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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Genesis 34

Verses 1-31


Jacobs settlement in Canaan. At Succoth. At Shechem. Dinah. Simeon and Levi. The first manifestation of Jewish fanaticism. Jacob’s rebuke, and removal to Bethel

Genesis 33:17 to Genesis 34:31

17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth [booths], and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore, the name of the place is called Succoth.

18And Jacob came to Shalem5 [in peace], a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram [Mesopotamia]; and pitched his tent before the city. 19And he bought a [the] parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor [ass; peaceful bearer of public burdens], Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces6of money. 20And he erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel [strength].

 Genesis 34:1.And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went outto see the daughters of the land. 2And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country [region], saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. 3And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake7 kindly unto the damsel. 4And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel [from Jacob] to wife. 5And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: (now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace [held in, or to himself] until they were come).

6And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him. 7And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: 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 [and remain]. 8And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. 9And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. 11And 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. 12Ask me never so much dowry and gift [price of the bride], and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife. 13And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully [under mere pretence], and said, Because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 14And 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: 15But in this [condition] will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; 16Then 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. 17But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. 18And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem, Hamor’s Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:09And 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.

20And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed 21with the men of their city, saying, 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: 22let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein [on this condition] will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one 23people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised. Shall not their cattle, and their substance, and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us. 24And 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.

25And 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. 26And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. 27The sons of Jacob came [now] upon the slain and spoiled the city; because they 28[its inhabitants] had defiled their sister. They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field. 29And all their wealth and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. 30And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me [so greatly] to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites, and the Perizzites: and I being few in number [of a small household; easily numbered], they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. 31And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? Genesis 35:1.And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God [El] that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2Then Jacob said unto his household and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day [at the time] of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went. 4And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand [possession], and all their ear-rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak [terebinth] which was by Shechem. 5And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

6So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan (that is Bethel), he and all the people that were with him. 7And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el; because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his 8brother. But Deborah [bee], Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried beneath Bethel, under an oak: and the name of it was called Allon-bachuth.

9And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan-aram [Mesopotamia]; and blessed him. 10And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company [קהל] of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins. 12And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. 13And God went up from him, in the place where he talked with him. 14And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink-offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. 15And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.


The section now before us, whose unity consists in the remarkable sojourn of Jacob at the different stations, on his homeward journey to Hebron, may be divided as follows: 1. The settlement at Succoth; 2. the settlement at Shechem; 3. Dinah: a. The rape of Dinah; b. Shechem’s offer of marriage; c. the fanatical revenge of the sons of Jacob, or the bloody wedding; the plot, the massacre, the sacking of the city, the judgment of Jacob upon the crime; 4. the departure for Bethel; 5. the sealing of the covenant between God and the patriarch at Bethel. Knobel, as usual, finds here a commingling of Jehovistic and Elohistic elements, since the internal relations are brought into view as little as possible, while names and words are emphasized.


1.Genesis 33:17.—To Succoth.—The name Succoth, booths, tents, might have been of frequent occurrence in Palestine, but the locality here spoken of is generally regarded as the same with the later well-known city of Succoth, which lies east of the Jordan. It was situated within the limits of the tribe of Gad (Joshua 13:27; Judges 8:5-14; Psalms 60:6). Josephus speaks of it under its Greek name Σκηναί, and Jerome Succoth is at this day a city across the Jordan, in the neighborhood of Scythopolis. Robinson (later “Resear.,” pp. 310–312) identifies Succoth with Sâkut, lying west of the Jordan, and southerly from Beisan. The fact that the traditional Succoth lies too far to the north, and that it is not easy to see how Jacob, after crossing the Jabbok, should come hither again, is in favor of this suggestion. Nor is it probable that, having so nearly reached the Jordan, he would have settled in the east-Jordan region (comp. Genesis 32:10). Knobel thinks that the writer wished to show that the patriarch had now fixed his abode in the trans-Jordan region. That Succoth belonged to the tribe of Gad, does not disprove Robinson’s conjectures, since there may have been more than one Succoth. Compare, further, as to the traditional Succoth, Von Raumer p. 256; Knobel, p. 204 [also Keil, Murphy, Wordsworth, Jacobus, Smith’s “Bib. Dic.,” all of whom decide against Robinson.—A. G.]—And he built.—He prepares here for a longer residence, since he builds himself a house instead of tents, and booths for his flocks, i. e., inclosures made of shrubs or stakes wattled together. Knobel thinks “that this is very improbable, since Jacob would naturally wish to go to Canaan and Isaac” (Genesis 31:8). But if we bear in mind that Jacob, exhausted by a twenty-years’ servitude and oppression, and a flight of more than seven days, shattered by his spiritual conflicts, and lame bodily, now, first, after he had crossed the Jordan, and upon the spiritual and home land, came to the full sense of his need of repose and quiet, we shall then understand why he here pauses and rests. As the hunted hart at last sinks to the ground, so he settles down and rests here for a time. He seems to have hoped, too, that he would be healed at Succoth, and it is probably with a special reference to this that it is said, Genesis 33:18, that Jacob came “in peace or in health” to Shechem. Jacob, too, after his experience of his brother Esau’s importunity, had good reason for inquiring into the condition of things at Hebron, before he brought his family thither. [The fact that he built a house for himself, and permanent booths for his flock, indicates his continued residence at Succoth for some years; and the age of Dinah at his flight from Laban makes it necessary to suppose either that he dwelt here or at Shechem six or more years before the sad events narrated in the following chapter.—A. G.] And it appears, indeed, that, either from Succoth or Shechem, he made a visit to his father Isaac at Hebron, and brought from thence his mother’s nurse, Deborah, since Rebekah was dead, and since she, as the confidential friend of his mother, could relate to him the history of her life and sufferings, and since, moreover, she stood in closer relation to him than any one else. Nor could Jacob, as Keil justly remarks, now an independent patriarch, any longer subordinate his household to that of Isaac.

