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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 34

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Genesis 34:0


The Treachery of Jacob's SonsThe Dinah IncidentShechem's Violation of DinahThe Rape of DinahThe Rape of Dinah
Genesis 34:1-7Genesis 34:1-7Genesis 34:1-4Genesis 34:1-4Genesis 34:1-5
Genesis 34:5-7Genesis 34:5-10A Matrimonial Alliance with the Shechemites
Genesis 34:6-12
Genesis 34:8-12Genesis 34:8-12Genesis 34:8-12
Genesis 34:11-12
Genesis 34:13-17Genesis 34:13-17Genesis 34:13-17Genesis 34:13-17Genesis 34:13-19
Genesis 34:18-24Genesis 34:18-24Genesis 34:18-24Genesis 34:18-24
Genesis 34:20-24
The Treacherous Revenge of Simeon and Levi
Genesis 34:25-31Genesis 34:25-31Genesis 34:25-31Genesis 34:25-29Genesis 34:25-29
Genesis 34:30Genesis 34:30-31
Genesis 34:31

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Jacob must face his fears and temptations.

1. Laban

2. Esau

3. Canaanite intermarriage

4. Canaanite aggression

B. Jacob is still a fearful person.

1. lies to Esau and will not follow to Seir

2. does not travel to Bethel (as told by God)

3. is tempted to intermarry with the people of the land for self interest

4. is fearful of Canaanite's retaliation

C. God's name does not appear in this chapter (might be purposeful)!

D. It is surely possible that this chapter is included

1. as a foil to Genesis 17:0

2. as a way of showing why Judah is the line of the Messiah and not the older three sons. Chapter 34 will remove Simeon and Levi as possible options (cf. Genesis 49:5-7)

Remember "historical narrative" must be interpreted in large contextual pieces. (See Special Topic: Old Testament Historical Narrative)

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 34:1-7 1Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. 2When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. 3He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. 4So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young girl for a wife." 5Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. 6Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.

Genesis 34:1 "Dinah the duaghter of Leah" A lengthy amount of time occurs between Genesis 33:0 and 34. The children are now grown. Dinah is the only daughter mentioned in Jacob's lineage (cf. Genesis 30:21). Surely there were others (cf. Genesis 37:35), but Dinah is mentioned because of her central role in this chapter. Her name is the feminine form of the word "judgment" or "vindication" (BDB 192), which is the name of one of Jacob's sons (cf. Genesis 30:6) and later one of the tribes, Dan.

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB“visit" NKJV, LXX, Peshitta"see"

The VERB "to see" (BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) can be understood in several ways (obviously she went alone away from her home/camp).

1. to observe, learn about them and their lives

2. to visit her friends, Jacob had remained there several years

3. a play on Genesis 34:2, "Shechem saw her" (same VERB)

Genesis 34:2 "Shechem" This is the prince of the local tribe. Hamor is the current chief or tribal leader. The prince was named after this main city. For the meaning of the name, see Genesis 33:18.

It is possible grammatically to take "prince" (BDB 672 I), which means "the one lifted up," as referring to Hamor (see A Handbook on Genesis by Reyburn and Fry, USB, p. 786).

"the Hivite" The Septuagint translates this as Horite (cf. Genesis 34:2; Joshua 9:7). It is obvious that they are a non-circumcised, non-Semitic group of people which should probably be identified with the Hurrians. The only two uncircumcized groups of people which surrounded Israel in ancient times were the Philistines, who were Aegean mercenaries, and these Hurrian sojourners. All of the Canaanite tribes practiced circumcision. See see Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

"he took her and lay with her" This is a hendiadys (two VERBS expressing one action). This is shocking to moderns, but a prince in the Ancient Near East had rights. Finding a wife in this period and locality was very different from modern dating methods (i.e., Exodus 22:16-17; Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Deuteronomy 22:28-29). Patriarchal culture was all about men's rights and little about women's freedoms or feelings.

There are several VERBS which denote sexual activity.

