Vigilante (Genesis 34:30-31)

Robin Hood. Zorro. Batman.

What do these fictional characters, spanning hundreds of years, have in common? They are all vigilantes. While officially not part of any law enforcement agency, they decided to take justice into their own hands. Even in real life, vigilantes have arisen. Countless stories of parents avenging the murder of their children, others seeking revenge and justice for their murdered spouse and still others organizing groups to exterminate ruthless criminals and gang members. 

The public romanticizes the vigilante as the popularity of these movies and stories attest. Is it ever justified? The Bible records several examples of what could be considered vigilante action. A tragic example was recorded with the sons of the patriarch, Jacob. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and sister to Simeon and Levi. As they traveled back to their homeland, Dinah was raped by Shechem, the son of the prince of that land. Shechem’s father, Hamor, attempted to make peace with Jacob and requested that Dinah be allowed to marry his son. Jacob did not say anything and instead, let his sons Simeon and Levi speak for him and both agreed to allow Shechem to marry Dinah but only on the condition that Shechem and all of the men of the land became circumcised and worship God as they did. However, Simeon and Levi had no intention to allow Shechem to marry Dinah. Once the men were circumcised and incapacitated because of the pain, Simeon and Levi killed all of the men, including Shechem, exacting their revenge. Surprisingly, Jacob was more upset over how his enemies would view his son’s actions, rather than defending the honor of his own daughter. 

Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!”

“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” they retorted angrily. 

Genesis 34:30-31 (NLT)

It is a sad story and although Simeon and Levi did defend the honor of their sister, it was not a godly action. In fact, God was not consulted in prayer during this entire sordid episode. Just because a story is recorded in the Bible does not mean that God condones the action. The Bible is very clear on this point. 

I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.

Deuteronomy 32:35 (NLT)

As Christians, we are commanded to obey the laws of our land unless it forces us to go against God’s law. While the cause of a vigilante may be honorable, even noble, vengeance is for the Lord to decide, judge and enact.

Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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