This week’s reading: Genesis 34:1-31
After being delivered from Laban and Esau by God’s hand and mercy, things seem like they should go smoothly for Jacob and his family. But one thing we can count on in life is that there will always be some challenges we face, and will have to learn to endure. This week, we will read a disturbing story of the effects of following your own desires. Spoiler alert: this self-centered way of living always leads to destruction, division and death. We are in Genesis chapter 34, that is verses 1 through 31. Listen to the beginning of these sad events:
“Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’ When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he kept quiet about it until they came home.” Gen 34:1-5 NIV
Destruction. Whenever we choose to do whatever we want with no regard to God and His laws of morality, trouble is sure to follow. Jacob had come to the land of the Canaanites and settled near the city of Shechem. In last week’s reading, we heard how Jacob bought some land there and “pitched his tent.” (see Gen 33:19) He also set up an altar in this new home to honor God who had kept him and his family safe from his brother Esau. (see Gen 33:20) As we see in this above Scripture, today’s reading begins with Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, going out to socialize with the local women. According to several commentaries, at this point, Dinah was most likely about 14 or 15 years old, which was old enough to get married according to the culture of that day. Just like any other teenager though, she may have been interested to know about the women’s fashions and entertainment in that new land. This was probably not the first time she went out on her own, as the Bible says she “went out to visit the women,” as in she knew these women and was just getting together with some friends. (see Gen 34:1) While on her way, the ruler’s son, Shechem, notices Dinah and decides to just take her. Let’s pause. Shechem is from the Hivite clan who descended from one of the sons of Canaan, and recall that Canaan was the son of Ham. Do we remember their twisted personality and the curse Noah proclaimed over this family tree? They did not know nor follow the true God and their hearts were always centered on MMI. It seems like Shechem is following their wicked ways. Here he most likely thinks he has a right to do whatever he wants, with whoever he wants, because he is “the most honored of all his father’s household.” (see Gen 34:19) Think entitlement here. Also think Pride, which as I always say, is the root of all evil. Shechem does not hesitate to defile Dinah, this foreigner and helpless young lady, and destroys her opportunity to ever be legitimately married. You see, the Bible is clear on this matter, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Pr 16:18) But Pride does not only destroy the person acting prideful. It spills its venom on all those within its vicinity. In other words, Pride destroys everyone involved in the actions caused by that Pride. I am sure Dinah’s heart is crushed as her future is wrecked. And later, we will see what happens to Shechem, as well as the other men of his city. We must learn that we are not free to do as we please.But we do have the privilege to live a life that pleases God, our Creator. Morality seems to be a lost topic these days, while Pride seems to be encouraged and celebrated in every area of life. This poor girl was not only raped, but abducted as well. (see Gen 34:2, 34:5, 34:7, 34:13, 34:17, 34:26 and 34:31) After Shechem had his way with her, he kept her, not allowing her to go back home. It does seem like he falls in love with her after his deed, and so, did not want to let her go. He tells his father, Hamor, to go seek Jacob’s approval for an arranged marriage with her. I mean, he seems sincere when he speaks to her brothers, claiming he will pay any price to be with her. (see Gen 34:11-12) But can you say, “a little too little, a little too late”?! Instead of having done things the right way, this arrogant fool still thinks he can get away with his horrific behavior and possess her in marriage too. Can we see the vileness and recklessness of Pride? Yeah, it is so much easier to see it in someone else, is it not? Yet Pride is a problem within every single human being. I have heard some people claim to be very humble, but the problem with that is, the moment we say we are humble…we are not! There is only one who ever lived a completely Humble life, and as His followers, we are to be ever on the lookout for when this slippery fallen character trait rears its ugly head in our own hearts. This is part of growing in Christ, being able to recognize Pride and its effect in us, and then running to Jesus so He may help us be rid of it. Shechem does not know God, nor did he want to. Shechem wanted whatever he thought was best for Shechem. And the men of his town seemed to be just like him. We read how he and his people may have had another, more fundamental motive to intermarrying with Jacob’s tribe. More later. (see Gen 34:23) Greed is one of the hallmarks of Pride. And God will allow judgment to fall on these people as they reap their own destruction.
