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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-5


Genesis 34:1. To see the daughters of the land.] To make their acquaintance—to pay them a friendly visit.

Genesis 34:3. He loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.] Heb. “He loved the damsel and spake to her heart.” The idea seems to be conveyed that he endeavoured to comfort her by promising marriage and fidelity.



Illustrates the following truths—

I. That there is great danger in a vain curiosity of seeing the world. Dinah was curious to know the ways and customs of the surrounding people. This led to a careless intimacy, which ended in accomplishing her ruin. She ought not to have wandered beyond parental control and supervision, nor disregarded the duty of separation from an idolatrous people, and their manners and habits. “Evil communications corrupt good manners.” The inhabitants of that country were to the family of Jacob what the present world is to the Christian. It is dangerous to the interests of the soul to indulge in the vain curiosity of knowing the evil ways of the world. What is called “seeing life” may prove, in many cases, to be but tasting death. Familiarity blunts the sense of things sinful, and increases the danger of temptation.

II. That some sentiment of virtue may remain in those addicted to the worst social vices. Shechem, we are told, “loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.” He was willing to make honourable amends, as far as could be, by an offer of marriage. In this he was generous and noble, for lust commonly ends in loathing. Ammon abhors Thamar as before he loved her. But this man desires to cover his fault by marriage, and promises love and fidelity. He had many of the vices of the great and powerful, but was not without some remains of virtue. The conduct of this heathen man is a rebuke to many who dwell in Christian lands.

III. That increasing troubles may fall to the lot of good men. Jacob now suffered one of the most dreadful calamities that can fall upon a household—the disgrace and ruin of his daughter. When he heard of it, he “held his peace,” as if stunned by the blow. (Genesis 34:5). He was a man greatly favoured of God. He had seen the open vision of heaven. God had promised to be his God, and to be with him to the end of his days. He had made and performed his vows. He had erected his altar. Here was a man raised in spiritual priviliges above all men, and yet the gathering clouds of adversity surround him, and grow more dark and gloomy towards the close of his life. He had been delivered from foreign troubles, and now domestic troubles fall upon him. The honour of his family was laid in the dust. All sorts of complications of distress fell to the lot of this good man. As a son, servant, husband, father; in youth, manhood, and in old age, he is afflicted beyond the lot of most men. When one difficulty is surmounted, another, and a greater one, arises. No wonder the poor old man sums up his life, at the end, by saying, “All these things are against me.”


Genesis 34:1-2. As her mother Leah, so she hath a fault in her eyes, which was curiosity. She will needs see, and be seen; and whilst she doth vainly see, she is seen lustfully. It is not enough for us to look to our own thoughts, except we beware of the provocations of others. If we once wander out of the lists that God hath set us in our callings, there is nothing but danger. Her eyes were guilty of the temptation; only to see is an insufficient warrant to draw us into places of spiritual hazard. If Shechem had seen her busy at home, his love had been free from outrage; now the lightness of her presence gave encouragement to his inordinate desires. Immodesty of behaviour makes way to lust, and gives life unto wicked hopes.—(Bishop Hall.)

By those windows of the eyes and ears sin and death often enter. See to the cinque ports if ye would keep out the enemy. Shut up the five windows if ye would have the house, the heart, full of light, saith the Arabian proverb.—(Trapp.)

It seemed an innocent action to go, out of mere curiosity, to see the daughters of the land. But in relalation to morals there are scarcely any actions that are trifling and insignificant.

Genesis 34:3-4.—And now he goes about to entertain her with honest love, whom the rage of his lust had dishonestly abused. He will hide her dishonour with the name of an husband. Those actions which are ill begun can hardly be salved up with late satisfactions; whereas good entrances give strength unto the proceedings, and succcess to the end.—(Bp. Hall.)

The sequel shows that nothing could retrieve the mischief of the first false step. A willingness to make amends for sin will not avert its legitimate consequences.—(Bush.)

Genesis 34:5. It is not meant that he was entirely silent, saying nothing about it in his family, which would have been inconceivable under the circumstances; but that he took no measures in respect to it, he forbore all action. He did not foresee the issue, or he would probably have taken the affairs into his own hands, and acted upon it at once. As it was, however, he did better in thus “ruling his spirit,” than did his sons who took the city. (Proverbs 16:32.)—(Bush.)

Verses 6-31


Genesis 34:6. Hamor, the father of Shechem, went out unto Jacob to commune with him.] In Oriental countries the fathers arrange the marriages of their children.

Genesis 34:7. Wrought folly in Israel.] “This was a standing phrase from this time forth for crimes against the honour and vocation of Israel as the covenant people, especially for gross sins of the flesh.” (Deuteronomy 22:21; Judges 20:10; 2 Samuel 13:2.) “Fool” and “folly” are terms used of impiety and iniquity.” (See Proverbs.) (Jacobus). “The expression manifestly belongs to a later time, and betrays the hand of a subsequent editor. It could hardly have been found in any document dating previously to the constitution of a community known by the name of Israel.” (Alford.)

Genesis 34:12. Dowry and gift.] Dowry to the bride, gifts to her family.

Genesis 34:26. With the edge of the sword.] Heb. “By the mouth of the sword.” Whence the sword is said to “devour.”



I. It was prompted by a feeling of vengeance against the doer of a gross moral wrong. The sons of Jacob were not satisfied with the offer of Shechem to repair the evil, to redeem the wrongs he had brought upon their house. They considered it so grievous as to be beyond repair. “He had wrought folly in Israel, in lying with Jacob’s daughter.” (Genesis 34:17.) They regarded his act as a sin against the chosen of God—against the Church. A stricter morality, and a stronger sense of the evil of sin, enters with this name of Israel. All who were called by that name lived in a different moral atmosphere from the surrounding nations. The sons of Jacob looked upon the deed in itself as not to be wiped away by any amendments of the future. It was wrong, and must be visited for its own sake as well as for its consequences. It “ought not to be done.” (Genesis 34:17.)

II. It was a grievous sin.

1. It was unjust and cruel. The punishment was far in excess of the fault, and the innocent were made to suffer with the guilty. In the moral government of God men do suffer for the sins of others, but to inflict those sufferings ourselves, of set purpose, is a sin against justice. It was cruel to take advantage of men whom they had first rendered helpless. (Genesis 34:25.)

2. It was committed under the hypocritical pretence of religion. (Genesis 34:15-18). Here was hypocrisy in hiding this crafty cruelty under the name of religion. A sacrament is prostrated to the vilest purposes—used for murder. This conduct has all the characteristics of religious fanaticism; which clings to religion, not as a healthy, but as a monstrous and diseased growth. It was a right feeling which led the sons of Jacob to defend the purity and honour of their family, but it was wrong to secure even this high purpose by the prostitution of the offices of religion.

3. It was perilous to the true interests of the kingdom of God. “Ye have troubled me,” said Jacob, to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land,” etc. (Genesis 34:30.) Jacob was the Israel of God, and he felt that his sons by this foul deed had made him offensive to the heathen. They had endangered the existence of the Church. And such are always the results of fanaticism. They throw discredit upon Christianity. Abraham and Isaac had been peaceable in their days, and had won the respect of the surrounding heathen. Jacob now felt as if the ancient renown of his house were laid in the dust.


Genesis 34:6-7. Their resentment was faulty in assuming the character of a bloody vindictiveness. It was proper that they should be grieved, it was not unnatural that they should be wroth; and it was much to their honour that they were disposed to brand the violator of chastity with infamy. But was it for the sin committed against God, or only for the shame visited upon the family, that they were engaged? Here, alas, they failed.—(Genesis 49:7.—(Bush).

Unruly youths put their aged parents, many times, to much travail and trouble; as Samson, Shechem, etc. Green wood is ever shrinking and warping; whereas the well-seasoned holds a constant firmness.—(Trapp).

Genesis 34:8-12.—Many fine things were said, both by the father as a politician, in favour of intermarriages between the families in general, and by the son as a lover, in order to gain the damsel.—(Fuller).

