Friday, June 9th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 34". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ genesis-34.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 34". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob,—if Dinah was born before Joseph (Genesis 30:21) she was probably in her seventh year when Jacob reached Succoth (Genesis 33:17); but it does not follow that she was only six or seven years of age when the incident about to be described occurred (Tuch, Bohlen). If Jacob stayed two years at Succoth and eight in Shechem (Petavius), and if, as is probable, his residence in Shechem terminated with his daughter's dishonor (Lange), and if, moreover, Joseph's sale into Egypt happened soon after (Hengstenberg), Dinah may at this time have been in her sixteenth or seventeenth year (Kurtz). Yet there is no reason why she should not have been younger, say between thirteen and fifteen (Keil, Lange, Kalisch, Murphy, et alii), since in the East females attain to puberty at the age of twelve, and sometimes earlier (Delitzsch)—went out—it is not implied that this was the first occasion on which Dinah left her mother's tent to mingle with the city maidens in Shechem: the expression is equivalent to "once upon a time she went out" (Hengstenberg)—to see the daughters of the land—who were gathered at a festive entertainment (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 1.21, 1), a not improbable supposition (Kurtz), though the language rather indicates the paying of a friendly visit (Lange), or the habitual practice of associating with the Shechemite women (Bush), in their social entertainments, if not in their religious festivals.
And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the country, saw her (literally, and Shechem … saw her, and) he took her. "Dinah paid the full penalty of her carelessness. She suffered the fate which Sarah and Rebekah encountered in the land of Pharaoh and Abimelech; she was seen and taken by the son of the prince" (Kalisch); forcibly, i.e. against her will in the first instance, though not, it is apparent, without the blandishments of a lover. And lay with her, and defiled her—literally, oppressed her, offered violence to her, whence humbled her—ἐταπείνωσεν (LXX.), vi opprimens (Vulgate).
Genesis 34:3, Genesis 34:4
And his soul clave (vide infra on Genesis 34:8) unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob,—it was in some degree an extenuation of the wickedness of Shechem that he did not cast off the victim of his violence and lust, but continued to regard her with affection—and he loved the damsel,—on the use of na'ar for a youth of either sex vide Genesis 24:14—and spake kindly unto the damsel—literally, spoke to the heart of the damsel, ἐλάλησε κατὰ τὴν διάνοιαν τῆς παρθίνου αὐτῇ (LXX.), i.e. addressed to her such words as were agreeable to her inclinations (cf. on the import of the phrase Genesis 1:21; Judges 19:3; Isaiah 40:2; Hosea 2:14), probably expressing his affection, and offering the reparation of honorable marriage, as may be legitimately inferred from what is next recorded of his behavior. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife—cf. the ease of Samson (Judges 14:2).
And Jacob heard—most likely from some of Dinah's companions (Patrick), since she herself was still detained in She-chore's house (Genesis 34:26)—that he (Hamor's son) had defiled—the verb here employed conveys the idea of rendering unclean (cf. Genesis 34:13, Genesis 34:27; Numbers 19:13; 2 Kings 23:10; Psalms 79:1; that in Psalms 79:2 expresses the notion of violence)—Dinah his daughter. It was an aggravation of Shechem's wickedness that it was perpetrated not against any of Jacob's handmaids, but against his daughter. Now (literally, and) his sons were with his cattle in the field—perhaps that which he had lately purchased (Genesis 33:19), or in some pasture ground more remote from the city. And Jacob held his peace—literally, acted as one dumb, i.e. maintained silence upon the painful subject, and took no measures to avenge Shechem's crime (cf. Genesis 24:21; 1 Samuel 10:27; 2 Samuel 13:22); either through sorrow (Ainsworth, Calvin), or through caution (Murphy, Lange), or through perplexity, as not knowing how to act (Kalisch), or as recognizing the right of his sons by the same mother to have a voice in the settlement of so important a question (Kurtz, Gerlach), to which undoubtedly the next clause points—until they were come—literally, until their coming.
And (meantime) Hamor the father of Shechem went out—accompanied by Shechem (Genesis 34:11)—unto Jacob—who was encamped in the outskirts of the city (Genesis 33:18)—to commune with him concerning Dinah's marriage with his son.