Division. I am going to take a twist on this word here because, as I have said before, sometimes division is a good thing. One of the problems Jacob and his family is facing here is that Shechem and company wanted them to assimilate with their people. They wanted to intermarry, which most likely would open the door to worshipping their false gods too. This seems to be one of the biggest strategies of our real enemy. First, he tries to outright kill the believer, to get us out of the way so we do not hinder his evil plans. But if that doesn’t work, then getting us to act like the rest of the fallen, lost world is an effortless way to stop us from messing around with his agenda. After all, if we are the same as everyone else, why would anyone want to surrender to Jesus? But we are called to be holy. That means set apart from this world and its MMI ways. We are not better than anyone, but different simply because we follow God and His Word, which is completely different than any other way known to man. This includes all religions, of course. Most belief systems teach people to seek to become holy through our actions, all on our own effort and merit. But as Christians, we know we cannot earn Heaven. We know we are spiritually bankrupt. We know we are sinners by nature and have no worth apart from Christ. This is one of the major reasons why God’s Grace is so amazing! It is a free gift to all who would simply come and humbly surrender to this God, who loves us more than we will ever fully understand. We must be divided from the rest of the world. We cannot allow ourselves to assimilate with those who do not know, nor desire to know, the Creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. Jacob moved to an area where the people knew nothing about the God of Abraham. This was the land of the Canaanites, which I have read, had more than 234 different gods. Recall how both Isaac and Jacob were not allowed to marry women from Canaan, but went back to their mother’s homeland to find a wife that would, more likely, follow the God of Abraham? So there is no way Dinah was going to marry Shechem, especially after he belittled her that way. Intermarriage was out of the question because following God, who had promised Abraham this land for his descendants, was priority number one. At least for Jacob. When he first heard about what happened, he did not react, but took the time to think things through. They were foreigners, living in a land filled with potential enemies, so he did not want to rush into anything that could cause problems for his family. Also the custom was, when a man was married to several women, the sons were to uphold the honor of their sister, and so Jacob waited to speak to them about the problem. I would like to think that Jacob wanted to consult with God before accusing anyone too, but sadly, this is never mentioned in our reading. When his sons find out about the violation of their sister, they hash a plan with vengeance in mind. Instead of agreeing to become like them, the sons of Jacob claim that Shechem’s people must become like them through circumcision. Sadly, this was not an evangelical effort. They were not trying to introduce these lost people to their God. As a matter of fact, they disrespect this holy act of circumcision, by using it to cause the downfall of their neighbors. Instead of bringing them to God, they wanted to annihilate them from the earth. Isn’t this the human way though? Instead of trying to help people change by bringing them to Christ, who is the only one who can change them, we just want to get rid of them from our lives. And do I even dare to bring up the topic of forgiveness? Yes, even for such a vile action as what Shechem did? Ok, now I have gone too far, right?! Yet is this not what our Lord does for us? One of the most impressive acts during His Passion for me is when our Lord is hanging on the Cross and praying to the Father for His enemies…and not just those present right there, but He very well could have been praying for you and me too, do we know that? (see Lk 23:34) Are we humbled enough to admit that forgiving everyone who has violated our trust and offended our hearts is being different than the rest of the world? Division is necessary if we truly desire to be like Jesus. And division from those around us, that want nothing to do with God, is both good and wise. Jacob knows this. His sons, on the other hand, are fully focused on their anger and revenge. And by doing so, they are becoming exactly like their godless neighbors. Listen to what the Bible says about this tough topic: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Ro 12:19-21) I know this is difficult to carry out. But just because it is difficult, does not mean it is impossible. Remember we cannot be like the rest of the world. We must be different. And this requires division.
Death. As I said above, we never hear that Jacob, nor any of his sons, consulted God about what to do. That is always our first problem. Yes, many times in the Old Testament, God does commission his people to go to war with their godless neighbors, but that is not what is happening here. These sons of Jacob see red and want blood. On the surface, it seems like Shechem and Jacob’s sons are coming up with a compromise, so that everyone will be happy. “You guys get circumcised, and then we can intermarry and become one people.” But each had their own ulterior motives. Shechem and his people wanted to become one with Jacob because they saw his wealth, and hoped that his wealth would become theirs. (again see Gen 34:23) And when this people agree to the deal, Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, attack while these men are still in too much pain to fight back. (see Gen 34:25) This was their plan all along. They kill both Shechem and his father, and also every male in the city, and bring Dinah back home. When these two brothers are done with their dishonorable act, the rest of the sons of Jacob come along and plunder the entire city, taking captive the women and children that survived the attack. These became either their slaves or concubines, furthering the seeds of violating others. Shechem had violated Dinah, and now the sons of Jacob violate the entire city. Remember they are foreigners in this land, having only recently come from far away. Now they are making enemies of the nations around them, and all because they did not take the time to seek God, but chose, like Shechem, to do whatever they wanted to do, to whomever they wanted to do it to. See? These sons were not much better than the godless people they were now living among. As I said above, as believers, we should be different. What would God have told them to do had they taken the time to ask Him? We can only speculate. Perhaps God was testing the sons of Jacob. Perhaps God did use this tragic event to bring justice on those wicked people. Perhaps God simply knows the violence in each of us, and desires to reveal it, so that they, and we, might repent and be freed from it. There can be endless reasons as to why God allowed all of this. But my point is that, this newly forming nation of God’s people, ignored Him. They are called to be His, not because they are better than the rest, but only because of God’s Grace. This is why He calls you and me too. We do not deserve His Love and Grace. Yet God chooses to pour them upon us anyway. We are all works in progress…but it is up to each of us to seek God so that progress may come. If we choose to turn away from God and towards our own understanding, then Pride is the result. And Pride always leads to destruction. It leads to division. It leads to death.
