Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Judah and Joseph

Why do you suppose the Messianic line that culminated in Jesus came through Judah rather than through Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, the firstborn of his favorite wife? What must it have been like for Jacob to say of Judah, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his,” yet to say of Joseph only that he was the “prince of all his brothers”? How would Joseph have felt to hear those words? I’m surely not the only one who would pass up being the second-most powerful man on earth if the alternative were to have a descendant who would bring the whole world into obedience to the ever-living God.

So why did the bigger plum go to Judah? Was this simply a case of God’s arbitrary choice, “before the [brothers] . . . had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand”? Or was it more like the case of Abraham, to whom God said, “because you have . . . not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore”?

Joseph is often used as a type of Christ, and with good reason: like Jesus, he was chosen by his father to rule the sons of Israel, who rejected him; he was sorely tempted, and though he did not sin he suffered the punishment of the guilty; he forgave those who sinned aginst him and eventually ruled beneficently over them; and he took a Gentile bride. Yet in comparison to Judah’s reward, it would seem that much of Joseph’s was in this life. Is there some sense in which his string of accomplishments, impressive as it is, was topped by Judah’s?

Judah is introduced as a foil for Joseph, his sexual immorality (Ge 38) providing a contrast to Joseph’s chastity (Ge 39) and his plan to profit by selling Joseph into slavery (Ge 37:26) contrasting with Joseph’s willingness to suffer rather than to do evil. He acted more like Simeon and Levi, who shed innocent blood, than like a descendant of Abraham. Worse, his incest with Tamar, however unwitting, shows him to be a brother of Reuben, who had violated his father’s concubine.

After Jacob declared that he had chosen never to be consoled over Joseph’s fate, Judah “went down from his brothers and joined up with an Adullamite named Hirah.” The words “went down from his brothers” are commonly taken to foreshadow his fall into deep sin; however, when he confesses at the end of his adventure that he is less righteous than a woman who has pretended to be a prostitute in order to commit incest, he shows that he realizes he has a spiritual problem and has gone some way toward bringing forth the fruits of repentance. Purposely or otherwise, the author uses this realization to foreshadow the climax of the book.

The next time Judah surfaces he has rejoined his brothers, gone to Egypt to procure food for the extended family, and returned to his father without Simeon. He is trying to reason with Jacob and get permission to take Benjamin to Egypt. Jacob doesn’t trust his sons, so Reuben offers Jacob the opportunity to take revenge on Reuben’s sons if Benjamin does not return safely. In contrast, Judah offers to bear the consequences himself: “You can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.”

How many times I read those words and considered them empty: why would Jacob accept them any more than he did Reuben’s? Yet here Judah was showing himself to be Joseph’s spiritual brother, willing to take on himself the responsibility for others’ sin. Not only was he expressing willingness to risk his life, but one must also ask whether he was more loath to die or to return to his father empty handed.

When Joseph sees Benjamin, he threatens to make him a slave, and Judah intercedes for what he believes to be Benjamin’s sin: he tells a judge who has every reason to condemn a guilty man that he will take on himself that penalty so that his father will not lose the fellowship of his secondmost beloved son. Here is a wonderful picture of Jesus’ intercession for us: Jesus intercedes with the Judge of all the earth on behalf of the Heavenly Father’s children. In the fulfillment, however, the Judge and the Father are one and the same. But in both cases the redeemed is second in line for the father’s affection; Benjamin was second fiddle to Joseph, and we can never be God’s sons in the same way Jesus is.

Judah does something here that Joseph had no stated need to do: repent of his own sin. Surely Joseph realizes as Judah speaks that Judah knows he sinned against his father by selling Joseph into slavery and is now trying desperately to make sure he is not party to further grief for his father. This is the first instance in Scripture of repentance and redemption—with one exception, that of the Pharaoh’s butler, who confesses his “shortcomings” (the same word translated “consequences of sin” in Nu 18:22). So we have in Judah repentance, confession, intercession, substitutionary atonement, and the happiness of the father.

Was Judah’s foreshadowig of Christ thus better than Joseph’s? I don’t know, but I can think of one aspect of Joseph’s picture that Judah’s lacks: Joseph was a politician and Judah wasn’t.

Joseph’s modus operandi, as his apologists acknowledge, was purely political. The power of taxation, 20 percent in the good years, is overtly mentioned. There was probably more to it, though. One wonders how, if Goshen was the best land in Egypt, there was room for Jacob and his family to settle there; did no one live there already, or did Joseph move them out? After all, “as for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other” (Ge 47:21 NASB; the NIV “reduced them to servitude” is based on a conjectural emendation of the text). If it’s already OK to exercise eminent domain and move some people to cities “for the common good,” why not a few more?

Joseph became the secondmost powerful man in the world, and he was indeed able to use that status to provide abundantly for his family. And surely God was with him in that position: God promised Jacob that he was to go there to die, become a great nation, and return to the Canaan, all so he could see Joseph alive again.

Yet the food Joseph distributed to the Egyptians went to them at the cost of what freedom they had enjoyed (Ge 47:25); surely the land that went to Joseph’s family was taken from its Egyptian owners, most likely in a swap for food. And we know that the same government that Joseph made all-powerful over Egypt (Ge 47:13–25) and that provided for his family eventually turned against the Israelites.

Thus where Judah’s intervention with his father set Simeon free, and his intervention with Joseph set Benjamin free, Joseph’s intervention resulted in slavery, first for the Egyptians and later for the Israelites. Most importantly, Judah’s intervention, like that of Jesus and unlike Joseph’s was totally apolitical. Where Joseph had the most powerful army in the world at his disposal to impose his will on his subjects, Judah always negotiated from a position of weakness; he had only the grace of God to rely on, the understanding at some level (none is attributed to him by Scripture) that God would look upon the justice of his cause and vindicate him, and if not, he would do what was right no matter the cost (as, he did not know at the time, Joseph had with Potiphar’s wife).

Again, Judah’s becoming the progenitor of the messianic line may have been no more a result of his actions than one snowflake landing in a tree and another on the ground. However, his life sends a strong message about the depths of depravity to which people can fall and from which God can rescue them, as well as the unimaginable honor that he can bestow on those who sincerely repent (Mt 23:12). My most recent post argues that the church of Jesus Christ in the US today has some serious repenting to do. I end here with a suggestion that if we set about it, God will reward such penitence beyond our wildest dreams.

Shall we?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Faisal Shahzad, Son of Tamar

One dramatic come-uppance given a hypocrite in the Bible is that given to Judah by Tamar: he wants to have her executed for sexual immorality, but she reveals beyond any doubt that while she has indeed been sexually immoral, it was with Judah. Judah’s conclusion is that she is more righteous than he.

Well, we’ve been shown up, folks, by a Muslim mass-murderer (wannabe), the Times Square bomber. It wasn’t front-page news, but Islamoterrorism has thrown down the gauntlet, and we're behind in the game and need to decide what we’re going to do about it.

When asked why he wanted to kill US civilians by blowing up a truck on Times Square, Faisal Shahzad didn’t say, “Americans are free. Americans are good. Americans are rich. Americans are sexually immoral. America is a Christian nation. America is atheist,” or any of the other words our political, religious, and media bigwigs put in the mouths of the terrorists they say we are fighting. No,

Mr. Shahzad was unapologetic, characterizing himself as “part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people.”

He went on,

I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.

The judge was shocked—shocked!—that this horrible man intended to kill women and children, to which our villain replied,

“The drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children; they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children. They kill everybody. It’s a war. And in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.

Let’s see. Why did we do “shock and awe” in Muslim lands? “We were attacked!” and innocent people were killed. So in return we are killing innocent people. How does that differ from Faisal’s response?

But it gets even better.

Judge Cedarbaum interjected: “But not the people who were walking in Times Square that night. Did you look around to see who they were?”

And here’s where Faisal Shahzad pulls a Tamar on our Judah:

The people [of the US] select the government; we consider them all the same.

How does this do us one better?

In the 1990s, after Desert Storm was over, the US government instituted sanctions against Iraq in hopes that the civilian population would rise up and overthrow Saddam. Half a million women and children, children of Adam the First just like those “walking in Times Square that night,” died. Yet one of the reasons given for regime change during Operation Iraqi Freedom was that Saddam was a dictator; that is, the people of Iraq (and Afghanistan) had no say over their government! And why are US evangelicals so determined to protect Uncle Sam? Because “we choose our government.”