And the sons of Jacob (i.e. Leah's children, Dinah's full brothers, for certain, though perhaps also her half brothers) came out of the field when they heard it (Jacob having probably sent them word): and the men were grieved,—literally, grieved themselves, or became pained with anger, the verb being the hithpael of צָעַב, to toil or labor with pain. The LXX. connect this with the preceding clause, ὡς δὲ ἤκουσαν, κατενύγησαν οἱ ἅνδρες, implying that they did not learn of their sister's seduction till they came home—and they were very wroth,—literally, it burned to them greatly (cf. Genesis 31:36; 1 Samuel 15:11; 2 Samuel 19:4 :3). Michaelis mentions an opinion still entertained in the East which explains the excessive indignation kindled in the breasts of Dinah's brothers, vie; that "in those countries it is thought that a brother is more dishonored by the seduction of his sister than a man by the infidelity of his wife; for, say the Arabs, a man may divorce his wife, and then she is no longer his; while a sister and daughter remain always sister and daughter" (vide Kurtz, 'Hist. of Old Covenant,' (82)—because he (i.e. Shechem)—had wrought folly.—the term folly easily passes into the idea of wickedness of a shameful character (1 Samuel 25:25; 2 Samuel 13:12), since from the standpoint of Scripture sin is the height of unreason (Psalms 74:22; Jeremiah 17:11), and holiness the sublimest act of wisdom (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:4)—in (or against) Israel—the word, here applied for the first time to Jacob's household, afterwards became the usual national designation of Jacob's descendants; and the phrase here employed for the first time afterwards passed into a standing expression for acts done against the sacred character which belonged to Israel as a separated and covenanted community, especially for sins of the flesh (Deuteronomy 22:21; Judges 20:10; Jeremiah 29:23), but also for other crimes (Joshua 7:15)—in lying with Jacob's daughter. The special wickedness of Shechem consisted in dishonoring a daughter of one who was the head of the theocratic line, and therefore under peculiar obligations to lead's holy life. Which thing ought not to be done—literally, and so is it not done (cf. Genesis 29:26). Assigned to the historian ('Speaker's Commentary'), or to the hand of a late redactor (Davidson, Colenso, Alford), there is no reason why these words should not have been spoken by Jacob's sons (Keil, Murphy, and others)' to indicate their sense of the new and higher morality that had come in with the name of Israel (Lange).
And Hamor communed (literally, spake) with them (i.e. the whole family, or Jacob and his sons), saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for—the root (חָשַׁק) signifies to join together, intrans; to be joined together, hence to cleave to another in love (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 7:10, Deuteronomy 7:15; Deuteronomy 21:11); of similar import to the word (דָּבַק) employed in Genesis 34:3, which means to be devotedly attached to any one, as, e.g; to God (Deuteronomy 10:20), to a king (2 Samuel 20:2), to a wife (1 Kings 11:2)—your daughter. The words are addressed to Jacob's sons as well as Jacob himself, the brothers equally with the father being regarded as the natural guardians of a sister. I pray yon give her him to wife. The absence of any apology for Shechem's atrocious outrage against Dinah need not be regarded as indicating some measure of consent on the part of Dinah, but may be explained on the supposition that Hamor's proposal was considered by himself as a practical admission of his son's guilt. And make ye marriages with us,—literally, contract affinity with us by marriage, the verb chathan being spoken of the father-in-law (chothen), who makes the alliance (vide Furst, 'Lex.,' sub voce)—and give your daughters unto us,—from this it has been inferred that Jacob had other daughters besides Dinah, which is not improbable (Genesis 46:7), but the words may not imply more than that Humor thought he had—and take our daughters unto you. And (as an inducement to form this alliance) ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein—i.e. he offers them the privilege of unrestricted movement throughout his dominions, with the right of establishing settlements, carrying on trade, and acquiring property.
Genesis 34:11, Genesis 34:12
And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren (speaking with becoming deference and earnestness, and manifestly prompted by fervent and sincere love), Let me find grace in your eyes,—i.e. let my suit be accepted (vide Genesis 33:15)—and what ye shall say unto me I will give. Ask me never so much dowry and gift,—literally, multiply upon me exceedingly dowry and gift; the dowry (mohar) being the price paid for a wife to her parents (cf. Exodus 22:16; 1 Samuel 18:25), and the gift (mathan) the presents given to the bride (Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Gerlach, Alford); or the dowry being the bride's present, and the gift the wife's price (Michaelis, Keil, Murphy); or the dowry being given to the parents, and the gift to the kindred (Patrick); or the two being the same thing, vie; the compensation offered to the relatives of the bride (Lange)—and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give (or, and ye will give) me the damsel to wife.
