Calvary Chapel – Leesville, SC Wednesday Evening Service – December 2nd, 2020
Last time we saw that Jacob – newly renamed Israel – and his family had finally arrived in the land of Canaan on their journey from Padan Aram. In chapter 33, Jacob reconciled with his brother Esau who then returned to his homeland of Seir in what is today southwestern Jordan, while Jacob crossed over the Jordan and continued to Shechem in the mountains of Samaria.
18Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. 19And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. 20Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel. [God the God of Israel]Genesis 33:18-20 – NKJV
Now we come to one of the most shameful stories in all the Word of God. You have heard me say many times that if we are to accept the Bible as God-breathed, we must accept it in its entirety. Furthermore, we know that God gave us His Word for His specific purposes and for our benefit. With Paul we trust…
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NKJV
We who call ourselves followers of Jesus accept these precepts, and recognize that in our studies and teachings of God’s Word, we must take the unpleasant and difficult passages right along with the rest if we are to rightly divide the Word of Truth as we are called to do. With all that said though, in all candor I must admit I sometimes wish I could just skip over certain passages such as the one we have before us here in Genesis 34.
1Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.Genesis 34:1 – NKJV
Dinah [דִּינָה Diynah – judgement] was first mentioned in Genesis 30:21 as the youngest child of Jacob’s wife Leah. Her birth announcement is unusual in God’s Word which usually confines itself to the genealogies of sons, and mentions daughters by name only rarely when they have a significant role elsewhere in the narrative. Such is the case with Dinah.
2And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. 3His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. 4So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”Genesis 34:2-4 – NKJV
The first question that arises in my mind is whether Dinah was raped, or consented to extramarital sex with Shechem. Over the years, Bible translators and commentators have assumed Dinah was raped. Extramarital/premarital sex in ancient Hebrew society was strictly forbidden, and if consensual, bore a death sentence for both the man and the woman. Since no mention is made of any punishment meted to Dinah, the traditional assumption that she was raped is reasonable. A full scholarly examination of the “rape” of Dinah may be found in this article from thetorah.com. Although thorough, I must say that I find some of the contentions of some of the Hebrew scholars mentioned in the article to be unsupportable. In particular, I find the idea that since the text says that Dinah “went out” among the people of Shechem that she was seeking to have sex with them to be completely without basis.
That said though, the Hebrew text is ambiguous in this regard. Interestingly, ancient Hebrew has no word for rape, and therefore instances of rape are described euphemistically. Here in verse 2 we see (in the NKJV) that Shechem…
- saw Dinah – רָאָה ra’ah – to see, perceive, look at
- took her – לָקַח laqach – to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away
- lay with her – שָׁכַב shakab – to lie, lie down, lie on (euphemistically to have sexual relations)
- violated her – עָנָה `anah – to humble, mishandle, afflict
- KJV – defiled
- NLT, NIV, CSB – raped
- ESV – humiliated
- NASB – [lay with her] by force
- NET – sexually assaulted
Thus, although the Hebrew text isn’t absolutely crystal clear, the traditional interpretation that Dinah was raped seems reasonable. Clearly even if Dinah consented, Shechem certainly overstepped the bounds of acceptable behavior toward her. Nevertheless, it seems from verses 3 and 4 that Shechem had a genuine affection for Dinah and spoke kindly to her. Therefore it is possible that Dinah relented willingly to Shechem’s heavy-handed seduction, but Shechem didn’t actually force himself upon her. Regardless of all that though, the response of Shechem’s father, of Jacob, and of her brothers was just as despicable as Shechem’s own behavior.
5And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.Genesis 34:5-7 – NKJV
Right away we see in Jacob’s reaction to the news of his daughter’s rape that he apparently viewed the matter through the lens of his own prosperity rather than his daughter’s emotional well-being. As we learned in our study of Genesis 31, daughters were considered an economic liability in ancient Hebrew society, as they are in many cultures even today.
ASIDE – After China mandated a maximum of one child per household in 1979, the abortion rate of girls was much higher than of boys, indicating that daughters were and are considered less desirable than sons. The chickens came home to roost when the “more desirable” boys came of age and found a distinct lack of available brides their own age. The problem became so acute that China relaxed its one-child policy in 2015.
