Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jacob Hears of the Dinah’s Rape -- Genesis 34:5

Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in.

I have two daughters and two granddaughters. I sit here at my desk as I study this verse and wonder just how I would react if the next door neighbor came over, while I was alone at home, and told me that one of my daughters was raped while shopping with her girlfriends downtown or that one of my granddaughters was forcibly violated in between her classes at her school. I must admit I am at a loss as to what I would do. Usually I am pretty good at predicting my actions and reactions, but not in this case. God has been pleased to spare me from that experience so far in my life. Jacob however was not as fortunate.

The Bible says he “kept silent” until his sons had come in from tending the livestock out in the fields. How long that was exactly is not clear. It could have been the rest of the day or it could have been several days or longer. Given Shechem’s demanding haste and the fact that the following verse (vs. 6) relates a meeting between Shechem’s father and Jacob, I do not imagine it was much more than one or two days at the most.

But why did he keep silent until his sons returned from the fields? Had he already made up his mind to take revenge? Did he need their physical backup? Did he need their solace and support, and if so, why would his wives, Leah and Rachel, not serve that purpose? What was really going through his mind? There are several possibilities here, some of which are shared by commentators on this verse.

One possibility is that Jacob was, by now, a run-down man who no longer had the fight in him to do what is right in regard to his family. We are not, however, so quick as to suggest that any of us would know exactly what the right thing to do in this case would be, given all the circumstances involved. But clearly, he seems to have abdicated the “family response” to his sons and Dinah’s brothers. As we shall see in our further study of this chapter, it is possible that Jacob’s lack of wise and godly action here may have been the reason for his sons’ ungodly action. This is a possibility we always need to remember as leaders of our homes and families.

Another possibility is that Jacob held his reactions back because he did not know what to do. He may have feared that he would have done the wrong thing and thus, in his mind, better not to act. There is something to be said about not reacting in anger and allowing a cooling off period to help one organize their thoughts and words for a later response.

A third possibility is that some time earlier he had relegated all the affairs of his business and household to his adult sons. Was he now at a point where either they would not allow him to do anything without their consent or he had mentally paralyzed himself into believing he could not act without their agreement? Suffice it to say that as parents, as long as we have our mental capacity in tact, we can never allow ourselves to get into that situation. As children, we should never put our parents into that position, assuming they still have their mental capacity. And the decision as to whether or not they do, is one not necessarily to be made always be our parents alone or by us alone. Ideally, both parent and children should have an agreed to understanding as to what may need to take place down the road. Alternatively, they could come to that decision together in an agreeable fashion. Sometimes it is necessary to request the help of expert third parties such as doctors, counselors, or lawyers, to help us make that decision. What is important is that we neither delegate away our rights as older individuals, nor should we as sons and daughters usurp that right from our parents. If we walk with God, setting our own wishes and comfort aside, He will guide us and make this necessary transition a smooth one.

Commentator Robert Jamieson suggests that Jacob, being a good father and man was likely very distressed by what had happened to Dinah. But he points out that he could do very little, primarily because this was a family involving the children of different wives. In some respects, the bond between a sister and her full-brothers was stronger and more direct than with a father who had several wives and many children from them. They were they ones that had to determine what they would do about their sister’s honor. You will remember that while God tolerated polygamy, it was not His chosen approach to the marriage arrangement that He had desired and recommended to Adam and Eve. Sometimes, God allows us to do many things with out free will, but doing so, is not always beneficial for us. Polygamy is only one of those.

As far as the story of Dinah goes, we can only say, “the plot thickens” and will unfold with great interest in the verses ahead.

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