And the sons of Jacob (manifestly without the knowledge of their father) answered Shechem and Humor his father deceitfully, and said,—the object of the verb said is to be found in the next verse, "we cannot do this thing," the clause commencing "because" being parenthetical (Rosenmüller, Furst), so that it is unnecessary either to take דְבֶּר in the unusual sense of doles struere (Schultens, Gasenius, Keil), or to supply after said "with deceit" from the preceding clause (Onkelos, Ainsworth, Murphy, et alii)—because he had defiled Dinah their sister (to be taken parenthetically, as already explained): and they said unto them (these words revert to the preceding verse), We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised (vide Genesis 17:11); for that were a reproach unto us. The ground on which they declined a matrimonial alliance with Shechem was good; their sin lay in advancing this simply as a pretext to enable them to wreak their unholy vengeance on Shechem and his innocent people. The treacherous character of their next proposal is difficult to be reconciled with any claim to humanity, far less to religion, on the part of Jacob's sons; so much so, that 'Jacob on his death-bed can offer no palliation for the atrocious cruelty to which it led (Genesis 49:6, Genesis 49:7). But in this (i.e. under this condition) will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised (literally, to have circumcision administered to you every male); then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us (i.e. to be our wives), and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. This proposal was sinful, since
(1) they had no right to offer the sign of God's covenant to a heathen people;
(2) they had less right to employ it in ratification of a merely human agreement; and
(3) they had least right of all to employ it in duplicity as a mask for their treachery. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then (rather, sc. then we will not consent to your proposal, and) we will take our daughter,—who was still in Shechem's house (Genesis 34:26)—and we will be gone.
Genesis 34:18, Genesis 34:19
And their words pleased (literally, were flood in the eyes of) Hamor, and (literally, in the eyes of) Shechem, Hamor's son. And the young man deferred not (i.e. delayed not) to do the thing (literally, the word, i.e. to submit to circumcision. This is stated here by anticipation), because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honorable—literally, more honored, doubtless because more worthy of regard (cf. 1 Chronicles 4:9)—than all the house of his father.
And Hamor and Shechem his son came (or went) unto the gate of their city (vide on Genesis 19:2; Genesis 23:10), and communed with (or spake to) the men of their city, saying, These men (i.e. Jacob and his sons) are peaceable with us (literally, peaceable are they with us. This is the first argument employed by Hamor and Shechem to secure the consent of the citizens to the formation of an alliance with Jacob and his sons); therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein;—literally, and they will dwell in the land, and trade in it (so. if you permit)—for (literally, and) the land, behold, it is large enough—literally, broad of hands, i.e. on both sides (cf. Isaiah 33:21; Psalms 104:25)—for them (literally, before them, i.e. for them to wander about with their flocks and herds. This was the second argument employed by Hamor and his son); let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein (or under this condition) will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised (literally, in the circumcising to or by us of every male), as they are circumcised. After which statement of the indispensable condition of the alliance proposed, they advance as a third argument for its acceptance the material advantages which such an alliance would inevitably secure for them. Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs (the mikneh refer to flocks and herds; the behemah to asses and camels) be ours?—literally, Shall not these (be) to us?—only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.
And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city. The ready acquiescence of the Shechemites to the proposal of Jacob's sons has not unreasonably been regarded as a proof that they were already acquainted with circumcision as a social, if not religious, rite (Kurtz, Keil, &c.). And every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. Knobel notes it as remarkable that the Hivites were not circumcised, since, according to Herodotus, the rite was observed among the Phenicians, and probably also the Canaanites, who were of the same extraction, and thinks that either the rite was not universally observed in any of these ancient nations where it was known, or that the Hivites were originally a different race from the Canaanites, and had not conformed to the customs of the land (vide Lange in loco). Murphy thinks the present instance may point out one way in which the custom spread from tribe to tribe.
