Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Family Values: Vengeance & Sex

As I mentioned previously; all the stories in the Bible are not sweet and innocent. Some can be quite lurid, I will do my best to give this account it's proper justice and keep it family friendly.  The full accounting can be found beginning in Genesis Chapter 33.

So, after spending his life to that point in a state of constant conflict; Jacob began making peace. He made peace with his Uncle Laban, his brother Esau, and through a heated conflict he even made peace with himself and God (read more HERE). Even though God changed Jacob's name and his heart he still had 13 kids (12 sons) with 4 different mothers and therefore the drama did not end.  We will not look at all 13; instead will focus on 2 specific incidents involving some of the family. We will focus on two more brothers in the next 2 weeks.

23 Now Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons. Leah’s six sons were Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 24 Rachel’s two sons were Joseph and Benjamin. 25 Rachel’s servant, Bilhah, had two sons: Dan and Naphtali. 26 Leah’s servant, Zilpah, had two sons: Gad and Asher Genesis 35:23-25

After Jacob and his family passed through the region where his brother Esau lived, they settled in a city called Shechem and bought a piece of property. His daughter Dinah went into the city and was raped by the son of the ruler of the city. Whether he felt guilty or whether his father was trying to make things right, the rapist came to Jacob and his family to ask for Dinah's hand in marriage.

He and his father made the case that he was madly in love with Dinah and they wanted to make peace. We don't know what Jacob would have said or done, but we know what his sons did. Simeon and Levi convinced the ruler and his son that they would be willing to allow Dinah to marry him if all the men in their family wold agree to get circumcised.  If they would just do this one little thing they would live in peace together forever.

I am not sure what the procedure was then. I don't know what they used for the cutting or what they used for the anesthesia but I can't imagine it was a fun process. I am not sue what the motivation was, maybe guilt or maybe he was smitten,  but the ruler and his son went along with this plan. They also convinced all the men of the city to go along with the plan as well.

As a grown man I can not imagine how much pain must have been involved in getting circumcised; especially without anything to dull the pain and with who knows what kind of tools.   Apparently it hurt so bad that on the third day, Simeon and Levi were able to take swords and kill every man in the city without a fight. They didn't stop there! They also cut the tendons on all the oxen and beasts of burden in the city,  rendering them almost useless. They basically looted and ransacked the city.

25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. 27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. Genesis 34:25-29

Part of me can't really blame them. This jerk had just raped their sister then had the gall to come around talking about how he loved her. Oh Heck NO! I can understand the desire to burn the city to the ground.  This was an act of malice though. They had used deception to get the upper hand and then allowed their rage to take over. They didn't just punish the actual rapist or his father who was enabling him, they also killed lots of innocent people destroyed property, stole belongings and brutalized animals.

Simeon and Levi felt justified.  They had stuck up for their sister. Even when Jacob pointed out that their actions had put them at risk of attack from neighboring people's they held firm that they were right. 

On Jacob's deathbed he recounts the unchecked anger his two sons had exhibited and apparently had not made peace with.  He is thankful that his sons will not be the judges of his soul.  
Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Their swords are implements of violence.
Let my soul not enter into their council;
Let not my glory be united with their assembly;
Because in their anger they slew [e]men,
And in their self-will they lamed [f]oxen.
“Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel.
I will [g]disperse them in Jacob,
And scatter them in Israel.    Genesis 49:5-7

Jacob does not condone the defilement of his daughter,  but he also doesn't condone the vengeance his sons wrought. Their anger and vengeance were the reason their tribes would later be scattered and their inheritance would be far lighter. 

The Bible doesn't tell us if either ever sought repentance. We do know that God still used Levi's offspring as the priests of the nation of Israel.

The Bible is full of broken people who don't always make the right choices. Another example is Jacob's oldest son Rueben. As the family was moving on after the debacle in Schechem, he took an opportunity to sleep with his father's concubine Bilhah, aka his step mother. That has a certain ick factor to it.  On top of just being really icky, Rueben showed disrespect for his father and his family by his actions.  While I can easily relate to Simeon and Levi,  I can't really understand Rueben. I guess they weren't technically related and all, but still. 

Jacob cited Rueben as formerly being his strength but becoming as unstable as water.  Because he defiled his father's marriage bed,  he was left without an inheritance.

Reuben, you are my firstborn;My might and the beginning of my strength,[b]Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power.[d]Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,Because you went up to your father’s bed;Then you defiled it—Genesis 49:3-4

Similar to his brothers we never see Reuben have a change of heart.  We are left only knowing he failed and was punished. 

This was a particular hard blog for me to write. I believe we are all broken. I believe we all fail. I believe we all have anger, sexual sin or other things that normally would separate us from God. In looking at these stories about Jacob's sons I kept searching for the encouragement. I kept searching for where God was going to change their hearts and use them.

I had to be reminded there's not always a happy ending. While God specializes in using broken flawed people just like me, he doesn't use them against their will and he doesn't use every broken person.

As we have looked at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we saw that each one of them was very broken but we saw that each one of them gave their heart to God. With their willing heart God was able to use them despite their brokenness or some could argue because of their brokenness. In the case of Simeon, Levi and Reuben we just never see them give their heart to God.

So as I look for encouragement in this passage the only encouragement I can truly find is that I know that when I fail when I come up short when I let anger get the best of me I can turn to Jesus for forgiveness and not lose my eternal inheritance.

Next week we will look at Judah, another one of Jacob's sons. We will compare his failings to his brothers and his heart to his brothers as well. I think we will find it much more encouraging.

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