Have you been to the movies lately? So few worth seeing, many have the themes of
Seduction, rape, revenge, defenseless killing. Sounds like a R-rated movie doesn’t it? Surprise, it’s just Jacob’s dysfunctional family right here in the bible. Did you wonder? Why is this depressing story even in the bible? What purpose could God have for including it? Why all this tragedy? Life of Jacob certainly seems to have great swings of highs and lows. In Genesis 34 we’re definitely swinging low with injustice, rape and murder- but then in Genesis 35 we swing up, with new beginnings, we see that with God, His amazing grace, we can all start all over- when we’re repentant. Then we swing down again, in a totally different way, we see Jacob deal with 3 deaths of loved family members. Our lives are also like these swings, things that we experience seem to take us up and down. Throughout these swings: highs and lows; there is one constant: God’s love for us, His grace towards us, His commitment to keep His promises to us. This lesson wraps up our emphasis on Jacob-ending “Jacob stories” next week we’ll see that in the rest of Genesis our focus will be on the sons of Jacob, in particular, Joseph.
I. Jacob’s Family Scandal - Genesis 34:1-31
II. Jacob’s Family at Bethel - Genesis 35:1-15
III. Jacob’s Family Sorrows - Genesis 35:16-29
A. Seduction Genesis 34:1-4. READ. Why did this happen? Who was responsible?
1. Dinah? Most likely she was a teenager, curious, wanting to act grown up, go places, have fun, they lived close to the city of Shechem. We know she had 11 brothers, no mention of a sister, perhaps she just wanted to be w/other girls. We don’t know any details like: had she been told to stay out of the city? Had she been told not to go anywhere alone? Did she have any restrictions? We do know she ended up in the wrong place, wrong time, unsupervised.
2. Brothers? Oriental society, eldest son in the household was responsible for the younger ones. Remember the story of Abraham’s servant sent to find a bride for Isaac? He negotiated the Rebekah’s father Bethuel and with the eldest brother Laban. Dinah’s brothers shared some responsibility for her protection but Genesis 34:7 tells us they were out in the field working.
3. Shechem, son of Hamor, Hivite, people group related to the Hurrians of Northern Mesopotamia, pagans, as we’ll see they didn’t practice the rite of circumcision. The fact that he raped Dinah, a virgin girl, is shocking but the fact that there is an utter neglect of any wrong doing reveals the low moral standards of this community. There’s no confession, no apology, no asking to make restitution v4 Get me this girl sends his father
4. Jacob First question: why are you even living in Shechem? You made a vow to God 20 years earlier at Bethel, to return there, then God came to you in Paddam Aram (Genesis 31:3) and said “return to the land of your fathers, your relatives” you don’t have any relatives in Shechem. Why are you here? And you’re head of the family, what kind of advice and protection did you give Dinah? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had 3 teenagers, I know he could have been the very best parent and Dinah could have still slipped out and gotten raped. Genesis 34:5 bothers me. How could a loving, caring, protective parent keep silent? I have a hard time understanding his lack of action, his lack of outrage?
In a culture today that seems just as permissive as Shechem: what a call to us as parents, grandparents to protect our children, to chaperone them well, to question their activities, to know where they are.
Hamor, the father, meets with Jacob, the father and while they’re meeting. READ Genesis 34:7
B. Brothers’ reaction Genesis 34:7. Seething w/anger, righteously indignant over the wrong done to their sister, to their family “in Israel, such a thing that should not be done”. These very words are said later in Israel’s history by Tamar when her half brother Amon tries to rape her she begs him to ask their father for permission to marry her first “such a thing should not be done in Israel” (2 Samuel 13:12)
C. Hamor pleads with the sons, he loves her, we can become one big happy family, intermarry, do business together, form a power alliance, this can be a win-win. Shechem adds (Genesis 34:11,12) I’ll pay whatever price you ask.
D. Before Jacob can respond the sons take over the negotiations. We wonder who demonstrates the greater evil in this chapter? Shechem or the sons of Jacob? Shechem did wrong, he raped Dinah, but seemed to truly love her and offered a proper dowry, and father Hamor held out a hand of friendship suggesting their peoples join together. It’s this openness and generosity that is the basis for the brother’s plan of revenge and what’s worse they use the Covenant to deceive. READ Genesis 34:13 , “deceitfully” this is the same word used in Genesis 27:35 Jacob deceived his father Isaac. READ Genesis 34:14-17 Hamor, Shechem agree, it seems a cheap price to pay for the advantages to be gained. Unaware of the brother’s hidden agenda, they focused persuading their people to accept the arrangement and don’t you know that would take some convincing. Ultimately it was a business deal, sold the community on the benefits of becoming assimilated with Jacob’s family, so they were circumcised Genesis 34:24.
E. Three days later while all the men were still in pain, Simeon and Levi massacred the city. Perhaps we could understand if Dinah’s brothers plotted to kill Shechem, but the whole city? All the men? Truly barbaric. Other brothers didn’t seem to participate in the killing but they were ready to sack the city READ Genesis 34:27-29, looted, took captives, violence of the sword, violence of the scavengers, these are the people of God?
F. Jacob stood in horror over their behavior and when they got home he gave them a scolding (use that word because the rebuke he gives his sons seems to be so lacking in comparison to what they have done) READ Genesis 34:30. They massacred and plundered an entire city and Jacob says “you’ve embarrassed me, ruined my reputation, put our family in danger- what about their sin, horrible act of murdering innocent people? Why is there no confrontation about that?
G. Self-defense Genesis 34:31 Their reply shows no regret for what they had done, instead of repenting, they just wanted to justify themselves, they saw sin in the rape but none if themselves. Their sense of justice was right but their methods to avenge were cruel and excessive.
NET© I Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
NET© Hebrews 10:30 For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
NET Romans12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. 12:19 Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Deutoronomy 32:35)
Application: Is there someone who has wronged you, or you have a second hand offense, someone has hurt your husband, your child, your parents? Are you planning to get back in some way? So many ways to get revenge: maybe your method =covertly undercover, quiet, nurse the hurt inwardly, build a wall, close down a relationship, shut them out, OR maybe overtly aggressive = try to harm them in some way, their reputation, their job, their relationships. You can see the damage revenge does in this story, do you see it in your life? Your relationships? Work, family, friends?
Can you imagine the tension in this family right now? Dinah is shamed, alone, seen the carnage. Her brothers Simeon, Levi still angry, defiant no matter what dad says. Leah, mother/wife, wonder what her reaction was to what her sons have done. Jacob, embarrassed, fearful, uncertain of their future, again right when things seem the darkest, God comes, reminds Jacob of his unfulfilled vow to return to his father’s house.
A. READ Genesis 35:1. Go up to Bethel, map it’s 20 miles south, but higher in elevation 1,000ft. Remember Bethel? Place where God had come personally to Jacob in a dream, Bethel was a holy place. Genesis 12:8 Abraham built an altar when he arrived in land; after his trip to Egypt he returned to Bethel (Genesis 13:3). Bible seems to infer that “Bethel” is a type of a place we go to dedicate, rededicate ourselves to the Lord. Application: for me, my daily Bethel, is my blue chair upstairs where I start the day, quietness, prayer, reading the bible. Weekly, my Bethel is here, church, with you, I worship, confess my sins, reaffirm my faith, strengthen by you, your presence, your faith. Jacob/family needed Bethel.
B. READ Genesis 35:2-4. Preparation Jacob calls his family together, prepares them for the trip.
Even if you’ve wasted many good years, even if you’ve messed up terribly, even if you feel like a failure, it’s never too late with God. Jacob has some instructions:
1. Put away foreign gods Does this surprise you? Does he now know about Rachel’s stolen gods? Did any of the sons bring along some gods from Shechem? Jacob knew all had to go because if you truly want spiritual revival, renewal in your life, really want to start over, you have to get rid of anything that competes with God being first, God has no rivals, as we see in the first of the 10 commandments “You shall have no other gods before me”, God demands single loyalty. We talk about getting rid of the idols in our lives, they are so often like Jacob’s family hidden, secret. We don’t carry around wooden statutes, we don’t worship relics, but we do have our own idols, at times they’re so hard at times to see, to identify. Wonder do you know what you’re idol is right now?
2. Purify yourselves –pure heart, pure bodies, our bodies today are temple of God
MSG© II Corinthians 6:16 Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. God himself put it this way: “I’ll live in them, move into them; I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.
