Dinah and the Shechemites, Genesis 34

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 violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’” –Genesis 34:1-4

Shechem was not only the name of a place, but also the name of the man that Dinah encounters. Jacob probably didn’t foresee the immediate crisis looming. But the consequence of compromising God’s directive to go to Bethel (31:3, 13) would wreck havoc not only on his family, but also on the Shechemites.

You may read Genesis 34 here: Bible Gateway.

Dinah—Leah’s youngest child—must have been at least a teenager at this time. This suggests that Jacob and his family had been living in, or near, Shechem for several years.

Who could blame Dinah—living with 11 brothers—for wanting to get out and socialize with other girls her age? After all, a girl needs girlfriends!

Jacob, Leah, and Rachel must have been somewhat uncomfortable with their children living so close to pagan influence. Maybe they planned on moving to Bethel (as God had directed) in the near future to find mates for their growing kids. Maybe Jacob remained near Shechem in hopes of spreading a godly influence. Whatever their reasons, by-passing God’s command to return to Bethel put themselves in a tangled mess.

It wasn’t long before Shechem, the city’s chieftain, took notice of Dinah. This soon turned into an obsession. Beautiful Dinah, being of a different nationality, probably held a certain charm that the Canaanite girls lacked. For they were immersed in a culture of immorality and idol worship.

Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “Unattached women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself. It seems likely that Dinah must have been warned about such dangers by her parents, but perhaps she felt she could look out for herself and resented their overprotective attitude.”

Scripture doesn’t say if Dinah encouraged Shechem’s affection. But in light of her age, statutory rape would probably be applied in our times.

Even though Shechem violated Dinah, he pursues her as his bride. Since marriage was arranged by parents even in pagan cultures, he asks his dad to approach Jacob in the matter.

Jacob learns what happened, but waits until his sons come in from the fields. In the meanwhile, Hamor and Shechem show up. Without a hint of an apology, or indication that a wrong has been committed, Hamor suggests that Dinah be given to Shechem as his wife.

Jacob’s sons overhear their wild proposal and burst into the room. Jacob seems to fade into the background as his sons take charge.

The brothers are furious.

Not only has their only sister been violated, but Shechem has “done a disgraceful thing in Israel,” polluting their national purity that’s necessary for God’s continual blessing upon them.

(Side note: The name Israel in verse 7 refers to God’s chosen people for the first time.)

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Because of Simeon and Levi’s sins, their father cursed them with his dying breath (49:5-7). Their descendants (generations later) lost the part of the promised land allotted to them.

Adding insult to insult, Hamor suggests a general intermarrying between his people and Jacob’s clan. He also throws in a bonus: trade and land deals.

Jacob’s sons—following Jacob’s previous devious ways—devise a plan of revenge. (Never mind the defilement of God’s holy meaning of what they are about to propose!) They pretend to go along with Hamor’s proposal on one condition only: “That you become like us by circumcising all your males,” (vs. 15).

Why did Jacob’s sons include all the Shechemite men?

Maybe they felt they deserved punishment for their indifference to Shechem’s crime. Or perhaps they reasoned that they couldn’t carry out revenge on Shechem the Chieftan as the townsmen would surely kill them.

Surprisingly, the Shechemite men agree to circumcision. I guess the temporary inconvenience paled in light of the financial gain they would reap from this alliance.

So, on the third day—when the men are most debilitated—Simeon, Levi, and possibly their servants charge the city. Going from house to house, they slay all the men (including Shechem and Hamor) and rescue Dinah. Maybe the other brothers join in the looting and capture of the women, children, animals and possessions.

So where is Jacob during all of this?

His infuriation with his boys’ retaliation shows that he wasn’t in on this plan of vengeance. But his verbal response also indicates a selfish viewpoint: “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites,” (vs. 30).

Jacob’s silence—along with Simeon and Levi’s reference to Dinah as their sister (rather than Jacob’s daughter)—could infer that Jacob didn’t give her much attention. Maybe that’s why her protective blood brothers (Leah’s sons) felt justified in their actions.

Reflect

Simeon and Levi were right to be angry at both the injustice done to Dinah and Hamor’s proposal of mixing the chosen Israelite seed with the Canaanite seed. However, taking the law into their own hands was flat out wrong. Their arrogance led to the slaughter of innocent people.

This horrific account shows the high price of compromise. If Jacob had obeyed God’s command to return to Bethel, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.

The following questions come to my mind: Am I settling for compromise? Am I putting off what God has asked me to do (or not do)? My consequences may not seem as huge, but do I really want to just coast in my relationship with God and miss His best for my life?

Thanks for staying the course! I appreciate you!

Jacob Wrestles With God, Genesis 32:22-32

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” –Genesis 32:22-24

I would love to be an owl in a nearby tree and watch this fascinating event unfold.

You may read Genesis 32:22-32 here: Bible Gateway.

Several questions surface after reading this passage. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Why did Jacob send everyone on ahead as he stayed behind prior to meeting up with Esau?

