Genesis 36

36 This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.

Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.

This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.

10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:

Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.

11 The sons of Eliphaz:

Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.

12 Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.

13 The sons of Reuel:

Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

14 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:

Jeush, Jalam and Korah.

15 These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:

The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:

Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

17 The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:

Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.

18 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:

Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

19 These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.

20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.

22 The sons of Lotan:

Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan’s sister.

23 The sons of Shobal:

Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.

24 The sons of Zibeon:

Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.

25 The children of Anah:

Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.

26 The sons of Dishon:

Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.

27 The sons of Ezer:

Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.

28 The sons of Dishan:

Uz and Aran.

29 These were the Horite chiefs:

Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.


31 
These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:

32 Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.

33 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.

34 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

35 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

36 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

37 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

38 When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

39 When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

40 These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.
(Genesis 36:1-43 NIV)

As we wrapped up Chapter 35, we saw Jacob lose his wife and best friend Rachel, move back home, and then lose his father Isaac.

Chapter 36 is dedicated to the genealogy of Esau, Jacob’s older brother.  Similar to Chapter 25, we saw the historical record of Ishmael the older brother first, then Isaac.  In today’s passage, we see Esau’s historical record first, followed by that of Jacob in Chapters 37 and following.

In verses 1-5, we note that Esau had three wives, who bore him five sons.

In verses 6-8, we see an amiable parting of ways between Jacob and Esau, because the land was not able to sustain both of their growing herds.  Jacob stayed in Canaan, while Esau moved to the hill country of Seir (also known as Edom).

In verses 9-14, we see the historical record of Esau’s sons and grandsons as relatives of Esau.  In verses 15-19, we see the same list reiterated, only this time the descendants are identified as separate people groups (chiefs or clan leaders).

Verses 20-30 are interjected into the text here as a historical record, not as a family record.  The Horites were the original inhabitants of the hill country of Seir; three generations of the Horites are mentioned in these verses.  Deuteronomy 2:12 connects the inclusion of this record of the Horites to Esau’s family.  Esau’s family drove out the Horites from the hill country and settled in their place.

In verses 31-39, we see eight generations of Edomite rules represented.  It’s interesting to note that these rulers were not appointed because of family ties to Esau or his family.  It appears that these kings were elected, not appointed.  While there were eight generations identified, there was no mention of murder or other foul play of one ruler trying to take over the kingship from another.  These generations would carry the Edomites from Esau’s timeframe through to roughly King Saul’s or King David’s timeframe.  There are no ages or lengths of rule mentioned in these verses, so it’s a little hard to know exactly when these kings started or stopped.

Lastly, verses 40-43 identify the chiefs or tribal leaders of Esau’s descendants.  This list seems to be arranged geographically, identifying where the various tribal leaders lived, versus the family listing of verses 15-19.

As we look over this passage, we see God’s grace and mercy toward Esau, recording the development of his family as a descendant of Isaac.  Even though Esau was not the one chosen by God to carry the blessing of God to the nations, the Lord still is interested in recording Esau’s history and the development of his family.

May we remember that God cares about each and every person, including you and me.

Blessings,
~kevin

Happy Thanksgiving!

As I see the social media posts fly by this time of year, many people express their gratitude for material things – shelter, food, things, people in their lives, etc.  These are good topics to be thankful for.

As followers of Jesus, what should be our focus – the gifts, or the Giver of those gifts?

This year, I choose to focus on the spiritual blessings that God showers us with every day.  Looking at life with a fresh view of who God is, I see Him as a God of abundance, not of scarcity.

As we look at God as the God of abundant spiritual blessings, let’s take a look at a few:

  • Love
    God’s greatest attribute, His greatest example, His highest calling and purpose, is love.  God loved us so much that He chose to redeem us even when we went our own way and rebelled against Him.  He loved us sacrificially by paying for our sins with His own son Jesus, so that we might be in right relationship with Him again. The apostle John writes:

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
    (John 3:16 NIV)

  • Mercy
    God is holy, just, and righteous; He cannot allow sin in His sight.  We deserve His punishment and wrath for our sins, for our rebellion against Him.  We have committed holy treason against God Almighty, and deserve the death penalty.  And yet, because of God’s love, He chooses to show us mercy and not justice because of His Son’s payment for our sins.
    The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah expressed God’s mercy well:

    Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
    (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

  • Grace
    Not only does God love us and show mercy toward us – He also loves to love us!
    God showers us with spiritual blessings every day, whether we deserve it or not.  His grace to us is not based on performance, but on relationship.
    The Apostle Paul expressed this well – first to the church at Ephesus, then to his young friend Timothy:

    “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
    (Ephesians 2:6-9 NIV)

    He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
    (1 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV)

  • Life in Community
    Not only does God love us, show mercy toward us, and shower us with spiritual blessings – He also shows us how to live in community.