And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore,—literally, in their being in pain; δτε η}san e)n tw=| po&nw| (LXX.). Inflammation and fever commonly set in on the third day, which was for that reason regarded as the critical day—that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren (i.e. sons of the same mother, Leah), took each man his sword, and came upon the city—accompanied by their servants (Keil), or their father's men (Murphy), but this is doubtful (Lange). That the other sons of Jacob and brethren of Dinah did not pursue their thirst for vengeance to the same extremity as Simeon and Levi seems apparent from Genesis 34:27; yet it is quite possible that they joined with Simeon and Levi in the assault upon the city (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary') which they made—boldly,—i.e. either they themselves feeling confident of success because of the sickness which lay upon the inhabitants (Ainsworth, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Murphy, &c.), or, while the city was lulled into security in consequence of the treaty (Onkelos, Josephus, Keil, Lange), or perhaps referring only to the fact that they encountered no opposition, and came in safety (ἀσφαλῶς) to the city (LXX; Kalisch)—and slew all the males. Probably the town was small.
And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son, with the edge (literally, the mouth) of the sword,—without excusing the inhuman barbarity of this remorseless massacre, Kurtz offers an elaborate and interesting analysis of the complex motive of which it was the outcome, in particular showing how in Jacob's sons that strange admixture of religious zeal and carnal passion, of lofty faith and low craft, existed which formed so large a portion of the character of the patriarch himself (vide 'Hist. of the Old Covenant,' vol. 1. § 82)—and took Dinah out of Shechem's house,—in which up to this time she had been detained against her will (Alford), though this may be open to question (Kalisch)—and went out.
The sons of Jacob—not all except Simeon and Levi (Delitzsch), nor Simeon and Levi alone (Kalisch, Inglis), but Simeon and Levi along with the others (Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange)—came upon the slain,—the absence of the ו conjunctive at the commencement of this verse, which partitionists account for by the hypothesis that Genesis 34:27-29 are an interpolation, is explained by Keil as designed to express the subjective excitement and indignation of the historian at the revolting character of the crime he was narrating—and spoiled the city, because they (i.e. the inhabitants being regarded, on the well-known principle of the solidarity of nations, as involved in the crime of their ruler) had defiled their sister, and so exposed themselves to reprisals, in which they (i.e. the sons of Jacob) took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, and all their wealth, and all their little ones,—taph, a collective noun for boys and girls, who are so called from their brisk and tripping motion (Gesenius)—and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. The words describe a complete sacking of the city, in which every house was swept of its inmates and its valuables.
And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me (i.e. brought trouble upon me) to make me to stink—or, to cause me to become hateful; μισητόν με πεποιήκατε (LXX.)—among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites (vide Genesis 13:7): and I (sc. with my attendants) being few in number,—literally, men of number, i.e. that can be easily numbered, a small band (cf. Deuteronomy 4:27; Psalms 105:1-45.. Psalms 105:12; Jeremiah 44:28)—they (literally, and they) shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. That Jacob should have spoken to his sons only of his own danger, and not of their guilt, has been ascribed to his belief that this was the only motive which their carnal minds could understand (Keil, Gerlach); to a remembrance of his own deceitfulness, which disqualified him in a measure from being the censor of his sons (Kalisch, Wordsworth); to the lowered moral and spiritual tone of his own mind (Candlish, 'Speaker's Commentary'); to the circumstance that, having indulged his children in their youth, be was now afraid to reprove them (Inglis). That Jacob afterwards attained to a proper estimate of their bloody deed his last prophetic utterance reveals (Genesis 49:5-7). By some it is supposed that he even now felt the crime in all its heinousness (Kalisch), though his reproach was somewhat leniently expressed in the word "trouble" (Lange); while others, believing Jacob's abhorrence of his sons' fanatical cruelty to have been deep and real, account for its omission by the historian on the ground that he aimed merely at showing "the protection of God (Genesis 35:5), through which Jacob escaped the evil consequences of their conduct" (Hengstenberg, Kurtz).
And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? But Shechem offered Dinah honorable marriage.
The tragedy at Shechem.
I. DINAH AND SHECHEM.
1. A young girl's indiscretion. "Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land." If Dinah's object was to witness the manners of the people, she was guilty of objectionable curiosity; if to exhibit herself, of distressing vanity; if to mingle in their entertainments, of improper levity; and for all these reasons, considering the character of the family to which she belonged, and the wickedness of the people with whom she mingled, of exceedingly heinous sin.
