Upon dwelling in the new territory of Canaan, the prince of the land violated Jacob’s daughter. The chapter focuses on the different responses between Jacob and his sons regarding the incident. This lesson teaches us how one should respond in anger and how one should not justify evil deeds for the sake of observing a religious practice.
Did You Know...?
- “Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1): The Septuagint version can be literally translated as such, ”Dinah went out to observe closely with the purpose of ultimate understanding the daughters whom belonged to a particular local customs.”
- Hamor (34:2) can literally be translated as “male-donkey” in Hebrew. Though the name may sound pejorative, it was common to name persons with animal names. Since donkey is a valued animal, naming someone as a reference to the mentioned animal carries a significant importance. [ref]
- Shechem violated Dinah (34:2): The word “violate” in Hebrew can literally be translated into multiple meanings such as to oppress or to mistreat (Gen 16:6), to submit (Gen 16:9), to shame someone in terms of one’s marital status (Gen 31:50), to rape (Judg 20:5) and to discipline (Isa 58:3). According to context, the violation of Dinah can be treated as a rape. Furthermore, the book of Deuteronomy explains a precise ordinance regarding a rape that one who seized and laid a virgin must pay the penalty of fifty shekels of silver to the girl’s father. And the wife should be his wife all of his days (Deut 22:28, 29).
- “Get me this young woman as a wife” (34:4): Such an expression “took a wife” is typical for marriage in the Middle-Eastern culture.
Other examples in the Bible include Gen 11:29, 24:67; Judg 14:2;
1 Chr 7:15. And in that time, it was common for a parent to seek a wife for his or her son (Gen 21:21, 38:6; Deut 22:16).
- A disgraceful thing in Israel (34:7): Apart from the context of rape or sexual lewdness, the word “disgraceful” or “senselessness” in its Hebrew literal translation can also apply to several context, such as: of adultery or harlotry (Deut 22:21; Jer 29:23), of stubbornness in one’s character (
1Sam 25:25), and of speaking foolishness (Isa 32:6).
- Hamor spoke to the sons of Jacob (34:8): It was customary for the elder brothers to take a paternal position in the family toward their sister,including a marriage proposal. For example, during the marriage proposal to Rebekah, Laban—her brother—played an important role in allowing the marriage to happen or not (Gen 24:50). In addition, Tamar—after her rape incident—”remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house” (
2 Sam 13:20).
- Dowry and gift (34:12): The word “dowry” in Hebrew can literally be translated as “purchase-price of a wife” or”bride-price.” According to Jewish customs, the gifts were rewards for accepting the marriage proposal but the bride-price was given in addition to the gifts (Ex 22:16;
1 Sam 18:25). Thus, the bride-price was a sum of money or its equivalent paid to the girl’s father as a compensation to the family. It was not strictly speaking the purchase price of the young woman, but rather it was the customary wedding money. [ref]
What was the significance of Dinah “going out to see the daughters of the land”?
What were the deeds of Shechem toward Dinah?
How were Shechem’s deeds viewed by: Jacob and his sons;Hide Answer
The book of Genesis showed us that the sons of Jacob were grieved and angry at the disgraceful thing done by Shechem. The disgraceful acts were as follows: First, seizing a girl and taking her away from her home without her or her family’s consent (Gen 34:2). Second, lying with or having sexual relationship with a girl before marriage (Gen 34:7).
Hamor and the city of Shechem;Hide Answer
The deeds of Shechem were viewed by Hamor,his father, as efforts of a young man to pursue his love. Thus, Hamor pleaded with the sons of Jacob to let Shechem be reunited with his soulmate, Dinah (Gen 34:8). Hamor and the city of Shechem did not consider the acts of Shechem as something they should regret or be shameful of, let alone be considered immoral.
Compare the deeds of Shechem to our present culture of sexual relationship.Hide Answer
By force, Shechem had sexual relationship with Dinah. Later on, when his soul was attracted to the girl, he loved and proposed to marry her to be husband and wife (Gen 34:3-4). Similarly, today’s sexual culture views premarital relationship not as an immoral act but as an effort “to connect with another person in an enjoyable way” or as a way “to satisfy a biological need, not including reproduction.” [ref]
Thus, love and marriage could come after an intimate sexual relationship has been established between two people.
