben sleeps with Bilhah

    21. Israel [called such for the first time] travels on to Migdal-eder

    22a. Reuben sleeps with Bilhah, Jacob’s servant wife

22b-26. The twelve sons of Jacob

    22b. Introduction

    23. Leah’s six sons

    24. Rachel’s two sons

    25. Bilhah’s two sons

    26a. Zilpah’s two sons

    26b. Conclusion

27-29. Jacob [called such] returns to Hebron where Isaac dies at 108 and is buried by Esau and Jacob

V. Comment

  • Deborah, a new character, is first named when she dies in verse 8: “Deborah, Rebekah’s wet nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bethel; so it was named Allon-bacuth (the oak of crying).” While it is surprising to first learn her name under these circumstances, she seems to have been mentioned anonymously in Genesis 24:59, when Laban sent Rebekah to Canaan: “So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her wet nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.” The question, however, is why was Rebekah’s wet nurse travelling with Jacob; shouldn’t she have been with Rebekah and her husband Isaac in Hebron? Medieval Jewish commentators such as Rashi and Bekhor Shor answer this question by pointing out that Rebekah told Jacob she would fetch him to return from Haran:

“Now, my son, listen to me. Flee at once to Haran, to my brother Laban. Stay with him a while, until your brother’s fury subsides — until your brother’s anger against you subsides — and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will fetch you from there. Let me not lose you both in one day!” (Genesis 27:43-45)

According to this reading, Deborah was sent by Rebekah to travel with Jacob.

  • In verse 11, Yahweh introduces himself to Jacob as “The God Shaddai.” It has been suggested that Shaddai means “strong,” “omnipotent,” or even “paternal uncle,” but, as the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) points out, we really do not know what this strange appelation means.
  • This chapter contains the second and third time that Bethel, which was formally called Luz, is given its name by Jacob (vv. 6-7, 14-15; Genesis 28:19). Also note that this chapter contains the second time that Jacob is named Israel (v. 10; Genesis 32:27-29). Verse 21 is also the first time that Jacob is  called Israel instead of Jacob. Note that although God reveals his name in this chapter as El Shaddai (v. 11) after renaming Jacob, God’s name was not revealed back in 32:30.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo by Eitan f – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Genesis 34: The Rape of Dinah and the Annihilation of Shechem


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Shechem, a Hivvite prince from the town of Shechem, rapes Dinah and desires to marry her. Jacob’s sons agree on the condition that the men of Shechem circumcise themselves. The men of Shechem agree, and Simeon and Levi kill them as they heal. Jacob disagrees with Simeon and Levi whether this was a proper course of action.

II. Photo

Dinah ventures off on her own: “Now Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.” (v. 1)

III. Select Verses

1-4: Now Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force. Being strongly drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly. So Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as a wife.”

8-12: And Hamor spoke with them, saying, “My son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves:

You will dwell among us, and the land will be open before you; settle, move about, and acquire holdings in it.” Then Shechem said to her father and brothers, “Do me this favor, and I will pay whatever you tell me. Ask of me a bride-price ever so high, as well as gifts, and I will pay what you tell me; only give me the maiden for a wife.”

25-29: On the third day, when they were in pain, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons, brothers of Dinah, took each his sword, came upon the city unmolested, and slew all the males.  They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword, took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. The other sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the town, because their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and asses, all that was inside the town and outside;  all their wealth, all their children, and their wives, all that was in the houses, they took as captives and booty.

30-31: Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.” But they answered, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”

IV. Outline

1. Dinah leaves her home to see the girls of the land

2. Shechem son of Hamor rapes Dinah

3-4. Shechem loves Dinah and asks his father to marry her

5-7. Hamor approaches Jacob and Jacob’s sons are furious

8-10. Hamor asks for Dinah for Shechem and for Jacob’s family to intermarry and settle in the land

11-12. Shechem offers to pay any cost to marry Dinah

13-17. Jacobs sons answer in trickery: all of Hamor’s people must be circumcised

18-19. Hamor and Shechem eagerly agree

20-24. Hamor and Shechem convince the men of Shechem to get circumcisions

25-26. Three days later, Dinah’s full brothers Simeon and Levi kill the men of Shechem and take Dinah home

