The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
"AND the Lord visited Sarah and she bore a son unto Abraham in his old age."
When Isaac was born Abraham prepared a great feast in his honour, and invited thereto all the chiefs and men of birth and position who were his neighbours, such as Abimelech and the captains of his armies. Therach, Abraham's father, and Nahor, his brother, journeyed also from Charan to join in the festivities, and Shem with Eber, his son, were likewise of the party. They were all hearty in their congratulations, and Abraham's heart was full with gladness.
Ishmael, the son of Hagar and Abraham, was very fond of hunting and field sports. He carried his bow with him at all times, and upon one occasion, when Isaac was about five years of age, Ishmael aimed his arrow at the child, crying, "Now I am going to shoot thee." Sarah witnessed this action, and fearing for the life of her son, and disliking the child of her handmaid, she made many complaints to Abraham of the boy's doings, and urged him to dismiss both Hagar and Ishmael froth his tent, and send them to live at some other place.
For some time Ishmael lived with his mother in the wilderness of Paran, always indulging in his great passion for hunting; then they journeyed to Egypt, where Ishmael married, and where four sons and a daughter were born to him. But soon he returned to his favourite home in the
wilderness, building there tents for himself, his people and his family, for God had blessed him, and he was the master of large flocks and herds.
And it came to pass after many years that Abraham, yielding to a longing which had always possessed him, determined to visit his son, and informing Sarah of his intention he started off alone upon a camel.
He reached Ishmael's dwelling-place about noontime, and found that his son was away from home, hunting. He was rudely treated by Ishmael's wife, who did not know him, and who refused him the bread and water which he asked for. Therefore he said to her, "When thy husband returns say thus to him, describing my appearance, An old man from the land of the Philistines came to our door during thy absence, and he said to me, when thy husband returns, tell him to remove the nail which he has driven in his tent and to replace it with one more worthy," with which words Abraham rode away.
When Ishmael returned home his wife related to him the occurrence, describing the man and repeating his words, and Ishmael knew that his father had visited him and been treated with disrespect. For which cause Ishmael divorced his wife, and married a maiden from the land of Canaan.
Some three years after this Abraham again visited his son's tent, and again his son was away from home; but his wife was pleasant and hospitable, and begged the stranger, whom she did not know, to alight from his camel, and she set before him bread and meat. Therefore he said to her, "When thy husband returns, describe to him my appearance, and say, 'This old man came to thee from the land of the Philistines, and this message he left for thee: the nail which thou hast driven in thy tent is good and worthy,
see that it is properly esteemed;" and blessing Ishmael and his family, Abraham returned to his home.
When Ishmael returned he was much pleased to hear his father's message, and he thanked God for a good and worthy wife, and after a time he and his family visited Abraham, and remained with him in the land of the Philistines for many days.
When Abraham had dwelt here for six-and-twenty years, he removed with all his family and possessions to Bear Sheba, near Hebron. Here he planted a grove and built large houses, which he kept always open for the poor and needy. Those who were hungry entered freely and partook of food according to their desire, and those who were needy were liberally supplied with the necessaries of life. When any of the grateful ones would seek to Abraham to thank him for his benevolence he replied to them:
"Address thy thanks to God. To the Eternal, who created all things, all that we receive belongs; through His bounty we are fed and clothed."
To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to speak kindly to the unfortunate, to act justly towards all mankind, and to be ever grateful to the Eternal, formed the articles of the creed according to which Abraham fashioned his life.
And the word of the Lord came unto Abraham, saying, "Take now thy son whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."
When this command was delivered to Abraham, chief among the many griefs and anxieties which oppressed his mind, was the necessity of separating Isaac from his mother. He could not tell her of his intention, and yet the lad was
always with her. Finally he proceeded to Sarah's tent, and seating himself beside her, he said:
"Thy son is growing to manhood, and he has not yet learned the service of heaven. To-morrow I will take him with me to learn the ways of the Lord, with Shem and Eber."
And Sarah replied:
"Go, my lord, and do as thou hast spoken; but do not take the lad too great a distance, and keep him not a long time from my presence."
And Abraham said:
"Pray to God for the happiness of thy son, for my happiness, and for thy own."