So we (I include myself because I initially supported the wars) kill civilians over there because of actions by their governments that we know they have no control over, but we are going to jail or execute someone who attempts to kill those who he believes (wrongly, I think) do control their government and are therefore directly responsible for the death of innocent people. Am I the only one who thinks the monster is condemning the nuisance?

If indeed we do need to repent, is it any wonder our missionaries are in danger of leaving the field? Why should God keep them there? If you were a Muslim in Indonesia or Morocco, let alone Afghanistan or Iran, would you be more likely to listen to the gospel from a US missionary or a layman from China?

Judah’s ordeal of repentance is perhaps the greatest such story in the Bible. I think it may be the reason why God chose Judah, rather than Joseph (as great a type of Christ as he was), to father the messianic line that culminated in Christ. Will we be like Judah and repent in dramatic fashion, or will we be like King Saul, resorting to ever-increasing levels of violence and depravity to preserve the political power God had told him he had forfeited?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Evangeling Muslims Is Illegal Now—In the US

The Jesus of the flag-and-cross pins has shown that the only language he knows is violence. According to the New York Times, anyway, it is now

a crime to provide “material support” to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 decision, said the law’s prohibition of providing some types of intangible assistance to groups the State Department says engage in terrorism did not violate the First Amendment.

Just this morning I was praying that God would give me the opportunity to meet with al-Qaedistas to assure them that Uncle Sam is no friend of the God of the Bible and that God is concerned with their legitimate gripes. There has to be a way better than terrorism of getting Americans and Christians (and maybe some of the vast majority of the US citizenry who are neither) to address those gripes. After all, if we don’t address them now, we will have to deal with them on Judgment Day, when nothing can be done about them.

(Would they listen? Probably not, but Jesus tells his people to speak, and that’s all I’m asking for the chance to do.)

But no, finding peaceful solutions is now a federal crime. Is it also a sin? I used to joke that evangelicals considered George W. Bush the vicar of Christ on earth; was he speaking ex cathedra when he said “We don’t negotiate with terrorists”? Judge Roberts, a Bush appointee, was heavily promoted by evangelicals, and he got the post, so he must be Jesus’ man for the job.

If teaching negotiating skills to terrorists is not a sin, then can we say that Uncle Sam and the God who is there are not on the same side? Is Uncle Sam’s prosecution of those who would teach (and learn from) al-Qaedistas a sin against God? If that prosecution is a sin, can a Christian participate in the arrest or detention of these “criminals,” or does God wink at them because they are employed by government? And if he winks at them, why should he not wink at tax-financed abortionists, tax-funded schools that do not teach, tax-funded health care that does not heal, and the gagging of pastors, closing of churches, and removal of children from the homes of competent, Bible-believing parents?

Either Jesus is Lord of all or he is not lord at all. If Uncle Sam is a rebel against Jesus, we need to avoid the impression of loyalty to him the same way we avoid the impression of sexual immorality. We are to love our neighbors, even our enemies, as we love ourselves and those who are important to us.

Al-Qaeda is our enemy, plain and simple, primarily because they are rebels against Jesus. They need to hear the good news of God’s offer of free forgiveness in Christ. Part of that message surely is that God’s common grace, which includes negotiation and reconciliation, provides better alternatives than terrorism for dealing with political problems.

But now Uncle Sam has made evangelizing al-Qaeda a crime. His only available strategy now is to kill them all. Is that the new Great Commission?

I’m not sure what cross is on those lapel pins with Uncle Sam’s flag, but I don’t think it’s the cross of Calvary.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We're Getting What We Prayed For

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. (Re 2:2Ð4)

I've received two letters in as many days from missionaries saying that the collapse of the dollar has decreased their buying power to the effect that they will have to leave the field unless they can raise additional support. I've wondered how long the Lord would be providing miraculously for these folks, and it looks like the plagues on Egypt are now reaching Goshen. In case you're wondering why this is so, I can tell you: we're getting what we've been praying for.

