This is part of our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, where we look at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.
To Timothy, my beloved child…
I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. (2Tim1.2-4)
Next week is Holy Week, the high (or low?) point of Lent, leading to the crescendo of Easter. It will be a time of darkness, reflection, lament, and meditation. But we’re not there yet. Before the seriousness of Holy Week arrives, I thought I’d share with you a funny memory that’s connected to our Lent series on tears in the Bible.
I was sitting in the little campus ministry Bible Study my junior year of college. Our style of Bible Study was simply sitting down with an eloquent, wise, and gifted pastor, and then walking verse-by-verse through a given book of the Christian Scriptures.
Having just finished nearly a year in the book of Romans, we were just starting our next book: 2 Timothy. Many scholars believe it was Paul’s last letter he wrote before he died. And he wrote it to the man he mentored more than any other we know about: Timothy, a young elder at the church in Ephesus who was still struggling to get this little church plant off the ground.
On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”
On one hand, I am glad that the story does not leave itself as a justification of this woman’s rape as long as the individuals were circumcised (as the verses before this segment seemed to suggest–it was a ploy to trick the rapists into being in pain). On the other hand, the other women in the story, the wives of the men killed, are not treated much better (although admittedly, it doesn’t seem like Jacob’s sons rape them like Dinah was raped).
Okay, so what can Christians pull from this story? Mainly, we should be shocked that these people are “the circumcised”. These are the covenantal people. They have the covenant of God carved into their bodies. And yet, they receive the full judgement of God. They did not escape judgement. In fact, they perhaps received a harsher one than most other people in the Old Testament. I don’t think ancient Israelites would have taken circumcision so lightly as to just chuckle at that having been a deceitful turn that the sons of Jacob did. Rather I think they would have taken it very seriously that this people were a circumcised people that God’s people destroyed.
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.