************ Sermon on Genesis 49:5-7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 18, 2015
"Simeon and Levi Scattered"
There is so much anger today. Angry politics. Angry sports. Angry talk radio. Angry motorists. Angry religion. Angry investors. Angry parents. Angry children. Angry marriages.
A pair of brothers in France are angry about cartoons of Mohammed and they go on a killing spree. Crowds of people are angry when a cop is not put on trial for the shooting death of a black teen in Ferguson, Missouri and stage nationwide protests. A motorist is angry about being cut off in traffic and swings weapons and fists at the offender. A football player takes a late hit and his angry teammates retaliate. An employee gets fired and angrily files grievance papers. A homeless man at the Post Office is angry and starts yelling and screaming. Anger. Anger. Anger. Even within the church and Christian School we see angry people.
There are lots of angry people in the Bible as well – especially in Genesis. Cain was angry and killed his brother (Gen 4:4-8). Esau was angry with Jacob (Gen 27:45). Jacob was angry with Laban (Gen 31:36). Potiphar was angry with Joseph (Gen 39:19). Pharaoh was angry with his two officials (Gen 40:2). More than once Moses was angry with the children of Israel (Ex 16:20; 32:19). The Jewish leaders were angry with Jesus for healing on the Sabbath (Jn 7:23).
As you know, there is good anger and bad anger, righteous anger and sinful anger. This morning we are looking at bad anger as we continue our study of Jacob's last will and testament.
I Jacob's Advice
A Jacob speaks to us in Genesis 49. He is an old man. Inspired by the Spirit he has wisdom to give. So we, too, are called to assemble and listen with the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:2).
What is Jacob's wisdom in the case of Simeon and Levi? "Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly" (Gen 49:6). Jacob warns us against being like Simeon and Levi. He warns us against their council and their assembly.
What is their council and assembly? Jacob tells us when he says, "Simeon and Levi are brothers ..." (Gen 49:5). We know they are full brothers, sharing the same father and mother; I say that because, as you know, they also have six half-brothers sharing the same father but different mothers.
"Simeon and Levi are brothers ..." They were brothers who looked out for each other. They covered each other's back. They protected each other. This, of course, should be the relationship between all brothers: care, concern, fellowship, help, and support.
"Simeon and Levi are brothers ..." This relationship between the two brothers sounds wonderful. So why does Jacob warn us against their council and their assembly? We need to realize Jacob is talking about more than parentage. He is talking about more than fellowship. He is also talking about character. Simeon and Levi are two of a kind. Both are angry men. Over the top anger. Out of control anger. Jacob lets us know that theirs is a brotherhood of cruelty, violence, fury, and revenge. Simeon and Levi are partners in crime together. They are joined together in their evil councils and evil actions.
As I indicated in my introduction, the wrong kind of anger can be so destructive. It has the capacity to destroy homes and marriages. It can rip apart long-held friendships. It can split churches. It can make one cantankerous and bitter. It is a leading cause of heart disease. Those with uncontrolled anger drink Maalox by the gallon, eat Prilosec by the pound, and pop anti-depressants by the hundreds. Throughout my ministry I have seen more damage from uncontrolled anger than from drug and alcohol abuse. Simeon and Levi share the wrong kind of anger.
So what is Jacob saying to you and to me? He is saying don't be angry like Simeon and Levi! He is saying don't be out of control like these two sons of his.
All too often parents are blind to the faults and sins of their children. For instance, think of some of the recent shootings we have had in Visalia. The mother of the perpetrator says on TV that he is a good boy – even though he just shot or knifed someone to death. It is so hard for parents to admit their kids are flawed human beings. I remember the time a father on his deathbed asked for a lawyer to change his will because he finally admitted his son was a liar and a thief; however, it was too late because he died before anything could be done. We notice Jacob really is no different. He waits until his deathbed to admit the truth about Simeon and Levi.
B So what did Simeon and Levi do? Jacob says, "their swords are weapons of violence" (Gen 49:5). Another acceptable translation: "their swords are instruments of cruelty." Weapons that should be used for their own defense are used instead to shed the blood of innocents. The word for "violence" indicates an abhorrent ruthlessness. They did not hesitate to go over the top.
Do you remember what Jacob is talking about? He is talking about the shameful event we read about in Genesis 34. Simeon and Levi have a little sister, Dinah, who was dishonored and defiled by Prince Shechem. Dinah, of course, was marked for life. When they discovered what happened, Simeon plotted revenge and Levi was his willing helper.
I'm sure you remember what happened next. Some bartering went on back and forth between Jacob and the father of Shechem. A dowry price was agreed upon. Simeon and Levi then begin to press the issue of their sister being married to a pagan. After much discussion the men of Shechem agree to be circumcised. Three days later, as the men were laid up from their circumcision, Simeon and Levi attacked and methodically massacred every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem's house and left.
Speaking about this, Jacob says "they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased" (Gen 49:6). They didn't even spare innocent animals. Instead, they cut the tendons of the leg so the animals were paralyzed and could no longer be used as beasts of burden.
The sin of Simeon and Levi was deliberate and deadly. Their sin was meticulously planned and executed. Their sin was carried out with malice and forethought. They took law and justice into their own hands.
Two lone, angry, violent men seeking retribution, revenge, and fury. Is any of this sounding familiar? Doesn't this sound like the evening news too often?
So Jacob's warning still applies: "Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly" (Gen 49:6). Don't be angry like Simeon and Levi. Don't have an out-of-control temper like them.
