Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Jacob’s Sons Come In From The Fields -- Genesis 34:7

Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

Somehow word gets out to Jacob’s sons who were working in the fields about their sister Dinah’s rape. So immediately they head back home. What is not clear here is whether this included all of Jacob’s sons that were working there, or whether this verse is just about Dinah’s brothers who, like her, shared Leah as their mother.

In any case, the brothers are grieved and angry, and understandably so. Grief combined with anger is a potentially dangerous combination both to the person that is grieving but also to others. The cause of their state of mind was that Shechem had done what was considered “a disgraceful thing in Israel”. Let me point out two things about this statement. The first is that this was the first time in the scripture that the name Israel was used to depict a nation or a people beyond the person Jacob whose name was changed to Israel by God. Earlier uses included Genesis 33:20 where Jacob names an altar using the word Israel and Genesis 32:32 where there is an explanation of the ensuing eating habits of the “children of Israel”.

Secondly, the phrase “a disgraceful thing in Israel” is a reminder to us as Christians today that most of what goes on in the world may indeed be a “disgrace for those who are Christians”, and some of it may even be a “disgrace for both Christians and non-Christians”. But the truth is that, for many non-Christians, much of today’s behavior is not a disgrace. This morning, just days after the great earthquake disaster in Haiti, one of the networks showed video of a couple in the U.S. stealing the Haiti Relief donation jar in a bank. How low can one stoop? Obviously, pretty low and certainly the people involved felt they had a right to it. A friend of mine reminds me of this when he often asks the question, “Ken, who says that non-Christ-followers have to see things our way?” He’s right. They don’t. And much of our frustration in life can be reduced as we accept that harsh reality.

Returning again to the text, we notice that what was disgraceful in Israel was that Shechem had sexual relations with Dinah, and that ought not to be done. The question that remains now is, “Given this was a no-no, what will these brothers do?”

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