HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, April 11, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Revenge!”
Text – Genesis 34
What does God tell us about revenge? [Romans 12:9 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”] Why? [none of us is perfect; we tend to go overboard; God is just, He is the only Righteous Judge and knows what is best]
This morning I want to begin our look at a very difficult portion of Scripture with a news article from earlier this week that I believe can give us insight into today’s biblical account from Genesis 34. I want to warn you, this will not be a comfortable topic for most of us and it may contain triggers for others.
Kyrgyzstan: Fury Over Death of 'Bride Kidnapping' Victim - Angry protests have broken out in Kyrgyzstan after a woman was abducted and killed in a case of "bride kidnapping"
“Aizada Kanatbekova, 27, was snatched on Monday by three men who pushed her into a car. It is believed one of them wanted to marry her by force. Security footage showing the abduction spread widely on social media but police could not track the vehicle. Ms Kanatbekova's body was found in an abandoned car on Wednesday. A shepherd came across the vehicle in a field outside the capital, Bishkek, and raised the alarm.
The young woman's kidnapper and suspected murderer was also found dead. Police said he died from knife wounds, which were thought to have been self-inflicted. Ms Kanatbekova's family said she knew the man, and they had asked him before not to hassle her. Another of the three men was detained by police, according to state TV. The illegal abduction of women for marriage is thought to be widespread in the country.
Many believe bride kidnapping is an ancient Kyrgyz tradition, but some researchers argue it became popular in the Central Asian country only a few decades ago. It was outlawed in 2013, but convictions are rare and women are often unwilling to report it for fear of reprisals. UN figures suggest one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan happens after a woman has been kidnapped. Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially those from poor families, bride kidnapping is the cheapest and quickest way.
About 500 people gathered to demonstrate in front of the interior ministry on Thursday, shouting "Shame!" and demanding the minister's resignation. "It is impossible to be quiet and observe the violence that our women, who lack any rights, must endure," local journalist Mahinur Niyazova told the AFP news agency. Prime Minister Ulugbek Sharipov urged the crowd to "have patience" while police investigate, but several called for him to be fired too. Some of the signs carried by protesters read: "Who will answer for Aizada's murder?" and "Who still thinks that murder is a tradition?"
Writing on Facebook, Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Japarov described Ms Kanatbekova's death as "a tragedy and pain not only for her family, but also for our entire state". The incident should be "the last bride kidnapping in history", he said. Kyrgyzstan has been here before, however. In 2018, a 20-year-old medical student, Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy, was stabbed to death at a police station, as she prepared to file a statement against her kidnapper. Her killer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and more than 20 police officers were punished.”
This story reminds us that we live in a sometimes very ugly world where sin is allowed to flourish, people are abused and those with authority to serve justice are often reluctant. Many are demanding change to practices that degrade women and others, some want to sweep the problems under a proverbial rug, others seethe with a desire for revenge and some may take matters into their own hands. How are we to respond to injustice? And how can this current event possibly have any bearing on a story from the Bible?
A HEINOUS PRACTICE/ATTITUDE – Genesis 34:1-12
“One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. 2 But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. 3 But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. 4 He said to his father, Hamor, ‘Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.’
5 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. 6 Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to discuss the matter with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, 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.
8 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. 9 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. 10 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.’
11 Then Shechem himself spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. ‘Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,’ he begged. ‘I will give you whatever you ask. 12 No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.’”
I would like to make one thing clear from the outset: Dinah is not to blame for her rape. For some of us that sounds like a no-brainer, but as I prepared for this morning, I became aware of an all-too-common trend in the biblical commentaries. I can’t tell you the times that I became aware of some scholars’ attempts to blame Dinah for her own rape—a practice we now recognize as victim blaming and shaming. As the only named daughter of Jacob, many reasoned, she was obviously spoiled, disregarded safety measures, possibly going to observe the ‘daughters of the land’ to discover the latest in fashion trends without her parents knowing her whereabouts. Others wanted to blame her father and mother who doubtless pampered her and allowed her to go visiting without a chaperone; they should have known it wasn’t safe for her on her own.
Let me offer just a couple of corrections. We do not know that she was Jacob’s only daughter, only that she is the only one named. The Bible often leaves out the names of daughters in genealogical records. It is likely that the family had been living in the area for roughly eight years and would have developed some friendly relations with the locals—for both socializing and trade. Jacob learns that his daughter has been raped, but from whom? It appears that Dinah did not return to her family until later, so it is likely she had an escort who came and delivered the news to Jacob. From the text, it appears that Dinah, a teenaged girl between the ages of 13-17 years, had gone to town to visit with friends with at least one other and found herself overpowered by a man, one of the local leaders, and raped.
If there is any individual of this story who was overly-indulged by parents it is likely the perpetrator of the crime, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the local prince. After his rape of Dinah, whom he calls a ‘young girl’ he demands that his father make the necessary arrangements with her family so that he can marry her, effectively making her his property. The Bible says that after raping Dinah, Shechem then ‘fell in love with her and spoke tenderly to her.’ This is not love as we understand love. This is not a romance between two young people. Shechem is old enough to be recognized as the ‘local prince’ or in other words one of the influential rulers in the area. He has raped a young girl and decided he wants to keep her. Given the culture of many ancient and current day societies, it is likely that Dinah felt she could not return to her family as she was now ‘spoiled goods’…better to stay with her rapist, then never to marry at all or to expose her family to shame.
