Genesis 34 – SEND IN SOMEONE TO BLAME

Posted: July 1, 2017 in Genesis, Genesis 34
Tags: , , , ,

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Blame or Excuse? © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – 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.

So is Jacob to blame for what happens? Is it wrong to settle down in a foreign place with foreign customs and moral values very different to ours and expect that God will protect us as long as we state that we are Christians? What responsibility does a parent have in the supervision of children?

Apparently, if Jacob had chosen to live in Sydney’s CBD area or Liverpool, Mount Druitt and Campbelltown, Dinah would have a higher probability of sexual assault than some other areas of Sydney. Residents in these areas report dozens of sexual assaults each year. Does Jacob place his daughter at risk?

Australian law says “Decisions such as … where your child lives are your right and responsibility to make … Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from harm and provide safety, supervision and control.”

As a parent, Jacob provides for Dinah’s welfare – food, clothing, a place to live. But would he pass Australian laws concerning protecting her from harm and providing safety, supervision and control?

Dinah is probably between 7-9 years old. If Jacob lived in Silver Spring in the USA and let Dinah walk to her friends’ place alone, he might face criminal charges for leaving his child unsupervised. He might have Children’s Protective Services require him to sign a safety plan promising not to leave his children unsupervised. If he refused he would face criminal charges. In the light of what happened, would you like to see Jacob charged? Was Jacob’s parenting at fault?

Or is it OK for parents to allow their children to wander free range to explore the world at their own risk and learn to be street wise? Is Jacob to blame for neglecting his daughter’s safety? If he had not settled here this blot would not have occurred on the page of history and would not have interrupted the flow of the story of faith in the book of Genesis. But who can live their lives according to “What if’s” and “You should have’s”?

No word is given to justify or condemn what takes place in Genesis 34. It is simply depicted, in all its raw violence and abuse of power. No interpretation is needed. It is obvious that all have sinned and all fall far short of the glory of God, pagan’s and God followers alike. There are no heroes of faith here.

I find no mention of God in Genesis 34, only two of His institutions desecrated and used to excuse rape and murder. Religion used for criminal actions. Nothing has changed. God chooses not to speak in the midst of such perversion of His grace or is it that He is not being consulted? He looks for faith and trust, for humility and Godly dependence, but does not find it here.

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect, but not so much on my rights or even my responsibilities, not so much on the altars I build to declare to the world my faith, not so much on my distorted views of justice and revenge, not so much on excusing or blaming and not even on hedging myself and my family from from harm without any willingness to take reasonable risks. It simply invites me to reflect on and be confronted by what happens when human life is devalued and lawlessness is given free reign without any reference to God.  

Genesis 34 reminds me of the risk of life where I can never predict what will happen next. This is not about regret and what I should or should not have done in my life, but a reminder of how much I need God for each step. It reminds me to reflect on the importance of listening to God so I can gain better perspective. Really listening. Listening through the noise and confusion of my world. And yes, I can choose not to abuse, accuse or excuse. I can choose to seek for the whisper of His still, small voice and obey. His promise is that I will be able to navigate the path ahead with discernment and apply wisdom.

Pastor Ross 

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