Genesis 34-35: Gendercide (Season 1, Episode 18)

What happens when Dinah ventures into the city of Shechem? Family politics get messy, an ethnic cleansing takes place, and someone turns into an ogre.

This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.


WARNING

If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.

If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.

If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.

If you're okay with that, then read on.

If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.

Who knows? It might actually work.


After murdering his brother in cold blood, Jake (aka Israel, aka Izzy) continues on with his family to the city of Shechem. Keep in mind, a city back then wasn’t what it is today – we’re probably talking about a few thousand people, max.

Jake buys a plot of land from the prince – who is, confusingly, also named Shechem (but who we’ll call Sheck) – and sets about pitching his tents there, just outside the city walls.

One day, Dinah (Jake’s only daughter) decides she’s sick of hanging around her twelve brothers and goes into the city to see if she can’t find herself some ladies to shoot the shit with.

Leah and Rachel and Billie and Zillie are cool, but they’re all like moms to her. She wants someone a little closer to her own age. A sister. Not like how a sibling might use the word, but more like how a drunken sorority girl might.

She’s looking to get a little loose. A little crazy. She’s been cooped up in that tent for too long, smothered by all the antics with her dad and her granddad and her uncles. It’s time for her to do her. To get out there and explore. To figure out what it means to be a woman in biblical-era Canaan.

What could possibly go wrong?

So there she is, in the marketplace, when who should ride past but the motherfucking prince himself. It’s all very Aladdin. Middle-Eastern marketplace. Commoner meets royalty. Just, y’know, with the male and female roles reversed.

Shechem (aka Sheck) dismounts his camel when he sees her, getting his guards to clear the way so he can approach, and gaze upon her beauty.

“My gods...” he says, lovestruck, with an inexplicable Scottish accent (you’ll find out why in a second). “You’re beautiful. Please, you must tell me your name. I’ll die if I don’t hear it.”

Dinah takes a step back, putting her palm out in a ‘keep your distance, sailor’ kind of motion. “Okay, buddy boy, you’re coming on a tad strong there. You might wanna try a little less, “I must have you now,” and a little more, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. What’s your name?” Maybe you wanna start over?”

Sheck blushes, embarrassed. Not just because he’s been put in his place by a commoner (and a female commoner at that), but because there are a few local shopkeepers nearby who are giggling at him.

Sheck’s eyes narrow to slits. He looks at his guards, gesturing to the gleeful shopkeepers with a jerk of his head.

Giggles turn to screams as the guards make short but gruesome work of dishing out the prince’s justice. Sheck and Dinah are splattered with blood, but neither of them seem to notice. They’re too lost in each other’s eyes.

“Sorry,” Sheck says, wiping the viscera from his cheek. “I, uh...don’t get out of the palace much.”

Equally oblivious to the horrific display of violence carried out within mere feet of her, Dinah smiles. “Same here.” She corrects herself. “Well, not the palace. The tent.”

Sheck laughs. Dinah laughs.

*

Later, in Sheck’s bedroom overlooking the city and the rugged desert beyond, Dinah is getting dressed. Okay, so her plan to find some friends didn’t work out exactly as she thought it would – sue her, she banged a prince instead.

Don’t act like you wouldn’t do the same. Chicks before dicks only works if the dick isn’t royalty. Not to mention she hadn’t even found any chicks to put the dick before.

The sun’s about to set, and Prince Sheck is getting nervous for some reason.

“You, uh...almost done?”

“Easy, pal,” Dinah says. “I think my virginity buys me at least a few minutes to get dressed.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just...”

“And what was all that talk about getting married and living happily ever after?”

“I meant every word of it, Dinah. I just...”

“You said you loved me...”

“I do love you. It’s just...”

“Just what?”

Sheck lets out a sigh. “I guess you’ll find out eventually. Sooner’s probably better than later.”

Dinah frowns. “What is it, like some weird fetish? ‘Cause I’m not here to kink-shame. In fact, I’m more than happy to experi...”

At that moment, the sun dips below the horizon and Dinah watches in horror as Sheck turns from a handsome Prince Charming into a hideous ogre with green skin, insectile feelers and a beer gut.

“Uh...” Dinah just stands there, slack-jawed, staring at the ogre she just had sex with. “Well...that’s, um...different.”

Sheck winces. Dinah scrambles to recover.

“Good different,” she says, quickly. “Great different. How often do you meet someone so...unique?”

Sheck smiles, walking up and putting his big, ogrey arms around her.

“We’re gonna be so happy together,” he says.

Dinah, still coming to terms with her new life as spouse to a nocturnal monster, says, nervously, “Uh-huh. It’s gonna be so great.”

