Catching Up With the Past – 6

expository teaching header 1

Scripture Text – Genesis 32-34

As we study Jacob’s actions during this crisis time in his life, we’ll see illustrated the conflicts all of us occasionally experience between faith and fear, trusting God and scheming, asking God for help and then acting as though we don’t even know God. The lessons that Jacob learned are going to demonstrate to us that a crisis doesn’t make a man; it shows what a man is made of.


Please read Genesis 33:17-34.31 for the background to this section.

God’s command was that Jacob return to Bethel (Genesis 31:13) and then to his home where Isaac still lived, which was Hebron (Genesis 35:27). Instead, he tarried first at Succoth and then settled near Shechem. At Succoth, the pilgrim who was supposed to live in a tent (Hebrews 11:9–16) built a house for himself and sheds for his flocks and herds. When he moved near Shechem, Jacob purchased a piece of property and became a “resident alien” in the land. He was settling down in the land.

It’s obvious that Jacob wasn’t in a hurry to obey God and return the Bethel. We commend him for erecting an altar and giving public witness of his faith in the Lord, but sacrifice is no substitute for obedience (1 Samuel 15:22). The name he gave the altar (“God, the God of Israel”) indicates that he claimed his new name “Israel,” but he certainly wasn’t living up to all that his name implied. Because he tarried in that part of the land, his granddaughter Dinah was raped and two of his sons became murderers. It was an expensive detour.

Carelessness. Was Dinah naive, rebellious, or just plain ignorant of the ways of the world? Why was it so important that she get to know the women of the land, and why didn’t her mother advise her and somebody dependable accompany her on her sightseeing trip? (Her brothers were out in the field with the flocks). For that matter, why was Jacob tarrying in this pagan neighborhood and deliberately endangering his family? He should have been at Bethel leading them closer to the Lord.

The name of the Lord isn’t mentioned once in this chapter, and the wisdom of the Lord is surely absent as well. When we disobey the Lord, we put ourselves and our loved ones in danger. Consider what happened to Abraham in Egypt (Genesis 12:10–20) and Gerar (Genesis 20), Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19), Isaac in Gerar (Genesis 26:6–16), Samson in Philistia (Judges 14; 16), Elimelech and Naomi in Moab (Ruth 1), and Peter in the high priest’s courtyard (Luke 22:54-62).

Defilement. Three times in the narrative the word “defiled” is used to describe Shechem’s wicked deed. The young prince claimed that he did it because he loved her and wanted her for his wife, but committing violent rape and keeping the girl confined in a house was a strange way to declare his love.

et the past 6

But his actions and words bore witness only to the fact that God’s people and the people of Canaan had different standards of conduct. To the Jews, sexual activity that violated the law of God brought defilement to the victim and judgment to the guilty party. In later years, the Mosaic Law with its penalties sought to protect people by declaring sexual misconduct both a sin and a crime (see Leviticus 18). The silence of Jacob when he heard the tragic news showed neither indifference nor cowardice on his part. Since his sons were in the field with the sheep and cattle and he could do nothing without their help, he was wise to wait.

Deception. When Jacob’s sons were told what had happened, they were grieved that their sister had been violated and angry at the man who did it. Both responses were normal and right. Instead of immediately declaring war, they pretended to seek peace with their neighbors and offered to do business together and even to intermarry. All that the men of Shechem had to do was agree to be circumcised. Of course, it would take more than circumcision to make Jews out of Canaanites since no covenant conditions were involved.

The Canaanites saw this policy as an opportunity to absorb Israel and gradually possess their wealth and their people, but Jacob’s sons used it as a means to weaken the men and get them ready for slaughter. Never suspecting the danger, the men of the city submitted to the surgery.

Vengeance. At a time when the males in Shechem were in too much pain to defend themselves, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s full brothers, rallied some men from Jacob’s camp and attacked the Shechemites, killing Hamor and his son and all the males in the city. Then they looted the city and took captive the women and children. It was an evil thing to do, and when Jacob heard about it, he was both angry and frightened. But during his lifetime, since he had done his share of scheming and fooled his father, he couldn’t rebuke his sons without incriminating himself.

Simeon and Levi certainly went too far by slaughtering the Canaanites and looting their city in order to avenge their sister, and Jacob never forgot it (Genesis 49:5–7). By their deception and ruthless destruction, they ruined Jacob’s testimony before the people of the land. What good was it for Jacob to build an altar and worship the true God before his pagan neighbors if his children were going to act like pagans? But it’s sad to see that Jacob’s greatest concern wasn’t the vindication of purity or even his witness in the land, but rather his own safety. Had Jacob and his family been in Bethel where they belonged, this tragedy might not have occurred.

But true to His promise (Genesis 28:15), God wasn’t finished with Jacob. There were still heartaches and joys to come, but the God of Jacob would prove Himself faithful through it all.

To Be Continued in Going Home Again

rightly dividing footer

Adapted and modified excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
This entry was posted in Expository Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are always Welcome and Appreciated!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s