In spite of Jacob’s encounter with God as they wrestled through the night – seeing ‘God face to face’ and being blessed by him there is still the old Jacob rearing its ugly head. He is thus an illustration of the conflict that rages as what Paul describes as the ‘old man’ struggles with the ‘new man’ who has put on the righteousness that comes from being in Christ. Paul puts it this way in Romans 7.21ff
When I want to do good evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
We see this tragically played out in the sordid events of Genesis chapter 34. Having made peace with Esau on his return from Paddan Aram he comes to the city of Shechem, buys a plot of ground and camps within sight of the city.
Mingling with the women of the land (the lessons from Lot apparently forgotten) Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter by Leah, the wife he loved less than Rachel, is raped by Shechem and Jacob does nothing about it. v.3. His sons however, Dinah’s brothers are righty incensed.
Shechem meanwhile wants to marry Dinah (which is against God’s law regarding mixing with the inhabitants of the land) and invites Jacob’s family into partnership v.8-11 again producing no reaction from Jacob. He asks Jacob and his sons to name the ‘bride price’ for Dinah, we might well say in modern parlance, ‘to make Dinah an honest women’!
A family trait now rears up again as Jacob’s sons respond deceitfully and the Covenant of Circumcision is wrongly called into play v.14-17
Because of his declared love for Dinah Shechem agrees and carries the men of the town with him but also in view is easy financial gain v.23. So they are circumcised, leading to the next horror of the account as Simeon and Levi, taking advantage of the immediate post circumcision pain of the Shechemites slaughter them and rescue Dinah and at the same time carrying off all that they owned – wealth, women, children and plunder.
Jacob’s response is simply one of self preservation v.30.
It is salutary to ask why such a thing should happen so shortly after seeing God face to face.
Some observations to make us think.
The old nature is hard to eradicate and we cannot achieve that this side of heaven. But we are exhorted to ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you’
We need to be very aware of the wiles of the devil as he seeks to make us fall.
Our fallen natures will fall for his wiles unless we cling on to who God is and what he has promised us and done for us and such a fall can easily happen after a ‘high’ such as Jacob had in his struggle with God.
Here in one sense, as in many other places in scripture, the future of the line that will bring Satan’s nemesis the Lord Jesus Christ, is at stake.
But that plan cannot be thwarted and in spite of the horror of this account and the many failures that brought it about God brings restoration. Jacob/Israel is revered as one of the three great patriarchs, Levi becomes the tribe from which the Israelite priesthood comes and although there are going to be many more consequences arising from these flawed men and women God in his grace and mercy, restores.
Once again we note that with such a God ‘Failure is not final’ but we must never presume!