Jacob was settling for superficial obedience. Rather than making haste to get to Bethel, he settled for half-heartedness and made his home in Shechem. It seems the world had a grip on his heart and it was squeezing the active pursuit of righteousness out of him. But Jacob would suffer the consequences of his compromising cowardice.
Rape of Dinah (verses 1-7)
Dinah went to see the ladies of the land, but instead of seeing them she herself was seen by Shechem, the local prince. The process that led to this terrible sin is similar to the kind of language we find in Genesis 3:6 with Eve and the forbidden tree and in 2 Samuel 11:2-4 with David and Bathsheba (i.e. “the prince… saw her, he took her and lay with her by force…”). The things you look and long for will become those things that you take and steal. Whether it is an item online, advertised on a billboard, or someone else’s innocence for your sexual gratification.
Jacob heard what happened to Dinah, yet he did nothing. He should have acted decisively and immediately, but he failed to act at all. Instead, he abdicated his role to protect and provide for his family. The brothers, on the other hand, when they heard they were grieved and angry, which is the proper response to all sin.
Religious Deception (verses 8-24)
Shechem desired to marry Dinah and the proposal was made. This was a culturally common approach to marriage, with the fathers discussing the potential of their kids marrying. Of course, more was on the table than marriage in this case. This could be the beginning of a long-term lucrative partnership.
Again, Jacob did nothing and simply played the coward. Why not speak up and decline the offer? Why not explain that God has said “no”? Why not be a blessing to the Canaanites by remaining distinct and pure? While Jacob played the coward, his sons answered, but they did so with disgraceful deceit. They used the religious practice of circumcision to annihilate their enemies. Hamor and Shechem accepted the offer, considering that a few days of pain for the men of the city was worth the eventual gains.
Ransacking Destruction (verses 25-31)
The deceptive technique played out and Simeon and Levi led the way in the attack, with the other brothers joining in for the plundering. Included in this treacherous act were premeditated murder, theft of property, and theft of persons. This just goes to show the selective morality of Jacob’s sons.
Finally, Jacob, the brave hero, decided to speak. However, his words only revealed that he was worried about himself. He did not speak up to condemn his sons’ sin but only complains about the difficulties they have created for him. The sons answered Jacob’s misguided thoughts with a piercing inquiry: “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” And then, nothing from Jacob. So self-consumed that he had no response regarding his daughter’s treatment.
- Sin has consequences, awful consequences, for ourselves and for others. The bitter fruits of Jacob’s sin were rape, murder, and theft. His personal failure led to disastrous consequences for his family. How seriously do you take sin, all sin, in your life? Are you allowing the grip of the world to squeeze out an active pursuit of righteousness?
- While God continued to be faithful in preserving the line of Jacob and keeping His promise of blessing through his seed, this account makes clear that this remarkable truth must not result in breathing a sigh of relief and pulling up short. We must press on! Press on to know the Lord. Press on to lay hold of that for which we were laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Press on toward maturity. Are you looking to and relying on God’s grace to press on toward complete Christ-likeness?