Poor Dinah. She goes out to meet up with her girlfriends and is ambushed and raped. Then, her attacker apparently falls in love with her, and he compels her to stay in his house while his father (Hamor) goes to her father (Jacob) to try to negotiate a marriage settlement.
What a mess.
Dinah’s brothers hear about how she has been violated and are outraged. They devise a clever plan, convincing all the men in town to get circumcised (yeeeouch!) so they can allow Dinah to marry the man who raped her. Three days later, while all the men are lying around groaning in pain, Dinah’s brothers enter the city, kill every man, take her back from Shechem’s house, and also steal all the women, children, and anything that will fetch a price. Thus, Dinah’s honor is "avenged."
What a mess.
This is astounding to me. I’m trying to understand the logic (if you can call it logic) that Dinah’s brothers were operating under. A man raped a woman. Therefore, naturally!, it would make sense that every man in the village must die and all the women and children should become slaves. Let's burn it to the ground!
Against this kind of insipid nonsense, God’s oft-reviled command that there be "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" (Ex 21:24) looks stunningly reasonable. Usually, this command of God's is used to make God look like the barbarian. I mean, how could "demanding" exact revenge be a loving act? Um, I guess it would be a start — when you’re dealing with people like Dinah’s brothers, that is. I suppose they thought that the appropriate revenge for rape was the slaughter of an entire city.
That’s why I love the fact that when God comes to us, He takes us step by step. When dealing with people who will happily strap on a sword and go on a rampage, God says, "Okay. Let’s begin by limiting our response. When someone slaps you across the face, you slap them back. You don’t kill their whole family."
Once our vengeful tendencies have been curbed by that notion, after a while, God can say, "Okay. Now, let’s graduate to 'Love your enemy.' When someone slaps you across the face, turn the other cheek."
I’m thankful for the "eye for an eye"! Instead of trying to dismiss it or explain it away as "something a loving God wouldn't say," maybe we should praise God for His discipline! It’s the best kind... certainly much better than the methods we have come up with when left to our own devices.
God is a master discipliner, and for this, He is certainly worthy of our praise! He knows the best methods of reaching us and teaching us, and not only that, but He is willing to bear with us as we journey through all of our less attractive stages. A God who is willing to start with us wherever we are—even when we are violent savages—is greatly to be admired!