Genesis 34:1-31 “Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, ‘Get me this girl as my wife.’” [and on to verse 31 . . .]
Notice how the preceding chapter 33 ends with the Hebrew words meaning, “mighty is the God of Israel,” and that the following chapter 35 begins with the words “Then God said . . .” but that the word ‘God’ is never mentioned in the mayhem of this 34th chapter before us. One lesson is a very simple one, that to leave God out of your life leads to all kinds of brutal behaviour. One of the reasons we resist any form of aggressive opposition to the Christian gospel today is because of the baleful consequences of the triumph of paganism. Especially the most vulnerable members of society – the unborn child, the physically weaker sex, the teenager walking down a dark street, the elderly and the infirm – then danger and violence is compounded living in an unmitigated atmosphere of unbelief, where men think there is no hell and no God to whom they answer for their behaviour. This chapter trumpets out a most remarkably relevant warning of what results when men do what seems right in their own eyes; though so ancient a history it is full of nuances for the events of the world in which we of the older generation have lived out our three-score years and ten. Like life in Shechem 4,000 years ago ours is an age of sexual immorality and violence. Such events as are recorded for us in this chapter are the identical ‘Crimewatch’ narratives of monthly stories on TV of rape and murder, and the common news of all the papers every day of the week.
1. THE BRUTALITY INFLICTED ON DINAH.
Dinah was Jacob’s only daughter and one day as she was out visiting the women of the land of Shechem, the local prince, also named Shechem, saw her, took her and defiled her. The words are like pistol shots of a single syllable, he saw her, took her, raped her and kept her. He was just like an animal in heat seeing a mate and copulating; he violated her. She was a teenager, comparatively helpless and she was away from home, and she came under the horrific power of a spoiled prince with no law to rescue her. He was the law. It was every woman’s nightmare. She was a stranger, and the laws of hospitality required the local leaders to protect, not injure, a stranger’s good name. The sex act is an act of love between a husband and a wife, but here it was an act of cruelty. She was defiled, verse five; she had been defiled, verse thirteen; she was a defiled woman, verse twenty-seven. The repeated word means to ‘make unclean.’ It was a filthy thing to do to a girl. She must have felt she needed to wash and wash herself, and purify herself again and again after Shechem had finished. She got to her feet, to try to feel clean after the ordeal – as once she did. That is why we call some paperbacks and some videos and some websites and some magazines ‘dirty’ because they defile the people who gaze at them and fantasize about what they see. They have become dirty people by inhabiting those wretched worlds.
The action of Shechem is called a ‘disgraceful’ thing (v.7); Matthew Henry says this, “It’s a good thing to have sin stamped with a bad name.” Not to call it “a mutual act in which the girl later changed her mind.” It was a disgraceful act because it was the result of base and brutish lust. It was also a deed “that ought not to be done” (v.7). You cannot be any plainer than that. Now of course people get pregnant out of wedlock and then marry and one can say that it would be better if that had not been done. Purity before marriage and faithfulness within it is the biblical teaching, but when we read that “he saw her, he took her and raped her” then we appreciate having the verdict of heaven itself about such cruel foulness; “that ought not to be done” (v.7). It is an especially heinous action in the eyes of God.
What made it worse was that Shechem the rapist was a person of power. His father Hamor was the ruler of the city and the fact of his son possessing such a high position in the city certainly aggravated the sinfulness of his action. He felt he was a law unto himself, above contradiction. He could do whatever he wanted to do, take any woman, any time and keep her. But his rank should have kept him from such degradation. Those with authority in business, in school, in the police, in the armed services, in care homes, in prison, in the family should be especially careful and eminent in their conduct. Where there is power and fame there should also be self-control. Autocrats can use the advantage of their position to pamper their corruption. Such men are a curse to any people. Think of the power that Jesus had; consider the women, young and old, who came to him. They let him touch their daughters; sisters wept in his presence and beseeched him to come to them; a previously immoral woman spoke to him at a deserted well, or women sat at his feet and soaked them with their tears and dried them with their hair, and yet he remained utterly pure and trustworthy. It is possible. Prime Minister William Gladstone constantly talked to street women in London when he was Prime Minister, helping them, seeking to deliver them. He was never seduced by them. But this charlatan saw Dinah, took Dinah, raped Dinah and kept Dinah, no one stopping him because he was the ruler’s kid. Let me tell you another thing about him, that he was “the most honoured of all his father’s household” (v.19). In other words, he was the most popular young man in the court, highly regarded by everyone, the talk of the town. People conversed about him, “Do you know what Shechem did last night?”, but he used his influence and popularity to get whatever he wanted to have.