1. lie with, BDB 1011, KB 1486, cf. Genesis 19:32; Genesis 26:10; Genesis 30:15; Genesis 39:7; Leviticus 18:22

2. approach, BDB 897, KB 1132, cf. Genesis 20:4; Leviticus 18:6, Leviticus 18:14, Leviticus 18:19; Leviticus 20:16

3. go in to, BDB 97, KB 112, cf. Genesis 19:31; Genesis 29:21, Genesis 29:23, Genesis 29:30; Genesis 30:3, Genesis 30:4, Genesis 30:16; Genesis 38:8, Genesis 38:9, Genesis 38:16; Genesis 39:14

4. know, BDB 393, KB 390, cf. Genesis 4:1, Genesis 4:17, Genesis 4:25; Genesis 19:5, Genesis 19:8; Genesis 24:16; Genesis 38:26; Numbers 31:17, Numbers 31:18, Numbers 31:35; Judges 19:22, Judges 19:25; Judges 21:12

NASB, NRSV, JPSOA"by force" NKJV, REB"violated her" TEV“raped" NJB“forced her to sleep with him" LXX"humbled her" Peshitta"defiled her"

This VERB (BDB 776, KB 853, Piel IMPERFECT) in the Piel stem means "to humble" in the sense of violent sexual attack (i.e., rape, cf. Deuteronomy 21:14; Deuteronomy 22:24, Deuteronomy 22:29; Judges 19:24; Judges 20:5; 2 Samuel 13:12, 2 Samuel 13:14, 2 Samuel 13:22, 2 Samuel 13:32; Ezekiel 22:10, Ezekiel 22:11).

Genesis 34:3 "And he was deeply attracted to Dinah" Although this young man was well thought of among his own people (cf. Genesis 34:19), he still perpetrated a violent act against Dinah. It apparently was a violation of a sojourner and her family.

Shechem's feeling toward Dinah are repeated in three ways.

1. "he was deeply attracted to Dinah" (lit. "his soul cleaved to her"), BDB 179, KB 209, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. 1 Kings 11:2

2. "he loved the maiden," BDB 12, KB 17, Qal IMPERFECT; "maiden" (BDB 655) denotes a young, but marriageable, youth

3. "spoke tenderly to her" (lit. "spoke to the heart of the girl"), BDB 180, KB 210, Piel IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 50:21; Judges 19:3; Ruth 2:13

4. "the soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter," Genesis 34:8, BDB 365 I, KB 362, Qal PERFECT, cf. Deuteronomy 21:11

5. "he was delighted with Jacob's daughter," Genesis 34:19, BDB 342, KB 339, Qal PERFECT

"the girl" Dinah is described by several different terms in this chapter.

1. daughter, Genesis 34:1; Genesis 34:1, BDB 123 I (several times)

2. the girl, Genesis 34:3, BDB 655, cf. Genesis 34:12

3. the young girl, Genesis 34:4, BDB 409, cf. Joel 3:3; Zechariah 8:5 (used only for young females these three times, from root to "bear," "beget")

4. sister, Genesis 34:13, BDB 27, cf. Genesis 34:14, Genesis 34:27, Genesis 34:31

Genesis 34:4 "So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, 'Get me this young girl for a wife'" This fits the cultural pattern of parents' arranging the marriage of their children. But notice the son initiates the request (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERATIVE). The problem was Shechem's impulsive initial sexual aggression (cf. Genesis 34:7).

Genesis 34:5

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, LXX, JPSOA"defiled" TEV "disgraced" NJB, REB "dishonored"

This VERB (BDB 379, KB 375, Piel PERFECT) denotes that which is viewed as unclean according to God's law (cf. Leviticus 18:24-30). Here it denotes sexual uncleanness (cf. Ezekiel 18:6, Ezekiel 18:11, Ezekiel 18:15; Ezekiel 22:11; Ezekiel 23:17; Ezekiel 33:26). Dinah was raped by an uncircumcised Canaanite.

