Genesis 34:1–31: The Passivity of Jacob
Leadership is not a blank check to do whatever the leader desires. Primarily, leadership entails sacrificial responsibility—responsibility to those in authority over the leader, and responsibility to those over whom the leader exercises authority. During his earthly ministry, Jesus himself modeled the dynamic of living as a man under the authority of his heavenly Father, while exercising authority of those under him (Matt. 8:9). Therefore, Jesus insisted that he did not come to do his own, personal, private, will, but the will of his Father who sent him (John 6:38). If even Jesus sacrificially submitted his human will to the divine will all the way to the cross (e.g., Matt. 26:39), then why should we expect in this life to do only what pleases us?
In Genesis 34, Jacob experiences a crisis of leadership. He is the chosen recipient of God’s covenant, and God has demonstrated his faithfulness by leading Jacob safely back into the land of Canaan. Jacob wants to settle down and enjoy God’s blessings, but one of Jacob’s new neighbors commits a horrific crime by raping, holding hostage, and demanding to marry one of Jacob’s daughters. This is bad enough on its own; however, Dinah, the victim of this brutal attack, is the daughter of Leah, Jacob’s unloved wife (cf. Gen. 29:30). What Dinah needs more than anything in this story is for her father to rise up for her defense in the name of the Lord. Sadly, Jacob does not seem to care enough about his daughter to do so. Shockingly, the wicked people of Canaan strike their first blow against God’s holy people, and Jacob cannot motivate himself to promote God’s righteousness, preserve God’s boundaries, or protect God’s people. Nevertheless, Genesis 34 reminds us that God will establish his kingdom without fail, whether by his appointed leaders or by zealous substitutes.
1. What does the see —> take pattern tell us about Shechem’s sense of entitlement (Gen. 34:2)? Does Shechem have the right to take whatever he sees? Where does a sense of entitlement lurk in your life? Of what you have seen, what do you falsely believe that you have the right to take? Where might you need to repent from your prideful sense of entitlement?
2. Why is Jacob willing to forfeit his God-given leadership in exchange for comfort, peace, and status in the land? For what purpose does God entrust various kinds of leadership and authority to his people? What kind of authority has God entrusted to you? How might you cultivate the love for those whom you lead—the kind of love that Jacob lacked toward Dinah?
3. What role does greed play in Jacob’s willingness to go along with the proposal of the Hivites and the deception of his sons? Why does greed so powerfully lead us to become willing to transgress God’s boundaries? What kind of greed can easily gain a foothold in your life? What are you hoping to gain by it? What will greed cause you to lose? Where do you need to repent?
4. Do you think that the violence of Simeon and Levi was justified? Why or why not? Do you think that Israel’s conquest of Canaan was justified? Why or why not? By what means does God call new covenant believers to protect his people? What opportunities has God entrusted to you for the protection of his people? How faithfully are you protecting God’s people?