Economically, the daughter’s primary value to her father in ancient Hebrew society was in the bride price he might earn from giving his daughter as a wife in an arranged marriage. The bride price that could be demanded was much higher for virgin daughters than for widows or divorced women. Thus in “defiling” Dinah, Shechem had considerably devalued Jacob’s “stock” in her. Therefore here in verse 5 we see that Jacob waited to act or speak on the matter until he could confer with his sons. Even Hamor, the father of the purported rapist, and even Shechem himself were involved in this meeting. It is significant that Dinah herself was not even consulted regarding the issue which affected her deeply and personally more than anyone else.
8But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. 9And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. 10So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.” 11Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12Ask me ever so much dowry and gift, and I will give according to what you say to me; but give me the young woman as a wife.”Genesis 34:8-12 – NKJV
At first blush, Hamor’s proposal seems reasonable. However later on in the story we will learn that even he had ulterior motives in the matter. All the while, of course, Dinah – the actual victim – was not even considered except insofar as she was a commodity to be bargained for. Surprisingly, of all the men present Shechem is the most forthcoming, and the closest to considering Dinah’s own feelings and worth. As of yet, God had not ordained in His Law what was to be done in cases like this. Later on, He would specify that if a man were to “lie with” a virgin before she was married that he was to pay the full bride-price customary for virgins (Exodus 22:16-17).
13But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14And they said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a reproach to us. 15But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, 16then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. 17But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”Genesis 34:13-17 – NKJV
It is said that every effective lie has a small element of truth. At the time of this incident in Genesis 34, God had not yet forbidden intermarriage between the Israelites and the nations among whom they dwelt. That command was given to Moses in Exodus 34:10-16, and reiterated to the people by Moses before his death in Deuteronomy 7:1-6. Yet a tradition already existed among the descendants of Abraham discouraging if not outright forbidding intermarriage with the Canaanites. Abraham sent his servant to Padan Aram to find a wife for Isaac rather than taking a wife for him from among the Canaanites. (Genesis 24). And of course, Jacob’s four wives were also from there. Here in verse 13-14, we see that Jacob’s sons based their deceit of Hamor and Shechem on the true tradition in their family not to take wives from among the Canaanites. But Jacob’s sons devised a despicably wicked plan based on that tiny grain of truth. I have entitled this lesson “Blasphemous Injustice” because Jacob’s sons misused the sacred covenant of circumcision between God and Abraham to carry out a heinous mass murder.
Recall that the sacred covenant of circumcision was given by God to Abraham and his descendants as the seal of God’ promise that Abraham’s descendants would inherit the land of Canaan and that through Abraham’s descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed by the coming of Jesus the Messiah to redeem mankind out of death in our sins.
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. 2And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” 9And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.Genesis 17:1-11 – NKJV
Circumcision among the Jewish people was and is more than a bodily display. It is the seal of a spiritual covenant between God and His chosen people – Israel.
28For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.Romans 2:28-29 – NKJV
So this wicked scheme of Jacob’s sons to debase the covenant of circumcision in order to take vengeance on the men of Shechem for the rape of Dinah was more than just a foul, cold-blooded plan to commit murder. It was a blasphemous abuse of the covenant God had established with the Israelites.
18And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19So the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.Genesis 34:18-19 – NKJV
Verse 19 is what causes me to question the idea that Shechem raped Dinah. Why would God refer to a rapist as “honorable?” I suppose that just because Shechem was more honorable than the rest of his father’s household doesn’t mean he was actually honorable – just less dishonorable. Hundreds of years later, God would call upon the Israelites to utterly destroy the Hivites of Shechem and the other peoples of the land because of the idolatry that these peoples practiced. Perhaps Shechem didn’t partake in the idolatrous practices of his father’s household, and was thus more honorable than they. The Bible doesn’t specify why God calls Shechem more honorable, so we’ll just have to save that question for heaven.
