The Old Testament is full of some very troubling stories to modern and postmodern sensibilities and our story today is one of these stories. In Genesis 34 we are told of the rape of one of Leah’s daughters. This is followed up by the massacre of the town to which the rapist belonged. Is this really how one should behave? Are these traditional family values that humanity should espouse and learn? To both questions, the answer is a resounding ‘NO’! Rape, murder, trickery, all of these are sinful and wrong.
This story serves as an illustration of what can and does happen when sin runs rampant and isn’t checked by the Spirit of God. Without an external standard of righteousness, then every man, woman or child can live as Shechem, doing what he pleases without regard to the consequences and implications on others. Furthermore, Shechem receives back the very same type of conduct, as Dinah’s brothers do what pleases them, namely the murder of one who has offended their family name. Even Dinah’s brothers’ final words betray their lack of law and understanding of justice. There were courts and councils where this injustice could have been solved, but no, their only response was “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute” (34:31).
Obviously not, but Shechem’s actions are not an excuse for theirs. Likewise another’s sin is not an excuse for our own sin. We cannot blame others, we cannot justify our actions based on what another has done or hasn’t done to us. Such is Jesus’ teaching to love you enemies and be kind to those who persecute you (Matthew 5:10, 44). Jesus ushers in a whole new way of living, not present in this Genesis narrative.
So where is Jesus? Jesus is present by his absence. In portraying a humanity that lives by it’s own rules, the bible points to our need for a savior. This story illustrates perfectly life in the absence of Christ. Where’s Jesus? Examine you own life and see if he is present.