*

She doesn’t mean it at the time, but over the next few days and nights, she really gets to know Prince Shrek (sorry, Sheck). She sees that there’s more to him than meets the eye. They discover a mutual love for margaritas, ten-pin bowling and novelty-size anal beads.

Sheck learns to be comfortable in his leathery, green skin, and Dinah learns not to judge people before she gets to know them.

After a week or so, they decide it’s time to tell their respective families and make it official.

When Dinah returns to the camp, all her brothers are still out working in the field. She goes inside to find Jake laid out on the couch, lazily smoking a hookah and staring into space. Leah, Rachel and Zillie are stitching clothes.

“Anyone know where Billie is?” says Rachel.

The other two look around, noticing that, indeed, Billie does seem to be absent. They shrug and keep sewing.

“Hey, everyone,” Dinah says, approaching them. “Good news – I’m getting married.”

“You’re getting what?” Jake says. The shock causes him to inhale the wrong way and start coughing and spluttering.

The women ignore him.

“Oh my god!” Leah says, rushing over to hug her daughter. “That’s amazing.”

“Jeez,” Rachel says, with a laugh. “You don’t fuck around, do you?”

“No, ma’am,” Dinah says, shaking her head, a big grin on her face.

“Who’s the lucky guy?” Zillie says.

Leah goes, “Yeah, what’s his name?”

Dinah pauses, nervous. “Sheck...”

The women stare at her. Jake continues to cough in the background.

“The prince?” Leah says.

Dinah nods. “Yeah, why, is that...bad?”

“No, it’s not bad,” Rachel says, unsure.

“Yes, it’s bad!” Jake says, in a rasping voice as he gets shakily to his feet and walks over to them. “The guy is a Canaanite prince. We don’t fuck with foreigners. Gotta keep the gene pool clean.”

“Ugh,” Leah says. “You’re a dinosaur, you know that?”

“So not woke...” says Dinah.

“How about you come and join us in this century?” Rachel says.

“Yeah, man, what the hell?” Zillie chimes in.

Jake suddenly feels outnumbered – one guy against four women.

“What?” he says. “I’m just doing what God told me. He said I’d be the father of a great nation. Unless there’s something you guys aren’t telling me, I doubt that city is full of my offspring.”

His wives and daughter react to the word with disgust.

“Ew!”

“Gross.”

“What?” Jake says.

“Why’d you have to put it like that?”

Offspring? Jesus Christ, Jake...”

“Look,” Jake says. “I’m sorry if it doesn’t sit right with you, but that’s just the way it has to be.”

“But why?” says Dinah. “Maybe me meeting the prince is a sign that we should stay here. All we do is wander around. Maybe it’s time we found a place to plant roots.”

“And assimilate with the Shechemites?”

Dinah shrugs. “Sure, why not?”

“Why not?!” Jake says, baffled by her argument. “Hey, I’m all for having good relations with these guys. Trade, military alliance, you name it. But we aren’t assimilating. It’s not the Israelite way.”

“‘Israelite,’” Rachel says, rolling her eyes. “There he goes again with that ‘Israelite’ shit.” She turns to Jake. “Y’know, ever since the big guy gave you a new name, you’ve really outgrown those boots of yours. And they were pretty freakin’ tiny to begin with...” Slowly, her metaphor begins to fall apart. “They must be cutting off the circulation in your feet, right? Because they’re so tiny. Y’know, because you’ve always been too big for them, and now, with this, it’s like...y’know...it’s...”

Leah shushes her, putting a finger to her lips and shaking her head, like, “Honey, stop.”

Rachel looks around desperately for one of the other women to back her up, but they all avoid eye contact, looking around anywhere but at her.

Zillie quickly jumps in to cover for Rachel. “I mean...whatever happened to good, old-fashioned ‘Hebrew?’”

“I liked Hebrew,” Leah says, nodding in agreement.

“Whatever!” Jake says, getting frustrated. “It doesn’t matter what you like, or even what I like. What matters is what God likes. And God likes an undiluted bloodline. Interracial marriages are off the table.”

Dinah considers telling him that it isn’t only interracial, but interspecies as well (what with Sheck being an ogre and all), then thinks better of it. Baby steps, Dinah. Baby steps.

“Well, tell that to the king,” she says. “He’s on his way here right now.”

*

The royal retinue arrives at the camp at the exact same time that Dinah’s brothers return home from the fields. Prince Sheck rides alongside his father, King Hamor the Hivite.

Remember way back in the Noah story, when we were talking about how his sons – Shem, Ham and Japheth – went on to basically populate the entire earth?

Well, one of Ham’s sons was Canaan, and his descendants went on to be the Canaanites. One specific group of his descendants went on to become the Hivites, and that’s the group that Hamor and his son belong to.

Well, technically, Shechem’s only half-Hivite, but we don’t need to get into Hamor’s drunken night with the ogress. He prefers to leave it in the past, and we’ll respect his wishes.

