One of my favorite “dad” books is called Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood by Robert Lewis. A phrase that was particularly meaningful for me that Lewis uses in defining authentic manhood using medieval imagery was, “A knight (man) rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, looking to the reward.” It was impactful and easy to remember. And although it’s been a couple of years since we’ve done our “knight’s training”, the boys still remember the phrase. It makes me wonder about Jacob and his sons.
Gen 33-34. After two decades of being absent, Jacob finally returns to the land. As he does so, Esau comes with a band of 400 men to meet him, and Jacob is afraid. Never mind that God continually reminds him that He is on his side, Jacob still tends to see the world from a very earthy perspective. The meeting with Esau is a non-event, and Jacob ends up settling in Shechem where Abraham first settled in the land.
Life seems normal enough at first as Jacob buys a piece of property to settle on, but the situation sours quickly when his daughter, Dinah, is raped by Shechem, the prince of the land. When Jacob hears about it, he’s silent, waiting for his sons to return from the field. Meanwhile, Hamor, Shechem’s father, approaches Jacob to negotiate a marriage proposal between Shechem and Dinah. Hamor attempts to convince Jacob that a wedding would create a favorable alliance for his family and give them access to the land. Jacob remains silent as his two sons, Simeon and Levi, present terms…all the male Shechemites must be circumcised. Hamor tries to convince the townsfolk that circumcision is a minor concession given that the Shechemites will have access to all of Jacob’s property. An agreement is made, and all of the males are circumcised. Three days later, Simeon and Levi wipe out every man in town and take the rest as spoil. Finally Jacob speaks and rebukes his sons for putting the family in a precarious place in regards to the surrounding peoples.
This story is disturbing. Not only for the rape and the ensuing slaughter, but also for the actions, or better the refusal to act by Jacob. In this story, he is the epitome of passivity. Strange for the “heel-grabber” who is constantly fighting for himself to refuse to fight for his daughter. Had he stepped in, the outcome may have been exactly the same…it’s unlikely that Hamor would have handed over his son, or that the inhabitants of Shechem would have allowed harm to befall their favored prince…but the means would have been different. Instead of deception and murder, Jacob might have had the opportunity to see God fight for him and through him, much like He did with Abraham against the four kings. But now his sons Simeon and Levi will have to realize the consequences of their hot anger and merciless retribution. Makes me wonder what I’m teaching my own boys through my activity and inactivity…
Until next time…stay salty.