Thank you for checking out this Bible study podcast, I’m Randy Duncan, and in this episode, we will be covering Genesis chapter 34.
In the last episode, we covered chapter 33, which saw Jacob and Esau meet for the first time in 20 years. And with that now behind him, Jacob goes his own way, temporarily settling just outside the city of Shechem, which is where we now pick up here in chapter 34.
V1-4 – -Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and defiled her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”
So, let me say this for starters. In the Hebrew, her name is pronounced Dee-nah’, some say Dinah, some say Dinah, I’m going to say it, Dinah.
But more importantly, it tells us that she “went out” to see the women of the land. So first, most commentators view this as an improper or imprudent act, because girls of a marriageable age would not normally leave a rural encampment to go unchaperoned into an alien city, especially among the Canaanites. Furthermore, the women of that land, if you remember, grieved Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah, none of which wanted their sons to marry Canaanite women.
Now the text apparently views Dinah’s unconventional act here a bit critically, because the Hebrew verb for “to go out”, just like the Aramaic and Akkadian equivalents of the word, carries with it a meaning that can denote a sort of promiscuous or a flirtatious conduct
Now Dinah may have made friends with some of the women of the land, or maybe she was just looking to make friends, we don’t know. What we do know, is that it was risky for an unmarried young woman to venture out on her own, especially in this area
But either way it tells us that Shechem saw her. Now Shechem was the son of Hamor, who was the chief of the land. But Shechem saw Dinah, he took her, and he raped her. The three Hebrew verbs used here (took, lay, force) are of increasing severity, and sort of underscore the brutality and seriousness of the assault. In fact, the word used here that is translated as “by force” actually means “he made her suffer”. And so, the use of this word makes it clear that Dinah in no way wanted what happened to her. It was clearly rape.
Incidentally, this is the same sequence of words used to describe the acts of the Nephilim back in chapter 6, where it says that the sons of God “saw” that the daughters of men were attractive and they “took” any that they chose. IOW, they “saw”, and they “took”. A similar construction is used here to describe what happened
But verse 3 continues and tell us that Shechem was drawn to Dinah, and he loved her, and so he tells his father “Get me this girl for my wife”
Interesting. Notice one thing that is missing in the description of Shechem’s actions and then his apparent feelings for Dinah, there is no apology, no regret over his action of raping Dinah. Furthermore, if he really loved her, would he have raped her?
But Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.” And actually, the word for “Get me”, literally means “take for me”. It’s the same root word used to describe his taking of Dinah by force.
Verses 5-7 continue…5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done
So, Jacob hears about what has happened, but he doesn’t say anything until his sons come in from the field. Now many commentators make a big deal of Jacob’s passiveness and lack of leadership throughout this whole ordeal. We’ll revisit that here in a few minutes, but just something for you to take note of as this scene plays out.
Verse 7 says that Jacob’s sons came in from the field when they heard, and they were angry because of the “outrageous” thing that had been done. The Hebrew word used there translated as “outrageous” in some versions, is actually the Hebrew word “nevelah”, and it is a powerful term describing offenses of such profound abhorrence that they threaten to tear apart the fabric of Israelite society. And for society’s protection, atrocities like this can never be tolerated or never go unpunished
Verses 8-12 continue…8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him to be his wife. 9 Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me for as great a bride-price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me. Only give me the young woman to be my wife.”
So, notice first off how Hamor is speaking to Jacob and his sons. He is talking as if nothing happened, like he is just coming to ask for Dinah’s hand in marriage. He doesn’t even mention the rape. He also doesn’t mention that at this point, Dinah is being held captive in his city
He then proposes intermarriage between the two groups, we will marry your daughters, and you can marry ours. This is exactly what Abraham and Isaac dreaded. Later on in Deuteronomy, the Law will actually forbid it. Duet 7:3-4 says, 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, and in verse 4, we read why…4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.
For Hamor and Shechem, this was an opportunity for economic cooperation, but for Israel, it would have been a perversion
Hamor then continues, and now he even sweetens the deal by telling them that they will also be allowed to acquire property. This is significant, because it was the most valuable prize in terms of meeting the basic needs of sojourners, and so may have very well been their greatest temptation to say yes to the deal
And like so many commercials we see and here today, ‘But wait! There’s more! Shechem now enters the conversation and even further sweetens the deal by offering to pay whatever price Jacob and his son’s name. “Ask me for as great a bride-price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me”
Now just as a reminder, the bride-price here was simply the term used to describe the payment made by a prospective husband for a bride, and was paid to the bride’s family. Many times, it was a price that was set by custom, and so Shechem’s willingness to pay far beyond that amount implies the recognition that there was something different about this proposal
And Shechem also throws in the offer of a gift over and above the bride price, certainly to sweeten the deal even more. The bottom line is that they are wanting this bribe to be irresistible.
It kind of makes you wonder if Hamor and Shechem were thinking that if Jacob and his sons had heard about the rape, maybe their desire for peace, and land, and money would cause them to overlook this whole thing. But either way, this entire offer is based on the assumption that Jacob and his sons could be bought.
Although his offer appears outwardly to be very good, and presented in a seemingly polite manner, Hamor and Shechem have undermined the character of Jacob and his sons, not to mention Dinah! Because by not mentioning the rape at all, and making an offer above a fair price, they are inferring that Jacob and his sons will also overlook what happened to Dinah due to the money and other offers being made. IOW, they assume a low character for Jacob and his sons. That they would place more value on the money and benefits than they do their own daughter and sister Dinah. In short, they are here trying to buy off Jacob and his sons. So how do Jacob and his sons respond?
Verses 13-17 continue…13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. 16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.”
So, it tells us immediately that they respond to Hamor and Shechem deceitfully. And why? Because of what had been done to Dinah. Their plan here hinges on pretending that they were not even aware that their sister had been raped by Shechem.
It’s interesting that they don’t even respond to the money or gifts at all. It’s like that isn’t even a part of their consideration.
They make it clear that a pre-requisite to marrying Dinah is circumcision, and that is more important to them than all of the other offers. But again, we are informed right away that their entire response is a trick, they are answering with guile and with deceit.
Keep in mind here a couple of things though. Hamor and Shechem have not even mentioned the assault on Dinah, not admitted that a crime has taken place. They certainly haven’t expressed any regret. In fact, Dinah is actually still being detained by them back in their city. It’s not like they are just going to march into the chief of the city’s home and take back their Dinah. They are severely outnumbered here. So planning, scheming, and cunning is the only equalizer.
And so, they tell Hamor and Shechem that they cannot allow their sister to marry someone who is uncircumcised, because that would be a disgrace to them and their practice. To them, the uncircumcised represented men who were on a lower level, and so was definitely not anyone who would be worthy of marrying their sister.
But if they will get circumcised then they will allow the marriage. Not only that, but all the males are to be circumcised, then, Jacob and his sons will also agree to the other terms of the offer, to intermarry, and to become one people group.
There is a bit of irony here. The part of the body that was used by Shechem to violate Dinah will now become the source of his punishment. And not only him, but all the other males in town.
But they end their comments here by saying, “But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.” I wonder what Hamor and Shechem thought of this? Because the way this phrase is used in the Hebrew has sort of an ominous ring to it. It is similar to the manner in which Shechem took Dinah to begin with. It means they will take her back by force.
V18-24…18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19 And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his father’s house. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
And so, what we see is that for his son’s personal pleasure, Hamor agrees to the demands that would cause other men in the city, his fellow citizens, a lot of pain and suffering. Honestly, it sounds a lot like what our politicians in Washington do today, making backroom agreements without our knowledge or consent, and then placing the burden on the citizens. Of course, they are going to sell it, they’re going to make it sound wonderful for everybody. That’s what propaganda is all about
So, in order to win their support and approval, Hamor tells them that the Israelites are at peace with them, and they should allow them to live in the land, to trade and participate in the economy, after all, there is plenty of land for everybody. Not only that, but we will take their daughters as wives, and they can take ours, and we will all become one people. And so, he is speaking of all the benefits of meeting the demands of Jacob’s sons.
There’s just one problem though…Hamor never reveals the actual motivation and reason for the demands. He isn’t honest with the people, with the men of the city. Notice that he conveniently omits the fact that he has promised the Israelites that they can actually purchase land, not just live in the area, but actually acquire land. He also implies that they will take over all their possessions (Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours?). But this part was completely made-up, completely fabricated, because Jacob’s sons never agreed to give up their possessions.
And again, Hamor never tells them the real reason for all of this. He never mentions that it is the desire of his son, Shechem, and that he has raped Dinah. Seriously, this could have taken place in the halls of congress in Washington D.C just as easily as it took place in this city. The angle is the same. The deceit is the same. The dishonesty and half-truths are the same.
I mean, Jacob’s sons were deceiving Hamor and Shechem, and Hamor and Shechem were deceiving the people of their city. Some things never change. You know, it seems humanity never changes, only the times do.
But they have no intention here of adopting Israel’s worldview or culture, regardless of circumcision or not. This is only a means of financial and economic gain, which only reinforces their own culture. And so, like so many political leaders even today, they make their own lusts and their own desires appear to be in the best interests of their city and their people
Now it tells us that “all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city”. These are the citizens who agree with and comply with the terms of the deal.
