1. 34:1-4 Defilement
2. 34:5-12 Devastation
3. 34:13-24 Deception
4. 34:25-31 Destruction
When we ended with Genesis 33 last time, we had no idea how serious the consequence of Jacob not settling in Bethel [lit. the house of God, the gate of heaven- see 28:17-22] would be. When Esau returned to Seir (33:16), Jacob did not join him there, although he said he would (33:14). Well, good for him.
He could have never fitted in under his brother’s yoke, and Esau was not a spiritually minded man. His future tribe, the Edomites would in fact become bitter enemies of Israel.
Instead Jacob went to Succoth on the east bank of the Jordan river and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock (33:17). We saw that this was only temporary, for he moved on into Canaan, the promised land, and to the city of Shechem (33:18).There he bought a piece of real estate (33:19) from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, a key player in Chapter 34. This, we shall see will have devastating consequences for the family. He should never have settled in Shechem. He was called to go to Bethel.
Chapter 34 introduces us to the cost of this seemingly innocent decision. It produces a real chain of evil in terms of rape, deceit and massacre, and general unhappiness.
34:1-4 The Defilement of Dinah
Here we find the first consequence of disobedience. Jacob had settled in family in a challenging neighbourhood. Parents have a responsibility to consider the children’s moral and spiritual well being when they settle anywhere. And so we read that, “Dinah, the daughter of Leah, who she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land” (34:1). Dinah was tempted. Dinah acted unwisely. The commentator H.C. Leupold says, “she should have known that Egyptians and Canaanites regarded unmarried women of foreign descent as legitimate prey.” She was asking for trouble. She should not have gone alone. By the way, even today Arab and Muslim women do not go into public places alone.
Now Shechem (who had the same name as the city), one of the sons of Hamor saw her, seized her, lay with her and humiliated (NIV violated) her. This was classic rape. However, rather than throwing her away, as many rapists would do, (e.g. the rape of Tamar by Amnon- 2 Sam. 13:14-19) we are told that “his soul was drawn to Dinah… he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her“ (34:3). He approaches his father Hamor and he asks him to negotiate her hand in marriage.
Jacob’s response is recorded in 34:4. “He held his peace”… until his sons came in from the fields with their livestock. One can only guess what was going through Jacob’s mind - “We should never have settled here” or “Am I the cause of my daughters misery”? Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the consequences of Jacob's disobedience began to show. When his sons came home from the field, we read,”the men were indignant and very angry” …” this was an outrageous thing in Israel… such a thing must not be done” (34:7).
The sons of Jacob felt violated.
We also see that the sons of Israel thought of themselves as different from the Shechemites, who were Amorites or Canaanites, an accursed race by God (cf. Genesis 15:16). Even at this early stage of Israel’s history there is a distinctiveness about them. They knew themselves to be in a covenant which God had made with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were set apart by God. The law of God had been written upon their hearts in a distinct manner. They had higher moral values about marriage and sexual purity. They would not intermarry with this tribe, so when Dinah was violated it was seen to be an outrageous thing in Israel.
In the midst of this devastation and anger comes Hamor's ‘innocent’ marriage proposal on behalf of his son. Hamor did not feel sorrow for the wrong committed. Actually, it was going to be more than a marriage proposal. It was going to amount to a treaty, an invitation to Israel to integrate with the people of Shechem, who are Amorite-Canaanites. It was, in spiritual terms an invitation to compromise the covenant calling of Israel. This is what happened to Lot, the nephew of Abraham, when he settled down in Sodom, mixing with the people of the land. We saw that he became compromised and corrupted.
Hamor’s marriage proposal on behalf of his son Shechem in 34:8-10 includes the following ‘reasonable’ arguments:
(i) Shechem really loves Dinah
(ii) intermarriage will be beneficial to Jacob and his family. Jacob's family would be treated like citizens, with a right to move freely in the country and to purchase property.
