Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

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Unbelievable! © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:14-16 – WHY? UNBELIEVABLE! (Part 4)

Shechem has raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He now wants to marry her as a child bride and has kept her at his house. Surprisingly, Jacob’s sons don’t respond by speaking of the disgrace of raping their young sister! They don’t speak of the disgrace of child kidnapping and child sex slavery! They don’t talk of the disgrace of what they are really thinking! Instead, they talk of Circumcision. “We won’t let you marry her…” they say, “… because you’re not circumcised.”

WHY?!

Why circumcision? … Random. Circumcision is a sign of the covenant given to Abraham. What has this got to do with anything? If you want to talk about a sign why not a sign like a tattoo on the arm or something similar? Or wear colors on their leather jackets. At least those are signs that can be seen. But Circumcision? Really?

Here’s how I understand it. It seems to me that the sign of circumcision has something to do with the promise of Abraham having many descendants, being fruitful and multiplying (see the last post). The sign reaffirms God’s promise right at the very place where the sexual act takes place. It marks the sexual act as set apart for God’s purposes.

God was looking for obedience, but not just obedience. He wanted Abraham’s heart. This was a covenant sign of fruitfulness but also a sign of complete faith in God. The ritual needed to speak of the relationship. The outside sign needed to reflect an inward change of the heart concerning marriage and family and faith.

Romans 2:28-29 (NLT) speaks of what it means to be a Jewish believer. It says “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

The sign of Circumcision reminds the Jewish male believers that God has authority over them even in the most private aspects of their lives. He designed them and set them apart for sex within the context of their marriages, with their wives alone. It prompts them to remember, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

So what is going on in Genesis 34? Circumcision for someone like Shechem makes no sense at all! He is not part of the believing community. Shechem and the Hivite community have rejected faith in God. Now Jacob’s sons are also acting as if they have no faith … to the point of blasphemy. They are willing to desecrate a holy covenant ritual in order to amplify the intensity of their revenge?

DISCONNECTION

Twisting things around, Jacob’s sons say, in effect, that Circumcision is the only thing that separates them from the Hivite community. It’s a partial truth designed to achieve evil purposes. Circumcision is not the only reason for Jacob’s family to be separated from the Hivite community. What is? Hivite unbelief and a culture totally opposed to the things of God.

RELIGION AND REVENGE

Jacob’s son’s don’t mention anything about faith in God. Yet they want to use a holy sign of faith in Israel’s community as a means of revenge, the very opposite to the unifying sign of faith it was designed by God to be. Religion used as a means for murder. Nothing has changed. This is terrorism at its religious worst. Deceiving Shechem and themselves, they weave their evil trap further…

“… then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves,” they say, “We will live among you and become one people.” They have no intention of doing this.But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.” (Genesis 34:16 NLT). Are they really interested in Dinah or in revenge?

Are they really interested in Dinah or in vengeance?

Jeremiah 9:8 (NLT) mirrors what they are doing. It speaks of the deceit of religious people. “…their tongues shoot lies like poisoned arrows. They speak friendly words to their neighbors while scheming in their heart to kill them.”

The POSB commentary makes an interesting aside. “How many churches and ministers deceive people by leading them to put their trust in the church and its rituals instead of Christ Himself?”

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect upon being honest in how I respond to immorality. I am encouraged not to use religion as a means of manipulation or for indulging in revenge against those with whom I disagree. I am to be honest in expressing my faith and witnessing the change that has occurred in my heart because Christ died for my sins. I am to call for God’s justice in the world, even when depravity is an acceptable way of life in the community. I am to seek God’s heart and God’s promises, not simply fit in with cultural norms for my life and family.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 34:8-15 – WHAT?! WHY? UNBELIEVABLE! (Part 3)

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Shechem, Hamor’s son, the pedophile, kidnapper, and rapist, can see the shocked looks on the faces of Dinah’s brothers. This deal is going south so he steps in and cuts to the chase.

“Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,” he begs, “I will give you whatever you ask. No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife” (Genesis 34:11-12 NLT).

