We’re so used to violating covenant and breaching the vows of undying oneness and permanent relationship that, in excusing ourselves, we gloss over the stories of covenant betrayal in Scripture. We miss the significance of them and fail to notice the pattern involving a loss of blessing and birthright.
Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, were appalled when their sister Dinah was raped. So they took vengeance not only on the perpetrator but on his entire family and community. Sharpening their swords, they massacred an entire town.
Many decades later, when Jacob was on his deathbed, he denied them the right to inherit the firstborn blessing that Reuben had lost—all because of this slaughter.
Jacob bypassed three brothers and blessed Judah. At first sight, this seems an odd choice. Judah, after all, was the fourth-born son who was only saved from murdering his brother Joseph because of a bit of swift talking by Reuben and because the opportunity presented itself to turn a profit when his cousins the Midianites came passing by. Judah was the one most instrumental in selling Joseph into slavery.
Why is murderous hatred okay for Judah but not for Simeon and Levi? Is it because Judah didn’t succeed in killing anyone but his elder brothers did?
Not at all. There’s a quantum level of difference between their actions.
The man who raped Dinah was willing to marry her. Not only that, he was willing to covenant with Jacob’s family and involve his entire community in covenant as well. In fact, the townspeople had already fulfilled their covenantal obligations by becoming circumcised.
Already fulfilled. That’s the key. This means Simeon and Levi violated covenant. Their revenge was complicated by unspeakable betrayal. To covenant with others as an act of deception is to pervert the very nature of covenant. In an age when honour was everything, it said that Jacob’s word of honour was worth less than nothing. That his family was treacherous beyond imagining.
Simeon and Levi lost the firstborn blessing they might have inherited because of this covenant breach. Reuben in fact lost it over a different kind of covenant breach.
This incident of the two brothers avenging their sister happened at a place called Shechem. In later times, a shrine was set up there to Baal Berith, lord of the covenant, which indicates how significant this issue loomed over the centuries.
Now we might think to ourselves that such rules and obligations don’t apply to us today. Certainly, when the question of circumcision arose in the early church, it was decided it was not necessary for Gentile followers of Christ to covenant with God according to the dictates of the Mosaic Law. The Council of Jerusalem declared:
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. (Acts 15:28–29 NIV)
Each of these requirements is covenantal in nature. Food that was dedicated to idols was later eaten in order to become ‘one with the god’. After all, you are what you eat. So just as food is absorbed into the body and becomes an integral part of it, then the sacrifice in the name of the idol was consumed to partake of the deity’s nature. Likewise, ritual prostitution in a temple had the same purpose: to become ‘one with the god’. The Council of Jerusalem extended the prohibition to all sexual relations outside of marriage.
Basically, the Council was saying to the Gentiles that, while you do not need to carry in your body the physical sign of covenant that God gave to Abraham, you do need to abstain from covenants with the enemies of God.
That’s the basic message for us today: don’t raise or retain covenants with Death or Hell or fallen angels. Don’t cross thresholds that automatically bring you into covenant with dark powers and, if you can’t avoid that for some reason, then make sure you declare your intention not to invoke a covenant through your actions.
In the next session, I’ll look at such a declaration.
This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. May blessing and birthright return to you through Jesus.
Thank you to Lorna Skinner of www.riversofmusic.co.uk for the background music.
Covenant is at the heart of the Christian faith. It’s necessary to understand it in order to understand covenant violation brings us into agreement with threshold guardians and so affects our ability to come into our life’s calling. The Strategies for the Threshold Series of books begins with Dealing with Python.