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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1

XXXIV.

(1) Dinah . . . went out to see the daughters of the land.—Those commentators who imagine that Jacob sojourned only twenty years at Haran are obliged to suppose that he remained two or more years at Succoth, and some eight years at Shechem, before this event happened, leaving only one more year for the interval between Dinah’s dishonour and the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites. But even so, if Dinah was now not more than fourteen, there would be left a period of only nine years, in which Leah has to bear six sons and a daughter, with a long interval of barrenness, during which Zilpah was given to Jacob and bears two sons. But besides this impossibility, Jacob evidently remained at Succoth only until he was shalem, sound and whole from his sprain, and Dinah’s visit was one of curiosity, for she went “to see the daughters of the land,” that is, she wanted, as Abravanel says, to see what the native women were like, and how they dressed themselves. Josephus says that she took the opportunity of a festival at Shechem; but as neither her father nor brothers knew of her going, but were with their cattle as usual, it is probable that with one or two women only she slipped away from her father’s camp and paid the penalty of her girlish curiosity. But she would feel no such curiosity after being a year or two at Shechem, so that it is probable that her dishonour took place within a few weeks after Jacob’s arrival there. So, too, Hamor’s words in Genesis 34:21-22 plainly show that Jacob was a new comer; for he proposes that the people should “let them dwell in the land,” and therefore consent to the condition required by them that the Hivites should be circumcised. It would have been absurd thus to speak if Jacob had already dwelt there eight years with no apparent intention of going away.

Verses 1-31

THE TÔLDÔTH ISAAC (Genesis 25:19 to Genesis 35:29).

THE BIRTH OF ISAAC’S SONS.

Abraham begat Isaac—The Tôldôth in its original form gave probably a complete genealogy of Isaac, tracing up his descent to Shem, and showing thereby that the right of primogeniture belonged to him; but the inspired historian uses only so much of this as is necessary for tracing the development of the Divine plan of human redemption.

The Syrian.—Really, the Aramean, or descendant of Aram. (See Genesis 10:22-23.) The name of the district also correctly is “Paddan-Ararn,” and so far from being identical with Aram-Naharaim, in Genesis 24:10, it is strictly the designation of the region immediately in the neighbourhood of Charran. The assertion of Gesenius that it meant “Mesopotamia, with the desert to the west of the Euphrates, in opposition to the mountainous district towards the Mediterranean,” is devoid of proof. (See Chwolsohn, Die Ssabier, 1, p. 304.) In Syriac, the language of Charran, padana means a plough (1 Samuel 13:20), or a yoke of oxen ( 1 Samuel 11:7); and this also suggests that it was the cultivated district close to the town. In Hosea 12:12 it is said that “Jacob fled to the field of Aram;” but this is a very general description of the country in which he found refuge, and affords no basis for the assertion that Padan-aram was the level region. Finally, the assertion that it is an ancient name used by the Jehovist is an assertion only. It is the name of a special district, and the knowledge of it was the result of Jacob’s long-continued stay there. Chwolsohn says that traces of the name still remain in Faddân and Tel Faddân, two places close to Charran, mentioned by Yacut, the Arabian geographer, who flourished in the thirteenth century.

Isaac intreated the Lord.—This barrenness lasted twenty years (Genesis 25:26), and must have greatly troubled Isaac; but it would also compel him to dwell much in thought upon the purpose for which he had been given to Abraham, and afterwards rescued from death upon the mount Jehovah-Jireh. And when offspring came, in answer to his earnest pleading of the promise, the delay would serve to impress upon both parents the religious significance of their existence as a separate race and family, and the necessity of training their children worthily. The derivation of the verb to intreat, from a noun signifying incense, is uncertain, but rendered probable by the natural connection of the idea of the ascending fragrance, and that of the prayer mounting heavenward (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:4).

The children struggled together.—Two dissimilar nations sprang from Abraham, but from mothers totally unlike; so, too, from the peaceful Isaac two distinct races of men were to take their origin, but from the same mother, and the contest began while they were yet unborn. And Rebekah, apparently unaware that she was pregnant with twins, but harassed with the pain of strange jostlings and thrusts, grew despondent, and exclaimed—

If it be so, why am I thus?—Literally, If so, why am I this? Some explain this as meaning “Why do I still live?” but more probably she meant, If I have thus conceived, in answer to my husband’s prayers, why do I suffer in this strange manner? It thus prepares for what follows, namely, that Rebekah wished to have her condition explained to her, and therefore went to inquire of Jehovah.

She went to enquire of the Lord.—Not to Shem, nor Melchizedek, as many think, nor even to Abraham, who was still alive, but, as Theodoret suggests, to the family altar. Isaac had several homes, but probably the altar at Bethel, erected when Abraham first took possession of the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7), and therefore especially holy, was the place signified; and if Abraham were there, he would doubtless join his prayers to those of Rebekah.

