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Reading Through the Bible, Wednesday, January 12 — Genesis 34-36

The story of Dinah and the Shechemites is somewhat of an embarrassment – mainly because we don’t know who to despise more.  First, there is Dinah, who “went out to see” (or visit) the women of the land – women we know to be of such ill-repute that Abraham’s descendants would not choose their wives from them.  Then, there is Shechem, who engages in a sexual relationship (you cannot tell this is rape from the text) with Dinah.  There are Jacob’s boys who abuse the sign of their relationship with God (circumcision) as a means of exacting revenge, and the people of Shechem who see the same sign as a means of stealing the wealth of Jacob’s family.  Finally, there is Jacob who from beginning to end refuses to do anything.

Did I leave anybody out?

Oh yes . . . God!  But then again, He is unmentioned in the chapter.

When Jacob left home, he promised at Bethel if the Lord would watch over him, make him prosper, and return him to his father’s house, the Lord would be his God and he would give God a tenth of all his wealth.  Over the next quarter century, God did watch over him and made him richer than Jacob could have imagined.  But Jacob did not return to Bethel.  In fact, he had no intention of returning there for in chapter 33 he buys land from the sons of Hamor and settles there.  After this horrid event, God has to tell him: “Go to Bethel.”

Two things stand out in this story: First, how far Jacob and his family have wandered from God.  They act as if they are totally on their own, not giving the Lord and His desire for them a thought.  It leads to timidity on Jacob’s part, and murder on his sons’ part.  And perhaps, living in that land, associating with those people, has led to sexual immorality on Dinah’s part.  Her brothers insist Shechem “treated her as a prostitute,” one who has sex willingly with those she is not married to.

The second thing is subtle.  To have sex with someone not your wife is “a thing that should not be done.”  It did not matter that Shechem wanted to marry her.  He had no right to her until marriage.  The land of Canaan would tolerate a less strict sense of morality, and so will our own.  But such is not the way of God.