“Hey! Who the fuck are you?”

Simeon (Sim, for short), the second-oldest of Dinah’s brothers (and thus with the biggest chip on his shoulder), has approached the retinue, causing it to come to a stop. The guards point their spears outward at the filthy shepherd, but he eyes them with contempt.

“I beg your pardon,” the king says, offended by this commoner’s common tongue. “I am Hamor the Hivite.”

“Well, stay back then, pal. I don’t want to catch it.”

Hamor frowns, not realising how much his name sounds like a contagious skin condition.

“Forgive us,” says Levi, the third-oldest, trying to pull his hot-headed brother back so he doesn’t get himself speared.

But Sim stays where he is. “I wanna know what you’re doing trespassing on our land.”

Your land?!” Hamor says. “I am the king.”

“...off whom we bought this land. Just because you rule the area doesn’t mean you can come waltzing into our home whenever you feel like it.”

“Actually, it does.”

The two glare at each other. Sheck rides in between them.

“Listen,” the prince says, attempting to be diplomatic. “We’ve been invited.”

“By who?”

“Lord Farquaad,” says Sheck. One of the guards on horseback leans over and whispers into his ear. Sheck realises his mistake.

“Sorry, wrong thing.” He corrects himself, “Dinah – that’s what I meant to say.”

Sim frowns, glancing at his brothers. “What do you want with our sister?”

“Why... I want to marry her, of course.”

Sim’s eyes bulge in his head. “Over my dead body...”

He goes to lunge at the prince, but Levi and a few of the others hold him back. The guards step forward with their spears out, ready to skewer these unruly proles.

Before things have a chance to turn violent, Leah comes rushing out from the tent. She’s just heard the commotion taking place.

“Wait! Stop!”

She slows, panting, as she approaches the retinue. “Forgive us, my king. My sons forget their manners. Please, come inside.”

The king is still miffed – giving his son a look like, “This family? You serious?” – but he does as he’s told and continues on toward the tent. As they ride past, Leah shoots daggers at Sim, like, “What the hell are you doing?”

He shoots her a look back, like, “What the hell are you doing?”

Leah turns and heads after the royal family.

Sim watches her go, jaw clenched, eyes narrowed.

“Fucking Canaanites,” he mutters.

“Whoa!” comes the collective response from his brothers, reacting as if he’s dropped the N-word.

“Da fuck, man? Chill.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Yeah, dude, seriously.”

“What?” Sim says, dumbfounded by his brothers’ reactions. “Don’t tell me you’re on their side with this?”

“Pfft. Why’s it always gotta be sides with you, man?”

“Why wouldn’t we be on her side?”

“Yeah – dude’s a prince. That means Di’s gonna be a princess.”

Sidebar: Princess Di, anyone?

“Why can’t you just be happy for her, man?”

“Because...” Sim says. “They’re... they’re...”

“Canaanites? So what?”

“They’re foreigners. Dad says we gotta keep the bloodline clear. He won’t be the father of a great nation if we dilute our gene pool.”

The brothers are shocked by this. They begin to back away from him, shaking their heads. Only Levi stays with Sim.

“Dude...”

“I’m not touching that with a ten-foot pole.”

“That’s some eugenics shit.”

On a totally unrelated note, one of the brothers asks, “Hey, anyone seen Reuben?”

*

Inside the tent, everyone has been introduced and they’re sitting around the table. Which reminds me...

People back in these days didn’t have chairs and tables like we think of them today, where we sit up off the ground with our legs at right angles.

That’s not the way the ancient people of the Middle East sat. That’s not the way anyone sat. Unless you were a king, of course – then you could sit however the fuck you wanted to.

So when I say that everyone was sitting cross-legged on cushions around the table, the only people that it’s strange for are the king and his son. And you, dear reader, who may be reading this while seated in a chair of your own. Perhaps on a couch, or a train, or in class.

Perhaps in the driver’s seat of your car, barrelling down the freeway at a hundred miles an hour in the pouring rain – in which case, you should stop reading, put the phone down, and focus on the goddamn road, you maniac!

I digress...

So Jake’s is sitting directly across from Hamor, yeah? Six and twelve. Leah and Rachel are sitting on either side of him (ten and two). Dinah and Sheck are at nine and three, and two of Hamor’s guards round it out at five and seven.

It’s a totally anachronistic metaphor for their time (get it?) – since clocks won’t be invented for another few thousand years – and also for our time, since who the fuck uses an analogue clock anymore?

I should probably have just left it at ‘they’re all sitting around the table’ and been done with it. But it’s too late for that now. The digital ink is dry. There’s no going back.

Billie enters the tent from a side-flap, straightening her dress. Zillie, who’s been serving bread and wine for the entire table single-handed, whispers, “Where have you been?”

