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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verses 1-4

And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

Though freed from foreign troubles, Jacob met with a great domestic calamity in the fall of his only recorded daughter. According to Josephus, she had been attending a festival; but it is highly probable that she had been often and freely mixing in the society of the place, and that being a simple, inexperienced, and vain young woman, had been flattered by the attentions of the ruler's son. There must have been time and opportunities of acquaintance to produce the strong attachment that Shechem had for her. Dinah must have arrived at maturity, which young girls reach in the East much earlier than in our colder latitudes. She was somewhat, though very little, older than Joseph; and since he was six years old (Genesis 30:24) on his father's departure from Mesopotamia, was seventeen when sold by his brethren, so that Jacob's family must have been eleven years resident in Canaan. But Dinah's violation had taken place probably a year before (Genesis 35:1-29), and consequently she may have been sixteen-certainly not older. Jackson endeavours to prove ('Chronological Antiquities') that she was exactly fifteen.

Verse 3. Spake kindly unto the damsel - literally, spoke to the heart of the girl, or comforted her (cf. Isa. 40:42 ) with the promise of a happy marriage, as a reparation for the wrong.

Verses 5-7

And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.

Jacob held his peace. Jacob, as a father and a good man, must have been deeply distressed. But he could do little. In the case of a family by different wives, it is not the father, but the full brothers, on whom the protection of the daughters devolves-they are the guardians of a sister's welfare and the avengers of her wrongs. It was for this reason that Simeon and Levi, the two brothers of Dinah by Leah, appear the chief actors in this episode; and though the two fathers would have probably brought about an amicable arrangement of the affair, the hasty arrival of these enraged brothers, who came home while Hamor was conversing with Jacob (cf. Genesis 34:6 with Genesis 34:8), introduced a new element into the negotiations.

Verse 6. Hamor - i:e., donkey; and such a name being applied to a prince is a striking proof of the very different ideas which, in the East, are associated with that animal, which there appears sprightly, well proportioned, and of great activity. This chief is called Emmor (Acts 7:16).

Verse 7. Were grieved, and they were very wroth. Good men in such a case could not but grieve; but it would have been well if the anger of Dinah's brothers had been restrained, or that they had known the precept, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." No injury can justify revenge; but Jacob's sons planned a scheme of revenge in the most deceitful manner (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:9). They seem to have regarded the wrong done to their sister not simply as a private injury or domestic calamity, but as an ignominy of so indelible a nature as affected not the honour merely, but the very existence of Jacob's house. A dishonour done to the chosen family appeared in their eyes a graver offence, a greater crime, than if inflicted on any other. Jacob having been made Israel, the commission of a crime which ignored the family relations with God, was, in the Scripture sense of the term, "folly in Israel" (Psalms 14:1).

Verse 8

And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.

Hamor communed with them. The prince and his son seem at first sight to have acted honestly, and our feelings are enlisted on their side. They betray no jealousy of the powerful shepherds; on the contrary, they show every desire to establish a friendly relationship.

Verse 9

And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 10

And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.

Dwell and trade ye therein, [ uwcchaaruwhaa (H5503)] - and migrate as nomads, or, specially travel about as merchants [ wªhee'aachªzuw (H270)], and be possessors. But their conduct was unjustifiable in neither expressing regret nor restoring Dinah to her family; and this great error was the true cause of the negotiations ending in so unhappy a manner.

Verse 11

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.

Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren. The consideration of the proposal for marriage belonged to Jacob, and he certainly showed great weakness in yielding so much to the fiery impetuosity of his sons. The sequel shows the unhappy consequences of that concession.

Verse 12

Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife. Ask me never so much dowry and gift, [ mohar (H4119)] - the price paid for the wife. Though called a dowry in our translation, implying a suitable settlement upon her, the word is used in cases where it can have no meaning but as a purchase-money (cf. Exodus 22:16; 1 Samuel 18:25). [ Mataan (H4976)], gift, refers to the presents made at betrothal to the bride and her relations (cf. Genesis 24:53).

Verse 13

And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:

The sons of Jacob answered ... deceitfully. Many writers have taken the word "answered," spoke, as signifying, 'plotted, laid snares.' Gesenius, who formerly supported this view, in later editions retracted, and held the natural sense, 'spoke deceitfully.' The honour of their family consisted in having the sign of the covenant. Circumcision was the external rite by which persons were admitted members of the ancient Church. But although that outward rite could not make the Shechemites true Israelites, yet it does not appear Jacob's sons required anything more. Nothing is said of their teaching them to worship the true God, but only of their insisting on the Shechemites being circumcised; and it is evident that they did not seek to convert Shechem, but only made a show of religion-a cloak to cover their diabolical design. Hypocrisy and deceit, in all cases vicious, are infinitely more so when accompanied with a show of religion; and here the sons of Jacob, under the pretence of conscientious scruples, conceal a scheme of treachery as cruel and diabolical as was perhaps ever perpetrated.

