Genesis 34 – Simeon and Levi Massacre the Men of Shechem
A. The rape of Dinah.
1. (1-4) A local prince violates Dinah and then wants to marry her.
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to 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 violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”
a. Now Dinah the daughter of Leah: This chapter contains one of the most shameful incidents in Israel’s history. A terrible crime was committed against Dinah the daughter of Leah, but the response by her brothers was worse than the crime. When the Bible shows its leaders and heroes in such terrible, plain truth, we can know for sure that it is a book from God. Men don’t normally write about themselves and their ancestors like this.
i. Leupold’s preaching suggestions on the chapter give us an idea of this: “We may well wonder if any man who had proper discernment ever drew a text from this chapter… It is rightly evaluated by the more mature mind and could be treated to advantage before a men’s Bible class. But we cannot venture to offer homiletical suggestions for its treatment.”
b. Went out to see the daughters of the land: We remember that Jacob brought his family to a region in the Promised Land that God didn’t really want them to be in. It seems God directed him to return to Bethel (Genesis 31:13), and his time spent in the city of Shechem did much harm to his family.
i. Jacob chose a place to live for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to be close to the city (Genesis 33:18), though the city had a strong and ungodly influence. God called him to Bethel, and Jacob’s poor choice of a place to live left his family open to ungodly influence.
c. Went out to see the daughters of the land: Dinah’s desire to do this was understandable but unwise. Jacob did not make sure she was properly supervised. To allow unsupervised socialization in a pagan town was a failure of responsibility on the part of Jacob and Leah.
i. “Unattached young women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself.” (Morris)
ii. “This occurrence serves to illustrate the low standard of morals prevalent among the Canaanites. Any unattended female could be raped, and in the transactions that ensue neither father nor son feel the need of apologizing for or excusing what had been committed.” (Leupold)
iii. But try telling this to a teenager like Dinah! Teenagers often want it all, and they want it now. It is almost impossible for them to see the benefits of waiting for certain things until they are more mature.
iv. One of the ways this difficulty has been measured has been called the marshmallow test. A researcher gives this choice to a four-year-old: “I am leaving for a few minutes to run an errand, and you can have this marshmallow while I am gone, but if you wait until I return, you can have two marshmallows.” Researchers at Stanford did this test in the 1960’s, and a dozen years later they found the kids who grabbed the single marshmallow tended to be more troubled as adolescents. The one-marshmallow kids also scored an average of 210 points less on university entrance exams. Learning to delay gratification is important.
d. Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her: Jacob’s lack of attention and protection was partially at fault in this tragedy. His own compromise made him less able to stand up to his own children and guide them as he should.
i. Jacob’s children knew he told his brother Esau he would go south with him, but Jacob went north instead. They picked up on this and other areas of compromise and used them to justify their own compromise.
e. He took her and lay with her, and violated her: As for the young man named Shechem, his soul was strongly attracted to Dinah and he even spoke kindly to her. Yet we cannot say he loved her, because he violated her.
i. It was a soulish love Shechem had for Dinah, not a spiritual, godly, or good kind of love. He loved her for what she could be for him and give to him, not for what he could be and give to her. His heart was shown in the words “get me this young woman as a wife.” It was a soulish “get me” kind of love.
ii. It is possible for a man to be attracted to a woman and to show kindness to her for reasons having nothing or little to do with real love. In a desire to connect romantically with a man, a woman may willingly overlook this and hope for the best.
2. (5-7) Jacob’s lack of outrage; the anger of Simeon and Levi.
And 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. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. And 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.
a. Jacob held his peace until they came: This section gives the impression that Jacob’s sons were far more offended and outraged than their father Jacob was. Upon hearing that Shechem had defiled Dinah his daughter, he held his peace until his sons returned from the fields.
i. Jacob’s refusal to do what is right in regard to his family will encourage two of his sons to do something, something terrible in response. When God-appointed heads do not take appropriate leadership, it creates a void, which is often filled sinfully.
b. The sons of Jacob… and the men were grieved and very angry: Ancient Middle Eastern cultures had a strong sense of family honor, strong enough to use violence to defend this sense of honor. In this culture, the brothers had a greater responsibility to protect their sister than the father. Yet the sons of Jacob would go on to defend the family’s honor in unwise and sinful ways.
3. (8-12) Hamor and Shechem seek to arrange the marriage of Dinah.
But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves. So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.” Then Shechem said to her father and her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. Ask 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.”
a. Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves: The Canaanite’s proposal to marry the daughter of Jacob was a dangerous challenge to the covenant family. Irresponsible intermarriage with the Canaanites could prove especially harmful for this family with such an important destiny in God’s redemptive plan.
b. Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves: This was far more than a matter between a young Canaanite man and Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. If they married, it would set the pattern for future marriages between Jacob’s family and the people of Canaan. The result would be the eventual and complete assimilation of Jacob’s family into Canaanite culture (so you shall dwell with us… dwell and trade in it). The future of this covenant family as a distinct people was at risk.
c. Whatever you say to me I will give: Hamor and Shechem probably thought themselves generous. But their manner of negotiating the arrangement of the marriage insulted Dinah and her family even more with a “just-name-your-price” attitude. They acted as if money and marriage could make her disgrace go away.
