Do Genesis 34 & 35 Foreshadow the Nonviolence of Jesus?

Peace Dove

Rape of Dinah

In Chapter 34 Shechem rapes Dinah. Simeon and Levi use deceit and trickery to kill every male in Shechem’s city. The actions of his sons cause great concern to Jacob. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” Genesis 35: 30 NIV

Jacob is worried that the residents of the land will kill him and his family because of the great injustice committed by his sons.

Then Jacob recognizes the protection God is giving him in spite of this great injustice: So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:2,3 NIV

In the time of Jacob, people living in his society resorted to great vengeance against their enemy.

The Meeting of Esau and Jacob (Artist: James Jacques Joseph Tissot, 1836-1902. Image: Public Domain, The Jewish Museum, New York)

God reveals himself.

The Bible is the story of God revealing himself to man. As we study history, we can see how God has been revealing himself to man as man is able to understand.

Jacobs sons took great vengeance against Shechem. Yet God shows Jacob that he wants to be our protector.

Moses and the Law

When Moses wrote down the law God gave him on Mount Sinai, he began to address the violence of revenge. God was no longer allowing the injustice of unlimited revenge. Moses taught that justice was an eye for an eye.

23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. Exodus 21:23. NIV

This quelled the violence and revenge that was common when someone was injured.

When the Children of Israel were fleeing Egypt, God opened the Red Sea and protected Israel. They were not required to kill a single Egyptian soldier. Many Christians have reported the protection of God in violent situations.

A bit of snow melt splitting the snow in front of the evening’s Alpenglow. Picture: Copyright © 2020 by Leon Kauffman

Solomon Teaches Nonviolence

Solomon taught the wisdom of living a nonviolent life:

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21 & 22 NIV

The Prophets Teach Nonviolence

And Isaiah told us that Jesus will bring about a time of nonviolence:

Isaiah said:

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2: 4. NIV

Many early Christians quoted these passages and commented on them. They clearly thought that these this passage is for the current church age.

Justin Martyr: (100 AD – 165 AD)

“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for plowshares, our spears for farm tools…now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness, faith, and the expectation of the future given us through the Crucified One….The more we are persecuted and martyred, the more do others in ever increasing numbers become believers.”
Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4

Jesus Teaches Nonviolence

Jesus came. He is the exact representation of the Father. In God’s greatest revelation of himself he was ready to reveal his mercy, his compassion and his love for his enemies.

He taught non-violence. Jesus said: 38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew: 5: 38 & 39 NIV

Matthew was originally written in Hebrew. George Howard’s translation of the Hebrew directly to English Reads:

38 Again you have heard what is said in the Torah: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I say to you, do not repay evil for evil; but he who smites your right cheek provide for him the left. Matthew: 5: 38 & 39 George Howard

On the way to the cross, Jesus refused to resist his enemies and while he was suffering on the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24 NIV.

Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 NIV

Jesus teaches and demonstrates a new way to treat our enemies. We are to love them and deal with them nonviolently. We must now love our enemies and allow Jesus to bring justice.

The Old Testament is filled with great violence and war. Some say that the Old Testament teaches violence, surely Jesus would expect us to continue to protect ourselves through violence. Jesus is God, if he can change the teaching of Moses, he can allow the Old Testament saints to use violence and ask his followers to live nonviolent lives during the church age.

Jesus is our Protection.

Jesus asks that we follow his example. Jesus will protect us but he does not want us to use violence. If we are following Jesus and living lives of nonviolence, it is possible that we and our families will die for him.

But Jesus will often provide a way of escape for his followers. When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. he told his followers to flee to the mountains and he gave them signs so that they would know when to flee.

The Jews rebelled against Rome. When Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, Josephus suggested that as many as a million Jews died at the hands of the Romans. Many of the Jews killed were peaceful citizens of Jerusalem. Many thousands were taken captive as slaves and taken to the mines in Egypt.

Most of followers of Jesus fled the city and survived.

Many of us like Jacob have lived lives that are less than ideal in God’s eyes. And yet God offers us mercy and forgiveness and protection through Jesus. In the long view, even if we and our families die for Jesus, we will live with Jesus forever.

Jesus offers forgiveness in the rebirth: Born Again

7 Reasons the Old Testament Cannot be used to Justify Christian Violence

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Copyright © 2020 by Jon Kauffman. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted when used to further the Kingdom of God. Permission is gladly given to re-blog this post.

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