Before Genesis 34, we are told very little about the children of Jacob. This chapter, however, records a very sad and sordid incident that will serve as the first of many blights on the family. We saw a genuine turning to God in the life of Jacob in the last two chapters, but it appears that deception and trickery are still the order of business in this household, and that Jacob the Deceiver has passed this legacy on to his sons.
Sadly, although Jacob has come around and is now walking uprightly, the time spent growing up in this household and in the household of Laban have made a very unfortunate impact on his sons. Is it any surprise that these young men would conduct their affairs in the same manner as their father and Uncle Laban had? So often we do not think about the consequences in the lives of our little ones when we model less than admirable moral behavior. Even when we tell them to do better, even when our words teach them to make better choices than we have; it is our actions which prove the most convincing.
I am in no position to suggest what the best course of action would have been for Jacob’s family when confronted with the news of the sin committed against Dinah. I do not think any of us are privy to knowing what the Lord desired for them to do. We can be sure that intermarrying with the Shechemites was not God’s intention for them. But we can also be certain that He did not intend for Levi and Simeon to deceive them and then proceed to slaughter every man in the city! Nevertheless, this is what they did because this was the method of doing business that they had grown up with. When Jacob protests about what they have done (v. 30), I believe that they were genuinely surprised. Is this not something he himself (that is, the old Jacob) might have done in their position?
It is unfortunate, but it is not always possible to undo the negative impact that we have had on others, particularly our own children, which we made before we came to God. Sometimes the damage lingers. All that we can do is pray that we are able to influence them enough in our new walk with Christ and that our new nature will affect them all the more. For most of Jacob’s sons, well, we see in Genesis 50:16-17 that they were still relying on deception and trickery at the close of the book; so it may be that even after all of the uprightness they would behold in their father’s life hereafter (as well as the graciousness of their brother Joseph) that they would never fully overcome the “lessons” of their formative years.