"And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, 'Ye have troubled me to make me 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.' And they (Simeon and Levi) said, 'should he (Shechem) deal with our sister as with an harlot?'" (Genesis 34: 30, 31, King James Version).
"Revenge and Violence" – The Twins That Cause Destruction and Fear
"Do not seek revenge…."
Leviticus 19: 18
Have I ever taken revenge on another person for something they did to me?
How did I feel afterward?
"Revenge never healed a wound."
"Blood that has been shed does not rest."
When we left Jacob and his sons yesterday, Hamor and Shechem had just finished making a plea for the hand of Dinah in marriage.
But as we found out, what Hamor and Shechem thought was a good-faith request from Jacob's sons, turned out to be a deceitful act.
Jacob's boys informed Hamor and Shechem that it would be impossible for them to give their sister Dinah to an "uncircumcised" male. So they made a proposal. All the men in the city, ruled by Hamor, must be circumcised. I hardly know how this act, done to all the men, affected Dinah. If these sons of Jacob had insisted that Shechem be circumcised, I could understand. To me, their demand was over-the-top. However Hamor and Shechem, in good-faith, agreed to this stipulation. What's more, all the men of the land agreed to undergo this painful procedure. In Genesis 34: 19, we are told, "And the young man (Shechem) deferred not to do the thing, because He had delight in Jacob's daughter. Then notice these stunning words, "And he (Shechem) was more honourable than all the house of his father."
There are two key words in this text. First is "delight." Shechem had favour for Dinah. Interestingly, this form of the word "delight" is exactly the same as the "delight" or "favour" God shows on those He loves. Second, the next word is "honorable." This word has many meanings but what I believe to be appropriate here is that this "weighed upon" Shechem more than others. Rightly so, for he longed to marry Dinah. He didn't want to waste any time. His desire was immediate and strong. He was in love.
In Genesis 34: 24-26, K.J.V.) we find that every male in the city was circumcised and then Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, "took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out."
But these two maniacs didn't stop with killing every man. They also took all the sheep, oxen and asses that were in the city and field. There's more! After plundering the possessions of others, Genesis 34: 29, (K.J.V.) says they took: "All their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house." Think about this, Simeon and Levi spoiled and "utterly robbed" and "ravaged" the women and children. Innocents who had absolutely nothing to do with Shechem looking at a beautiful girl and desiring her and taking her.
Obviously, Shechem must have married Dinah for she was living in his home when her brothers came to get her.
This reaction by Simeon and Levi was so over the top, I find it not only tragic but despicable. These boys lied and deceived the men of the land, then took revenge on them, murdered them, and if that wasn't enough, ravaged their women and children. In Deuteronomy 19: 21, (K.J.V.), God instructed Moses, …"eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." One could call this "limited revenge." It was certainly not anything like the behavior of Simeon and Levi. But as the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., so wisely pointed out, "The old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind."
We've heard revenge is sweet. But I ask you, what would forgiveness have done in a situation like this?
I'll tell you where revenge took this family. Jacob said it best, when informed of the violent acts of Simeon and Levi. …"Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land…." (Genesis 34: 30, K.J.V). In plain language Jacob told these two sons, "You have brought affliction on me, I now am 'morally offensive, abhorred, and a loathsome abomination' in this land." This word "stink" in Hebrew was the same word Moses used to Pharaoh to describe the putrid smell that would fill the entire land of Egypt when the plagues fell. It wasn't like having a tiny odor in a waste can that needed to be emptied. This was a smell that filled the air everywhere you went.
And in order for Jacob to get out of this mess, God instructed him to move on – get out of town immediately. Soon we'll find out that moving out at this exact time had consequences for Jacob that affected two of the most important people in his life.
There is, however, one more text that is important to look at before we leave the sad story of Dinah. The words in Genesis 34: 31, (K.J.V.) came from the mouths of Simeon and Levi: "And they said, 'should he (Shechem) deal with our sister as with an harlot?'" Simply stated, they were saying "should he (Shechem) commit adultery with our sister?" While the rules in the Old Testament for adultery were drastic, murdering the males of an entire town and taking revenge and violence were never in God's plan. In fact, we find Jesus, God's Son, offering forgiveness for this sin in the New Testament. Furthermore, it was Dinah's brothers who were putting her name in the same sentence as a harlot, not Shechem!
We find that all of Shechem's references to Dinah were respectful as he called her a damsel – a young woman.
The bottom line of this tragic event is that not only did many innocents suffer, but God's name also took a beating, for His chosen people so stank up the land, they had to leave.
Instead of Jacob and his family teaching the "people of the land" about the true God, they left and the image that was burned into the minds of the people of Canaan we are told is that, "the terror (or fear) of God was upon them."
This is certainly a huge lesson for us to think about today. The image you and I choose to portray in our own lives about God and His Son, Jesus Christ, may well be the only picture someone gets to see.
The other evening, I was watching someone who called themselves a Christian, laughing and joking on television about the way they had tried to pull an underhanded act on someone they didn't particularly like. I have to tell you, it really upset me. Many people, when they hear about Christians falling into some of the same sin-filled pits they are decrying others for falling into, laugh and scoff at the hypocritical behavior. And this is why people end up saying: "Well, if this is what God is like, if Jesus can't change their hearts, why should I waste time believing on Him?"
Simeon and Levi, as representatives of the Most High, missed an opportunity to show the people of Canaan that their God was "long suffering, slow to anger and of great mercy."
As revenge and violence often does, the acts that were perpetrated became more about Simeon and Levi trying to show who they were rather than who God was. Their supposed excuse of protecting the reputation of their sister became violent acts that as we will see later, only reflected the evil in their souls.
Today, may we think on the words of Hannah Arendt, "The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is a more violent world." How true this statement. The revenge and violence evidenced in Simeon and Levi's act came to full bloom in the lives of those Jacob loved the most. Let us never forget these instructive words by Mary McCarthy: "In violence, we forget who we are."
"Grant Lord, that I may not, for one moment, admit willingly into my soul any thought contrary to Thy love."
Edward Bouverie Pusey
"O My Lord, I discern in my anger a sense of self-righteousness which is much too close to pleasure. And I think of you, Lord. You were never angry in your own defense, and you took no pleasure in anger: else why the Cross? But you were angry for God: you were angry with those who sold him as a commodity; you were angry with those who used him for their own status; or who treated him as belonging only to them.
O Lord, implant in me a holy fear of the wrong kind of anger, which ministers to my own sense of self-importance, or is simply an indulgence of my own frustration. Forgive me, Lord, for all such occasions."
"O Lord, help us to be maters of ourselves that we may be the servants of others."
Alexander Henry Paterson
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus