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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-31

Genesis 34:1. Dinah. One of the oldest of Jacob’s daughters, for he had many: Genesis 37:35. Josephus intimates that it was a festival day, and it is probable that she had been invited by ladies with whom her family was acquainted. She was then about fifteen years of age, but it does not appear that Jacob knew of this visit to the feast.

Genesis 34:12. Dowry, to the father, and gift to the lady. When Cyrus concluded the match with Gobrias, that Hystaspes should marry his daughter, he immediately sent presents to the lady; and the acceptance of these presents was a pledge that she was espoused. This custom is still observed by most of the oriental nations. But a wretch like Hamor, who has violated hospitality with a virgin, would not scruple to break faith with the father if his interest were concerned.

Genesis 34:15. Circumcised. The Hebrew family could not intermarry with the uncircumcised, but the deceit they couched under this proposal was a double crime, because it abused the grand seal of their religion. They were not able however to avenge their sister’s wrongs by open war.

Genesis 34:20. The gate of their city. The place of justice and of public affairs. Mark how they plead for the public good, when prompted to it solely by motives of private honour or interest: but God permitted the deceivers to be deceived.

Genesis 34:25. The third day. When the great soreness had produced swelling and fever, Reuben, Dinah’s eldest brother, would not enter into this bloody plot, being of a milder temper. Genesis 37:29-30. But all the brothers joined in plundering the city.

Genesis 34:30. Ye have troubled me. Jacob names this sin of Levi and Simeon on his deathbed. (Genesis 50:5.) The provocation was great indeed, and worthy of death; and had Hamor refused to screen the culprit, he would have saved his own life and the lives of his people. Nevertheless, the crime of revenge was great and complicated. The lion roars, and falls on his prey, but man uses craft and deceit. They employed circumcision, the sign and seal of the Hebrew covenant to effect the most foul and bloody designs. It was war made by two enraged brothers; instead of which the sword should never be unsheathed but as the last appeal of nations, and never made, if allowed at all, but by the consent of all the people, who are alike involved in the consequences.


Jacob was now somewhat more than a hundred years of age when this sad calamity befel his daughter. He saw indeed his family rising apace, and crowned with every comfort. But our earthly peace is insecure. An unexpected arrow suddenly pierced his soul, wounded his family, and caused the tender eyes of Leah to weep a torrent of tears. Parents should therefore learn, not to expose their children, more than they can help, to the temptations common in all the public walks of life. We have in this age greatly to lament the education and habits with which young women of fortune and family are indulged. It is not possible for them to devour novels, attend theatres, and crowd assemblies, without the loss of modesty and mental purity. And if the moral principle is once injured, what safety can be promised from their weakness in future life. Let them stay at home, be instructed in religion, and accomplished in every domestic duty. If their fortune raise them above labour, let them ride and walk. It is exercise that gives the maid a ruddy cheek, while the looks of madam are sallow.

In Hamor we have a shocking instance of perfidy and violence to a damsel extremely young. This in the poorest man had been a crime worthy of death; but in a prince it was much greater. If a young woman trust herself on a visit to a family, that house is her asylum; and it should be as safe as her father’s house. It is exactly the same, if a poor girl go to serve in a family. The heads of that house are, in a relative view, responsible for her safety and her morals. Hence young men should be fully apprised, that however ardently they may be attached to a woman, no indelicate word should ever be uttered in her ear, nor the slightest indecency offered to her person. The man who does this, forfeits his rank and character in the society of good men, and becomes an object of public shame.

We learn farther, that when unprotected innocence is once seduced, a whole family, and a whole community may involve themselves in the guilt. Shechem endeavoured indeed to procure the marriage of his son, in as fine a way as circumstances would then admit; and had his motives been pure, his conduct would have been good. But now, if the unfortunate woman happen to be poorer than the man, his parents seldom scruple to load themselves with his guilt, and endeavour to justify their conduct by reproaching the sufferer with indiscretion or the want of virtue. And can the young man, conscious of his own guilt, ever be happy in the bed of another? No: it will be a bed of thorns, whatever may be her riches or her beauty. And can these parents ever meet the father of the orphan, and the friend of the oppressed? No: for their own hearts will testify against them.

We learn also, that God’s mysterious providence often permits one crime to become the punishment of another. Simeon and Levi drew Shechem and Hamor into the covenant of circumcision; and Shechem and Hamor induced their citizens to embrace the Hebrew religion, from the sordid motive of sharing Jacob’s wealth. How dreadful is duplicity in religious concerns. Did they think that God had no eyes to detect hypocrisy! Like Balaam they temporized with religion for gain, and perished like Balaam with the sword. As we have in this history, a new and complete proof of man’s original and actual depravity; let young men especially beware of their passions, and pray the Lord to eradicate every evil propensity from the heart; and let them seriously remember, that a blot in youth is a blot for life. Above all, we should never make religion a cover for our crimes.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 34". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/genesis-34.html. 1835.
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