2. The sojourn at Shechem (Genesis 33:18-20).—And Jacob came (to Shalem) in good health.—The word שָׁלִם is taken by the Sept., Vul., and Luther [and by the translators of the Eng. Bib.—A. G.], as a proper noun, to Shalem, which some have regarded as another name for Shechem, and others as designating an entirely different place, and the more so, since the village of Salim is still found in the neighborhood of Shechem (Robinson: “Researches,” vol. iii. p. 114 ff.). But it is never mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament, and שָׁלֵם as an adjective, refers to the בְּשָׁלוֹם, Genesis 28:21. Jehovah has fulfilled his promise.—A city of Shechem.—Or, to the city. Lit., of Shechem. The city was not in existence when Abraham sojourned in this region (Genesis 12:6). The Hivite prince Hamor had built it and called it after the name of his son. For the old name Mamortha of Pliny, see Keil, p. 224 [who holds that it may be a corruption from Hamor; but see also Robinson, vol. iii. p. 119.—A. G.].—In the land of Canaan.—Keil infers from these words that Succoth could not have been in the land of Canaan, i. e., on the west of the Jordan. But the words here, indeed, refer to the immediately following Hebraic acquisition of a piece of ground, just as in the purchase of the cave at Hebron by Abraham it is added, “in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 23:19).—Padan-aram (see Genesis 25:20)—before the city.—[See the Bible Dictionaries, especially upon the situation of Jacob’s well, and Robinson, vol. iii. pp. 113–136.—A. G.]. Even after his return to Hebron Jacob kept a pasture station at Shechem (Genesis 37:12).—A parcel of a field (Joshua 24:32).—Abraham purchased for himself a possession for a burial place at Hebron. Jacob goes further, and buys a possession for himself during life. “This purchase shows that Jacob, in his faith in the divine promise, viewed Canaan as his own home, and the home of his seed. Tradition fixes this parcel of land, which, at the conquest of Canaan, fell as an heritage to the sons of Joseph, and in which Joseph’s bones were buried (Joshua 24:32), as the plain lying at the southeast opening of the valley of Shechem, where, even now, Jacob’s well (John 4:6) is shown, and about two hundred or three hundred paces north of it a Mohammedan wely, as the grave of Joseph (Robinson: “Researches,” vol. iii. pp. 113–136, and the map of Nablous, in the “German Oriental Journal,” xvi. p. 634).” Keil. For the relation of this passage with Genesis 48:22, see the notes upon that passage.—An hundred pieces of money.—Onk., Sept., Vul., and the older commentators, regard the Quesita as a piece of silver of the value of a lamb, or stamped with a lamb, and which some have held as a prophecy pointing to the Lamb of God. Meyer (Heb. Dict.) estimates the Quesita as equal to a drachm, or an Egyptian double-drachm. Delitzsch says it was a piece of metal of an indeterminable value, but of greater value than a shekel (see Job 42:11).—An altar, and named it.—That is, he undoubtedly named it with this name, or he dedicated it to El-Elohe-Israel. Delitzsch views this title as a kind of superscription. But Jacob’s consecration means more than that his God is not a mere imaginary deity; it means, further, that he has proved himself actually to be God (God is the God of Israel); God in the clear, definite form of El, the Mighty, is the God of Israel, the wrestler with God. Israel had experienced both, in the almighty protection which his God had shown him from Bethel throughout his journeyings, and in the wrestlings with him, and learned his might. In the Mosaic period the expression, Jehovah, the God of Israel, takes its place (Exodus 34:23). “The chosen name of God, in the book of Joshua.” Delitzsch. [The name of the altar embraces, and stamps upon the memory of the world, the result of the past of Jacob’s life, and the experiences through which Jacob had become Israel.—A. G.]