I am familiar with only one congregation, but I peruse World magazine, so I think I'm on firm ground when I say that it's typical of the Bible-believing US Christian subculture. I've won no friends in this congregation by pointing out that during the congregational prayer, petitions are offered up consistently and in great detail for members of Uncle Sam's armada, but sporadically and generally for the missionaries the church supports. Nor have I won friends by questioning the presence of Old Glory in the sanctuary. I regard that as an attempt to serve two masters, an impression not diminished by cross-and-flag lapel pins.

This church sends at least three times as much money to Uncle Sam in taxes for support of the occupation of Iraq alone as it gives to missionaries. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," and if "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," the heart of US evangelicals is with Uncle Sam's military, not with those spreading the Gospel.

I've heard government programs from schools and Social Security and Medicare to aid to Israel to the war in Ir-Af-Pak defended on the basis that people are coming to Christ because of them. Well, it appears that the missionaries are coming home, but Uncle Sam's agents will still be drawing their pay. And, of course, God is sovereign and working out his perfect will for the world.

"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Re 2:5). Will the US church be tomorrow where the church of Ephesus is today?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An American Day

The early August sun was only an inch above the horizon, but even at forty-five miles an hour with the windows open, there wasn’t enough air in the truck cab to keep Mike from sweating. He glanced at his watch. I’ll get there in time, but not by much. A truck like his, also towing a backhoe, approached in the oncoming lane. It was Phil, and they waved to each other as they passed.

About half a mile ahead, a solitary figure stood on the other side of the road, and as Mike got closer, he began to signal Mike to stop. A stone’s throw behind the man were some trees, a pickup truck, some shovels stuck in the ground, and a pile of dirt.

Mike pulled over, and the man, solidly built with curly black hair above the dusty sweat on his forehead, came over and laid the thick hand of a manual worker on his windowsill. “Thanks for stopping. Could you please fill up our hole for us?”

Mike looked at the dirt pile and saw under a tree three young men in sweaty T-shirts looking at him through their eyebrows. “Well, I’m already cutting it close for my job.”

The man’s other hand appeared on the windowsill, a twenty-dollar bill where one might have expected to see a cigar. “I understand, but could you please fill up our hole?”

Twenty bucks wasn’t all that much, but Mike didn’t envy anyone who would have to shovel dirt in this heat. The pile would take him maybe ten minutes to move, but that could make him late, and Dick, the foreman at the other site, could be pretty touchy. He looked at the bill for a couple of seconds. I wouldn’t stop strangers if I weren’t pretty desperate. Sighing heavily, he took the money and opened the cab door.

Immediately the man called, “Guys!” and the men who had been resting under the trees hurried to Mike’s trailer. “My name’s Ray, he said, extending his hand. “I really appreciate this.”

The men loosened the winches that held the backhoe on the trailer and attached the ramp to the rear with Ray watching closely the whole time. Mike climbed into the backhoe, backed it off, and headed for the dirt pile. As he worked, he occasionally saw Ray out of the corner of his eye in animated conversation with a thin man in a button-down office shirt.

Fifteen minutes later, the hole was filled and his backhoe was on the trailer. As Mike climbed into the cab, Ray and the office man came over. “Thanks again,” Ray said, “I know it was a hard choice.”

“Well,” Mike grinned slightly, “I suppose I’d have jumped sooner if the offer had been thirty bucks.”

Ray whipped out his wallet and handed Mike a ten-dollar bill. “We’d have been at this for a week”—he looked purposefully at the office worker—”if you hadn’t stopped.”

Mike chuckled, waved at the men, and drove off.

He was indeed not going to be there on time, and that meant men would be standing around waiting for him. A few blocks shy of his destination was a doughnut shop, so he pulled over to the curb, put on his emergency flashers, and trotted to the door. He groaned when he saw two men waiting behind the customer being served, but he had a plan. He came up behind them, put his hands on their shoulders, and said, “Excuse me, guys, but I’ve gotta get out fast. Can I spot you coffee if you let me go first?”

As one said “Sounds good to me” the other said “That won’t be necessary,” and all three laughed. Mike thanked them, placed his order for two dozen donuts and a pot of coffee, plus a large cup each for the two men, and returned back to his truck.

He had left home expecting to start moving dirt before ten o’clock, but he pulled into the site shortly after. Dick scowled at him from under his snap-band cap as he drove up.

“I’m sorry I’m late.” Mike said. “I got waylayed.” He pulled the doughnuts and coffee out of the truck. “Please give these to your guys while I get set up.”

