Thursday, July 28, 2011

Genesis 34:13-24

Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done. . .

Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” (Gen 34:7,13-17)

In today’s lesson, we’ll look at the aftermath of the rape of Dinah: the emotional responses and the reactions. Jacob’s sons, Dinah’s brothers, are shocked when they hear about what Shechem had done to Dinah. Their emotions seem to start with great grief for their precious sister and then turn to fury. That is a strong word! The Message version translates it this way: They were outraged, explosive with anger. However, they do nothing at first - instead they devise a plot to take vengeance. They appear to agree with the business proposal to give Dinah to Shechem in return for intermarriage and consolidation of the two groups of people, including their possessions, if Hamor, Shechem, and all of their men will submit to circumcision as a sign of unity.

Note that they say nothing of the importance of circumcision as a sign of the covenant with God. God is certainly not brought into this bargain. It would seem that Jacob’s sons have not personalized their faith in God, for their reaction contains no prayer, no seeking of God’s help or wisdom. They don’t even ask God to bless their plans. This makes me wonder about exactly why the boys are outraged here. Is it their concern for Dinah herself? Is it that the rape is an offense against God? Or is it a personal offense - having something of theirs taken by force?? Nowhere in this chapter do we see the brothers show a love and concern for Dinah. When they take her back (vs.26), there is no mention of care, compassion, or comfort given to Dinah. In fact, in the verses above they say, “. . . [giving our sister to an uncircumcised man] would be a disgrace to us.”

Now, I’m wondering what could possibly convince a bunch of pagan men to line up for circumcision!! Apparently greed is a strong motivator - and so is Shechem, for verses 23-24 tell us what he says and how they respond:

“. . . Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us give our consent to them, and they will settle among us.”

All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.

At this point, I’m wanting to shout, “Men are pigs!” But, then God seems to be pointing out to me my own problem with motivation. I have to ask myself, when I am hurt or angry what is the reason? If someone offends or hurts me, am I upset because of the offense to God - or to my pride? My reaction will probably answer that question. If I respond with fury that leaves no place for God to work, only my flesh, then I would have to assume that my fury is not righteous indignation - but stung pride! If I am looking for my own vengeance, watch out! And then, what motivates me to do the hard things (obviously something other than circumcision...) ? What makes me get out of my comfort zone? Is it a heart that is obedient to God’s call or a heart that craves the praise of men? Is it a desire to see God’s work go forth or is it a yearning for material gain? We are not really so different from these men are we? YIKES!

Still so much more to learn - and, unfortunately, the carnage is about to begin! We will view that next time. This is a difficult chapter!!!

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