Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hamor Speaks To Jacob and His Sons -- Genesis 34:8-10

But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. And intermarry with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

The opening words of Hamor, the father of Shechem who had raped Dinah, to Jacob and his sons, are most interesting. One does not know whether or not he means them or he is being a card. After all, the Hebrew word for Hamor is indeed translated as a “he-ass”. But that aside, Hamor seems to be indicating that Shechem’s infatuation with Dinah was indeed coming from his very soul or that which gives him life and breath. He also uses words such as “please” imploring Jacob’s family to grant his son his wish. One could suppose, given that the fellow slept with Dinah, it would make sense that they get married. Even in today’s world, had there been evidence of Dinah being pregnant as a result of her rape, and providing that Shechem really did love her (a fact that I personally doubt when considering the real meaning of love), it would have made some sense for the two to marry. But unfortunately, Hamor’s request of Jacob and his sons goes way beyond that.

In his next breath, he asks the males in Jacob’s family to give their daughters in intermarriage with his family and to take his daughters as brides for their sons. From one perspective you can imagine the attractiveness of that proposal for Jacob’s sons. Clearly, getting husbands for their wives may have been difficult given that they were in essence nomads that had now settled for a while near Shechem. Going back to the land of their mothers, Leah and Rachel, as both their grandfather Isaac and then their father Jacob had done was not likely to happen again. Marrying within one’s own family was to be avoided. Hamor’s proposition had some enticement to it, especially if by marrying his daughters would bring along a handsome dowry.

I would point out that all this discussion was about the giving and taking of female children, not males. I cannot help but point out that somehow even back then daughters and females in general were indeed considered a form of property to be exchanged. I am reminded of two grave markers I recently saw in Charleston, South Carolina. One was for a husband whose name escapes me. Let us call him William Smith for our purposes. His epitaph listed some of his wonderful accomplishments. Next to him was buried his wife. We’ll call her Mary. Her epitaph simply read as follows, “Mary Smith, a relict of William Smith”. The word ‘relict’ has indeed come to mean a ‘widow’ of someone, but its more common and perhaps earlier meanings relate to a remnant of something pre-existing (usually a rock formation or a mineral that did not change when the rock in which it resides underwent metamorphosis; or species of organism suriving the extinction of a relted species). You can see how the word became associated with a widow, given how women have been viewed over the history of mankind. Even today, women are often seen as property. Following the 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti, I heard of 40,000 women who were expecting their babies at any moment, living in tents with men who commandeered all the food and relief supplies from them and would only allow them some in exchange for sexual favors, all while organizations like World Vision were handing out “delivery survival packages”. It is time that Christian men rise up to defend, protect, and elevate to true equality, the precious gift that God gave us in womankind.

But wait, there’s more to Hamor’s package deal.

Hamor also invited the Israelites to “live with” his people. This can be understood to mean two things. First the common meaning which is to say that “as you intermarry with us, you will get to live with us more and more”. But it is also possible that hidden in the words may be the subtle hint of “this is the only way you can really be allowed to live here with us”. If they didn’t intermarry, they would always be seen as aliens and thus perceived as potential if not current enemies. Hamor was basically saying to Jacob and his sons, “you would not want that, would you?” Support for this idea comes from what Hamor said next. If the Israelites were to live with Hamor’s family, then the “land would be available to them, as would business, and of course the right to own land.” Enticing indeed.

And it is those same allurements (being allowed a piece of the secular pie in business, sports, entertainment, pleasure, and so on) that keep attracting so many of us “spiritual Israelites”, those who have come to accept Jesus as Lord, to intermarry with the world today. Esau may have sold his birthright, but we have sold our faithfulness and purity for that temporary and illusive pot of gold. God does call us to live among the world, but not to be entangled in it. May we all have the discernment as to when to say, “No, thank you”.

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