I am currently preaching through Genesis. This is a follow up to my sermon yesterday from Genesis 34.
Yesterday, John asked a good question about how the deception of Simeon and Levi is different from the previous deceptions we have seen in Genesis or even in other parts of the Scripture. Here are my thoughts.
First, almost every other lie mentioned in Scripture is done in the interest of protecting someone from a tyrant. Sarah, the Hebrew mid-wives, Rahab, and Michal are good examples. Even Rebekah’s suggestion to Jacob that he deceive his father and Jael’s lie were designed to protect someone weak. Simeon and Levi were not interested in protection. They wanted revenge. They lie to destroy, not to save.
Second, generally lies are used by women. Every example mentioned above has a woman at the center of the deception, even if there was a male involved. In Genesis 34 women play no part in the deception. This links with my first point. Women do not have the strength to force a tyrant to obey. They must use deception. Compare Abraham’s reaction to Lot being taken to the reaction of Simeon and Levi. In Scripture, men often fight directly with their enemies. We see this with Abraham’s rescue of Lot, Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, Joshua taking the Promise Land, and David fighting with the Philistines. Men, because they are stronger, generally do not resort to these types of deception. Simeon and Levi were not acting like men.
Finally, the use of the covenant sign of circumcision is abominable. Imagine, there is a church plant near a tribe that a minister is trying to win to Christ. A member of this tribe kidnaps and seduces one of the daughters after falling in love with her. When marriage is suggested, the sons of the minister say that if everyone gets baptized they will let them marry. The tribal leaders agree. On the day of the baptism, the minister’s sons invite the men into the church to be baptized and then lock the church doors and burn the church to the ground. A glorious thing, which represents God’s free grace and calling, which represents life, becomes a symbol of death and all witness is lost. Jacob’s condemnation of his sons at the end of the passage is correct, even if he does not see that his abdication is the ultimate cause.