Jacob’s sons would contemptuously combine two acts of bloodshed – a mercy commanded by God and a vengeance abhorred by God – for the sake of their own honor. There would be no animal substitute for the firstborn of believing Hamor.
The second act contrasts the repentant and believing Gentiles with the vengeful and unbelieving sons of Israel. In doing so, it prefigures many of the commandments and narratives later in the Pentateuch, and also foreshadows the condemnation of the Pharisees by Jesus for their lack of mercy and true justice.
Act II: Hierarchy
And went out Hamor (Initiation)
the father of Shechem (Delegation)
unto Jacob (Presentation)
to speak with him (Purification)
and the sons of Jacob (Transformation)
came out of the field (Vindication)
when they heard. (Representation)
- The heart of Act II is Hamor’s honorable speech to Jacob on behalf of his son Shechem. As the Hierarchy cycle, the underlying theme is the sanctification of God’s representatives, so perhaps there is irony in the fact that the Gentiles are the honorable ones in this case.
- Just as Jacob came “in peace” to Shechem in the first cycle, so here comes Hamor whose name means ass or donkey. The only barrier between Jacob the nomadic “priest” and Hamor the established “king” is the circumcision, since the enmity of the Law was still four centuries in the future.
- Jacob and his sons are placed in this stanza as the “head” and “body,” but without his Spirit they muster as an unholy and vengeful host.
- The Division/Exodus stanza is patterned after (or, chronologically-speaking, before) the Ten Words.1See God-in-a-Box. Corresponding them step by step is enlightening because it exposes the hypocrisy of their murderous intent cloaked in Pharisaical indignation.
|TRANSCENDENCE||And the men
(No other gods)
(No false oaths)
(Honouring parents / Living long in the land)
|he had worked in Israel,
|with the daughter of Jacob,
(No false witness)
|SUCCESSION||for such a thing
(No coveting house)
|must not be done.
(No coveting contents)
- The Division step in the sacrificial pattern is the cutting of the sacrifice, and in Bible history it is the circumcision. Israel was “cut off” in symbol that he might not be cut off in reality. But the actual death still occurred, being borne by a sacrificial substitute. That is precisely what occurred when Abraham offered Isaac, his miraculous offspring, on Mount Moriah. So the placement of the brothers’ anger at Division/Hierarchy hints at the plan of Jacob’s sons to contemptuously combine these two acts of bloodshed – a mercy commanded by God and a vengeance abhorred by God – for the sake of their own honor. The Shechemites would be cut and cut off. They would be slain like innocent animals by the sons of a shepherd. Thus when Jacob condemns the actions of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 49:5-7, his language is deliberately ambiguous. The Hebrew text is literally, “Simeon and Levi — brothers. Articles of violence are their circumcision-knives.” James Jordan writes:
The Hebrew term translated either “circumcised-covenant fellows” or “circumcision-knives” is obscure, occurring only here in the Hebrew Bible. Several suggestions have been offered, but there is some scholarly consensus that it is built from the word meaning “cut.” Thus, some translate it as knives or swords. But since there are other words for knives and swords, the best suggestion seems to be that it refers to those who have been cut, to those who have been cut into the covenant by being cut, to those who have been circumcised. Covenants are “cut” in the Bible, often by cutting an animal; but circumcision is also a covenant that is made by cutting, and since this is what Simeon and Levi in fact did, the cutting here seems to allude at least implicitly to circumcision. Thus, the meaning is either (as above), “Articles of violence are their covenant-cutters”; or, “They violently treated their covenant-cut brothers.”2James B. Jordan, Biblical Horizons 132: On Not Yoking an Ox and an Ass Together, August 2000.
- Indeed, the circumcision was established to prevent the Cainite bloodshed which had led eventually to the end of sacrifice and the resulting Great Flood. Here, despite the fact that Jacob had built an altar (which indicated a desire to settle for a time), the brothers made sure that there would be no animal substitute for the firstborn of believing Hamor. Setting themselves up as judges, they would usurp the throne of God as Lamech did, misrepresenting the throne of heaven by enacting a merciless and “multiplied” vengeance (Genesis 4:24).