Jacob’s sons reply, “We couldn’t possibly allow this,…  (Genesis 34:14 NLT)

They tell Shechem and his father, “It would be a disgrace for our sister to marry a man like you!” Finally, someone willing to call this a disgrace. This is a slap in the face to someone who is used to getting his own way, the man who is respected in his community.

But where is this conversation going?

Jacob’s sons don’t talk of the disgrace of rape and pedophilia! They don’t talk of the disgrace of child kidnapping! They don’t talk of the disgrace of child marriage! They don’t talk of the disgrace of their own evil thinking! Of all things, they talk of Circumcision. They say “We won’t let you marry her…

“… because you’re not circumcised.”

WHAT?!

“But here is a solution. If every man among you will be circumcised like we are,” (Genesis 34:15 NLT). What are they thinking?

This is a curve ball and a half. Unbelievable! What are they thinking? Why doesn’t Jacob step in?

To get a handle on what is happening here, I time-travelled back to the days of Abraham and realized how ludicrous their proposal is.

Back then, everything is going along smoothly when one day God tells Abraham he will have many descendants. Abraham laughs in amazement. He reminds God that he is 100 years old and Sarah is 90 – improbable, if not impossible, that they would have a child at this age. God is not at all deterred. He says “The covenant will come through the child you have with Sarah. His name will be Isaac”, (which incidentally means “laughter”). When will Sarah conceive and have a child? God says “Next year!”

You can’t get better than this. Abraham can add this to the list of God’s promises – wealth, name change, descendants from whom the world will be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). Apparently, each generation will have the covenant reaffirmed, forever. And if that wasn’t enough they had a land package thrown in with the deal. It was a permanent covenant concerning this land so nothing Israel or any other nation can do will ever take it from them. God gave it to them, permanently throughout their generations, forever. The promise is still true today and causing quite a bit of trouble.

But then, just when everything sounds great, God throws a curve ball! He chooses a sign for the covenant, one which was a little unusual, to say the least. Sometimes God’s plans are not all that easy to follow. You have to be really sure that God spoke before you act on this one – each male has to be circumcised for generations to come. That was the sign of the Covenant, even for Abraham’s servants. This was the mark of the everlasting covenant. At around about this time I would have been saying to God, “Can you choose a different sign? Please!”

Abram doesn’t waste time. The first thing Abraham does when God has finished speaking is to circumcise Ishmael and every other male around the place, even himself.

I don’t know about you but I would not have liked having this enforced on me. You would have to have a very convincing argument to get me to agree to this as an adult. Abraham obviously had a lot of authority and respect. Still, I wonder how he broke the news to all the males in his household? Ishmael was 13 years old. Did he get circumcised willingly? Nothing is said about this.

Were they forced to do so or given a choice to leave? If you refused, God said you would be “cut off” from the promises to Israel. That could mean exile or even the death penalty. The death penalty would be quite a convincing argument and incentive to agree, I guess.

WHY?!

Why not a tattoo on the arm or something similar? Circumcision, after all, was a hidden sign. Who would see this sign but the person to whom it was given and his marriage partner? This sign is incredibly important (find out why in the next post).

Pastor Ross

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:8-13 – UNBELIEVABLE, TOO (Part 2)

Hamor tries to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Shechem, the pedophile, rapist and kidnapper, can see the shocked looks on the faces of Dinah’s brothers. This deal is going south so he steps in and cuts to the chase. He says,

“Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,” he begs. “I will give you whatever you ask. No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.” (Genesis 34:11-12 NLT)

SHECHEM, if only…

Shechem, the pedophile, has the nerve to come to Jacob and his sons and ask for a child marriage with Dinah, the one he has raped and kidnapped. He doesn’t even use her name! She is just “the girl”. He does not bring Dinah back to the family, humbly bow before them and admit his guilt and willingness to undergo a negotiated discipline for his crime. Be kind to me, he says. Unbelievable! Shechem, if only…

Shechem is willing to buy Dinah for a high price to get what he wants, but not acknowledge the shame and criminality of his actions. He is rich and Dinah is simply a commodity that he wants to keep without any trouble from the family. She is already his child sex slave.

