Genesis 34

Jacob’s Troubled Stay in Shechem
Genesis 34
Genesis 34. This is one of the darkest chapters, not only in Genesis, but in Jacob’s life. He was now living in the land of promise, but he had neither dealt with the idols in his house, nor gone up to Bethel. It is as if he was attempting to settle in the land of Canaan without the God who promised it to him. This chapter is very sad, but after this, Jacob does go up to Bethel. Sometimes difficult trials are required to dislodge us from a place we do not belong, and bring us back to God.

Shechem Defiles Dinah (34:1-4)

1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her. vv.1-2 Jacob was dwelling in a wrong place, and this leads to evil and tremendous sadness. Dinah, Jacob’s young (14 or 15 years old) and only daughter, ventures out into the community for companionship. Whether this was considered acceptable behavior in Jacob’s house is unknown, but it seems to fit with Jacob’s state at this time, and his choice to settle in Shechem. Certainly his sons didn’t listen to him, so why would we expect his daughter to? It would have been a difficult upbringing with the competition in the family, not to mention being raised with eleven brothers. We see the character of the world in Shechem; he saw her, he took her, he lay with her, he humbled her. The character of the world is to take what it wants. It does not appear that this act was consensual; “he took her” implies at least seduction, if not force. And the fact that he “humbled her” would suggest the latter. There is some doubt about this, and it is possible that force was not involved; e.g. it could be that he took her by surprise. No doubt rape was commonplace in those days, although there is some archeological evidence suggesting laws against rape existed in some civilizations at this time, and as v.7 indicates, it was a thing that “ought not to be done”. In any case, there is certainly a moral lesson in this. If we seek fellowship with the world we cannot expect to be spared it’s evils. What Shechem did was very wrong, but Dinah also was in a wrong place. Shechem is identified as the son of Hamor, “prince of the country”. Generally, the children of the wealthy and powerful were held to a different standard, although v.19 indicates that Shechem was more honorable than his family.
3 And his soul fastened on Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the maiden, and spoke consolingly to the maiden. 4 And Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, Take me this girl as wife. vv.3-4 In Deut. 22:28 we find that what Shechem wanted to do was the right thing; to marry the girl. No doubt, the love that he had for Dinah was selfish, hence we read nothing of repentance over defiling Dinah. This man had found something unique, and he wanted her for himself. Unbelievers can appreciate the moral beauty in believers, although they do not appreciate its source. 

The Deceit of the Sons of Jacob (34:5-17)

5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his cattle in the fields, and Jacob said nothing until they came. v.5 It is notable that Jacob remained quiet, perhaps feeling the government of God. He did not rush out to his sons to tell them what had happened. Perhaps he suspected what their reaction would be.
6 And Hamor the father of Shechem came out to Jacob, to speak to him. 7 And the sons of Jacob came from the fields when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry, because he had wrought what was disgraceful in Israel, in lying with Jacob’s daughter, which thing ought not to be done. vv.6-7 Hamor seeks to gain Jacob’s favor. The sons of Jacob, and especially the sons of Leah, as we will soon see, view the action as an insult to the family. It wasn’t so much compassion for Dinah, but anger at the actions of Shechem. In Genesis 49, Jacob says “unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united”, showing that that Jacob would not associate his honor with their thoughts. It also suggests that Simeon and Levi (two sons of Levi, brothers of Dinah) were at the bottom of the collusion.
8 And Hamor spoke to them, saying, My son Shechem’s soul cleaves to your daughter: I pray you, give her to him as wife. 9 And make marriages with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to you. 10 And dwell with us, and the land shall be before you: dwell and trade in it, and get yourselves possessions in it. 11 And Shechem said to her father and to her brethren, Let me find favour in your eyes; and what ye shall say to me I will give. 12 Impose on me very much as dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say to me; but give me the maiden as wife. vv.8-12 Hamor was willing to pay whatever price was necessary to have Dinah for his daughter-in-law. He had a very glowing picture of the Israelites and Canaanites living together in harmony. He did not appear to know that God had promised the land to Jacob and his children. There could never be harmony.
13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and spoke — because he had defiled Dinah their sister — 14 and said to them, We cannot do this, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach to us. 15 But only in this will we consent to you, if ye will be as we, that every male of you be circumcised; 16 then will we give our daughters to you, and take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and be one people. 17 But if ye do not hearken to us, to be circumcised, then will we take our daughter and go away. vv.13-17 The sons of Jacob had murder in their hearts, but they acted in a cruel and cowardly way. Rather than simply challenge the men, they deceived them into circumcising themselves, and thereby weakening themselves. The fact that the sons of Jacob used circumcision – the sign of the covenant – as a means of exacting vengeance, shows how far they were from true holiness.

