Category Archives: Love

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24; Deuteronomy 25)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Deuteronomy 24

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

Divorce is addressed, sadly indicative of man’s sinful heart. We understand that God’s desire for man and wife is: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Yet, because man’s nature is bent away from God, the Lord allowed (through Moses) for a writing of divorcement when there was a valid reason.

Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ on this subject and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce]for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, saying, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). Christ answered and diagnosed the deplorable basis for Moses permitting divorce (Deuteronomy 24).

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (Deuteronomy 24:6)

Taking an upper millstone is foreign to most until we understand Moses referred to the stones used to grind grain into flour. So, a lender was warned he could not take for a surety the “upper millstone,” for by it, a family could grind grain into flour and bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking (in essence, modern slavery). Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity has been and continues to be an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found guilty of “[making] merchandise…or selleth [selling] him” shall be put to death (24:7).

If the judgment of the Scriptures were practiced in our day, victims of human trafficking would receive justice and human traffickers would be dispatched to a swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (Deuteronomy 24:10-22)

Today’s false teachers and preachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace. They support their reason and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but grace has been a part of every age because God is a part of every age. He has been and continues to be immutable – the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, characterizing the Law and Commandments as “graceless” suggests the LORD was graceless, which is heresy.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 proved that God was sensitive and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times, the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire for those times, and men generally wore inner and outer robes. The inner robe afforded modesty, while the outer robe protected against the elements and provided warmth at night.

Should a man of little means borrow, his outer robe might serve as the surety or pledge for his debt (24:10-11). However, the lender was not to humiliate a debtor and take by force the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11). Also, in the evening, the lender was to return the outer robe so that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (Deuteronomy 24:14-18)

Day laborers were paid their wages at the end of a workday (24:14). Also, everyone was to bear the consequences and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

In ancient times there was no welfare system, and the impoverished were a perpetual presence on the earth. Tragically, widows were sometimes forsaken by their children, orphans were neglected, and foreigners often found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the congregation how Israel suffered bondage in Egypt. He urged the people to remember the poor and let them glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Deuteronomy 25

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following outline of principles for your study.

I. Capital Punishment and Civil Justice (Deuteronomy 25:1-4)

II. Family Posterity (Deuteronomy 25:5-12)

III. Business and Commerce (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

IV. The Offence of an Enemy (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Closing thoughts:

Once again, I trust you have seen the grace of God evidenced throughout His Laws and Commandments. Although some invite believers to ignore the Old Testament altogether, they do so at their peril and that of their followers. But, of course, the greatest expression of God’s Law and grace is identified in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Questions to consider:

1) Could a divorced man remarry his wife after she had been married to another man? (Deuteronomy 24:4)

2) What was God’s judgment concerning human traffickers? (Deuteronomy 24:7)

3) Rather than long terms of imprisonment, how was an offense settled in Israel? (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The “Axe” of God’s Judgment is Suspended Over the Heads of Fathers and Husbands (Numbers 29; Numbers 30)

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Scripture reading – Numbers 29-30

We began a study of instructions regarding the offerings required by the LORD in Numbers 28 and continued with the same through Numbers 29. Because we have considered the same sacrifices and feasts in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 16 and Leviticus 23), I will limit my study of Numbers 29 to a summary of the offerings and feast days.

Numbers 29

The Law of the Offerings (continued from Numbers 28)

The Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement (Numbers 29:1-11)

The “Feast of Trumpets” marked the beginning of a new year on the Hebrew calendar (29:1-6), and was followed by the holiest of days, the “Day of Atonement” (29:7-11).  Also known as “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement was the only day the high priest entered the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 16).

Of course, believers no longer need a high priest or the blood of sacrifices because Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirement of the sacrificial Passover lamb. By His death on the Cross, He is our High Priest (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:22-28; 9:11-28; 10:19-22).

The “Feast of Tabernacles” (Numbers 29:12-40)

The “Feast of Tabernacles” (29:12-34), also known as Sukkot, followed the “Day of Atonement” and was observed by Israel as a celebration of the harvest. Lasting seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles began with a Sabbath Rest (29:12) and ended with a Sabbath of Rest (29:35-38). Finally, the sacrifices were presented to the LORD for all the congregation (29:39-40).

