Devotional & Reflection

Week 3, Feb 2004

Gen 34 :
The Absence of God

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 34 v1 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. 3His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. 4And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
5When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he kept quiet about it until they came home. 6Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done. 8But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife.

The heart is set out for evil in the total absence of God. In the narrative in Gen 34, God was absent. There is no mention of God in this passage. To make the absence and silence more deafening, this narrative is juxtaposed between the mention and the presence of God at the end of the preceding chapter (Gen 33:20) and at the beginning of the following chapter, Gen 35.

Here in Gen 34, “Shechem” is an example of a heart set out in forced or imposing "love" - more like unrequited love and illicit lust rather than genuine love (Gen 34:8). What happens with a heart like that? "Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her (Dinah), he took her and violated her"(Gen 34:2).

The same cycle of sin was repeated - that of seeing, taking and eating and violating God's ways as in the case of Adam & Eve (Gen 3:6), sons of God (Gen 6:2), and the Egyptians seeing and taking Sarai (Gen 12:14-15). The absence of God was also evident when Dinah's brothers set their hearts out for revenge in a deceitful way (Gen 34:13).

Shechem, the city (see Gen 33:18-20), would later be symbolic of the absence of God. Joseph was almost killed by his brothers when he went looking for them at Shechem and Dothan (Gen 37:12-14). “Shechem” may also represent the defilement of believers just as Shechem defiled Dinah, daughter of Israel.

When we work in the world, there are “Shechem”s in our paths. The absence of God in our lives tempts us to take the same paths of defilement when we suffer a lapse in our faithfulness. We become like the “Shechem”s of the world. We end up seeing and taking - violating God's commands. Alternatively, “Shechem” may see and take from us, figuratively speaking. What do we do? Revenge? Either way, in the absence of God, our hearts will be set on achieving something unprofitable (as seen from a divine perspective).

1. How can we keep our guard so that we do not end up like “Shechem” or in “Shechem” - a place absent of God (seeing, taking, violating)?
2. How can we respond if we meet “Shechem”s - people who see and take from us?
3. How can we address and redress the things that our hearts are set out for in the absence of God?

For where your treasure is,
There your heart will be also.
(Matt 6:21)

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