Monday, August 1, 2011

Genesis 34:24-31

One last look at this most difficult chapter! The violent rape of Dinah begets more violence. It was bad enough that Shechem defiled Dinah, but he then refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing. That was compounded when he turned the marriage proposal into a business deal to benefit his family! So we can certainly understand the fury of Dinah’s brothers. However, the course of vengeance that Simeon and Levi chose was over the top!

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.

Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. (Gen 34:24-29)

This was a wholesale slaughter! Simeon and Levi slew the men in a bloodbath. Their brothers caught up with them, and, seeing what Simeon and Levi had done, they, too, went on a rampage, plundering the city and taking all of the possessions and family members of Hamor’s tribe. Here’s the thing that stands out to me: today, when we hear of tribal killings in the Middle East, it’s generally by means of explosions. There is no personal involvement with the killing (although the end result is the same). In these murders, Simeon and Levi had to get face to face with all of these men. Imagine the rage and, frankly, the mess! I’m focusing on that, because somehow the words “killing every male,” don’t convey the horror of what they did in taking out vengeance themselves.

When they arrived home, Jacob could immediately see what they had done. Here’s The Message translation of Jacob’s response:

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."

They said, "Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it." (vs.30-31)

The need for justice is something we can all relate to. All us at some time in our life have cried out for justice. Whether it was a desire for personal justice because of a something unfair done to us, or the collective need for justice in cases like the O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony trials. That need for justice is universal, because it’s a value that comes from our Just God. And here’s where the brothers blew it big time: they did not trust God for the justice. Now, many times God uses men to carry out His justice, but it really bothers me (am I alone?) that there was no seeking of God here. God did not tell them to go slaughter the Shechemites. They acted out of their own rage. We’ll see in chapter 49, when the dying Jacob blesses his sons, that Simeon and Levi suffered consequences for these actions.

This was a brutal chapter. Why did God want us to read it? Well, it does lead up to some of the history of Israel, which we’ll see later. But I think there is another reason God wanted us to have this chapter in scripture: it’s surely a warning to parents about being a “hands-on” parent. Jacob should have made sure that Dinah never went anywhere alone. It was his job to protect her – or to have her brothers watch over her, since she was coming of age. Doe this mean Jacob was to blame for Dinah’s rape? Certainly NOT! That falls completely on Shechem only! Even the most vigilant of parents cannot prevent the effects of a fallen world impacting the lives of their children. 

I’ll never forget the time I let my eight year old daughter go off in a car for the entire day with a new friend and her nanny (20-ish), whom I had just met, to go to the Orange County Fair!!! What was I thinking??? Immediately after they left it struck me, and I spent the entire day worrying and praying (do those go together?) for Emmy’s safety (this was before cell phones, so there was no way to contact them throughout the day and evening)! We ALL do these stupid things occasionally. But parents can and should take preventative steps of protection for their children that may lessen the likelihood of danger.

It’s not good enough to be reactive – parents must intentionally think through their parenting and have a PLAN. From the time your baby girl is born, you should have in place a plan for every eventuality you can reasonably think through – at what age she can start dating (and HOLD to it), your expectations for her while she is living under your authority (church attendance, college, chastity, no alcohol, etc.). Too many parents take the attitude, “Oh, they are all drinking and having sex!” REALLY??? I’ve actually had parents tell me that if their teenage son is going to drink, they want them doing it at home, so their intention is to provide it!!! Hello, people, it’s ILLEGAL!

Then, I’m wondering if things would have been different if Jacob had taken control of the situation after the rape – it seems to me that he should have held a family meeting to discuss and pray about what they should do. I realize I’m guilty here of judging Jacob – not my place!!! I have NO idea how I would have reacted. The reality is that in the heat of such a horrific event, we all might react exactly as these boys did. We have it in us!

What can we do to instill in our children an absolute faith in our Father to take care of vengeance? We need to believe it ourselves and model it. Had they sought Him, God may have actually sent the boys out to take vengeance in His name – I don’t know. He certainly directed the Israelites to do that at times. This chapter leaves me with more questions than answers. But one thing I know: I’m so glad that GOD is the One who metes out justice! Because He is holy and righteous, I know I can trust Him to make all things right. In fact, I’m sure I’ll be part of the great multitude in heaven shouting, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” (Rev 19:1-2)

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