Genesis 34 makes my blood boil as the father of a little girl…
This is a tragic, tragic story. The first thing I noticed is that there is not one reference to God in Genesis 34. Jacob’s awesome face-to-face encounter with the Lord in the previous chapter is followed by this Godless incident that threatens the very survival of Jacob’s entire family. This is how quickly things can turn bad when we take our focus off the Lord for even a minute.
Dinah is the daughter of Jacob and Leah. She has six full brothers: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, all older than her. She also has 5 half-brothers at this point, four of which are older than her. She is probably a teenager, although we can’t be sure. Someone should have been keeping an eye on her, now that they were back in Canaan, but they weren’t. And Dinah is starting to get around town (Genesis 34:1) in this wicked, pagan country. Shechem is the spoiled son of Hamor the Hivite, the “prince of the land.” (Genesis 34:2) Shechem is clearly accustomed to having whatever, or in this case whoever, he wants. He even has the city named after him. Like a lot of immature boys, he thinks with another body part instead of his brain – and that always gets boys in trouble. I use the word “boys” intentionally here. Men (regardless of their age) are boys who have grown up. And controlling lust is part of growing up. Lust is a dangerous thing. I don’t believe that Shechem raped Dinah – although that is a popular interpretation of this chapter. I believe that there is plenty of evidence in the chapter that this was consensual (just two examples, she is still living in his house in verses 17 and 26). What happened is that sleazy, spoiled-brat Shechem talked Dinah into having sex with him and then, after he took her for a test drive, asked his important daddy to find a way to “get me this girl for my wife.” (Genesis 34:4) What a baby! Shechem’s daddy’s name, Hamor, by the way, means “an ass.” I think the significance of the name had more to do with worshipping donkeys, but I can’t help but smirk at the name when I read it. He was an important and wealthy man who spoiled his son by giving him everything he wanted. In the end, this lack of parental discipline resulted in both of their deaths. Typical.
Whether the sex was consensual or not, two important things are worth noting in her family’s response. Jacob’s response seems pretty weak, considering he is her dad. And the response of two of her older brothers, Simeon and Levi seems a bit heavy-handed. Although, I must say as I write this and watch my daughter innocently play with her little friends outside, that I side more with Simeon and Levi in this situation. Men are supposed to protect women, not take advantage of them or treat them as toys and then discard them. Single ladies, date men rather than boys.
Circumcision, ironically, was supposed to be a rite that reflected Israel’s separation from the pagan nations around them. In this case, Simeon and Levi deceitfully convince the men of Shechem to circumcise themselves as a condition for Shechem to marry Dinah. Circumcision was not a medical procedure done in a hospital with sterile utensils at this point. It was very crudely performed, and resulted in severe pain for several days afterward. While the men of the city are in extreme pain, Simeon and Levi massacre them with swords (Genesis 34:25) and, perhaps with the help of their other brothers, loot the entire city. (Genesis 34:27)
Of course, I’m not saying that what Simeon and Levi did was right. It clearly wasn’t. They have followed in their father’s footsteps (not the ones he would have preferred them to follow) and have become deceivers themselves. Even worse, they have also become murderers. Their actions, like the actions of any vigilantes, are no more ethical than the initial crime that led to their response. In fact, the sad truth about this story is that no one in it behaved ethically. Jacob didn’t insure that his daughter was adequately trained or supervised. Probably because of his own business dealings with Hamor (Genesis 33:19), he may have been afraid to approach Hamor with a more measured response. A lot of parents don’t know how to respond when something like this happens. But, from the text, Jacob didn’t seem to respond at all. In his non-response, he unwisely left the response to his older sons, who gave full vent to their anger and outrage over the way their younger sister was treated like a piece of meat. (Genesis 34:31) While I understand their outrage, I don’t condone their response. This is one of those difficult chapters in the Bible in which no one behaves like they even believe there is a God, much less like they are God’s chosen people. I’d like to put a neat ending on this one, but there isn’t one. This whole episode just reflects how badly we need a Redeemer.