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Nov 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 3, 2013 – Genesis Chapters 33-34

Faith For Living In the Real World

Then Jacob lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. But he himself passed on ahead of them and bowed down to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Genesis 33:1-3

INTRO: Jacob’s arrangement of his caravan reveals an obvious bias

He put those most precious to him behind everyone else
– but he does one thing that I find honorable
• he takes “point” — a military term for soldiers in the field
• the soldier, unit, or vehicle that is positioned ahead of the others
○ the first to encounter the enemy or, if ambushed, the first to draw enemy fire
– to me, this is a healthy expression of manliness
• we have plenty of examples of pseudo-manliness

The remainder of chapter is not exactly an anticlimax

But it doesn’t lead to a “big” ending either
– no swords were drawn, no blood was spilled,
• but the peace between Jacob and Esau was tenuous at best
• although Esau says, “my brother” (v. 9) Jacob still refers to him as “my lord”

We sense an awkwardness in their conversation (vv. 5-15)
– Esau asked a couple of legitimate questions
• Jacob gave him short, guarded answers
– Esau, it seems felt compelled to justify coming all this way with 400 men
• so he made a couple of offers to assist
○ Jacob declined both offers and finally ended their conversation with, “Why?”
○ Jacob obviously did not trust Esau
○ he said he would catch up to him in Seir, but then he travelled west — Mt. Seir was east of the Jordan River

V. 18, “Now Jacob came safely” – same word is translated “friendly” (peaceably) in the next chapter (34:21)
– Jacob finally has a breather, after Laban and Esau
• it was time to buy some land, settle in, and build an altar
• “God, the God of Israel”
○ it marks what he perceived was going to be a new stage in his life
○ he’s finally going to be able to change – live up to his new name
• he wanted to connect with God in this new place and time

34:1-2, Jacob’s bubble quickly burst

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. Genesis 34:1-3

Although we won’t track them, there are several key words here in this story
– “daughter” and “daughters” – the singular is Dinah
• matched by “son” and “sons” – the singular is Shechem
• a bond formed between a daughter of Jacob and a son of Hamor would unite two people
– other key words: “took,” “take,” and “give”
• these verbs describe the action that moves the plot forward
• what Shechem took, he later Jacob and his sons to give (vv. 8 & 12)

V. 3, “deeply attracted” is a weak translation – his soul attached itself…
– something changed within him after the rape
• “he loved the girl and spoke [to her heart]”
○ in the Hebrew Scriptures, this is the language of courtship or reconciliation (e.g., Hosea 2:14)
– Shechem asked his father to go to Jacob and arrange his marriage to Dinah

Jacob had nothing to say, but “kept silent”
– it seems he wanted to wait until his sons returned from field
– but when they did return, the situation quickly slipped out of Jacob’s control
• his sons “grieved and they were very angry”
• the wording in verse 7 is interesting: “disgraceful thing in Israel” (as if they were already a nation)
○ they saw themselves as an independent clan – a “people”
○ they interpreted Shechem’s act as if it were an insult to all of them

When negotiating with Hamor, they “answered . . . with deceit”
– this has haunted Jacob ever since he deceived his father Isaac
• first they said it wasn’t possible to intermarry with the people of Shechem
○ the problem was not ethnicity, but cultural or quasi-spiritual
○ they didn’t explain why circumcision was an issue or how it had to do with a covenant with Yahweh
• but before Shechem lost hope, they suggested a potential solution
– later, when Shechem and his father sold this to the men of the city, they emphasized material advantage of uniting with Jacob’s clan

Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? (v. 23)

While the men of Shechem were recovering from their surgery, two of Dinah’s brothers attacked city
– they killed all the men and “took” Dinah
• only now do we learn that Shechem had kept her in his home as if she were his wife already
– afterward, the rest of Jacob’s sons came and looted the city
• they did to city what Jacob feared Esau was going to do to him
– finally Jacob broke his silence

You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizites, and my men [literally, ‘I’] being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and m household. (v. 30)

• notice that he says nothing about the moral implications of their actions
• his words reveal a pathetic self-concern
○ “me . . . I . . . me . . . me . . . I . . . I . . .”
– perhaps that’s why Jacob had no comeback when they answered, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” (v. 31)
• it will not be until he is on his deathbed that Jacob condemns their violence, “fierce” anger, and “cruel” wrath (Ge. 49:5-7)

Several warning lights flash from this tragic story

First, why do scams and Ponzi schemes work?
– because they play on the greed of their mark

A man once came to Jesus, asking him to tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him. Rather than involve himself in this legal matter, Jesus said, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” In other words, he would not involve himself in these sorts of issues. Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “Beware, and be on guard against every form of greed.” Now it would seem that demanding your fair share of your parents’ inheritance would be a legitimate demand. In fact, it was supported by biblical law. But Jesus knew that even here, greed can hide within a legitimate demand. When that is the case, it is better to let the inheritance go than allow your your spirit to slip away, “for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Lk. 12:13-15)

Second, Simeon and Levi argued a moral principle to justify their actions
– some of the most foolish, costly, and violent deeds have been rationalized as “a matter of principle”
– their justification was, “they had defiled their sister” (v. 27)
• “they”? the whole city? only one man had violated Dinah
– too many Christians have adopted an “us” versus “them” mentality
• with this mind set, it becomes easy to feel justified in hating others or treating them viciously
• religious principles are easily corrupted by anger, deceit, the ego-self
– there is no “us” versus “them” in God’s eyes (Mt. 5:43-48)

Third, growing up Christian, some of us got the wrong impression about Bible stories

“Sunday school” lessons can be misleading, especially when illustrated with flannelgraph characters
– they can make world of the Bible seem like fairy tales
– the first time I saw the “Sea” of Galilee, I expected the water to be “different,” magical
• I thought that touching the water I would say, “I can imagine walking on that”
• but the lake and its water were ordinary
– in a similar way, we assume our stresses are much greater than those of the nomads and shepherds in biblical times
• but their world was no easier and no more magical than ours
○ faith did not come any easier for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob than it does for us
what did Jacob think after his daughter was raped?
• “God, is this what You meant by saying You would be with me? That You would guard me?”
○ he must have felt he was on his own, as we sometimes feel we’re in the world on our own
• walking with God in any generation will always include the difficult challenge of faith

CONC: In closing, let’s just notice that Jacob’s relationships did not stick

The inner dynamics of his relationships were centrifugal rather than centripetal
– they blew people apart rather than bonding them together

Yesterday, reading in John’s gospel, I noticed something interesting:

  1. How Caiaphas the high priest understood the importance of the death of Jesus (in order to spare himself, his colleagues, and his nation from the retaliation of Rome): You know nothing at all, nor do yuou take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish (Jn. 11:47-50).
  2. How John, who wrote this account, understood the meaning of Jesus’ death: Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad (Jn. 11:51-52).
  3. How Jesus understood his death: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a gain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. . . . And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself (Jn. 12:24, 32).

The inner dynamics of relationship with Jesus is centripetal
– we are held together in his orbit
• it is the way of surrender, of trusting God for the outcome
• it is the way of death into life
○ death to the egoistic false self into the abundant and free life of the true self
And Jesus walks us through it

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