During that night Sarah was much troubled on account of the approaching separation from Isaac; she was unable to sleep, and when her husband and the lads who accompanied him appeared early in the morning, ready to start upon their journey, she pressed Isaac to her bosom, and weeping bitterly she sobbed:
"Oh, my son, my son! how can I allow thee to wander from me; my only child, my pride, my hope." Then turning to Abraham she said:
"Watch carefully the lad, for he is young and tender; let him not travel in the heat, nor journey so as to weary his frame."
She clothed Isaac in his richest garments, and she and her maidens accompanied him on his way till Abraham bid them depart and return unto their homes.
Abraham and Isaac journeyed on with the two lads, who were Ishmael, Abraham's son, and Eleazer, the steward of his house.
As they journeyed Ishmael spoke to Eleazer, saying:
"My father intends to sacrifice his son Isaac for a burnt
offering; therefore, I will be his heir, for am I not his first-born son?"
"Nay," answered Eleazer, "thy father drove thee forth that thou shouldst not inherit his possessions; to me, his faithful servant, will all his wealth descend."
As they proceeded on their way Isaac addressed his father, saying:
"Behold, my father, here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?"
And Abraham answered:
"Our God hath chosen thee, my son; thee, a creature without blemish, as an acceptable burnt-offering to His glory in place of the lamb."
And then said Isaac:
"To the will of the living God in thankfulness I bow."
"My son," said Abraham, "is there any secret evil in thy heart, or any wrong upon thy mind; if so, dell me freely, my son, keep naught from me in this great hour."
And Isaac answered:
"By the life of God, my father, I know no evil, I am conscious of no regret. Blessed be the Lord who has desired me this day."
This answer of his son was very gratifying to the father's heart, and they continued on in silence, until they reached the spot which God had selected.
Then Abraham built an altar to the Lord, and his son handed him the stones and assisted him in the work.
They who trust in God are ever strengthened, and though their eyes were wet with tears their hearts were firm, confiding in their God.
When the altar was built Abraham laid the wood upon it in order, and then he bound his son Isaac upon the wood.
And Isaac spoke to his father, saying:
"My father, bind me well, in order that I may not, by struggling, profane the sacrifice; be firm, my father, and sharpen well the knife. Tell my mother that her joy is gone; the son she bore at ninety years surrendered to the flame. When I am consumed, take with thee of the ashes left, and say to Sarah, This is thy Isaac, who to God was offered."
When Abraham heard these words he wept bitterly, but Isaac continued with a firm voice:
"Now quickly, father, do the will of God." And he stretched his neck to meet the knife which rested in his father's hand.
"And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son."
Abraham sprinkled the ram's blood upon the altar, saying:
"May this blood be considered even as the blood of my son, offered as a sacrifice before the Lord."
And so through the entire sacrificial service Abraham prayed:
"May this be received even as the blood of my son, offered as a burnt-offering before the Lord."
While Abraham and Isaac were away upon this mission an old man approached Sarah, near her tent, and said to her:
"Knowest thou that Abraham has offered up thy Isaac as a sacrifice before the Lord. Aye, despite his struggles and his cries, thy son has been made a victim to the knife."
Then Sarah uttered a heart-rending cry, and throwing herself upon the ground she sobbed bitterly:
"My son, my son, would that I had perished this day for thee. Thee, whom I have raised and nourished, my life and all my love was thine. Now is my pride and gladness turned to mourning, for the fire has consumed my joy. Take comfort, oh, my heart! the lives of all God carries in the hollow of his hand. Blessed are they who follow Thy commands, for Thou art righteous, and Thy words are truth; therefore, oh Lord, though mine eyes weep bitter tears, my heart is glad."
Then Sarah rose and journeyed from Bear Sheba to Hebron, and she inquired upon the road concerning her husband and her son, but she was unable to ascertain their whereabouts.
Returning to her tents she was met by the same old man who had before addressed her, and thus he spoke:
"Verily I did inform thee falsely, for Isaac, thy son, lives."
Sarah's heart was stronger for grief than joy. These tidings and the revulsion in her feelings killed her; she died and was gathered to her people.
And when Abraham and Isaac returned and found the dead body of Sarah, they lifted up their voices in bitter lamentation, and all their servants joined with Abraham and Isaac in grief for the departed.