(iii) In addition Shechem offers a bridal prize whatever Jacob and sons would ask (34:11,12)
3. 34:13-24 Deception
The sons of Jacob, the brothers of Dinah, raised fundamental religious stumbling block to this marriage. They could not allow their sister to be married to an uncircumcised man from an uncircumcised tribe - see 34:14. They used the covenant stipulation of Genesis 17:10 that ‘every male among you should be circumcised‘. But 34:13 indicates that they sensed an opportunity for revenge here. We are told, “they answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully”. Their religious talk was part of a shocking plan. The nature of the deceit will become apparent in a moment.
For now we see that “their words pleased Hamor, and Hamor’s son Shechem” (34:18). The request seemed reasonable to them because Hamor sold the idea to his fellow city dwellers as a good business proposal (34:21-23). All the men agreed. The circumcision procedure would be painful and debilitating to the men for several days. On the third day after the procedure, the pain and inflammation would be at their peak, and so the plan moved from deception to destruction.
4. 34:25-31 Destruction
Simeon and Levi, who were the oldest full- blood brothers of Dinah, were taking on themselves the responsibility of revenge. They killed the entire male population of Shechem. They took back Dinah, they pillaged and looted the city of Shechem, even taking their women and children as captives.
When Jacob heard of this he was deeply troubled. He was not consulted in this matter. His sons acted unilaterally in this matter. They said, “ We had a right to do this - no one is going to treat our sister like a prostitute”.
LESSONS AND APPLICATION
1. Stick with God’s plan. God’s plan was for Jacob to settle in Bethel in Canaan, merely a day’s journey away, and not Shechem in Canaan. Compromises can sound so reasonable, but they carry big price tags.
2. The presenting problem of our passage does not start with a rape, but a bad decision on the part of the head of a household.
3. Heads of their homes have to lead in good and godly decision making, settling their families in safe surroundings. Jacob disobeyed – yet again and Dinah should never have gone out unaccompanied into this city. Is this a case of bad parenting?
4. Don’t use your religious position for evil – Don’t abuse the holy. The sons of Jacob took circumcision, the sign of the Old covenant and they utterly abused it. They used this sign of the covenant to commit murder! The stench of this action follows Simeon and Levi to the end of the book of Genesis. As Jacob is dying his final words to Simeon and Levi are these, "Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their counsel; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger, they killed men, and in their wilfulness they hamstrung oxen. 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." (Gen. 49: 5-7).
Don’t use your Christian faith abusively.
Don’t abuse the church.
Don’t abuse the act of worship to offer strange fire.
Don’t abuse the holy.
5. Remember that God had appointed Abraham and his offspring to be a blessing to the nations. Israel and the church are called to be distinct from the nations. The purpose of their distinctness was so that they would be a blessing to the nations and lead the nations into a relationship with the one true God. Sadly we see here once again how the people of the covenant exhibit a negative example of behaviour. In this passage they are not a blessing, but a curse. The NT teaches us principles of holiness (i.e. not flirting with the world; trying to see how close we can get to the world, but to be salt and light to the world – Matt 6). The NT also teaches us not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26) and to leave any judgement to God (Rom. 12:17-21). Sadly, in this passage, the sons of Jacob were not a blessing but a curse. Sadly, we learn here what depth of sin professing believers are capable of. When you sin, look to your Advocate (1 John 2:1)
6. The brutal honesty of the Bible: The Bible does not sweep the sins of covenant children, and even the sins of even the greatest of God's people, under the carpet. It tells it like it is, and it does not excuse sin. Passages like this constantly drive us to the need for the gospel of God. “Who will deliver us from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom.7:24,25)
This is a hard chapter to read, hear and digest. But it serves as a warning to all of us. 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us that the sins of God’s covenant people were judged severely (see 10 :1-10), and 1 Corinthians 10:11 has this to say:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Stay close to Jesus. Look to Him. Always. Amen