Friday, January 27, 2012

Jacob’s Prediction About Simeon and Levi and Their Tribes - Genesis 49:5-7


“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 men, And in their self-will they lamed oxen.  Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel.  I will disperse them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel.”

It is interesting that Jacob takes his next two sons, Simeon and Levi, and deals with them as one unit.  Both are Jacob’s children through Leah, his first wife, which he was tricked into marrying.  Simeon’s name referred to his mother being ‘heard’ by God alluding to the fact that she was unloved by Jacob.  Levi’s name referred to his mother’s hope that she would now be more ‘attached’ to Jacob since she had borne him three sons.

Jacob now refers to the violence that these two sons had caused many years ago (Genesis 34) against Hamor and Shechem while trying to get revenge for their rape of their sister Dinah.  Jacob wanted no part of that any longer.  While he had kept silent when the atrocity occurred, he now could not contain his anger any longer.  The consequences of the sins that Simeon and Levi had committed, while forgiven, would now have to be paid.  We would do well to remember that.  While one can be forgiven for a sin, its consequences still have to be faced and accepted.

Simeon and Levi may have tended to hang out together due to the fact that they were partners in the same crime, and their personalities may have matched – both being rather aggressive and violent when they became angry.  Jacob was not willing to allow them to be advised by him or to benefit from his knowledge.  They would have to miss out on his wise and experienced counsel to them.  Nor did he want to be part of any evil plans they may have or groups they may be part of.  What a decision-point to come to for a parent.  How that must have hurt him.  Perhaps some of us have suffered in the same way.  We can take comfort in the fact that God does not hold us responsible for the actions of our adult children. We need to continue to love them and always leave the door open for their full regret and repentance.  Still, we must make it perfectly clear to others, as Jacob was doing here, that there should be no doubt we were neither part of, nor did we find any real pleasure in what our children did in their own sinning.  Sometimes, a parent’s humanity comes out and he/she secretly admires the evilness of his/her child, convincing themselves that it is all part of life and growing up to be wise.  But Jacob wanted to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind before he died.  We can learn from that.

Sometimes I wonder at my own thoughts with respect to war against the intolerant political ideology of Islam and its desire to eliminate both the United States (the Great Satan in its eyes) and Israel (the Little Satan).  Sometimes I wish that the west would apply all its power to put an end to this ongoing threat that is accompanied by so much pain and destruction and murder of innocent people around the world, especially Christians and Jews living in various Middle Eastern and African countries.  Yet this passage causes me to stop and reflect on my motives.  Are they driven by my own personal self-will, or are they driven by a godly anger?

The anger of Simeon and Levi was sin because it stemmed from their “self-will” as Jacob notes.  The Scriptures are not opposed to anger, especially godly anger but not anger due to selfishness.  In fact, that may indeed be the distinguishing feature between godly and ungodly anger – the latter being driven by one’s own will, not the care of others or the desire to see God being glorified.  We notice in the text that Jacob curses their anger and not them.  So when you and I go after those who we believe do wrong to mankind, we must be careful to speak out against the sin and not against the individual, leaving the latter to God at the appointed time.  For example, we must distinguish between the homosexual and homosexuality; the political leader and his/her decisions; or in other words, the sinner and the sin, respectively.

But Jacob does determine that because of their sin, Simeon and Levi were not to live together in the land.  He prophesized they would be both divided and scattered throughout Israel.  We see this to be factual later on in Scripture.  But was this to be a curse for both of them?  We’ll have to get into the Biblical books of Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua to get the answer.  Suffice it to say here that the Levites became known as the “priestly tribe of Israel”.

So once again, God uses the sin of individuals to work out His divine plan.  And while you and I (mere mortals) would think that He would, in the interest of fairness and equity, punish all involved equally, that is not always His way and He has His reasons.  Once again, our job is to accept Him as the One who judges, not us.

In my personal life, I have found that accepting this and believing in Him to the point where I no longer have to ask, “why?” makes life so much more livable and exciting, allowing me to be surprised by Him every day.


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