Genesis 33-34 ~ 20080413 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
4/13 Genesis 33-34 Reconciliation; Procrastination; Disgrace
Remember where we left Jacob last time. Jacob had left his uncle Laban and headed for home without telling anyone. Laban found out about it and chased him down with his militia, intending to do him harm, but God intervened on behalf of Jacob and warned Laban not to harm him. They made a peace treaty and promised not to cross the line into each other's territory, and Jacob went on his way. Now Jacob has to face up to his past. He had ripped off his brother and deceived his dad. His brother was comforting himself by thinking about how to murder Jacob. It's been twenty years, and Jacob doesn't know if his brother has come up with some really elaborate new torture devices, or if he's forgiven, forgotten and moved on. So he sends servants to announce his arrival to Esau and let him know that he comes on peaceful terms. His servants return bringing him news that Esau is coming out to meet him along with 400 armed men. Jacob panics, makes a plan to minimize his losses, and then he prays. He finally thanks God for all that God has done for hims so far, and he calls God to account to make good on his promises. Jacob is throwing himself on the mercy and faithfulness of God to take care of him. And then he gets alone Maybe he was hoping to get away from the crying kids and get a good night's sleep before the big day; maybe he wanted to spend some time alone thinking or praying. Some guy shows up and attacks him in the night. We find out it's Jesus and he came to prepare Jacob for what was ahead. His way of preparation is interesting – he beats him up all night long, and then cripples him at daybreak. Jesus had come to bless Jacob, but Jacob must first be broken of his self-sufficiency and humbled of his pride. God injures Jacob to force him to cling to Jesus and not depend on his natural strength.
Jacob is seeking reconciliation with his offended brother. He had wronged his brother. He had taken advantage of his brother. Now he approaches his brother seeking grace from his brother – undeserved kindness. So Jacob orders his family so that he can introduce them to his brother. And then Jacob takes the lead. He gets out in front of his family. We could look at Jacob's actions as somewhat cowardly, sending servants and gifts on ahead, himself staying the night on the other side of the river, but not now. Jacob takes the lead in approaching his offended brother. And he bows seven times to the ground as he approaches his brother. This was the customary way to approach a great king. Jacob has addressed Esau as 'my lord' and himself as 'your servant'. Now he approaches Esau as if he is approaching a great king. I am reminded of Jesus' story about the prodigal son, who rudely demanded the inheritance from his father, left home and wasted it all and was humiliated, feeding the pigs. So he returned home and humbled himself, acknowledging that he was no longer worthy to be considered a son, but would gladly take the place of a servant. Look at Esau's response:
The wording is strikingly similar to what we see in the account of the prodigals return.
Jacob had feared the worst, but he is received warmly by his brother.
Remember, Jacob has been gone for 20 years. He left with nothing but his stick. Now he is preceded by 580 head of livestock with servants, and is followed by four women, 11 sons and at least one daughter. It's time for introductions. And Jacob takes the opportunity to give God the credit. He says the children are a gracious gift from God. Do we consider our kids that way? Do we consider them our possession that we can treat however we like, or do we consider them a trial and a burden and a nuisance? They are a blessing and a good gift from God. They are entrusted to us to care for and train and provide for and protect.
Esau questions Jacob about the gift. Esau tells him that it was entirely unnecessary. But Jacob insists. Jacob had stolen from Esau and wronged Esau, and now he insists on making restitution. He likens seeing his brother to his recent encounter with God. God had every reason to punish Jacob, but instead God showed favor to him. What a blessed relief. Now Esau was in a position to harm him, but instead showed him kindness. Jacob again gives testimony of God's gracious hand in his life. God has dealt graciously with me. Here Jacob uses the word 'blessing', the same word that was used in chapter 27 to refer to what he had stolen from Esau. Please accept my blessing that is brought to you. Jacob is making restitution; making things right.
Esau now wants his returned brother to come live with him. Jacob, however, has his own family and flocks to care for, and he has made a vow to God to return to Bethel, so Jacob does his best to separate from Esau gracefully without offending him. Some feel that Jacob intentionally deceived his brother by telling him that he would come to Seir. But we can give Jacob the benefit of the doubt. His reasons for not following Esau were all valid, and although we are not told in the text, it is quite possible that after he had his own family settled he went to visit his other relations.
Jacob settles down in the promised land. Jacob, like Abraham before him, purchases land from the residents of the place. Jacob, like Abraham, builds an altar to the Lord. And Jacob names it El-Elohe-Israel. God, the God of the one who struggles with God. Jacob finally owns and identifies God as his God. And he owns his new name 'Israel'. Things appear to be good with Jacob. But if we think back to that first encounter Jacob had with God back at Bethel, we have cause for concern. Remember, God showed up to Jacob in his dream and told him all the things he would do. He promised land and descendants and blessing and protection and safe return to the land, and he promised his abiding presence with Jacob. And remember, Jacob woke up terrified and put a bunch of stipulations on God and made a vow to God.
God had said 'I am God, I will give, I am with you, I will keep you, I will bring you back, I will not leave you, I will do what I promised. God was not looking for help from Jacob. God was simply stating what he had in store. God was not asking Jacob to make a vow; but that's what Jacob did, and when someone makes a vow, God will hold them to it. Back in chapter 31, when God told Jacob to return to the land, he reminded him of the vow he had made at Bethel.
And in chapter 35 God will again prompt Jacob:
So, God has protected Jacob from uncle Laban who was out to get him, God has blessed him with abundance of possessions, he was blessed with a large family, and his estranged brother had received him favorably. So when Jacob, now back in the land, builds a house in Succoth, and then moves to Shechem, we should ask, 'why not Bethel?' And when we estimate the ages of his kids in the next chapter, it looks as if he's hung out at least seven years, but he's stopped short of Bethel. And when we compare the language in verse 18, 'and he camped before the city', it reminds us too much of the language in Genesis 13:
So we have that foreboding sense that things are not all well with Jacob and his family. Jacob has not been obedient to God and has not fulfilled his vow to God. He is settling down and getting comfortable. There is cause for alarm, and as we will see, that alarm is well founded.
Dinah is probably 14 or 15 at this point in the story. Her dad has set up camp facing Shechem, which was a Canaanite town that was at a crossroads on trading routes, and she goes out alone to see the women of the land. The thing that makes this so disturbing is as we look back over the story in Genesis, Abraham had said to his servant:
So the servant has to travel all the way to Paddan-Aram to get a wife for Isaac. Then Isaac says to Jacob:
This was not because the patriarchs were prejudiced. The bible is clear that all men originated from Adam. As such, all are created in God's image and hold an honored place in creation. When God commanded his people to kill every man, woman and child in a city, it was not because God is prejudiced; it was because the people were evil.
So Dinah is flirting with disaster. She is drawn to the Canaanite culture. She is curious and interested. Some scholars have suggested that the verse should be translated 'Dinah... went out to be seen by the women of the land'. She was in a place she shouldn't have been. And where was her dad? Where were her brothers? Who was watching out for her? She should not have been out without a chaperon.
In the Song of Solomon, we see the older brothers looking out for the purity of their little sister.
They are basically saying, if she has enough moral sense of her own, we will support her; but if she does not, we will lock her up and protect her purity. And Dinah had eleven brothers who liked to fight. Somebody should have been looking out for her. Her parents never should have allowed her in this position of danger. And now we get a sense of the Canaanite standards of morality:
This is brutal promiscuity. The son of the king, from whom Jacob had purchased land, sees the girl, takes her by force, rapes her and humiliates her. It is afterward in the narrative that he uses her name. It says that his soul was drawn to her, he loved her and spoke tenderly to her. And he demands his father to seize him this girl for a wife. This is a twisted perverted culture controlled by lust and driven by sexual gratification, a culture that thinks it is entitled to take whatever it wants, a culture that also shows disrespect toward parents.
