Jacob Series: Consequences of Neglecting God (Gen 34)
Consequences of Neglecting God
Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who ruled that area, saw her, he grabbed her, forced himself on her, and sexually assaulted her. Then he became very attached to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with the young woman and spoke romantically to her. Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Acquire this young girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went to speak with Jacob about Dinah. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard the news. They were offended and very angry because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter, a crime that should not be committed. But Hamor made this appeal to them: “My son Shechem is in love with your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Let us marry your daughters, and take our daughters as wives for yourselves. You may live among us, and the land will be open to you. Live in it, travel freely in it, and acquire property in it.” Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and whatever you require of me I’ll give. You can make the bride price and the gift I must bring very expensive, and I’ll give whatever you ask of me. Just give me the young woman as my wife!” Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.” Their offer pleased Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man did not delay in doing what they asked because he wanted Jacob’s daughter Dinah badly. (Now he was more important than anyone in his father’s household.) So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, “These men are at peace with us. So let them live in the land and travel freely in it, for the land is wide enough for them. We will take their daughters for wives, and we will give them our daughters to marry. Only on this one condition will these men consent to live with us and become one people: They demand that every male among us be circumcised just as they are circumcised. If we do so, won’t their livestock, their property, and all their animals become ours? So let’s consent to their demand, so they will live among us.” All the men who assembled at the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem. Every male who assembled at the city gate was circumcised. In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated. They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields. They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses…
Genesis 34 (NET)
What are consequences of neglecting God?
Genesis 34 is one of the more tragic chapters in the Bible. In the narrative, Jacob’s only daughter Dinah was raped by a prince in the land of Shechem. After the assault, the young man (also named Shechem) realizes that he loves Dinah and sends his father to arrange a marriage between the families. Jacob’s sons agree on the condition that the men of Shechem circumcise themselves. Because of the potential to gain great wealth through the partnership, the men of the town agreed and went through with the procedure. On the third day after their circumcision, when the pain probably was the worst, two of Jacob’s sons murdered all the men in the town.
The story is tragic. Many might question, “Why is this story in the Bible?” and “What can we learn from it?” There are many things: For one, stories like this give evidence of the Divine authorship of Scripture. From a human perspective, adding this story makes no sense. If Moses, the author of Genesis, was simply trying to encourage Israel before they entered the promised land, this story would have been left out, as it displays the Jews in an unflattering light. Even the Canaanites look more honest than Israel. Human authors would not have added this story. But, since God is the ultimate author of Scripture, he doesn’t hide the flaws of his people. David had flaws. Moses had flaws. Abraham had flaws. Jacob had flaws, and the Israelites had flaws. In fact, this demonstrates that all are sinners—Jews and Gentiles. However, God can use and change flawed people for his purposes, which he eventually does with Israel. In one sense, this chapter should give us all hope.
In addition, not only does this story demonstrate the Divine authorship of Scripture, it also shows us what happens when God is neglected. In the previous narrative, Jacob had worked for his uncle Laban for twenty years, and while working for him, he was cheated and abused. When Jacob flees from Laban, God rescues him. After God resolved that situation, Jacob seeks reconciliation with his brother Esau; however, Esau responds with bringing 400 men to meet him. This response appears to be hostile. However, God delivers Jacob from that as well—bringing reconciliation.
After a long period of time living in the land of Succoth, Jacob finally brings his family to the land of Shechem in Genesis 33. While there, Jacob builds an altar—declaring that the God of Israel was God (Gen 33:20). For twenty years of hostile service in Haran, God protected and prospered Jacob. When he was about to encounter his angry brother, God protected him again. But now in Shechem, Jacob was threatened by a much more difficult problem—ease and prosperity. Though his major struggles seemed to be over, his most difficult struggle appeared—maintaining faith in ease and prosperity. This is why Scripture says we should rejoice in various trials and tribulations, as they test our faith (Jam 1:2). It is much harder to be faithful to God in ease than in difficulty. And it appears that Jacob and his family began to neglect God in this season.
How can we tell that Jacob and his family neglected God?
In Genesis 35, after this terrible narrative, Jacob leads his family in repentance. Consider what he says to his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes” (v. 2). While in Shechem and living in prosperity, his family had started worshiping pagan gods. In fact, Josephus, a Jewish historian, said that Dinah went into the city, not only to see the ladies, but also to go to a pagan festival. It appears that while neglecting God, Jacob’s family began to conform to the world and worship the idols of the world. This is exactly how Paul’s describes the pagan world in Romans 1:21-23:
For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
When the world denies the knowledge of God, as seen in creation or Scripture, people naturally find something to worship, even if it’s themselves. Humanity was made to worship God, and if we don’t worship him, we will worship something else. We don’t just see this in the world around us, but we see this in ourselves, as believers. When we’re neglecting, God is replaced by some idol—something that gets most of our attention: social media, video games, career, money, relationships, etc.
