Genesis 34: The Defiling of Dinah

1 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 humiliated 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.”

-When it says the Shechem loved her it does not mean in the faithful husband way but rather in the strong desire way. What happened here was the same thing when Abraham and Issac lied about their wives being only sisters. In Isaac’s case and Abraham’s twice, it was assumed because they were sisters that they were available and were simply taken. The difference was Dinah really wasn’t married. Seeing as Shechem was son of the Prince, he was royalty and could do whatever he wants just like Pharaoh and Abimelech so the same was done here. The passage though seems to imply that rather than adding her to his harem, he seemed to desire her above all others, at least at the time. It’s also possible Shechem did not have his own harem or other wives and may have intended her as his first or possibly only. Only would probably be a stretch in this culture.

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. 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.”

-The people of Schechem truly don’t seem to mean any ill intent. They do not see taking a woman in this way as a bad thing. There isn’t reason to assume, as Jacob keeps fearing, that they half a knife behind their back about this. Schechem desires Dinah and despite being royalty and in this culture probably it was considered his right to just take her, he is still asking the father for permission and to name a dowry. From their perspective, they are being very respectful to Jacob.

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.”

-God had told Abraham that every member of his household and their descendants must be circumcised so even if the offer had been genuine, this would still be what would have been done. Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob were never told with who to take a wife with and so there is no restriction given them by God to preclude the possibility of Dinah having a Hivite husband. As with Esau, we see that it is unwise as their ways are very different but so was Rachel’s ways from those Abraham had tried to pass down. Laban was considered an Aramean and could have been three-quarters Aramean and so Rachel could have been seven-eighths Aramean.

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.

-Jacob’s household probably had a substantial amount of wealth but there’s no reason to assume the city of Schechem was poor. These men were simply telling the city the benefits of the city and Jacob’s household becoming united. This is similar to how the Hittites welcomed Abraham when he bought land or how both Abraham and Isaac became allied with Abimelech. The people of the region recognized the prosperity of this family and saw it as a good thing to be allied with them for safety and prosperity reasons.

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.

-This is the kind of household Jacob has wrought, one that seeks vengeance and will kill over dishonor and repay a wrong for a wrong. Jacob and his wives selfish outlooks have rubbed off on their children and so its no wonder they have behaved in this way. Consider too that Jacob’s sons grew up with Laban in his household which could have been like a city in itself with the possessions he must have had going back to Abraham and Nahor’s father Terah. While self-centered, Laban’s household did not appear to kidnap wives and seemed to place a high value on a woman. Even though it was Jacob’s idea to work seven years for Rachel, the fact Jacob would offer this must have been this was considered “the full price” and Jacob was willing to pay it. So while I’m sure women today would consider even what Laban and Jacob arranged for Leah and Rachel to not exactly be “fair” to the women, compared to these Canaanite cultures it was very fair and righteous. Women understood this in this day, even if it wasn’t totally right. Women appeared to consent to things being done in this way. Both Rachel and Rebeka desired to be with their husbands before arrangements were made so it was not against their will. We aren’t told, but considering an entire city of probably around one hundred people versus two men with a sword each, this was probably a sneak attack at night. While it causes immense pain and they didn’t have the anesthesia that we have today, it is not as if a man can’t pick up a sword and defend himself. But the combination of this being a sneak attack at night, a total surprise because they thought all was well, and the diminished speed and reaction time considering the pain makes this story believable that two men can kill an entire city. We can also imagine, though we aren’t told, that Simeon and Levi had servants or other men with them as well. So it may not have literally been just these two.

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?”

-Jacob speaks wisely. Abraham was never attacked because He had God’s protection, obviously, but from a rational point of view because he lived in peace and was only a sojourner. He respected the inhabitants of the land and only attacked when rescuing his nephew Lot from the invading army of four kings from the East. Abraham died a honored member of Canaan who was well loved. Now that Jacob’s sons have slaughtered and entire city, they are now an invading army. They are now a threat to all the inhabitants of the land. But when we are self-centered and have a narrow perspective, we fail to see the big picture. No doubt, Jacob felt vengeance as well, probably far greater than his sons. But he has matured in his walk and knew the consequences of taking such an action. Simeon and Levi are infants in their walk, if they are on a walk or believers at all. They see things like a child. You hurt me, so I will hurt you back more! Had they continued with the plan and allow themselves to combine with this people, it would have been the most righteous thing to do considering the circumstances. The godly response to being wronged in this way is the same response to always have, love. Jacob could have forgiven Schechem and went to God in prayer whether to allow this marriage or to move on. As mentioned above, Jacob was not told, as far as we know, NOT to marry Canaanites. The Israels when returning to this land are given this commandment but other than it seeming like a logical choice not to, they have no reason not to allow this to happen. But like with everything else, when we sin and we make wrong choices, God knew what we would do and makes it part of His plan to turn it to good. We wouldn’t have had Israel had they married into these people. Simeon and Levi killing the Hivites was part of God’s foreseen plan.

Note: We encounter the Hivites again so while all the men in this one city may have been killed, they did not commit genocide on this people.


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