Genesis 34:1-4 – Ten years have elapsed and we now learn about the sad events surrounding the youngest child of Leah, Dinah. Dinah had to have been at least in her teens and her brothers at least in their twenties. While the text does not mention it there likely were visits of the family to Isaac and to Esau. There is a problem with being children of light in the midst of darkness.
The spiritual life of the family also was weakened by the polygamous relationship that Jacob and his family were in. Jacob no doubt taught his children and wives about his experiences with God, but there was little fellowship. Children need fellowship with people their own age. The boys probably had that among themselves, but as far as we know at this point there was only one girl, Dinah.
Dinah sought fellowship from the daughters of Shechem. She no doubt came to the attention of some of the men of the community. She must have seemed particularly attractive, being of a different nationality, as well as displaying a different spirit then the local girls who were raised under the influence of idolatry and all its associated practices. Shechem the son of Hamor the chief of the tribe, desired Dinah.
In their system single women were fair game and Shechem had his way with her (the word in the Hebrew means lit. rape). To his credit he did not cast her aside but sought to marry her. He loved her and sought to ease the pain she felt from being raped. He brought her into his home Genesis 34:26 and kept her with him, and asked his father to take care of the arrangements for her to be married to him. His father Hamor does not rebuke him for his behavior, an indication that such practices were not uncommon.
Genesis 34:5-12 Word quickly gets back to Jacob who in all likelihood was upset and angry, but decides not to do anything until he first speaks with her brothers. Before his son’s returned from the fields Hamor arrives with his proposal for Dinah to marry his son.
No words of apology or sympathy are offered, just the offer of marriage. In the midst of this discussion the brothers arrive grieved and bitterly angry. Dinah was the only sister in a family filled with boys, and she must have been held in high esteem by them. Shechem’s attack on her was an attack on their father and them. They see this attack not just one of defilement of a sister but one against Israel.
By this response the sons of Jacob consider their family the nation that it will come to be or else they see this as an attack against their father who is the father of the people of destiny. At this point we can commend the behavior of the sons of Jacob as seeing this attack not only in terms of it moral repugnance but also for its spiritual ramifications.
They had spiritual insight but their response is not what God would have them to do. Their hurt and anger made little impression on Hamor. He urges them to accept his proposition. Not only should they give Dinah to his son but suggests that they should intermarry with all of their daughters. His attitude seems to be that Jacob and his sons should be glad for the opportunity to marry thus earning the right to dwell in the land by joining with them through marriage.
Shechem either was present all along and silent or he arrives now and offers to pay whatever price they request in order to marry. This is an allusion to the traditional dowry that was given to comfort or compensate parents in the loss of their daughter. It may have been their businesslike attitude that infuriated Dinah’s brothers as much as the rape itself.
From Genesis 34:31 we learn that they feel that their sister was being treated like a harlot.
Genesis 34:13-17 -From here on in the conversation is between Jacob’s sons and Hamor and Shechem. Either Jacob was overcome and did not wish to speak of the issue, or he left the negotiations to the brothers of his daughter Dinah. Whether the plan that unfolds is the plan of Levi and Simeon or if all the brothers were involved in this plan of treachery is uncertain.
From the pronouncements of Jacob on his death bed it is apparent that the ringleaders are Simeon and Levi. Vengeance would be exacted not only upon Shechem and Hamor but on the entire city. In a sense the entire city was guilty for taking no action in the actions of Shechem. There is no censure at all. Simeon and Levi pretended to accept Hamor=s offer of intermarriage if they would agree as a city to be circumcised fulfilling the requirements of the Abrahmaic Covenant. Otherwise they would have to remain as two distinct peoples.
Genesis 34:18-24 The response by Hamor and Shechem was very favorable. The idea of circumcision was not unique to the Israelites, and so was not so foreign to the Shechemites. Hamor, who was the chief of the tribe, gathered all the men together at the city gate where business was conducted. He lays the proposition before them, stressing that with his plan they will eventually own all of their livestock and have access to their women.
Circumcision would be a small price to pay for the prospects that were presented. That Shechem was the first to be circumcised encouraged them because he was so well respected by the people (Genesis 34:19). Where Jacob was during these arrangements we can only speculate. Many commentators suggest that he was grieving over these things. Would he have agreed to such a plan? Probably not. He had left the negotiations to his sons but this was a grave mistake on his part.
Genesis 34:25-29 – Simeon and Levi knew that the worst pain was on the third day. They then went and methodically killed every man in the city ending with Shechem. They then took her from his home and brought her home. Once their evil was done the other brothers came and took all the women and children captive making them their slaves and taking all their possessions.
They must have seen their actions as totally just and righteous in vindicating their sister, perhaps they saw their victory as a blessing from God for their actions. But their father cursed them for their actions, their ruthless response did not go unpunished. The tribes descended from Simeon and Levi would be dispersed throughout Israel (Genesis 49:5-7). In reality much of the blame rests at the feet of Jacob who should have not walked out of the situation.
Genesis 34:30-31 – Jacob now appears on the scene, he is appalled at their actions. He had tried to live peaceably with the Shechemites perhaps hoping to be a testimony to them. Instead of being a testimony of truth and love they would be now known for their cruelty and deception. Moreover when word of their actions got out Jacob feared that there would be retaliation. He was silenced by his sons when they complained about his inaction in defending the crime done to his daughter.