Numbers 30

The Making and Breaking of Promises and Vows (Numbers 30:1-2)

In my lifetime, I have witnessed a shift in our society’s character from where a man’s word and a handshake were binding, compared to today when contracts are breached without so much as an apology. Therefore, it may surprise you to learn the LORD’s judgment regarding promises and vows (Leviticus 27).

King Solomon warned, “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5).

Vows and covenants were not to be treated lightly, and once a man made a vow, it was binding. There was no exception for men; however, God benevolently allowed for an exception in daughters and wives who might have made hasty, ill-advised vows (30:3-8, 10-15).

Spiritual lesson – Fathers and husbands are accountable and responsible for caring for and protecting the women in their lives.

Sadly, with the demand for “women’s rights,” a man’s privilege of protecting his daughters and wife has been neglected in the 21st century. Consider the vows, pledges, and contracts in Numbers 30 and God’s compassionate care of women (Numbers 30:3-16).

An Unmarried Daughter’s Vow (Numbers 30:3-5)

A daughter, living in her father’s household, was by law under his protection (30:3-5). Should a daughter bind herself with a vow, and upon her father hearing of it but saying nothing, she could not be released from her vow (30:4). However, should a daughter vow, and the father hear of it, he had the authority to recant her vow, and her vow would not be binding (30:5).

A Young Wife’s Vow (Numbers 30:6-8)

When a woman married, she was no longer under her father’s authority but that of her husband. Should she make a vow, and her husband hears but says nothing regarding it, his wife was bound by her vow (30:6-7). A husband, however, hearing of a wife’s vow, had the authority to cancel her oath, and “the LORD [would] forgive her” (30:8).

The Vow of a Widowed or Divorced Woman (Numbers 30:9)

Women who were widowed or divorced were not under the authority of any man. Therefore, they were bound by their vows to the LORD and could not recant them (30:9). Widowed and divorced women were under obligation to fulfill their pledges.

A Wife’s Vows (Numbers 30:10-15)

The law concerning the vows of a wife served as a reminder that she was not only under her husband’s authority but was also under his protection. A husband had the authority to intervene, terminate his wife’s vow, or allow it to stand (30:10-16). Once he learned of her vow, he carried the weight of determining whether or not he would intervene.

Nevertheless, should the husband cause his wife to break her vow unadvisedly, he would do so, bearing the responsibility of “her iniquity” and, therefore, her judgment (30:15).

Closing thoughts:

A man was bound and accountable to God for caring for his wife and daughter(s) as long as they were in his household (30:16). Even so, though society has changed, godly men will love, care, and protect women in their lives. Furthermore, wives and daughters should take comfort in this:

The weight of the axe of God’s judgment hangs over their father or husband.

Questions to consider:

1) What was the law of God concerning vows made by men? (Numbers 30:1)

2) What was the will of God should a daughter make an ill-advised vow? (Numbers 30:3-5)

3) Why should widows and divorced women be especially careful when making a vow? (Numbers 30:9)

4) Who would bear the judgment should a husband cancel his wife’s vow? (Numbers 30:15)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The Final Census, Women’s Rights and a New Leader (Numbers 26; Numbers 27)

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Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of 24,000 people (25:9). With the plague passed, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 

The Final Census Before the Promised Land (26:1-51)

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel was first taken in Numbers 1-4. Comparing that census with this later one revealed a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced significant population growth (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200 to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes were recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

How the Land Would be Divided (26:52-62)

The census was necessary, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe the LORD chose to serve Him, did not inherit land in Canaan (26:62).

