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Levirate marriage

Levirate marriage is the practice of a man marrying the widow of his deceased brother, if she had no children (38:8). A child of this second marriage would provide security for the widow and would carry on the name of the deceased brother.

A costly demonstration of grief

A costly demonstration of grief. The Hebrew custom of tearing one’s garments (37:29, 34) was an expression of grief, often after learning of the death of a loved one. It would surely have had great significance in a day when most people owned very few items of clothing.

A long walk!

A long walk! Jacob sent Joseph to see how his brothers were doing, as they tended their sheep (37:14). Joseph headed northward, probably walking, and didn’t find his brothers until he came to Dothan (v. 17). The journey would have been more than 50 miles (80 km)!


Terebinths are huge, spreading trees that grow to a height of 20–26 feet (6–8 m). They have reddish-green leaves and red berries that grow in clusters. A perfumed, oily resin flows out of the bark when it is cut. Terebinths grow in hot, dry places, and were thus a source of welcome shade to the […]


The name Succoth (33:17) means “booths.” A booth was a temporary dwelling resembling a tent or a hut. Most of the people around Succoth were nomads, and they probably lived in tents or booths.

The Jabbok River

The Jabbok River. The Hebrew word for “wrestle” is abbaq. This has led many scholars to believe that the Jabbok River (32:22) was named after Jacob’s famous wrestling match with God.

Giving servants

Giving servants as gifts to the bride (29:24) was very common in OT times. Doing so provided the newly married woman the help she would need in running a household. Having servants also gave the wife a position of status within her community.

A father’s blessing

A father’s blessing (ch. 27) was not just a symbolic gesture. It established the identity of the heir, granting him all the privileges of that position. The father’s blessing was even seen as in some way shaping his future.


Tents were temporary shelters made of cloth and were often woven from black goat’s hair. The tent was held up by ropes and poles. Most tents were rectangular in shape. Because nomadic families moved often, they had little furniture. Tents still provide housing for nomadic peoples living in the Middle East today.