The Shechemites are Circumcised (34:18-24)

18 And their words were good in the eyes of Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 And the youth did not delay to do this, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter. And he was honourable above all in the house of his father. 20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade in it. And the land — behold, it is of wide extent before them. We will take their daughters as wives, and give them our daughters. 22 But only in this will the men consent to us to dwell with us, to be one people — if every male among us be circumcised, just as they are circumcised. 23 Their cattle, and their possessions, and every beast of theirs, shall they not be ours? only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us. 24 And all that went out at the gate of his city hearkened to Hamor and to Shechem his son; and every male was circumcised — all that went out at the gate of his city. vv.18-24 The fact that Shechem was willing to get circumcised quickly without understanding it demonstrates that the flesh is willing to adopt the outward symbols of godliness without the inward reality. How many unbelievers have faked Christianity in order to marry a believing brother or sister. His motive in accepting the sign of circumcision was that “he had delight in Jacob’s daughter”. It is also remarkable how easily the men of the city were convinced by the speech of Hamor.

The Murder of the Sons of Hamor (34:25-31)

25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 26 And Hamor and Shechem his son they slew with the edge of the sword; and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house; and went out. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 Their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and what was in the city, and what was in the field they took; 29 and all their goods, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and plundered them, and all that was in the houses. vv.25-29 In v.25 it becomes clear who the main actors were; “Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren”. They attacked the city when the men were sore from circumcision. Then the sons of Jacob plundered the city. Jacob says in Genesis 49 of Levi and Simeon, “in their self-will they digged down a wall”, meaning that they went way too far. An alternate translation reads “houghed oxen”, which refers to cutting the hamstring of a service animal to render it useless. Unrestrained anger can ruin our usefulness for Christ. If it was really righteous judgment the brothers were seeking, they should have taken it up with Shechem, according to the principle; “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16). Instead they completely lost control, and were taken over by hatred and cruel lust. This is an example of what can happen when man in the flesh takes vengeance into his own hands. Only the Lord can righteously wield the sword of vengeance in perfect restraint. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. … Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:19, 21). This is an example of being overcome by evil. 

30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me, in that ye make me odious among the inhabitants of the land — among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and I am few men in number, and they will gather themselves against me and smite me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. 31 And they said, Should people deal with our sister as with a harlot? vv.30-31 Jacob knew that the actions of his sons had destroyed his reputation in that region. When dealing with the strife between herdsmen, Abram had been mindful of “the Canaanites and the Perizzites” who were looking on (ch.13). Here Jacob mornes the result of his sons’ actions in light of the inhabitants of the land. He knew very well that there could be deserved retaliation against his house; ” they will gather themselves against me and smite me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house”. In his fear, Jacob forgot God’s promise to protect him. This ought to have touched the hearts of Levi and Simeon, but they stiffly replied, “Should people deal with our sister as with a harlot?” They remained unrepentant. This horrible event seems to have had at least one positive effect: it made Jacob feel ill at ease in Shechem, after which he goes up to Bethel, although not before he has a direct command from God.
Levi used the sword twice. It is interesting to trace the tribe of Levi in scripture. This tribe is seen using the sword twice. The first time is here in Shechem, when Levi and Simeon together plotted and used the sword to slaughter the sons of Shechem. It was nothing but fleshly anger and cruelty. As a result of this, Jacob pronounced “Cursed be their anger, for it was violent; And their rage, for it was cruel! I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Gen. 49:7). As a result of this, Levi and Simeon were denied a portion in Canaan, Levi being scattered through all the land, and Simeon scattered in the tribe of Judah. But the difference is that Levi, though still scattered, was scattered for blessing in Israel. Why? At the occasion of Israel’s worshipping the golden calf in the wilderness, the tribe of Levi answered Moses’ call “who is on the Lord’s side?” Levi used the sword again to put away the wickedness of idolatry from Israel. This was, in principle, the inverse of Levi’s action in Shechem. In Genesis 34 Levi acted for the family’s honor against the Lord’s honor. In Exodus 32 Levi acted for the Lord’s honor against the family’s honor. Simeon, who was confederate with Levi before, was not seen acting on the Lord’s side in matter of the golden calf. We see a similar thing at the end of the wilderness journey in the matter of Baal-Peor, when a prince of the tribe of Simeon took a Midianitish woman into his tent, in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of the whole assembly of the children of Israel. Phinehas, of the tribe of Levi, rose up and took a javelin in his hand, and killed the man and woman, and in so doing turned God’s wrath away from the children of Israel. As a result, Phinehas was given an everlasting covenant of the priesthood (Num. 25:7, 11, 13). Although the previous sentence was not reversed, yet the Lord gave Levi a special portion: the Lord was their portion. Simeon received no such privilege. It is better to be scattered, to be alone with the Lord, than to stand in the council of the ungodly.