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Scripture reading – Genesis 33-34

Jacob was glad to be free from servitude to his father-in-law. After making peace (31:53-55), he departed from Mount Gilead. Then, he journeyed west to the border of “Edom,” his brother’s land (32:3). Fearing Esau’s approach, Jacob prepared his family for the confrontation he believed was inevitable. Twenty years earlier, he had taken his brother’s birthright and stolen his father’s blessing through deception initiated by his mother.

Although two decades passed, Jacob could not forget that fateful day he fled his home, nor the memory of his brother’s threat to kill him (27:41).

The news that Esau was coming with four hundred men filled Jacob’s heart with fear and dread (32:6-7). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night at Peniel, and there the LORD met him “face to face” (32:30) and promised to preserve him and his household.

Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau’s Reunion

As the sun rose the next day, Jacob bore a limp he carried for the rest of his days (32:31). Jacob then “lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men” (33:1a). It was then he divided his family in preparation for the meeting with his brother, not knowing if Esau’s coming was for good or for revenge (33:2). As Jacob approached his estranged brother, he bowed himself seven times to Esau, “until he came near to his brother” (33:3).

In an instance, the bitterness and hardness that separated them for twenty years were dissolved when “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (33:4). The years, and God’s blessings on the two men, had given neither cause for continuing their hostility (33:10-11).

Esau graciously offered to accompany his brother on his journey; however, Jacob declined, explaining that his family and flocks would take a slower pace (33:12-14). Finally, bidding his brother to go on without him, Jacob agreed he would join him later in Seir. Jacob then traveled as far as Succoth, built a house, sheltered his livestock, and remained for about 18 months.

From Succoth, Jacob journeyed to Shalem, where he also “bought a parcel of a field” from a man identified as “Hamor. Shechem’s father” (33:17-19). There he built an altar, yet, he stopped short of his promise to return to Bethel (Genesis 31; 33:18-20), a decision that would cause him and his household much sorrow.

Genesis 34 – To See and To Be Seen: A Tragic Story of Love, Revenge, and Murder

Jacob’s choice to dwell in Shalem took a heart-braking turn when his daughter Dinah, born to Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1). Though Jacob had purchased land outside the city and built an altar, it was not the place of God’s choosing. Perhaps, in some ways, he was oblivious that his children were not insulated from the fatal attraction of the world. The influence of the “daughters of the land” inevitably brought Dinah into the company of Shechem, the son of a wealthy, powerful Shalem man named Hamor.

When Shechem looked upon Dinah, he seized her forcefully and “took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (34:2). Though he had raped her violently, Hamor’s “soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved [sexually desired] the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel [speaking to her heart and emotions]” (34:3), and desired to take her as his wife (34:4).

News of Dinah’s rape reached Jacob, but he “held his peace” (34:5) until his sons came home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to arrange his son’s marriage to Dinah (34:6); however, her brothers were furious that their sister had been shamed and mistreated (34:7). Hamor suggested a compromise, but such an agreement would have been a breach of Jacob’s covenant with the LORD, and put the promises of God in jeopardy (34:8-10). Shechem pled for forgiveness and offered to pay whatever dowry was required (34:11-13). Plotting revenge (34:13), Jacob’s sons agreed to accept Shechem as Dinah’s husband, but only if all the city’s men agreed to be circumcised (34:14-24).

Unbeknownst to Jacob, on the third day after Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city were circumcised, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, drew their swords and slew all the men (34:25-26). With the men dead, Jacob’s other sons joined Simeon and Levi, raided the livestock, and took the children and wives of the city captive. (34:27-29).

When Jacob learned his sons had deceived and killed the men of the city, he protested, for he feared their vengeful, murderous actions would have dire consequences for his household (34:30). Nevertheless, Dinah’s brothers evidenced no remorse and challenged their father, asking, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?”(34:31)

Closing thoughts – Tragically, I find the heartache and division evidenced in Jacob’s household are often mirrored in families. Realizing no family is insulated from the world’s sins, sorrows, and violence, parents must be attentive, looking ahead and foreseeing the evil influences of the “Hamors” of the world.

Challenge – Never forget that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.” (James 4:4)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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