Mark continued his sermons on Jacob’s last words this morning, looking at his prophetic words to Simeon and Levi (Gen 49:5-7). Here, Jacob condemns his two sons as being ‘instruments of cruelty’, referring back to their excessive violence against not only the man who raped their sister Dinah but the whole city (see Gen 34:1-35:1).

This incident of rape must have shaken all Jacob’s sons, but whilst the desire for revenge is understandable, Simeon and Levi used deception and apparent affability to lull the people into a false sense of security before unleashing a murderous rage which destroyed all the men in the city, taking the women and children captive and looting the city of all its wealth. Their anger may have been justified in some respects, but their revenge was excessive and Jacob now reveals his shame at their actions. Clearly, these two brothers had anger issues (which may have been responsible for Joseph’s initial troubles) and had not learned to let God be their defender.

The incident in Genesis 34 shows us that God is willing to get involved in our troubles, even when He is not the cause of them. God gets involved in the messiness of our mistakes; He prepared a way out for Israel so they could escape to Bethel and provided supernatural protection for His people (Gen 35:5). God gets involved, gives guidance and gives protection, taking Jacob back to the place of his first encounter with God.

Jacob’s words at the end of his life proved prophetic. At the first census (Num 1:23), Simeon’s warriors numbered 59,300, but by the time of the second census, Simeon’s was the smallest of the tribes (22,200 warriors) and had to share part of the land allocated to Judah. Jacob’s words about dividing and scattering came true. We should not associate ourselves with violence and hatred, but must learn not to sin in our anger (see Eph 4:26), being peacemakers as Jesus told us. Nonetheless, in the fact that Levi eventually became the priestly line, we see God’s amazing capacity for forgiveness when we sin.