18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are.23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”
24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.
25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”
31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
(Genesis 34:18-31 NIV)
Let’s take a moment to recall the back story that precedes today’s passage.
God called Jacob and his family to leave his father-in-law Laban and go back to Bethel, where Jacob had made a vow to the Lord. Jacob left Laban, reconciled with his brother Esau, but then stopped short in Shechem, bought land, and settled down.
Jacob’s daughter Dinah went into the nearby town, where the local prince sees her, grabs her, and rapes her. The prince then tells his father he wants to marry the girl. Jacob finds out and does nothing; Dinah’s brothers find out, and are at the meeting where the prince and his father ask for Dinah’s hand in marriage. Jacob’s sons answer the request deceitfully and require all the men of the town to be circumcised before they will consider the marriage proposal.
As we pick up the story today, the prince and his father accept the circumcision prerequisite and take the request to the town elders. And with no surprise, we see the true nature of the prince and his father come through when they are with the town elders. They see the tremendous wealth of Jacob and his sons, and want to intermarry with Jacob’s family so all of Jacob’s wealth will eventually be theirs (v. 23).
The city fathers agree, and all the men of the city are circumcised. On the third day (two days after the men are circumcised), two of Jacob’s sons, Levi and Simeon, sneak into the city and kill all the males in retaliation for the prince raping their sister. They grab their sister Dinah and leave the city.
Then the other brothers come into the city and loot it, taking the women, children, and livestock, even household goods. Jacob finds out what his sons have done and accosts Simeon and Levi for their actions. Jacob freaks out about what the people of the neighboring villages might do, and fears for his life. Levi and Simeon ask their father if it was acceptable for the prince and his father to treat their sister like a prostitute.
Chapter 34 is such a low point in Jacob’s story:
- Jacob’s disobedience to the Lord that led to this sad and painful episode
- A daughter’s life shattered
- Inaction and unwillingness on both parties to address the wrong of the rape
- Deceit and treachery on the part of both groups
- Revenge and needless loss of life
- Living in fear from further escalation and revenge from locals
- All these actions taking place and God is conspicuously left out of any discussions
So what do we make of all this?
Some scholars see this chapter as good, when Dinah’s brothers stick up for their sister.
Most scholars see this chapter as very bad, where Jacob and his family act according to the flesh, more like practicing atheists than a people with a vital relationship with God.
May we live out our obedience to the Lord in big and small things.
When hard times come (whether we bring them on ourselves through sin, or whether we must deal with life issues because of the brokenness of the world we live in), may we always walk with the Lord and consult Him first before responding in thought, word, or deed.