With a sigh of relief Jacob watched Esau and his four hundred men putting distance between themselves and himself. What a great relief! For what fear gripped him when he heard that Esau was coming with four hundred men! And he, with an unarmed band of wives, children, and cattle, was as a sitting duck in a wide open country! He was heeding the command of God, Who ordered him to return to the land of his fathers. And God saw to it that after the meeting of Esau and Jacob not one drop of blood had been shed, and not one blow had been struck, Yea, not one angry word was spoken! What is more, the cheated brother goes home from the brother who cheated him with the parting gesture of promising to protect him and ensure a safe journey back to their father. And even when this kind offer is turned down, the cheated brother does not respond in an offended way and with misgivings and accusations that his brother was resorting to his old tricks. He considers Jacob’s excuse to be reasonable. The little children and cattle cannot travel as fast as the four hundred would want to ride back to their home.
Truly He that watcheth over Israel neither slumbereth nor sleepeth. He will keep our going out and our coming in, as Psalm 121 so beautifully declares. On Him we can depend. Great is His faithfulness. It is of His mercy that we are not consumed. Jacob, who experienced that mercy all night in that wrestling match that did not destroy him but taught him, now finds that mercy renewed in the morning, and he is free to return to the land that was promised to him.
We cannot ascribe such faithfulness to Jacob, even though he bears the name of God in his new name Israel. He was, indeed, in the land of Canaan. We read that in Genesis 33:18, “And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city.” Gob, however, had not simply called him to return to Canaan but to “the land of his fathers” and to his “kindred.” He was to go back to the sphere of the covenant. What is more, he had definitely left the impression with Esau that he was going home, that is, going to where his father still lived. He had in: fact said to Esau, “I will lead on softly….until I come unto my Lord, unto Seir.” Instead he went northward from Jabbok and Penuel to Succoth. Now Jacob could soothe, or try to soothe, his conscience by claiming to be in the promised land of Canaan. But he was dragging his feet rather than hastening to do what God called him to do. And we do well to bear in mind that keeping the letter of the law, when in the heart we break the spirit of the law, means that we are not keeping the law. And this will never bring us a blessing. The mere conforming to the letter of the law carries no blessing from God Who reads and searches the heart. God does not call mere conformity to the letter of the law a good work. He declares that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will surely find Him. And finding Him is finding a blessing. The Pharisees with their outward conformity to the law were called whited sepulchers and not children of light. In fact such deceit of trying to keep only the letter of the law leads us into temptations and to further departures from God’s law. For then the heart is not right; and hearts that are not right are ripe for temptation and lawlessness. Out of the heart are the issues of life; and a heart that cares not about the spirit of the law will move to keeping the letter of the law only for a carnal advantage and not in the love of God. And so that mere outward keeping of the letter: of the law is sin and is never called by God a good work. By men it may be lauded, because man does not see the heart. Before God the question is, “Do you love Me?” One can keep the letter of the law in love of self. That does not count. Keeping the letter of the law in a fleshly love for the neighbor is not enough. The second table of the law demands a love for the neighbor that flows forth from the love of God required in the first table of the law.
We may note here in Genesis 33 that Jacob does two things. He settles down in the land and builds a house near Shalem. And he bought a parcel of land—that which neither Abraham nor Isaac had done before him. They did not buy a piece of land whereupon to spread their tents. Plainly Jacob has no intention of returning immediately to the sphere of the covenant.
What must be added is that he showed no concern for the spiritual well-being of his children. Had this concern burned in him, he would with haste have traveled to that covenant sphere. He would have wanted his growing children to have companions with the children of believers. He would have been concerned with their physical well-being and traveled at a pace that they could take. But he would have been driven by an eagerness to get them where they would be able to say with the psalmist in Psalm 119:63, “I am a companion of all them that fear Thee, and of them that keep Thy precepts.”
We may recall that although Esau was an unbeliever, and Jacob could rightly have no interest in having his children associate with his children, there were those other children of Abraham through Keturah, as well as believing families like those of Melchizedek, and of the men confederate with Abraham (Genesis 14:13), whom we may believe were children of God, or otherwise Abraham would have had no fellowship with them. He lived as a pilgrim and stranger in the land, walking by faith and looking for the city which hath foundations whose architect and builder is God.