Verse 5

(5) Jacob heard.—As Dinah did not return home (Genesis 34:26), her father probably learned her dishonour from the maidservants who had gone out with her. But “he held his peace,” chiefly from his usual cautiousness, as being no match for the Hivites, but partly because Leah’s sons had the right to be the upholders of their sister’s honour.

Verse 7

(7) He had wrought folly in Israel.—The great anger of Jacob’s sons agrees as completely with the general harshness of their characters as the silence of the father with his habitual thoughtfulness; but it was aroused by a great wrong. The use, however, of the term Israel to signify the family of Jacob as distinguished from his person belongs to the age of Moses, and is one of the proofs of the arrangement of these records having been his work. In selecting them, and weaving them together into one history, he would add whatever was necessary, and in the latter half of this verse we apparently have one such addition.

Verse 10

(10) Ye shall dwell with us.—Hamor proposes that Jacob’s family shall abandon their nomad life, and settle among the Hivites. and trade with them, and get possessions, not merely of cattle and movable goods, but of immovable property. He wished the two clans to coalesce into one community.

Verse 12

(12) Dowry and gift.—The word rendered dowry (mohar) is the price paid to the parents and relatives of the bride, though taking the form of a present. The gift (matthan) was the present made by the bridegroom to the bride herself. Besides this, her relatives were expected to give her presents, and with some tribes of Arabs it is usual even to make over to her the dowry.

Verses 13-14

(13, 14) And said . . . and they said.—These are two different verbs in the Hebrew, and should be translated and spake (because he had defiled Dinah their sister), and said. The intermediate words are parenthetical, and there is no reason for translating spake by plotted, laid a snare, as Gesenius and others have done.

Verse 18

(18) Their words pleased Hamor.—We gather from this that circumcision was a rite not only well known, but regarded as something honourable; for otherwise they would not so readily have submitted to a thing so painful.

Verse 21

(21) Let us take their daughters . . . —In a young community, such as this of the Hivites at Shechem appears to have been, the addition of a large number of women was a valuable increase of their strength, and one that brought the promise also of future extension. Jacob’s men were also chiefly of the Semitic stock, and therefore possessed of high physical and mental endowments; and as they were rich in cattle and other wealth, their incorporation with the people of Shechem would raise it to a high rank among the petty states of Canaan. There was much plausibility, therefore, in Hamor’s proposal and arguments.

Verse 25

(25) Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren.—As born of the same mother, they, with Reuben and Judah, were especially bound to espouse their sister’s cause, but the method they took was cruel in the extreme. And it seems that these two were the leaders in the plot, having probably excluded Reuben from it, as a man of feeble character and opposed to bloodshed (Genesis 37:22); and Judah, as one too honourable to take part in so nefarious a transaction. Long afterwards Jacob speaks of it in terms of the strongest reprobation (Genesis 49:5-7). In executing their cruel deed, they would command the services of the more active and fierce portion of Jacob’s servants; but they must have been not boys, but men of ripe manhood, before they could have had influence or power enough for so terrible an exploit.

Verse 27

(27) The sons of Jacob.—After slaying Hamor and Shechem, the two brothers “took Dinah and went out.” It was after this that Jacob’s sons generally—though not without exceptions, for several of them were still very young—joined in seizing the spoil.

Verse 29

(29) Their little ones.—Heb., their taf. (See Note on Genesis 17:13.) How erroneous is the translation “little-ones” may be seen from Numbers 31:17-18, which in the Heb. is, “Now, therefore, kill every male in the taf . . . and all the taf of women that are unmarried.” It would be monstrous to suppose that boys were to be put to death, and men escape, nor would little girls be likely to be married. In 2 Chronicles 31:18 the taf is distinguished both from the sons and daughters; and so also in Genesis 20:13, where we read “their tafs and their children. The LXX. have altered the order here, but otherwise translate correctly their persons, that is, their property in men-servants and maid servants, as opposed to their cattle and their wealth in goods. In Genesis 1:8 the LXX. translate clan, and in Genesis 34:21 household. The slaves thus seized would form the most valuable part probably of the spoil.

Verse 30

(30) Ye have troubled me.—Jacob’s timidity led him to think first of the danger that would result from the conduct of his sons, and only afterwards of the cruelty and treacherousness of their deed. He commented upon this on his dying bed in words of fitting reprobation, but his reproof now is singularly weak, and the retort of his sons just. If the danger were all, this could have no weight when a shameful wrong had been done; but in avenging this wrong they had committed a crime of a deeper dye

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis 34". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/genesis-34.html. 1905.
 
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