    • The Trinity – our spiritual example
      God models community in the spiritual through God the Trinity:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As author Larry Crabb stated, the Trinity is the only small group that has ever gotten along with each other and truly enjoyed one one another’s company.
    • Jesus Christ – our physical example
      God didn’t stop at the spiritual realm with His idea of community – He sent His Son Jesus to earth to live out an example of community for us to fully understand and comprehend what He intended to life together to be.
    • Our lives – the “laboratory” and “practice room”
      With Jesus’ example recorded in God’s Word, the Bible, we now get to model or emulate what what Jesus did – to love others.  Yes, it’s hard and messy, because we live in a broken world, and we love imperfectly.
      But loving others and living in community with them, however painful and messy, is not optional – it’s Jesus’ command:

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
      (John 13:34 NIV)

 

What spiritual blessings are you thankful for today?

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 35:16-29

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,

Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:

Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:

Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
(Genesis 35:16-29 NIV)

As we began Chapter 35, we saw God call Jacob back to his homeland, back to Bethel, where he had made his promise to God to follow the Lord if God would rescue him and provide for him.  God had done His part; Jacob needed to come back and finish his.

As we discussed last time, this triggered a revival in Jacob.  Before Jacob could live a new life, the old life had to die.  Jacob started by removing all idols from his household and burying them.  When Jacob returned to Bethel, he then buried his mother’s nurse (symbolic of the death and burial of the old life of his youth and treachery).

God then showed up and repeated his blessing to Jacob, gave him a new name (Israel), signifying new life and hope for the future.  Jacob responded by worshiping the Lord.

In today’s passage, we see Jacob moving on from Bethel toward his father’s home in Hebron.  Along the way, Rachel dies shortly after giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son.  Rachel names the boy “Ben Oni” (son of my sorrow); Jacob names him “Benjamin” (son of my right hand / son of good fortune).  Rachel was counting her own loss and imminent death, while Jacob, likely through tears and brokenness over Rachel’s passing, saw God’s good hand and the blessing of another son to carry on the Lord’s promise for the future. 

In all of Jacob’s back-to-back losses, he was made aware of another event that added to his sorrow.  Reuben, Jacob’s and Leah’s oldest son, seduced and slept with Rachel’s maid (and Jacob’s wife)  Bilhah.  This was not rape – this was seduction, adultery, and incest.  Moses also points out that while Jacob was aware of this event, he did nothing about it.  Was Jacob lacking integrity in protecting the women in his life (first Dinah his daughter, and now Bilhah, Rachel’s maid/his wife)?  Or was Jacob so absorbed in his grief and recent losses that this was outside his ability to cope at the time?   The text does not say.

Moses now stops and recaps Jacob’s twelve sons from his two wives and their two maids (vv. 22b – 26).

Moses closes out the chapter by recounting Jacob’s arrival to see his father Isaac, and later he and his brother Esau burying Isaac when he died at 180 years old.

In our last time together, we looked at a number of parallels between Jacob’s life and ours; those questions and parallels carry over for today’s text as well.

Now that both Isaac and Rebekah have passed away, Jacob (now Israel) is the God-appointed patriarch of the family, and the path of God’s blessings to future generations.

May we live our lives carefully and completely dedicated to the Lord, and not waste our years chasing after life using our own resources.

May we lose our lives in Christ, and in so doing, seek Him with all our heart, find our true selves, our calling, and live for His glory, not our own.