 3. Dinah (Genesis 34:1-31).—Dinah the daughter of Leah.—a. The rape of Dinah (Genesis 34:1-4). Dinah was born about the end of the fourteenth year of Jacob’s residence in Haran. She was thus about six years old at the settlement at Succoth. The sojourn at Succoth appears to have lasted for about two years. Jacob must have spent already several years at Shechem, since there are prominent and definite signs of a more confidential intercourse with the Shechemites. We may infer, therefore, that Dinah was now from twelve to sixteen years of age. Joseph was seventeen years old when he was sold by his brethren (Genesis 37:2), and at that time Jacob had returned to Hebron. There must have passed, therefore, about eleven years since the return from Haran, at which time Joseph was six years of age. If now we regard the residence of Jacob at Bethel and the region of Ephrata as of brief duration, and bear in mind that the residence at Shechem ceased with the rape of Dinah, it follows that Dinah must have been about fourteen or fifteen years of age when she was deflowered. In the East, too, females reach the age of puberty at twelve, and sometimes still earlier (Delitzsch). From the same circumstances it is clear that Simeon and Levi must have been above twenty.—Went out to see.—Scarcely, however, to see the daughters of the native inhabitants for the first time, nor to a fair or popular festival (Josephus). Her going indicates a friendly visit to the daughters of the land, a circumstance which made her abduction possible, for she was taken by Shechem to his house (Genesis 34:26).—His soul clave unto Dinah.—This harsh act of princely insolence and power is not an act of pure, simple lust, which usually regards its subject with hatred (see the history of Tamar, 2 Samuel 13:15).—Spake kindly to her.—Probably makes her the promise of an honorable marriage.—b. Shechem’s offer of marriage(Genesis 34:5-12).—And Jacob heard it.—In a large nomadic family the several members are doubtless often widely dispersed. Besides, Dinah did not return home.—Held his peace until they were come.—The brothers of the daughter had a voice in all important concerns which related to her (Genesis 24:50 ff.). Moreover, Jacob had to deal with the proud and insolent favorite son of the prince, i. e., prince of that region, and a painful experience had made him more cautious than he had been before.—And Hamor the father of Shechem.—As if he wished to anticipate the indignation of Jacob’s youthful sons.—Because he had wrought folly.—Keil speaks of “seduction,” but this is an inadequate expression. Some measure of consent on the part of Dinah is altogether probable. In this case the dishonor (טִמֵּא) had a double impurity, since an uncircumcised person had dishonored her.—And the men were grieved.—Manly indignation rises in these young men in all its strength, but as the wise sons of Jacob, they know how to control themselves. [It was more than indignation. They were enraged; they burned with anger; it was kindled to them.—A. G.]—He had wrought folly.—עָשָׂה נְבָלָה, a standing expression for crimes which are irreconcilable with the dignity and destination of Israel as the people of God, but especially for gross sins of the flesh (Deuteronomy 22:21; Judges 20:10; 2 Samuel 13:12), but also of other great crimes (Joshua 7:15).—Which thing ought not to be done.—A new and stricter morality in this respect also, enters with the name Israel.—My son Shechem.—The hesitating proposal of the father gives the impression of embarrassment. The old man offers Jacob and his sons the full rights of citizens in his little country, and the son engages to fulfil any demand of the brothers as to the bridal price and bridal gifts. Keil confuses these ordinary determinations. [He holds only with most that they were strictly presents (and not the price for the bride) made to the bride and to her mother and brothers.—A. G.]—c. The fanatical revenge of the sons of Jacob(Genesis 34:13-29).—Deceitfully.—Jacob had scarcely become Israel when the arts and cunning of Jacob appear in his sons, and, indeed, in a worse form, since they glory in being Israel.—And said (דִבֵּר), we cannot do this thing.—Keil thinks the refusal of the proposition lies fundamentally in the proposal itself, because if they had not refused they would have denied the historical and saving vocation of Israel and his seed. The father, Israel, appears, however, to have been of a different opinion. For he doubtless knew the proposal of his sons in reply. He does not condemn their proposition, however, but the fanatical way in which they availed themselves of its consequences. Dinah could not come into her proper relations again but by Shechem’s passing over to Judaism. This way of passing over to Israel was always allowable, and those who took the steps were welcomed. We must therefore reject only: 1. The extension of the proposal, according to which the Israelites were to blend themselves with the Shechemites; 2. the motives, which were external advantages. It was, on the contrary, a harsh and unsparing course in reference to Dinah, if the sons of Leah wished her back again; or, indeed, would even gratify their revenge and Israelitish pride. But their resort to subtle and fanatical conduct merits only a hearty condemnation.—The young man deferred not.—We lose the force of the narrative if we say, with Keil, that this is noticed here by way of anticipation; the thing is as good as done, since Shechem is not only ready to do it, but will make his people ready also. The purpose, indeed, could only be executed afterwards, since Shechem could not have gone to the gate of the city after his circumcision.—And communed with the men of the city.—They appeal in the strongest way to the self-interest of the Shechemites. Jacob’s house was wealthy, and the Shechemites, therefore, could only gain by the connection.