“What do you mean?” Billie says. “I told you I was going out in the field with the men today.”

“No, you...”

Before she can ask any further questions, Billie sets about helping her fill the wine cups. Zillie eyes her suspiciously.

Jake opens up the discussion by saying, “I gotta be honest, Hamor. The thought of this...” He pauses, the word tasting bad in his mouth. “...interracial marriage...doesn’t quite sit well with me.”

“Dad!” Dinah says.

“Jake!” Leah and Rachel say, in unison.

“No, it’s quite alright,” Hamor says. “I’ll admit it doesn’t sit right with me, either. You always want your son to marry one of your own.” He clarifies, “My own children, I mean. At the very least, a cousin.”

“No, I understood what you meant,” Jake says, as if it’s all perfectly normal.

“But they’re in love,” Hamor goes on. “How can we stand in the face of that?”

Sheck and Dinah smile at each other.

“That’s very mature,” Leah says. “I agree. Let’s forget the old notions of racial purity and move forward as one. Let the marriage of Dinah and Prince Sheck be a symbol of our peoples coming together.”

“Here, here!” Hamor says, raising his wine cup.

They all raise their cups, Jake a little more slowly and reluctantly than the others. He’s not on board with this, but the armed guards on either side of Hamor – and the knowledge that there’s more waiting just outside – don’t give him much wiggle room.

“No one’s joining anyone!” says a voice.

With that, Sim enters the tent, followed by all his brothers (except Reuben).

Dinah fumes. “Get out of here, Sim!”

“No,” Sim says. “Not before I’ve said my piece.”

“I think you’ve said quite enough already...” Rachel looks around for someone but can’t find them. “Where the hell is Reuben?”

The brothers shrug and look around.

“Will someone get him out of here, then?” she says.

“No!” Sim steps forward. He looks at his dad. “You’re just gonna let this happen? Let your daughter get defiled by his foreign dick?”

The king gasps, offended. Sheck just ignores it. Jake says nothing.

“Enough!” Dinah says. “What is it with all this racial purity bullshit?”

“God said...”

“God said don’t fuck before marriage either, and we already did that.”

A stunned silence descends upon the room. Sheck is looking at her, wide-eyed in disbelief.

“That’s right,” Dinah says, a little more timidly. “I’ve already been, quote-unquote, ‘defiled’. As far as y’all are concerned, I’m damaged goods. No other husband would have me now.” She turns to Jake. “If you want me to help you build this great nation you’re supposed to be the father of, dad, then he’s the one I’m doing it with.”

Jake looks from her, to Sheck, to Sim – whose face is twisted up in a hateful rage.

“The die has been cast,” Dinah says. “The eggs have been broken. The ship has left port. Let’s try to roll a seven, make a nice omelette, have a safe voyage, or whatever other bullshit cliché you’d prefer. The point is – what’s done is done.”

Silence.

“Technically, also a cliché,” Leah whispers.

“Yeah, I know that, mom,” Dinah huffs.

Leah backs off, like, “Okay...”

At that moment, Reuben (Jake’s oldest son) enters the tent. He’s in a much better mood than everyone else – spritely, one might say – but he quickly senses the tension.

“Whoa, what’s going on in here?” he says. “Someone die?”

“Where the hell have you been?” one of the brothers asks.

“I told you, I was helping out around here today.”

Zillie, hearing this, shoots an accusatory look at Billie, who blushes and looks away.

Meanwhile, Hamor’s watching Sim very carefully. The second-born is basically trembling with rage by this point, like he could explode at any second.

“I’m a little worried about this guy,” the king says, pointing to Sim.

“You should be,” Sim fires back.

“Did you just threaten the king?” Hamor says, indignant.

“Are you the king?”

Hamor frowns, confused – as if under the impression he’s being tricked. “Why...yes, of course...”

“Then I’m pretty sure I just threatened the king.”

Boom.

Nice burn, Sim.

“Don’t worry about him,” Leah says.

Rachel adds, “He’s harmless. Just needs to blow off a little steam.”

“I do not!” says Sim.

“I don’t know...” Hamor says, concerned. “He seems like the kind of fellow who would go around to my enemies, put an army together, besiege the city and storm the palace, just so he could kill me and my son to repair his bruised ego.”

“How has his ego been bruised?” Dinah says, exasperated. “This has nothing to do with him.”

“It has everything to do with me! You’re my sister. We’re family. Like it or not, the person you choose to marry impacts all of us. You don’t see any of us marrying Canaanites, do you? And once you’ve done it, what’s to stop Joey from going, ‘Oh, well – Dinah did it, so I guess I can too?’”

“Why me?” Joey says.