Blessings,
~kevin

 

Genesis 35:1-15

35 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
(Genesis 35:1-15 NIV)

To quickly review, God called Jacob to return to Bethel, the land of his fathers.  Jacob got as far as Shechem, then settled down.  Jacob’s daughter is raped; Jacob’s sons kill the men of the village and loot it in revenge.  Jacob finds himself in a terrible quandary:

  • He can’t return to Laban and his wives’ family
  • He can’t leave Shechem due to the threat of revenge from the neighboring towns
  • He is paralyzed by fear, a prisoner in his own home

As we begin Chapter 35 today, God tells Jacob to return to Bethel (Genesis 31:13) where he made his vow to obey and serve the Lord (v. 1).  The Lord has done His part to protect and provide for Jacob; now it’s Jacob’s part to acknowledge God and serve Him.

Jacob obeys the Lord and has a personal revival in the process.  Jacob’s first action is to tell his family to gather up any and all idols so he can dispose of them.  Remember that Rachel had stolen some of her father’s household idols, without Jacob’s knowledge (Genesis 31:34-35).  Now Jacob knows that there are other idols in the family, and orders everyone to get rid of them.

Secondly, Jacob instructs his family to  clean up physically, which is symbolic of cleaning up spiritually, for they are about to embark on a journey to worship and honor God.

Jacob disposes of all the household idols by burying them – he does not try to sell them or redeem them in any way (v. 4).  Jacob’s actions are clear – the old life of sin and idol worship have to die and be buried if they are to move forward and worship God.

Jacob’s faith and boldness to obey the Lord returns, and his fears about the revenge from neighboring towns melt away as he leads his family to Bethel.  The Lord went ahead of Jacob, and the terror of the Lord Himself protected Jacob and his family (v. 5) during the journey.

When Jacob and his family arrived at Bethel, he immediately built an altar and worshiped the Lord there (vv. 6-7).  Jacob remembered how God had visited him in that place when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.

Verse 8 seems, at first, to be out of place, or at most, anecdotal in nature.  In actuality, it is an integral part of the story.  Just as Jacob buried the idols under the oak tree back in Shechem, Jacob also buries his mother’s nurse under the oak tree in Bethel.  There is no record of when Rebekah died; however, with this note about the death of Rebekah’s nurse, we can safely assume that Rebekah was already dead.

The recording of Deborah’s death (Rebekah’s nurse) and Jacob burying her represented Jacob burying his sinful past of treachery and tricks to gain advantage over his brother, rather than allowing God to lead and provide.  This was where Jacob came to the end of his namesake and his old ways.

Notice verses 9 – 10… Immediately after Jacob finishes burying his past (as represented by Deborah’s death and burial), God shows up.  The Lord blesses Jacob, then reiterates the new name that He gave him.  No longer would this man be known by his old ways, but by his new direction and name – Israel (one who strives with God).  Jacob and God are now linked forever by this new name – Israel.

In verses 11 – 13, the Lord reiterates His charge to Jacob to be fruitful and multiply, as well as His promise to Jacob, his father and grandfather for a permanent home, a land to call their own.

After Jacob has this encounter with God, he spends time worshiping the Lord, and reiterates the name of the place: Bethel (house of God).

There are so many applicable life lessons for us in today’s passage; where do we start?  Let’s begin by making a list of what Jacob experienced, in the form of questions for us:

  • What has God called me to do, that I need to finish?
    (like God calling Jacob back to Bethel, but Jacob settling in Shechem)
  • What am I afraid of?
    (like Jacob’s fear of everything, not able to venture out of his house in Shechem)
  • What are my idols?  Where am I “dirty” and need to cleanse myself (symbolically)?
    (like the idols and the changing of clothes and bathing)
  • What do I need to bury or die to in my old ways?
    (the idols under the oak tree; Rebekah’s nurse symbolizing Jacob’s old ways)
  • What new name is God giving to me?  How does that name link God and me?
    (like Jacob’s new name – Israel – “one who strives with God”)
  • What is my response?  Is it worship to the Lord?
    (like Jacob did after God visited him)

May today’s study not bring anxiety such as anger, shame, or fear.

Rather, may today’s study bring hope and renewed trust in the Lord, with the full realization that we are His beloved, that He provides abundantly, and that we can safely surrender power and control of our lives to Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 34:18-31

18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are.23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.

25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
(Genesis 34:18-31 NIV)

Let’s take a moment to recall the back story that precedes today’s passage.