Again the Bible calls Shechem’s act for what it is.

“But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor” (Genesis 34:13 NLT).

JACOB, where are you?

Where are you Jacob, when it counts? Still, you are silent and allow your sons to negotiate on your behalf. Don’t you realize that they only want revenge? Don’t you understand that they are willing to use anything to get back at Shechem and the Hivite community as a whole? You may not like the outcome of all this.

Jacob’s sons revert to their father’s tactics when things get out of hand. Deceit is an old standby in this family! They think that given the circumstances it is OK to lie. Still Jacob does nothing and says nothing. His leadership in this situation is manifestly imperceptible, conspicuously absent.

What Jacob’s sons say next will shock everybody… (see next post).

Pastor Ross

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:7-10 – UNBELIEVABLE!

Was it while they were on their way, that anger erupted, and they plotted their plan for vengeance?

“Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done” (Genesis 34:7 NLT).

Jacob sends a messenger to his sons and they come immediately. Shocked and angry, at least they recognize that pedophilia and rape was something that should never be done; a disgrace! Finally, someone actually cares about what happened to Dinah and they are concerned for her personal well-being. Taking it as an offense to them as a family, they identify with her. Where is Jacob in all this?

JACOB, where is your leadership?

Jacob doesn’t say anything! Not a word. He doesn’t seem to take part in any of the proceedings until later, when murder gets in the way of his reputation and standing in the community.

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Why is Dinah still at Shechem’s house? Perhaps if Hamor had brought Dinah back to Jacob, humbly apologized for his son’s criminal actions, spelling out an agreement for terms of discipline, offered a huge amount of compensation and an assurance that he would not tolerate such actions in his community, it might have gone down a little better. Hamor, if only…

HAMOR, what are you thinking?

Hamor speaks nothing of his son’s behavior and instead points to the economic and community benefits of intermarriage. Unbelievable!

A child marriage is Hamor’s way of turning an awkward situation into an equitable arrangement. Wanting to put the whole incident behind him, Hamor just wants to carry out the wishes of his son and get a good trade deal along the way. Win-win, … except for Dinah.

It annoys me that some commentaries actually agree with Hamor’s suggestion! What kind of planet are they on?

Hamor is on-a-roll. He says, “In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”  (Genesis 34:9-10)

The economic advantages are significant. But still, not once is any consideration for Dinah taken into account. He wants friendly relations with Jacob, but Dinah’s rape is just a catalyst for his business transactions.

Settle down, trade, be partners with us, assimilate.

Abraham and Isaac had encouraged their children not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Xenophobia? Obviously not. Jacob had settled in the area, bought land, traded. He had set up an altar as a witness to his faith in God. It was not a hatred of other people groups, but a healthy disgust of their wicked cultural and religious influences which would put them in danger of compromising and defiling the heritage of their faith in God.

This story is so unsettling and so is the Christian commentary I have been reading on this chapter of the Bible.

I am left with so many questions. How do I show leadership when I am needed the most? What kind of compromises to my faith am I willing to make that may put the Christian heritage of my family at risk? How much do I water down my sinful attitudes and actions? Am I willing to call out evil for what it is? When it comes to the crunch, do I treasure the welfare of those around me or my own interests?

There is no wisdom here with Jacob, with Hamor and certainly not Shechem. Where is justice, leadership, wisdom and compassion when it is needed? The anger of Jacob’s sons proves later to have no God-given boundaries. 

Perhaps the author paints with a palette of black in Genesis 34 but the canvas is primed with light and gives me opportunity to clearly perceive the contrasts. Genesis 34 invites me to show compassion and love, especially to my own family, to apply wisdom, leadership and responsibility when I see evil, to treat people with respect and show repentance when I have wronged them, to be willing to pay the consequences and make reparation when needed, and not to compromise my faith. Most of all it invites me to ask for God’s wisdom, to include Him in my responses when confronted by those who accept the defiling influences of the world in which we live. Some serious things to think about here.

