In Gen. 34, we read that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, are alone capable of slaughtering an entire city of freshly-circumcised Hivite men “when they were sore” (Gen. 34:25) to avenge their sister Dinah, who had been raped by a prince of the city.
Their father Jacob complains, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household” (Gen. 34:30).
What is interesting is that, in Joshua 5, Joshua circumcises all the Israelite males who had not been circumcised during the 40 years that Israel wandered in the wilderness. The problem, though, is that they pick a terrible time to do it–after they have crossed over the Jordan into the land of Canaan!
Israel’s numbers are no longer few, but the tables have been turned–all the Israelite men are now the ones sore from their fresh circumcisions, and guess who is still in the land at the time of Joshua? That’s right: “the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites” (Joshua 3:10). This is their chance for total revenge against the people who slaughtered an entire city of their men!
But no harm comes to Israel. Why not? Well, we find out in the first verse of the chapter: “As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:1).
The Israelites obeyed God’s command to be circumcised despite their utter vulnerability, and God protected them by melting the hearts of their enemies in fear.