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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 34

 

 


Verses 1-31

SHAMEFUL SIN IN JACOB'S HOUSE

Jacob had been concerned about his own house: now he must learn through painful experience that when he puts his house first, he will find trouble and sorrow from his house. Understandably, Dinah the daughter of Leah did not want to be confined to her home, and went out to see the daughters of the land. But it was more than daughters she saw. She became sexually involved with a young man, son of the prince of that land. However, having been guilty of such an act of fornication, the young man did not then reject her, as many would do, but apparently genuinely loved her and spoke kindly to her (v.3).

Then he appealed to his father Hamor, asking him to intercede with Jacob so that he might marry Dinah. Jacob had heard the news before Hamor came, but had said nothing, waiting till his sons returned from their employment in the field before speaking at all as to the shame of Shechem's sin with Dinah. The sons, when they came, were not only grieved, but very angry at Shechem. Did they not stop to think that the blame was not only Shechem's, but Dinah's also? For though this was sin, it was not rape.

Hamor came at this time to tell them that Shechem had real affection for Dinah and wanted to marry her. At the same time he invited them to remain in the land and have their families intermarry. No doubt to the mind of Hamor this was the honorable way to meet the question. Shechem adds to this that he is willing to pay any dowry that they might ask of him for Dinah (vs.11-12).

But the sons of Jacob were far from honorable in the way they answered. No doubt Jacob did not suspect their motives at all, but it was with cruel deceit that they told Shechem and Hamor that only if all the males of the land would be circumcised could they consent to Hamor's suggestion, and in fact promised that if the men were circumcised, they will live together as one people, willing to intermarry with the natives there. If they would not agree to be circumcised, then the brothers say they will take Dinah with them and leave the country (vs.14-17).

The terms of the pact proposed by Jacob's sons were fully agreeable to Hamor and Shechem, and Shechem specifically did not delay to be circumcised because of his love for Dinah. We are told he was more honorable than all the household of his father. The two of them then carried a message to the inhabitants of their city, to the effect that Jacob and his family were friendly toward them and would be glad to settle there and intermarry, but only on condition that all the men of the city should be circumcised as they were. All no doubt recognized that circumcision had a religious connotation and they would not be in the least suspicious of any ulterior design against them. Moreover, the wealth of Jacob's family would be a welcome addition to the area, making all to benefit by them (vs.20-23). These were persuasive arguments, and found the men of the city fully agreeable, so that all of them were circumcised.

Then the cruel treachery of Jacob's sons comes to the surface. Only Simeon and Levi are mentioned here, brothers of Dinah, though Reuben and Judah were also her brothers. The two however attack the unarmed city, killing every male while they were still sore from surgery. Of course this was totally unexpected and the men had no defence. No men were left either to organize any counter attack. Hamor and Shechem also, who had been considerate of Jacob's family, were killed. Dinah was taken from Shechem's house, and other women and children all taken captive, while the possessions of the inhabitants, including all their livestock, were taken as if they were the spoils of war (vs.26-29).

This whole action was so cruelly unjust that we wonder that there was nothing whatever done in the way of retribution or correction. God has certainly exposed it in all it naked wickedness, and we know He could not approve of anything like this. Yet why was there no recompense? It seems the answer is simply that God does not always settle His accounts quickly: the wheels of His government grind slowly, but He misses nothing, and will in His own time take care of every detail of our ways. At least, as to Simeon, see Genesis 42:24. The other brothers at the same time went through a traumatic ordeal. But the full end of the matter is in God's hands. This is consistent with God's ways always in regard to Israel the nation. He did not allow others at this time to attack Jacob, but He will deal with His people in His own time and way.

Jacob was shocked by the vicious action of his sons, and protested to them that they had given Jacob an odious reputation before the inhabitants of the land, and that he was exposed to the likelihood of being attacked himself and destroyed together with his household. Jacob's sons, however, only answered defiantly, "Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?" This was not fair mindedness, for Shechem had not actually dealt that way, and if he had, did that justify Simeon and Levi in their killing all the men of that city and plundering their houses? their dealings with the city were far worse than was Shechem's sin.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 34:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/genesis-34.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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