20And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: 21“These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them dwell in the land and trade in it. For indeed the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22Only on this condition will the men consent to dwell with us, to be one people: if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” 24And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.Genesis 34:20-24 – NKJV
Here we find Hamor and Shechem’s ulterior motive in consenting to the condition laid down by Jacob’s sons. Their selling point to the men of the city was that Jacob’s family would be assimilated into the society of Shechem, and that their considerable possessions would therefore become the possessions of the Hivites. Of course, Hamor and Shechem were unaware of God’s plan for the nation of Israel – that he had separated them from among the nations of the earth to accomplish His Gospel purpose of bringing forth Jesus from among the Israelites. Notably, our great enemy Satan has known of God’s plan of salvation since God first promised the coming of the Messiah to Adam and Eve (and the serpent who was also present at that time) in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). Since the purpose of Jesus’ coming was to defeat sin, death, and hell, overthrowing the heretofore reign of Satan on the earth, he has worked continually since that day to prevent Jesus’ coming by destroying Israel.
By God’s will and His power, despite all of Satan’s schemes to destroy them and thus prevent the coming of the Messiah – through the Egyptian enslavement, the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom, the Babylonian captivity, the scheme of Haman the Persian to kill all the Jews we read about in the book of Esther, the Hellenization policy of the Greek conquerors under Alexander the Great, and the Roman conquest – Israel has remained a people and nation separated from the world by God until Jesus the Messiah was born in Roman-occupied Israel. Even throughout the nearly 2000 years of the great diaspora following the Roman destruction of the temple at Jerusalem in 70AD, the Jews have maintained their separate, cohesive identity by God’s will so that He can fulfill the prophecies concerning them – beginning with the restoration of the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan in 1947 that was prophesied by Ezekiel some 2500 years before (Ezekiel 37).
25Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. 26And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out. 27The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, 29and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.Genesis 34:25-29 – NKJV
Here we see the culmination of the hideous, wicked, cold-blooded mass murder perpetrated by Jacob’s sons. The Word of God is unclear as to which of the eleven sons of Jacob who had been born up to that time took part in this plot. Simeon and Levi are named as the two who actually carried out the murders of the men of Shechem, but all of Jacob’s sons may have then taken part in the pillaging of the city. In carrying out this wicked injustice, the sons of Jacob added to their blasphemy by taking upon themselves the rightful place of God alone – taking vengeance. Even if the murder of Hamor and Shechem had been justifiable, certainly the wholesale slaughter of the other men of the city who were absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing was a gross injustice. Furthermore, it is clear Jacob’s sons were only using the “dishonor” of their sister as an excuse to carry out their true selfish purpose – taking the wealth of the city for themselves and carrying away the women and children of the city as slaves. Apparently Jacob himself was unaware of the scheme Simeon and Levi had conceived judging by his shocked outrage when he learned of it.
30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” 31But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”Genesis 34:30-31 – NKJV
Isn’t Jacob’s response to his son’s despicable murder of the men of Shechem and subsequent sacking of their city typical of him? Rather than voicing appropriate outrage at the blasphemy and injustice of what they had done, Jacob viewed the whole wretched matter in terms of how their crime might affect him personally. It is easy to see where the sons of Jacob learned their selfishness and ruthlessness. Indeed, Jacob’s words here were also prophetic in that when the Israelites returned from captivity in Egypt to conquer the land, they failed to utterly drive out the Canaanites (later known as the Philistines) and Perizzites, so the conflict in the land between the Jews of Israel and the “Palestinian” descendants of the Canaanites and Perizzites which began with this horrific act of Jacob’s sons continues even today.
Furthermore, Jacob himself never forgave Simeon and Levi for these vicious acts. Near the end of his life, Jacob gathered his sons together to pronounce his dying blessings.
And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:Genesis 49:1 – NKJV
5“Simeon and Levi are brothers;Genesis 49:5-7 – NKJV
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
6Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
7Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
And scatter them in Israel.
Jacob’s “blessing” on Simeon and Levi also turned out to be prophetic. The tribe of Levi received no inheritance in the land of Israel following the conquest of Canaan. Instead, the Levites became the priestly tribe whose inheritance was the service in the tabernacle and later the temple. The tribe of Simeon did receive an inheritance in the land, but it was wholly enclosed within the holdings of the tribe of Judah. (Joshua 19:1-9)