Ignoring him, Sim continues. “What happens in a few generations when we’ve all taken Canaanite wives because suddenly it’s the norm? And then all our kids marry Canaanites. A few generations from now, our grandsons will still have their foreskins and they’ll all be worshipping Baal or whatever.”

Silence.

“So it’s...assimilation you fear?” Hamor says. “Losing your ethnic and cultural heritage, your uniqueness?”

Sim huffs. “I guess...if you wanna get all fancy about it.”

Hamor takes a moment to think it over. “What if...now, this may sound crazy, but hear me out...what if we all agreed to undergo circumcision? Would that make this wedding easier to swallow?”

Dinah interjects, “Hamor – you don’t have to...”

“No, it’s alright.” He turns back to an intrigued Sim. “If we are assimilated to you instead of you to us, would that be agreeable to you?”

Sim looks around the room, stunned by the turn of events. He isn’t prepared for this at all. “Uh, yeah...I guess.”

“Great!” Hamor says, with a grin and a clap of his hands. “Then that’s what we’ll do.”

*

So the very next day, anyone with a penis makes their way out through the gates of Shechem in single file. Judging by the looks on their faces, they aren’t exactly thrilled about the king’s royal decree.

Up ahead, Sim is waiting with his brothers by a cluster of ‘surgery tents’ where the foreskin cutting will commence. Sim has a sinister, almost lustful smile on his face as he sharpens his circumcising knife, saying, “Come on, fellas – don’t be shy.”

Needless to say, it’s making the Shechemites a wee bit nervous as they approach.

It’s also making his brothers think that it isn’t just pride, racism or a weird covetousness over their sister that is motivating Sim’s actions, but something deeper. Something darker...

One by one, the Shechemites disappear into the tents, and for the rest of the day, their screams can be heard all the way to the throne room of Hamor.

The king listens as he stands by his window and watches the mass circumcision take place down below. Prince Sheck walks up alongside him and says, “You sure about this, dad? You’re sacrificing an awful lot just for me.”

“It’s not just for you,” Hamor says, mysteriously. “It’s for all of us.”

Sheck frowns, and Hamor goes over to pour himself a goblet of wine.

“Sim was right to be worried about assimilation,” he says. “But little does he know, circumcision won’t help anything. Now, it’ll be even harder to tell his people apart from ours, and over time, we’ll consume them. By marriage and trade, we’ll take their flocks, their servants, their riches. We aren’t becoming them, they’re becoming us – they just don’t know it yet.”

“Jesus...” Sheck says. “That’s brilliant. Were you planning that the whole time?”

“I had it in my back pocket in case things got desperate. Besides, circumcision’s not so bad. It’s cleaner, makes your dick look bigger. Less likely to get an STD.”

“I s’pose,” Sheck says. He considers something. “Although...you and me’ll have to get circumcised, too.”

Hamor shrugs. “Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.”

*

Three days later, everyone (including the king and the prince) has been circumcised, and the local economy has more or less ground to a halt while they recover.

Still, Sim begins to suspect that he may have gotten the short end of the stick.

He sees Dinah overjoyed as she plans her wedding.

He sees his brothers talking to the local women, who are out doing the work their husbands would normally do.

Shit, even Jake’s come around on the whole idea. Sim can already see him warming to the idea of a Canaanite concubine. He’s even heard his dad say to Leah, “This must be a sign from God. He must want us to stay here and assimilate with the local population. It’s like a shortcut. Instead of waiting generations, we’ve grown into the quadruple digits overnight.”

Finally, Sim snaps, and goes to sit with Levi by the fire. “Something’s wrong here, man. I can smell it.”

Levi gives a dismissive wave. “You’re just pissed because you got what you wanted and people are still happy.”

“Jeez, you make me sound like some kind of Grinch.”

“Well...” Levi says, leaving the sentence open-ended while he warms his hands.

Sim takes a pull from his wineskin, thinking deeply. “It’s just...it’s too easy. You saw how long it took Hamor to play the circumcision card? That motherfucker had it ready to go when he came in. He was planning on it.”

“Then why’d you agree to it?”

“Because I didn’t realise it at the time. I was too caught up in...”

“Wanting to kill some foreign people so bad that you leapt at the opportunity to cut a few thousand foreskins off?”

Sim doesn’t know what to say.

“You really need to work on that, man,” Levi says.

“Which? The racism or the bloodlust?”

“Both, ideally. And you might wanna shine a light on whatever weird thing you’ve got going on with Dinah. I mean, I’m here – if you wanna talk about it.”

Sim gets defensive. “What weird thing? I don’t have a weird thing with Dinah.”

“Involving yourself in her sex life, her wedding plans? That’s her business, man. How does it affect us?”

“I thought I made a fairly compelling point the other day as to exactly how it affects us. Now are you gonna help me, or not?”