After 20 years to ponder how—or when—Esau might kill him (for cheating Esau of both his birthright and blessings), tomorrow would be the big day. Would Jacob live or die?

Distressed and terrified, Jacob lagged behind to pray. Hosea 12:3-5 tells us that Jacob’s wrestling not only involved physical tenacity, but also weeping and supplication.

Is this passage to be taken as an allegory or literal account?

It seems apparent that the writer of this passage (probably originally Jacob) meant for this account to be taken literally. Even the name Jabbok means “Wrestler” in memory of Jacob’s amazing experience. If Jacob ever chalked his experience up to just being a dream, he had a permanent limp to remind him of his physical wrestling match.

Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The man [Jacob’s wrestling opponent] is deliberately crippling Jacob at the point of his greatest strength [the thigh being the largest and strongest muscle connection of the body].”

“Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon,” (vs. 32).

Hmm . . . an interesting development, especially prior to meeting Esau. Jacob would be weak from wrestling all night. Definitely not in his best fighting form!

But why would God send Jacob off limping (besides a reminder of this unique encounter)?

The Apostle Paul—who had a lengthy list of credentials—said: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30). Why?

Our weakness, when given to God, gives Him an opportunity to fill us with His power. God was teaching Jacob to rely on Him instead of relying solely on his smarts and energy. Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “He [Jacob] must know fully his own weakness, but even more he must know the power of God and his right to claim that power.”

I think God was teaching Jacob to look at the big picture, instead of focusing so much on his stressful situation of meeting Esau again. There was more at stake here. God had an important mission for Jacob. For the Messiah would come through his descendants.

Was Jacob’s wrestling opponent a man, an angel, or God?

Angels often appeared in the form of men in those days. The passage from Hosea 12:3-5 also indicates that Jacob “had power over the angel, and prevailed.” However, according to Jacob, this was no ordinary angel: “Because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared,” (vs. 30). So Jacob names the place Peniel, which means “face of God”.

But how could Jacob touch (and see) God’s face and still live?

Morris writes: “This would have been utterly impossible, had not God veiled Himself in human form (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16).

If the man was God, why does verse 25 say He couldn’t overpower Jacob (vs. 25)?

Morris explains: “This, of course, does not suggest that God was weaker than Jacob, but does show that God desires men to persist in prayer and that He delights to yield to such prayers. . . . There is such a thing as prevailing prayer, when the request conforms to the will and the word of God, (Luke 18:7; Luke 18:1). Jacob’s experience symbolizes all such prayers.”

What is the significance of God changing Jacob’s name to Israel? a0904592003610f6889e5fdc5cab1e1e

God gave some Bible people new names to symbolize how God had changed their lives. In fact, Revelation 2:17 says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.”

These white stones are significant because they represent new hearts that God has cleansed from sin. The new names given show that God has accepted and declared his children not guilty.

Israel means “he struggles with God”. Jacob, the ambitious “heel-grabbing” deceiver had grown to one who struggles with God and overcomes. Morris also notes that Israel means “One Who Fights Victoriously with God.” It has also been rendered “A Prince with God” and is translated in this verse, “as a prince hast thou power.”

Reflect

I love that God answered Jacob’s prayer in such a personal way: in the form of a real wrestling match! Jacob, who had formerly twisted situations and manipulated people probably never imagined that he would literally wrestle God (and learn some important lessons in the process!) God definitely knows how to get our individual attention. He longs for a personal relationship with each of us (Revelation 3:20).

God is still in the business of transforming lives. God initiates the change, but we must press on if we want to grow in Christ-like character.

I love that God can take the weak and broken strands of our lives and weave them into something beautiful for His purpose. . . . Have a terrific week!

The Word of the Lord, Genesis 15:1

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ – Genesis 15:1

Because there are so many great insights in chapter 15, I am breaking this chapter into four sections/posts.

It’s easy to gloss over Genesis 15:1. But a deeper inspection reveals many great firsts in Scripture. This is the first time the words “vision”, “shield”, and “reward” are used. More importantly, this is the first of the great “I am’s” mentioned. God’s very name is: “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). Christ began many of His words with “I am”:

  • the light of the world
  • the way, truth and life
  • the door
  • the Alpha and Omega
  • the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star

    Proverbs 30:5

    Proverbs 30:5

This is also the first time “word” is used. It is significant that this first occurrence of “word” conveys God’s message to man—not man’s message—and communicates a huge claim and promise to Abram.

God considers His word so important that He values it over His name (Psalm 138:2).

Henry Morris (The Genesis Record) writes: “The concept of the Word of God includes both the written Word, Holy Scripture, and the living Word, God the Second Person [Jesus]. . . . He is the sum of all that can be communicated. [His title] “Alpha and Omega” are, of course, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the language chosen by God in which to inscripturate His new covenant with man. This proclamation seals the oneness of the written and living Words.”

***

Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

God had just given Abram victory over the eastern kings. So why was he afraid? Like everyone else, Abram fought fear. Maybe he was exhausted and feared the wrath of the kings he just defeated. Or—as verse two implies—maybe he feared that his servant, Eliezer, would inherit his estate since he was childless.