James 1:21 (NLT) says So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Pastor Ross

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Seared Conscience © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:5-6 – CAUTERISED

“Soon Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, Dinah. But since his sons were out in the fields herding his livestock, he said nothing until they returned” (Genesis 34:5 NLT). 

How did Jacob hear about his daughter being raped by a pedophile? Perhaps it was community gossip, or from some of Dinah’s friends. Genesis 34:5 describes rape and pedophilia as Defilement (Genesis 34:5,3,27), and normally Judgment would be expected for the perpetrator for perverting the act of sex designed for marriage. Later, this would be defined in the Mosaic law.

Jacob doesn’t say or do anything until he sees his sons. Has he delegated his responsibility as a father to Dinah’s brothers?

I raise this because later, when Joseph, his favorite son is missing, assumed killed, Jacob is distraught. Is Jacob less concerned about his daughter being raped by a Paedophile and held captive in his home? He doesn’t go immediately and insist on her return but wants to wait and involve his sons.

JACOB, if only …

Is it because Dinah is the child of his least loved wife, Leah? Leah is the mother of many of Jacob’s sons but not the wife of his heart. In her loneliness, God answers her prayer for children including a daughter (Genesis 30:21). Leah calls her Dinah.

It seems neither Leah nor Dinah is loved by Jacob, and they are therefore vulnerable to the weeping wounds of such loss as he all too often neglects them for Rachel.

In my ministry, I meet many people who experience times when they feel unwanted, excluded, unloved, or even neglected. Times when they feel misjudged or overlooked; times when they know an aching emptiness as they see those they care for or love withdraw, reject and ignore them.

Does this story of rape, pedophilia and child marriage have its starting place with a lonely young girl, who feels unloved by her father, running away from home to her neighborhood friends for some support? Jacob, if only …

Jacob may have done nothing, but Hamor, the father of the pedophile, instigates action to alleviate any animosity that may result from his son’s actions. He considers Child Marriage to be the answer and custom dictates that marriage, even child marriage, be negotiated by parents. Unbelievable!

HAMOR, if only …

“Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to discuss the matter with Jacob” (Genesis 34:6 NLT). Notice, there is no record of Hamor rebuking or disciplining his son for rape, pedophilia or kidnapping. There are no consequences in a court of law. There is no record of Hamor apologizing for his son’s actions. There is no talk of immorality, evil, shame, remorse or even asking humbly for forgiveness for this crime.

Were women in Canaanite culture treated like sexual objects so often that rape was accepted? Were there leaders so corrupt that no-one was willing to recognize and do something about a culture of rape, pedophilia, and kidnapping? Was it accepted that a man of power, a prince, could have sex with anyone he wanted? For that matter, had sex outside of marriage, as in our times, become the normal cultural practice where even children are sexualised? Hamor, if only…

Jacob is no better. Even now Jacob seems to keep his peace and does nothing. Jacob’s attitude and actions are in stark contrast to the response of his sons (see next post).

Genesis 34 is so much a mirror of the culture in which I live and Ephesians 4:18-19 (NLT) does not water down describing those who ignore God’s purposes for our world. It speaks of those whose “minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” 

1 Timothy 4:1-2 (AMP) speaks of people whose “… consciences are seared (cauterized)”. Isaiah 5:20 (NLT) says, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark,…” 

Genesis 34 is, therefore, an invitation to recognize evil for what it is, not to cauterize my conscience by being conformed to a culture of sexual deviancy. Lord, help me to speak and take appropriate action when needed.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 34:3-4 – AT RISK

Genesis 34:2-3 speaks of a sexual predator, a pedophile, parading as a prince. “But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. He said to his father, Hamor, “Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.” 

Shechem, prince of the Hivites, who has just violated a little girl, Dinah, now demands a child marriage arrangement! Unbelievable! It is still happening in our world so I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I am sickened by this man who I can understand being described as a sleazy creep.