Now Isaac was fifty-nine years of age, and his wife Rebecca was barren, and Isaac prayed unto the Lord to visit his wife even as he had visited Sarah, his mother, saying:
"Oh Lord, God of heaven and of earth, thou fittest both with thy goodness and mercy. From the house of his father, and from his kindred's home, thou didst bring my father to this place, promising to increase his seed,
even as the stars of the heavens, and to give to them this land as a heritage and possession. Fulfil, oh God, these words which thou hast spoken. To thee, oh God, we look in hope and pray for children, for those whom thou hast promised us. Oh, my God, to thee I look, in hope."
And God hearkened to the prayer of Isaac, and his wife bore him two sons, twins. The one, the first, she called "Esau," and the other "Jacob."
And Esau was fond of outdoor life, while Jacob stayed at home learning from Abraham, his grandfather, the ways and teachings of the Lord.
When the lads were about fifteen years old, Abraham died at the age of one hundred and seventy-one years. And when the inhabitants of Canaan learned of his decease they, with all its kings and princes, hastened to do honour to his remains, and all his relatives, who lived in Charan, and the sons of his concubines, came also to the funeral. And Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, and all who knew him mourned for him a year.
Very few men like Abraham has the sun looked upon. From his youth he served his Maker and walked upright before Him, and from his birth even unto the moment of his death his God was with him. He spoke of God's goodness to all with whom he came in contact; he built a grove for travellers and opened his doors in wide and generous hospitality to the needy, the weary, and all who passed his way. For Abraham's sake the Lord looked kindly on the people of the earth, and after his death God blessed Isaac, his son, and prospered him greatly.
And the sons of Isaac grew in strength and years. Esau was a man of evil thoughts, of quick passions, and a lover of outdoor life, Jacob was a shepherd, an intelligent and
domestic man, following in the path which Abraham had pointed out to him.
And it came to pass that Esau went hunting in the field upon a certain day, when Nimrod, too, was engaged in the same pursuit. Both being mighty hunters a rivalry existed between the two, a deadly jealousy. Esau happened to see Nimrod when all his attendants, save two men, had left him. Esau concealed himself, and when Nimrod passed the place where he was hiding pointed his arrow, pulled the cord, and shot Nimrod through the heart. Then rushing from his concealment, Esau engaged in a deadly struggle with Nimrod's two attendants, and overcame and killed them both. Then stripping from Nimrod's shoulders the wonderful coat, before mentioned, which God had made for Adam, Esau hastened home, reaching his father's tent weary, hungry, tired, and faint. Then Esau said to Jacob, his brother:
"Give me of yonder red pottage,--let me eat of it, I pray, for I am faint."
And Jacob said:
"Sell me this day thy right of first born."
And Esau thought in his heart, "They will surely avenge upon me the death of Nimrod," and he answered:
"Behold, I am going to die. What can the right of first born profit me?"
So Jacob bought from Esau his right of first born, and also a burial plot for himself in the cave of Machpelah.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and Esau eat and drank and went his way.
For money did Jacob purchase these rights, and after the bargain was concluded, he gave his brother the food he had asked for.
The body of Nimrod was found and brought to Babel
and buried there, And Nimrod lived two hundred and fifteen years, and was killed by a descendant of Abraham, even as he had foreseen in his dream.
When Jacob received the blessing which was intended for Esau, Isaac was very old, and Esau said:
"My father will soon die, and then I will take vengeance on Jacob for this wrong which he has done me." This threat was repeated to Rebecca, who called Jacob and bade him flee to Charan, to her brother Laban, to tarry there until his brother's fury had abated.
Then Isaac sent messengers after Jacob, with a repetition of his blessing and this charge: "Take not a wife from the daughters of Canaan, for thus has said my father Abraham, in the word of the Lord, the word which has promised this land to our seed if we obey the Lord and observe faithfully his commands. Arise, go to Charan, to the house of Bethuel, thy mother's father, and take heed that thou forgettest not the Lord thy God and all His ways. Turn neither to the right nor to the left after the vanities of the people among whom thou goest. The Almighty will give thee grace in the eyes of the men of the land, and thou shalt take a wife there according to thy desire, that God may grant thee the blessing of Abraham, and make thee fruitful and multiply thee until thou becomest an assembly in the land. That He may bring thee back to this land with children, gladness, and prosperity."
