Genesis 34

The Word Made Fresh

1Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob, went out to visit the women who lived there, 2and Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of that area, saw her and forced himself on her. 3He was smitten by her, had fallen hard for her, and tried to soothe her. 4He spoke to his father Hamor and said, “Get this girl for me. I want to marry her.”

5When Jacob heard that Shechem had raped Dinah, his daughter, his sons were in the countryside with the livestock, so he waited until they returned. 6Hamor, Shechem’s father, came out to speak with Jacob 7just as Jacob’s sons were returning. When they heard what had happened, they were shocked and enraged by the disgraceful thing Shechem had done to their sister.

8Hamor spoke with them, though, and said, “My son Shechem has fallen hopelessly in love with your daughter. I’m asking you to please let her become his wife. 9Indeed, I’m asking you to intermarry with us. Let our young men marry your daughters, and our daughters can marry your young men. 10You are welcome to live among us. The land is there before you. Settle down here. Work here. Buy property here.”

11Shechem also spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. He said, “Please accept me. Whatever you want I’m willing to give. 12Set the marriage price as high as you wish. I’ll give you whatever you ask if you’ll let the girl be my wife.”

13But Shechem had violated their sister, and Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with veiled deceit. 14“We can’t allow her to marry you,” they said. “We cannot allow our sister to marry any man who is uncircumcised. That would be disgraceful to us. 15She can marry you on one condition, that you circumcise every single male among you. 16Only then can we permit our young women to marry your young men. 17Otherwise, we will take our sister and leave.”

18Hamor and Shechem agreed. 19Shechem, the best-known member of Hamor’s family, underwent the procedure immediately because he was so crazy about Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. 20Then he and his father Hamor summoned the men of their city to the city gate and said to them, 21“These people have been friendly towards us. We should let them live in the land and do business with us. There is plenty for everyone here. We can marry their daughters and let them marry our daughters. 22They have only one condition for us to meet. In order to unite with them we must circumcise every man among us, because that is the case with all their men. 23All their livestock and all their other property can be ours if we will agree with them and let them live among us.” 24Everybody at the gate agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every man among them became circumcised.

25Three days later, when they were still in pain from the procedure, two of Jacob’s sons, Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi, entered the city quietly, drew their swords, and killed all the men, 26including Hamor and Shechem. They took Dinah from Shechem’s house. 27Jacob’s other sons joined in the carnage and plundered the city because of what had been done to their sister. 28They took the flocks, the herds, the donkeys, and everything else of value in the city and in the countryside around it. 29Everything they found in the houses of the city – all the wealth, the women and children, everything – they took.

30But Jacob told Simeon and Levi, “You have brought me a lot of trouble. The Canaanites and Perizzites who live around here will consider me as garbage. There aren’t many of us, and if they band together and attack, we’re done for.”

But they said, “What were we supposed to do? Let our sister be treated like a prostitute?”

Commentary

1-4: A tragedy strikes the family. Dinah, Jacob and Leah’s daughter, is raped by a local sheik who then wants to marry her. That is, he wants his father Hamor to purchase her for him.

5-7: Jacob learns of the rape, but decides to do nothing until he confers with his sons, so waits for them to return from the field. As luck would have it, Hamor arrives at the same time. Dinah’s brothers are enraged because of the “outrage in Israel.”

8-12: Hamor proposes a treaty of happy coexistence. We learn now that Shechem has accompanied his father to the negotiations, and he blurts out that he will pay any price, any price whatsoever if they’ll just let him marry the girl. Shechem doesn’t mention anything about Jacob’s people living in the land with them and intermarrying with them and buying property and so forth. He just wants Dinah.

13-17: Dinah’s brothers take advantage of his eagerness combined with Hamor’s offer. They tell them that if all the men will be circumcised then they can intermarry with each other. Thus, the sons of Jacob plan to deceive the people of Shechem – the city Shechem as well as prince Shechem. You might notice that they never specifically say they will give Shechem permission to marry Dinah.

18-24: But, of course, that is how Hamor and Shechem interpret their offer. So, they go into the city and persuade the men of the city to go along with the program, and they are planning a little deceit of their own. Go along with the circumcision thing, they say, and “Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours?” In other words, eventually we will simply outnumber and overwhelm them. So, all of the men of Shechem had their foreskins surgically removed.

5-31: Simeon and Levi show up on the third day, just when they are at the height of the recovery period, and slaughter every man in Shechem, including Hamor and his son Shechem, the rapist. The other brothers then plunder the town and take everything that has any value, including the women and children (isn’t that just as bad as what Shechem did to their sister?). Jacob, always cautious, is worried that there will be retribution, but his sons are indignant that they will not allow their sister to be treated like a prostitute.

Takeaway

God’s name is not mentioned in Chapter 34. Perhaps this story is a demonstration of human behavior when God is not present.