The Bible relates a lot of ugly incidents and sometimes people wonder why. Basically, it’s to show us just how bad things get when people walk away from God and his ways.
Chapter 34 is ugly in more ways than one. First you have the rape of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. Then you have the revenge taken by Jacob’s sons, as they first deceive, and then wipe out all the men in the city, while carrying off all their women and children, as well as all their possessions.
And when Jacob confronted his sons with their horrible actions, there’s no regret or remorse. Instead, they defiantly say, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
Jacob’s sons had a point. Shechem had had no right to do what he did to Dinah, whether he “loved” her or not. Jacob’s sons had a perfect right to be angry. They had a right to demand justice, and quite frankly, I don’t think they would’ve ever seen it happen, considering Shechem’s position in the city.
But they were still wrong. The way they expressed their anger was completely wrong. What they got was not justice. It was revenge, pure and simple. We may have a right to be angry at times, but we have no right to take revenge.
In James 1:19-20, it says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (NIV)
What is human anger?
1. Human anger seeks to avenge itself just as Jacob’s sons did. It can be done physically, but can also be done verbally. Verbally tearing the other person down for what they did. “You always do this!” “You never do that.” “I can’t believe you! What kind of person are you anyway?” All this to make them feel guilty. To make them feel horrible for what they’ve done to you.
2. Human anger builds walls rather than tearing them down. You stomp around. You slam doors. Every look you give is a dagger. When you walk into the room, the temperature drops 10 degrees. But when the other person asks you what’s wrong, you say, “Nothing. Nothing at all.” Then you give them another glare that tells them that they should know what the problem is, before you go stomping off again.
3. Human anger lingers. It festers. And if it’s not dealt with, can turn into bitterness, and even hatred.
Some of you may be saying, “Yeah, but you don’t understand what he did to me! I have a right to be angry.” Yes, you probably do. But that kind of anger does not lead to the kind of life that God wants for you. It’ll destroy your relationships, and it’ll become a cancer that eats you up from the inside. You may think you’re hurting back the other person, but you’re really hurting yourself. And unchecked, anger can destroy your life.
But Jesus was different.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. I Peter 2:23 (NIV)
So how do we deal with the people who anger us? As Paul wrote:
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21 (NIV)