"Jacob kept silent" His motive is not stated. It could have been

1. the temptation to use the situation to his advantage (cf. Genesis 34:6, Genesis 34:30)

2. to wait for his sons and servants to arm themselves

3. that the brothers had "a say" in the situation

Genesis 34:7 Dinah's brothers were very angry.

1. "The men were grieved," BDB 780, KB 864, Hithpael IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 6:6

2. "They were very angry," BDB 354, KB 351, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Genesis 4:5, Genesis 4:6; Genesis 31:36; Genesis 39:19

3. "He had done a disgraceful thing," BDB 615, i.e., a senseless disregard for the moral standards of Jacob and his religious tradition, cf. Deuteronomy 22:21; Judges 19:23; Judges 20:6; 2 Samuel 13:12 (the NOUN means "fool")

"in Israel" This is using the term in a later sense. In this clause it refers to the laws of the nation of Israel. This is a textual marker of a later editor, compiler, or scribe (cf. Deuteronomy 22:21; Joshua 7:15; Judges 19:23; Judges 20:10).

Some commentators try to make this PREPOSITION (BDB 88-91) mean "to," but it means "in."

Verses 8-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 34:8-12 8But Hamor spoke with them, saying, "The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. 9Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it." 11Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, "If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. 12Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage."

Genesis 34:8 "with them" This refers to all of Dinah's brothers and half-brothers. Shechem's father tries to calm down the anger and sense of violation.

Verse Genesis 34:11 shows that Jacob himself is addressed also.

Genesis 34:9 "and intermarry with us" This was not the family tradition of Abraham (cf. Genesis 24:3) or Isaac (cf. Genesis 28:1, Genesis 28:8). Jacob is now tested.

Genesis 34:10 "the land shall be open before you" This is a Hebrew idiom for free access and travel within the land (cf. Genesis 13:9; Genesis 20:15).

Notice the number of promises made to Jacob and his family if they will agree to this marriage.

1. "you shall live with us," Genesis 34:10

2. "the land shall be open before you," Genesis 34:10

3. "live and trade in it, Genesis 34:10 ("trade" probably means "travel freely within" in this context, cf. Genesis 42:34; NJB, but the same root can mean "traders," cf. Genesis 23:16; 1 Kings 10:28-29)

4. "acquire property in it," Genesis 34:10

5 "I will give whatever you say to me," Genesis 34:11

6. "ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift," Genesis 34:12

In a sense, become one with us! Jacob should have journeyed to Bethel. He stayed near Shechem (the city) too long. Now violence and pain will be the cost of his delinquent obedience.

Genesis 34:12 "bridal payment and gift" This refers to a dowry or a Hebrew mohar (BDB 555). This was not so much a purchasing of the bride, but a compensation for the loss of a helper (cf. Exodus 22:16-17; 1 Samuel 18:25). This dowry was usually kept for the wife in case of the death of the husband or a later need (cf. Genesis 31:15 where Laban's daughters are complaining that he had used the dowry money for himself).

Verses 13-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 34:13-17 13But Jacob's sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14They said to them, "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcized, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, 16then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go."

Genesis 34:13

NASB“with deceit" NKJV“spoke deceitfully" NRSV, Peshitta"answered. . .deceitfully" TEV“in a deceitful way" NJB“a crafty answer" LXX"craftily" JPSOA"speaking with guile"

The NOUN "deceit" (BDB 941) means treachery. It is used by Isaac of Jacob's trick in Genesis 27:35. The same root is used to describe Laban's trickery of Jacob with Leah in Genesis 29:25. This characteristic of Jacob remains in his family.

Genesis 34:14-17 "one who is uncircumcized" Circumcision was a sign of the covenant of YHWH (cf. Genesis 17:9-14). Here, Dinah's brothers are using it in the physical rather than its intended spiritual sense. They had ulterior motives. The violent attack of Shechem is now used as an excuse for a violent attack on the whole tribe! This kind of revenge is exactly what the Hebrew "Eye for an eye" (cf. Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20) law was meant to stop.