“With what?”

Sim doesn’t know what, exactly. Not yet, anyway. He takes another pull from the wineskin. Alcohol will help him think.

He looks out at the people milling around. Women, mostly. One guy is getting around on crutches, a pained expression on his face.

That’s when it hits him.

“It just hit me!”

He looks over at his brothers, flirting with a group of Canaanite women.

“Get the boys drinking,” Sim says. “Then meet me over there, where that guard tower is. Do you see it? Do you see it?!”

“Yeah, I see it. Jesus...”

“Meet me over there when it gets dark.”

*

When it gets dark, the suggestible (and now quite drunk) Levi meets his brother over by the guard tower built into the city wall. Up above, an archer is hobbling around, still pained by the circumcision. For some reason, he’s singing – and not singing well.

Sim is standing at the base of the wall, and he beckons Levi over, trying to hurry him up.

“Jesus, are you drunk?” he says, when Levi gets close.

“No,” Levi says, stifling a giggle. “And don’t call me Jesus.”

Sim lets out a frustrated sigh. “Goddamn it.”

“Well, you told me to...”

“I told you to get them drinking. I didn’t tell you to drink. Christ, Levi, I need you sharp.”

He begins digging around in his pack for something.

“Well...” Levi shrugs, then gets distracted by the guard’s awful singing up above. “What is he doing?

“He’s practising his solo for Canaan’s Got Talent,” Sim says. “The judges will not be kind to that man.”

Finding what he’s looking for, Sim removes a grappling hook and looks up, judging the distance and timing the patrol of the guard. He hurls it when the guard is right in front of the window.

The grappling hook soars through the air, into the window, and catches the guard in the throat. Sim pulls back sharply and the hook pins him to the wall. The singing instantly cuts out and is replaced with a horrible gurgling sound instead.

Using the wall (and the guard’s neck) as an anchor point, Sim and Levi climb the rope into the guard tower, daggers in their teeth. As they clamber inside, Levi looks upon the mangled remains of the guard’s neck. His eyes are still moving – he’s still gurgling a little.

“Jesus...” Levi says. “First the circumcision, now this...”

But Sim’s already by the door, checking to make sure the coast is clear. “That guy’s singing was more violent than anything we’ve done to him. Besides, he sounds better now.” Sim looks back at Levi. “Grab his sword. Let’s go.”

Levi does as he’s told and they proceed along the walkway atop the city walls, ducking in and out of torchlight. After stealthily taking out another guard and stealing his sword, Sim and Levi make their way down to ground level...

*

A few hours before dawn, Sim and Levi return to the camp to find their brothers still up drinking – talking loudly and roaring with laughter. As they come into the light of the fire, the brothers see that Sim and Levi are exhausted, breathing heavy.

They’re also covered in blood.

“Jesus, what the fuck happened to you guys?”

Sim and Levi don’t respond. They just stand there, as if at any moment, they might fall down flat.

Finally, Sim says, “You guys, uh... you guys wanna loot some shit?”

The brothers look at each other.

If they were sober, they might have been a bit more rational. A bit more level-headed. But these are some Bronze Age barbarians. Add liquor into the mix, it doesn’t take a whole lot to nudge one of them from ‘fun night around the campfire’ to ‘Viking pillage’. Get a bunch of them together, forget about it.

In unison, the brothers turn back to Sim, like, “You bet your blood-soaked tunic we do.”

So they all grab their weapons – one of them asking, “Where the fuck is Reuben?” – and head through the now-open gates of Shechem. They begin going door to door, taking all the valuables, the livestock, the food, waking women and children and taking them into captivity.

It doesn’t take the brothers long to realise that every single man in the city is dead. It takes them even less time to realise why.

As the men lay sleeping or otherwise bed-bound with pain while they recovered from their circumcision, Sim and Levi went door to door slitting throats.

An act of heroic, manly valour if ever they’d seen one.

Jude is paired up with Levi, and as he enters his first house to behold what his big brother has done, he turns to him.

“Jesus Christ – how the fuck did he get you to go along with this?”

The older man looks guilty and ashamed. “I don’t know. He said it was a pre-emptive strike. They’d do the same to us if they got the chance.” When Jude just stares blankly back at him, Levi gets defensive. “It was convincing, alright?”

Jude just shakes his head...

...then proceeds to loot the house and take the dead man’s family as his own personal slaves.

What the fuck else is he supposed to do?

Not loot the city?

Not take slaves?

Stand by his moral convictions in the face of temptation?

Not likely.

*

In the morning, Dinah wakes to see smoke rising from Shechem.

Instantly, her blood runs cold.

She goes outside to see the city burning and her brothers exiting the gates with a long line of grieving women and children in tow. Their wagons are piled high with stolen goods and food, and they’re herding all the stolen livestock back to the camp.