God called Jacob and his family to leave his father-in-law Laban and go back to Bethel, where Jacob had made a vow to the Lord.  Jacob left Laban, reconciled with his brother Esau, but then stopped short in Shechem, bought land, and settled down.

Jacob’s daughter Dinah went into the nearby town, where the local prince sees her, grabs her, and rapes her.  The prince then tells his father he wants to marry the girl.  Jacob finds out and does nothing; Dinah’s brothers find out, and are at the meeting where the prince and his father ask for Dinah’s hand in marriage.  Jacob’s sons answer the request deceitfully and require all the men of the town to be circumcised before they will consider the marriage proposal.

As we pick up the story today, the prince and his father accept the circumcision prerequisite and take the request to the town elders.  And with no surprise, we see the true nature of the prince and his father come through when they are with the town elders.  They see the tremendous wealth of Jacob and his sons, and want to intermarry with Jacob’s family so all of Jacob’s wealth will eventually be theirs (v. 23).

The city fathers agree, and all the men of the city are circumcised.  On the third day (two days after the men are circumcised), two of Jacob’s sons, Levi and Simeon, sneak into the city and kill all the males in retaliation for the prince raping their sister.  They grab their sister Dinah and leave the city.

Then the other brothers come into the city and loot it, taking the women, children, and livestock, even household goods.  Jacob finds out what his sons have done and accosts Simeon and Levi for their actions.  Jacob freaks out about what the people of the neighboring villages might do, and fears for his life.  Levi and Simeon ask their father if it was acceptable for the prince and his father to treat their sister like a prostitute.

Chapter 34 is such a low point in Jacob’s story:

  • Jacob’s disobedience to the Lord that led to this sad and painful episode
  • A daughter’s life shattered
  • Inaction and unwillingness on both parties to address the wrong of the rape
  • Deceit and treachery on the part of both groups
  • Revenge and needless loss of life
  • Living in fear from further escalation and revenge from locals
  • All these actions taking place and God is conspicuously left out of any discussions

So what do we make of all this?

Some scholars see this chapter as good, when Dinah’s brothers stick up for their sister.

Most scholars see this chapter as very bad, where Jacob and his family act according to the flesh, more like practicing atheists than a people with a vital relationship with God.

May we live out our obedience to the Lord in big and small things.

When hard times come (whether we bring them on ourselves through sin, or whether we must deal with life issues because of the brokenness of the world we live in), may we always walk with the Lord and consult Him first before responding in thought, word, or deed.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 34:1-17

34 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.

Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.”
(Genesis 34:1-17 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 33, we recalled that God had told Jacob to go back to Bethel, the place where Jacob had made his vow to follow God (Genesis 31:13).  Jacob has a one-on-one encounter with God and receives a new name, but he is still Jacob on the inside.  Jacob gets as far as Shechem, then stops, buys a piece of land, and settles down.

As we begin Chapter 34 today, we see the consequences of Jacob’s choices.

Jacob’s daughter Dinah goes out to meet some local women alone.   There is no mention of Dinah’s mother Leah, or a servant girl, or one of her brothers tagging along – she is on her own.

The prince, the son of the area ruler, sees Dinah, likes what he sees, so he takes her by force and rapes her.  After the prince forces himself on her, he decides he likes her and wants to marry her.

When the prince approaches his father about marrying Dinah, he does not even say her name – he demands, “Get me this girl as my wife.”  Did he know her name?  Did he care?

Somehow, Jacob finds out that Dinah had been raped, but does nothing.  He does not send for his sons, nor does he seem to show any emotion about this travesty.

While the ruler and his son were on the way to speak to Jacob about Dinah marrying the ruler’s son, Jacob’s sons find out and come in from the field to join the meeting.  Jacob’s sons are both shocked and furious over what has happened to their sister.

Let’s stop here for a moment and see the cultural differences between the way Jacob’s family treated women and the way the local ruler and his family treated women.  While life may not have been ideal for the women of Jacob’s household, there was an overall cultural norm that women were treated with respect.  There were healthy boundaries around women, especially in the area of sexuality.  Women were not property, to be used up and cast aside.  They were not simply objects of desire or passion, used to satisfy men.  The local ruler and his son, however, did not hold to this same moral code, and saw women as property, as objects to satisfy their fleshly desires.