Dick grunted and took the goodies reluctantly over to where his men were waiting. Mike attached the ramp, undid the winches, backed the backhoe off the trailer, and headed for the stakes that marked his workplace.

After last-minute instructions delivered in a voice that made him wonder if Dick had missed the last train home, Mike set to work. He knew his stuff, and his part of the job went smoothly. Dick’s workers were another story, and Mike could tell this was one more long day for the old guy, so he worked through lunch, hoping Dick would take that as a gesture that he was making up for being late. The afternoon went much like the morning, but an hour or so before quitting time, a breeze came up, giving the work site some relief from the merciless sun.

At last, his assigned work finished, Mike got stiffly off the backhoe and wandered over to where Dick was filling out some forms on the hood of a dusty pickup truck. “Anything else I can do before I go?”

Dick didn’t raise his head. “Nope. The office will mail your check tomorrow.” He finally looked up at Mike, then signaled for him to wait and walked around to the passenger door, opened it, reached in, and pulled out two bottles of beer. He handed them over waist high. “Enjoy these with your lady.”

Mike took the bottles, and his eyes widened as he read the labels. Whoa! This stuff isn’t cheap! He looked at Dick, who had returned to his papers. “Wow.” No response. “Thanks.”

“Next time don’t be late.”

The conversation was over, so Mike loaded up the backhoe and headed home. The cab was now only comfortably warm, and before long he pulled into the gravel driveway of the dented brown and white trailer parked where he hoped to put the garage when he started building the house next summer. Bonnie was reading a magazine on the tiny weathered porch, her blonde hair to her elbows and her legs dangling down the stairs. When Mike pulled the emergency brake on, she stood up and came toward him, the evening breeze blowing her hair back and caressing what Mike was discovering were not her most important assets.

He grabbed the bottles with a satisfied smile, took a deep breath, and gave his head a vigorous shake as he let it out. He was ready for the evening.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Rape of Dinah and 9/11

My great aunt Josephine was a true American. A woman of courage, she stood up against FDR's imprisonment of innocent US citizens of Japanese heritage, offering the victims help as she could and encouraging others to join her. After the war, she opened a camp that attempted to bring all races and economic strata together for two or three weeks at a time of good fun and learning to live together in peace and to take care of the natural world. My parents did their best to teach me those values, and so gave me the opportunity to attend that camp during the summer of 1964. Unfortunately, I was worse than immature, and so I was at the center of one incident that particularly went against what Aunt Jo was trying to accomplish.

After lunch and an hour or so of Aunt Jo reading fascinating stories to us, we would go to the swimming pool, essentially a small pond with a cement bottom. The two changing rooms, each a large box with walls of 1 x 10 boards, were a few steps from the water, with the doors facing the pool. The unwritten rule was that everyone got in, then we changed, and when everyone was reasonably dressed, those who were finished could leave.

One afternoon, after I had doffed my suit and was standing close to the door, a black kid swung the door open. As I remember, someone told him to shut it, which he did, but then he opened it again. I decided it was time to act, and I chose as my weapon a word I'd heard the neighbor kids use for as long as I could remember but the definition of which I had only recently learned: "Shut the door, you stupid nigger!"

I don't remember what happened next—I know we never came to blows—but at some point I was just standing there yelling "Nigger! Nigger!" and eventually somebody sat me down and explained Aunt Jo's vision to me and how I was going against it. But I wasn't listening; all I cared about was that I had been wronged.

If you had asked me at the time if black people were inferior to whites, I would have said no. If you had asked me if I was the kind of person who used that word at all, I would have said no. (I'm sure my enjoyment of an afternoon sharing a cozy chair reading comic books with a second-grade classmate would not have been diminished had I known at the time that her father was black.) But I had been attacked, and I considered any response fair.

Most US citizens felt that they had been attacked on 9/11. I know I did, and as I've said elsewhere, I was out for blood with the enthusiasm that comes only to cowards who know they won't be called on to shed that blood or be at any risk in the process. In the years since, I have come to see my sin and attempt to turn from it. But when I share my new views with fellow Christians, the response is always some variant of "we were attacked."

A recent Sunday school lesson lined some more ducks up for me.