3. Change your clothes –throughout scripture garments/cloths often symbolize character
“put on the Lord Jesus Christ” Here they are told to change the clothes that had been polluted in Shechem, put on new clothes associated w/holiness.
These gods could not be carried to Bethel, this family had to prepare to meet God. Jacob buries all their foreign gods, charms, pagan jewelry, and they set out.
C. God’s Protection READ Genesis 35:5 Fulfillment of His promise READ Genesis 28:15 I am with you, gets there, builds an altar, this is Bethel=house of God, renames EL Bethel= God of Bethel, the emphasis is not on the place but the God who he met there, reflects a change of heart in Jacob, come to Bethel to worship God.
D. God appears again Genesis 35:9 confirms the name change, Jacob to Israel, meaning God fights or fights with God. God repeats the Abrahamic Covenant this time adding that kings, rulers will come from this lineage. God’s blessings on humanity would come through Jacob and his descendants. Jacob responds to this Word from God by worshipping.
He is in sweet communion with God. Remember: it’s never too late to start over w/God, that’s so good, Jacob is in a good place, but circumstances are going to change, life is going to change as he experiences some deep family losses.
A. Loss of Deborah Genesis 35:8 along the journey. Deborah left Paddam Aram over 130 yrs earlier w/Jacob’s mother Rebekah, she was Jacob/Esau’s nanny. How did she get in Jacob’s household? Not sure, but this is probably our greatest single indication that Rebekah has died, she was sent to be w/him. Jacob probably loved her like a mother, she helped raise him. Deborah is one of the countless “ordinary people” in the Bible who help others become successful, wonderful servant. There is great sorrow when she dies, place where she is buried was named “oak of weeping” imagine great weeping at this time.
B. Loss of Rachel Genesis 35:16 READ Why did they travel now, 8/9 months pregnant? Travel was rough at best, she was in a cart or on a camel for long hours at a stretch, as they near Bethlehem, she went into labor READ Genesis 35:17-20 Rachel lived long enough to know she had a baby boy- but she knows she’s dying, baby will grow up w/o her, imagine that sorrow, sadness she feels as she names him “Ben-oni” son of my sorrow. Jacob full of grief himself cannot bear such a mark on this baby, though the one true love of his life is dying, he renames him “Benjamin”= son of my right hand, honored position. We’ll see how true this becomes, as Jacob keeps him close to him, as both father and mother to him. When you go to the Holy Land, hopefully you can see the area where she is buried
C. Lust of Reuben
Just when it seems like Jacob has more than enough to bear, we READ Genesis 35:21,22. Bilhad was Rachel’s, who had just died, maid. Rachel’s maid that she gave to Jacob to have children by her and Reuben was a half-brother to Dan, Naphtali- he slept with their mother, also Jacob’s concubine, this is incest. How could he defile one of his father’s wives, his brothers’ mother? It lacked all common decency. Seems that Jacob was stunned, numbed he failed to do anything, but he never forgot. Genesis 49 = Reuben lost the birthright of the eldest son because of this lack of self-control.
D. Last days with father Isaac - Genesis 35:27-29 map
There are about 10 years between this reunion of father/son and Isaac’s death. Most commentators believe Isaac was still alive to console Jacob when Joseph is reported missing, but his death is inserted here to mark the transition from his family leadership to Jacob. Interesting to note that both Esau and Jacob are there together to bury him, it must have been comforting to Isaac to know his sons, on some level, had reconciled.
So why are these dramatic, tragic stories included in our bible? What purpose?
In the ups and downs of our lives, when God gives and takes away in our lives like Jacob’s there r lessons to learn so that we can become the women of faith God intends:
Parents, grandparents, families, protect the children, provide emotional, physical, spiritual protection they need.
Allow God to right wrongs, don’t plan revenge. Jesus said instead repay evil with good= that will define your life as a Christian, that’s different than the way our human nature is wired, repaying evil with good looks like Jesus to others
Clean house= spiritual house-cleaning, getting rid of bad habits, wrong attitudes, refusing addictions, rededicating ourselves to Christ, choosing Him, His ways.
In the ups and downs:
God is present with you… always