Chapter 34

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2020-03-16 16:31.

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Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit the “daughters of the land,” probably meaning the young Hivite women of the city of Shechem. While she was spending time with them, Shechem, the son of the Hivite (Chorrite [LXX] or Horrite) chieftain Hamor, saw her, became infatuated with her, succeeded in getting her to be alone with him, and raped her. He became so passionately attached to Dinah that he wanted to have her as his wife. The Genesis account says that he “loved” her and “spoke to her heart” or spoke tenderly to her in a manner designed to appeal to her. Thereafter Shechem asked his father to get Dinah for him. (34:1-4)

At the time Jacob learned that Shechem had raped Dinah, his sons were away in the field with the domestic animals, and he remained silent until they arrived. (34:5) Josephus (Antiquities, I, xxi, 1) seems to have understood this to mean that Jacob did not say anything to Hamor about whether his son Shechem could marry Dinah. He wrote that Jacob did not know just “how he might deny the desire of one of such great dignity [the chieftain Hamor], and yet not thinking it lawful to give his daughter in marriage to a foreigner, entreated him to give him leave to have a consultation about what he desired him to do.”

Upon returning from their duties in the field and learning about what Shechem had done to Dinah, the sons of Jacob, especially her brothers Simeon and Levi, became very angry. They apparently concealed their wrath from Hamor when he requested that they give Dinah to his son Shechem in marriage and proposed intermarriage and a good relationship with the household of Jacob. Shechem, who was present with his father, offered to give whatever might be requested of him so that he could have Dinah as his wife. (34:6-12)

In their response, Simeon and Levi perverted the purpose of circumcision (the sign of the covenant between YHWH and the descendants of Abraham) to facilitate mass murder. The “sons of Jacob” (“Symeon [Simeon] and Livas [Levi], the brothers of Dinas [Dinah], the sons of Leias [Leah]” [LXX]) deceitfully claimed that they could not give their sister in marriage to an uncircumcised man and that, in the future, they would only give their daughters to the men of the city and intermarry if all the men got circumcised. As a young man who was passionately attached to Dinah and the most honored one in the household of Hamor, Shechem did not delay to get circumcised. (34:13-19)

In the open area at the city gate, Hamor and Shechem spoke to the men of the city, telling them that intermarriage with members of the household of Jacob would greatly contribute to their prosperity, for they could thereby come to possess all the property of Jacob’s family. The words of Hamor and Shechem persuaded the men to accept circumcision as the condition for intermarriage. Disabled by the pain of adult circumcision, the men were defenseless when, on the third day, Simeon and Levi entered the city and killed all the males with their swords. After slaying Hamor and Shechem, they took their sister Dinah out of Shechem’s house. (34:20-26)

Likely to avoid offending his non-Jewish readers, Josephus chose not to mention anything about circumcision in relation to this event. In his Antiquities, (I, xxi, 1), he stated that, while the Shechemites were in a relaxed state and feasting at the time of a festival, Simeon and Levi “fell upon the guards” of the city when they were asleep and then “slew all the males.”

While the Genesis account identifies Simeon and Levi as the sons of Jacob who murdered the males of the city, it does not specify which sons participated in the plundering of the city and its surroundings and taking the women and children captive. Jacob’s reproof was directed to Simeon and Levi. “You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the inhabitants of the land — the Canaanites and the Perizzites.” He feared that the native population would assemble against him and annihilate him and his household, for the members of his household were few when compared to those who could launch an attack. Simeon and Levi did not take their father’s words seriously but justified what they had done, saying, “Should one treat our sister like a prostitute?” (34:27-31)

At the time Simeon and Levi slew the men in the city of Shechem, they must have been only teenagers. When Jacob returned to the land of Canaan with his household, the oldest son Reuben would have been about twelve, Simeon about eleven, and Levi about ten, and the youngest son Joseph about six. (29:18-34; 30:22-25; 31:41) Joseph’s half brothers sold him into slavery when he was seventeen years old, and Levi would have been about twenty-one years of age. A significant amount of time passed between the time Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shechem and the sale of Joseph. This is evident from the fact that Joseph’s half brothers had no concern about tending flocks in the vicinity of Shechem. (37:2, 12, 25-28)