So, when it says “all who went out of the gate of the city”, there are a couple of different thoughts on who exactly this is referring to. First, that may be referring to “all who go out and enter the gates of the city, meaning, all free citizens. But the more probable scenario is that “all who go out” is actually just short for “all who go out to war”. That same verb is used in 2 Kings and in Amos in that same way. And so, it would actually be referring only to males of military age. IOW, every able-bodied man
Verses 25-29 continue…..25 On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.
Ok, so it says that on the third day, after all the males had been circumcised, and were obviously in pain, and incapacitated to a large degree, Simeon and Levi took their swords and killed all the males. Now, a couple of things here. It is Simeon and Levi who are leading this act of revenge because they were Dinah’s full brothers, and it would have impacted them the most.
But it says they took their swords and came against the city “where it felt secure”. This phrase uses the Hebrew word “betah”, which means unmolested, meaning, they met no resistance. It could also be referring to the state of the city, meaning that the city was “unsuspecting”, or “caught off guard”
It is ironic that this whole episode began with Dinah “going out”, and then being “taken”. This scene concludes with those same two verbs, only in reverse order. Simeon and Levi “took” Dinah, and then they “went out”. This also verifies that Dinah was in fact being held captive in Shechem’s house.
It tells us that they did this because their sister had been defiled, not because they wanted to plunder the city and steal their possessions. But even though their desire to punish Shechem is just, their actions here are way over the top, way out of line, and just go far beyond what should have been done.
Perhaps Simeon and Levi thought that they could not just go in and kill Shechem and Hamor, take Dinah, and then just leave. Because then the whole city, which would have greatly outnumbered Jacob’s household, would have simply sought revenge and attacked them. IOW, leaving any of the military-age males would have no doubt led to a counterattack.
Now the text doesn’t say this, but it is reasonable to think that, given the amount of violence and killing inflicted here, that Simeon and Levi didn’t act alone. Most likely they are specifically named because they led the attack, and they were Dinah’s full brothers. In addition to that, it tells us that the sons of Jacob, referring to others, are the ones who came in and plundered the city, taking possessions, looting, taking captives, etc. And there was simply no justification for those actions. But Simeon and Levi were concerned only with exacting revenge, and then leaving with their sister. It was the others who came and plundered the rest of the city. And honestly, it sort of foreshadows how they would later treat their younger brother Joseph, once again bringing heartache to Jacob
But there is also some irony in what happened. The men of Shechem intended to take the possessions of Jacob’s household, but instead, it is their possessions that get taken.
So, wrapping up this chapter, we read the last two verses, which provide some insight into Jacob’s reaction to all of this. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “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.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”
And so, we see now for the first time Jacob’s reaction to all of this. Remember, there has been hardly any mention of Jacob throughout this entire episode. In fact, some people blame Jacob for his lack of leadership throughout all of this. We don’t know how much Jacob knew about his sons’ plans, there is simply no record of him saying anything, so we can’t be sure.
But regardless, here we are now, and Jacob intervenes for the first time apparently. And he does so by berating Simeon and Levi for what they have done. He is not happy at all!! He tells them, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land…My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household”.
Interesting, Jacob is not recorded as berating them for leading a raid and killing many men in addition to Hamor and Shechem! He is upset and worried about retaliation and a potential attack on his house!
Now, we don’t see it right here in this scene, but to Jacob’s credit, later on in Genesis, on his deathbed, Jacob strongly reprimands both Simeon and Levi for these acts of violence and cruelty. In Genesis chapter 49:5-7 on his deathbed, Jacob says “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.6 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel”. So, how’s that for a blessing from your father on his deathbed!?
But in this scene, the two brothers have the last word. While Jacob is worried about an attack because of what they did, and about losing his household and family, Simeon and Levi ask, “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?”
And the answer is no, no she shouldn’t. But taking Dinah by force, raping her, and then offering money and gifts and other benefits as a payoff, that is how Hamor and Shechem essentially treated her. Like a prostitute. Use her, and then pay.
And then what, who would then be married off to her rapist just so their household could feel safe and secure? And her brothers would have none of that. And they are calling Jacob out on his lack of action. And they were reinforcing the idea that the women of Israel would not be regarded as objects of abuse. They wouldn’t be paid off. They wouldn’t be dishonored like that without punishment.
And so, as we bring this episode to a close, I just feel like I need to close out a bit differently than I normally do. Right now, I personally know several people who are dealing with terrible situations, are fighting terminal diseases, illnesses, and have lost family members recently, or have received a very bleak prognosis. I want you to know that you all continue to be in my prayers. But rather than saying a lot about that, I think this song communicates much better than I can, what many people may be feeling right now. I pray that God will bring you some measure of comfort during the days to come. But I will leave you with this, and I hope it blesses you.