Jacob obeyed his father and journeyed on towards Mesopotamia. He was seventy-seven years of age when he started forth from Bear Sheba.
When Jacob had departed from his father's house, Esau called to him his son Eliphas, and said to him in secrecy, "Go follow after Jacob with thy bow in thy hand, lie in
wait for him, slay him upon the mountains, take for thy own what treasure he has with him, and then return to me."
Eliphas was then but thirteen years of age, yet he was remarkably swift of foot and understood well the handling of the bow. He obeyed his father, and taking some men with him, followed after Jacob and overtook him on the borders of Canaan.
When Jacob saw Eliphas coming after him he halted and awaited his approach, thinking that his nephew carried some message from home. When Eliphas came near he drew his sword. Jacob inquired the reason of his pursuit, and the lad answered, "Thus and thus has my father commanded me, and I dare not disobey his orders."
When Jacob learned Esau's intention, and saw that the lad seemed determined to do as he had been bidden, he turned to him and the men with him, and said:
"Take all that I have, all that my father and my mother gave into my hands, but spare my life. Your kindness will be accounted to you as righteousness."
The Lord gave Jacob favour in their eyes, and they allowed him to proceed unharmed on his journey. His gold and silver, however, everything of value that he had taken with him from his father's house, Eliphas and his comrades seized and carried to Esau. Esau was strongly displeased because they had listened to Jacob's pleadings, and the treasure which they had seized he added to his own store.
Jacob proceeded on his journey towards Charan. When he reached the Mount of Moriah he tarried there and slept that night. And the Lord appeared to him and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac, thy father The ground whereon thou liest will I give to thy children and behold I will be with thee, therefore fear not. I will
guard thee wheresoever thou goest, and I will increase thy seed as the stars of the heaven. I will disperse thy enemies before thee; they will fight against thee, but they will not prevail. With gladness and great wealth will I bring thee back to thy father's land."
Jacob awoke from his sleep enchanted with the remembrance of the beautiful and encouraging vision which had blessed his slumbers. He called the place Beth El.
When Jacob arrived in Charan he told his uncle Laban how Eliphas, the son of Esau, had despoiled him, and bursting into tears, proclaimed himself a beggar.
"Then," said Laban, "surely thou art my bone and my flesh. I will take care of thee even though thou art penniless."
After Laban's fruitless pursuit after Jacob when he left with his wives, children, and chattels, and God had said to the son of Bethuel, "Take heed to thee, speak with Jacob neither good nor evil," he sent, after parting with his son-in-law, messengers to Esau, charged to deliver these words:
"We come from Laban, thy relative, thy mother's brother, and in his words we say, 'Knowest thou what Jacob, thy brother, has done to me? Faint and needy he came to me, and I received him into my house with honours and affection. I gave him my daughters for wives, and the handmaids of my daughters did I also give him. God blessed him for my sake, and he accumulated much wealth. He begat children and acquired men-servants and maid-servants, sheep, oxen, and cattle of all kinds, a great multitude, and likewise silver and gold. With all this he left me, fled secretly with all his possessions towards the land of Canaan, his father's home. He denied me even the privilege of kissing my daughters; as captives he led them with him, and worse
than all, my gods he stole. By the brook of Jabak I left him with all his substance, and if thou desirest to pursue him, there will he be found. Go, then, and do with him what is pleasing to thy heart.'"
When Esau heard these words of the messengers of Laban, all the wrong which Jacob had done him freshened in his memory, and his anger and hate against his brother burned once more fiercely in his heart. He gathered together his sons and servants, and all the family of Seer, a company of four hundred men, and at their head he set out to meet Jacob and to smite him.
After the messengers of Laban left Esau, they journeyed to Canaan, and there informed Rebecca of her son Esau's preparations and his intention to waylay and punish Jacob. Rebecca immediately sent seventy-two of Isaac's men to assist her favourite child. They met him at the brook Jabak, and when he saw them he said, "Surely here is help from heaven," and he called the place Machanayim.
Jacob recognised his father's servitors, and asked after the wellbeing of his parents, to which the messengers responded, "They live in peace, and farther we bring this message from thy mother. 'I have heard, my son, that Esau, thy brother, intends to meet thee on the road with the men of Seer. Therefore, I pray thee, heed my words. When thou shalt see him, be not rash nor headstrong, but greet him humbly and with a gracious present from the abundance with which God hath blessed thee. When he addresses thee, answer meekly, kindly, and thus will his wrath be turned from thee. Remember, he is thy elder brother, and to him is thy respect and honour due.'"
Jacob wept at these words of his mother, but he obeyed her request. He sent messengers to meet Esau on the road, and to offer him such words as his mother had directed.
[paragraph continues] These messengers met Esau and his company, and spoke as Jacob had commanded them, but Esau answered with pride:
"Nay, nay, the truth I have heard. I know how Jacob treated Laban; how he repaid the kindness of the relative who gave him wives and substance; how he fled, taking the children of Laban with him, as though they had been captives of the sword. Not Laban only has he wronged; twice he supplanted me. Therefore I come to meet him, and the vengeance for which I have waited twenty years shall now be mine."
When these words were carried to Jacob he was sorely distressed. Earthly help seemed unavailable; with a full heart he cast himself before the Lord and prayed earnestly for deliverance from the trouble which threatened him and all his people.
Then he divided his people and his flocks into two companies. One detachment he placed under the command of Eleazer of Damascus, the servant of Abraham, with his sons, and the other under Elinus, the son of Eleazer, and his sons. And thus he commanded them:
"Travel apart, so that if one company shall perchance be smitten, the other may escape."
Then, when he met Esau, he bowed to the ground before him seven times, and God gave him grace in his brother's eyes. Esau's hate died away, and natural affection gaining the mastery, he raised Jacob from the ground and embraced and kissed him.
Jacob encamped with all his family before the city of Shechem, and purchased a lot of land for a dwelling from the sons of Chamor for the sum of fifty shekels.
Here he made his home, and lived in peace and safety for about eighteen months.
Then the inhabitants of Shechem made a great feast, an occasion of joyousness, dancing, singing, and merriment of all kinds, and all the daughters of the land joined in the general revelry. And it came to pass that Rachel and Leah, the wives of Jacob, and Dinah, his daughter, felt a great desire to witness this scene of enjoyment, and together they repaired to the place where the festivities were held. All the nobles of the city were present, and Shechem, the son of the king, was also one of the participants.
He happened to see Dinah, and was immediately attracted by her great beauty and modest appearance. He inquired as to who she was, and learned that she was the daughter of Jacob the Hebrew, who had lately settled in his father's land. His passion grew very strong, and taking advantage of an opportunity he carried the frightened girl forcibly to his house.
Rachel and Leah hurried home and informed Jacob of the occurrence. He immediately sent twelve servants to the house of Shechem to demand the girl, but they were insolently met by the prince's retainers and driven back to Jacob. He said nothing, but waited quietly until his sons should return to their home.
Shechem, in the meantime, sent a messenger to his father, requesting him to visit Jacob and demand Dinah as a wife for him. The king was much displeased with the affair, and seeking his son, he said, "Canst thou not find a wife among the daughters of our land? Why shouldst thou desire this Hebrew damsel, a stranger among thy race?"
Shechem replied to his father, "She is pleasing in my eyes," and he impressed his father so completely with his love for the maiden that the king at length consented to seek the patriarch, Jacob, and gain his consent to the marriage.
Now when the sons of Jacob returned home, and learned of the occurrence and the violence with which their only sister had been treated, their hearts burned with indignation.
"The penalty for this crime is death," they exclaimed; our sister has been sinned against with the sin which God warned Noah and his children to shun if they desired life. Death shall be the punishment of this violator of our home, death at our hands, to him, his family, and the whole city."
While the sons of Jacob were thus speaking, Chamor, the father of Shechem, entered into their presence, and addressed Jacob:
"My son Shechem desires thy daughter for a wife; give her to him, I pray thee, and thy people may intermarry with the daughters of our land. Our country is large, and it is all before thee to trade therein, or do soever as thou pleasest, if thou wilt but consent to the wishes of my son."