Jacob's silence is deafening. He hears that his daughter has been raped, and he does nothing. His sons are taking care of his stuff in the field, and he doesn't call them in. When they come in, the brothers show more appropriate emotion; they are grieved and furious. This is a moral outrage. This violates the moral principles of God's community. This cannot be allowed to happen. Jacob is apparently still silent, so Hamor addresses the brothers:
Again, what is not said shouts louder than what is said. Where is the apology? Where is the admission of guilt and confession of wrongdoing? There is no repentance or remorse for what has been done. The rapist and his dad show up with the family of the victim and suggest that they assimilate into their vile twisted culture. We want to keep the girl and we're willing to pay top dollar. Let's forget about the kidnapping and rape – think of the economic advantages – you can trade and acquire property. You can marry into our sick twisted culture.
The brothers see an opportunity for revenge. They are deceitful in their answer – they are saying one thing and plotting something else. They have learned well from their father. And they use the sacred sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham as a tool to gain advantage over the people. They demand that the whole town undergo circumcision. They don't demand that everybody repent from their wickedness and give up their false gods and follow the one true God. They are only looking for outward conformity to their practices without any interest in the heart. Again, it is troubling that Jacob doesn't say a word.
It is amazing what a guy will do to get a girl. Don't be fooled when the motivation for conversion is a romantic relationship. 'So, if I go to church with you, you'll go out with me?' Beware – that is not real conversion. When you are looking for a lasting relationship, you want to find someone who is in love with Jesus and following him on their own. You want to be sure the person isn't faking a relationship with Jesus just to get you into bed. It's amazing to me that this guy convinced his whole town to get circumcised! Notice – he doesn't mention his own lust as the cause of it all; he sells it with the advantage of taking their daughters as wives and eventually possessing all the livestock, property and beasts.
Dinah's name means 'Judgment or Justice'. We see two extremes of injustice in the responses of Jacob and his sons. Jacob is completely passive and does or says nothing at all. It doesn't even say that he gets upset at the news of his daughter's rape. His sons, on the other hand, demonstrate the appropriate emotions of grief and outrage. But they go far beyond the demands of justice to a wholesale slaughter of every incapacitated male and a plundering of the entire city. The bible tells us to:
There are times when it is appropriate and good and right to be angry. God gets angry at sin. Jesus was furious when the religious leaders were taking advantage of the people's spiritual need to make a profit, and Jesus took violent action. But it is our tendency to respond to a moral outrage with an equally sinful outrage against morality. Shechem had done wrong and deserved to be punished. But Simeon and Levi's retaliation went far beyond justice and they became the perpetrators of their own crime. This is why we are told:
Jacob finally speaks:
Jacob rebukes his sons for what they had done. And they needed rebuke. But his reasons were all wrong. Jacob says 'me, my, I'. His concern is not for his daughter; his concern is not for justice and righteousness; he has slid back into a place where he is fearful and protective of his own well-being. Jacob has procrastinated his obedience to God. He has settled down and become too comfortable with the Canaanite culture. He had again neglected his responsibilities in his home. He had forgotten God's promises to be with him and bless him and protect him. We see a prayerless, self-centered Jacob, and he is now rebuked by his children – should Dinah be treated like a prostitute?
Jacob is finally out from under the oppression of his uncle Laban. The tension hanging over his head from his severed relationship with his twin brother Esau has after 20 years been released. Jacob is now in the land, he is rich, and he purchases some property and settles down. For Jacob, prosperity and peace held greater danger than poverty and hostility. In his desperation he had called out to God. Now, he is relaxed, and he has let his guard down. He ceased to be outraged by immorality. He has stopped short of worship. He was following in the footsteps of Lot, but he was shaken out of his complacency by a horrific tragedy.