27-29. Jacob’s other sons plunder the town

30. Jacob scolds Simeon and Levi for putting the entire family in danger

31. Simeon and Levi reply: ““Should our sister be treated like a whore?””

V. Comment

As in chapter 28 and the beginning of chapter 29, Jacob’s journey begins on a high note (Genesis 33:18-20). Like chapter 29, where Jacob was tricked into working a number of years, Jacob’s fortunes quickly take a turn for the worse with the horrific rape of his daughter Dinah and the subsequent slaughter of the men of Shechem. There is a great deal of friction, if not comeuppance, in the way that Yahweh shows his favor to Jacob. Jacob’s sons all become wealthy by pillaging Shechem, but their wealth comes at a cost. As Jacob points out in verse 30,  “You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.”

Also, notice that throughout the chapter, daughters are used as a bargaining chip for peace. Hamor offers to exchange daughters with Jacob (v. 9), Jacobs sons conditionally agree to exhchange daughters with the people of Shechem (vv. 15-16), and Hamor and Shechem convince the townspeople to exchange their daughters with Jacob (v. 21). Interestingly, even though Dinah returns home, Jacob’s sons end up with the Shechemite daughters and wives in the end (v. 29).

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 33: Jacob Meets Esau in Peace; Jacob Abandons Esau and Settles in Shechem

Path splits two directions, fork in the roadHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob meets Esau in peace. Instead of following Esau as he said he would, Jacob heads to Shechem via Sukkoth. Jacob buys land near Shechem and builds an altar named “god of the gods of Israel.”

II. Photo

Jacob does not follow Esau: “So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir but Jacob journeyed on to Succoth.” (vv. 16-17)

III. Select Verses

1-2: Looking up, Jacob saw Esau coming, accompanied by four hundred men. He divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two maids, putting the maids and their children first, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.

12-17: And [Esau] said, “Let us start on our journey, and I will proceed at your pace.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; if they are driven hard a single day, all the flocks will die. Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I travel slowly, at the pace of the cattle before me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” Then Esau said, “Let me assign to you some of the men who are with me.” But he said, “Oh no, my lord is too kind to me!” So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed on to Succoth, and built a house for himself and made stalls for his cattle; that is why the place was called Succoth.

18-20: Jacob arrived safe in the city of Shechem which is in the land of Canaan — having come thus from Paddan-aram — and he encamped before the city. The parcel of land where he pitched his tent he purchased from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred kesitahs. He set up an altar there, and called it El-elohe-yisrael.

IV. Outline

1-15. Jacob and Esau meet in peace

    1-2. Esau approaches, Jacob puts his family in the order of Bilhah and Zilpah, Leah, then Rachel

    3-4. Jacob bows before Esau, who greets him peacefully

    5-7. Esau meets Jacob’s family, who bow before him

    8-11. Jacob urges Esau to accept his gifts

    12-15. Jacob convinces Esau that the two should not travel together Edom, but that Jacob will follow him

16-20. Jacob tricks Esau and heads to Shechem

    16-17. Instead of travelling to Edom, Jacob settles in Sukkoth [in Transjordan], a place named for the booths (sukkot) Jacob builds for his cattle

    18-20. Jacob arrives in Shechem in Canaan [Cisjordan], buys a piece of land, and sets up an altar called “the god of the gods of Israel”

V. Comment

Despite his new name, this chapter has shown Israel – who is still mysteriously called Jacob – to be the same type of trickster as before. Instead of trusting in Yahweh, Jacob organizes his camp by placing his servants and their children first, Leah and her children next, and then finally Rachel and her son (vv. 1-2). Presumably this was to protect Rachel and Joseph in the event of a massacre. Also, instead of following Esau to Seir in Edom as he said he would (v. 14), Jacob travels to Succoth and then finally settles in Shechem.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 32: Jacob Prepares for Esau; Jacob Fights with a Divine Man and Becomes Israel


Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob sees angels at his camp and names the place Mahanaim, “the camps” of god. Jacob prepares to meet Esau by communicating words of peace, praying to Yahweh, sending  Esau hundreds of animals in droves, and splitting his camp in two with the hope that at least one will survive. Jacob wrestles with a divine man who injures his leg and changes his name to Israel. Jacob names the site Peniel, “the face of god.”

