What is the absolute worst thing you can imagine yourself living through? How would you react? Would you fight whatever was happening or would you just give up? Which way is the best way to react? How can you be sure?
If you think you know the best way to respond to a terrible situation, then try this one on for size. Jacob and his family have moved to Shechem, where they settle down and continue to prosper. They soon get friendly with their neighbors and in the spirit of camaraderie, Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, decides to go hang out with her friends in the city. It is not long before Dinah comes to regret this decision. Hamor, the ruler of the area Dinah was in, and thus one of the most powerful people around, takes a sick liking to Dinah and rapes her.
Her body, her heart, and her future were taken and toyed with, used and degraded. On top of this pain was piled confusion and fear when Hamor claimed he loved Dinah and swore to marry her. This ill-timed marriage proposal is presented to Jacob and his sons, who deliberate. We do not know how Dinah felt, what Dinah said, or what Dinah thought about what had just happened in her life. We do not know if she wanted to fight back or give up. All we know is what her brothers chose. Ignoring Shechem’s ingratiating attempts at flattery and diplomacy, the brothers lie, pretending to accept the proposal when in reality, they had a plan.
The brothers agree to let Dinah marry Hamor under one condition – every male in their city must be circumcised, because that is the custom of their people and they cannot marry into any nation that does not do the same thing. Here we see Hamor’s importance and influence in his community: every single man agrees to undergo this painful procedure. For a few nights, every man in the city of Shechem is weak, in excruciating pain, and vulnerable. This was what Jacob’s sons wanted all along, because Simeon and Levi soon descend upon Shechem and kill every single man. They take the women and children and riches for themselves. The city is completely ravaged by two angry men.
Jacob is furious and afraid. How will the surrounding nations react to this type of violence? Simeon and Levi stand firm. No one treats their sister like that and gets away with it.
The Treasure Within:
Instinct says to applaud Simeon and Levi. They stood the heck up for their sister. They wanted revenge on the people who’d hurt her and they got it. But can we really approve of the way these men decided to do it?
Think about it. Their sister was raped. Then the rapist pompously tried to marry her, as if she was worth so little that he could do with her as he pleased. These things are horrible, but short of not forcing Dinah to marry her rapist, they cannot be changed or remedied. Sin, that terrible poison introduced way back in Genesis 2, has wrapped its foul arms about the entire earth, and no one is safe from its consequences. In fact, this is why Jesus had to devise a plan to save us all from sin. He is planning to come back and punish the wicked and save the righteous. Simeon and Levi had been told this from childhood. They knew this.
But it didn’t matter. When they saw how hurt their sister was, they firmly made their decision. They would make someone else hurt even worse. So they took human life. Not just one life, or two, or twenty. They took hundreds of lives. They took wealth. They took slaves, and who knows whether or not the women taken from Shechem met the same fate as Dinah at the hands of Jacob’s sons.
Simeon and Levi did not erase Dinah’s pain. They did not improve the situation. They did not solve any problems. They made things worse. They destroyed people’s lives. They put their family, including their sister, in danger. They ignored God’s commandments. The worst thing ever happened in their lives and they made the wrong choice. They chose to fight back. They chose not to believe in God. They chose evil.
There is a verse in the Bible that explains that “there is way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:21 NKJV). It is scary to realize the truth of this text. We live in a world that urges us to trust our instincts, listen to our gut, follow our hearts. Yet so often this very advice will lead us down the way of death. Sin is horrifying and painful and disgusting, yes! But it is guaranteed that we will only add to the destruction if we try to fight it our own way. Only God’s way will work. God’s way is hard. It is hard to let go when we are hit in the face with pain and misery. It is hard to trust in vengeance and justice that could yet be years off. But that is the right choice. Simeon and Levi did not believe in a God strong enough to fight their battles for them. Do you believe in Him?
God’s Message To Us:
“If you push me away, I will stand at a distance.” God is not mentioned once in this chapter. He says nothing. He does nothing. It’s possible to take this as some sort of stamp of approval – silence means God was okay with what happened. I do not believe this. I do not believe this because God also was not sought in prayer. He was not spoken to. He was not alluded to. Jacob, Simeon, Levi and even Dinah all acted without seeking God’s guidance or approval. It seems they did not want God to step in. He did not.
God always sees. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Instead, so many times, we forsake Him. We sin. We feel the pain of the consequences. We turn around and blame God. What a disappointing, illogical cycle. How many times have we pushed God away? How many times has He stood at a distance, longing to save us, help us, and comfort us while we refuse to have Him? How many more times do we have to complete this cycle before we realize that enough is enough?
What do you think? What jumped out at you from this chapter of the Bible? What do you think was God’s message for you from this chapter?