Understanding Genesis 34: Love Your Enemies
Read the entire chapter 34 of Genesis on your own. You can read a variety of versions, from contemporary English to literal translations. You can download bible apps, websites (blueletterbible.org or biblegateway.com) or buy one from your local bookstore. I will use King James Version because some of the nuances are missing from other translations. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.
Repenting of His Sin
And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father. Genesis 34:19
After Jacob buys land and rests in Shechem, his daughter goes to visit the city. After living and wandering in the desert, she becomes curious about the culture of this strange heathen city. And while visiting the heathen girls from the city, she gets taken and raped.
But during the time of her captivity, Shechem, her rapists, falls in love with her and desires to marry her. So he and his father goes to Jacob to ask for her hand in marriage, and he’s considered “more honorable than all the house of his father.”
It makes you wonder how bad the other men were in this city, that a rapist is considered more honorable. There is no excuse for what Shechem did, but perhaps in his city, being sexually active was commonplace. Perhaps the heathen girls were sexually promiscuous so he assumed Dinah was just like the other girls. But while nothing can excuse his sin, he repents and falls in love with Dinah.
Shechem seeks to rectify his sin, and honor Dinah with marriage, rather than casting her aside. He seeks permission for marriage, and when her brothers demand that he and his men become circumcised, he readily agrees.
Circumcision was symbolic of the covenant between God and the Hebrews, and Shechem accepting this, was also showing his willingness to become baptized into the faith. He may have been ignorant of the true God, but Shechem was willing to learn and this showed his honor.
Other than the sin of blaspheming the Spirit, there is no sin too great that God would not forgive. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 john 1:9 "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:" Mark 3:29 Shechem was repentant of his sin, and willing to become circumcised, willing to believe in Jacob’s God.
And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. Genesis 34:25-27
Simeon and Levi did not fall into temptation and sin unwillingly. They purposely planned the genocide of the an entire city. For them, it was righteous killing in defense of their sister, and to decimate heathens. But this is not God’s will for His followers.
"If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me." Deuteronomy 32:41 In Deuteronomy 32, God is talking to the Israelites while they are in the desert. The Israelites are not familiar with God, since they had been living in Egypt for over four hundred years; so God has to teach them about His love for them. Moses recounts the history of God with their forefathers, and how God has always taken care of them. He cautions them not to take vengeance but to leave it to God. "And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Exodus 21: 23-25 Simeon and Levi is the reason why he cautions them, “an eye for an eye.” He teaches them to mete out punishment commensurate to the crime. Simeon and Levi had taken extreme measures in defense of their sister, and killed an entire city. God would rather you not take vengeance or punish the enemy. In fact, God’s style of punishment is to love the enemy even more.
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" Matthew 5:44 "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." Luke 6:35 "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:20,21 "For our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29 "Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Isaiah 6:6,7 By pouring heaps of coal on the enemy, by consuming them with fire, God was loving and pouring the Holy Spirit on the enemy. God would do anything to redeem the sinner.
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:38,39 Hamor and his people may have had an opportunity to learn about God and to worship the true God, but by betraying the men of Shechem, Simeon and Levi destroyed any chance for Hamor and his men, as well as the women who were taken as slaves. By destroying the city of Shechem, they also destroyed an opportunity to bring people to God and for them to be a “blessing to the nations.”
And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? Genesis 34:30,31
As Jacob looked at his sons coming home with captive slaves and stolen goods, he must have been dismayed at how far from God they were. Not just his sons, but himself also.
After wrestling with God, having faith that God is blessing him—Jacob is now in fear for his life and household. It is practical to be worried about being attacked in the desert, but after this genocide, Jacob worries that he will be attacked by the neighboring cities.
How quickly he forgot that God would protect him. How often do we feel close and right with God, and then suddenly fall into sin? We feel so good at church, singing our praises and praying, but during the week, we stress about work, fight with out family and stop praying to our God. Our righteousness is nothing. We look to ourselves and forget that we need Jesus. We believe we are good and sinless, but we then seek temptation and commit a sin.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." Hebrews 3:12-15 "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31 You must surrender to Jesus every day. You must pray for His presence in your life daily.
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Romans 12:1,2