Jacob: 14. Dinah and Her Brothers

Genesis 34  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
One wrong step in departure from our true position before the Lord leads to many a sin, scandal, and sorrow. So we find here as the consequence of Jacob's buying the land of the Hivite, and building himself a house. His stay at Succoth and Shechem covers some ten years. He must be unsettled to get him back to his pilgrim place; but the way was painful for all, and a deep shame and humiliation and fear for the patriarch.
“And Dinah, daughter of Leah whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the land, saw her, and he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spoke to the heart of the damsel. And Shechem spoke unto Hamor his father, saying, Take me this girl to wife. And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; and his sons were with his cattle in the field; and Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to talk to him. And Jacob's sons came from the field when they heard [it], and the men were grieved, and they were greatly inflamed, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; for so it ought not to be done.
“And Hamor spoke to them, saying, My son Shechem's soul longeth for your daughter: I pray you, give her him to wife. And make marriages with us, [and] give your daughters to us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us; and the land shall be before you: dwell and trade in it, and get you possessions therein. And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give. Ask of me very much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say to me; but give me the damsel to wife. And Jacob's sons answered Shechem and Hamor his father with deceit, and spoke, because he had defiled Dinah their sister, and said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man that is uncircumcised; for that [were] a reproach unto us. But only in this will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we, that every male of you be circumcised; then will we give our daughters unto you, and take your daughters unto us; and we will dwell with you, and be one people. But if ye hearken not unto us, to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go away.
“And their words were good in the eyes of Hamor and in the eyes of Shechem Hamor's son. And the youth deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter; and he [was] honorable above all his father's house. And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto their city's gate, and spoke unto the men of their city, saying, These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein. And the land, behold, [it is] wide on both sides before them. Let us take to us their daughters for wives, and our daughters let us give to them. Only in this will the men consent unto us, to dwell with us, to be one people, in circumcising among us every male as they [are] circumcised. Their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs, [shall] they not [be] ours? only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us. And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city, and every male was circumcised, all that went out at the gate of the city” (vers. 1-24).
The only daughter of Jacob had no doubt a difficult part to play in the midst of so many brothers, to say nothing of other characteristics of the household. As the destroying incident of the chapter was soon followed by all quitting the scene, she may have been about fourteen or fifteen years old. With or without the sanction of her parents Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land. Josephus alleges a festive gathering. What had she to do with them in any way? All but the profane knew that the time would come for their judgment, that the seed of Abraham should possess the land; and their iniquity was great though not yet full. Apart from that, how giddy she and dangerous! She seems to have been as independent of her mother, as the young men certainly were beyond taking counsel of their father. Her gadding curiosity exposed her to the young prince of the land, who, smitten with her and carried away by his passion, seduced if he did not by force outrage her. Her poor father was silent till the sons returned from work. Meanwhile Shechem earnestly sought marriage at any price, and his father repaired to Jacob, pleading hard for his son's set desire to have her as wife, and offering the readiest terms of peace between the peoples, as Shechem urged for himself.
Thereon Jacob's sons interposed with guile the condition of circumcision for every male. Not the smallest thought or wish had they for inviting the Shechemites into the covenant. It was the basest treachery in order to ensnare and massacre them. Jacob had nothing to do with the cruel secret. Their pride and revenge ignored God as it did their father. Shechem was guilty of a great wrong; but Dinah too was in fault. Neither their mothers nor their grandmother came of circumcised fathers; nor did any pious or delicate reluctance appear in their own marriages. The condition was a lying and cowardly pretext to carry out their resentment to the uttermost. Hamor and Shechem fell into the trap, and had influence enough to persuade all their townsmen with themselves to submit to the painful rite, and its unexpected peril.
Then, when the inflammation was at its height for the beguiled Hivites, the bloody crisis came, executed by the two of the least scruple.
“And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took each his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And Hamor and Shechem his son they slew with the edge of the sword; and they took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. Jacob's sons came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. Their flocks and their herds and their asses, and that which [was] in the city, and that which [was] in the field they took; and all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives, they took captive and spoiled, even all that [was] in the house” (vers. 25-29).
How solemn is the calm with which scripture recounts this whole affair of corruption and violence, covered and effected by odious hypocrisy, in which the chosen race were the perpetrators and Canaanites were the victims! Still it is going too far to say that Jacob felt only the consequence, not the appalling iniquity. It is related here, “And Jacob said to Simeon and to Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and I [am] few in number, and they will gather themselves together against me, and smite me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. And they said, As with a harlot should he deal with our sister (vers. 30, 31)?” Jacob was no doubt filled with alarm, so as to forget God's promise; but who can forget the sense of this dark and hateful day he expressed on his dying bed in words of prophetic power? “Simeon and Levi [are] brethren; Instruments of violence their swords. Come not thou into their council, my soul; With their assembly be not thou united, mine honor; For in their anger they slew men, And in their wantonness they houghed oxen. Cursed their anger, for [it was] fierce, And their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Gen. xlix. 5-7).