He “fell in love with” a child, … after raping her! He tries “to win her affection with tender words”, … after abusing her! There is no evidence of any kind of consent. How could there be with someone so young?

HAMOR, you should have…

Shechem then commands Hamor, his father, to arrange a marriage, anyway. He orders his father around and Dinah is a commodity of trade. He doesn’t even use her name. It seems his father is willing to overlook his son’s “indiscretions” and give him anything he wants. Does his father know of the rape and do nothing? Is this all Hamor’s fault for letting his son run wild and have no boundaries.

Does his father simply condone Shechem’s behavior? Is sex before marriage and blatant child abuse so rampant in our society that I must simply accept it as normal?

Dinah is not returned home (Genesis 34:26). Is she held captive in his house until the marriage is arranged? What kind of depraved distortion of a marriage is this? Why doesn’t Hamor step in?

The law in Australia says it allows parents to bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs. This means that they have the right to make decisions about how they bring up their children without interference unless there are very good reasons and their child’s well-being is at risk. This all depends on what the law considers to be a risk.

In Australia what is considered a risk for children and parental responsibilities is often being determined by fringe groups whose lobbying voices are loud or by politicians with liberal moral agendas, or by educationalists who seek to impose radical philosophies which are at odds with Biblical values and morality. Nothing has changed.

As a father, Jacob is no example of moral purity either. He has two wives and two concubines. He has chosen to live in a district known for its wickedness. What hope is there for Dinah?

Yet there is a glimmer of faith burning in Jacob’s heart. He has heard from God. Jacob has built an altar to declare his faith in God and no doubt sought to teach his children about God’s promises to him and the faith heritage they have from Abraham’s time to the present. Now he is confronted with a moral dilemma. What will he do? What standards can he employ? What is my gauge?

In 1 John 2:15-16 followers of Christ are told, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.” This is certainly true of Shechem and Hamor, and Hivite society, but John goes on to say, “These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Galatians 5:19-25 (NLT) says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, … (the list goes on). Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” 

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect upon my own life and attitudes; the heritage and example I am passing down to my children and grandchildren in terms of the Biblical model for relating to women and to my own marriage. I am constantly urged by the Bible to have my thinking re-adjusted and renewed.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says, “… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Pastor Ross

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Blame and Excuse – © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – IF ONLY …

Genesis 34:1 says, “One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area.” 

Only one of Jacob’s daughters is ever mentioned in the Bible. Tracing the years from her birth, evidence suggests that Dinah is young, perhaps as young as 7-12 years old.

There is nothing to indicate that she is rebellious, naïve or ignorant as some have suggested. She is a normal little girl who obviously wanted to make friends. Did she leave her home that day without permission from her Mum or Dad? Why didn’t her brothers accompany her? Whatever the reason was for her to be alone that day in the neighborhood, she could not have foreseen what would happen.

It was a dangerous neighborhood. The Hivites were known historically for social and religious customs which cut across God’s purposes. Their cultural norms made them so detestable to God that later he would tell Moses to conquer them and destroy them completely. Racial cleansing? Nothing would cleanse the extent of their sin. This was a people group who were so wicked the wages of their sin was war. Nothing has changed.

MOSES, you should have…

If only Moses had been around. Moses would later say to the Hebrew tribes, You must completely destroy the Hittites, …, just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:17-18).

The Hivites were to be judged for the nature of their depravity, such was their evil influence. Moses can’t be held to blame for what happened to Dinah. There are certainly consequences for such blatant wickedness, but this evil rears it’s ugly head long before Moses appears on the scene.

Genesis 34:2 speaks of a sexual predator, a pedophile, parading as a prince. “But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her.”

This is the first recorded rape in the Bible, the first example of pedophilia, carried out by a man with social standing, the local prince of the Hivites.

Yet, strange attitudes of blame and excuse have persisted concerning this event. Calvin, the great theologian intimates that Dinah is the one responsible for her own rape. He writes, “…not less danger hangs over weak virgins at this day, if they go too boldly and eagerly into public assemblies, and excite the passions of youth towards themselves.”

