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OT characters are described in a way that is relatable. Most people in the world learn by stories and interact with people because of what they know about that person. It isn’t until we hear a story about someone that we are able to connect to them. Similarly, God tells stories about himself and how he interacts with people to show you who he is and. For instance, God shows his attributes etc. that he is holy, merciful in addition to proclaiming it in the OT. In so doing, he demonstrates how he interacts with us as well.
Recap: Jacob’s story in Genesis so far.
We’re going to see Jacob in Genesis as a schemer who works hard to gets what he wants, but also reaps the consequences of scheming. Jacob had just met with his brother Esau, but decides to separate himself from him. He then goes to the land of the Shechem with his family. Jacob has been trying to ensure safety for his family in foreign territory.
Genesis 34-35:15 (ESV)
34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”
Jacob has been trying to avoid danger and exploitation by traveling to a foreign land. However, this chapter starts with Dinah being raped. Despite Jacob’s scheming, Dinah’s rape shows us that his planning and scheming is to no avail because no location he goes to is safe.
5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.
Correct treatment of women:
Moses’ commenting on this situation shows us his focus on the treatment of women. Those in Moses’ culture did not all believe in treating women correctly. In many places of the world today, women are still under this misogyny and are not treated equally with men.
God is holy so we should be holy. So what does it mean to treat women as holy or especially sexually? A common answer is to not treat women as sexual objects. Many people believe that holiness is about what you do not do. Analogy for why this is only partially true. For instance, a tall friend preserves his bible on a really high shelf because he claims to revere it and so tries to keep it safe.
However, at the heart of holiness in relationships between men and women is to see the woman as someone who God has made in his image. You can pursue holiness in relationships by what you do to people, not just by what you don’t do to them. For instance, men can treat women in a holy way by interacting with women in true relationship and not simply for dating or because they are attractive. It is very easy to objectify someone if you don’t really know them and try to get to know them. It is hard to objectify someone if they are your friend and if you respect them.In the passage, we see Shechem not trying to get to know Dinah in a holy manner, but rather merely lusting after her exterior appearance resulting in rape. Moses comments on this as a thing that should not be done.
8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him to be his wife. 9 Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me for as great a bride price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me. Only give me the young woman to be my wife.”
In the same language that Hamor talks about property, he also talks about women. Hamor is scheming to get the property that Jacob owns. Why doesn’t Shechem directly go to Jacob to ask for approval for marriage? Shechem uses his father to negotiate with Jacob because he has more persuading power due to his wealth and property. As Hamor continues to talk about the exchange of money for Dinah, notice that she is never mentioned or what reasons Shechem would like to marry her. The focus has been shifted from Dinah to the financial transaction.
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah.14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.15 Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised.16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.”
The sign that God gives to Abraham to confirm that they are his people is circumcision. Thus, God’s people can only intermarry within themselves and not with anyone else. However, do you believe Jacob’s sons want to honor God? In the way Moses writes this, he doesn’t give any them credit for wanting to honor God by saying they answered Shechem deceitfully. Also keep in mind that Jacob is a schemer, and so are they.
18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem.19 And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his father’s house. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying,21 “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
You know that Jacob’s sons are scheming. They make a deal with Hamor as long as all of the men agree to be circumcised. The scene has been completely shifted to a business transaction and Dinah is no longer the focus. All the men in the city agree to be circumcised in the exchange of livestock & property. Note: no anesthetics!
25 On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males.26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field.29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.
Quarter life crisis:
Note that Dinah is in Shechem before marriage. This confirms that this was never about Dinah’s holiness to begin with. The two brothers wipe out the city as part of the strategy. The whole thing started because Shechem raped Dinah. The two sons put on a façade of holiness. The mass murders and Dinah’s location gives us insight into their scheming intentions. Sons may have speculated why they weren’t blessed yet as they thought about the generational blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We see this in our culture as the quarter life crisis. This is when young people see their parents’ success and desire that. What do you do as a young person? This OT account shows us an example of what happens when people are uneasy with their life – they tend to scheme. Jacob schemed to get his wives. His sons did likewise, but to a much larger scale. Despite their success, it was not God honoring. Rather, they should have had faith that God would have been faithful to them because of God’s faithfulness to previous generations. Abraham was blessed and given a land of his own, Isaac was personally called by God and was safe and rich, and Jacob was kept safe from his father in law and Esau. They could have said “I have seen the goodness of God to my family, so I will have faith in God”. When given the choice to scheme or have faith in God, waiting on God in faith is good and praised.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”
Reinforcement – proper treatment of women:
Dinah was defiled. The way you honor women is by treating them the way God wants you to interact with them. It’s not just what you don’t do because you can avoid doing all the wrong things and still not be holy towards girls. You can become celebate or abstain from different things, but still have lust.
For men in the church:
Instead, men should love and interact in the way God loves them, sees them the way God does, and treat them the way God does. One example would be valuing their opinions. Also, don’t just interact with girls when they are pretty. This sends them a message that their worth is found in their physical beauty and not their character.
For women in the church:
You can’t define yourself by your relationships with guys. Stores in the mall sell images and ideas to women that they should be pretty to attract guys or because their friends tell them to be attractive. The message is that your worth is found in your physical beauty.
For a Christian woman, even if you aren’t treated favorably by men, you need to have faith and not define yourself by your image or relationships. There were NT women who wait upon Jesus and help plant churches. Practically this can mean worshipping God by waiting on him, serving those around you who are neglected or are in need and be a part of their lives. For instance, majority of missionaries in OMF are women loving those who are neglected and not being defined by how they look like.
35:1God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.
5And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.6And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8AndDeborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth.
9God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.10And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. 14And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. 15So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
Jacob told his sons to get rid of their idols at Shechem and come before God. Note: piercings were a pagan practice in the OT. Jacob is called by God.
Being called by God:
When God calls Jacob, it means who he was as a person fundamentally changed for the better. God promises him a new identity, Israel, and promises him with an extraordinary legacy of kings from his offspring. Jacob didn’t scheme or trick God to get this, but God personally gave it to him.
God gave him a new life and identity as a minister of God. The calling of God is not a degree, but rather a personal and communal affirming by God. This will not come out of scheming.
Questions & application:
- Think about all the things you want in life and see if they are desires of and from God.
- In addition, if they are from God, how do you reach or fulfill those desires? Do you scheme? The things God wants to give you are going to come by faith. You have to believe who God says he is and trust in him.
- You can ask God where you are not trusting in him, what areas in your life you are trying to get these things, and how you should properly respond.
When God tells us he is our ultimate Father do you believe him? Do you believe your life is about what choices God has made for you? Do you respond to these things in peace? Many people scheme despite having good initial intentions. The goal is to become a church that believes in God. If you don’t know what God is specifically calling you to do, you can wait in faith. In our culture, we don’t always equate faith with waiting. However, you need to have faith to be willing to wait for an extended period of time with the peace of God in your hearts knowing that your life is in his hands.