In Romans 1:28, Paul adds: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done.” When people neglect God, their thinking becomes perverted—leading to sinful actions. That’s just what we see in this chapter—the consequences of neglecting God—both among pagans and believers.
Something else that may imply the neglect of God in this narrative is the fact that this is one of the few chapters in the Bible where God is never mentioned. In the book of Esther, God is never mentioned either, but his sovereign and positive influence is seen throughout the pages. In Genesis 34, though God is not mentioned, we know he is present, but he seems to be present for judgment. He is handing people over to a “depraved mind” as they’ve neglected him—allowing them to commit sin and reap the terrible consequences of it.
This is the tragic story of society, and we see it happening all around us and often in our own lives. In this story, a pagan rapes Dinah, and in return, the Israelites deceive and kill all the men in the city—committing a worse sin. Sadly, that often happens in our world as well, when believers neglect God. They neglect God—leading to being conformed to world and often committing worse sins than the world, impacting society negatively. Though redeemed, believers still have a sinful nature that must be subdued by living in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-22).
As we study this narrative, we must be sober and aware that these unfortunate consequences of neglecting God can happen in our nations, communities, churches, and homes. Let us consider them and be warned, which, no doubt, is the narrator’s purpose in sharing this story.
Big Question: What are the consequences of neglecting God, as demonstrated in the Genesis 34 narrative?
When God Is Neglected, Sexual Immorality Saturates Society
Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who ruled that area, saw her, he grabbed her, forced himself on her, and sexually assaulted her. Then he became very attached to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with the young woman and spoke romantically to her. Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Acquire this young girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went to speak with Jacob about Dinah. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard the news. They were offended and very angry because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter, a crime that should not be committed. But Hamor made this appeal to them: “My son Shechem is in love with your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Let us marry your daughters, and take our daughters as wives for yourselves. You may live among us, and the land will be open to you. Live in it, travel freely in it, and acquire property in it.” Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and whatever you require of me I’ll give. You can make the bride price and the gift I must bring very expensive, and I’ll give whatever you ask of me. Just give me the young woman as my wife!”
As the story begins, Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, goes to the city to meet with the young ladies of the land and is raped by Shechem, the prince of the land. Most likely, Dinah was around fourteen to sixteen years old. In the ancient world, it was known that unaccompanied ladies were vulnerable to being assaulted by men. Henry Morris says, “Unattached young women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself.” This was particularly true of the Canaanites, who were corrupt and known for their sexual immorality (cf. Lev 18). Unaccompanied women were often violently taken by the leaders of the land. This happened twice with Abraham, as his wife was taken into Pharaoh’s and Abimelech’s harems (12:15; 20:2). Both times, aware of this tragic cultural reality, Abraham lied and said that she was his sister to protect himself from being killed over her. Isaac, Jacob’s father, also lied about his wife, afraid someone would take her and kill him (Genesis 26:7). Why Dinah’s father or brothers are not with her is unclear.
But to further demonstrate the gravity of the gross immorality in Shechem, when Hamor, the prince’s father, approached Jacob about Dinah marrying his son, he doesn’t apologize or even mention the issue. It was as if it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe, Hamor thought, “Boys will be boys!” This shows how acceptable the rape of a young lady was. In the ancient world, sexual immorality was a part of religious worship—people would have all types of gross sex to please the gods and seek prosperity. Therefore, sex wasn’t special, and it wasn’t necessarily to be persevered for one’s spouse—especially if one was a man.
This is what happens in a society that disregards God. In Romans 1:24-27, Paul describes this:
Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Sexual immorality and homosexuality are results of denying God. When God is denied, sexual immorality saturates society. We see this happening all around us. Sex is emphasized on TV, movies, music, and the Internet. It is used to sell all types of products. Pornography is one of the biggest industries in the world. Sex trafficking is a growing illegal industry. In the US, one out of six females are the victims of an attempted or completed rape. Similarly, one out of four females on college campuses experience sexual assault. In addition, the acceptance of homosexuality has grown. It is commonly promoted on the TV, news, college campuses, and city parades. Even polygamy, having multiple marriage partners, is growing in acceptability. When God is neglected in a society, sexual immorality saturates it.
