Summary: Immorality no longer lingers in the shadows. Violence and lawlessness no longer seek to hide around corners. How do we respond to the cultural depravity around us when it touches our lives?
Genesis 34 – CAVEAT ON DEPRAVITY
Immorality no longer lingers in the shadows but openly parades in the streets in the guise of normality. Violence and lawlessness no longer seek to hide around corners but carry knives and guns and bombs shouting out their chanted slogans in the guise of justice.
Looking around our world after I read Genesis 34 in the Bible is disturbing. I see we live in a world that seeks to justify it’s sinful behaviors, labeling them as cultural and religious norms and seeking to impose their aberrant standards with unbending severity on anyone who doesn’t agree.
Christ-followers are often regarded as being out of touch and negative about our world, but they, in turn, regard many in our society as blind to what is evil and good. The principles found in the Bible which form the basic standards of morality and values on which society thrives are ignored all too readily.
Along with the pristine beauty and wonders of parts of our world, I must admit, I do see a darker side in the nature of our society. Politicians pander to the latest sinful fads and religious leaders, like cowered dogs, are unwilling even to debate our changing values. Unchecked in News broadcasts I am fed an ever increasing diet of violence and horror hand-in-hand with a political correctness that seeks to sugar coat our shame and justify our sinful desires.
I find it a challenge to live the life for which I was created. At times I am tempted to water down what the Bible clearly states to be sin as I am confronted by the entanglement of cultural webs of expectation in our world. They are so perplexing and often so sinister it becomes a constant test of discernment to find the ethical way ahead.
Perhaps nothing has really changed for thousands of years since this is also the dilemma of Jacob and his sons in Genesis 34.
Getting away from the greed and control of his uncle Laban, Jacob has learned some lessons about deception, but he is soon to learn that the very worst of his traits in deceptiveness have been passed on to his children. Jacob has moved from Laban’s slow boiling pot of sinful exploitation to an exploding cauldron of immorality and violence in the place where he has settled.
This story makes me wonder how I would respond. It is not a story I particularly like, even though I am grateful that the Bible is brutally truthful. Immoral sexual deviancy and unchecked violence are rampant enough on the News without being confronted by it again in the book of Genesis.
Perhaps that’s why the Bible is an even more important mirror into which I must gaze than social trends. It will enable me perspective to honestly assess the developing tumors of cultural depravity and avoid the quagmires of aberrant behaviors and practices to which I, as a member of humanity, am equally susceptible. I cannot ignore the clear standards of the Bible, but how should I apply these standards?
So I embark on this chapter with an initial response of revulsion, avenging justice and shame by what I see happening. Caveat on depravity.
SEND IN SOMEONE TO BLAME
Genesis 34 reads like a Newspaper article on terrorism.
A local prince, Shechem, seizes Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and rapes her. When Jacob’s sons discover what has happened, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, take their swords and enter the town and slaughter every male there, including Shechem. Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons plunder the town – everything they can lay their hands on. They also take all their little children and wives and lead them away as captives.
With such a terrible story, I was interested to read some commentary on this part of the Bible. Some commentators actually seek to defend Jacob’s sons saying they performed an act of judgment sanctioned by God for their murderous acts. Other commentators blame Dinah for what happens to her. She is at fault for carelessly placing herself in danger of being raped. Some blame Jacob for settling in a pagan neighborhood for the sake of doing business and putting his daughter in harm’s way by not escorting her wherever she went. Still others blame Hamor, Shechem’s father, for pandering to his son and not providing him with a moral compass.
But why try to excuse the actions of murderers who misuse God’s covenant for their crimes? Why try to blame the victim of rape? Why try to blame fathers for the crimes of their sons? Such distorted commentary does not seem to me to be helpful in finding the message here. In hindsight, we can always point the finger.
JACOB, you should have….
Genesis 33:17-20 says Jacob settles in Succoth and builds a house so he obviously stays for some time. Later he travels to Shechem in the land of Canaan and sets up camp outside the town. He buys a plot of land from the family of Hamor for 100 pieces of silver, again obviously intending to build a house and settle down with his family, and do business in the town. He builds an altar to God to declare his allegiance, a witness to his faith in God.