Justification. Jacob is upset with his sons for what they have decided to do. He knows that they are now vulnerable to the wrath of the other nations they live around. He is not sure that they can defend themselves…not because he has already forgotten God’s protection, but because he is not sure the killing and looting of the city of Shechem was God’s Will. How can he be? No one sought God’s Will. He rebukes especially Simeon and Levi for having devised and carried out such an unwise plan. We will see later in the Bible that Jacob never forgets this breach of trust. These sons try to justify their actions by saying, “Should we have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (Gen 34:31) And on the surface, we can agree with them. This Shechem rapped and kidnapped their sister. They had to do something. But did that “something” have to be the murder and enslavement of a whole people? We never hear about Dinah ever again. She most likely stayed living as a spinster, unable to be married off because of the defilement, the rest of her life. A quiet and sad life. This was not her fault, as some commentaries make it sound out to be. She was a victim. And like too many casualties in this world, she probably thought God did not care about her. Nothing could be further from the truth, my Friends. God saw her pain. And He sees ours too. He also knows there is nothing you or I can do to justify ourselves, and so He did it for us. The Father sent His Son to pay for all our wickedness. The Son came and paid our sin debt. And now the Holy Spirit longs to live within our hearts and guide our steps, so we may follow God’s Will instead of trying to live whichever way we want to live. Jesus has come to break the prison that Pride keeps us in. To set the captives free. While becoming born again, and receiving the gift of Eternal Life, is an instant and immediate event, acting like we have been set free is a process. Salvation is what begins this New Life. Then Sanctification makes it real to us, and those around us. We begin to seek God about every thought, emotion and decision. Before we step out and act on our feelings, as these sons of Jacob did, we stop and consult the Holy Spirit. How? We begin by reading God’s Word and learning to recognize God’s Voice within. Then we trust God to guide our steps every day. If we do not sense peace, we wait. If we sense God’s leading, then we step out. Notice I used the word “sense” not feel. Feeling is a human, superficial thing that changes moment by moment, depending on what is going on around us. But sensing God is spiritual. And the only way to know which is which is to commit to abiding in Christ. Living with Him, every day, in every way. This is discernment, and a gift from God. It requires being connected to God, 24/7, praying without ceasing. (see 1Thess 5:17) That means when we think, we invite God into those thoughts. When we have any emotion, we ask God if we are being prideful or righteous. When we are making choices, we submit to God’s Will instead of our own. It is a life of surrender. But why would we think it would be anything else? (see Gal 3:1-3) Surrendering to Jesus as our Lord and Savior is how this New Life began, and so, it is how this New Life must continue. This is not a prison like Pride is. This is Freedom, because we know that God loves us and would never lead us into any destruction. This is Freedom, because we know that God desires to make us holy, like He is, so it will never lead to any division that is not holy. This is Freedom, because we know that God is Eternal Life, and apart from Him, there is only death. It is God who justifies us. And it is God who will lead us Home, if we allow Him to do so. If we are His children, things may not go smoothly because we are still learning all this. But the more I choose to simply surrender to God’s Will, the more I decide to submit to His Wisdom, the more I choose to obey His guidance…whatever…wherever…however? Say it with me, the more my life becomes abundant! Abundantly filled with a contentment that is not affected by what is going on around me, outside of me, but fully dependent on the one who lives within me. It is an awesome way to live! If you have never experienced it, I hope you want it too. If you have experienced it and, like me, you want more and more of God in your life…well either way then, won’t you join me?
Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.
<>< Peace, Diane