2. A young prince's wickedness. Shechem saw her, and took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. The sin of Shechem had many aggravations. It was done by a prince, whose very rank should have preserved him from such' degradation. Those whom God makes elevated in station should make themselves eminent in virtue. Goodness should always accompany greatness. Then it was done without the least excuse, since Shechem was at liberty by God's law and man's to have a wife whenever he desired. Again, it was done against a young and comparatively helpless girl whom circumstances had placed within his power. Further, it was done in violation of the laws of hospitality, which required him to protect, rather than to injure, a stranger's good name. And, lastly, It was done to one belonging to a family whose members were invested with a high degree of sanctity. Still the crime of Shechem was not without its extenuations. First, he loved the maiden whom he had dishonored. Second, he offered the reparation of an honorable marriage. Third, he treated her with kindness while he detained her in his palace.
II. JACOB AND HIS SONS.
1. The impression made on Jacob by Dinah's misfortune.
(1) He held his peace; in stupefaction, in sorrow, in meditation, in indecision.
(2) He sent for his sons, who, as recognized guardians of their sister, were entitled to be consulted in all that concerned her welfare.
2. The effect produced on Jacob's sons by their sister's shame.
(1) They were grieved for what had happened—for Dinah's, for their father's, for their own sake.
(2) They were angry at its perpetrator; not so much, however, for the sin he had committed, as for the fact that he had committed it against Jacob's daughter.
III. JACOB'S SONS AND HAMOR'S SON.
1. The honorable proposal of Shechem. First through the medium of his father, and afterwards in his own person, he solicits Jacob and his sons to give him Dinah in marriage, and to enter in turn into matrimonial alliances with them, offering as an inducement unrestricted liberty to settle, trade, and acquire property in the land, and promising to pay whatever dowry or gift might be demanded for the damsel.
2. The deceitful reply of Jacob's sons. First they declared it impossible that Dinah should become the wife of one who was uncircumcised. Then they consented to the proposition on condition that Hamor, Shechem, and the Shechemites would submit to circumcision. And yet all the while it was only part of a deep-laid plot for exacting revenge.
IV. HAMOR AND THE SHECHEMITES.
1. The condition prescribed by Jacob's sons explained. This was done by the ruling sovereign and the crown prince in a public assembly convened at the city gate.
2. The condition accepted by the Shechemites. Trusting to the good faith of the Hebrew strangers, they assented to the proposition that all the male inhabitants should be circumcised, and in good faith it was carried out by both prince and people.
V. THE SONS OF JACOB AND THE SHECHEMITES.
1. The massacre of the inhabitants by Dinah's brethren. Three days after, when, in consequence of the painful operation to which they had submitted, the male part of the population was unable to stir in their defense, Simeon and Levi, confident of success in their nefarious deed, fell upon the unsuspecting city, and slew all the males. It was a heartless, ruthless, treacherous, diabolic massacre, fit to rank with the St. Bartholomews and Glencoes of modern times.
2. The spoliation of the city by Jacob's sons. If Simeon and Levi were alone responsible for the massacre, the sacking of the city was the work of all the brethren (Joseph and Benjamin doubtless excepted). Not only did they make captives of the wives and children, but they carried off every live thing they could find of any value; and not only did they ransack the houses, from the palace to the cottage, but they appear to have stripped even the very dead. The annals of uncivilized warfare scarcely record a more atrocious crime.
VI. JACOB AND DINAH'S BRETHREN.
1. The feeble reproof of Jacob. He only complains that their cruel deed would cause his name to be abhorred in the land, and perhaps lead to their extermination as a people. For the different views that have been entertained of Jacob's words the Exposition may be consulted.
2. The insufficient reply of Dinah's brethren. Shechem certainly had wronged Dinah, but he never meant to treat her as a harlot.
1. The danger of unrestrained social intercourse between the Church and the world in general, and in particular between the daughters of the pious and the sons of the ungodly—exemplified in Dinah, who, going to see the daughters of the land, lost her fair fame, and brought trouble on her father's house.
2. The misery of yielding to unholy passion—illustrated in Shechem, whose unbridled lust bore bitter fruit to all concerned: to Dinah dishonor, to Jacob shame and sorrow, to Jacob's sons the thirst for revenge, to Hamor and the Shechemites as well as to himself overwhelming retribution.
3. The wickedness of which good men when left to themselves may be guilty—exhibited in the conduct of Jacob's sons, who in this lamentable affair were chargeable with treachery, sacrilege, murder, spoliation, oppression.
4. The possibility of the innocent suffering with and for the guilty—shown in the massacre of the Shechelnites for the sin of Shechem.
5. The certainty that a man's worst foes are often those of his own household—of which the case of Jacob was a melancholy instance, whose name was more dishonored by his sons' atrocities than by his daughter's misfortune.