As Chamor concluded, his son, Shechem, entered, and continued his father's propositions:
"Let me find grace in your eyes," he said to the men before him. "Give me the damsel for a wife, and whatever dowry you may demand shall be cheerfully given."
Simeon and Levi, desiring time to perfect a plan for inflicting punishment for the wrong done their sister, replied to Shechem and his father with a cunning tongue:
"What thou hast said to us we will consider. Our sister is in thy hands. Give us time, however, to consult with our grandfather, Isaac; he is wise, and knows well what should be done in a case like this; according to his welds we will act."
Shechem acquiesced in this arrangement, and withdrew, with his father, from Jacob's house.
When they had departed the sons of Jacob reiterated their determination to put the man of violence to death, and
with him the men of the city who had encouraged him in the act.
"Listen," said Simeon, "to my advice. We will say to these men, 'Our God hath enjoined upon us the act of circumcision, and we cannot give our daughters and sisters to those who have not entered into this covenant. Become like us, and then we may freely intermarry; if not, we will take our sister and go from among you;' then when they are weak and suffering we will fall upon them, and all their males shall die by the sword."
This advice was pleasing to his brethren, and when Shechem and Chamor came again to them for their decision, they proclaimed this as the counsel of Isaac, saying that their grandfather had decided that for them to give their sister to an uncircumcised man would be a reproach to them for ever.
Shechem and his father then gathered the people at the gates of the city, and made known to them the proposition of the Israelites, counselling them to accept the same.
All the citizens seemed willing to do the pleasure of their king save Hadkam, the son of Pered, the father of Chamor, and his six brothers. They scorned Jacob and his sons, and defended the mothers of their city who refused to allow their children to undergo the operation.
"Shame to you that you should consider such a thing," said they. "Are not the daughters of the Canaanites good enough for wives, that you wish to wed the daughters of this Hebrew, this stranger among you? Beware of this rash act, which your fathers never enjoined upon you; the undertaking cannot be prosperous. What answer can you make to your brethren, the Canaanites, when they demand your reason for this folly? And how will you appear in the eyes of your brethren, the children of Ham, when ‘tis said, 'For
a Hebrew woman did Shechem, his father, and all the inhabitants of his city, commit an abomination?' Whither will ye flee? Where will ye be able to hide your shame? We will not bend beneath this yoke, which you take so willingly upon you; we will gather our brethren, and we will smite you, aye to death."
Chamor and Shechem began to regret their impulsive proceeding, but they answered:
"Think not that we did this because we love the Hebrews; no, merely to blind their eyes, and obtain their daughter. Wait but till we have recovered from the operation, and they and all that is theirs shall be ours, to use according to our pleasure."
Dinah overheard the discussion, and she sent a hand-maiden to her father's house to inform him and her brethren of the designs of Shechem.
"By the life of the Lord, the God of the universe," swore Simeon and Levi, "to-morrow will we fall upon this people, and not a remnant shall escape our just anger."
They carried out their intention, and coming suddenly upon the people next day, while they were suffering from the effects of their doing, the sons of Jacob slew Chamor, Shechem, and all the inhabitants of the city, and carried their sister Dinah to her home.
When Jacob realised the result of their rashness he was grieved, angered, and alarmed.
"What is this that you have done to me!" he exclaimed. "In this country I thought I had found rest, and now when the relatives of these people learn what you have done they will fall upon me and destroy me and my house."
But his sons answered:
"All this lies at the door of Shechem. Wouldst thou
have us hold our peace and suffer quietly this immoral conduct and cruel wrong!"
The number of men killed by the Hebrews was forty-seven. The women they took for slaves.
And it came to pass when Simeon and Levi left the city of Shechem that two men, who had been in hiding, hastened to the city of Thapnah and told to its king and its inhabitants all that the sons of Jacob had wrought in Shechem. The king refused to believe that ten men could thus overcome a city, and he sent messengers to ascertain whether the report was true. "Even in the time of Nimrod, when men were mighty," said he, "such a thing would have been impossible." When his messengers returned, however, and reported that in all Shechem they found but weeping women, he gathered his men together, and said:
"Prepare yourselves to go and fight these Hebrews. We will do to them even as they have done to our brethren of Shechem."