4. (13-17) The counteroffer of Simeon and Levi: all the men of the city of Shechem should be circumcised.
But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. And 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. But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised, then 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. But if you will not heed us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
a. The sons of Jacob answered… and spoke deceitfully: Their response to Shechem and Hamor was a planned, calculated deception.
b. If every male of you is circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you: Hamor and Shechem agreed to such an extreme demand because circumcision was not only practiced among the Israelites, but some other ancient peoples also circumcised their males. Shechem and Hamor knew of the practice from the rituals of other nations.
c. For that would be a reproach to us: From the beginning, Simeon and Levi planned evil against Shechem and Hamor and their people. Yet they covered their evil plan with spiritual words, and they used Dinah as a cover for their intended evil.
i. They felt justified because the men of Shechem treated Dinah their sister as a prostitute (Genesis 34:31), but they prostituted the sign of God’s covenant for their own violent purpose.
5. (18-24) Hamor and Shechem convince the men of the city to go along with the plan.
And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. So 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. And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and spoke with the men of their city, saying: “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. Only 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. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will dwell with us.” And 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.
a. Their words pleased Hamor and Shechem: Despite the obvious sacrifice involved, Hamor and Shechem were pleased with this plan. Beyond the obviously deep attraction Shechem had for Dinah, they were also pleased to begin to marry into a family so large, wealthy, and influential.
b. He was more honorable than all the household of his father: Among the Canaanites of his time and place, Shechem was more honorable than others. He sincerely delighted in Jacob’s daughter.
c. Will not their livestock, their property, and every animal of theirs be ours: The father and son (Hamor and Shechem) had to convince the men of their community to receive the painful and possibly dangerous procedure of circumcision. They convinced them it was worth it because they could then take their daughters to us as wives and take their livestock, property, and every animal of theirs. The potential gain of wealth made it worth it.
d. Every male was circumcised: The men of Shechem agreed and all received the painful and potentially dangerous operation of circumcision.
B. Simeon and Levi destroy the city of Shechem.
1. (25) The massacre of the men of the city of Shechem.
Now 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.
a. When they were in pain… each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males: This was not only a brutal, deceptive act, but it also disgraced God’s covenant of circumcision. Surely, with this clever act of violent deception, Simeon and Levi showed themselves to be the children of Jacob from a bitter, competitive home environment.
i. In pain: “Crudely performed, circumcision could be quite incapacitating, particularly after two or three days” (Kidner).
b. Came boldly: It was a bold plan to massacre an entire community of men under the cover of their acceptance of the demand to be circumcised. It was bold in the cause of evil.
i. “The boldness with which they executed their foul plan shows the hardness of their hearts.” (Barnhouse)
2. (26-29) They rescue Dinah and plunder the city.
And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses.
a. They killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword: There was no sparing of the sword. Even relatively good men like Shechem (Genesis 34:19) were killed. The sons of Jacob justified this murder and theft by saying their sister and family had been dishonored, but the punishment was clearly excessive.
b. Plundered the city…They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, and all their wealth: The sons of Jacob completely plundered the city of Shechem, including taking the surviving women and children as slaves.
i. “By way of making some amends for their sister’s defilement, with dastardly treachery they slay the whole of the Shechemites, and so bring the guilt of murder upon a family which ought to have been holiness unto the Lord.” (Spurgeon)
3. (30-31) Jacob’s reaction.
Then 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.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”
a. You have troubled me by making me obnoxious: In response to the terrible massacre and plundering of Shechem, Jacob seemed to only be concerned with himself and the danger of retribution against his small family (I am few in number). There was no concern for right and wrong, for God’s righteousness, or for the death and plunder of innocents. This was Jacob, not Israel in action.
i. “All was out of order, and threatened to become much worse. Even the heathen outside began to smell the ill savor of Jacob’s disorganized family, and the one alternative was—mend or end.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Jacob! You brought that trouble on yourself. You passed your own deceitful nature into your boys. You set them a constant example of guile. They heard you lie to Esau at Peniel and start northwest after he went southeast. They saw your interest in the fat pastures when you pitched your tent in Shechem. You said nothing when Dinah was violated… Talk to God about your own sin before talking to these boys about theirs.” (Barnhouse)
b. Should he treat our sister like a harlot: This was Simeon and Levi’s only reply. They were correct that their sister Dinah had been abused and treated terribly. Yet none of that justified their outrageous evils of mass murder, enslaving women and children, and theft through plunder.
i. When Jacob was about to die, he prophesied over each of his 12 sons. This is what he said about Simeon and Levi: Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let 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. Cursed 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 (Genesis 49:5-7). He saw Simeon and Levi for who they were, but he rebuked them far too late.
ii. The prophetic word of God through Jacob proved true. God did in fact both divide the tribes of Simeon and Levi, and scatter them among Israel. But, significantly, the way it happened for each tribe was different.
· The tribe of Simeon, because of their lack of faithfulness, was effectively dissolved as a tribe, and the tribe of Simeon was absorbed into the tribal area of Judah.
· The tribe of Levi was also scattered, but because of the faithfulness of this tribe during the rebellion of the golden calf (Exodus 32:26-28), the tribe was scattered as a blessing throughout the whole nation of Israel.
iii. Both were scattered, but one as a blessing and the other as a curse.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission