Last week in our look at the life of Jacob (through the book "Escaping with Jacob" by David Ramos), we looked at Jacob's reunion with his brother, Esau. But just as it seems things are finally going right, we are reminded that human life is messy and complicated, and that things often go wrong when we take our eyes off of God and rely on ourselves.
Week 16: Read Genesis 34:1-31 (Justice Versus Love)
"In one of the darkest scenes of Genesis, we see Jacob's failure as both a father and a leader. This chapter begins with Dinah (one of Jacob's daughters) heading into town. Whether her motives were pure or otherwise, a terrible event occurs as one of the men of town takes advantage of her. Word spreads quickly back home where we see a night and a day reaction from her family as they hear the news. Jacob, her father, does nothing. Instead, he waits to see what his sons will do once they have heard. Their reaction is much different. Dinah's two biological brothers, Simeon and Levi, are enraged by the news and quickly conceive a plan.
The man who took advantage of Dinah desires to marry her and sends his own father to negotiate terms. Jacob says nothing or at least nothing is recorded. Whether out of fear or indifference he sits this round out. However, Dinah's brothers deceptively agree, negotiating that the men of the town must be circumcised before the marriage. The townspeople follow through and circumcise every man. It's during this time, when they are defenseless, that Simeon and Levi take their revenge. The two brothers ravage the city, killing every man and boy. The rest of their brothers come with them and steal every valuable treasure and every woman. For one man's sins an entire community paid a tremendous price.
It isn't until the very end that we, the readers, hear from Jacob. He is furious with his children, but not for the reason you think he should be. He is angry that his reputation has been damaged and that other tribes may try to attack him. The scene ends with no clear resolution and with tensions as high as ever.
Our primary goal with this book is to better understand the life and journey of Jacob. But before we look at him in particular, let's not forget whose suffering is at the heart of this passage: Dinah. Dinah was wronged in an incredibly personal way and then kept captive until her brothers' rampage. Yet, very little of the chapter pays any attention to her. We don't even get a word from her. I think there is something we can learn from her situation. Do not confuse justice with love. Her brothers took justice on her behalf and rescued her; but as much as their actions were to save her, they were also to satiate their own desires for revenge. Often times we are stuck in between the choices of pursuing justice at the cost of showing love, or loving the individual and forfeiting our pursuit of justice.
It's a painful choice. In either case, we feel like we are losing something. While every situation is different, I want to encourage you that if you ever find yourself having to choose between justice and love, please chose love. Justice often takes more than it should, especially when done too quickly. On the subject of our main character, Jacob, it would seem he chose neither. He didn't show love or justice; instead, he took no action. I can't help but believe that his failure as a leader led to the killing spree.
Despite everything he had been through, how faithful God had been how forgiving Esau was, Jacob was still afraid of the world. He had finally made it home and all he wanted was a peaceful, conflict-free life. But life never works that way. And ignoring our problems only makes them grow larger."
Takeaway from today's lesson: In every conflict, we are given three choices: to take justice, to show love, or to ignore and absorb.
Prayer: God, help me not to seek conflict, or to shy away from it, but to show love in every difficulty, because that is the example you have set for us in Jesus. Amen.