And while it is true that in Isaac Abraham’s seed would be called, so that the covenant line would be continued through Isaac’s seed, which would bring forth the Christ, there were other covenant children of God living in that day, and were the kindred of which God spoke when He called Jacob to leave Laban’s house and return to his kindred and to the land promised him. Bear in mind that Jacob knew where there was a place where believers dwelt, and where his children, and he himself could find companions that feared God. He knew where he could enjoy the fellowship of the communion of the saints. It may be argued that he simply built booths and not a house. The fact remains that Jacob delayed his journey to his father’s house and to his spiritual kindred by as much as ten years!
We are not told what Jacob’s reason was for stopping here for so long a time. Nor are we told what reaction this had on Esau, who expected Jacob to come in the area, certainly within a year. They did not need to travel that slowly. And a little thought to the matter will show that Jacob delayed as much as ten years. Jacob married Leah after working seven years for Laban. After that, he served Laban another thirteen years during: which all his children, except Benjamin, were born. Benjamin was the only child of Jacob born in the land of promise. And thus, when Jacob left Laban’s house, his oldest child was not yet thirteen years old. Now Dinah, his only daughter, was born about a year after Leah had born Jacob six sons. One child a year—if indeed this was the case—would mean that seven of those thirteen years had come and gone before Dinah was born. She must have been about five and at the most six years old when Jacob and Esau met and parted in peace. And the incident in Genesis 34, wherein we read of the defilement of Dinah, implies that she was a young woman, physically and sexually attractive enough and developed for Shechem to want her for a wife. She was definitely of a marriageable age, so that Shechem did not commit a crime of: child molestation but of fornication, and probably with her consent. We read of no opposition which she gave or of a report to her father of being abused: All we read is that “Jacob heard that he (Shechem) had defiled Dinah his daughter.” And we read ,this in connection with the statement that Shechem spoke to his father and asked him to get Dinah for him as a wife because his soul clave unto her. We read that he defiled her, but not, as is often reported in Scripture, that he forced her.
That Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land does not speak well of her. We are not told whether she went with the permission of her father, or whether she went in spite pf his protestations. But by settling there for about ten years Jacob gave sanction to fellowship with these unbelieving Canaanites. We would say today that he could certainly see something like this coming, if not with Dinah, then that his sons would defile the Shechemites, or at least take them to wife. Children will do such things in spite: of their parents instruction and warning. But often, when parents ask, “What did we do wrong? Where did we make our mistake?” They can rather ask themselves, “Did we select our living quarters as ruled by the dollar, or because here our children will get the pure preaching of the truth and find companions who fear God?”
We stated above that it does not speak well of Dinah that she went to see the daughters .of the land. But Jacob created the situation wherein his only daughter would be tempted to do this. In a family of eleven sons and one daughter, it was but natural that she craved companionship of other young women. As a teenager she craved fellowship with other teenage young women. Let us believe that Jacob and Leah warned her of the dangers of rape by appearing alone among the Shechemites. But when Jacob had the express command from God to go to his kindred and the covenant sphere of that day, let him do more than warn and forbid. One cannot by one’s deeds say, “This is a good place to live, and life among these inhabitants is pleasant,” and then with one’s words warn the children of dangers and the unbelief of the inhabitants. Jacob delayed heeding God’s command, and must not be surprised if his children ignore his commands.
Yet that one brief but powerful statement stands that Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land. O, Dinah, do you not realize that the daughters of unbelievers have a lot to teach you? And do you go to learn some of their ways? And do parents today send their daughters to the world and its schools, and its sons and daughters to have a broader education, and to learn wordly things that are not taught in home and church? Dinah was attracted to the world. That is what that statement means. Our sons and daughters are attracted to the world, and they need not go to Shechem. In the living room, or even in their bedrooms, they, with a flip of the wrist, can go and see the daughters of the land, and the sons of the land in their immorality, lawlessness, fashions, ways; and philosophies. Our young people have it spiritually harder than Dinah did, for they need not go as far, need not leave the home and—sad to say—have parents who install in their homes that device that enables their sons and daughters to go and see the sons and daughters of I the world in all their evil ways, and to learn to know them and have them for their heroes, yea to take their time away from the study of the Word of God and from knowing better the giants of faith written upon its pages, and the Christ Himself.
Disapprove of Jacob’s delay in keeping God’s command. Condemn Dinah’s action of going to see the daughters of the land. All this you must do. But you may not stop there. You must go and look into the mirror of the law of God to see yourself, and then to make sure that you are not creating situations for the defilement of he souls of your sons and daughters; and as young people make sure you are fighting the flesh and seeking with might and main to be a companion of those that fear God.