Daily email from the Vicar Number 95

It is Saturday, or Super-Saturday as it is being called as Lockdown begins to ease even more.  Enjoy folks, but still be careful, we don’t want any of you to catch the virus.
Our Bible passage today is Genesis Chapter 34.  After the thrill of a brotherly reconciliation yesterday we swiftly come back down to earth with a massive bump, as this is a very unedifying story.  You probably have never heard a sermon or talk on this, or even the story read out publicly.
I have sympathy with that reality, but I also have a high view of Scripture, that all of it is God’s Word and is there to teach us, and you know my frequent refrain that the Bible is an honest book, it tells us the bad as well as the good.
We often think about Jacob and his 12 sons, who were to be the basis for the 12 tribes of Israel, but he also had a daughter Dinah, her birth is mentioned in passing (Ch.30 v.21), and she is at the centre of this and the victim of a horrendous act.
So some thoughts and notes to help us navigate through the mess.
– Firstly Jacob and his family shouldn’t really have been there in the first place.  He was on his way back to Bethel, the place where he had met with God back at the end of Chapter 28, and to where God intervenes and calls him to at the beginning of the next chapter (Ch.35 v.1).  He had delayed and stayed in Shechem too long for their own good.  God’s people should not court trouble for themselves.
– I am not condoning Shechem’s deed AT ALL, rape is ALWAYS wrong, sexual intercourse should be a loving mutual act within marriage, but the text does tell us that his heart was drawn to Dinah, and that he wanted to marry her.
– This desire leads to Shechem’s father and ultimately the rest of the community thinking it would be a good thing to intermarry with Jacob’s family, absorb them into their own community and benefit from all their material blessings.  This is a constant danger that Israel faced throughout the Old Testament, to be absorbed in and lose their distinctiveness as the people of God.  This is still a danger to the people of God today, the church.
– Dinah’s brothers wanted justice, a good thing, but they were very cunning/deceitful in their plan (now where did they get that from?) to get Shechem and others to be circumcised.  And they were completely over the top in killing every male in the city (v.25) and taking everything including their women and children as plunder (v.29).
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth etc’ which becomes part of the Law in Moses’ time is actually a restriction, so that when justice is meted out it is fair and measured.
– In the end Jacob is not happy with what 2 of his sons have done, and he is fearful there will be more trouble ahead, so we have more division in the family.
I hope you don’t mind some more extensive notes, but I feel we need to grapple with such things.
What a mess, it is a gruesome reminder that we live in a sinful world, of which we are part, and if we try and solve things in our own way, then the mess is likely to get worse.  And perhaps the only prayer we can pray is, Lord have mercy.
As always any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask.
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