But his princes answered his words, and said:
"With our people alone we cannot prevail over these Hebrews. Ten men destroyed a city, and not one man was able to stand up against them. Let us send to the kings around us for help, and then perchance we may be able to cope with them."
This advice seemed reasonable to the king, and he sent to the kings of the Emorites who dwelt around him, informing them of the action of Jacob's sons, and begging their assistance in dealing out punishment for the same.
The Emorites answered his appeal, and gathered together about ten thousand men, who started out to fight the children of Jacob.
Jacob was greatly terrified at this, and again upbraided his sons for their rashness.
Then Judah spoke to his father, and said:
"Did we act without cause, Simeon, Levi, and the rest of us? Cruelly they wronged our sister, violating the chastity of our house, and transgressing the command of our God. For this reason did the Lord deliver the city into our hands Wherefore fear? Why grieve, and find displeasure in thy heart against thy sons? The same God who gave the men of Shechem into our hands will deliver to us also these Emorites who come against us. Keep thy peace, oh our father! fear not, but pray to the Lord our God that he may protect us and deliver our enemies into our power."
Then Judah summoned his servants and bade them go and discover what men, and how many, were marching against them. Then he addressed Simeon and Levi, and said to them:
"Prepare yourselves, and act like heroes. The Lord our God is with us. Gird on each man his sword and his bow; trusting in heaven, we will fight these Emorites and find deliverance."
The sons of Jacob and their servants and the servants of Isaac, who lived in Hebron, then prepared themselves for battle; and Isaac, the head of their house, prayed to God for their success in these words:
"Oh Lord God, thou didst speak unto my father and make a promise to him, saying, 'I will increase thy seed as the stars in heaven.' To me hast Thou reiterated this promise; and now, behold, the strength of Canaan comes to wrestle with my son. Oh Lord God of the universe, turn the purpose of these kings; let the dread of my children fall upon them and humble their pride. Even that they withdraw and return to their homes without shedding blood. Deliver my children and their servants
from the strength of these kings, for in Thy hand is the might, the power, and the strength."
Jacob also uttered a solemn prayer to the same effect.
When the Emorites drew near to Jacob's sons and their hosts, the kings and princes met to consult before beginning the attack, for their hearts were not thoroughly rid of the fear which the prowess of the Hebrews had cast upon them. The Lord answered the prayers of Isaac and Jacob, and this dread and fear augmented, and at last found vent in these words from one of their number, words which the others echoed in their hearts:
"We are acting foolishly in attempting to fight these Hebrews; we are marching to our deaths. Ten men overcame the inhabitants of Shechem, and now these same ten men with all their servants stand before us. Their God delights in them, and they live under His especial protection. None of the gods of other nations are able to perform such wonders as their God has wrought in behalf of this, his favourite people. Did not Nimrod endeavour to destroy their progenitor Abraham, and did not their God deliver him even from a furnace of fire? Did not this same Abraham defeat four kings who had carried off his relative Lot, who lived in Sodom? Their God is powerful, He delights in them, and He will give them the victory over us. This same Jacob He delivered from Esau and four hundred men. Could ten men have destroyed a city without assistance from heaven? Were we a hundred times greater in number than we are we should meet but with defeat, for we do not fight against them, but against their God. Let us turn back and attack them not."
One by one the kings of the Emorites withdrew and journeyed homeward without disturbing Jacob. The Hebrews remained in position awaiting the attack until
evening, but when the Emorites came not they returned unto their homes. Then the Lord appeared to Jacob, saying, "Arise, go up to Beth El, and dwell there, and raise there an altar to the God who hath delivered thee and thy children from trouble." And Jacob and his sons journeyed to Beth El according to the commands of God.
Jacob was then ninety-and-nine years of age. He had lived at Beth El formerly called Luz, for about six months when the nurse of Rebecca, Deborah, died, and Jacob buried her under an oak tree at Beth El. Rebecca, the daughter of Bethuel, his mother, died also about this time, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah. When Jacob was one hundred years old the Lord appeared to him and called him "Israel." He then journeyed with his family to Hebron, to live with Isaac, his father. While on this journey his wife, Rachel, died, at the age of forty-five years. And Jacob and his family lived with Isaac in the land of Canaan, as the Lord had commanded Abraham, their father.