Genesis 34 - Jacob's Daughter

January 13, 2021

1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.

And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.

And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.

And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.

And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.

And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter: which thing ought not to be done.

And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.

And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.

10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.

11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.

12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:

14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:

15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor's son.

19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.

20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,

21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.

23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of their's be our's? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.

24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.

26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.

27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.

28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,

29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.

30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

Events:

1. Dinah visits with the women of the land.

2. Shechem, the son of the local ruler, commits fornication with Dinah.

3. Shechem announces his desire to marry Dinah.

4. Simeon and Levi trick Shechem and the men of the city into submitting to circumcision.

5. While they are still recovering from the circumcision, the sons of Jacob kill all the men in the city.

6. Jacob rebukes his sons for their actions.

What does this passage teach us?

Verses 1–7. Thoughtful readers who come upon the Bible for the first time are usually taken back by the brutal honesty of Scripture as it presents the lives of its protagonists in living color. These are flawed heroes operating in a broken world. But who are we to despise these men and women? We cannot help but see that their world is the same as ours. If we were to be honest with ourselves, we would find stories like this one surprisingly relevant and informative to our own situation.

This sad story begins with a young woman who left her father’s house to associate with the pagans in the nearby city. These circumstances raise two issues of concern to Christian parents. In our present day, the emancipation and independence of young women from their father’s home is considered normative. A family that desires to stay together until sons and daughters leave to cleave to their respective spouses is considered odd. But this was not the case for about 98% of world history. In the past, caring fathers felt a responsibility to look out for the well being of their daughters. They would carefully consider what social situations might be safe for their daughters. To this point, Jacob had avoided a synthesis with the Canaanites himself. The problem of synthesis would later become a major issue for Israel through the period of the Judges and the Kings.

 Undoubtedly, the city of Shechem was just a small village with a population of 50-100 people. What occured here was tragic on several levels. It is true that these people were under God’s sentence of judgment, but He was postponing this judgment for at least another 400 years.

Living in this world and having access to worldly people has its drawbacks. Jacob discovered this to be the case with his daughter Dinah. What happened to Dinah is no isolated event in human history. This sad circumstance has played out millions of times in every culture around the world. When a young Christian girl pulls away from the accountability of her home, she subjects herself to this kind of trouble. She can find it in the godless public schools and universities, or with the wrong crowd of teens at church. If she spends excessive amounts of time with unbelieving friends, she increases her risk of experiencing a life-altering tragedy. This is not to say that a young woman cannot or should not ever leave home. But the Apostle Paul does discourage excessive social interaction for women in 1 Tim. 5:13. He would rather they marry and manage the home (vs. 14). Also, a careful read of Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31 reveals what the major focus of a wise young woman should be. She should be home-centered: taken up with managing the home. If she leaves the home, it is for the purpose of business, trade, and charitable endeavors.

A Christian family’s interaction with the world is limited mostly to evangelization and trade. Thoughtful Christian parents will carefully avoid sending their children into the world to be educated in a worldly manner of thinking. Why would we want our children socialized and trained in an unbiblical world and life view? The ultimate synthesis occurs when Christian children intermarry with the world. This was the situation Jacob confronted in this story. Tragically, in the case of Dinah, what began as social intercourse with the women in the land led to sinful intercourse with a man. The young son of the city leader took Dinah to bed—without making a marriage covenant. According to Exodus 22:16–17, the sin of fornication is serious and should be treated as a civil offense. The young man must either pay the dowry, or marry the young woman. Historically, this fine amounted to a 1-3 year salary, or at least $30,000. Whether Jacob’s failure to protect his daughter contributed to this sad situation, or his daughter acted in rebellion to him, we do not know. It is clear that Jacob was passive, and seemed oddly disconnected, from everything that transpired. It was Dinah’s brothers who took action.

However, Scripture holds the father responsible and culpable before God for the protection and the paideia, the training and discipleship, of the children (Eph. 6:4; 1 Thess. 2:11; Neh. 4:14). Jesus Christ has hard words for the parent who causes a child to stumble. He says, “It would be better for him that a millstone be hung around his neck and he be drowned at the bottom of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). Yet, the Bible does not prescribe the specific measures or the extent to which that protection and paideia is to be employed. God commands a father to love his neighbor as himself.

Therefore, the extent to which a father pours himself into the protection and paideia of his daughter depends on how much he loves his God and how much he loves his daughter. In a day where fornication is practically the norm and the average father is almost entirely disengaged from his daughter’s dating relationships, it should go without saying that fathers do not love God or their daughters very much. It seems that fathers act like Lot or Jacob when parenting their daughters. However, with the coming of Jesus Christ, we begin to hope that the hearts of fathers will turn towards their daughters. We hope that there will be more loving fathers than either disengaged fathers or angry control-freaks who like to impose tyranny upon their homes. May God bring sharp conviction to the hearts of fathers everywhere! Only by an apprehension of the love of God in Jesus Christ will we begin to see the hearts of fathers warmed to love.

Verses 8–31. While Jacob could hardly be bothered with the news of Dinah’s plight, her brothers reacted in vindictive rage. Family dynamics may have played a part in this. It is significant that Levi, Simeon, and Dinah were all Leah’s children. From everything we have learned about Jacob thus far, we know that Jacob favored Rachel’s children over Leah’s. It may very well have been Jacob’s favoritism that explains his apparent disinterest in the incident involving Dinah.

Dinah’s brothers took Shechem’s misdeed against their sister as an act of war and responded accordingly. Continuing in the old family tradition of deception, they deceived the men in the city on the pretense of a truce. They talked the men of the city into circumcising (cutting) the foreskin of every male in the city, and then put every one of them to the sword. The Bible does not justify their wrathful over-reaction to the Dinah affair. As James puts it, “The wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Jacob later showed his displeasure for their actions, indicating that they had not consulted their father first, so we understand that they had clearly violated the fifth commandment when acted as they did. However, such harsh measures as that taken against the village hardly meets the standard of biblical justice. God’s law would have only imposed a fine upon the young man who violated Dinah.

Under conditions where there is no established civil government to administer justice, small city states often take these prerogatives into their own hands. The situation here was similar to that found in the American “Wild West” during the latter part of the 19th century. Small town sheriffs, posses, and town militias would administer justice, sometimes getting into fights with nearby Indian tribes. Even under primitive conditions such as these, God’s standards of righteousness must still be carefully applied in order to define a just war and the proper measures of justice.

It is worth pointing out that God did not correct, chastise, or punish Jacob and his family for this breach of justice. However, Jacob later remembered Simeon and Levi’s actions when he pronounced his final blessings at the end of his life. The choices they made really mattered. The ripple-effect of their actions impacted future generations.

How does this passage teach us to walk with God in faith and obedience?

1. How many tragedies might be avoided if we lived according to the dictates of God’s Word? Things come unravelled when we are outside of the will of God. It is the will of God that fathers love their daughters and protect them, and that sons and daughters to honor their parents. This passage provides a good lesson to fathers and children.

2. Let us also cultivate among ourselves a strong sense of jurisdictional authority. God has delegated authority as He sees fit, and it is for us to recognize this authority. At the most basic level, this applies to children. In the home, our children should be careful not to usurp the authority of their parents. Oftentimes, older siblings will be bossy with their younger siblings and make decisions for them, even when that authority has not been properly delegated to them. The usurpation of jurisdictional authority is the root of all sorts of evil in the world. It contributes to both anarchy and tyranny, and disrupts family, church, and state. When children try to usurp parental authority and when parents abdicate their responsibilities, they sin against God. This is how things began to unravel in the story found in Genesis 34. Let us be careful not to assume authority that does not belong to us.

Questions:

1. What are the themes of Chapters 1 to 34?

2. How did Dinah fail to act wisely in this story?

3. How did Shechem fail to act rightly in this story?

4. How did Jacob fail in this story?

5. How did Simeon and Levi fail in this story?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. To what extent should a father intervene in his daughter’s activities? If a father loved his daughter, how much interest would he take in her courtship and future marriage? How much should our daughters and sons interact with unbelievers in the surrounding neighborhoods and cities?

2. Does our family express honor for our parents? Do our children ever improperly usurp the authority of their parents? Is it clear when that authority is properly delegated?