Grace Abounding - Part Three

THEME: The History behind the Cities

This week’s lessons review our study in Joshua, and demonstrate how the grace of God is seen even through His judgment against sin.

Joshua 21:1-45

Now in chapter 21, we find out more about these Levitical cities. Six of the 48 cities were for refuge; but there were still the other 42 cities that were scattered all throughout the land. Joshua 21 spells it out in great detail city by city, telling us exactly where these cities of the Levites were. This involves a very interesting story. To understand why the cities of the Levites were so important and why they were such a blessing, not only to the people but to the Levites themselves, you have to go back to Genesis 34. In that chapter there is one of the most unsavory portions of the Old Testament. And although some preachers might say that it is impossible to preach a sermon on a certain text, I don’t think that’s true. All Scripture, including these portions, is given for our instruction in righteousness and for our correction. 

It concerns those days in the life of Jacob the patriarch when he had returned from living with his uncle in Haran. When he came back to his own country, Esau was there to meet him, and he wanted Jacob to go south with him. Because Jacob didn't want to do that, he went north and settled at Shechem. Something happened there that was a bad mark on his family. He had a daughter, Dinah, and one day she was attacked and raped by the son of the king of Shechem. The son of Hamor, the king, came to his father and told him that he really wanted to marry this girl. So the king came with his son to Jacob and made a proposal of marriage. 

This was something Jacob didn't know how to handle. So he said he’d wait a bit and consult with his sons. When his sons came in, he shared what had happened with them. In response, they began a plot of great treachery to get revenge for what had been done to their sister. First of all, they pleaded that it was impossible for them to have a marriage like that because they said, "You Shechemites are uncircumcised, and we Jews are circumcised. It's sign of the covenant with us. We just can’t have any intermingling of our peoples." However, they said, "If you would consent to the sign of the covenant and all the males in your city would consent to be circumcised, well then, we could agree to the marriage, and we would mingle with you and share all the property." But of course they had no intention of ever allowing for such an alliance. They were using God’s covenant sign as a deceptive means by which they could retaliate with utter vengeance on the Shechemites. 

The Shechemites agreed to their plan and were circumcised. But then, while they were still sore, the two sons who led this, Simeon and Levi, got their swords, went into the city, and massacred them all. Then they took all of their property, largely their livestock, and brought it back home. Although Jacob, their father, had been distressed at the treatment of his daughter, he was even more horrified at what his sons had done. He said to them, "You have made me a stench in the nostrils of the Canaanites." 


  • What evidences of our fallen human nature are shown in the story from Genesis 34?
  • Since all Scripture is given by God and profitable for us, if you were to teach this story, how would you do it?  How would you outline it, and what points of application would you make?

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