Monthly Archives: April 2018

The boys send a message

The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.” Genesis 34:13-17

In many ancient cultures, women were objects of love and desire, as well as property. Rape could be paid for. And it seemed like Shechem could have his way with Dinah and keep her for a price. And Jacob, her father, held his peace until his sons had weighed in.

The fact that God did not want them intermarrying with idolators complicated this matter. Jacob was in a place where he should have told them why this rape could not be rectified on normal terms. Shechem and his whole tribe was unholy, and they could not just do a bride exchange and become one people. But this would have been awkward. And as a remedy, Shechem would probably have to be executed. But angrier heads prevailed as Jacob’s sons came up with a plot that would demonstrate the severity of what had happened for all time.

After the men of Schechem have all been circumcised, and are quite incapacitated, Levi and Simeon go in and slay all the men, and the rest of the brother’s plunder the city, even taking the women and children. Jacob is understandably disturbed at how this will make him look to all the other people groups who are their neighbors. But he did not act as the patriarch he was, and left it to the mob: his angry sons.

Getting Justice is about giving people what they deserve. Did all of Shechem’s tribe deserve this? No. The Justice got socialized. That is how you go about punishing a group for what an individual has done.

When you ad a modifier to the word “justice,” it changes it’s meaning. Social justice is not justice at all. It’s mob rule. And it appears to be profitable as well. The innocent got milked dry for reparations. This still happens today.

Already forgiven

And Jacob lifted up 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 female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Genesis 33:1-7

The last thing Jacob remembers about Esau is how he stole his blessing, and that Esau wanted to kill him. But that was twenty years ago. In the meantime, Esau must have prospered. He came with four hundred men to meet Jacob. That’s quite a posse. All these years he may have regretted his anger. His mother may have even made that lentil stew that Esau traded his birthright for, just to rub it in. I don’t know how else to explain his delight that his brother has returned.

I see in this a foreshadowing of the prodigal son, who believed his father was angry, only to discover how happy he was to take him back. Only the prodigal son had no gifts to offer, unlike Jacob, who tried to sweeten the deal with flocks and herds as an offering. When we come to Christ, whether we come naked and destitute or hurling riches at His feet, He has forgiven us already. He is waiting for us to turn back to Him, where our debt is already paid.

As an interesting sidebar, Jacob and his family and servants all come bowing low to Esau to appease him. Joseph is among them, and one day he would be the one before whom they would bow. And he would be the one who had prospered and greeted them with tears.

About that blessing…

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” Genesis 32:9-12

Jacob had moved to Laban’s land for two reasons: to find a wife, and to keep from being killed by his brother, Esau. Now Esau is coming to see him with 400 men. This, understandably, alarms Jacob. He starts dividing his camp so that if Esau attacks, one of them will survive. Soon he will be preparing lavish gifts to send ahead to appease Esau. He is preparing for the worst.

But then he prays and reminds himself of God’s promise and God’s faithfulness. He is actually reminding God, but God has a long memory. This is more for Jacob’s own benefit, to fill himself with hope.

Most of us are unaware of God’s promises to us. We beg God for what he has already said he would do, but without faith it is impossible to please Him. In Hebrews 4:3, in the New Living Translation, we are told, “For this good news–that God has prepared this rest–has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.” God’s promises are negated by our unbelief, just as Christ’s sacrifice for the sin of the world only works for those who believe.

The moral high ground is costly

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me.” Genesis 31:1-7

Jacob has patiently born all of Laban’s conniving ways for twenty years. He has kept his end of the bargain and might have left after fourteen years, when he had fulfilled his obligations for his wives. Or he may have left in a little over seven years, as soon as he acquired Rachel. She was the wife he had actually worked for. But Jacob waited until God told him to leave. And at this point he was a large household with assets, and the total cooperation of both Laban’s daughters.

Even though it was obvious to anyone that Laban had abused his relationship with Jacob, Laban and his son’s were blinded by envy. God had blessed whatever Jacob had put his hand to, and they felt that they had been wronged. Laban would have to get a message from God in a dream to keep from harming Jacob when he caught up with him.

When it feels like someone is taking advantage of you, God sees it, and will settle the score in His own way. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” 1 Peter 5:6.

Doing business with relatives

Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons. And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock. Genesis 30:29-36

Laban has prospered because of Jacob, but he doesn’t want to share it. He has dealt dishonestly with Jacob by making him marry both Leah and Rachel. Jacob is ready to be his own man and return to the land God has promised him. So he makes a deal with Laban to get paid in speckled sheep. Laban agrees and immediately removes all the speckled breeding stock from the flock Jacob is caring for. Laban is setting up Jacob again, not realizing that God is about to weigh in for Jacob.

It is better to do right and let God be your advocate than to fight for material riches, especially wmay.ith family. Later, Paul tells us not to take other believers to court, saying, “Would you not rather be wronged?” (1 Corinthians 6:7). So likewise, Jacob leaves his wages in God’s hands, letting the speckled sheep fall where they may.