Verses 14-18

And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father. The young man ... was more honourable, [Hebrew, nikbaad (H3513)] - was held in honour more than all in his father's house. This is proleptically said to account in part for the ready acquiescence of the people.

Verse 20

And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,

Hamor and Shechem ... came unto the gate of their city. That was the place where every public communication was made; and in the ready, obsequious submission of the people to this measure we see an evidence either of the extraordinary affection for the governing family, or of the abject despotism of the East, where the will of a chief is an absolute command. At the same time, the rulers laboured in a very plausible manner to show the personal and public advantages which would result to their subjects from an amicable and commercial league with the powerful and wealthy nomads (see the note at Genesis 34:10). The people were induced to comply with the conditions of the proposed union (see the note at Genesis 26:12-14); at the same time their facility of persuasion can be satisfactorily explained only from the then growing belief among many Eastern nations, that circumcision was, apart from religion, useful and important in a sanitary point of view.

Verses 21-24

These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verses 25-29

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 man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.

On the third day, ... That period is critical, especially with adults, as fever generally ensues, with a total prostration of physical energy. That time, therefore, was chosen by the sons of Jacob for their meditated revenge, in the gratification of which they seem to have broken loose from every restraint, and to have allowed the wild spirit of Oriental ferocity to take as extensive a range, as is exemplified by the most ruthless allowed the wild spirit of Oriental ferocity to take as extensive a range, as is exemplified by the most ruthless Arabs in the present day.

Came upon the city - i:e., fell perfidiously upon the unsuspecting and disabled inhabitants.

Verse 27. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, ... There is no evidence for regarding Genesis 34:27-29 as an interpolation; because although there is no copulative in our present Hebrew text, there must have been formerly, as the Septuagint has it as: [hoi de huioi, etc.]. Nor is there any ground for supposing that, after the massacre had been completed, the other sons of Jacob joined the homicides in the plundering of the city. Simeon and Levi (Genesis 34:25) were the perpetrators of this consummate act of villany; but they were undoubtedly assisted by a body of their servants, as Knobel in his commentary distinctly asserts must be assumed.

Verse 30

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Jacob said ... Ye have troubled me - or afflicted me-brought evil upon me (cf. Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:25; 1 Samuel 14:29) [Hebrew, lªhab'iysheeniy (H887), to bring me into bad odour, to make me loathsome, hateful; Septuagint, Miseeton me pepoieekate, hooste poneeron me einai, and I (with my family and servants) being men of number - i:e., few, easily counted (cf. Deuteronomy 4:27; Isaiah 9:19).] This atrocious outrage perpetrated on the defenseless citizens and their families made the cup of Jacob's affliction overflow. We may wonder that, in speaking of it to his sons, he did not represent it as a heinous sin-an atrocious violation of the laws of God and man, but dwelt solely on the present consequences. It was probably because that was the only view likely to rouse the cold-blooded apathy, the hardened consciences of those ruffian sons (see the note at Genesis 49:6-7). Nothing but the restraining power of God saved him and his family from the united vengeance of the people (cf. Genesis 35:5).

All his sons had not been engaged in the massacre. Joseph was a boy, Benjamin not yet born, and the other eight not concerned in it. Simeon and Levi alone, with their retainers, had been the guilty actors in the bloody tragedy. But the Canaanites might not be discriminating in their vengeance; and if all the Shechemites were put to death for the offence of their chief's son, what wonder if the natives should extend their hatred to all the family of Jacob; and who probably equalled in number the inhabitants of that village?

Verse 31

And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? The brothers were, by consuetudinary right, the guardians of the honour as well as the life of their sister (cf. 2 Samuel 13:22). And this ancient practice still obtains, as both Niebuhr and Burckhardt inform us, among the Arabs, in whose traditional code seduction is a capital crime, and the duty of inflicting the punishment is laid upon the brothers of the outraged girl. In this view, therefore, the conduct of Simeon and Levi was justifiable; but not content with avenging the crime upon the offender, they extended their vengeance to every person and everything belonging to him; nay, were guilty of the most infamous deceit, inasmuch as they covered beneath the cloak of religious scruples, a scheme of cold-blooded and atrocious cruelty.

But God, who brings good out of evil, rendered their fiendish passions subservient to the greater isolation of Israel's family; and hence, the onslaught on the Shechemites, though detestable in itself, was the means of preventing the consummation of an alliance, which, by intermingling the Israelites with the people of Canaan, must have, ere long, frustrated the purposes of divine grace in their selection.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-34.html. 1871-8.
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