How did the disgraceful deeds of Shechem, the Hivite, support the warnings of the forefathers and foreshadow the warnings of God about the Canaanites’ lifestyle to the Israelites? See also Gen 19:5, 11 and Lev 18:1-3.Hide Answer
The deeds of Shechem, the Hivite, to Dinah were considered as a disgrace to the sons of Jacob and such deeds ought not to be done in Israel. Previously, the forefathers had warned their sons and descendants concerning taking a wife from the Canaanites due to their unacceptable and ungodly habits and lifestyles. For example, the city of Sodom, a Canaanite territory, was filled with men from young to old who had the habit of the same-sex relationships and other immoralities (Gen 19:5, 11). Furthermore, the deeds of Shechem foreshadowed God’s warnings concerning the lifestyle of the Canaanites. Upon entering the land of Canaan, the Lord specifically warned the Israelites not to follow the doings of the land of Canaan nor to walk in their ordinances (Lev 18:1-3).
After Shechem violated Dinah, his soul was strongly attracted to her. And he loved her and spoke kindly to her. At the end, he in the name of love, proposed marriage to her (Gen 34:2-4), undermining and disregarding his violation and his disgraceful act against her. But if we compare Shechem with Amnon, then Shechem would certainly have been the more honorable man. Shechem tried to make right what was wrong by proposing to marry Dinah after he had violated her.
Amnon towards Tamar;Hide Answer
Amnon loved his own sister, Tamar. To pursue his love, he wanted to do anything to her, yet it was improper. In the name of love, Amnon did not heed the advice of Tamar and instead, overcame her and laid with her (
2 Sam 13:1-4, 14). At the end, his love turned into a great hatred that Amnon commanded his servant to “put [Tamar] out, away from [him], and [bolted] the door behind her” ( 2 Sam 13:15-17). By comparing Amnon with Shechem, we learn that Amnon was not only irresponsible but also wicked in his deeds. The Scriptures show us that Amnon raped his sister Tamar, hated her and put her away from his presence. Amnon had no intention to make right what was wrong but he continued his wrongdoings even worse.
Give examples on how people in today’s culture are similar to Shechem’s example, permitting every deed in the name of love.Hide Answer
Shechem was willing to do anything, including the immoral ones, to satisfy his lust and to pursue his love. Similarly, today we may have done the same thing for the sake of prioritizing our lust for love. For example, in the name of love, we may have sacrificed our family, knowing that our spouse’s character causes bereavement to the family. Next, in the name of love, we may have disobeyed God’s commandment, by committing relationships that ought not to be done as children of God. Furthermore, in the name of love, we may have sacrificed our faith which we have known since little, forsaking our God and our faith to follow our spouse or even the different belief of our spouse.
Compare and contrast the reactions and the responses between Jacob with his sons upon hearing the news about Dinah.Hide Answer
When Jacob heard about Dinah being defiled, Jacob held his peace until his sons returned from the field (Gen 34:5). On the other hand, when the sons of Jacob heard the news about Dinah, they were grieved and very angry (Gen 34:7).
The way they reacted to the news was also different. Jacob, knowing that he was few in number, did not want to make any actions that would cause him to be obnoxious among the inhabitants (Gen 34:30). But the sons of Jacob, filled with anger, deceived the whole city of Shechem (Gen 34:14-17). And when they were in pain of circumcision, Simeon and Levi took their sword and killed all the males (Gen 34:25-26).
What warning can we learn from the reaction of the sons of Jacob?Hide Answer
The sons of Jacob decided to deceive and later to kill all males of the city of Shechem (Gen 34:7, 13, 25) in order to satisfy their anger. Their actions, in turn, caused Jacob to be troubled, fearing that the inhabitants of the land would hunt Jacob to take their revenge (Gen 34:30).
The book of Proverbs warned us about the danger of uncontrolled anger. In Proverbs 15:18, the writer shares with us that a wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. Furthermore, the writer of the Book of Proverbs continues, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Prov 16:32). Because of their intention to fulfill their anger, the sons of Jacob stirred up the obnoxiousness for themselves among the inhabitants of the land and caused the possibility of the inhabitants to hunt them for revenge. Though the sons of Jacob managed to plunder the whole city of Shechem, their actions caused Jacob to be troubled.
Just as the uncontrolled anger of the sons of Jacob caused obnoxiousness and trouble, our uncontrolled anger can cause trouble and contention not only for ourselves but also for people around us and our loved ones.