But this is not just a problem for society, it is also a problem for believers. When we are neglecting God, we will often find ourselves struggling with lustful thoughts and images—consequently, making us more prone to fall into sexual actions. In Genesis 38, Judah, Jacob’s son will visit a prostitute. David, the king of Israel, will not only have many wives and concubines, but will also commit adultery (2 Sam 11). When God is neglected in our lives, often, lust will rear its ugly head, in some form or another. We must be careful of this.
Because of this danger, Paul said, “Flee sexual immorality! ‘Every sin a person commits is outside of the body’—but the immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18). It’s so dangerous, we must run from it. Turn off the TV, cut off the Internet, end the relationship! We must be zealous and brutal to stay pure in a world that is being increasingly sexualized.
Are you guarding yourself and others against sexual immorality?
Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced the growing promotion and acceptance of sexual immorality in society? How should Christians protect their minds and bodies from this very present danger?
When God Is Neglected, Parents Neglect Their Children
Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land… When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in… Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.”
Genesis 34:1, 5, 13-17
In this narrative, one of the sad realities is the lack of parental involvement and leadership. As mentioned, it was common and accepted in that society for unaccompanied females to be sexually assaulted. In some areas, even unaccompanied men might be raped (cf. Gen 19, Judges 19). Why was Jacob’s teenage daughter, even allowed to go to the city by herself? Where were the parental boundaries?
In addition to this, after the rape, Jacob is quiet and uninvolved. He doesn’t charge Shechem with wrong and doesn’t even get involved with the negotiation. He allows his sons to handle it. To make this even worst, it is clear from the narrative that Dinah wasn’t at home with Jacob but was being held captive by this family (Gen 34:26). When his sons agreed to intermarry with the Hivites on the condition of circumcision, Jacob doesn’t say, “No.” This was a major spiritual failure on Jacob’s part. To intermarry with the Canaanites would have threatened God’s promise. Abraham wouldn’t allow Isaac to marry a Canaanite. Isaac wouldn’t allow Jacob to marry a Canaanite. This would have led to compromise and the Israelites further adopting the sins of that culture. Jacob fails his children practically and spiritually. Why was he so uninvolved?
With Dinah, Jacob is probably quiet because she wasn’t his priority. This is sad to say, but Jacob was known for playing favorites. He favored Rachel’s children over Leah’s. Also, because sons were favored over daughters during that period of time, Dinah might have been his least favorite. She was a child of Leah, and she wasn’t a boy. Maybe, Jacob doesn’t say anything because he knows that he is responsible. He didn’t protect her by loving her and establishing appropriate boundaries for her. This was a sad situation.
However, this situation is very common when God is neglected. When God is neglected, parents neglect their responsibilities to their children. (1) They don’t establish appropriate boundaries for them. Many of our kids are exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to on the Internet, TV, video games, books, music, etc. Many parents set no appropriate boundaries, which allows the enemy to tempt and influence them negatively. Some parents even say things like, “Well, I don’t want to shelter my kids and protect them from the world!” In Romans 16:19, Paul said, “But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.” We should prepare our children for the world by teaching them the truth about sin, what they will encounter in the world, and how they should respond. If we don’t do that, the world will expose them in a negative way—it will be done in a way that promotes evil and lures them into sin, instead of away from it. We must train our children to be wise and at the same time innocent. The world only plans to corrupt them and take away their innocence.
(2) In a society where people neglect God, not only will parents neglect their responsibilities by not setting appropriate boundaries, but they also will tend to not discipline them at all. Often disciplining children will be looked down upon, as if left alone, children will naturally blossom into maturity and wisdom. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Without appropriate discipline, children will grow up wild and rebellious. When there is no discipline in the home, the children will disrespect and rebel against the parents. This leads to children disrespecting teachers, bosses, government leaders, and even God—creating increased dishonesty, crime, and anarchy in society.
Why do parents neglect their children, other than the fact they’re neglecting God? Some neglect their children simply because they were neglected as children, and therefore, they don’t know how to properly parent. Their father or mother weren’t around or involved for whatever reasons. The sins of the parents show up in the children’s lives and therefore are repeated (cf. Ex 20:5). Another common reason parents neglect their children is simply for career purposes. In order to have a higher standard of living, kids are handed off to schools, coaches, and tutors for training. Often these people don’t have any Christian values at all. When a worldly environment gets our children for eight or more hours a day (especially if we include television, music, etc.), then the parents’ one or two hours a day and one hour of church on Sunday won’t be very influential.