Verses 18-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 34:18-24 18Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor's Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:09The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob's daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. 20So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21"These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. 22Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us." 24All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

Genesis 34:19 This verse lists the three things that Shechem did to win the approval of Jacob's family: (1) he did not delay; (2) he was delighted in Jacob's daughter; and (3) he put his reputation on the line.

Genesis 34:20 "came to the gate of their city" The gate was the site of the domestic, social, and legislative life of a community. He will appeal to these men (i.e., those old enough to fight) on the basis of the profit motive (cf. Genesis 34:23).

Genesis 34:21 All four VERBS in this verse are Qal IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense (i.e., "let us. . .").

Genesis 34:23 The Shechemites saw this gesture (i.e., circumcision) as a way to increase their tribe's power and wealth. The covenant people were not growing, but a Canaanite tribe is!

Genesis 34:24 Wow! This was a major concession. Circumcision for an adult is a painful and dangerous (i.e, infection) procedure. All of this just to allow the prince to marry a foreigner who he desired (i.e., royal line no longer pure). It is hard for modern westerners to comprehend eastern tribal loyalty and respect for tribal leaders.

Verses 25-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Genesis 34:25-31 25Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. 26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem's house, and went forth. 27Jacob's sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses. 30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, "You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household." 31But they said, "Should he treat our sister as a harlot?"

Genesis 34:25 "Now it came about on the third day. . .Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers" Grown men would have been extremely sore on the third day after circumcision. The second and third sons of Leah knew this fact and took advantage of it by totally slaughtering the male population, and took the women and children and all of the possessions for their own. Later, in Genesis 49:5-7, this will be the basis of the prophecy against these two tribes assuming leadership in Jacob's family. This is even asserted as the reason why Levi will not inherit with the other tribes, but will be dispersed throughout the tribes.

Genesis 34:26 "took Dinah from Shechem's house" This was a patriarchal culture. The reader is never informed of Dinah's feelings or choices. One wonders

1. if she stayed at Shechem's house voluntarily or was forced

2. if she ever returned home and told her story or was she accompanied by family members in Genesis 34:1

3. if she was conscious of the covenant consequences of her potential marriage to a Canaanite

Genesis 34:27

NASB“Jacob's sons" LXX, Peshitta"but the sons of Jacob" TEV, NJB, REB"Jacob's other sons"

The NASB follows the MT, but the ancient versions translate it so as to involve all of Jacob's sons in the plunder, but not the slaughter. There would have been too much booty for just two sons to have rounded up and used.

Genesis 34:28-29 Ancient warfare is shocking to moderns in its violence and the taking of spoils. Women and children were seen as property to be possessed and incorporated into a new society (this was how Dinah was perceived also).

Genesis 34:30-31 Jacob seems to be reacting more in fear of the circumstances than in trust toward God. God promised to protect him and be with him, but he seems to be expressing doubt of his ability based on numbers, not the promise (cf. Genesis 28:15).

As Rebekah and Jacob had been used by God to force Isaac to do the prophesied thing (cf. Genesis 25:23), so now too, Jacob's sons are forcing Jacob to do the right thing (i.e., not intermarry with Canaanites and journey to Bethel). The tendency appears again in Judges 8:33-35.

God works in surprising ways to accomplish His purposes in the family of Abraham!!!

Genesis 34:30

NASB, NRSV, JPSOA,"odious" NKJV“obnoxious" NJB, REB"bad odour" LXX"evil" Peshitta"hurt my reputation"

This Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT (BDB 92, KB 107) means to cause to stink (cf. Exodus 16:24; Psalms 38:5). It is used metaphorically of being rejected by people in Exodus 5:21; 1 Samuel 27:12; and here.

"the Canaanites and Perizzites" See Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Genesis 34". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/genesis-34.html. 2021.
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