A Sobering Reminder of the Generation that Perished (26:62-65)

Numbers 26 concluded with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him. As a result, all, twenty years and older, perished in the wilderness, save two men: “For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 

Women’s Rights of Inheritance (27:1-11)

Numbers 27:1-11 is a case study regarding women’s rights and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men followed the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize that the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters of one man of the tribe of Manasseh came to Moses and Eleazar, the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, leaving no male heir. Therefore, the daughters could plead their case regarding their late father’s right of inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s estate was to pass to his son; however, what became of a man’s possessions when there was no son?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) They pleaded that they and their father had been slighted and petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew and “brought [the] cause[of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD affirmed the sisters’ assertion (27:6) and answered Moses: “Thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (27:7). To ensure a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, it was determined that should a man die and have neither a son nor daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

End of an Era: Moses’ Imminent Death (27:12-13)

The LORD then commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

A Changing of the Guard: A Man of God’s Choosing (27:14-23)

Moses was then reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13). With humility, he accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Then, like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing and have a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

So, God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was His choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

Closing thoughts:

Although he was one of the most extraordinary men ever to live, Moses inevitably went the way of all flesh and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had disobeyed the LORD and sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without entering the Promised Land (27:14).

I am reminded that “the best of men are men at best,” and their lives are no more than “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Many ignore and deny the haunting fact that it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27); however, godly men pray, “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Make today count for eternity and “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Questions to consider:

1) Who was to be counted in the census? (26:2)

2) How many sons did Joseph have, and what were their names? (26:28)

3) How many men were numbered in Israel before they entered the Promised Land? (26:51)

4) Why did the daughters of Zelophehad come to Moses and Eleazar? (27:3-4)

5) Understanding his death was imminent, what request did Moses bring to the LORD? (27:15-17)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Sometimes Saying, “I’m sorry” is Not Enough! (Exodus 21; Exodus 22)

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Scripture reading: Exodus 21-22

Having established the Ten Commandments as the foundation of God’s Covenant with Israel, today’s Scripture reading states the practical and personal application of the Commandments. We read, “Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them” (21:1).

The following verses served not only Israel but have been the foundation of democratic law and government down through the centuries. You will find here the basis of your sense of justice and fairness. Yet, tragically, I fear the principles recorded here have been forgotten and discarded by leaders, politicians, and citizens of the 21st century.

Exodus 21 

Human Rights: Precepts for Slavery, Manslaughter, Rebellion, and Injury

Slavery and indentured servitude (21:1-11) have been practiced since ancient times and continue in some form to this day. Those who object to the inclusion of this topic in the Bible must realize it was a commonly accepted practice and had to be addressed righteously. Understanding poverty might reduce a man to slavery; the LORD instituted prudent principles that forbade injustice. Here we have guidelines to impart dignity to even the lowest household servant. Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of human trafficking and “sex slaves” today, perpetuating the shameful abuses God’s Law prohibits.

Slavery and Individual Sovereignty (21:1-6)

Should a Hebrew man become impoverished and reduced to slavery to pay his debt, he would serve his master no more than six years. Upon the seventh year, he was to be freed from his indebtedness and servitude (21:1-2). Should a married man be reduced to servitude, he, his wife, and his children would be released in the seventh year.

However, should a man take a wife during his servitude, he alone would be at liberty in the seventh year (21:3-4). Although freed from obligation, should the man love his master and not want to depart alone, he was permitted to choose to continue voluntarily as a slave (21:5). Such a man would have his ear bored through (21:6) and would serve either till the death of his master, or be set free with his family in the year of jubilee (which would occur every 50 years).

The Desperate Role of Daughters (21:7-11)

Poverty might sometimes force a father to part with his daughter and sell her to another as a household servant (21:7). Because this system was fraught with abuses, the Law provided guidelines to preserve the dignity and reputation of Hebrew daughters. For example, a poor man who desired a better life for his daughter sometimes permitted a wealthy man to purchase her and take her to his wife when she came of age. When she came of age, if the man or his son refused to marry her, they would send her away with a dowry enough to provide her food and clothing and with no further obligation to the benefactor (21:8-11).

The Sanctity of Human Life (21:12-14)

The sixth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13). Prudently, God’s Law recognized a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent, 21:12-14).

The Honor to be Afforded Parents (21:15, 17).

The fifth commandment said, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (20:12). Cursing or striking one’s parents was a capital offense, and death was mandated (21:15, 17). Still, we must understand that cursing or hitting one’s father or mother carried judicial stipulations. The commandments are filled with conditions, longsuffering, and love. In addition, all offenses were brought before a judicial body that ruled over offenses. As such, we do not have a Biblical account of any being put to death for this offense.

Justice and Fair Compensation for Loss (21:18-36)

Fair and adequate compensation was required for accidental injuries that did not result in death. Should a victim of injury be unable to provide for himself or his family, he was to be fairly and adequately compensated (21:18-32). The law states, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (21:24). Losses caused by one’s negligence were to be compensated (21:28-36). It did not require the offender to lose his eye, tooth, or life.

Exodus 22

Theft and Endangerment of One’s Livelihood were not Tolerated. (22:1-13)

The theft of ox or sheep was a serious offense (22:1-4) in an agricultural society where a man’s livelihood and his family’s well-being depended on farming and husbandry. Damage to a man’s vineyard or crops required fair compensation for the loss (22:5-6).

Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people, and fair compensation for losses, whether caused by theft or neglect, was mandated (22:7-15).

Loans and the Obligation of Debtors (22:14-15)

Exodus 22:14-15 states the obligation a borrower assumed when using another man’s property. For the sake of illustration, if a farmer borrowed another man’s ox to plow his field, and the ox was injured or died, the borrower became a debtor and was under obligation to “make it good” (22:14). In other words, one must choose to either repay or replace the ox.  An exception to the law of repayment or replacement was when the owner of an ox plowed another man’s field “for his hire” (22:15). Because he was hired to plow a field, the employer (owner of the field) was not under obligation to replace the ox.

Exodus 22 concluded with various laws that addressed moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  The matter of borrowing, and indebtedness were addressed as well as charging excessive interest that imposed unnecessary hardships on the poor were condemned (22:25-27).

Closing thoughts:

The Law and its application to daily life necessitate honesty and integrity. Indeed, the need for spiritual principles and values is as great today as they were when they were given. Certainly, if we want the next generation to have integrity, they must be taught to be responsible. Justice and fairness demand that when one’s actions cause injury or loss, there is an obligation to make the injured party whole.

After all, sometimes saying, “I’m sorry,” is not enough! 

Questions to consider:

1) To pay a debt, a man might be forced to become an indentured servant (slave). What was the maximum number of years a man might be enslaved? (Exodus 21:2)

2) What would become of a man’s wife and children should he marry while enslaved? (Exodus 21:4)

3) What physical sign identified a man as a willing, voluntary servant? (Exodus 21:5-6)

4) The penalty for intentional murder was death (Exodus 21:12). What was the consequence of manslaughter (unintentional killing of another)? (Exodus 21:13)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The Ten Commandments – Part 2 (Exodus 20)

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Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

All of Israel witnessed the outward manifestation of God’s heavenly glory as smoke and fire engulfed Mount Sinai. The trumpet blasts warned man, woman, and beast that none dared approach the mount and live (19:12-13). Then, out of the midst of the mountain, the LORD was heard saying, “I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (20:2).

Exodus 20

The Ten Commandments were part of the LORD’S covenant with Israel, and the people were commanded to hear, heed, and obey them (20:1-17).

The first commandment stated, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (20:3). Unlike the neighboring nations who worshipped innumerable gods, Israel was to worship one God—Yahweh, Elohim, the True, Eternal, Self-existent One.

The second commandment was, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (20:4-6). Unlike their neighbors, Israel was not to worship idols or images like Israel’s God. The people were warned that the family would bear the guilt for violating the second commandment and thereby invoke God’s judgment “upon the children” (20:5).

The third commandment reminded Israel that the essence of God’s character was summed up in His name. We read, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7). God’s name was to be honored and not spoken of lightly or in vain. The name and meaning of Israel’s God was to be hallowed.

The fourth commandment served as a reminder that Israel’s God was Creator, and the Sabbath would serve as a day of rest and a memorial to His handiwork. Of the Sabbath, we read: “8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (20:8-11). The Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated to the LORD as a day of worship and rest (31:16-17).

The fifth commandment moved the emphasis of the Law and Commandments from man’s relationship with his Creator to his relationship with his fellow man. Israel was commanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (20:12). Because fathers and mothers represented God’s authority, sons and daughters of Israel were to honor and revere their parents. Likewise, the elderly were to be honored and revered; any who failed were condemned (Deuteronomy 27:16). The fifth commandment also carried a particular promise and reward–long life (20:12b; Ephesians 6:1-3).

The sixth commandment was a reminder of the sanctity of human life: “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13). Because Adam was created in God’s image, the life of man and woman were to be valued as sacred (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-22).

The seventh commandment served as a reminder of the sanctity of marriage. The LORD commanded Israel, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (20:14). From the beginning, God established the institution of marriage as a sacred covenant between Himself and the man and woman. It was ordained by their Creator that “man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). As “one flesh,” the bond between the husband and his wife is not to be broken (Genesis 2:24). So sacred is the institution of marriage, that it served in the New Testament as a picture of Christ’s enduring love for believers and the church (Ephesians 5:30-32; Matthew 5:27-29).

The eighth commandment established the right of ownership. It stated: Thou shalt not steal” (20:15). Thus, to take that which belonged to another (whether by theft or deceit) was a sin against God and man (Ephesians 4:28).

The ninth commandment demanded that truth would prevail. We read, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). God’s people were to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29), and libel, slander, or bearing false witness was a grievous sin.

The tenth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not covet,” and focused upon desires for that which belonged to another. So we read, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (20:17). Though manifested outwardly, covetousness is deeply-rooted within the heart of man.

The Manner of Worship Required by a Holy God (Exodus 20:18-26)

Having forbidden idols and images of Himself (20:4-6; 23-25), the LORD was also concerned about the attitude and manner of those who approached His altar to worship and offer sacrifices. Therefore, steps were forbidden at the altar to preserve a modest, respectful decorum, lest those who worshipped be perceived as immodest (20:26).

Closing thoughts:

The LORD’S expectations for Israel’s altar, and His demand for modesty, should be instructive. The priests were commanded to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the holiness of God. There were not to allow “nakedness” (immodesty) to distract those who worshipped the LORD (20:26).

Tragically, “anything goes” seems to be the mode of worshippers in the 21st-century church. I fear there is little thought given to the manner or style of worshiping God who is holy.

Questions to consider:

1) Was Israel permitted to have and worship a physical likeness (image) of God? (Exodus 20:4)

2) What were the people promised if they kept God’s Commandments? (20:6)

3) Why was Israel commanded to consider the Sabbath a holy day? (20:11)

4) What two commandments stressed the sanctity of human life and marriage? (Exodus 20:13-14)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

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“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for through his mother, he had supplanted his brother and been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was altered at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30) when God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God could rest.

Jacob (Israel) had borne the weight of great sorrows, but at his death, was surrounded by his family and comforted by the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Jacob was then embalmed in the manner of Egypt, and even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came from Egypt and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13).

His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen” (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

 

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past his trials with eyes of faith and rested in the providence of God. He then assured his brothers and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). So he comforted them, and said, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

 

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised. In death, he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph repeated the promise and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

Closing thoughts – I conclude this commentary and thank you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel so that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). I invite you to share your decision of faith or thoughts with this author by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Questions to consider:

1) How did Joseph and his brothers honor their father after his death, and what lessons might we take from their examples? (Genesis 50:1-14)

2) Why did Joseph’s brothers fear him after Jacob, their father, died? (Genesis 50:15)

3) Rather than seeking vengeance and being bitter for the wrongs he had suffered from his brothers, Joseph expressed confidence in God’s sovereignty and faith in His providences. What did Joseph say? (Genesis 50:19-20)

4) Are you angry or bitter because someone wronged you? How would your life change if you adopted Joseph’s confidence in God’s sovereignty and providence?

5) What was Joseph’s dying wish? (Genesis 50:24-50)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48; Genesis 49)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

Genesis 48

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself from his bed, Jacob reminded Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4).