DINAH, you should have…

Many people suggest a cautious approach when it comes to women walking alone, and suggest that if Dinah ignored the danger of walking alone, she was asking for it. It becomes the victims’ responsibility entirely and so to Dinah, they shout…

“Stay safe! – Don’t walk alone, especially at night, ask someone to accompany you, work out the safest route to where you want to go, keep to well-lit streets, avoid parks, be hyper-aware of your environment; all escape routes, all doorways and obstacles. Better still – take a cab, don’t travel on the train, wear clothes to run in, dress as a man, don’t wear flimsy clothing, short skirts or anything that exposes the breasts. Scream “Fire!” if you are attacked.” If only Dinah had been more careful …

Others intimate that Dinah should have carried a sword, responding to violence with violence – “buy a gun or pepper spray, take self-defense classes and walk where you want.” If only Dinah was taught to fight …

Feminists would talk to Dinah about a rape culture. They would say it is not a matter of teaching young women how to avoid rape by not going anywhere on their own. They would declare to educators and parents, “Don’t tell us to restrict our freedom. Tell them not to rape!” N Fitzsimmons says, “The safety of women is not just about women having to always be fearful, and it’s not her fault if she’s attacked. It’s about teaching children from an early age to be respectful of all people. And that means the adults setting an example by always being respectful of all people.” If only Shechem had been taught not to rape Dinah …

Even in between all these views there is no real answer and these are not the insights that can adequately be directed towards a little girl. Was Dinah responsible for being raped? Obviously not! Was she able to defend herself? No! Did she live in a lawless culture who regarded women as commodities for sexual exploitation? Yes! Was she too young to really appreciate the danger? Yes.

IF ONLY…

If only her parents or brothers had been aware of her wandering away that day. If only Moses had been on the scene long before this had happened. If only Jacob and Leah had shown a little more foresight and care for a little girl in the family. If only her brothers had accompanied her that day.

If only, if only, if only! … then this tragic situation could have been averted. Living in regret for what we could have done is living in the “If only’s” and “What if’s”. Who’s to blame? Moses, Dinah, her parents or her brothers? Or all of the above? Who will take responsibility for Shechem’s behavior and shield the perpetrator from blame?

Should we lobby governments for better lighting in the parks, security cameras everywhere, laws to make parents transport their children everywhere, curfews at nightclubs, mass rallies to protest against rapists? Longer jail sentences? Less personal rights?

Should we bubble wrap our children? Cocoon them in cotton wool? Shield them from any of the harsher edges of reality? Never let them walk in the park in case something will happen? Even Jesus said to His disciples, Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Fear of harm and “If only…” and “What if…” mentalities will never be enough to solve the real problem of sin in our world. Oh, yes, let’s do what we can to protect our children, but let’s be aware that they are at best band-aid solutions.

Not legislation or even education could ever be enough to deal with the problem of sin. Yes, I will take measures to protect our children and grandchildren, but I hope not to forget or fail to include the only real answer for this world – the life-changing transformation only Christ can make in a person’s life. Only the message of Christ has the capability to adequately solve the problem of sin. In Romans 1:16 (NLT) Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NLT) says, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, … All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. … God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. … For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. … In those days you were living apart from Christ…. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. …You are members of God’s family.”  

Genesis 34 invites us not to whitewash the tombstone, but know Christ and make Him known, so that resurrection life will arise and true love for God and each other can be extended.

And by the way, when it all comes down to it, only Shechem himself can bear the blame for his perverted and abusive actions.

Something to think about.

Pastor Ross

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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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Right Wrong © Ross Cochrane

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.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 33:1-20 – HOW TO HANDLE THE GREATEST CONFLICT OF ALL

Instructions in Diplomatic Integrity – Epilogue

What a relief. Jacob reunites with Esau without bloodshed. This story shows that bitterness and feelings of revenge are a choice, not a given. Forgiveness and reconciliation, integrity and generosity are also choices we can make.

“Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied.” Jacob is keen to say that it is God who has blessed him. Maybe he’s also making it clear, “Keep your hands off, Esau!” only in a more subtle way.

The whole family bows before Esau to show their respect. This isn’t saying, “Esau, we are all coming under your authority”, just simply acknowledging, “we are coming into your territory.”

  1. ENSURE THAT AN AGREEMENT IS REACHED
Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Restitution © Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked. Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship” (Genesis 33:8 NLT).

Jacob makes it quite clear that he is not coming in any way as an act of aggression as he meets Esau. This time he’s not offering a pot of stew. These animals are a means of restitution for his deceit in the past. This is a tangible way to make amends. But there is something else implied that is another hint at what Jacob has been doing.

“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself” (Genesis 33:9 NLT). The fact that Esau has 400 men indicates that he has made a life for himself already, perhaps as a mercenary. He obviously has plenty. But Jacob needs some indication from Esau that he has abandoned his claim to his Father’s blessing.

It is important to Jacob that he shows a gesture of reconciliation, not merely mouth the words.

“But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favour with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!” (Genesis 33:10 NLT).

Strange thing to say.

Instead of struggling with Esau, Jacob struggled with God. The struggle with God meant a hip wrenched from its socket, but he did receive God’s blessing.

But why does he describe his meeting with Esau as seeing the face of God? Perhaps he sees it as a blessing. Perhaps the blessing God gave had a specific clause that Esau would not annihilate him and his family. His smile was the face of God in terms of answered prayer. His fight with God substituted for his expected fight with Esau. Perhaps this is the blessing God gave to Jacob.

But I like what the Life Essentials Study Bible says. It suggests that the animals that Jacob gave to Esau amounted to a 10th of all he had, thus being an offering to God and this is why he said: “seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” “Though it cannot be proven from this text, it would not be surprising if Jacob’s herd totaled 5,500 animals and the 550 he gave Esau represented 10 percent of his total assets, fulfilling his vow (Genesis 28:22).”

I really like this thought. He’s not setting Esau up as God, but fulfilling his vow to God to give a tenth of all he had. He did this by giving this offering of restitution for the blessing stolen from Esau. Perhaps this was the reason he gave his promise back in Genesis 28. Perhaps he always intended his tenth to be given to God in this way.

“Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift” (Genesis 33:11 NLT). 

Esau can see that God has blessed Jacob, so he accepts the gift.

Pastor Warren Wiersbe says “He was made a prince, but he was acting like a pauper” but this seems an unnecessary assumption. No pauper is able to offer such a generous gift. And if anything, God humbled Jacob, not exalted him, in his encounter. Jacob experienced a blessing with a limp, not a crown with a title.

In accepting the gift, the rift between Esau and Jacob is requited. Esau doesn’t say, “I demand my birthright and blessing back” but submits to Jacob’s favour as restitution for the deceptive manner of their taking, in kind.

Living as an alien to God’s promises for over 20 years, Jacob was abused for his labour but also enriched. And he enters the land God promises, injured and blessed.

There is nothing automatic about the blessing of God to Jacob. He didn’t simply inherit it from his father and he certainly didn’t achieve it through deceit. It could only enter his life through consent and grace. There is always a risk when You struggle with God. It is the greatest conflict you will ever face.

Years later, Jesus, descended from the line of Jacob and faced the greatest conflict ever faced by anyone, as He died on a Cross for our sin. The Cross is a crutch for those who realize that they walk with a limp. It is the reconciling plus sign for the human race. We need faith in Christ to take the journey God intends us to travel. It takes us into the promises of God for our lives.

God is not yet through with Jacob. This is a stepping stone to an ongoing journey in receiving all that God has promised, not just a happy ending to a feel-good movie. As we have seen in Jacob’s past, he has a tendency to make short-term choices which cause long-term pain, but through obedience he has arrived in the promised land. But he hasn’t completely arrived in terms of obedience, as he is yet to discover. (But that it for another time).

Pastor Ross