Out in front is a weary-looking Sim, covered in (now-dried) blood. He rides right up to her and pulls a large, severed head out of his saddle bag, throwing it on the ground at her feet.

She knows who it is before it rolls over to stare up at her with vacant, hollow eyes.

She recognises the green skin, the insectile feelers.

It’s Sheck.

“You didn’t mention he turns into an ogre at night,” Sim says. “Put up a better fight than most of them.”

Dinah’s eyes well with tears and she looks up at him, trembling with grief and rage. Sim stares back at her, dead-eyed.

“We don’t fuck with foreigners.”

At this, Dinah lunges at Sim, but a few of her other brothers who have already dismounted hold her back. She struggles against them but they hold her tight.

They don’t want to be doing this – they feel guilty for their part in Sim’s plan. They feel bad for holding her back, and in that moment, they hate Sim as much as they hate themselves. As much as they pity their poor sister.

Levi can’t bear to look. He turns away, busying himself with unsaddling his horse.

Finally, overcome with frustration and sadness, Dinah shrugs her brothers off and runs inside, passing Leah and Rachel on their way out. She brushes their hands away as they try to console her, and Leah quickly follows her back inside.

Rachel turns back to see the severed head, the slaves, the stolen goods and livestock. She sees the sheepish, hungover faces of the conquerors, the weary arrogance of Sim as he dismounts.

Jake exits behind Rachel, shocked by what his sons have done. Not sensing the general vibe, he goes, “Wow! Look at all this. You guys...this is great! I can’t believe...”

Rachel turns, shooting daggers at him.

“I mean...” Jake clears his throat, quickly adopting the gruff tone of a disapproving parent. Still, he can’t hide the excitement in his voice. “Bad. Very bad. You shouldn’t have done this. I didn’t sign off on...” A pause. “Is that a jewel-encrusted scepter?”

“Jake!” Rachel says.

The patriarch shrinks. “Sorry.”

Rachel walks up to Sim and slaps him in the face. He holds his cheek, eyes wide with anger, like he might hit her back. She glares at him, daring him to do it.

“What about these women?” she says, gesturing to the captive Shechemites. “Your sister isn’t allowed to have a consensual, interracial relationship, but you’re allowed to take these foreign women into your bed, no problem? You don’t see the hypocrisy in that?”

Sim composes himself.

“No,” he says, stubbornly, “I don’t. It’s fine if we’re not equals. The prince treated Dinah like a whore. He knew what he was doing when he had sex with her before marriage, rendering her useless to a more-appropriate husband.”

“You mean you?

Sim’s taken aback. “I mean someone who isn’t a Canaanite. Not to mention an ogre! You can see that he’s an ogre, yes? This isn’t just interracial shit we’re talking about, it’s interspecies. Surely, you can’t be on board with that.”

Rachel glances down at the severed head – it’s a shock, but she tries to process it rationally. “If the ogre is as sentient as Sheck was, and if they both consented to it, then no, I don’t see a problem with it.”

Sim scoffs. “Jeez, talk about moving the goalposts.”

“I’m not moving the goalposts,” Rachel says. “And you didn’t know he was an ogre when you went in there. That’s not why you did it. You didn’t even do it for the slaves or the loot – that’s why your brothers did it, and why I don’t hold them as accountable as I hold you. You did it to control your sister’s sexuality, in what I can only describe as the most toxic display of masculinity I think I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been married to your father for decades! I don’t know what kind of Freudian bullshit makes you respond to news of your sister’s wedding by not only murdering the groom, but wiping out his entire city and enslaving his people. I mean, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you, Sim?”

The second-born doesn’t know what to say. He just stands there, speechless.

If this were a courtroom, she’d have finished her speech with, “Case closed,” and walked out. At that point, the judge (after repeated efforts to call her back) would be forced to declare a mistrial, because that isn’t how the law works.

Rachel turns and marches back into the tent, leaving Jake to deal with his unruly sons.

Inside, Dinah is weeping into Leah’s chest, her mother stroking her face, comforting her. Zillie is sitting on the other side of her, stroking her arm. Rachel walks over and kneels down in front of Dinah, putting a hand on her knee. All three of them are overflowing with sympathy for the poor girl, all there to support her.

“This isn’t over,” says Rachel. “We’ll get him back for this.”

At that moment, Billie comes in, straightening her clothes. She sees Dinah crying and goes, “Whoa, what happened here?”

Leah, Rachel and Zillie turn to look at her, unimpressed.

Outside, the patriarch forces himself to focus, to not concentrate on the mouth-watering amount of slaves and goods and livestock.

