Genesis 34:13-31 A man of fortitude and integrity prevents conflicts and establishes peace and prosperity
Genesis 34:13-31 A man of fortitude and integrity prevents conflicts and establishes peace and prosperity
But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go.”
18 Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.” 24 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. 27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”
Humanly speaking Jacob’s family is caught between a rock and a hard place. If they accede to the Shechemites’ terms, Dinah is no more than a prostitute where she will remain a hostage forever. If Dinah’s brothers refuse, they may be subjected to an onslaught by the Shechemites. Jacob’s passivity instigated the brothers to act deceitfully to put down the townsmen in cold blood and rescue their sister.
Nevertheless, both the Hebrews and the Shechemites suffered grave consequences for their respective actions. Because of the lack of fortitude and integrity among the leaders, there is this ticking bomb waiting to explode. And it only takes one naive girl to set off a chain of events leading to the fateful massacre. Today’s devotion teaches that it takes men and women of fortitude and integrity to prevent conflicts and to build communities of lasting peace and prosperity.
But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.
By this time, Simeon and Levi had already decided to avenge Dinah’s defilement. Hence, the brothers’ insistence on religious tradition is nothing more than a ploy to deceive and annihilate the Shechemites. In response to Hamor’s offer to amalgamate and intermarry with them, the brothers asserted that to marry an uncircumcised man would be a “disgrace”; that which is unacceptable in the light of Abraham’s covenant (see Genesis 17:10). However, it would suffice if the Shechemites agree to integrate themselves into the Hebrew community by circumcising all their males. But if the Shechemites would not comply, “we will take our daughter and go”, implies the possible use of force to rescue Dinah.
Jacob’s passivity at this junction is mind boggling for it gave occasion to bring out the worst in his sons. While deceit is expected in a case of war, it is not acceptable in a peace pack. While the brother’s moral conviction is commendable, but their tactics are repulsive and immoral.
Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son.
He did not delay to do the thing, suggests great haste on the part of Shechem. For this young man, as long as he finds “true love”, nothing else matters. Even as Hamor desired to please his son Shechem, he also saw opportunity to acquire the possessions of the Hebrew tribe. Supposing he might as well kill two birds with one stone, Hamor takes his decision to citizens of the city.
As it appeared, Hamor and son have no intention of letting the citizens of the city into the true motive of their proposal: to gratify Shechem’s passion. They also did not mention the part of the agreement that entailed permitting the Hebrew community to acquire property. Hamor and Shechem’s double-dealing carried the ultimate goal: to satisfy Shechem’s passion and to systematically absorb the Hebrew tribe under their jurisdiction: Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? The men of the city, by agreeing to Hamor’s scheme have implicated themselves in the sin of Shechem. Nevertheless, circumcision seemed at this point for them a small price to pay: All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised.
Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain.
On the third day, while the pain was severest, the brothers avenged Dinah in cold blood with unmitigated cruelty. It is apparent that their desire to punish Shechem did not arise from justice alone but from vengeance and indignation resulting in shameless massacre of innocent lives. Having killed Hamor and his son, the brothers proceeded to rescue their sister followed by city wide looting. To Simeon and Levi, this might appear justified because Shechem had never intended on releasing Dinah. Humanly speaking the only recourse is to take her by force which include taking on the whole city. Apparently, Simeon and Levi was left without a choice: Either they rescue their sister by putting down the whole city or they concede to the fate of their sister while being systematically absorbed.
Simeon and Levi took matters into their own hands in part because they saw that their father had never loved their mother (Leah), or sister, but they did. However, history shows that Simeon and Levi’s brutal barbarity had caused their descendants great lost in leadership and inheritance in the future Israel. For Simeon and Levi to dishonour themselves for the sake of their sister is the choice that they made. While we can agree if the brothers declare war, but to commit murder by deceit because of the sin of one man is wrong and unjust.
You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land.
Until Jacob spoke at the aftermath of the massacre, little would have been known about what he was thinking. While fear is a natural reaction, his damning of his sons and the deep concern for his own safety and reputation betrays him. He has not said a thing concerning Dinah’s rape, the treachery of the brothers, or the prospect of intermarrying the Shechemites. He is concerned mainly about himself. Simeon and Levi’s unanimous reply to their father’s rebuke is, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?” What they meant is: to offer gifts and economic benefits in exchange for Dinah is tantamount to acting like a pimp.
