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The Red Tent

Anita Diamant

Part Two, Chapters 1–2

Part One, Chapter 3

Part Two, Chapters 1–2, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 1

Dinah and Joseph play together often, but, with few other girls in the camp, Dinah spends the majority of her time with her mothers. They teach her to spin, cook, and weave, and they tell her the stories of their goddesses and their mothers. Though girls are not allowed in the red tent until they are women, they bring Dinah in with them.

Time passes and tensions grow in the camp. Laban gambles away Jacob’s best herding dogs and his sons Kemuel and Beor are careless about watching the flocks. Jacob grows angry with the situation. One day, Ruti comes to Leah and throws herself at her feet. Laban has gambled her away to a trader who has arrived to claim her as a slave. Leah pleads with Jacob to help save her. They gather honey, herbs, bangles, and bolts of cloth as an offering. After much convincing, the trader leaves with the treasures instead of Ruti, but Laban’s treatment of her worsens.

Summary: Chapter 2

Jacob begins to plan for his family’s departure from Laban’s land. Jacob says his dreams have become ferocious. Consumed by the idea of returning to his father’s lands in Canaan, he will find no peace until he does. Jacob has heard that Esau, his twin brother whom he ran from in fear years ago, has become a prosperous herdsman with many sons. With no reason to fear him any longer, Jacob wishes to return to his kin.

In the red tent, the sisters discuss Jacob’s plans. Rachel is eager to leave their land, but the others wish to stay near their fields and goddesses. However, with many sons among them, there is not sufficient land or enough potential wives available in Haran. Zilpah grieves over abandoning her goddesses, who live in the trees and holy places of their camp. They discuss taking Laban’s teraphim, or sacred figures, with them, though they know it would incite Laban’s wrath. Rachel decides to do it.

Leah tells Jacob that his wives are ready to depart for Canaan. The women begin hoarding bread and sewing herbs into their clothing. That night, Jacob begins his negotiations with Laban. Jacob claims the rights of any overseer, which would equal one tenth of the herds. He also demands his wives’ property, such as spindles, looms, jugs, and other personal effects. After many weeks of discussion, Jacob threatens Laban that the god of his fathers will not look kindly on one who tries to swindle him. Laban fears all gods and is very much aware of Jacob’s success with his family and the flocks. Knowing that Jacob is blessed, the two reach an agreement, and Laban allows Jacob to leave.

Preparations begin for dismantling the camp and packing provisions for the journey. There is sadness in the red tent as the women celebrate their last new moon in their home. Ruti does not appear, so Leah sends Dinah to look for her. Dinah finally finds Ruti’s dead body far off from camp, with blood at her wrists and a bloody knife beside her. A few days later, they ready themselves for departure. Laban goes into town and leaves his sons in charge to insure that nothing is stolen. Rachel gives Kemuel a strong drink, and he sleeps through one day and then another. The night before they leave Rachel slips silently into Laban’s tent and steals his teraphim. Jacob and his family eat a quick morning meal and set off without saying goodbye to Laban, who has remained in town to drink and has not returned as promised. With a last look around their home, they leave.

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I disagree. Leah and Rachel were polytheistic.

by sman613, April 29, 2014

Nobody can change their customs fast. These two grew up as polytheists, so it is improbable that they would have been, at least during the time frame of the story, monotheists. That is why in Genesis 35:2, Jacob needs to say: "Remove the foreign gods which are in your midst..."

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