How did the acts of Shechem cause a disgrace to: The sons of Jacob;Hide Answer
Because of what had happened to Dinah, the pride and dignity of the sons of Jacob were smeared. As the older brothers in the family, the defilement of Dinah reflected their failure and inability to protect their sister. Until this incident, the families of Jacob had kept themselves from the disgraceful thing ought not to be done. But such a pride was now tainted by the impurity of Dinah.
Dinah (compare with
2 Sam 13:1-19);Hide Answer
The acts of Shechem caused a disgrace to Dinah. Similar disgrace happened in the book of
2nd Samuel where Tamar was raped by her own brother, Amnon ( 2 Sam 13:1-19). Just as Tamar felt ashamed, Dinah too must have experienced the shame of the stigma of a rape victim. Not only the shame from her family but also from the community where she lived. Furthermore, Dinah would also have borne the shame of rejection from a potential suitor who knew her status as a raped victim. Thus, jeopardizing her future marriage life.
When Hamor spoke to Jacob about his son’s wish to marry Dinah, he failed to mention the wrongdoings of his son in taking Dinah by force and violating her (Gen 34:8, 9). The failure of Hamor to apologize to Jacob and his sons for Shechem’s evil deeds showed his indifference toward his son’s violent acts.
How did Hamor view the marriage proposal? In terms of socio-cultural value;
In terms of political value;Hide Answer
The land in the city of Shechem was large enough to support Jacob’s clan (Gen 34:21). Once both sides were secured with each other through marriages, the city of Shechem would be provided with additional alliances to repel any external enemies or invaders. Furthermore, through the alliance, the city of Shechem would be territorially larger and militarily stronger.
In terms of economical value;Hide Answer
The marriage between Shechem and Dinah could also function economically for the people of Shechem. Once the families of Jacob dwelled, traded and acquired possessions in the city (Gen 34:10), their livestocks and properties would have automatically belonged and been added to the families of the city of Shechem (Gen 34:23).
Hamor’s proposal to Jacob and his sons was to make marriages with them, giving Jacob’s daughters to them and taking their daughters to Jacob and his sons (Gen 34:9). But previously, the forefathers had warned their descendants to not take a wife from the land which they dwelled. Abraham had warned his servant to swear by the Lord to not take a wife for Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites (Gen 24:3). Subsequently, Isaac and Rebeccah gave the same warning to Jacob to not take a wife from Canaan (Gen 27:46, 28:1).
Moreover, at the period of the judges, the Lord rebuked the Israelites for taking the daughters of the Canaanites to be their wives and giving their daughters to the sons of the Canaanites (Judg 3:5-6). In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord gave a specific warning that once the Israelites intermarry with the Canaanites, they would turn away the Israelites from following God to serve other gods, causing the anger of the Lord to be aroused against them (Deut 7:4).
Why did the sons of Jacob scheme a deceit against Hamor and Shechem?Hide Answer
In replying to Hamor and Shechem, the sons of Jacob spoke deceitfully because Shechem had defiled Dinah their sister (Gen 34:13). Their intent of deceit was fueled by their grief and anger of the disgraceful thing which ought not to be done among their people (Gen 34:7), treating Dinah like a harlot (Gen 34:31).
In their deceit, what did the sons of Jacob demand of Shechem and Hamor?Hide Answer
In their deceit, the sons of Jacob demanded Shechem and Hamor to follow their religious tradition that every male in the city of Shechem was to be circumcised (Gen 34:15). They explained that the people of Shechem would then not be a reproach for the Israelites if they were to intermarry with each other (Gen 34:14). The sons of Jacob promised the city of Shechem to be their allies by dwelling and intermarrying in their land. Therefore, they would become as one people (Gen 34:16), no longer divided by different race, culture and religion. Having said all these they threatened to take Dinah and go away (Gen 34:17) if Shechem and Hamor did not comply.
Compare the disgraceful thing done by Shechem with the disgraceful things committed by the sons of Jacob.Hide Answer
While the sons of Jacob considered the rape of Dinah by Shechem disgraceful and a thing ought not to be done in Israel (Gen 34:7), the sons of Jacob themselves did many disgraceful things in response to Shechem’s deeds. First, the sons of Jacob schemed to speak deceitfully to Shechem (Gen 34:13) regarding his marriage proposal. Second, the deceit caused Simeon and Levi to take up their sword and killed all the males of the city, including Shechem and Hamor (Gen 34:15, 16). Third, the sons of Jacob plundered all the wealth of the city and took captives of the little ones as well as the wives of the city of Shechem (Gen 34:28, 29).