In this narrative, Jacob didn’t only fail Dinah, he also failed his sons, who committed unjust murders. They were right to seek justice; however, murdering a whole village of men for the sins of one was hardly just. Since Jacob did nothing, his sons reacted. Finally, when Jacob rebukes his sons, he only focuses on what they did to “him” (v. 30)—not God or others.
When God is neglected in a society or a home, parents typically neglect their responsibilities—to the demise of their children.
Application Question: In what ways have you witnessed this growing trend of parents neglecting their children by not loving them, disciplining them, and setting boundaries for them? Why is this happening? How should it be remedied?
When God Is Neglected, Religion Is Abused
Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.”
In response to Hamor’s and Shechem’s offer, Jacob’s sons said that it would be disgraceful for Dinah to marry someone uncircumcised. Therefore, they promised to give consent if all the males of the city became circumcised. If they did that, then the two tribes could intermarry.
It is clear that Jacob’s sons had no plan to intermarry with these people. This deal was deceptive. But what makes this deception even worse is the fact that they used their sign of faith to secure the deal. In Genesis 17, God called Abraham to circumcise himself and the males in his household as a sign of faith. This was to be a perpetual sign of their covenant with God for generations. Therefore, by asking the men to circumcise themselves—they were asking them to participate in Israel’s faith. Most likely, they further explained the symbolic nature of circumcision. This is what made their act even more evil.
However, this is also common when God is neglected in our world today; religion becomes abused for selfish and evil reasons. (1) Sometimes religion is used for financial gain. In 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul warned Timothy about those who used godliness as “a way of making a profit.” Many churches and Christian organizations are just money-making businesses. Profit has eroded their sense of mission and integrity. (2) Religion is also used to control and abuse people—as often seen in cults. In 2 Timothy 3:5-6 (NIV), Paul describes abusive spiritual leaders:
having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires
With this abuse of religion, many will fall away from the church in droves. The false teaching, hunger for power and money, and manipulation of people will drive many away.
(3) Religion will also be abused as it will primarily focus on people securing their “passions,” like lust or wealth, instead of holiness. In 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV), Paul warns Timothy of this.
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Not only will the leaders neglect God and abuse the people, the people won’t want God and his Word. Religion will be used primarily to comfort people in sin and even encourage it, instead of to warn and challenge them to holiness. Congregations will find teachers who make them feel good by preaching myths. When God is neglected, the abuse of religion will be comprehensive—developing many false believers and false teachers.
When God was neglected in Shechem, religion was used for personal gain. The men agreed to circumcision, not because of faith, but to gain the wealth of Israel (v. 20-24). Religion was also abused for vengeance. Jacob’s sons murdered the men of the city after they were circumcised. Sadly, when God is neglected, religion will be abused—leading to tragic results in our societies as well.
Application Question: How have you seen or experienced the abuse of religion in the church and society in general? How should true believers seek to remain faithful in times like these?
When God Is Neglected, Violence Increases
In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated. They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields. They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses.
While the Hivites were in pain from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s son’s, Simeon and Levi, murdered all the men of the village. Most likely, they had some servants help with this slaughter. After the murder, they also plundered the city and surrounding fields—taking the wealth, children, and women.
This is also common in society and church when God is neglected. Romans 1:28-32 says:
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul says when people don’t acknowledge God, it leads to murder, hostility, insolence, being ruthless, and even approving of such evils. Sadly, we live in a society where abortions happen more than live births. People declare the rights of parents to murder their children. Generations are being wiped out because of inconvenience. When Paul says “heartless” (Rom 1:31), it can also be translated “without natural affection” (KJV). It is normal for parents to love their children. However, when people neglect God, abortions become common place because love comes from God. Self-love is the default of our flesh, and when someone gets in the way of our comfort—murder is acceptable.
In a society where God is neglected, senseless violence becomes common—suicide, the murder of innocents in schools and businesses, genocide, war, etc. Even our entertainment will be violent, as people apart from God love violence. The video games, movies, and music will be filled with it. Artists who sing about their abuse of women, drug selling, and gang banging will go platinum and get movie deals. As the entertainment world promotes violence, our young people will become even more violent.
This is the world we live in, and sadly, these acts of violence will at times be seen amongst the church. When James writes the Hebrew Christians, who were scattered because of persecution, he rebukes them for murdering one another. James 4:1-3 says,
Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.
