This week, we get to see the story of Isaac’s son Jacob and his children that become the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel. All through the rest of the Bible, God is referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and these stories set the framework of who the forefathers of our faith are; the good and the bad.
One chapter that you will not read this week is Genesis 34, which in my Bible is called “The Defiling of Dinah.” In this rated R story, Dinah, one of Jacob’s daughters is defiled by a man named Shechem, who was a Hivite (one of the inhabitants of the land they were living in). In response, Jacob’s sons deceive and lie to the Hivites, lull them into a false sense of security, and murder and plunder them in order to take revenge for their sister. Its a story full of defilement, lies, murder, plundering, and revenge – not the Christ-like virtues that we strive after! I won’t go through all the details of the story, but I do want to give some commentary to help us understand why stories like this are in the Bible.
Many people who have left Christianity or have rejected it completely point to stories like this to say “see… that’s what religion can do. This is the God you worship. He condones murder, revenge, and abuse, and therefore, religion is dangerous.” A few thoughts:
1. Genesis, along with much of the Bible, is a narrative. It is not trying to teach us how to live and is not trying to give us commands to live by. It is simply showing us what happened and doesn’t leave out any of the gory details of the broken people that God has used throughout history. Humanity is broken, and though God does not prescribe us to live the way we see in this story, he wants us to see His grace and mercy in using broken people and to see that from the very beginning, mankind was in need of a savior.
2. Much of the Old Testament reveals the story of mankind through the lens of one people, Israel, and the brokenness that humanity, left to their own devices, is capable of, even through the lens of religion. When the whole scope of the Bible is seen as one story of God redeeming the world, then we should be grateful for stories like this because, without Jesus, this is what life would always look like.
3. God does not expect us to have to defend stories like this. I have been asked many times about these difficult and dirty stories by people trying to debunk Christianity, and have found myself in uncomfortable situations trying to “stand up for God,” and “defend the actions of Him and His people.” Let me take the pressure off of you: God doesn’t need you to defend Him. He just wants you to look and point to Jesus and the resurrection. Let stories like this point you the complete sufficiency of Jesus to cover and redeem our inadequacies. And when people try to use stories like these to discredit the Bible, just point them to Jesus. He died and came back to life, that’s where the power is.
Written by: Steve Elworth
Photo Credit: Christian Erfurt
Photo Art: Sharon Holeman