I will tell you something more about Shechem, that he began to love Dinah (v.3). The Bible uses ordinary language, the words men use when they talk of ‘falling in love,’ and the songs they sing of such feelings and desires for someone. This love is not the love the Bible exalts, and God requires. That love, “is patient, love is kind. . . It is not rude, it is not self-seeking . . . Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects” (I Cors. 13:4-7). That is love. but that was not the love of Shechem. His was an infatuation, a mixture of good and bad. His so-called ‘love’ had defiled a girl. Love does not defile. We are told that he spoke tenderly to her (v.3) but he did not treat her tenderly. Evil people can sweet talk. Their words can be smooth and loving, while their deeds are rough. Judas can betray Jesus to be crucified by kissing him. Solomon talks of the smooth words of the adulteress; “her mouth is smoother than oil” (Provs. 5:3). We are told that Shechem “was delighted with Jacob’s daughter” (v.19). That is all he spoke about, Dinah was her name, and his latest flame. He spoke of the colour of her eyes, her fragrance, her figure, her intelligence – she was all a pure delight to him. But what of Dinah? What did she think of him? It was unimportant to him. Did he ask her was she interested in him? No. He approached his own father – not even her father. He said to Hamor his dad, “Get me this girl as my wife!” (v.4). It was like saying, “Get me a horse, or a chariot, or a servant” or as we might pout pleading, “Get me the latest iPad.” Toys for boys. That was Dinah.
This is bad news. Remember when Abraham wanted a bride for Jacob’s father he said to his servant, “Don’t get anyone from around here for Isaac.” Jacob had also traveled far to find a wife. Intermarriage with this people, who were devoted to destruction, was bad news. Was this going to be the beginning of unholy alliances between the Lord’s people and the people of Shechem?
2. THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.
Shechem was chosen by Jacob as a place for his family to settle because it was a cross-roads town on trade routes, a useful place to sell sheep and cows. Jacob should have gone to Bethel and the Lord underlines this in the opening verse of the next chapter, “Go up to Bethel and settle there” (Gen. 35:1). If he had done that it would have delivered his only daughter and two of his headstrong sons from the calamity that happened those days. Of course the lesson is very simple; it is a warning about choosing a place because of material values alone. How do you choose a new job, and a new place to live? Does it have a place where the gospel is preached, where all the counsel of God is brought upon your life week by week? There may be good shops, and a good school, and a good view, and good communications, and a good hospital nearby but will that neighbourhood be good for your children and your wife? What will the move do for your spiritual life?
Also we see the consequences of Jacob’s neglect of nurturing his children, all the barren years he had lived with his wives and children far from the Lord. What had he taught his sons and daughter about how they should live? One day Dinah decided to go out and “visit the women of the land” (v.1). She went to see the girls. She just had many brothers, and no sisters, and so apparently without parental permission and lacking any accompaniment, she set off to fraternize with the local immoral girls, and where they hung out the local immoral boys hung out too. That is where Shechem also went ‘looking for the talent,’ and that is where he “saw her, took her and violated her” (v.2). Why do parents ask their girls where they’re going, and who will be there, and will there be drugs, and to stay clear of nightclubs, and raves and be in by a certain time? They are not fussing unnecessarily. They know their own hearts, and they know how dangerous any place can be when it is dark and the buses have stopped. You know in the song, “Baby it’s cold outside,” the man is trying to persuade the girl to stay the night, but she is saying, “I really must go . . . I really can’t stay . . .” then she brings her great argument, “My father will be waiting at the door.” But Jacob wasn’t waiting. Off she walked into deep trouble, into the worst experience of her life.