II. Photo

Jacob survives his fight with the divine man: “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping on his hip.” (v. 32)

III. Select Verses

2-3: Jacob went on his way, and angels of God encountered him. When he saw them, Jacob said, “This is God’s camp.” So he named that place Mahanaim.

7-9: The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.”

10-13: Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Return to your native land and I will deal bountifully with you’! I am unworthy of all the kindness that You have so steadfastly shown Your servant: with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; else, I fear, he may come and strike me down, mothers and children alike. Yet You have said, ‘I will deal bountifully with you and make your offspring as the sands of the sea, which are too numerous to count.’”

14-17: After spending the night there, he selected from what was at hand these presents for his brother Esau: 200 she-goats and 20 he-goats; 200 ewes and 20 rams; 30 milch camels with their colts; 40 cows and 10 bulls; 20 she-asses and 10 he-asses.  These he put in the charge of his servants, drove by drove, and he told his servants, “Go on ahead, and keep a distance between droves.”

25-29: Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.” Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

IV. Outline

1-3. Jacob encounters Yahweh’s angels at Mahanaim

    1. Laban leaves in peace

    2-3. Jacob sees Yahweh’s angels, so he calls the place Mahanaim, “the two camps” of God 

4-22. Jacob sends offerings to Esau and prepares for the worst

    4-6. Jacob sends words of peace to Esau in Edom

    7. Jacob learns that Esau approaches with 400 men

    8-9. Jacob divides his camp in two so that one may survive

    10-13. Jacob praises Yahweh and petitions him to save him and his offspring

    14-16. Jacob separates hundreds of she goats, he goats, ewes, rams, male and female camels, cows, bulls, and female and male donkeys as gifts for Esau

    17-22. Jacob sends the animals group by group in droves with the message that Jacob is right behind them

23-33. Jacob’s fight with a divine man at Peniel

    23-24. Jacob brings his wives and possessions across the Jabbok

    25. A [divine - v. 33] man wrestles Jacob, who is left alone

    26. The divine man injures Jacob’s leg

    27-29. Jacob asks for a blessing, and his name is changed to Israel because he “persevered (s-r-y) with god (‘el)”

    30. The divine man does not reveal his name

    31. Jacob names the place Peniel because he saw the “face (p-n-y) of god (’el)”

    32. Jacob leaves Penuel (variant spelling) limping

    33. Cultural note: this is why the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the leg [sciatic nerve?] until this day

V. Comment

Two notes today. First, the medieval commentator Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel ben Mayer, ca. 1085-1158, France) had a fascinating read of the final episode in this chapter. According to Rashbam, Jacob sent his presents to Esau group by group in droves so that he could buy himself time. Each present came with the message that Jacob was right behind it so Esau would have no reason to hurry up on his journey to Jacob. Rashbam also explains why Jacob was left alone on the other side of the Jabbok, separated from his family. Fearing for his life, Jacob abandoned his family and fled from Esau. He knew he could not protect them and did not trust in Yahweh to save him. At this point, Yahweh intervenes and does not allow Jacob to flee. After a brawl, Jacob’s name is changed from Jacob, which connotes weakness and trickery (Genesis 25:26; 27:36), to Israel, which connotes strength (vv. 28-29). Israel is now a new man who trusts in Yahweh and is able to confront his fears accordingly.

As a second note, I provide a site identification for Mahanaim/Peniel from my dissertation titled “The Tribe of Manasseh and the Jordan River: Geography, Society, History, and Biblical Memory.”