A community of peace and prosperity is built on fortitude and integrity
As it appears, both camps have little cause for celebrations for there are no clear winners here: Dinah was ravished, Simeon and Levi were summarily dishonoured together with their descendants. But the Shechemites incurred the heaviest casualties on account of Dinah’s brothers. As we observe, none of the communities are built on the foundations of fortitude and integrity. Hence, all it took was Dinah’s playfulness and desire for excitement to bring out the devil in them. For no sooner, a tragic massacre ensued. Closer observation shows us the nature and ruling desires of the characters:
- Jacob’s nature and desire: Egocentric. He desires great wealth and honour.
- Dinah’s nature and desire: Naive. She desires excitement and a blissful life.
- Shechem’s nature and desire: Brash and self-centred. He is given to fleshly passions.
- Hamor’s nature and desire: Lawless and cunning. He desires to please his son and to possess another’s property, livestock, and wealth.
- The townsmen’s nature and desire: Avaricious. They desire quick and easy gain by amalgamating with the Hebrews.
- Simeon and Levi’s nature and desire: Vengeful and indignant. They desire to avenge their sister’s rape by murder in cold blood.
Jacob lacked fortitude for he was more concerned with his personal safety and honour. Hamor and Shechem had no integrity, they harboured ulterior motives for the amalgamation and were untruthful concerning the promises made to the Hebrews. Dinah’s brothers had no fortitude or integrity and were unconscionably cruel in their scheme. And the townsmen were implicated by their own avarice. That said, if only Jacob had acted with fortitude and insisted on Dinah’s return, Simeon and Levi would not have committed the heinous crime. And the angels would have protected and prevented the tragedy.
Whenever leaders harbour impure motives, and make judgment calls at the back of fear, personal agenda and falsehood, it will be hell on earth. The failure of Jacob and Hamor to conduct their affairs with fortitude and integrity led to the mindless destruction of the Shechemites and the dishonour of the Hebrews. This story teaches us that if our communities are not built on fortitude and integrity, we are setting ourselves up for destruction.
What is fortitude? It is courage in doing what is right in the midst of pain or adversity. Jacob lacked fortitude when he failed to confront Hamor to demand Dinah’s return. For he feared an onslaught from the Canaanites. A person given to fear cowers at the first sign of threat while subjecting himself and the people to enslavement. Because he cannot step up to the plate, he cannot be trusted to stand for the truth and to do what is right. And such will not receive from God divine authority and charge over the angels. However, those who fight for truth and justice while exposing themselves in harm’s way will be exalted and given authority over heavenly armies.
What is integrity? It is being upright in behaviour and forthright in speech. Integrity is the foundation of enduring peace and prosperity… that which is lacking in Dinah’s brothers, Hamor and his son. And obviously Dinah’s brothers are not forthright towards Hamor, and Hamor towards the townsmen. If Simeon and Levi are forthright about their intention to rescue Dinah without resorting to deception, that open declaration of war would have given them charge over the angels and legitimate victory.
The virtues of fortitude and integrity are what members of God’s community should harbour in their nature and desires. In so doing, members will participate in the warmth of fellowship where there is lasting peace and prosperity. Such communities will be like those in heaven, unshakable where no agents of evil can enter to sow discord because the foundations are strong. Indeed, what the world needs is men and women of fortitude and integrity. The prophet Isaiah said,
And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever. Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places. Isaiah 32:17-18
Fortitude entails doing what is right despite oppositions and threats of loss. In standing firm, you acquire divine authority and wisdom to prosper in the will of God. Would you establish fortitude as a personal foundation in all your endeavours? That entails the courage to be true to yourself and to do out what is right at all times. In so doing, you become a divine channel of lasting peace and prosperity in your family, and your workplace.
Integrity is speaking forthrightly and acting uprightly at all times. The opposite of integrity is deceit and manipulation. Integrity translates to not withholding information from people concerned so that the leader may be held accountable. Integrity is also about applying one standard of behaviour across the board including the leader himself. Do you expect others to adhere to an agreed standard while absolving yourself from its obligations? Are you accustomed to packaging your presentation in order to exact a certain response from the hearers?
In order to encourage the virtues of fortitude and integrity in your family, church and organisation, members must practice patience and empathy. That will encourage people to speak what is on their hearts without being harangued. At the same time, truth has to be systematically taught so that a proper foundation may be laid for enduring peace and prosperity. Proverbs 29:18 says,
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.
When there is empathy and forbearance without truth (revelation), people will do what they want without restraint. However, blessed are those who walk in truth and wisdom.
Dear Lord, I open my heart to receive the Spirit of truth and courage. I will endeavour to speak forthrightly and act uprightly. Use me to destroy the works of the devil by laying foundations of truth and love in the hearts of people. Use me as men/women of fortitude and integrity to prevent conflicts and to establish lasting peace and prosperity. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.