AN UNFORTUNATE EPISODE - Week of December 4th

By Judy Nichols

December 4, 2016


    Jacob and his family have barely gotten settled back in the land of Canaan, after serving twenty years for his wives and flocks, when a very unfortunate episode occurs. His daughter Dinah goes to visit with the women of the land and is raped by the son of a prominent citizen. This man then approaches Jacob, asking him to give Dinah to his son as a wife. He offers whatever Jacob may ask as a bride price and encourages him to intermarry with them, saying the land is large enough and he will prosper by becoming one people with them.

    Dinah’s brothers speak up and tell the man and his son that they can only give their sister to him as a bride if all the males of their town become circumcised, as they are. This seems like a reasonable request and they go back to town and convince all the men folk that this will be a good thing, that if they intermarry with Jacob’s family, soon all his property will be theirs. Not quite the same thing he told Jacob and his sons.

    Of course, what Dinah’s brothers had told him wasn’t quite true either. For on the third day after all the men of the town had been circumcised and were still in pain, they came and killed all the men and plundered the city. This was vengeance far in excess of the crime, but the sons justified their actions by saying he had treated their sister as a prostitute.

    When they come back, Jacob is understandably upset. But he does not condemn them because of the immorality of their actions but because of the possible consequences of them: the Canaanites may come and attack him.

    This is a very sad affair on all counts, especially considering that God is not mentioned at all in this chapter (Gen. 35). What are we to learn from this event? Don’t let your daughter go out alone? Surely there is more than that.

    First, don’t let your anger, however justified it may be, lead you to sin. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Vengeance belongs to God (Deut. 32:35, Rom. 12:19), not to us. Just as God knows what we need and is able to provide in ways specific to us, so he also knows what our enemies need and how best to punish them. All our revenge would be punitive; God’s revenge has the possibility of redemption, because He is a merciful God who desires all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

    Second, don’t deceive others. There is no shortage of verses in the Bible condemning deception. From "Thou shalt not bear false witness" (Exod. 20:16) to "But for the cowardly and unbelieving . . . and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8), God makes it clear that we are to be people of the truth. Jesus, the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, whom we follow, said the devil is a liar and the father of lies and there is no truth in him. Trying to deceive others puts us on the wrong side. We are at all times to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

    Third, morality matters more than material risk. Doing the right thing, even if it may cost you something, is always best. I remember a time when my mother was given significantly too much change when she paid for the groceries. She didn’t realize it until after she had walked home from the store. Times were lean, and that money might have given our family a little boost, but my Dad returned it to the store as soon as he got home from work. Some time later, Dad needed to cash a check. Even though the store’s policy was not to cash personal checks, when the manager was consulted, he said, "Oh, yes, we’ll cash that man’s check."

    Fourthly, don’t try to justify your wrong actions. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." Sin is sin, and any attempt to excuse or justify it is sinful, as well. God knows what we have done; it is no secret to Him. We have only two choices when it comes to sin: when we sin, we repent; when we are sinned against, we forgive. "If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). It is only as we take responsibility for our actions that we can have the power to change.

    And finally, don’t leave God out! I have to wonder how differently this sad episode in the life of Jacob and his family might have turned out if they had sought God’s face in their anger and grief over what had happened to Dinah, instead of taking matters into their own hands. There certainly are enough stories in Scripture of God’s changing things in response to His people’s cries to think it could have been different.

© Judy Nichols 2016

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