General Location (certain): Jabbok (Zarqa) River region

Specific Location (uncertain): Perhaps Tulul adh-Dhahab (Latitude 32.185533°; Longitude 35.686551°)

Relevant Biblical Names: Mahanaim (מחנים); Peniel (פניאל); Penuel (פנואל)

Greek Names: Μααναιν; Μαναϊμ; Μααναιμ; Μάναλιν1; Παρεμβολαί (“two camps”); Φανουηλ

Verses: Gen 32:3, 31-32; Josh 13:26, 30; 21:38; Judg 8:8-9, 17; 2 Sam 2:8, 12, 29; 17:24, 27; 19:33; 1 Kings 2:8; 4:14; 12:25; 1 Chr 6:65

According to Joshua 13:30, Mahanaim was on the border of east Manasseh: “Their boundary extended from Mahanaim” (ויהי גבולם ממחנים).2 Mahanaim was also on the border of Gad and was considered that tribe’s city of refuge (Joshua 13:26; 21:38; 1 Chronicles 6:65). It appears to have been an important site for it was also the capital of one of Solomon’s twelve districts (1 Kings 4:14). It was there that Eshbaal/Ish-boshet was coronated and where David mustered his troops against Absalom’s forces (2 Sam 2:8-9; 17:24-27). A number of texts suggest that Mahanaim was not far from the Jordan River (2 Sam 2:29; 17:24; 19:31–32). Genesis 32 provides the most details about Mahanaim’s location. According to that text, Mahanaim is located along a ford of the Jabbok river, where Jacob divided “two camps” (שני מחנות) as he prepared to meet his brother Esau (Gen 32:3, 8, 23). The phraseology of “two camps” is significant; the ים-ending of Mahanaim, which originally was a locative,3 appears to have been understood by the biblical authors as a dual form that means “two camps.” This etymology would lead to Mahanaim’s Greek name Παρεμβολαί, which literally means “two camps” (LXX Gen 32:3; 1 Kgs 2:8; Josephus Ant. 7:10, 18, 230, 232, 235, 171, 388). According to Genesis 32:31-32, Jacob named “that place” (המקום) Peniel/Penuel. Perhaps this is a reference to one of the “two camps,” the other being Mahanaim. Other texts mention Penuel in the vicinity of Succoth (Judg 8:8) and recount how it was built up by Jeroboam as his capital city (1 Kgs 12:25).

Mahanaim appears to be listed as mḥnm in Shosheq I’s topographical list from Karnak.4 Penuel might also be mentioned in the very same list as [p]nir, but the text is broken and the geographical context is unclear.5 Unfortunately, there are no ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek traditions that can help us identify the location of Mahanaim/Penuel with any certainty.

In his 1322 book Kaphtor va-Ferah, Ishtori Haparhi identified Mahanaim with an Arab village named Mehna, which he spelled as מחנה.6 This site was listed as Muhna (محنا) in an Ottoman census from the late 16th century.7 Ulrich Seetzen visited the site in the mid-19th century and transcribed it as Möhny.8 Although he did not cite Haparḥi, Edward Robinson identified Mehna with Mahanaim in 1865 and many such as Tristram, Oliphant, Wright and Filsom, and Abel accepted this identification.9 Although it is not clear why the suffix would have dropped (perhaps the final vowel is a remnant), the connection between Hebrew Mahanaim (מחנים) and Arabic Muhna (محنا) is strong, for the Arabic consonants line up perfectly with their Hebrew counterparts (מ/م, ח/ح, נ/ن). However, Muhna is approximately 20 km from the Jabbok (Zarqa) and is not easily accessible from the Jordan, meaning the location does not fit the biblical text. Additionally, although the biblical text ascribes some significance to Mahanaim, surveys of contemporary Mehna have only revealed a site 0.2 ha in size with little to no Iron Age remains.10 For these reasons, scholars began to question this location for Mahanaim, suggesting that the linguistic connection is mere coincidence.11

