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Genesis 34:1-31 - Danger/Disobedience - Part 1
When we get to this chapter we probably might wonder what the heck this story is even doing in the Bible? If your reading Scripture to find inspiring and uplifting stories, this chapter is definitely NOT what you're looking for. I didn’t find many sermons on this chapter; I have never seen it in any of my kid’s storybook Bibles; and if you happen to come across it as part of your Bible reading in your personal devotions, you’ll probably move on, hoping to find something better! Can something like this really be part of the “all Scripture” that Paul described as inspired by the Holy Spirit and useful to equip the man or woman of God for every good work?
Absolutely! Man, have ya looked around lately? We live in a world where there’s a whole lot of sickening evil things happening, and not all of which are done by unbelievers.
How should we as Christians respond to such evil acts? I think these passages have alot to teach us as those who live in a deeply fallen world.
To come to grips with this chapter, we must see it in its context. In the last two chapters, we saw Jacob triumphing in spite of his weakness. Jacob struggled with God and with man and he overcame. He has wrestled with God and survived the face to face encounter. He had faced up to his brother Esau with 400 men at his back, and has been restored to a relationship with him through making restitution for what he had stolen from him. All that was left for him to do was ride off happily into the sunset - in this case back to Bethel as he had vowed - fulfill his vow to build an altar there, and live happily ever after.
But instead of the happy ending we expect, this story takes an unexpected downward twist. Real life is ALWAYS more complicated than Hollywood movies. Real people like us are a complex mass of emotions and desires, and the narratives of our lives are far from simple and smooth. Bottom line is that Jacob didn’t do what he was supposed to do and go to Bethel, instead he stopped and settled at Shechem. And I hope we see what’s happening here. No sooner is Jacob back in the Promised Land than the danger of compromise arises.
In order to appreciate the significance of this lesson, we need to remember that this story was first written for the wilderness generation under Moses, the generation about to enter the Promised land.
Do you see the warning here is for them? Look out! For 40 years you have been struggling in the wilderness. It’s been a tough road. You feel like you also have been wrestling with God and with man to receive the promised blessing. Soon you will enter the promised land. You will be tempted to think that now your journey is over and you can relax. Don’t let down your guard once you arrive in the land. As long as we live on this earth, our lives must continually be marked by being on alert. (Bunyon’s, Pilgrims Progress.”)
We can never feel that we have ARRIVED or that we can settle down and retire. We need to be pressing on continually toward the full mark of obedience.
Of course one of the reasons for this pattern of great success followed immediately by great failure is that God uses these experiences to teach us profound truths about our hearts. When God gives us the strength for a moment to obey Him as we should, we tend to think that now we’re ready to fly solo. To protect us against this independent spirit, God will often turn us over to ourselves so that we may learn through our failures that none of the strength or ability is within ourselves.
Jacob may have thought that he had now really become Israel - the one who wrestles with God and man and prevails. This chapter shows him and us that overall, he was still the same old Jacob. In fact, notice that is the name that the narrative calls him throughout this whole chapter!
Notice also that even while Jacob was settling for superficial obedience, he still performed his religious activities. He built an altar at Shechem and called it - “El-Elohe- Israel” - The Mighty God Is The God Of Israel.
We looked at the positive side of that last week, but the Lord revealed himself to Jacob in the first place, not as El-Elohe-Israel, but El-Bethel, the God of Bethel.
So Jacob’s purpose for building this altar is a mystery. When we say, “The Lord is my God,” we may mean that we belong completely to Him, or we may mean that He belongs completely to us! Often we mean the latter. We mean that since we have chosen Him to be our God, He owes it to us to make our lives run smoothly and our dreams come true. (Danger of “great plan for our life” and “living a blessed life” message we often hear.)
But the reality is that God chose us, we didn’t choose Him. Instead of us remaking God in our own likeness, He is remaking us in the likeness of Christ. That remaking will often be a painful process of exposing the sin of our hearts so that it can be dealt with. Indeed, how much of our religious activity is about responding to God, and how much is about putting God in our debt? How often have you opened your Bible, prayed, or come to Church simply because it was your duty and not because you wanted to meet with God?
So with that, let’s dig into this difficult text.
Vs. 1-4 - “Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
This is a horrific thing that happens here. The language is a little different from translation to translation, but there is very little doubt that Dinah is raped here by this Cannenite prince. We’re going to see several terms in the Hebrew throughout the course of this text that will confirm this is a sexual act without consent.
What’s disturbing beyond the obvious, is that as we read this, there’s alot of questions that we just don’t have answers to. Most O.T. scholars believe Dinah was about 13-16 years of age, so we’re talking about a very young girl here.
And vs. 1, this word for “visit” or “see” could be translated “to see” OR “to be seen.” So we really don’t know what her motives were. Did she want to see how the girls on the other side of the track lived? DDid she want to be seen by the Cannanite boys? Was she naive? Was she rebellious? Was she just ignorant? We really don’t know, we are just not told.
What we do know, though, was that her great-grandmother and her grandmother had been taught very clear lessons that an unmarried foreign woman was fair game for abduction in these pagan lands. Remember what happened to Sarah twice? What happened to Rebekah once? So the Lord has very clearly brought forth multiple lessons concerning this family, and they were tough lessons.
But the Lord gives us these lessons, the Word of God will show you and I what is what. Then, of course, obedience to those things is up to us to demonstrate by choice. And when we ignore the counsel of God, we should not be too surprised to discover ourselves in some messed up situations.
Whether mom and dad didn’t tell them the story, or that this didn’t get passed down to them, and I doubt that because the Hebrews were very big on oral tradition, but we don’t know what happened.
Chuck Smith said: “Nothing is ever going to come your way that God has not warned you about.”
I think ultimately we gotta bring this back to headship of the Father.
First - this isn’t where God wanted him to be. Secondly, why we're mom and dad allowing or unaware of this teenage girl’s wandering? Where was mom and dad in all of this?
We’re told that Sheckem eventually falls in love with her. This is just one weird text! But this gives us sort of a picture of the inverted values of the world, right?
Here it is: it isn’t love, then marriage, then sex, but with Sheckem its: forced sex, then love, then marriage. Everything is upside down.
But evidently after this forced sexual encounter, he develops feelings for her and he wants her for a wife.
At the end of the day, a number of questions we would love to have answers to, but do not, and yet, its dear old dad who has to ultimately bear the responsibility here. And mark this, we will not find the name of the Lord once in this chapter. I want ya to get that!!
Join us next week as we continue with chapter 34.
Blessings to you all.