Two Different Responses
“But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?’” (Gen. 34:31).
- Genesis 34:30–31
Looking at Genesis 34, we may say that the Lord approved of the outrage Simeon and Levi felt toward their sister’s rapist even though He condemned its execution. Verse 31 of this passage makes this clear when the brothers ask: “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” Jacob gives no reply, because the answer can only be no. Jacob could have done something about Dinah’s rape after she was assaulted, but he has been oblivious to justice (v. 5). Instead, he left Dinah’s cause to her brothers who were undisciplined in their exercise of anger. Without spiritual guidance from their father, they have given way, John Calvin says, to the “intemperate anger” that “deprives men of their senses.”
Israel’s failure as a father is plain in many ways. First, his favoring of his beloved Rachel rendered him blind to the needs of Leah’s daughter. Per custom, Simeon and Levi should have called Dinah, “his daughter,” but they refer to her as “our sister” (v. 31; 29:31–35; 30:19–21), for though Jacob was her biological father, he did not love as her “daddy.” Contrast this with his later regard for Joseph and Benjamin (37:3, 29–36; 42:29–38), and it is evident Jacob loved Rachel’s children (30:22–24; 35:16–18) more than Leah’s. In due time this favoritism will produce even greater strife in Jacob’s family.
Second, Jacob’s complaint after Simeon and Levi slaughter the men of the city reveals his spiritual inadequacies. He could have justly condemned his sons for their wanton massacre of the Shechemites, abuse of circumcision, or breach of contract (34:13–17, 25). But Jacob is not worried about any of this; he is only afraid their actions will hurt him (34:30). Despite being transformed by His wrestling with God at Peniel (32:22–32), Jacob lets his old self get the best of him. Once again, he wants only to save his own skin (32:20).
Nevertheless, the Lord’s grace is shown in the treasures taken from Hamor’s people (34:27–29). The Almighty’s plan to bless and enrich Jacob has moved forward once more, even if He hated Israel’s passivity and the methods of Simeon and Levi. Human frailty has not thwarted God’s purpose to bless Abraham’s offspring (28:10–17).
We are greatly encouraged that the Lord is true to His word even when His people sin. If His blessings were based ultimately on our faithfulness, we would be totally lost. Still, while God was faithful despite Jacob’s unfaithfulness, the patriarch and his family would have avoided a lot of trouble had Jacob been more concerned to be an effective spiritual leader. Can others look to you as an example of a leader in godliness?
Passages for Further Study
- Prov. 12:26
- Acts 6:1–7
- 1 Thess. 1:2–8
- 1 Tim. 3:1–13
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