When the ruler approached Jacob and his sons, there was no remorse or guilt over the ruler’s son violating Dinah – only a request for her hand in marriage, and an offer to settle in the land and intermarry.  The ruler’s son was smitten, and offered anything so he could marry “the young woman” (again, not even calling her by name).

Unfortunately, Jacob and his sons do not address the problem at hand – Dinah’s rape.  Instead, they answer deceitfully and focus on the external religious difference of circumcision, rather than the matter of the heart, and of the largest difference, the gods they worship.

When we disobey the Lord, nothing good comes out of it, and it affects others beside ourselves.

May we seek to honor and obey the Lord in all we do.

May we heed Jesus’ advice as we go out in the world, not in fear, but in wisdom:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
(Matthew 10:16 NIV)

Paul’s advice is well-taken, also:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 33:1-20

33 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.

Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”

“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”

13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”

“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”

16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.

18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.
(Genesis 33:1-20 NIV)

In our last time together, we saw Jacob wrestling with God and receiving the blessing of God and a new name to indicate his new life.  Yes, he walked with a limp, but with a whole new perspective on life based on his encounter with God in those twilight morning hours.

As we move into Chapter 33 today, we see Jacob look up and see his brother Esau and 400 men coming his way.

What happens next is a bit of a puzzle, but reveals Jacob’s heart.

After having wrestled with God, having his life spared, and being blessed by God, one would think that Jacob would be a different man with great faith.  Instead, we see the old Jacob – the schemer, the manipulator, come out again.  Granted, he was much more humble now, but he was still Jacob, his old identify, and not Israel, the new identify God had given him.

Jacob arranged his family from least cherished in front to most cherished in back, then went on ahead to meet Esau.  Rather than trusting the Lord and facing Esau, Jacob resorted to cultural norms of showing respect – bowing multiple times as he approached his brother.

Moses makes a point in verse 4, beginning the sentence with “but”.  When Esau saw his brother, he quickly forgot all cultural norms and ran to meet his brother, give him a hug, and shed tears of joy.

What Jacob had feared the most about his encounter with Esau, God had already taken care of.  There was no more animosity in the part of Esau, only love.  Jacob’s fears were unfounded; his prayer had been answered.

After family introductions, Esau inquired about all the gifts that had been sent ahead.  Jacob replied that they were gifts to find favor with Esau.  Again, Moses makes a point to contrast Jacob’s fear with Esau’s reaction, beginning verse 9 with “but”.  Once more, God had gone before Jacob as He had promised and made Esau’s heart tender toward Jacob.

Esau told Jacob he didn’t need the gift, that he had plenty already.  Jacob insisted, which put Esau in an awkward place.  In their culture, to not accept a gift was to insult the giver and declare the giver an enemy.  So Esau reluctantly accepted the gift.

Then Esau offered to escort Jacob, his family, and all his possessions on their journey back to wherever Jacob was headed.  Jacob was traveling unarmed and unguarded, and this was wild country, with many dangers and unfriendly foes along the way.

Rather than trust the Lord and spend time with his brother, Jacob made an excuse to travel separately from Esau, blaming the slowness of their caravan on the children and the young livestock.  Esau even offered to leave some of his men with Jacob as armed escorts, but Jacob politely but firmly refused.  Jacob promised to stop in Seir where Esau lived as he made his journey back to his birthplace.

In verse 17, we see Jacob heading in a completely different direction, going off to Shechem instead of Seir, where Esau lived.  Jacob even bought a piece of land there, and made shelters for his animals.  In his fledgling new faith in God, Jacob did erect an alter and named it “El Elohe Isarael” (God, the God of Israel”).  Jacob did acknowledge God as his God, after he had safely returned to being in control of his own destiny again.

Was Jacob being obedient to the Lord?  Back in Genesis 31:13, God had told Jacob to go back to Bethel, where Jacob had made a vow to the Lord.  Stopping and buying land in Shechem and setting up residence was not what God told Jacob to do.

How often do we, after having a great encounter with the Lord, buckle under the pressure of a test or trial and resort to our old ways, living in fear or trying to be in control, rather than walking in new-found faith?

May we learn to walk in faith, through both our experienced times with the Lord as well as our journeys through times of testing and trials.

May we have the assurance as David did, that “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin