Genesis (Part 151)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 34: 1-7

34 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”

Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.


The first verse brings to mind, again, the issue of “how long did Jacob stay with Laban.” As we have discussed in earlier sections, there exists a scholarly debate as to whether he remained twenty years or forty years. From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

(1) Dinah . . . went out to see the daughters of the land.—Those commentators who imagine that Jacob sojourned only twenty years at Haran are obliged to suppose that he remained two or more years at Succoth, and some eight years at Shechem, before this event happened, leaving only one more year for the interval between Dinah’s dishonour and the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelites. But even so, if Dinah was now not more than fourteen, there would be left a period of only nine years, in which Leah has to bear six sons and a daughter, with a long interval of barrenness, during which Zilpah was given to Jacob and bears two sons. But besides this impossibility, Jacob evidently remained at Succoth only until he was shalem, sound and whole from his sprain, and Dinah’s visit was one of curiosity, for she went “to see the daughters of the land,” that is, she wanted, as Abravanel says, to see what the native women were like, and how they dressed themselves. Josephus says that she took the opportunity of a festival at Shechem; but as neither her father nor brothers knew of her going, but were with their cattle as usual, it is probable that with one or two women only she slipped away from her father’s camp and paid the penalty of her girlish curiosity. But she would feel no such curiosity after being a year or two at Shechem, so that it is probable that her dishonour took place within a few weeks after Jacob’s arrival there. So, too, Hamor’s words in Genesis 34:21-22 plainly show that Jacob was a new comer; for he proposes that the people should “let them dwell in the land,” and therefore consent to the condition required by them that the Hivites should be circumcised. It would have been absurd thus to speak if Jacob had already dwelt there eight years with no apparent intention of going away.

In verse two we meet one of the Hivites. These are among the descendants of Canaan:

Genesis 10: 15 Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, 16 and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, 17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed.

From the Encyclopedia of the Bible:

HIVITES hī’ vīts (חִוִּ֖י; LXX, ̓Ευαῖοι). One of the names appearing in the lists of peoples dispossessed by the Israelites (Exod 3:81713:523:232833:234:11Deut 7:120:17Josh 3:109:111:312:824:11Judg 3:51 Kings 9:20, cf. 2 Chron 8:7). In Genesis 10:17, the Hivite is one of the sons of Canaan. Hivites were located in the Lebanon hills (Judg 3:3) and in the Hermon range (Josh 11:3). In the reign of David they are listed after Sidon and Tyre (2 Sam 24:7), implying their location near these cities. Hamor, the father of Shechem, is called a Hivite (Gen 34:2). The inhabitants of Gibeon to the N of Jerusalem are identified as Hivites (Josh 9:711:19). Many equate the Hivites with the Horites, assuming an early textual corruption of r(esh) to w(aw). A certain Zibeon is called a Horite (Gen 36:20-30), whereas in v. 2, the same man had been called a Hivite. The LXX of Joshua 9:7 and Genesis 34:2 reads “Horite” instead of MT “Hivite.” Some MSS of the LXX read “Hittite” for MT’s “Hivite” (Josh 11:3Judg 3:3). Clearly these strange ethnica confused the scribes.

It has been maintained that, since no name that closely resembles Heb. חִוִּ֖י has yet been found in extra-Biblical sources, the Biblical name should be viewed as a corruption of Horite, and that both Hivites and Horites should be seen as groups related culturally and linguistically to the Hurrians (q.v.).

Picking up with The Pulpit Commentaries in verse 2:

Genesis 34:2

And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the country, saw her (literally, and Shechem … saw her, and) he took her. “Dinah paid the full penalty of her carelessness. She suffered the fate which Sarah and Rebekah encountered in the land of Pharaoh and Abimelech; she was seen and taken by the son of the prince” (Kalisch); forcibly, i.e. against her will in the first instance, though not, it is apparent, without the blandishments of a lover. And lay with her, and defiled her—literally, oppressed her, offered violence to her, whence humbled her—ἐταπείνωσεν (LXX.), vi opprimens (Vulgate).