Their uninstructed minds could not enter into the reasons of such an exclusive policy in this respect as the Israelites felt constrained to adopt. In the true spirit of an unbelieving world they endeavoured to break down what they would deem the narrow spirit of caste, by holding out to them those inducements of gainful traffic which they are sensible they could not themselves withstand in similar circumstances, and which, alas, are usually but too potent in overcoming the scruples of the professed people of God.—(Bush).

Genesis 34:13-17. The execution of this project was marked—

1. By the vilest hypocrisy. They pretended to have scruples of conscience about connecting themselves with persons who were uncircumcised.
2. By the grossest profaneness. They knew that if the Shechemites were persuaded to submit to circumcision it would be a mere form, leaving them as to their relation to God just where they were before. They propose that the males should receive the seal of God’s holy covenant, not in order to obtain any spiritual benefit, but solely with a view to carnal gratification.
3. It was conceived in the spirit of the most savage cruelty. What amazing depravity does it argue, first to form such a horrid purpose, and then to cover it with the cloak of religion.—(Bush).

In Oriental countries it is held that the brothers are more deeply disgraced by the seduction of their sister than the husband is by the fall of his wife; for the wife can be divorced but not the sister.—(Jacobus).

Genesis 34:18-19. This high character is given to him, perhaps referring only to his social standing. But he was a heathen, and the covenant family of Jacob must have known that no mere outward ceremonial act could incorporate them with the chosen family so as to make them sharers in the future glory of Israel. Nor could the sacrament itself make this wrong-doer a true Israelite. He took a mere worldly view of the matter, and was willing to take the sacrament for gain.—(Jacobus).

Genesis 34:20-23. These great men easily persuaded and prevailed with the people to have what they would. When Crispus believed, who was the chief ruler of the synagogue, many Corinthians believed also. (Acts 18:8.) Paul was loath to lose the deputy, because his conversion would draw on many others. As, on the contrary, Jereboam caused Israel to sin; and generally, as the kings were good or evil, so were the people.—(Trapp.)

No little art is discoverable in the arguments employed. The principal prominence is given to those considerations which were merely secondary, while the main point, the circumcision, comes in as a little by-clause, a slight condition, to which they could not reasonably object. This was approaching worldly men through the most effectual avenue. Appeals to their interest usually succeed where their principles are addressed in vain.—(Bush.)

It is the worldly policy of rulers to pretend the public good.

Profit persuades mightily with the multitude. They all look to their own way. (Isaiah 56:11.)—(Trapp.)

Genesis 34:24. Many have lost their blood, and suffered much trouble for their lusts, as, had it been for religion, they had been martyrs. But the cause, and not the punishment, makes the martyr.—(Trapp.)

Nations do not readily change their gods. (Jeremiah 2:10-11.) The ready submission of this people to the rites of a new religion is one of the most singular facts of all history.

Genesis 34:25-29. We have here a fresh proof of the veracity of Moses. Himself a Levite, he does not spare the character of his progenitor. In all the simplicity of truth he gives an unvarnished statement of atrocities which have reflected everlasting disgrace upon the memory of the founder of his line. Would an imposter have done this?—(Bush.)

One sin leads on to another, and, like flames of fire, spreads desolation on every side. Dissipation leads to seduction; seduction produces wrath; wrath thirsts for revenge; the thirst for revenge has recourse to treachery; treachery issues in murder; and murder is followed by lawless depredation.—(Bush).

This history, like that of David and others, shows that sins against social purity tend, more than any other, to produce all the evils of hatred, revenge, and murder.

Genesis 34:30. He does not now make mention of their crime against God, but only of the immediate consequences to him and to his house. He mentions this peril to arouse the compunction of his sons. They might care for this common danger, if not for their sin.—(Jacobus).

Genesis 34:31. Instead of regretting that they had acted so treacherous and cruel a part, they vindicate themselves without hesitation, and even tacitly condemn their father as manifesting less concern for his daughter than they had shown for their sister. Daily experience shows us that when once the conscience is seared, there is no iniquity too gross to be palliated or justified.—(Bush.)

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 34". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/genesis-34.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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