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronounce God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh, the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had disgraced the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing and inheritance.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand and insisted that the firstborn’s blessing would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he received through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons and prophetic insight into their lineages were recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third-born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits and told their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth-born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s family, the tenth-born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan was the fifth-born son; his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would judge the tribes of Israel (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a line said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a wealthy tribe and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23). As a result, God elevated him, and he became the shepherd of his family and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though he had been separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

With his dying breaths, Jacob repeated his request to be buried in Canaan and the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were buried. Then we read, “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Closing thoughts – Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. Now named Israel, the old patriarch was given the burial honors of a ruler; however, Joseph’s brothers feared that upon his father’s death, he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Questions to consider:

  1. What was Jacob’s (Israel’s) final request before he died? (Genesis 47:29-31)
  1. What two covenant promises did Jacob rehearse with Joseph? (Genesis 48:4)
  1. The lineages of Joseph’s two sons would become two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (in the place of the two sons of Jacob whose sins disgraced his household). What were the names of the two sons of Jacob who were displaced? (48:5-6).

Joseph was blessed with a double portion of inheritance for his faithfulness through his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. (48:20-22)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

Genesis 37 concluded with Joseph’s brothers returning to Canaan with his bloodied tunic. Deceiving their father and breaking his heart, they led him to believe Joseph was dead (37:29-35). Meanwhile, Joseph was transported to Egypt, and there he was sold to an Egyptian named “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard”(37:36).

Genesis 38 – Judah, an Inauspicious Beginning of a Royal Lineage

The study of Joseph’s life was intersected briefly as the focus shifted to Judah (29:35), the fourth-born son of Jacob (38:1). Although his lineage will be a royal one of whom king David and Jesus Christ will be born (Mary and Joseph were both descendants of Judah), our introduction to Judah in Genesis 38 is an ignoble one.

Failing to evidence the character of a righteous man, we find Judah had a close friendship with “a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah” (38:1). Adullam was located in the pastoral lands of southern Judah. It was probably while shepherding his father’s flocks that he became an acquaintance of Hirah. Judah’s questionable friendship led to an interest in a woman named Shuah, a Canaanite, and not one God or his father would have approved (38:2).

Judah took Shuah as his wife, and she conceived three sons (38:3). The firstborn was named Er (38:3), the second son was Onan (38:4), and the third-born son was Shelah (38:5). Er, Judah’s firstborn, took a wife named Tamar; however, before she conceived, the LORD slew him because he was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” (38:6-7). Following the custom of a man marrying his brother’s widow to perpetuate his lineage, Onan, Judah’s second son, rejected Tamar. As a result, the LORD “slew him also” (38:10). Twice a widow, Judah then sent Tamar to her father’s home, vowing she would be given an opportunity to marry his youngest son, a promise he had no intent to keep (38:11).

Learning Judah was a widower (38:12) and realizing he had deceived her, Tamar set on a course to ensnare her father-in-law. Concealing her identity and posing as a prostitute (38:14), she tempted Judah. Unfortunately, he foolishly turned aside and negotiated a price for her favors (38:15-17). Tamar, however, was a shrewd woman, and until Judah could fulfill her fee, she demanded a pledge, a deposit, that would serve as her security. Judah then presented her with personal items that would be easily identifiable: a “signet” that would be used to seal documents, his bracelets, and his staff (38:18).

Genesis 38:18-30

“She conceived by him.” (38:18b). Although a simple, four-worded phrase, it serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Three months after she conceived, Judah learned that Tamar was with child, and he was told that “she [was] with child by whoredom” (38:24).

Hypocritically, Judah condemned Tamar to “be burnt” (38:24b); however, she produced the personal items he had left with her: “the signet, and bracelets, and staff” (38:25). Acknowledging they were his, he confessed, “She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah, my son. And he knew her again no more” (38:26).

Tamar conceived twin sons by Judah; thus, Pharez, the older son, and Zarah became his heirs. He evidenced sincere repentance when he confessed his sin, which was seen in his withdrawal from her (38:26b).