HOMILIES BY R.A. REDFORD
Good out of evil.
The whole of this miserable story has its place in the development of the kingdom of God. No alliance can be true and safe which is not upon the foundation of the Divine covenants. Circumcision without faith is a mere carnal ordinance, working evil. The sin of Shechem was avenged, but it was avenged by the commission of a greater sin by Simeon and Levi. It was not thus that the kingdom of God was to be spread. "Ye have troubled me," Jacob said. And so have all worldly agencies and methods troubled the true Church. It is better to suffer at the hands of the wicked than to make compromising alliance with them. The worldly Church has filled the world with misery. Abuse of Divine things has been the source of innumerable evils, not only among the people of God, but even in the sphere of men's secular life. But notwithstanding the sin of Simeon and Levi, their prompt execution of the Divine judgment upon the sin of Shechem must have produced a wholesome fear in the country, and connected that fear with moral purity. The sins of unchastity and violation of family rights were monstrously prevalent among the heathen people of Canaan, and it was doubtless ordered that this outbreak of human passion should bear witness for God as the God of purity and the God of households, who blesses the life which is free from the defilement of sensual indulgence, and in which the bonds of relationship and virtuous marriages and the sanctities of home are deeply reverenced. We read afterwards (Genesis 35:5), "the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them."—R.
HOMILIES BY J.F. MONTGOMERY
"And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me." It was not merely the fear of retaliation by neighboring tribes. He felt the act was wrong (Genesis 49:5-7); God's blessing could not rest upon it (cf. Psalms 34:7); and he and his family were involved in that wrong (cf. Joshua 7:13; 1 Corinthians 12:26). But was not the anger of Simeon and Levi just? No doubt there was cause, and no doubt a measure of righteous indignation. But
(1) they thought more of the wrong against themselves than of the gin against God (Genesis 34:31).
(2) Their anger was unrestrained by mercy, or even by justice (Genesis 34:25).
(3) It led them into acts of sin—deceit, murder, robbery.
(4) It was soiled by selfish gain (Genesis 34:27). Anger may be right; but need of special, watchfulness (Ephesians 4:26). For under its influence the heart is not in a state fitted to judge; and much danger of self-deception, of mistaking a selfish for a godly anger.
I. A JUST CAUSE FOR ANGER DOES NOT EXCUSE ITS EXCESS. Anger may be called for
(1) as a protest against wrong;
(2) to deter others from wrong.
But vengeance, retribution, belongs to God (Romans 12:19). He alone has the knowledge to apportion it, looking both to the past and to the future. But anger tempts to retaliation (Matthew 5:38). The wrong fills the mind. Our own errors and acts of wrong (cf. John 8:7), and the plea, Thine anger brings harm to the innocent, are unheeded. The fact that there was cause for anger blinds to its real nature; for unrestrained anger is in truth an offering to self-love. The plea of zeal for right and of godly indignation may seem sincere; but "ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."
II. A JUST CAUSE FOR ANGER DOES NOT EXCUSE WRONGDOING. God's laws cannot be set aside. And he who takes on himself the office of judge should be especially watchful not to transgress (Psalms 37:3). To do wrong on the plea of doing God's work is to distrust his providential care (Romans 12:19-21). It is to do evil that good may come; a form of being drawn aside by our own lusts (cf. 1 Samuel 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:9). Such acts of wrong are especially evil in Christians. They are "a city set on an hill." Men are ever ready to point to their errors as excusing their own. Men see and judge the act, but cannot estimate the provocation, or, it may be, the sorrow, for a hasty action.
III. WORKS DONE IN ANGER HINDER THE WORK OF THE CHURCH. That work is to draw men together in one (John 17:21). The power by which this is done is love. The love of Christ reflected in us (1 John 4:7). Love wins men's hearts, reason only their minds. And the presence of anger hinders love; not merely in him against whom it is directed; like a stone thrown into still water, it disturbs its surface far and wide.
IV. THE POWER BY WHICH ANGER MUST BE CONTROLLED. Dwelling on the work and example of Christ. He bore all for us. Is not wrath rebuked in the presence of his patience? And if as a "strange work" we are constrained to indignation, must we not watch and pray that no selfish feeling may mingle with it; and, knowing in how many things we offend, that we be "slow to wrath," ready to forgive, and ever "looking unto Jesus"?—M.