- The placement of “kindled” at the Sabbath command might prefigure Exodus 35:2-3: “Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day.” This command concerning fire was likely a weekly civic extension of the priestly prohibition against offering strange fire before God. On the Sabbath, all the tents of Israel were holy, and the only table was the table of the Lord. The brothers considered themselves to be transcendent “gods” and their anger to be the anger of Yahweh. But Yahweh Himself was not angry because His love and His mercy had not been rejected by the transgressors (James 1:20).
- The claim that “such a thing must not be done” is echoed by Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:12. Its placement at Succession implies that the perpetrator must be cut off. The Lord Himself later stated that sexual sins would render Israel unclean before the nations (Leviticus 18:24), but that warning concerned high-handed sin. The sin of Hamor and Dinah was a wandering astray, and it was the plot of Jacob’s sons that was the high handed rebellion against heaven (Numbers 15:22-31). (It is also interesting that the contrast between unintentional and intentional sins is give right before the account of the execution of the Sabbath-breaker (Numbers 15:32-36) whom the Lord instructed Moses to have put to death.) All that was required on behalf of Hamor and Dinah was a sacrifice before God and restitution before men. Being cut off was a punishment for those who were unrepentant and refused the offer of substitutionary atonement. The ploy of the brothers in disguising vengeance as mercy, enmity as unity, becomes all the more heinous in this light. Like the serpent in Eden, they gloried in the transgression because they desired the death of the transgressor. The law of love became a weapon in their hands.
And talked Hamor (Initiation)
with them, saying, (Delegation)
“Shechem my son (Presentation)
Give, I pray, her (Vindication)
unto him as wife. (Representation)
- At the center of the cycle, Hamor desires to put right was wrong. Once again, this believing Gentile (a “donkey” like Ishmael, who was actually circumcised) desires peace and true unity.
- Notice the symmetrical arrangement of the son and the daughter around the fiery “desire” at the center. And the request for Dinah appears at Oath/Sanctions, speaking of a vow that would bring a great blessing.
- At Oath/Sanctions there is now the promise of a greater blessing: the Oath of intermarriages before heaven and the positive Sanctions of the subsequent prosperity upon the Land.
- Being the “Joshua/Atonement” stanza of this cycle, the fact that the seven steps seem to recapitulate (or precapitulate?) the pattern of dominion is interesting. Situated at the very “gate” of Canaan, was this offer a temptation to be resisted like the plunder of Jericho (Joshua 6:18), or was it sin crouching at the door, the violence of Cain as “keeper” or shepherd over his brother (Genesis 4:7-8)? For Jacob, it was neither. He was waiting on God. For his sons, however, it was both. What Yahweh was offering freely they would take by force.
- Shechem himself is revealed to be a just man, and under these circumstances his offer foreshadows the Law of Moses:
If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
- Notice that “bridal” prosperity keeps appearing at step 5.
- This stanza is very obviously patterned after the order of biblical worship to highlight the fact that Gentile kings, as believers, were already bringing their riches to Israel, as promised by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 60:5-11).
- Shechem is now the wise and humble judge, willing to give anything that he might have Dinah with him “forever.” But the response of Jacob’s sons to a faithful Gentile would be like that of Gehazi to Naaman (2 Kings 5:19-20), or that of the money changers at the Temple of Herod. They desired the goods of these Gentiles rather than their good.
Act III: Ethics
The speech of Simeon and Levi is the central act in this play, which highlights the satanic nature of their grasping of kingdom through guile and murder. Interestingly, four of the five stanzas are fivefold, speaking of a Covenant which is yet to be carried out in history. However, the crux of the lie is sevenfold, but missing its central line. That means that the very center of the entire play is missing the Holy Spirit, and thus true kingdom. These sons of Jacob are lawless lawyers, accusers rather than advocates.
- The Succession stanza conflates the expectations of Shechem (a glorious future) with the gory reality (a humiliating and swift end). It speaks of “eyes” ironically, since Hamor and Shechem’s eyes were not opened to the truth behind the lie. Instead of being shepherded into the kingdom of God like the believing Gentiles at the Feast of Booths, they were being herded like lambs to the slaughter.
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