3. THE RESPONSE OF DINAH’S FATHER.
Jacob’s response is strange; somehow he heard what had happened, and “He kept quiet about it until his sons came home” (v.5). His face registered no reaction; he simply waited for the boys to come home. As Dr. Ligon Duncan says, “Now as grotesque as it sounds to our ears, you need to know that rape was apparently one strategy that was frequently employed in the ancient near east in order to force a family into a marriage contract. This was the way certain tribes behaved towards one another. In fact, there are laws regulating and bringing punishment for this practice, and they are recorded in scripture. In Exodus chapter 22, verses 16 and 17, there is a law respecting this very thing and also in Deuteronomy 22, verses 28 and 29, “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives”. But there were also middle Assyrian, Hittite, and Sumerian laws which dealt exactly with this same practice. And so Dr. Alders can say of the rapist: ‘Shechem, in complete accord with the customs of his day, considered this lovely stranger to be fair game, and picked her up and promptly defiled here.’ Now, needless to say, this situation inaugurated a crisis in Jacob’s relationship with the locals. But the important thing to see first is his failure to carry through his duties as father and protector of his daughter. Derek Kidner said it this way: ‘By halting his own pilgrimage in the town of Shechem, Jacob endangered others more vulnerable than himself.’ And that is exactly what we have in the passage before us. The consequences of Jacob’s disobedience hit home.”
Why did Jacob hang around doing nothing waiting for his sons to come home to resolve the matter? He might have been afraid of the people of Shechem, and Jacob’s weakness was trusting man – rather than God – to find a way out of the messes he got into. In this case he trusted in his sons. Also we must point out that Dinah was his daughter by Leah, the less favoured wife, and Jacob loved his sons, was probably easier in the company of men. Jacob didn’t care so much about Leah’s children as about Rachel’s. Leah had impersonated Rachel, and had entered Jacob’s honeymoon tent in the cover of darkness to consummate the wedding. What complicated lives these polygamous patriarchs lived. Once you leave the divinely appointed path of one wife for one husband what trouble you make for yourself.
When Jacob’s sons heard about the rape they were furious, especially Simeon and Levi, who were also Leah’s sons and were full brothers of Dinah. The three of them had grown up together in the household where Leah lived on Jacob’s compound, occasionally visited by their father. The brothers were “filled with grief and fury” (v.7), and the reason was “because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel” (v.7) – notice that the boys had taken the new identity that God had given Jacob – Israel! They knew that henceforth the children of Israel were different from the world. The Creator was in covenant with them. They were set apart. They were distinct. They also knew something of their father Adam, and that God had made one wife for him. They had some grasp of the institution of marriage and family and sexual purity. They thought of themselves in these terms, as the newly named people of God with different standards from the world. Their immediate holy indignation was a rebuke to Jacob’s silence. But were these boys without blame?
4. THE NEGOTIATIONS OF SHECHEM’S FATHER.
This petty king Hamor had also heard of the rape of Dinah by his son, and so he took the initiative and came to Jacob’s home which was commendable. Let the fathers speak of what had happened. In this next section (vv. 6-19) we read of the proposal of marriage Hamor made between his son and Jacob’s daughter. Then he went further than that. He asked for a marital treaty between Jacob’s clan and his tribe. Here was intermarriage being commended between the Jehovahist worshippers and the pagan idolaters of Shechem. Dinah’s brothers watched as everything was being put on the table, but Moses tells us in verse 13 that from the beginning the brothers were planning to extract revenge against Hamor and his son Shechem for what was done to their kid sister. There are three parts to Hamor’s proposal:
i] Shechem really loves Dinah. Hamor makes that very clear, that according to his light and power his son was infatuated with Jacob’s daughter. Of course that would be the defence of every man who stalks a woman, or who plagues her with anonymous telephone calls, or sends her unwanted letters day after day – “but I really love her.” Yet it showed the difference between Shechem and the other rapist, David’s son Amnon, who, after he had raped his half sister Tamar, threw her out; “get her out of here!” That was not Shechem’s response. He loved her increasingly. He wanted to become her husband.
ii] Intermarriage between the two clans would be mutually beneficial. Hamor is very persuasive; “Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it” (vv. 9&10). They are offered the rights of citizenship and all the benefits that would be Jacob’s and his sons if Jacob accepts his proposal.
iii] An unusually high bride price will be paid to Jacob for agreeing for his daughter to marry Hamor’s son. This offer is made by the rapist himself. Shechem realises that his reprehensible act had created very bad vibrations, and so he says, “I will give you whatever you ask . . . as great as you like . . . I’ll pay whatever you ask me” (vv. 11&12).
So what would Jacob do? It was a crucial time in the history of the seed of the woman. It is as it had been in the days of Noah. Do you remember how the “sons of God” (the people of the line of the promised seed) married the “daughters of men” (people outside the covenant line? And what was the result? Did the sons of God sanctify and make pure the “daughters of men”? No. The salt lost its savour. The sons of God were corrupted and the whole world – except for Noah, became wicked. That is what is at stake here, only worse, because if Jacob is compromised and corrupted there is no Noah figure living secretly in a little town in the Promised Land who can carry the torch. There is nobody else. Jacob is Noah. If intermarriage takes place these can be no holy separate people distinct from the worshippers of trees, stars and animals who comprised the races of Canaan.
We can ask the question like this – would Jacob become another Lot? Remember how Lot put up his tent not far from Sodom, and then not much later he is found living in Sodom, and soon we discover his wife loves Sodom and looks back longingly at it when God destroys it, and Lot’s daughters are a pair of immoral airheads. Will Jacob go down that road of growing compromise, corrupted by the people of Shechem? Will he be sucked into the values of this land? When we marry with unbelievers we sow unbelief with belief and that kind of compromise always brings spiritual disaster. Jacob is being invited to stop seeking Bethel, the house of God. Let him make his home there with the Shechemites. Become rich there. Have treasure there! And what is Jacob’s response? Zilch! Again he says nothing at all. He fails as the head of the household to guide his family at this crisis moment.
5. THE TERMS LAID DOWN BY DINAH’S BROTHERS.
The sons of Jacob the deceiver now took over and acted. They were running the show. It is a poor home where the father, who still has thirty years to live, feebly stands back. The boys prove themselves to be chips off the old block – off what Jacob had been, the deceiver of his brother Lot, and the compromiser who lived those twenty years after Bethel with scarcely any reference to the Lord. Like father, like sons. They do not trust in the Lord or they wouldn’t have thought of selling their younger brother into slavery in Egypt in a few years’ time. They were hard men. Shechem and his father shouldn’t have thought about messing with them. The king and his son were in deep trouble. They thought they had made such generous offers to arrange this marriage. They didn’t know who they were dealing with, two cruel psychopaths. Never underestimate the evil in the world. The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?
The brothers of Dinah answered the suggestions of Hamor and Shechem with a cunning suggestion. “You must all be circumcised,” they said (vv.14&15). That suggestion makes us gasp, especially the men, but it would have sounded familiar and reasonable to the family once they heard it. Circumcision was employed in other near eastern cultures for a variety of purposes. One of the things that it was used for was as the initiation of a man into marriageable status. So this request would have seemed more rational and commonplace to them than it does to us. But these sons of Jacob were taking a sign which the Lord had given to the sons of God, the promised line, as an outward mark of the covenant, a sign which spoke of their hearts needing to be circumcised by God, the Lord in whom they put their trust. The sons stripped every bit of religious significance from circumcision. They corrupted it to their own evil ends. They were behaving just like those Canaanites whom they hated. They were angry that something that should not have been done to their sister had been done. That indignation was commendable and understandable, but then they themselves proceeded to do something that also should not have been done, something even more vile than rape, they became serial killers.
Hamor and his son Shechem think it over and agree to the plan. In fact it seems that Shechem got circumcised straight away; he “lost no time in doing what they said” (v.19). Real men get circumcised. Young Shechem the golden boy, the crown prince, set the example for the people as father and son talked to them at the city gate. The government of Shechem pushed through this ungodly programme, and all the men acceded – to being circumcised! Think of it! Governments can get away with murder, as the 21st century shows. The father and son convinced the people that this was a wise move, and then we see their true colours coming through. They tell the people that the land is big enough for all of them, and the people should be happy with Jacob’s family trading in it because soon intermarriage would occur “between our boys and their girls and our girls and their boys” (v. 21). Then the king told the people, “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us give our consent to them, and they will settle among us” (v.23). They really weren’t interested in enriching the sons of Israel or even in multi-culturalism – in spite of their fine words. They were interested in getting the money and animals and property that Jacob and his sons possessed. Their future was one of population growth and absorbing Jacob and his line into their way of life. The small price they were prepared to pay for this was that all the men in the community would be circumcised. That is how the world acts; that is how the ecumenical church behaves as it seeks to absorb evangelical Christians into their denominations and takes them over. Their goal is domination, speaking words of admiration and respect to you especially when you are evangelical students entering their seminaries where they indoctrinate you, but they keep the reins of power in their hands. They will soon make you chairmen of unimportant committees while they run the seminaries, but the one non-negotiable is that every preacher must have the right to his own opinion. “Do not judge him.”
6. THE JUDGMENT INFLICTED BY SIMEON AND LEVI.
Three days after the mass circumcision Simeon and Levi, the older brothers of Dinah, strapped on their swords and out they went to kill all the men of the community. They hardly knew these people but they’d determined that this action was suitable revenge for what had been done to their sister. Reuben the other full brother of Dinah did not accompany them; he was not as cold-blooded as the other two. So, as all the community’s inhabitants were weak and in pain, nursing themselves in bed because of being circumcised, into each home the two men went, swords drawn, and they wiped out all the men including the king and his son, Hamor and Shechem were both butchered. Shechem started by lusting after a stranger and his life was ended by murder. The brothers released Dinah and took her back home to her mother Leah. Then they looted the city; they seized the flocks and herds; they took all the wealth they could find, plundering the houses, and seizing all the women and children as captives. It was total horror and destruction.
These events are like a picture of the day of judgment, the great separation, the seed of the woman from the seed of the serpent. No mercy was shown to the smallest boy or the oldest man, only terror, wrath and death. All that belonged to the people of the world was given into the hands of the people of God. None of us can rejoice in this genocide. These murders were achieved by lies and exploitation. They used religion, circumcision itself – for them the sign of the covenant of grace – to bring down their wrath upon these unsuspecting people. The sons of Jacob took a holy religious sign and used it for their own wicked ends. God had appointed the seed of Abraham to be a blessing to the nations, but in this chapter they became a curse. Yes, they were to be distinct from the nations, but in order to bless them and lead them into a living relationship with Jehovah. This world is not the time or place for inquisitions, and crusades, and holy wars, and torture, and burning men alive. The only Christian in the Pakistan cabinet was shot down in a hail of bullets this week as he knew he would be. The al-Qaeda men who murdered that brave man, the lone voice speaking up for the rights of Christians in a Muslim dominated country, might rejoice in their utter wickedness but we will not rejoice even in an act of retaliation.
We are under obligation to overcome evil with good. Yes, we will rejoice in justice but in Pakistan we expect none. Whosoever sheds man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed, but not for murdered Christian men and women in Pakistan. This world is not the time or the place for the congregations of Christ to condemn people to death. If it were then there would be no hope for any of us, for God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Christ might be saved. The state not the church are the servants of God for justice, but let the powers that be wield the sword of justice fairly and humanely. However, we would rejoice more if the gospel were permitted to be freely preached in Pakistan. But Islam fears that. God had told Abraham that his descendants would go to Egypt and it would be four generations after that before the iniquity of the inhabitants of this land would be full and judgment would come. It would be an eschatological judgment during a unique period in redemptive history pointing to the end of the world. The destruction of the Canaanites is not encouraging us to take the sword because then we would die by the sword. But the sons of Jacob wouldn’t wait for God to summon all men to stand before him. By deceit they brought in God’s judgment there and then through trickery and lies and cruelty they killed many men. But God says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” However, they snatched it out of God’s hand and wreaked their dreadful revenge. They did not trust God to avenge the wrongs done to his people. “A violent man entices his neighbour and leads him down a path that is not good” (Provs. 16:29).
7. THE PATRIARCH’S RESPONSE TO THIS BLOODSHED.
“You’ve brought trouble on me” (v.30). That was Jacob’s reaction to the news of the massacre, the horrendous immorality, cruelty and blasphemy that had been done by his own sons. He was not focused on their unrighteousness or on their failure to trust in the Lord. What could he say about that? He should have led his family to Bethel. He had taken them to Shechem. Who was he to exhort others to trust in God and obey him? Then he worried aloud about what might happen to him if the victim’s cousins and fellow Canaanites all got together and attacked him. “If they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household with be destroyed” (v.30). Has he learned nothing? Jacob gives us hope, and we brag about his new life, and then Jacob lets us down again. We need a greater than Jacob! God has protected this man over and over. He has been teaching him that possessions are not as important as the inheritance that fades not away at God’s right hand. But Jacob is still fearful because his arm of flesh and his weapons of warfare are weak. Where was Jacob’s faith after all he had experienced? Could he have forgotten so soon the night he wrestled with the angel on the banks of the Jabbok and lived?
But his boys were full of blood lust. “He shouldn’t have treated our sister like a prostitute” they reply, and with that ugly word this chapter of horrors ends. None of this would have occurred if Jacob hadn’t loved the world and instead of living there had taken his household directly to Bethel. Do you see that then it was that God, who’d watched all this, spoke up and said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there” (Gen. 35:1). How will all this be resolved? Certainly one way would be in God’s vengeance over these Canaanites for their worship of Molech and their offering of children to their gods to be burned in the fire and other similar unspeakable practices. But that judgment under Joshua would only be a picture; the real judgment of God is yet to come. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, our Lord who always trusted in God, the one who prayed for his enemies, the one who resisted temptation as Jacob and his sons did not. He shall crush the serpent’s head in the last day triumphing over sins as Jacob and his sons failed to do. He will give us a new home far better than the Shechemites offered. What are the lessons we learn from this chapter?
i] The triumph of Christ. The Lord Jesus triumphs over his and our enemies. He succeeded as a head of his house where Jacob failed. He resisted this temptation to hate his enemies; he overcame their evil by his goodness, and when he comes again his people will rejoice at his success in his victory over sin and death. He never sinned to accomplish his conquest and his triumph is complete. He has given us a new home, better than Bethel. “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of his knowledge in every place” (2 Cor. 2:14-16). Those who are perishing smell this aroma and tremble. The stench of this whole chapter, of Hamor and Shechem and Jacob’s sons is distasteful, but the aroma of the triumph of Christ invigorates and makes us praise God. Christ does not pretend to offer union between the church and the world. Rather he cries out to us to leave the world behind us; “Remember Lot’s wife . . . remember the massacre at Shechem!” he cries He will judge the world in righteousness when he appears. Let us walk as those who have that day always before us. He comes! Yes our Saviour comes to judge the world. Thanks be to God who gives us deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ!
ii] The truthfulness of Scripture. If you were writing a story in which you told the world about the men who founded your religion would you write a chapter like this? No one comes well out of it. Jacob, whom we hoped would be a born again leader of his family, in fact shows his pathetic weakness. There is no cover up. Here are 31 verses that chronicle not just the sins of the world but the particular wickedness of God’s people, and I am saying that this shows to us the divine origin of the Scriptures. It is a testimony to its truthfulness and a warning against the potential seeds of wickedness in our own hearts.
iii] The developing perspective in Jacob’s response to this incident. His initial response is selfish and mean-hearted. Not a word is spoken about his sons’ evil crime. Jacob is partial, but God gave him many years to think of this event, and sanctification is effectual and progressive in all the elect, and at the end of his life in Genesis 49 he speaks his final words to these two boys, to Simeon and Levi and they were the solemn words of judgment he pronounced upon them; “Simeon and Levi are brothers–their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel” (Gen. 49:5-7). He stood on the edge of eternity and he had had years to think of his failure as a father, and the wickedness of his sons. He had seen it and grieved over it. Had they done the same? Let him speak now, not oily parting words that all was well. Have we learned that all is not well unless Christ the Saviour and Judge is all in all to us, that we have made great mistakes too and hurt people, that our testimony has been utterly inconsistent, that our best actions need mercy. There is mercy for the vilest act of the vilest sinner in the blood of Christ, God’s son, for the mass murderer. Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow when you confess them to our Lord.
6th March 2011 GEOFF THOMAS