Now that Jacob has reconciled with his brother, he wants to settle in the land of Canaan in peace. The word shalem, “safely” (Genesis 33:18, NKJV), from the word shalom, “peace,” for the first time characterizes his journey.
After having purchased a piece of land from the inhabitants (Genesis 33:19), he erects an altar there, showing his faith and his realization about how dependent upon the Lord he really is. For every one of the sacrifices offered, there was an act of worship.
Yet, for the first time in his life, Jacob-Israel is exposed to the troubles of settling in the land. Like Isaac at Gerar with Abimelech (Genesis 26:1-33), Jacob tries to find accommodation with the Canaanites.
Read Genesis 34:1-31. What happened to upset his plans for a peaceful existence?
The story of this sordid incident highlights the ambiguity of the characters and of their actions. The sensual Shechem, who violates Dinah, is also characterized as sincere and loving Dinah and who wants to try to make amends. He is even willing to undergo the covenant rite of circumcision.
Meanwhile, Simeon and Levi, who present themselves as the defenders of God and His commandments, and who resist intermarriage with the Canaanites (Leviticus 19:29), resort to lies and deception (Genesis 34:13) and are ready to kill and plunder (Genesis 34:25-27). Their actions were not only reprehensible (why not punish the one man who had done it?) but had the potential to cause many more problems.
As for Jacob, he is concerned only with peace. When the rape of his daughter is reported to him, he does not say anything (Genesis 34:5). However, after he heard about what his sons had done, he openly chides them because of what could follow: “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I” (Genesis 34:30, NKJV).
|Over and over we see deceit and deception, as well as acts of kindness and grace, in these accounts. What does this tell us about human nature?|