—בְּהֵמָה. Beasts of burden, camels, and asses. “According to Herodotus, circumcision was practised by the Phœnicians, and probably also among the Canaanites, who were of the same race and are never referred to in the Old Testament as uncircumcised, as e.g., it speaks of the uncircumcised Philistines. It is remarkable that the Hivites, Hamor and Shechem, are spoken of as not circumcised. Perhaps, however, circumcision was not in general use among the Phœnician and Canaanitish tribes, as indeed it was not among the other people who practised the rite, e.g., the Ishmaelites, Edomites, and Egyptians, among whom it was strictly observed only by those of certain conditions or rank. Or we may suppose that the Hivites were originally a different tribe from the Canaanites, who had partly conformed to the customs of the land, and partly not.” Knobel.—On the third day.—After the inflammation set in. This was the critical day (see Delitzsch, p. 340). [He says it is well known that the operation in case of adults was painful and dangerous. Its subjects were confined to the bed from two to three weeks, and the operation was attended by a violent inflammation.—A. G.] “Adults were to keep quiet for three days, and were often suffering from thirty-five to forty days.”—Simeon and Levi.—Reuben and Judah were also brothers of Dinah, but the first was probably of too feeble a character, and Judah was too frank and noble for such a deed. “Simeon and Levi come after Reuben, who, as the first-born, had a special responsibility towards his father (Genesis 37:21 ff; Genesis 42:22), and appears, therefore, to have withdrawn himself, and as the brothers of Dinah next in order undertake to revenge the dishonor of their sister. For the same reason Ammon was killed by Absalom (2 Samuel 13:28). Seduction is punished with death among the Arabians, and the brothers of the seduced are generally active in inflicting it (Niebuhr: Arabien, p. 39; Burkhardt’s ‘Syria,’ p. 361, and ‘Bedouins,’ p. 89).” Knobel. Keil says that the servants of Simeon and Levi undoubtedly took part in the attack, but it may be a question whether each son had servants belonging to himself. The city lay in security, as is evident from the לבטח.—Sons of Jacob.—Without the ו conjunctive. The abrupt form of the narrative does not merely indicate “the excitement over the shocking crime.” For it is not definitely stated that all the sons of Jacob took part in sacking the city (Keil), although the slaughter of the men by Simeon and Levi may have kindled fanaticism in the others, and have led them to view the wealth of the city as the spoils of war, or as property without an owner. Much less can it be said that Simeon and Levi were excluded from these sons (as Delitzsch supposes). On the contrary, they are charged (Genesis 49:6) with hamstringing the oxen [Eng. ver., digged through a wall.—A. G.], i. e., with crippling the cattle they could not take with them. Nor are we here to bring into prominence that the Jacob nature breaks out again in this act, but, on the contrary, that the deed of the sons of Jacob is entirely unworthy. [Kurtz urges as an extenuation of their crime: 1. The fact that they viewed the rape as peculiarly worthy of punishment because they were Israel, the chosen people of God, the bearers of the promise, etc.; 2. their natural character, and the strength of their passions; 3. their youthful ardor; 4. the absence of counsel with their depressed and suffering father. But with every palliation, their treachery and bloodthirstiness, their use of the covenant sign of circumcision as a means to cloak their purpose, their extension of their revenge to the whole city, and the pillage of the slain, must shock every one’s moral sense.—A. G.]—d. The judgment of Jacob upon their crime(Genesis 34:30-31).—Ye have troubled me.—If we look at the places in which the word עכר occurs (Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:15), we shall see plainly that Jacob is not speaking here of mere simple grief. The idea proceeds from the shaking of water, to the utmost confusion and consternation of spirit, or changes and loss of life. The expression made to stink, signifies not merely to become odious, offensive, but to make infamous, literally, to make one an abomination. When Knobel concludes from the words: And I being few in number, that Jacob did not censure the act as immoral, but only as inconsiderate, and one which might thus cause his ruin, the inference is manifestly false and groundless. He expresses his censure of the act as immoral in the words trouble me, put him to shame, made him blameworthy, while they thought that they were glorifying him.—Should he deal.—Should one then, not should he then (Knobel), for he is dead; nor even should they then. The idea is, that if they had suffered this patiently they would thereby have consented that their sister should generally have been treated in this way with impunity. They thus insist upon the guilt of Shechem, but pass over his offer of an atonement for his crime, and their own fearful guilt. “They have the last word (Delitzsch), but Jacob utters the very last word upon his deathbed.” [And there, too, he makes clear and explicit his abhorrence of their crime, as not merely dangerous, but as immoral, and this in the most solemn and emphatic way.—A. G.] Indirectly, indeed, he even here utters the last word, in his warning call to rise up and purify themselves by repentance. They must now flee from their house and home, i.e., from the land which they have so lately purchased.


[5][Genesis 33:18.—Shalem is not a proper noun, but must be rendered in peace, as in Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:21), to which it evidently refers.—A. G.]

[6][Genesis 33:19.—Quesitah—weighed or measured. Sept., Vul., Onk., have lamb, as if stamped upon the coin; but coined money was not in use among the patriarchs.—A. G.]

[7][Genesis 34:3.—Lit., spake to her heart.—A. G.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 34". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.