When Jacob finds out what has happened to his daughter, his sons are out in the field tending the herds and so he stays silent, maybe feeling powerless to confront this local prince on his own. Word of their sister’s defilement reaches Jacob’s sons and they come immediately back to their home, shocked and furious. The Bible does not indicate which of the sons became deeply upset, but it is safe to assume that none were apathetic to the news. Was their reaction for their sister? In part. However, I suspect a considerable amount of their indignation centred around the fact that someone dared mess with their family and they had been treated dishonourably as a whole. They each took the affront personally.
However, you may have noticed that there is no apology or even admission to the act by Hamor or his son, Shechem, that Dinah has been raped. It may be that they thought Jacob and his sons were unaware—so why upset them—or that they would accept Shechem’s actions as a culturally acceptable practice. They were wrong…
The desire for revenge is a natural knee jerk reaction for people, like a default setting in our sinful humanity. There is a place for righteous anger, but not revenge. How would you explain the difference to someone? [righteous anger seeks to right an injustice – revenge seeks to extract payment]
ULTERIOR MOTIVES – Genesis 34:13-24
“But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We couldn’t possibly allow this, because you’re not circumcised. It would be a disgrace for our sister to marry a man like you! 15 But here is a solution. If every man among you will be circumcised like we are, 16 then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves. We will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.”
18 Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal. 19 Shechem wasted no time in acting on this request, for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, 20 and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate.
21 “These men are our friends,” they said. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely. Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours. 22 But they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are. 23 But if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised.”
While it is not clear what Jacob’s response to their suggested arrangement was, the two men entirely underestimated the reaction of Jacob’s sons. We don’t know if it was all of Jacob’s sons or just Dinah’s brothers, Levi and Simeon who later take center stage, who had no intention of dealing honourably with the perpetrators. The scheming behaviour of Rebecca and Jacob, Laban, Leah and Rachel is also evident in this next generation of Jacob’s sons. They had grown up in a divided household, filled with intrigue, competition and favouritism. Asking God’s help in dealing with this situation probably didn’t even cross their minds. They set upon a plan to get even, but pretended to be in agreement…if their condition that every man be circumcised was met.
Hamor and Shechem are entirely oblivious to the fact that they are walking into a trap. The plan is proposed to all the leaders at the town gate and because Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, they are easily persuaded. It seems that Jacob and his family had lived sometime in the area and had made a favourable impression. Alliances were often made to increase the strength of a community. This was a transaction that would bring obvious benefit to the town. Why not amalgamate with this powerful family? Hadn’t they proven themselves reliable and trustworthy? What did they have to lose?
What the townspeople did not know, however, was just how untrustworthy this family had been in the past, even to their own, and what level of cruelty they were capable of.
WANTON REVENGE – Genesis 34:25-31
“But three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, 26 including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp.
27 Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 28 They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 29 They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives.
30 Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!’
31 ‘But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily.”
It appears that Jacob had no idea what at least two of his sons had been planning and the rest of his sons later participated in. I suspect that Jacob would have preferred to let the whole affair slide. He may have himself seen some advantages to creating an alliance with Hamor’s people, or at the very least not antagonizing anyone living in the land against his family. I find Jacob’s response self-serving and cowardly. “What after all is the sacrifice of a daughter to maintain the peace?” may have been part of his reasoning.
But when the men of the town were still incapacitated from their recent wholescale circumcision, Simeon and Levi saw their chance at revenge and killed all the men. Whether it was for Dinah’s sake or for the ‘family’s honour,’ Simeon and Levi were incensed, “You cannot simply take something that is ours.” After killing the men, they retrieved their sister from Shechem’s house where she had been held as his captive wife during this whole time. After they took their sister back to their camp, things went from bad to worse.
The other brothers—which ones specifically we don’t know—arrived to find all the men killed and proceeded to loot the place—the herds, the houses, the women and children. All in all, the sons of Jacob ended up perpetrating a greater harm than was originally committed—the killing of all the men, the enslavement of all the women and children and the ransacking of a whole town and surrounding countryside.
Later in the laws God provided Moses, we read that “an eye for an eye” was permitted, and even very specific consequences around what should serve as justice when rape occurred, but this is wholly other. This is out of control revenge—blood lust and greed disguised as ‘justice.’ Some biblical commentators have attempted to vindicate Jacob’s sons, but that is nonsense. How would we react to a similar act of retaliation in Kyrgyzstan today in response to Aizada’s kidnapping and murder that we read earlier? Neither a Jacob-like response of silence or taking matters into our own hands like his sons will provide a lasting solution.
How could this story have had a more just ending? [discussion]
What does Jesus tell us is required? [forgiveness and love – this in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator or removes consequences, but it frees us from acting out in sin or allowing the harm to be replayed in our own lives]
What can we take away from this story?
· Imbalances in power result in abuse.
· Victim blaming has a long tradition, one we must renounce.
· Some cultural practices should never become normative / accepted.
· Neither staying silent nor revenge seeking provide sound solutions.
· There’s good reason God has prohibited us from taking revenge.
· Those who seek revenge are no better than those who do the original deed!
· We are called to forgive and allow God to provide judgement.
Sunday, April 18, 2021- Guest Speaker: Donald Peck - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!