[b-hebrew] Names of Rachel's Second-Born Son

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Sep 27 10:32:13 EDT 2011


Considering the two names that Rachel and Jacob give to Rachel’s 
second-born son in chapter 35 of Genesis, let’s now re-consider what Genesis 37: 9-14 
is saying if chapter 37 of Genesis is a flashback to the period of time 
right before the bloody Shechem incident.
 
Young Joseph has his famous dream of 11 stars bowing down to him [Genesis 
37: 9] at an extremely awkward time.  Leah had just now died trying to bear 
Jacob her 7th birth son (but the child was stillborn);  Rachel was noticeably 
pregnant at this point;  and Jacob and his 11 sons have made the trip from 
the Shechem-Succoth area to go to the Patriarchs’ Hebron to bury Leah.  (The 
place of Leah’s burial is confirmed only later, at Genesis 49: 31.)  With 
Rachel being noticeably pregnant, it is not surprising that Joseph’s dream 
anticipates that his mother will soon give birth to a son who will live to 
adulthood, which is why there are 11 stars who bow down to Joseph:  Jacob’s 
oldest 10 sons and Rachel’s unborn second son en ventre sa mere.  (The meaning 
of “the sun and the moon” is ambiguous, and will be misinterpreted by 
Jacob.)
 
Upon hearing this dream, Jacob exclaims at Genesis 37: 10:  “Shall I and 
thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the 
earth?”  Note first that Jacob makes no mention whatsoever of Leah.  That 
means that Leah has already died.  Moreover, if chapter 37 of Genesis is a 
flashback, then per Genesis 33: 17-18 the family at this point is sojourning in 
the Shechem-Succoth area.  The only reason why Jacob and his 11 sons are 
temporarily at the Patriarchs’ Hebron, per Genesis 37: 14 below, is that they 
have gone there to bury Leah;  so Leah has just died a day or two ago.  
Jacob, who (unlike Joseph) is never portrayed as being able to interpret dreams, 
misinterprets the meaning of “the sun and the moon” in young Joseph’s 
dream, thinking that it means Jacob and his only living main wife, Rachel.  Jacob’
s sons, by contrast, focus solely on the most obvious aspect of the dream:  
Joseph seems to be claiming that he will one day rule over all of them.
 
It’s dangerous for the flock to be left too long with mere servants, so 
Jacob’s 10 oldest sons, including all 6 of Leah’s 6 birth sons, soon must stop 
mourning Leah’s death at the Patriarchs’ Hebron and return to the flock at 
Shechem.  Jacob, as is his want (cf. Jacob later keeping then favorite son 
Benjamin with him when all 10 of the oldest sons must go to Egypt to buy 
grain for the starving Hebrews in Canaan), retains his favorite son Joseph with 
him.  Jacob has a tin ear at this point, and does not realize that Leah’s 
blood sons will terribly resent the fact that Joseph, who is not a son of 
Leah, is the only one of Jacob’s 11 living sons who gets to stay longer with 
Jacob at the Patriarchs’ Hebron, where Leah has just now been buried.  T-h-a-t 
 is why this sequence is so especially outrageous to Leah’s blood sons 
(including would-be murderers Simeon and Levi).  [Note that the name “Benjamin” 
never appears in chapter 37 of Genesis, because Benjamin has not been born 
yet.  Likewise, the names “Joseph” and “Judah” and “Leah” do not appear 
in chapter 34 of Genesis, because Joseph and Judah have already left the 
family and are not there at Shechem for the bloody Shechem incident, and Leah 
has already died.]  Jacob is thinking that Joseph will return to the Patriarchs
’ Hebron with a report, allowing Jacob himself to stay longer at Leah’s 
burial place.  In fact, the great irony here is that Jacob at this very moment 
is giving serious consideration to what Leah must have said on her 
deathbed, namely that the Patriarchal tradition is that a Patriarch’s successor must 
be a non-favorite younger son of the Patriarch whose birth mother is the 
Patriarch’s original main wife #1 (which in Jacob’s case is Leah, not 
Rachel).  Jacob likely was mulling the possibility of telling Joseph, upon Joseph’s 
return, that Jacob might not be able to name his favorite son Joseph as the 
leader of the next generation of the Hebrews, in deference to the pattern 
of Patriarchal succession that had been established by Abraham and Isaac.  
But Leah’s birth sons know nothing of this, and only see that Joseph is 
waltzing up to and past Shechem on his own, to report to his father how Joseph’s 
older half-brothers are doing with the flock, as if young Joseph already had 
a superior position to all his older half-brothers.
 
Jacob does not hesitate to send Joseph to Shechem alone, because this is 
before the bloody Shechem incident (narrated in chapter 34 of Genesis), and so 
Jacob perceives no danger.  [As to the phrase “the vale of Hebron” at 
Genesis 37: 14, Prof. Robert Alter comments at p. 211 of “Genesis”:  “14.  the 
valley of Hebron.  The validity of this designation can be defended only 
through ingenious explanation because Hebron stands on a height.”  In fact, no “
ingenious explanation” is needed:  the Patriarchs’ Hebron is the valley of 
Ayalon!]
 
Prof. Alter at p. 211 also unfortunately reflects the scholarly view that 
there are two different authors of chapters 37 and 35 of Genesis, who didn’t 
know what each other was saying, and whose blatant contradictions were not 
caught by any of the editors of this material:  “10.  I and your mother.  
This  particular episode seems to assume, in flat contradiction of the 
preceding narrative, that Rachel is still alive, though Benjamin has already been 
born (there are eleven brothers in the dream bowing to Joseph).”  No, Benjamin 
is en ventre sa mere at this point, and will not be born until quite a few 
weeks later.  “[I]t is a perfectly lucid Jacob who assumes here that Rachel 
is still alive.”  That’s because Rachel is still alive, being noticeably 
pregnant with her second son.
 
Note that for the  f-i-r-s-t  time, every single word at Genesis 37: 9-14 
now makes perfect sense, if and only if chapter 37 of Genesis is viewed as 
being a flashback to the time period just before the bloody Shechem incident 
(with there only being a single author of all this material, who has made no 
mistakes).  That also means that, with Joseph having disappeared at the time 
Rachel’s second son is born, it makes sense for Rachel to triumphantly 
state that even though she is dying in childbirth, she has had the “strength” 
and “vigor”, that is, )WNY, to bear a second son, BN-)WNY, who will surely 
now become the favored, favorite son of Jacob, effectively replacing the 
recently vanished Joseph.  Jacob not only initially approves this line of 
thinking, but also he one-ups Rachel as to that matter, proudly deciding to call 
Rachel’s second-born son BN-YMYN, “Son of my Right Hand”.  With Joseph 
having vanished, Jacob now plans, in due course, to place his “right hand” on 
this “son”, Rachel’s second-born son, to name him as the leader of the next 
generation of Hebrews.  The names that are bestowed on Rachel’s second-born 
son, BN-)WNY and BN-YMYN, make sense if and only if Joseph has vanished prior 
to the birth of Rachel’s second son, with chapter 37 of Genesis being a 
flashback that is told out of normal chronological order.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois


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