Screenshot 2017-07-07 11.56.03.png

Although there is neither a linguistic connection nor an ancient tradition, the best possible candidate for Mahanaim is Tulul adh-Dhahab, a group of two tells located along an S-bend on the Jabbok (Zarqa) River. As many point out, this twin site is in consonance with Genesis 32, which understands Mahanaim to mean “two camps.”12 The western tell, which is to the north of the Jabbok (Zarqa), is named Dhahab el-Gharbiyeh, and is approximately 14.2 ha in size.13 The eastern tell, which is to the south of the Jabbok (Zarqa), is named Dhahab el-Sharqiyeh, and is approximately 8.6 ha in size.14 Although neither site has been excavated, Robert L. Gordon and Linda E. Villiers conducted extensive surveys at the two tells in 1980 and 1982.15 They found considerable architecture including two towers, a tunnel (perhaps for a tomb), casemate fortification walls, a main gate with a 7 m opening, part of an 8th or 7th century BCE terra cotta figurine, and 4,681 Iron Age pot sherds (of 12,000 collected in total). They conclude, “There can be no doubt now that the west hill [Dhahab el-Gharbiyeh] as well as the east [Dhahab el-Sharqiyeh] was occupied during both Iron I and Iron II.”16 For these reasons, a number of scholars choose to identify Mahanaim as one of the two tells at Tulul adh-Dhahab, and most settle on Dhahab el-Gharbiyeh (Dhahab el-Sharqiyeh is often identified as Penuel).17 If these identifications are not correct then Mahanaim/Penuel was certainly in the near vicinity. While other suggestions have been made (e.g., Tell Hajjaj, which is only 4 km away, and Tell Rehil, which is only 10 km away), these nearby Iron Age sites are less preferable because they have neither a linguistic connection nor any evidence of the “two camps” mentioned by the biblical authors.18

Screenshot 2017-07-07 11.56.17

In sum, it is probable but not certain that both Mahanaim and Penuel were located at Tulul adh-Dhahab. While this identification satisfies the biblical and archaeological requirements and even explains the biblical etymology of Mahanaim, the linguistic connection is lacking. To add to the problem, a strong linguistic candidate (but not a strong archaeological or biblical one) exists 20 km to the north at Mehna and there are a number of Iron Age tells in that region. No matter the case, the general whereabouts of Mahanaim is certainly along the Jabbok (Zarqa) River not far from the Jordan. This means that Manasseh’s territory extended to the Jabbok (Zarqa), encompassing the entirety of northern Gilead.

1 H. St. J. Thackeray and Ralph Marcus suggest that this is a corruption in Josephus or his biblical vorlage (Josephus V: Jewish Antiquities, Books V-VIII [Cambridge: Harvard University, 1934], 363 n. “c”.

2 Some scholars suggest a second connection between Manasseh and Mahanaim. According to 1 Kings 4:14, a certain Ahinadab son of Iddo (אחינדב בן עדא) lived in Mahanaim, and according to 1 Chronicles 27:21, a certain Iddo son of Zechariah (ידו בן זכריה) was a chief of Manasseh. If the Iddos can be equated (but note the spelling difference) then Ahinadab was a Manassite. See Diana V. Edelman, “Mahanaim (Place),” ABD 4:471-472.

3 See Yigal Levin, “The identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa: A New Suggestion,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 367 (2012), 73-86; Elitzur, Ancient Place Names, 282-290.

4 This is the 22nd toponym mentioned in the list. For the text, see, Wilhelm M. Müller, Egyptological Researches: Results of a Journey from 1904 (Vol. 1; Washington D. C.: Carnegie Institution, 1906), pls. 75-87; Wilhelm M. Müller, Egyptological Researches: Results from a Journey from 1906 (Vol. 2; Washington D. C.: Carnegie Institution, 1910), 113-115; Jan J. Simons, Handbook for the Study of Egyptian Topographical Lists Relating to Western Asia (Leiden: Brill, 1937), 178-186. This identification is accepted by Aḥituv, Canaanite Toponyms, 134. While Frank Clancy suggests that Shoshenq might be referring to the Mahaneh-Dan (מחנה דן) of Judg 13:25, 18:12, Kevin A. Wilson writes that “Mahanaim is a well known site and probably was larger, which makes it the better candidate.” See Frank Clancy, “Shishak/Shoshenq’s Travels,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 86 (1999), 3-23; Kevin A. Wilson, The Campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I into Palestine [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005], 108.

5 See Wilson, Campaign, 115 for a list of those who support and question this reading.

6 Ishtori Haparhi, Kaphtor va-Ferah (ed. A. M. Luncz; Jerusalem: 1897), 311.

7 Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah, Historical Geography of Palestine, 201.

8 Seetzen, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen’s Reisen durch Syrien, 385.

9 Edward Robinson, Physical Geography of the Holy Land (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1865), 86. Robinson spelled Mehna as محنه in his Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea (Vol. 3; Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1841), Second Appendix, 166. For examples of those who accept the identification, see Henry B. Tristram, The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1865), 482-483; Laurence Oliphant, The Land of Gilead with Excursions in the Lebanon (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1880), 142-143; Henry B. Tristram, Bible Places, or the Topography of the Holy Land (New York: E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1897), 384; G. Ernest Wright and Floyd V. Wilson, The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible (Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1956), 125, 223; Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, 2: 373-374.

10 “Site Report: Mehna,” MegaJordan: The National Heritage and Documentation System. Online: Nelson Glueck found some Iron Age pottery sherds at Mehna (site no. 40), though he could not find the remains of an ancient village (Explorations in Eastern Palestine, IV. Part I: Text [ASOR 25/28; New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1951], 227-229). Siegfried Mittmann visited the site after Glueck but only found Byzantine and Arab period sherds (Beiträge zur Siedlungs, 259). J. W. Hanbury-Tenison found no Iron Age remains at the site (no. 51) and described the material as “predominantly Umayyad and Mediaeval” (“Jarash Region Survey 1984,” 157).

11 To the best of my knowledge, Selah Merrill was the first to question the identification based on biblical and archaeological grounds (East of the Jordan, 436-437). For other examples, see Simons, Geographical and Topographical Texts, 232 where this identification is called “improbable” and “incompatible with our view,” and the arguments put forth in Emil G. Kraeling, Rand McNally Bible Atlas (London: Collin’s Clear Type, 1956), 205.

12 Although there is no linguistic connection, a similar approach has been taken for the identification of biblical Shaaraim (שערים; Josh 15:36; 1 Sam 17:52; 1 Chr 4:31), a dual form that literally means “the two gates.” Khirbet Qeiyafa has been identified by its excavators as Shaaraim, primarily because it has two gates and fits the biblical location. For more, see Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 1: Excavation Report 2007-2008 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2009), 8-10.

13 “Site Report: Dhahab el-Gharbiyeh,” MegaJordan: The National Heritage and Documentation System. Online:

14“Site Report: Dhahab el-Sharqiyeh,” MegaJordan: The National Heritage and Documentation System. Online:

15 Robert L. Gordon and Linda E. Villiers, “Telul Edh Dhahab and its Environs Surveys of 1980 and 1982: A Preliminary Report,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 27 (1983), 275-289. The site was surveyed two previous times but given less attention. See Nelson Glueck, Explorations in Eastern Palestine Vol. 3, AASOR 18/19 (New Haven: 1939), 2332-235; De Vaux, “Exploration de la region de Salt,” 411-413.

16 Gordon and Villiers, “Telul Edh Dhahab,” 284.

17 The most detailed study has been Robert A. Coughenour, “A Search for Maḥanaim,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 273 (1989), 57-66. Also see Gustaf Dalman, “8: Die Zeitreise. Auf den suche nach Mahanaim,” Palästina-Jahrbuch 9 (1913), 66-73; Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas: Revised Edition (New York: Macmillan, 1977), Map no. 78; Kallai, Historical Geography, 264 n. 345; Diana V. Edelman, “Mahanaim (Place),” ABD 4:471-472; Macdonald, “East of the Jordan,” 140-142. Jeremy M. Hutton settles on either Telul Edh Dhahab of Tell Hajjaj (“Mahanaim, Penuel, and Transhumance Routes: Observations on Genesis 32–33 and Judges 8,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 65.3 [2006], 161-178, esp. 162-164).

18 For those who make these suggestions, see Coughenour, “A Search for Maḥanaim,” 59; Hutton, “Mahanaim, Penuel,” 162-164 ; Macdonald,“East of the Jordan,” 140-142. Also see Finkelstein, Koch, and Lipschitz, “The Biblical Gilead,” 147-149, where Tell Hajjaj is preferred for Mahanaim and Tulul adh-Dhahab is preferable for Penuel.


VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo copied from