How did Shechem persuade the males of the city to give consent to the demands of Jacob’s sons?Hide Answer
After they heard the demands given by the sons of Jacob, Shechem and his father, Hamor, persuaded the men of their city to consent to the demands of Jacob’s sons (Gen 34:22). The men agreed to the plea of Shechem because Shechem was more honorable than all the household of his father (Gen 34:19). Furthermore, Shechem gave his assurance that the families of Jacob were at peace with the city of Shechem (Gen 34:21) and would bring prosperity to the people of Shechem. The intermarriage between the two families would not only benefit the men of Shechem to obtain wives from the families of Jacob but it would also supply the city of Shechem with additional wealth such as the addition of their livestock, their property and their animals (Gen 34:23). Thus, considering the factors above, the men of Shechem finally gave their consent to be circumcised.
Many generations later, Jacob’s descendants would experience deceit and treachery by the Hivites (the people of Shechem). List those events as recorded in the Bible. See also Josh 9:7-13, 22 and Hos 6:9.Hide Answer
There were several events where the peoples of Shechem or the Hivites deceived the Israelites: First, in Joshua’s time, the Hivites deceived Joshua to make a covenant with them so that they would not be destroyed (Josh 9:7-22). Second, according to the narration of the prophet Hosea, the way of Shechem was known for its lewdness. There, bands of robbers lay in wait for a man and the company of priests even committed murder (Hos 6:9).
What can we learn from Genesis 34:25-29 that the sons of Jacob committed even more disgraceful things when compared to Shechem?Hide Answer
From Genesis 34:25-29, we learn that the sons of Jacob committed even more horrid deeds when compared to Shechem. Not only did they deceive the city of Shechem, they also killed all the males, plundered their wealth and took captives of the wives and children. Yet, they did all these to defend the sacredness of their families that “a disgraceful thing ought not to be done in Israel” (Gen 34:7) and that the daughters of Jacob should not be treated like a harlot (Gen 34:31). Furthermore, the sons of Jacob used circumcision, the established-everlasting covenant of God (Gen 17:10), for their deceit. By doing so, not only did they take the covenant lightly but they also disrespected God’s everlasting covenant. Therefore, in the name of religion, the sons of Jacob committed even more horrendous acts than Shechem ever did.
The gospel of Mark mentions how hypocrites will honor God with their lips but their heart is far from Him (Mrk 7:6). The examples of the deeds of the sons of Jacob show us how one can easily become a hypocrite by self-justifying ungodly deeds in the name of God. For example, one fervently attends service at church, diligently prays and reads the Scriptures; but one fails to apply and obey God’s commandments at one’s daily life. The example of the sons of Jacob warns us never to justify any sinful deeds over our devoutness to the Lord.
How did the acts of Simeon and Levi trouble Jacob?Hide Answer
By killing and plundering the city of Shechem, both Simeon and Levi troubled their father, Jacob. These were several of Jacob’s troubled concerns because of his sons’ deeds: First, Simeon and Levi had made Jacob’s name obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land. Second, the actions of the two sons of Jacob would trigger the Canaanites and the Perizzites to gather themselves against Jacob, who was few in number. Third, Simeon and Levi’s deeds would cause the whole household of Jacob and all the families that were with him (Gen 35:2) to be annihilated by the vengeful inhabitants of the land (Gen 34:30).
How did Simeon and Levi view their deeds?Hide Answer
Simeon and Levi replied to Jacob and defended their actions. Both the sons of Jacob considered that their killing and plundering the people of Shechem (Gen 34:25-29) were justified. They were merely avenging their defiled sister and repaying back the wrongdoing which Shechem had committed to the house of Jacob (Gen 34:31).
In regards to the killing and plundering triggered by Simeon and Levi, Jacob prophesied against them in his last words. According to the prophecies, both Simeon and Levi are instruments of cruelty who murder in their anger. Because of what they have done, Jacob refuses to let his soul and his honor to be united to them. In addition, they are also cursed for their fierce anger and their dishonor against their father (Gen 49:5-7). The book of Deuteronomy also confirms that one who dishonor his father is considered a cursed man (Deut 27:16). Although Simeon and Levi justified their own deeds for avenging their sister’s defilement, the Scriptures viewed their anger-fueled deeds as cursed.