Hatred and anger are seeds of murder; therefore, when Christians allow those emotions to foster, they lead to acts of violence. Husbands beat their wives. Children fight with their parents, and church members continually hurt one another—behaving worse than pagans. The sins of Jacob’s children did not draw pagans to God, it only further pushed them away. Like Paul said, “the name of God is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’’ (Rom 2:24). The people of Israel were no better than the world around them. In fact, they were probably worse.
Sadly, in many places, Christians don’t have great testimonies either. Instead of returning good for evil (Rom 12:21), they instead return eye for eye and tooth for tooth. Sometimes like Jacob’s sons, they return face for tooth, body for finger. Instead of justice, they seek vengeance—turning many away from Christ.
Application Question: How have you seen or experienced violence increasing in the world? Why is it so prevalent? In what ways have you seen or experienced it in the church?
When God Is Neglected, He Brings Discipline to Help Us Repent
In Genesis 35:1-3, we see that God uses this difficult event to turn Jacob and his family back to God. It says:
Then God said to Jacob, “Go up at once to Bethel and live there. Make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob told his household and all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have among you. Purify yourselves and change your clothes. Let us go up at once to Bethel. Then I will make an altar there to God, who responded to me in my time of distress and has been with me wherever I went.”
Often God has to do the same with us. He will use tragedy in a person’s life, a family, or a nation to draw people to repentance. Hebrews 12:5-6 says,
And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”
In what ways is God drawing you back to himself through discipline? God loves us too much to allow us to continue to neglect him and go our own way. When Jonah ran from God, God brought a storm in his life to turn him back (Jonah 1). When David committed adultery and murder, Scripture says God’s hand was heavy upon him until he repented (Psalm 32:3-5 ESV). When the Corinthian church was abusing the Lord’s Supper, God disciplined some with sickness, depression, and even death (1 Cor 11:28-30). God loved them too much to allow them to continue in sin.
God does the same with us. He uses discipline to help us repent and turn back to him.
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced strong discipline, including the consequences of sin, which turned you from sin back to God? How do you see God’s discipline operating in the church and society?
Application Question: In understanding the consequences of neglecting God, how should we respond?
1. We must be careful of times of ease and prosperity.
It wasn’t when things were bad that Jacob’s family neglected God and committed treacherous acts, it was when things were good. It was after God delivered them from Laban and Esau. It was when they were prosperous and admired by others that they neglected God (cf. Gen 35:2)—leading to great sins. In the same way, when things are good, we tend to neglect God and fall into sin as well. Be careful of those times.
2. We must be spiritually disciplined.
A major fall away from God doesn’t happen at once. It happens gradually. It happens as we stop attending church faithfully, reading our Bibles, and having Christian fellowship. Soon we find ourselves far away from God and his people, and doing things we never thought we would do again or worse. To stop this gradual fall, we must be faithful and disciplined. We must practice regular spiritual disciplines, have accountability, and put God first before everything.
3. We must be hopeful because God is greater than our broken situations.
Though God is never mentioned in this terrible narrative—hope in him is implied. God eventually takes this blasphemous and murderous family and makes them the twelve tribes of Israel. They become the authors and stewards of God’s Word. They build the tabernacle and temple and becomes witnesses to the pagan world. Jesus said salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). God eventually uses these people greatly, and God can do the same with us—through our difficult and shameful situations. He can turn around our lives, churches, and nations. He can bring light out of darkness and beauty out of ugliness. He can take our thorns and make them our greatest boasts (2 Cor 12:7-9). Therefore, as we consider our dark and desperate situations, we must be hopeful. Our God is greater! Thank you, Lord.
After God delivers Jacob and his family from Laban and Esau and they arrive safely in Canaan, it seems they neglected God. In Genesis 35, we see that the family picked up many idols while dwelling in Canaan. God stopped being their priority and there were terrible consequences because of this. In addition, the Hivites, who were pagans, were already experiencing the results of not acknowledging the true God. Sadly, many of these consequences can be seen in our societies, churches, and individual lives. What are consequences of neglecting God? It is important to know them, so we can repent of them.
When God Is Neglected, Sexual Immorality Saturates Society
When God Is Neglected, Parents Neglect Their Children
When God Is Neglected, Religion Is Abused
When God Is Neglected, Violence Increases
When God Is Neglected, He Brings Discipline to Help Us Repent
 Bruce Goettsche’s sermon from Genesis 34, “When God Is Absent,” accessed 5/25/2018 from http://www.unionchurch.com/archive/101099.html
 Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 35:1). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.
 Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 34:1–4). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.
 Accessed 5/25/2018 from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
 Accessed 5/25/2018 from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-earp/1-in-4-women-how-the-late_b_8191448.html