After the beautiful embrace of brothers in chapter thirty-three, I’m sorry to say there is nothing uplifting or touching in today’s chapter of Genesis. Instead of returning to Bethel, as God directed, Jacob settles near the Canaanite city of Shechem and thus begins his trouble. In this chapter, there is no mention of God, and it’s easy to see why. Not only is Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, taken and raped by the local prince, Jacob takes no action, and leaves the matter to his sons.
Seeking a way to revenge their sister’s disgrace, the sons of Jacob use circumcision, the outward sign of their special anointing as the people of God, to deceive the men of Shechem. They tell them that the only way they’ll allow Dinah to marry the prince is for all the men of the city to be circumcised. God is not involved in this deception, and it would bring further repercussions down the road.
Amazingly, the men of Shechem agree to the conditions, and on the third day, as they were still suffering from their procedures, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, go into the city and kill all the men, take their sister back, plunder the city, and return to their tents.
It is at the end of this story that I want to share my gem because I think it is a good reminder of why troubles come into our lives.
Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”Genesis 34:30-31 ESV
Self-preservation hinders righteousness
Look at how many times Jacob uses personal pronouns in this short paragraph. He tells his sons they brought trouble on me. You’ll make me stink. My numbers are few. If they attack me, I will be destroyed, both me and my household. Wow, that’s a lot of self in those statements. No wonder Jacob didn’t act at once when he first heard about Dinah’s rape, he was too worried about self-preservation than standing up for his daughter. Jacob had failed to stand up for the right because he was not trusting God to be his defender.
Self-preservation points the finger.
Just as Adam pointed the finger at Eve, and then Eve pointed it at the Serpent, Jacob takes no responsibility as head of his household but points the blame at his sons. When we are looking out for number one, it’s easy to shift blame to number two or three.
Self-preservation forgets the promises of God.
In his fear for his life, Jacob stomps on the covenant promises of God given to his grandfather, and father, and also directly to himself at Bethel, where he saw the ladder from heaven. This is the man who had just recently wrestled with God and prevailed. How easy is it that self stifles God’s Word and our encounters with him.
Jacob’s self-preservation didn’t let his sons off the hook for their actions.
Just because their father failed to act out of fear and selfish reasons, the actions of his sons, especially Simeon and Levi, are not justified. Yes, they were right to defend the honor of their sister. Action had to be taken, but at no time was God consulted on the matter. They chose their own way, which included misuse of the covenant of circumcision, and they would pay the price. God would not be mocked.
Have you ever found yourself faced with a moral decision and you either run from it or respond in a way that is immoral in itself? This is what happened in Genesis 34. Dinah was rescued, but at a cost that could have been avoided. Keeping God out of our decisions comes at a price.
Grace and Peace