Gen. 34:28-29 describes how Yaakov's sons plundered the city of Shechem after wiping out its (adult male) inhabitants:

אֶת-צֹאנָם וְאֶת-בְּקָרָם וְאֶת-חֲמֹרֵיהֶם וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר וְאֶת אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׂדֶה לָקָחוּ. וְאֶת כָּל חֵילָם וְאֶת כָּל טַפָּם וְאֶת נְשֵׁיהֶם שָׁבוּ וַיָּבֹזּוּ וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר בַּבָּיִת.

"Their sheep, their cattle and their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and whatever was in the field, they took. And all their wealth and all of their children and their women, they captured and plundered, and everything that was in the house."

My eight-year-old son, when he learned these pesukim recently, asked me:

  1. Why are three different verbs used ("took," "captured," "plundered")? Granted that "captured" is appropriate for the people ("children and women"), but then what's the difference between the other two? (I suggested that perhaps "their wealth" at the beginning of the verse means inanimate possessions - money, jewelry, etc. - and then "plundered" would apply to those, as compared to animals which you'd "take" by making them follow you by voice or with a stick, and people whom you'd "capture" by shackling them. But I'm not sure of that.)

  2. What does "and everything that was in the house" add? Whatever was in the house should logically be included in "whatever was in the city" of the previous verse.

  3. Why is that clause added almost as an afterthought? We would expect the verse to be structured something like this: "And their wealth, their children and their women, and everything that was in the house, they captured and plundered."

1 Answer 1

  1. Your suggestion is correct. "Took" refers to the animals, "captured" refers to the women and children, and "plundered" refers to the wealth and objects from their houses. See Malbim.
  2. Technically, everything was "in the city". I would suggest that the phrase "וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר בָּעִיר וְאֶת אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׂדֶה" refers to the animals mentioned immediately before. That is, they took all the sheep, cattle and donkeys, which were all the animals in the city (probably like the donkeys and other domesticated animals) and the fields (like the grazing sheep and cattle). Or you could read, "they took all the sheep, cattle, and donkeys, as well as the individual animals left in the city and the fields." (See Netziv.)
  3. Perhaps the last phrase of the verse, "וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר בַּבָּיִת", is not meant to be an afterthought, but rather putting a more specific emphasis on that phrase, separating it out from the rest. Notice that "בַּבָּיִת" is in the singular, which prompts Ibn Ezra to comment that this refers specifically to the house of Chamor or Sh'chem. All the rest of these verses are attacks on the city as a whole, but this particular phrase is referring to an attack specifically on the leader. Perhaps for this it is singled out.

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