For your violence against your brother Jacob shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever.…
For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever, etc. Social cruelty is the grand subject of these verses, and the cruelty is that which one brother perpetrates on another - Esau on Jacob. "Wrong or violence is all the more reprehensible when it is committed against a brother. The fraternal relation in which Edom stood towards Judah is still more sharply defined by the name Jacob, since Esau and Jacob were twin brothers. The consciousness that the Israelites were their brethren ought to have impelled the Edomites to render helpful support to the oppressed Judaeans. Instead of this, they not only revelled with scornful and malignant pleasure in the misfortune of the brother nation, but endeavoured to increase it still further by rendering active support to the enemy. This hostile behaviour of Edom arose from envy at the election of Israel, like the hatred of Esau toward Jacob (Genesis 27:41), which was transmitted to his descendants and came out openly in the time of Moses in the unbrotherly refusal to allow the Israelites to pass in a peaceable manner through their land (Numbers 20.)" (Delitzsch). These verses present to us social cruelty in three different features - as a sin against the Creator; perpetrated against a brother, specially offensive to God; as working in various forms from generation to generation. We shall devote a brief homiletical sketch to each of these. This passage implies, first, that social cruelty is a sin against the Creator; and the truth of this will appear from four subjects of thought.
I. THE CONSTITUTION OF THE HUMAN SOUL. Social cruelty is opposed to the normal condition of the human spirit. He who will study his own spiritual constitution will not fall to observe three great facts in relation to this subject.
1. The existence of social love. Social sympathy is one of the primary elements of our nature: its instinct is to render service to others and to seek their good will and fellowship. The malign is not inherent in man. Cruelty in him is not innate, as in the tiger and the bear. We are made to love and to be loved.
2. The instinctive condemnation of cruel acts. Never in the history of a soul has it instinctively approved of acts of cruelty as perpetrated either by itself or others. Conscience thunders against all such deeds: on the benevolent, and on the benevolent only, it smiles.
3. Innate craving for social approbation. The soul not only deprecates the ill will and loathing of society, but yearns deeply and always for its approbation. But this can only be attained by benevolent deeds. Now, inasmuch as the constitution of the soul is an expression of the Divine will, and that constitution is against cruelty, cruelty is an outrage on the Divine order.
II. THE COMMON RELATION OF ALL TO GOD. He is the Father of all men. No one of the human race is nearer to him than another. Each is his offspring and bears his image. And between all there is, therefore, the relationship of brotherhood. It cannot be the will of the great Father that his children should act as wild beasts, inflicting cruelty on each other, and thus harass his benevolent ears with the groans and shrieks of his offspring. What human father does not deprecate one of his children inflicting an injury on another, and does not ardently desire that each should work for the other? Are we more loving than he who made us? Does the brooklet contain more than the ocean?
III. THE COMMON INTEREST OF CHRIST IN THE RACE. Christ took on him the nature of man. He was the Son of man, not the Son of Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, bend or free, but the Son of man. The nature of all men was in him. He wore the nature of every man, he propounded doctrines forevery man, he enacted laws forevery man, he tasted death forevery man. He was not ashamed to call us brethren. He loved the world, and gave himself for it. How abhorrent, then, must it he to him and to his blessed Father for one man to inflict cruelty upon another!
IV. THE UNIVERSAL TEACHING OF THE BIBLE. The whole Decalogue, as reduced and enforced by Christ, consists in loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves. And everywhere in the New Testament are we exhorted to "be kindly affectioned one to another," to "recompense to no man evil for evil."
CONCLUSION. How obvious it is, then, that social cruelty in all its forms is a sin against the Creator! The man who injures his fellow creature is a rebel against the government of the universe. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.