Genesis 34:3Genesis 34:4

And his soul clave (vide infra on Genesis 34:8unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob,—it was in some degree an extenuation of the wickedness of Shechem that he did not cast off the victim of his violence and lust, but continued to regard her with affection—and he loved the damsel,—on the use of na’ar for a youth of either sex vide Genesis 24:14and spake kindly unto the damsel—literally, spoke to the heart of the damsel, ἐλάλησε κατὰ τὴν διάνοιαν τῆς παρθίνου αὐτῇ (LXX.), i.e. addressed to her such words as were agreeable to her inclinations (cf. on the import of the phrase Genesis 1:21Judges 19:3Isaiah 40:2Hosea 2:14), probably expressing his affection, and offering the reparation of honorable marriage, as may be legitimately inferred from what is next recorded of his behavior. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife—cf. the ease of Samson (Judges 14:2).

Shechem rapes Dinah but afterward decides that he wants to marry her. As the note mentions, we have encountered the threat of rape (both Sarah and Rebekah) but in the earlier two instances, the kidnapping prince did not actually rape his kidnaped victim. Here Shechem does.

Ellicott sheds some light on the family dynamics in his note for verse 5:

(5) Jacob heard.—As Dinah did not return home (Genesis 34:26), her father probably learned her dishonour from the maidservants who had gone out with her. But “he held his peace,” chiefly from his usual cautiousness, as being no match for the Hivites, but partly because Leah’s sons had the right to be the upholders of their sister’s honour.

As we saw earlier in Genesis, sometimes the brother of a woman outranks her father. Laban negotiated his sister Rebekah’s marriage. Here we re told that Dinah’s brothers are the upholders of her honor rather than Jacob.

Hamor the father of Shechem, goes to negotiate Dinah’s marriage with Jacob.

In verse 7, Dinah’s brothers learn of what happened. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 34:7

And the sons of Jacob (i.e. Leah’s children, Dinah’s full brothers, for certain, though perhaps also her half brothers) came out of the field when they heard it (Jacob having probably sent them word): and the men were grieved,—literally, grieved themselves, or became pained with anger, the verb being the hithpael of צָעַב, to toil or labor with pain. The LXX. connect this with the preceding clause, ὡς δὲ ἤκουσανκατενύγησαν οἱ ἅνδρεςimplying that they did not learn of their sister’s seduction till they came home—and they were very wroth,—literally, it burned to them greatly (cf. Genesis 31:361 Samuel 15:112 Samuel 19:4 :3). Michaelis mentions an opinion still entertained in the East which explains the excessive indignation kindled in the breasts of Dinah’s brothers, vie; that “in those countries it is thought that a brother is more dishonored by the seduction of his sister than a man by the infidelity of his wife; for, say the Arabs, a man may divorce his wife, and then she is no longer his; while a sister and daughter remain always sister and daughter” (vide Kurtz, ‘Hist. of Old Covenant,’ (82)—because he (i.e. Shechem)—had wrought folly.—the term folly easily passes into the idea of wickedness of a shameful character (1 Samuel 25:252 Samuel 13:12), since from the standpoint of Scripture sin is the height of unreason (Psalms 74:22Jeremiah 17:11), and holiness the sublimest act of wisdom (Psalms 111:10Proverbs 1:4)—in (or against) Israel—the word, here applied for the first time to Jacob’s household, afterwards became the usual national designation of Jacob’s descendants; and the phrase here employed for the first time afterwards passed into a standing expression for acts done against the sacred character which belonged to Israel as a separated and covenanted community, especially for sins of the flesh (Deuteronomy 22:21Judges 20:10Jeremiah 29:23), but also for other crimes (Joshua 7:15)—in lying with Jacob’s daughter. The special wickedness of Shechem consisted in dishonoring a daughter of one who was the head of the theocratic line, and therefore under peculiar obligations to lead’s holy life. Which thing ought not to be done—literally, and so is it not done (cf. Genesis 29:26). Assigned to the historian (‘Speaker’s Commentary’), or to the hand of a late redactor (Davidson, Colenso, Alford), there is no reason why these words should not have been spoken by Jacob’s sons (Keil, Murphy, and others)’ to indicate their sense of the new and higher morality that had come in with the name of Israel (Lange).

As the note points out, verse 7 is the first time we see “Israel” used as a reference for Jacob’s household. This implies that it was the understanding always that God’s decision to rename Jacob was a decision to rename his entire family.

The note also points out that this verse may indicate Jacob’s sons felt that a new and higher morality had come in with the name of Israel being bestowed on them.

The conflict escalates in the following verses.