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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-5

Dinah Defiled

v. 1. And Dinah, the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. Dinah had probably been born in the fourteenth year of Jacob's service in Mesopotamia. She was, like Simeon and Levi, who are so prominent in this story, a child of Jacob and Leah. About ten years had now elapsed since the family had come, first to Succoth and then to Shechem, and Dinah was a young woman, the girls in the Orient reaching maturity at an early age. Dissatisfied, perhaps, with the supposed curbing of her personal liberty in her father's house, Dinah went out to make the acquaintance of the Canaanitish girls and to visit with them.

v. 2. And when Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her, humbled her by robbing her of her virginity.

v. 3. And his soul clave unto Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. The fact that Shechem really loved Dinah and did not reject her after his sinful act places him in a somewhat better light, but it does not excuse him. To seek her love after deflowering her was not honorable.

v. 4. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife. This attempt to atone for the sin by an honorable marriage was to the credit of Shechem, but it does not change the fact that he had seduced Dinah in the first place. Nor is Dinah wholly without fault. She knew that it was a dangerous thing for her to leave the protection of her father's encampment and to seek the friendship of the heathen women; and we are not told that she offered a determined resistance when Shechem seduced her. Her example, therefore, is written as an earnest warning to all Christian young women, especially such as feel the lure of the world and are tempted to yield to the lust of the flesh.

v. 5. And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah, his daughter, for news of that kind usually travels quickly; now his sons were with his cattle in the field; and Jacob held his peace until they were come. Jacob did not act alone in this important matter, partly because the brothers of Dinah had a voice in all serious concerns relating to her, partly because he had to deal with the proud and insolent prince of the region, the old sheik's successor. That is usually the first consequence of a sin of this kind, to bring grief and anguish to the hearts of the parents.

Verses 6-12

Hamor's Proposal

v. 6. And Hamor, the father of Shechem, went out unto Jacob to commune with him. He left the city and went out to the camp of Jacob, to anticipate the indignation of Jacob's sons and to straighten out the matter peacefully.

v. 7. And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it. The bad news reached them also before the usual hour for returning from the field, and they acted with the impetuosity of youth. And the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter; which thing ought not to be done. Even in those days, when the family of Jacob was still small, the act of Shechem was considered an insult to the entire tribe. The more the sons of Jacob therefore thought about it, the higher their anger mounted. The dignity of the entire posterity of Israel had been besmirched, and they felt that they could not bear the disgrace.

v. 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 seems to have felt that he was representing a very weak case, for his proposal impresses the reader as being made in great hesitation and embarrassment. He pleads the deep and serious attachment of his son for Dinah.

v. 9. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.

v. 10. And ye shall dwell with us; and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. Hamor thus offered to Jacob and his sons the freedom of his little country, with the full rights of citizenship. They might do business anywhere and select any part of the country for their herds.

v. 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.

v. 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. Thus Shechem added his personal plea to the proposal of his father, begging to be received into the family with favor and urging them to set their own price for the bride and to ask whatever bridal gifts they might choose. He may have been sincere enough according to his own lights, not realizing the fact that the family of the patriarch was the Lord's chosen people. A folly is easily committed, but its removal will often tax the efforts of a lifetime.

Verses 13-19

The Demand of Jacob's Sons

v. 13. And the sons of Jacob, who had a voice in the marriage of their sister, Genesis 24:50, answered Shechem and Hamor, his father, deceitfully. It was true enough that their acceptance of the proposal would never have agreed with the destiny of the chosen people of God; they would have sacrificed the Messianic promises for mere temporal gain, but the method which they adopted to carry out their purpose is inexcusable. And said, because he had defiled Dinah, their sister;

v. 14. 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. That, in itself, may have been true enough that blood-relationship with such as were not Shemites was altogether undesirable, but to include this consideration in their plan of revenge was wrong.

v. 15. But in this will we consent unto you: if ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

v. 16. then will we give our daughters unto you and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

v. 17. But if ye will not hearken unto us to be circumcised, then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. This proposal is to be condemned as hypocritical because the sons of Jacob must have known that the Israelites were not to blend with the Shechemites; it lacked sincerity.

v. 18. And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem, Hamor's son.

v. 19. And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter; and he was more honorable than all the house of his father. No matter what the motive had been in defiling Dinah, Shechem now was undoubtedly sincere, and he accepted the words of Jacob's sons at their face value. His position of power and influence was such as to give his words much weight, and he lost no time in carrying out his intention.

Verses 20-24

The Men of Shechem Agree to the Demand

v. 20. And Hamor and Shechem, his son, came unto the gate of their city, the usual place for public meetings, and communed with the men of their city, saying,

v. 21. 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. In suggesting to the men of the city that the Israelites be given the rights of full citizenship, together with permission to carry on the business of herdmen or of traders, Hamor and Shechem were careful to appeal very strongly to the self-interest of the Shechemites, knowing that their mission would thus have the best chances of success.

v. 22. Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. This condition is inserted in the midst of the appeal, in order not to have It stand out so strongly.

v. 23. Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? Here the fact mentioned above that the land was wide before their hands and faces, affording enough room in every direction, is connected with the thought that the great wealth of the newcomers would also be at the disposal of the people of Shechem, through the marriages that would be consummated. Only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.

v. 24. 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 of the gate of his city. The expression is repeated in order to show that there was no exception among all the men of Shechem. They accepted the rite all the more readily, since it was by no means unknown among Oriental nations. Thus the people of Shechem, heathen though they were, acted in good faith, just as the outward honesty of many an unbeliever in our days puts to shame those that confess the true God.

Verses 25-31

The Revenge of Simeon and Levi

v. 25. And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, when the men of Shechem were confined to their beds with the inflammation following the operation to which they had consented, 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. These two brothers of Dinah constituted themselves the avengers of their sister and carried out their design in such a shocking manner. The city was defenseless, all the inhabitants believing themselves secure. The boldness of Simeon and Levi, therefore, was nothing but treachery and bloodthirstiness.

v. 26. And they slew Hamor and Shechem, his son, with the edge of the sword, in relentless fury, for against these two their anger was chiefly kindled, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out. Thus the first part of their plan of revenge was carried out.

v. 27. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. Simeon and Levi having returned to their father's camp with their sister, the other sons of Jacob were inflamed with the same fanatical hatred and plundered the city in the excess of their fury.

v. 28. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,

v. 29. and all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. It was a systematic and thorough pillage of the slain which was practiced by the sons of Jacob, extending even to the innocent members of the murdered men's families. It was a revolting crime which the sons of Jacob committed.

v. 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. Jacob performed his duty as father in rebuking his sons with great severity for their indefensible crime, telling them that they had probably brought disaster upon him in making him and his family to stink before the inhabitants of the country, that they would be considered an abomination in the sight of all men. And I, being few in number, being only a small band with all the men that belong to my household, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. That this fear of Jacob was by no means groundless, is indicated in Genesis 35:5. The depth of Jacob's horror over the deed of his sons may be seen in the words of his last blessing, Genesis 49:5-7. Deeds of violence are just as reprehensible in the children of God as immodesty and immorality.

v. 31. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? In trying to excuse themselves, the sons of Jacob implied that men would generally have treated their sister as Shechem had done, and that they felt it to be their duty to revenge the wrong. But they passed over his offer of an atonement for his crime and their own terrible guilt. The fact that other men do wrong to us can never excuse our doing wrong in return.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Genesis 34". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/genesis-34.html. 1921-23.
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