“She’s right,” Jake says. “You shouldn’t have done this. Not only have you devastated your little sister, but more importantly, you’ve ruined our relationship with the Canaanites and put us all in danger. What happens when Hamor’s allies come to trade with him or just to say, ‘What up?’ They’re gonna do to us what you did to him.”

“Yeah, but dad...” Sim says, gesturing to everything he’s hauled out of the city. “Check out all this loot.”

Jake swallows, feeling the warm fingers of greed caressing his nipples. He shakes his head, snapping out of it.

“No!” he says. “I’m still angry at you. Pack everything up and get ready to move out.”

“You want us to leave the slaves and the loot and the livestock, then?”

Jake lowers his voice so the women inside can’t hear. “Of course I don’t want you to leave it! Pack it all up. Everything. Before we find ourselves on the business end of an ethnic cleansing.”

With that, he heads back into the tent while his sons begin preparations to get the fuck out of Dodge.

At that moment, Reuben walks into frame, going, “Whoa, what happened here?”

Sim turns on him and explodes, “What do you mean ‘what happened here?’ Where the fuck were you?”

Reuben shrugs, oblivious. “I was busy.”

*

Later, Jake is sharing a cigarette with God as he fills him in on what happened. Both of them are leaned against the city wall.

“Jesus Christ...” God says, horrified. “How the fuck did you let that happen?”

“Me?” Jake says, offended. “Where were you during all this?”

God shrugs. “I was busy.”

“Busy?”

“Yes, Izzy, I was busy. We’ve been over this...”

Jake groans. “Don’t start with that Izzy horseshit again.”

“You agreed,” warns God.

“I know, but...fuck, I’ve already got a son named Izzy. It’s confusing as shit.”

“We can leave it as Israel if you want?”

Jake sighs, kicks the dirt half-heartedly. “No...Izzy’s fine.”

God takes a drag. “You better get out of here before the other Canaanite kings realise what you’ve done.”

“What’s it look like I’m doing?” He gestures to his family packing up the tents and getting everything loaded onto wagons.

God gives him a look.

Jake realises what he’s getting at. “Okay, fine – not me, specifically...”

God shakes his head, flicks the cigarette away. He goes to leave when he remembers something. “Oh, yeah... Listen, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but... Reuben’s sleeping with Billie.”

“What?” Jake says, stunned.

“Your son and your concubine – gettin’ it on.”

“Yeah, I heard you...”

God takes pity on him, offers him another cigarette and then lights it for him. Jake takes a moment to process the revelation.

“Son of a bitch...” he says, more disappointed than angry.

“You mean Rachel?”

“No, I just...” He trails off, not bothered to explain it. Takes a drag instead. Something occurs to him. “Also, how do you have time to notice a secretive affair between my son and my wife’s maid, and you don’t notice a fucking genocide taking place?”

“It wasn’t a genocide,” God corrects him. “All the women and children are still alive.”

“Well, what would you call it?”

“I don’t know... It’s like a genocide, but based entirely on gender.” God thinks. “Genocide, gender, genocide, gender.” Finally, he shakes his head, not seeing the obvious pun. “I’ll come up with something.”

*

That night, Sim wakes to find himself surrounded by women.

This isn’t altogether unexpected. He went to bed with several of the Canaanite women he widowed the previous night, and took into captivity the previous morning.

He did this while somehow compartmentalising the fact that he had punished his sister for a consensual version of the same thing.

But the women he finds himself surrounded by aren’t the women he went to bed with.

Well, they’re not the only women.

The Canaanite widows are huddled off in the corner of the tent, watching him. Their faces are streaked with tears and they’re holding each other – traumatised, terrified. The women directly around him are more familiar.

Leah.

Rachel.

Billie.

Zillie.

Dinah.

Sim goes to get up, but finds himself tied by wrist and ankle to the bed. Immediately, panic floods his system. He tugs on the ropes, but it’s no good. He’s pinned.

Billie and Zillie are standing on either side of him (at three and nine), Leah and Rachel are at five and seven (both holding torches), and Dinah is at six.

All five are staring down at him, not moving. Firelight dancing across their faces.

Before he can speak, Leah nods to the maids.

Billie and Zillie comply, crouching down beside Sim.

“Wait...” he says, panicking, pressing himself into the bed. “Wait!”

But they don’t wait.

They cover his mouth with their bare hands, while Rachel yanks off the blanket, exposing Sim’s naked body, and Dinah produces a long, gleaming dagger.

Sim’s eyes go wide. He tries to scream, but his protests are muffled through the hands covering his mouth.

Dinah steps up onto the bed...

Sim begins shaking his head, screaming louder. He looks around desperately, but they all just stare back at him with dead eyes.

Dinah crouches down, dagger in hand...

If anyone were standing just outside the tent, they would have been able to hear Sim’s muffled scream grow suddenly louder, as Dinah took her revenge...


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