The story of Judah and Tamar is a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, for their sons are named in the lineage of kings and Christ (Matthew 1:3). Pharez, the firstborn son, is in the direct line of the Messiah.

Genesis 39 – The Providence of God: The LORD is with us!

Following the life of Joseph is akin to a spiritual rollercoaster with incredible highs, followed by events that would threaten to plunge most men into a slough of despair.

Rather than give in to despondency and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD remained unshaken, and he rose from slave to steward over Potiphar’s household (37:36). Even when his master’s wife endeavored to entrap him in her lusts (39:7), Joseph refused her advances. He reasoned, “how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (39:9)

Although a young man, Joseph did not rationalize sin and instead resisted it (39:9-11). When Potiphar’s wife thrust herself upon him, he ran from her embrace, leaving behind the garment she had seized from him (39:12-13). When she falsely accused him of indiscretion, Joseph held his peace and was sentenced to prison (39:19-23). Yet, when he was a prisoner and wrongfully accused, he prospered. Why? “Because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

Closing thoughts – I look forward to sharing the rest of the story, the testimony of God’s providences in Joseph’s life, and how the LORD made him prosper even in the darkest times!

Questions to Consider

1) Did you notice the double standard Judah and his culture held for men as contrasted with women? (Genesis 38:24-36)

2) How do a person’s actions reveal their character?

3) When Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife’s advances, how did she react to his refusal? (Genesis 39:13-18)

4) Why did Joseph continue to prosper, even when falsely accused and imprisoned? (Genesis 39:20-21)

5) How do you respond when falsely accused?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can subscribe to the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36

Now, the LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33), so when Esau received news that his twin brother, Jacob, was returning home, he set out to meet him and was accompanied by “four hundred men” (33:1a). Yet, instead of exacting revenge for his brother’s egregious past, Esau gave Jacob a loving embrace, and together they wept for joy. Although he was received in peace by his brother, Jacob refused his invitation to enter the land and traveled instead to Succoth. There he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17), a fateful decision that later brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”) and fulfill the promise he made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

I find Jacob’s preparation instructive for believers who desire to worship and walk in the ways of the LORD. Consider with me three preparatory steps Jacob took as he prepared his household for Bethel, “the house of God” (Genesis 35:2-4).

First, Jacob commanded his household to “put away [their] strange gods” (35:2b).

How did “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? There are several reasons: Remember Laban’s father, Bethuel, was the son of Nahor, Abraham’s older brother (Genesis 11). Furthermore, Abraham and Nahor’s father was Terah, who made, sold, and worshipped idols. As a result, idol possession and worship would have been an integrated part of Laban’s family history. In addition, and unfortunately, Jacob was unaware that his wife Rachel had taken her father’s idols and hidden them in her belongings. Finally, of course, there was also a possibility that the people taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem (33:18) had brought along their gods and idols (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c).

Cleanliness for God’s people affected every part of their life.  There could be no spiritual cleanliness without physical cleanliness (i.e., eat clean, and have a pure heart so that what comes out of the mouth is as clean as what goes into the mouth). So Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, purify themselves and be holy, as God had spoken.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d).

They were to replace the old robes that reminded them of their past and put on new garments. Such was Paul’s challenge to believers when he observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When Jacob arrived at Bethel, he built an altar, led his family to worship the LORD, and offered sacrifices (35:6-7). 

Sadly, Jacob’s return to Bethel was not without its sorrows, for the deaths of three loved ones marked the occasion. Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and perhaps one who assisted with rearing Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored that beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife and the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, his twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding further to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest-living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). As is sometimes the case, Isaac’s death brought his sons, Jacob and Esau, together so that they might honor and bury their father (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 records the births of Esau’s five sons, born of three wives (36:1-5). We also read the birth record of Esau’s grandsons. Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob. Soon after, he moved his family to Mount Seir in Edom (36:6-8). Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke” was given to his grandsons (36:15-19). As was prophesied of Esau, his lineage became “Dukes,” commanders of men and soldiers who lived by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites were descendants of Esau and will play a significant role in our study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Home, Not So Sweet Home (Genesis 33-34)

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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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