Simeon and Levi, sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob, had in some sense been attacked when Shechem raped their sister Dinah, and they were furious. They doubtless knew that because they were outnumbered by the Shechemites, let alone the latter's allies, they had to act decisively. Their response was preemptive war preceded by deception that was as brilliant as it was dastardly; I see both at work in US Christian war fervor.

I'll begin with the two brothers' deception because the similarity between it and its current counterpart is harder to see than that of their violence and today's.

The brothers proposed that the Shechemites be circumcised, knowing that no man in Shechem would be able to defend himself while in the consequent pain. The Shechemites thought they were getting a good deal because now they would be able to live in peace with the Israelites, trading and intermarrying, but they were wrong. And as if the murder weren't bad enough, the inclusion of circumcision in the ruse was even worse: circumcision was the sign of God's covenant with Abraham. The brothers sold the idea by telling the Shechemites how they could look the part of Abraham's offspring without actually being Israelites on the inside (Ro 2:28).

The contemporary counterpart is symbolized by the purple thumbs on the voters in occupied Iraq, our media's proof that Uncle Sam has indeed brought democracy to the Muslim world. Do those purple thumbs mean that Iraqis are free to trade with us in the US, to give their children in marriage? Is this even what most US citizens want? Can the Iraqis really vote their preferences? Or does Uncle Sam control a power structure that limits the field to candidates who will promote his interests?

Is democracy, even as practiced here in the US, such a good thing? I know people in the US who would say that there are no candidates who represent them in any way; certainly only one person currently in elected office comes close to representing me. I would suggest that Uncle Sam's promotion of democracy in the Mideast is just as cynical as—and thousands of time deadlier than—Simeon's and Levi's circumcision ruse: he just wants to respond to "Look at all the bloodshed" with "Yeah, but look at the purple thumbs."

The parallel between Simeon's and Levi's preemptive war and ours is so plain I need only mention it. One Israelite woman was raped; in revenge they killed dozens, if not hundreds of men. Three thousand Americans died on 9/11; hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have died because of our response, many times more than three thousand as "collateral damage," the rest the direct result of US military action.

Simeon and Levi may have considered the dead "collateral damage"—they were just going to hell anyway, right?—but Jacob didn't think so: "You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed" (Gn 34:25). Though Jacob does nothing to those sons right away, he condemns them to landlessness when he blesses his children: "Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel." Levi is given no portion in the land apart from the levitical cities, and Simeon is absorbed into Judah, essentially disappearing after the battle of Hormah (Jg 1:17).

I can't help but wonder if Jesus has similar words for those who claim to be his people in the US today.

The Law of Moses tells us what Jacob and his sons should have done: "If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins" (Ex 22:16-17). "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives" (Deut 22:28-29). (I could be wrong, but I assume that the father can refuse to give the girl in marriage in either case; on the basis of victim's rights, I fail to see the justice in allowing a woman to refuse to marry a seducer but forcing her to marry a rapist.)

So Jacob could have had Shechem pay a bride-price and not given Dinah to him. He could have given him the opportunity to prove that he was indeed penitent, a convert, and, if Dinah was willing to take him on, allow the marriage. There was no justification for bloodshed.

(I realize that Jacob lived before Moses, but he worshiped the same God. If he had not known what to do, he (or his sons) could have prayed to the God he had met twice in person and who had spoken to his mother before he was born. God knew of the law before it was given and would surely have spoken to him one way or another in his time of need.)

US Christians also had another course of action open to them that did not require deception or disproportional violence: letters of marque and reprisal, by which Congress could have authorized a band of private citizens to use whatever means they could muster using their own resources to track down the perpetrator. Instead, the Bride of Christ has agreed to Uncle Sam spending trillions of dollars and killing thousands of innocent people—and almost nine years after 9/11, the alleged perpetrator is still at large.

Despite the stain put on it by Simeon and Levi, the family of Israel became the means through which God chose to show his glory and bring his Son Jesus Christ into the world. But I wonder if Simeon and Levi haven't spent the last six thousand years regretting their actions. The church of Jesus Christ will eventually sacrifice and serve her way to world domination, but if I have spent forty-six years regretting my words to Bobby Bullock, how long will today's "patriotic" US Christians have to regret their support for Uncle Sam's wars?