Whatever the root of Abram’s anxiety, God knew, just as He knows our fears.

I love how God encouraged and comforted Abram with a familiar hands-on tool. The Old Testament warrior’s primary defensive weapon was the shield. This mobile fort protected the soldier’s flesh from the enemy’s blade.

Not only would God be Abram’s great reward, He would also be his defender.

So What?

When fear knocks on our doors, remember: God is the great “I am”. Not only is He near, but He is also bigger than the sum of all our fears.

I like Morris’ commentary: “For the believer, Christ is both protection from all harm and provision of all needs. He provides our ‘shield of faith’ (Eph. 6:16)—indeed the “whole armor of God,” so that we can be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might (Eph. 6:10-11). He is also our ‘exceeding great [literally abundant] reward. . . . He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ (Eph. 3:20).”

Abram’s Third Revelation, Genesis 13:14-18

Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” – Genesis 13:14-17

This is the second part from last week’s post, Abram and Lot Separate.

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The idea of walking through the land (vs. 17) appears to be symbolic. Armies in the ancient Near East declared their victory by marching through a defeated territory.

Layman’s Bible Commentary makes three observations about God’s third revelation to Abram:

  1. God will give the land to Abram and his descendants forever.
  2. Abram’s heir will be his own child.
  3. Abram’s descendants will be innumerable.

These promises were great news for Abram, especially 3a6bfc15a12e519590af3c1b7018482eas Lot parted east toward the more fertile plain of Jordan and Abram headed back into the hill country of Canaan. The reality of God’s promises, however, would not come into fruition for a long time.

For neither Abram, nor his descendants (especially the promised seed Isaac) owned the land for most of history. And although Israel regained possession as a nation in 1948, they currently possess only a fraction of the land God has promised.

The Land of Canaan

Of the promise of the land, Henry Morris in The Genesis Record notes: “This promise must either be taken in the spiritual sense (applying it to a spiritual land of promise, as so interpreted by many expositors) or else ascribed to a time yet future. Since God promised the land to Abram and his seed forever, this can ultimately, if taken literally be fulfilled only in the new earth of Revelation 21. It will quite probably be fulfilled precursively, however, during the coming millennial age.”

Innumerable Descendants

Along with the Jews, Abram’s descendants include the Arabs. Although these two groups add up to a large number, the literal promise of Abram’s seed numbering “as the dust of the earth” and Abram becoming a great nation still awaits fulfillment.

Morris observes: “The New Testament makes it clear that ‘Abram’s seed’ was Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16), and that Abram is ‘father of all them that believe’ (Rom. 4:11), so that he also has a spiritual seed. It is evidently not a case of either this or that, but of both! The Jewish nation is to be eternally blessed as a nation, chosen of God in Abram. Likewise, the Christian Church, genuine believers in Christ from all nations, is itself a ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), ‘Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Abram indeed was to be the ‘father of many nations’ (Gen. 17:5).”

Chapter 13 ends with Abram building another altar where he makes his home base in Hebron (18:1), which means “communion.” This is also where he is later buried (25:9).

The Rainbow Covenant, Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-11

God’s promises to Noah covered several items concerning responsibilities of Noah and his descendants, but the word “covenant” is first used in Genesis 6:18.

Covenant means “a binding promise”.

Alongside God’s judgment of the devastating flood is a promise. No doubt, God’s repetitive promises brought great hope to Noah and his family who had experienced great stress through the flood. (Click on Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17 to view the pattern of this Scripture, with the main point placed in the middle.)

(Found on letschipit.com)

(Found on letschipit.com)
“Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. . . . This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” – Gen. 9:11-13

Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: The Hebrew word for rainbow is also the word for a battle bow. The point seems to be that the bow is now put away, hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the storm is over.

God’s special sign is a beautiful reminder to both Him and to us: There would never again be a universal flood.

I like Henry Morris’ observation in The Genesis Record: The rainbow demonstrates most gloriously the grace of God. The pure white light from the unapproachable holiness of His throne (1 Tim. 6:16) is refracted, as it were, through the glory clouds surrounding His presence (1 Kings 8:10, 11), breaking into all the glorious colors of God’s creation. In wrath, He remembers mercy. The glory follows the sufferings; and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!

Three Other Rainbow Appearances in Scripture

Morris also points out that the rainbow reappears only three more times in Scripture. The first two cases paint a picture of expected judgment and suffering, but they are limited judgment and suffering. We also see God’s grace, which rules over all.

  1. Ezekiel 1:28 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne as He prepares to judge His people Israel.
  2. Revelation 4:3 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne again. This time preceding the Great Tribulation.
  3. Revelation 10:1 – This verse speaks of a mighty angel, which is Jesus Christ Himself. He pronounces “seven thunders” of judgment. And instead of wearing a crown of thorns when Jesus bore sin’s curse for us, there will be “a rainbow above His head” as He comes to claim dominion over the world.

God never changes (Psalm 55:19). He is faithful; His promises are sure (Numbers 23:19). Which promises of God do you need to remember today?