Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her. 9 In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. 10 And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”—Genesis 34:8–10, NLT
Decontextualized, this story would seem to represent the maximum victory for an immigrant family: Hamor, the chief of the town of Shechem, offered full integration into the local society and economy for Jacob and his family. There was only one problem, and it was a grave one: Hamor’s son had violated the daughter of Jacob, whose sons Simeon and Levi were plotting vengeance against all the people of the town. Shechem’s twisted declaration of love formed nothing more than the beginning of a chronicle of deaths unforetold. Simeon and Levi ended up killing all the men of the town, sacking their houses and taking their women and children captive as slaves. At the end of the story, Jacob said to his sons, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land.”
Several things present themselves to the mind as we think about this passage: the evil of the rape, the disproportion of the vengeance, the lost opportunity to establish a harmonious community, and the squandering of the opportunity for free trade between Jacob’s family and the people of Shechem. But everything and everyone was ruined, first because of Shechem’s brutality and afterward because of the bestial vengeance of Levi and Simeon.
Undoubtedly, intercultural romances figure prominently among the sources of conflict between immigrants and the native people of any place. The causes vary and are not scarce, but they become more serious when sin contaminates the question. Immigrants and their sons and daughters, just like any other people, do well to behave with wisdom, discretion, and due formality in affairs of the heart. All single people have a right to explore a love relationship with any person who returns their interest, but sexual sin will always complicate their lives—even the lives of whole communities.
When we pursue love chastely and with consideration for the feelings of everyone affected, two families can unite with great benefit to both; difference certainly attracts! The intermarriage of immigrant communities with native populations enriches the life of everyone, but it requires a bit of wisdom. When things are not done rightly, it pays not to take vengeance into one’s own hands. Laws exist for that very reason, and when they fail, vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19).
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.