C Did you notice how Simeon and Levi wrapped their anger in religion?" Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?" (Gen 34:31). They claimed what they were doing was right because they were protecting and defending their little sister (cf Gen 34:7,31). It was a matter of righteousness. They are claiming the moral high road and telling Jacob to overlook what they did in the name of justice.
Today we see the same kind of justification being used by Muslim terrorists. In the name of Allah and Mohammed, ISIS is butchering people in Syria and Iraq. In Nigeria, the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram is "cleansing" entire towns and villages of those they do not consider to be pure believers and kidnapping young teenaged girls. The same kind of argument was used to justify 9/11 and the attack on the twin towers in New York City. A number of years ago a similar argument was used to justify the killing of George Tiller, a doctor who performed late-term abortions. The world is full of people like Simeon and Levi who take the law into their own hands and cloak it in righteous indignation.
We are rightly horrified and appalled by ISIS and Boko Haram and all Muslim extremists. And, we should be equally horrified when anyone here takes the law into their own hands and becomes judge, jury, and executioner of those they disagree with. "Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly" (Gen 49:6).
Worst of all, we have to say Simeon and Levi perverted the sign and seal of circumcision. The men of Shechem willingly underwent circumcision and when they were recuperating they were butchered like hogs. A covenant-making ceremony was used to exact revenge. Can you imagine participants in the Lord's Supper being killed or those who undergo baptism being drowned? Even the thought should abhor us and repel us. "Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly" (Gen 49:6). Something holy was used in an unholy way. Religion and religious ceremony was used with criminal intent.
II Jacob's Curse
A Jacob not only gives advice. He also delivers a curse. It is now more than 30 years after the event. Simeon and Levi probably think they got away with murder. But from his deathbed, inspired by the Spirit of God, Jacob speaks words of condemnation.
(Gen 49:7) Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.Hear that word "cursed." It means condemned by God, hated by God, despised by God.
Telling us what? Telling us sin is punished. Telling us sin has consequences. Telling us that actions have a lasting effect on souls. Telling us that uncontrolled and ungodly anger impacts one's spiritual inheritance.
The council of anger, congregation, demands a payday. It may seem, for a while, like you get off scott-free. But there will come a day when payment will be demanded.
B Notice the form of the curse: "I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel" (Gen 49:7). Their wanton slaughter of an entire city was wrong, and it is their families that will feel the consequences. Uncontrolled anger, like divorce, is the gift that keeps on giving.
So what happened? What does the curse mean? The curse was literally fulfilled. When the children of Israel reached the Promised Land, the tribe of Levi did not receive any inheritance at all except for 48 cities scattered throughout Canaan. As for Simeon, at the time of the second census in the wilderness this tribe was so reduced in numbers as to be the smallest of the twelve tribes (Num 26:14); it was passed over entirely in the last blessing of Moses (Deut 33); and, it received no allotment of territory in the Promised Land on the completion of the conquest; instead, this tribe received only a few towns and villages in Judah. "I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel" (Gen 49:7).
C But we can say more. We look over time and see that the tribe of Simeon lost its identity, was absorbed by the tribe of Judah, and totally disappeared from history. "I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel" (Gen 49:7). All of this because of a cruel anger and out-of-control temper.
Levi is also scattered throughout Israel, but his tribe fares better in the history of redemption. Moses, the leader of Israel, was a son of Levi. Aaron, the first high priest, was also a son of Levi. And Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, was also of the tribe of Levi. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and saw the golden calf, it was the Levites who rallied to him and killed those responsible for this idolatry (Ex 32:26-29). When the daughters of Moab successfully seduced the men of Israel into the worship of Baal, it was a Levite who put a stop to this sin by killing the leader of a Simeonite family who openly engaged in idolatry and adultery (Num 25).
Notice, by the grace of God Levi was no longer in league with Simeon. The brotherhood of evil was broken. And, by the same grace of God it was the Levites who were chosen to be priests of God Most High. Though cursed and scattered, Levi was exalted not because of its own merits but only because of God's mercy.
When we look at Levi we see that our God delights to extend His grace to even the most wicked of sinners. Simeon and Levi show us the truth of what was later written by Paul: "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden" (Rom 9:18). We should not be shocked when the most wicked of sinners are embraced by His mercy.
This reminds me of a poem entitled, "Shocked in Heaven"It is out of grace. It is out of mercy. It is out of kindness and love. It is unearned. It is undeserved. It is unmerited. No one deserves God's compassion. Yet, it was given to the sons of Levi so they overcame God's curse against their anger. It was given to the thief on the cross. It was given to Zacchaeus. It was given to Saul of Tarsus. And likewise it is given to you and me.
-- Author unknown
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
as I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
who made me sputter and gasp--
the thieves, the liars, the sinners,
the alcoholics and the rash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
who never said anything nice.
Herb, who I always thought
was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty in the clouds,
looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, "What's the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
God must've made a mistake.
"And why's everyone so quiet,
so somber - give me a clue."
"Hush , child," He said, "they're all in shock.
No one thought they'd be seeing you."
More than once I have witnessed the council of anger. It is never pretty, never nice, never edifying. Those in its grip act more like beasts than men. "Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly" (Gen 49:6).
Yet, even to such the grace of God can come so the most unexpected of people end up as servants of God Most High.
How is this even possible? Let me end with the good news of the Gospel: it is all because of Christ. He took the anger of God and the curse of God against the sin of the whole human race. He suffered in our place. He stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me.
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