Daybreak: Genesis 33:18 through 34:31
“And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.” (Genesis 34:30)
Many times the wicked actions of an individual bring shame to an entire family. Edwin Thomas Booth (1833-1893) was a renowned American actor who played Shakespearean roles. As the lead character in Hamlet, he was famous for the “hundred nights Hamlet,” which was a record number of same-stage performances that was not broken until 1922. However, his life took a dramatic turn on April 14, 1865, when his brother, John Wilkes Booth, shot President Abraham Lincoln, who died the next day. As a result of the reproach caused by his brother’s action, Edwin retired from acting for some months. Although he later returned to that profession, his brother’s murderous deed continued to impact him for the rest of his life.
A reproach is defined as “a cause of blame or discredit.” It is sad enough when a person’s actions place a stigma on that individual’s family, but it is much worse when actions discredit God or Christianity. Every day, in subtle or brazen ways, the devil tries to bring shame into believers’ lives. He may falsely accuse us of being a party to a wrong action, or he may tempt us to actions or reactions that would be a reproach to the Gospel. Whatever attempts he makes, we must ask God to help us not do anything that would reflect negatively on our Christian testimony.
If a reproachful situation does occur, the best action is to go to God in prayer, asking Him to lead and show us the right path to follow. If we fail to take such a step, we may aggravate the problem, making a bad circumstance even worse. Such was the case regarding Dinah in today’s text. Shechem’s actions against her were impulsive and evil. However, it is not recorded that Dinah’s brothers brought the situation to God in prayer. Rather, seething anger boiled up in their hearts. Simeon and Levi took matters into their own hands, instituting a plan by which they slew all the males of the city. What terrible shame this heinous behavior brought upon Jacob’s family!
The problem of sin and violence will never be solved by more sin and violence. Though wickedness abounds, we must be careful not to react to evil and injustice in an ungodly manner, for that will bring reproach to the name of the God we serve. Rather, we should go to God in prayer, asking Him to show us the right response. He will direct our thoughts and actions so that our behavior is befitting of His followers.
Today’s text is the sad account of the violence which occurred between Jacob’s family and one of the tribes of Canaan.
After leaving Padanaram, Jacob and his family settled in Shalem, a city of Shechem. This area was about two-thirds of the way to Hebron, where Isaac, Jacob’s father, was then residing. The place was thought to have lush pasture and grazing land, so stopping there gave Jacob’s family and livestock an opportunity to rest for a while. The end of chapter 33 says he purchased land and built an altar at that location.
Because Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, was close in age to Joseph, she was probably in her early teens when the events of chapter 34 transpired. Jacob was unfamiliar with the customs and behavior of the people of this area. The young women of Haran seemingly had significant freedom to move about with safety (as shown by the accounts of Rebekah and Rachel) but that apparently was not the case in Shechem. Among the tribes of Canaan, crimes and vices may have been more prevalent. While Dinah was out in a field, Shechem, a Hivite prince, kidnapped and raped her.
At Shechem’s demand, his father, Hamor, entered into negotiations with Jacob so that Dinah might become Shechem’s wife. Jacob’s family was smaller than the local tribes, and his sons resorted to deceit by agreeing to let Dinah be married if the local men would be circumcised. They claimed to be defending their family against reproach, but their pretense degraded a ceremony that was sacred to Abraham’s descendants.
While the men of Shechem were incapacitated, Simeon and Levi (who were sons of Leah and therefore full brothers of Dinah) killed them. Then the other brothers joined in taking spoil from the city. These actions of Jacob’s sons brought a reproach to him, and made him afraid that local tribes would take revenge and kill them all.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
5. Jacob and the massacre at Shechem (33:18 — 34:31)
a. The arrival at Shechem (33:18-20)
b. The defilement of Dinah (34:1-3)
c. The proposal of Hamor (34:4-12)
d. The demand of Jacob’s sons (34:13-24)
e. The massacre at Shechem (34:25-29)
f. The fear of Jacob (34:30-31)
A Closer Look
- What did Hamor and Shechem propose to Jacob’s sons?
- Why might an impulsive response to a troubling situation be unwise?
- When the Spirit of God checks you regarding the spiritual example you are setting to those around you, how should you respond?
We can ask God to help us avoid reproach and to respond to wrong and injustice in a manner that glorifies Him.