Saturday, September 12, 2009

Biet Midrash - Genesis 24

This week in Bible Study we read and thought deeply about Genesis 24- the rape of Dinah. It's not a chapter that you go over much, teach the kids in Sunday School or most likely dwell on. But it was one of those chapters that brought me up short, made me catch my breath, and has given me pause. Let me "splain (you know the accent- the Spaniard on Princess Bride).

The prince of the heathens, Shecham, a Canaanite, rapes Jacobs daughter by his tolerated wife, Leah (as opposed to his loved wife Rachel). The prince and his dad go to Jacob, confess, apologize and ask for Dinah's hand in marriage (this is a good deal for a raped women back in those times because at this point she's soiled goods and no self-respecting man will want her) say they'll pay whatever price is set as the dowry. Jacob agrees to the marriage with the caveat that Shecham and the other men in the city agree to be circumcised. They all go along with it. That's some smooth talking. Shecham and his father claim that they'll have some new folks to trade and intermarry with if they can entice Jacob and his clan to stay so the other men of the city agree to the plan; everybody (supposedly) is happy. Shecham gets his girl, Dinah gets married to a man, who, while he initially acted dishonorably, is now smitten with her and wants to make it right, Jacob and the clan get to settle and the city gets some revitalization.

Jacob, having just wrestled with an angel of the Lord, having just claimed Yahweh as his own, has the opportunity here to convert this city of heathens. Perhaps that's even his plan. But before the plan goes very far, Jacob's older sons take matters into their own hands. These are his sons by Leah and his concubines and they are righteously angry about the rape of their sister. In their anger, they murder Shecham and the other men of the city as they are recovering from circumcision, plunder the city, take captive the women and children, enslaving them all for the sake of honor. Perhaps they are sensitive to what honor means or doesn't mean because of how their father has treated their mother, and even them- sons of a marriage that was based on deceit and fraud, sons of concubines.

Opportunity lost. Jacob must now flee the land, as his sons behavior has created a situation that endangers them all. They flee the area.

We were left wondering how many times we've destroyed something in our righteous indignation, how often we've trampled a new work because of past hurts or grievances or jealousies. How often we've wounded and destroyed when we were called to create and birth. I was overwhelmed with the implications of this chapter. God could have used Jacob and his family to convert the city. It could have been the start of Jacob's life as a priest and one who builds up and restores instead of gets what's his. Jacob's past as deceiver, his history of not loving Leah and what God did and birthed through her, his own lusts, come to haunt him, his sons, 2 of whom don't become leaders of tribes due to this event, and his daughter, robbed of a husband and of restored honor.
I'm more like Jacob than I want to be. We all probably are. Our prayer at the end of the study was that we would be willing to give up our rights to be right, to be justified, to determine the end result and let God be God. No easy task.

1 comment:

jonnia said...

You have me thinking deeply here, which i very much like. The idea of giving up our right to be right... that shouldn't be nearly as difficult as it actually is.