Thursday, March 28, 2019

Men of Violence

Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence” (Genesis 49:5).

Reuben was disqualified to receive the blessing of the firstborn. The next son in line was Simeon and the third was Levi. Jacob in his oracle puts them together (brother equals two of a kind) and disqualifies them both.

We read why they lost favor in Genesis 34. The sons of Jacob by Leah (including Simeon and Levi) had a sister named Dinah. It was the particular duty of elder brothers to watch over younger sisters. On one occasion Dinah’s brothers failed in their duty. She went to visit some of the local girls, and Shechem, a prince of the area, seduced her. The Bible indicates that this was a rather forcible seduction brought about because the young man was so infatuated with her that he lost control.

Shechem was an honorable man and after seducing Dinah he still loved her and wanted to marry her (contrast 2 Samuel 13:14–15). As was customary Shechem and his father negotiated with Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi for her hand. They offered to give as a marriage gift anything the brothers wanted. They asked Jacob and his family to live with them and enjoy their land. And when Simeon and Levi asked them to circumcise themselves and join the covenant of the LORD, they gladly did so. Considering the pain involved, these men were serious about making things right and perhaps serious about converting to the true religion.

Simeon and Levi were not honest in their negotiations, however, and after Shechem’s family had been circumcised and were still incapacitated in pain, they attacked and slaughtered every one of them. The scandal of this event made Jacob (and God) stink in the nostrils of all the people round about. God’s witness was destroyed, and Jacob had to move away.

We tend to treat violence in one of two ways. Pacifists hold that all violence is wrong all the time. The rest of us, while having some scruples against violence tend to enjoy it vicariously, as evidenced in movies and television. Make a list of three principles outlining when violence is justified and when it is not. Seek to abide by those principles in both your actions and your thoughts.

While the worst sin of Simeon and Levi was the blasphemy of misusing the covenant sign, Jacob curses them particularly for their violence. Modern movies all too often glorify violence and vengeance. Read Romans 12:17–13:7. What do these verses say about this trend in the arts?