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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 34

Verses 1-5

GENESIS - CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Verses 1-5:

Dinah was probably at this time about fifteen to seventeen years of age. Some historians place Jacob two years at Succoth, and about eight years in Shechem. If she was born before Joseph, as is implied, she was between five and seven years old when Jacob reached Succoth.

Josephus says Dinah went into the city to take part in a feast of the Shechemites (Ant. 1, 21:1). The language implies this was a habitual practice, and not the first time she had done so. On this occasion, she became the victim of assault. Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite who was the ruler of the city, saw her and forcibly raped her. It is to his credit that he did not cast her aside after he had satisfied his passion. He "spake kindly," literally, "spoke to the heart of the damsel," and offered marriage.

Jacob heard of what had happened to his daughter, likely through some of her companions, for Shechem had detained Dinah in his house. Jacob refrained from making any statement or taking any action until his sons returned home from tending their flocks. He recognized the right of Dinah’s brothers to a voice in settling this important matter.

Verses 6-10

Verses 6-10:

Hamor, accompanied by Shechem his son, came to Jacob’s camp to negotiate the marriage between Shechem and Dinah Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard what had happened. They were "grieved," literally pained with anger, and "very wroth," or "it burned to them greatly." The reaction of Dinah’s brothers was in keeping with Oriental thought. The seduction of a sister was looked upon as greater dishonor than the infidelity of a wife. One might divorce a wife, and she would be no longer his. But a sister and daughter always remained a sister and daughter.

This is the first occurrence of the name "Israel" applied to Jacob’s household. It later became a standard expression denoting acts committed against the character of Israel as a separated, covenanted people, see De 22:21; Jg 20:10; Jos 7:15.

Shechem’s sin was great because he had dishonored the daughter of him who was head of the Covenant Lineage. As such she was under particular obligation to lead a pure, holy life. This was also indication of a higher sense of morality that accompanied the name "Israel," royal man of God.

Hamor affirmed the love his son had for Dinah He asked that Jacob give his daughter to Hamor as wife. Then he proposed a further alliance which included Jacob’s sons. He offered the daughters of his subjects as wives for the sons of Jacob. And he offered unrestricted access to any part of his kingdom, with the right to establish settlements and to carry on trade and to acquire property.

Israel could not agree to these proposals. To do so would mean forfeit of the Covenant promises.

Verses 11-19

Verses 11-19:

Shechem and Hamor offered to agree to any terms for a marriage dowry for Dinah. Jacob apparently was not party to the negotiations between his sons and Hamor and Shechem. The sons showed themselves as capable of deceit as their father. Before any negotiations for a dowry, the men of Shechem must agree to be circumcised. This proposal was sinful. Circumcision was a sacred sign of a Divine Covenant. To use it deceitfully as the sons of Jacob planned was a sin against God. These men took matters into their own hands, and did not wait for Jehovah to vindicate His wronged child.

Principles of the Law provide for an "avenger," to execute judgment upon the guilty. But what Jacob’s sons plotted was murder, coupled with lying. There is no justification for what they planned to do.

Verses 20-24

Verses 20-24:

Hamor and Shechem called a town meeting. All the men of the city assembled at the "gate" or plaza where important business was transacted. They related the terms Jacob’s sons had set forth, and appealed for the men of Shechem to accept these terms.

Love for Dinah was not the only motivation for the marriage. There were attractive financial advantages to be gained. This marriage was to be but the first of many, that would result in the eventual amalgamation of Israel with Shechem and the assimilation of Israel’s considerable wealth. The language implies that this offer of financial gain motivated the men of Shechem to accept the terms Jacob’s sons offered. They agreed to submit to the rite of circumcision.

It is unusual that the’ Hivites were not already circumcised. Herodotus notes that the Phoenicians observed this rite as well as did the Canaanites. It may be implied that the Hivites were originally a different race from the Canaanites.

Verses 25-31

Verses 25-31:

All the adult males of Shechem submitted to circumcision. Simeon and Levi waited unto the third day to carry out their cruel plot. Inflammation and fever from the operation usually set in on the third day. This effectively rendered the men incapable of any resistance. Simeon and Levi were Leah’s second and third sons, Dinah’s full brothers. They considered themselves the primary avengers of her honor. They boldly entered the city, confident that they would meet little or no resistance. The first objects of their vengeance were Shechem and Hamor. Then they took Dinah from Shechem’s house. Then, accompanied by Jacob’s other sons, they returned to the city where they systematically slaughtered every adult male. They then spoiled the city, after the principle that the people of a nation were involved in the crimes of their ruler. They looted Shechem of all its wealth, and took the women and children as part of the booty. The language denotes a complete sacking of the city, with every house stripped of both inmates and valuables.

Jacob was appalled at the ferocious vengeance his sons wrought upon Shechem. So strong was his revulsion that years later, on his deathbed, he referred to this infamous deed, Ge 49:5, 6.

Jacob was also frightened by what his sons had done. He realized that the Shechemites had friends and allies, who would quite likely swoop down upon his camp and do to him as his sons had done to the Shechemites.

Jacob’s rebuke of his sons was very weak. He expressed no outrage or shame, only fear of reprisal and remonstrance that what they had done would give him a bad reputation. This indicates a character weakness on Jacob’s part, that he was not yet fully cleansed from the deception he himself had perpetrated. His own obedience was not yet fully complete, for he had delayed fulfilling his vow to return to Bethel as he had promised Jehovah (Ge 28:16-22; Ec 5:4, 5; 2Co 10:6).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 34". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-34.html. 1985.