My Story (Chapter 3)

Once on the road, Jacob’s family members are arranged around the caravan to protect the women, children, and herds of animals. Soon a figure appears on the road; she is the midwife Inna. Having angered the husband of a client, Inna has fled her home in fear and appeals to Jacob through Rachel to be allowed into his family. Jacob consents. Inna’s presence lifts the women’s spirits, and even Zilpah is moved to sing.

Soon the family reaches a great river, and Dinah fears that she and her family and the animals will be swept away—none of them, except Jacob and Inna, have seen such a great body of water before. But all pass safely, and once in the water, Dinah feels caressed by the river. Zilpah says that Dinah is bewitched by the river god. It is the new moon, so the family sets up a temporary camp so the women can sit out their menstrual cycle in the red tent. Dinah thus takes on the responsibility of feeding the men in the family and in the evening returns to the red tent exhausted. Dinah’s grandfather, Laban, arrives with several bondsmen and his two sons demanding that the thief return his teraphim. Jacob curses the old man and says that he took nothing that did not belong to him. He allows Laban to search the camp. Rachel reveals that she has taken the teraphim and laid them under her straw mat; they are now smeared in her menstrual blood. Fearing the gods, Laban leaves, and the family never sees him again.

As Jacob’s family gets closer to Canaan, Jacob begins having frightful dreams about the revenge he thinks his brother, Esau, will take on him. Jacob was the favored son, but he ran from his home long ago and does not know how he will be received upon his return to Canaan. The family reaches another river even greater than the last, and all struggle to make it through the current. By the time Jacob is to cross, night has fallen, so he decides to spend the night alone and rejoin the family in the morning. Morning comes, and Jacob cannot be found. His sons eventually find him on the riverbank beaten and broken, and Jacob claims that he was ravaged by spirits. (Dinah and Joseph later cross the river and are chased by the wild boar that likely attacked Jacob). Jacob falls into a feverish spell, and the family fears for his life. They remain at camp for two months while Jacob recovers.