Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dinah’s Brothers React -- Genesis 34:13

But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.

Hamor and his son Shechem had made their pitch, asking for the agreement of Dinah’s father Jacob and her brothers to give her to Shechem as a wife, after he had raped her. This verse is packed with lessons.

First, we note the total silence of Jacob. He had clearly delegated this matter, either intentionally or by their persuasion, to his sons. We do not know all the reasons for this and thus we should not be hasty to judge Jacob. The mission I am involved with, SCA International, ministers among the Aboriginals in Canada. As I observe their ways, I see something very different to what I read here in this chapter. North American Indians (and I believe many indigenous people around the world) are known for determining all critical issues with and on the advice of their tribal elders rather than through the thinking of their younger warriors. Jacob’s family, quickly becoming dysfunctional in its own generation, demonstrates a totally opposite approach. The younger male members of the family decide the critical matters. I have also observed that among indigenous people, the decisions of the elders are, more often than not, the wise ones that bring more peace and happiness to the parties involved. The outcome of the decision to be made by Dinah’s brothers remains to be seen.

The next thing to note here in this verse is the reappearance of my favorite word in Scripture – “but”. The previous five verses were heading towards a very attractive deal if the Israelites accepted it and then along comes verse 13 that starts with the word “But” – a clear indication of some alternative thinking or turn of events. Either the message Hamor and Shechem were communicating was not going over well with the recipients or the desired outcome was not going to happen. Sometimes the “but” comes from God directly as we have seen in earlier parts of Genesis where the author says, “But God” (NASB Genesis 8:1; 17:19; 20:3; and 21:12). Other times He brings or allows the “but” to come about through others, as in this case. We need to be looking for and be totally aware of all the “but” clauses that God either puts in our lives or allows in our lives. Sometimes we realize these in retrospect many years later. But the closer we walk with God daily, the greater the chance we will take note and use to advantage any “but” He is placing or allowing in our lives right now.

The third thing we note from this verse is that Dinah’s brothers answered ‘with deceit’. As I studied the verse, I realized this answering with deceit was a separate thought than the one that follows it, “and spoke to them”. The ‘deceit’ was not only in their words, but also in their hearts and minds before any of the words had come out. These men were not in any way willing to deal constructively with the grave situation before them. Instead, they had resolved in their hearts, from the time they first heard of the situation, to take a different approach, perhaps one of revenge. We do not know their exact thinking. We can only surmise that once again sinful man knows only what comes natural to him, and in this case, it is revenge and taking justice into one’s own hands.
It is with these thoughts in mind, Dinah’s brothers, speaking in the place of Jacob but not necessarily on his behalf, now come to verbally answer Hamor and Shechem. Next, we will listen as the deceit that is in their hearts finds its way to their words and speech, and later actions. For now, let us gain insight into two facts. First, that our lives do contain a number of ‘but’ instances, some of which need not be there for long, or at all, if we walk closely with God on a daily basis. Secondly, that we need to examine what is really in our hearts and minds prior to verbalizing it or acting on it. This past week, my friend Sally K. posted the following on her social media profile, “When I want to speak let me think first, is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If not, let it be left unsaid.”

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