Monday, February 7, 2011

Genesis 33:18-20 Side trip to Shechem

"After Jacob came from Paddan-Aram, he arrrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city.  For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent.  There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel." (Genesis 33:18-20 NIV)

Many commentators see this trip to Shechem as a bad thing.  This is not surprising, considering the events that are soon to take place there.  However, this side trip to Shechem is not merely a case of Jacob fearfully trying to stay as far away from Esau as he can without appearing hostile toward him.

It seems that Jacob is trying to follow the same path that his grandfather Abraham had taken into Canaan.  Abraham had traveled to the site of the great tree of Mamre in Shechem, where he built an altar to God.  Then Abraham had gone on to Bethel, where he built another altar. (Genesis 12:4-9)  Jacob is following the same path.  In itself, there is nothing really wrong about Jacob's travels.  Perhaps there were considerations about grass and water for his animals which also figured into his thinking.

However, it is worth noting that after Abraham left Bethel, he headed into Egypt to escape famine conditions in Canaan.  He did this without consulting God, who had promised to be with him and provide for him.  We have seen the embarrassing incident with Pharaoh and Abraham's wife Sarai which occurred when Abraham tried to pass Sarai off as his sister because of his fear for his own safety.  In that case, Pharaoh had appeared more honest and righteous than Abraham, and had basically kicked him out of Egypt.  (Genesis 12:10-20)  On an even more serious note, if God had not intervened, Pharaoh would have taken Sarai as part of his harem and God's plan to have the Messiah come through Abraham's line would have been disrupted.

Now, as Jacob heads toward Shechem, I wonder if this, too, is a move motivated more by fear than wisdom.  Jacob may have been thinking that he was following in godly Abraham's footsteps, but perhaps Abraham's path was different than his own.  Perhaps Jacob should have consulted God as to where He wanted Jacob to go.  Since God had referred to Himself as '...the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me ...' (Genesis 31:13 NIV), perhaps Jacob should have gone straight back there and fulfilled that vow.  Instead, here he is, within sight of a major Canaanite city.

To me, this is starting to look very much like what had happened when Lot chose grass over grace and began to inch ever closer to living within a city which was known to be wicked.  You know as well as I do that nothing good is going to come out of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment