Genesis – First, God
There are all kinds of emotions in a family with mostly brothers and few daughters. Brothers will fight with each other, but will lay down their lives for their sisters. Those sisters are well protected from anything or anyone who seeks to harm them.
THIS is the situation with Jacob’s sons who swoop in with revenge and murder in their minds for their sister has been raped. Her honor has been violated. The two older brothers come up with a plan to rid the planet of the entire clan of the one who raped her.
Where do the brothers of Jacob get the scheming gene?
Confess, we are all thinking it.
Genesis 34, The Message
1-4 One day Dinah, the daughter Leah had given Jacob, went to visit some of the women in that country. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite who was chieftain there, saw her and raped her. Then he felt a strong attraction to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, fell in love with her, and wooed her. Shechem went to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl for my wife.”
5-7 Jacob heard that Shechem had raped his daughter Dinah, but his sons were out in the fields with the livestock so he didn’t say anything until they got home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, went to Jacob to work out marriage arrangements. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons on their way back from the fields heard what had happened. They were outraged, explosive with anger. Shechem’s rape of Jacob’s daughter was intolerable in Israel and not to be put up with.
8-10 Hamor spoke with Jacob and his sons, “My son Shechem is head over heels in love with your daughter—give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Give your daughters to us and we’ll give our daughters to you. Live together with us as one family. Settle down among us and make yourselves at home. Prosper among us.”
11-12 Shechem then spoke for himself, addressing Dinah’s father and brothers: “Please, say yes. I’ll pay anything. Set the bridal price as high as you will—the sky’s the limit! Only give me this girl for my wife.”
13-17 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father with cunning. Their sister, after all, had been raped. They said, “This is impossible. We could never give our sister to a man who was uncircumcised. Why, we’d be disgraced. The only condition on which we can talk business is if all your men become circumcised like us. Then we will freely exchange daughters in marriage and make ourselves at home among you and become one big, happy family. But if this is not an acceptable condition, we will take our sister and leave.”
18 That seemed fair enough to Hamor and his son Shechem.
19 The young man was so smitten with Jacob’s daughter that he proceeded to do what had been asked. He was also the most admired son in his father’s family.
20-23 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the public square and spoke to the town council: “These men like us; they are our friends. Let them settle down here and make themselves at home; there’s plenty of room in the country for them. And, just think, we can even exchange our daughters in marriage. But these men will only accept our invitation to live with us and become one big family on one condition, that all our males become circumcised just as they themselves are. This is a very good deal for us—these people are very wealthy with great herds of livestock and we’re going to get our hands on it. So let’s do what they ask and have them settle down with us.”
24 Everyone who was anyone in the city agreed with Hamor and his son, Shechem; every male was circumcised.
25-29 Three days after the circumcision, while all the men were still very sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each with his sword in hand, walked into the city as if they owned the place and murdered every man there. They also killed Hamor and his son Shechem, rescued Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. When the rest of Jacob’s sons came on the scene of slaughter, they looted the entire city in retaliation for Dinah’s rape. Flocks, herds, donkeys, belongings—everything, whether in the city or the fields—they took. And then they took all the wives and children captive and ransacked their homes for anything valuable.
30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here, these Canaanites and Perizzites. If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”
31 They said, “Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
Three times in the narrative the word defiled is used to describe Shechem’s wicked deed (vv. 5, 13, 27). The young prince claimed that he did it because he loved her and wanted her for his wife, but committing violent rape and keeping the girl confined in a house (v. 26) was a strange way to declare his love.
But his actions and words bore witness only to the fact that God’s people and the people of Canaan had different standards of conduct. To the Jews, sexual activity that violated the law of God brought defilement to the victim and judgment to the guilty party. In later years, the Mosaic law with its penalties sought to protect people by declaring sexual misconduct both a sin and a crime (Deut. 22:23-29). The silence of Jacob when he heard the tragic news (Gen. 34:5) showed neither indifference nor cowardice on his part. Since his sons were in the field with the sheep and cattle and he could do nothing without their help, he was wise to wait.
When Jacob’s sons were told what had happened, they were grieved that their sister had been violated and angry at the man who did it. Both responses were normal and right. Instead of immediately declaring war, they pretended to seek peace with their neighbors and offered to do business together and even to intermarry. All that the men of Shechem had to do was agree to be circumcised. Of course, it would take more than circumcision to make Jews out of Canaanites since no covenant conditions were involved.
The Canaanites saw this policy as an opportunity to absorb Israel and gradually possess their wealth and their people, but Jacob’s sons used it as a means to weaken the men and get them ready for slaughter. Never suspecting the danger, the men of the city submitted to the surgery.
At a time when the males in Shechem were in too much pain to defend themselves, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s full brothers, rallied some men from Jacob’s camp and attacked the Shechemites, killing Hamor and his son and all the males in the city. Then they looted the city and took captive the women and children.
It was an evil thing to do, and when Jacob heard about it, he was both angry and frightened. But during his lifetime, since he had done his share of scheming and fooled his father, he couldn’t rebuke his sons without incriminating himself.
By their deception and ruthless destruction, they ruined Jacob’s testimony before the people of the land. What good was it for Jacob to build an altar and worship the true God before his pagan neighbors if his children were going to act like pagans? But it’s sad to see that Jacob’s greatest concern wasn’t the vindication of purity or even his witness in the land, but rather his own safety. Had Jacob and his family been in Bethel where they belonged, this tragedy might not have occurred.
But true to His promise (28:15), God wasn’t finished with Jacob. There were still heartaches and joys to come, but the God of Jacob would prove Himself faithful through it all.
Delayed obedience bring consequences in our faith walk with God. God does not cause evil but evil happens when we are not where God wants us to be. We are more venerable.
Why is delayed obedience like failed obedience?
Is there any issue in your life where this truth is relevant?
Dear Heavenly Father,
I can think of many times in my own life when I delayed doing what you told me to do because of my own fears or mere procrastination. I paid the cost when I did this. And you forgave me. I am grateful. You never leave us. You never stop loving us. You will always be with us and guide us out of our mess and into your grace because of your love and mercy. You are a gracious Father. Thank you for lessons learned in my past and the lessons I am continuing to learn presently. Keep us close to you so that we hear your slightest whisper. Help us to lean into your power with courage to obey quickly.
In Jesus Name, Amen