Genesis (Part 153)

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

Genesis 34: 18-31

18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19 And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his father’s house. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

25 On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

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It is difficult to imagine in the present day a circumstance wherein everyone in a community would get a circumcision – immediately – at the request of the community’s leader. I suppose it is likely that refusal may have carried with it a penalty from Hamor and Shechem.

“We’re doing what now? Right now?”

From The Pulpit Commentaries for verses 18 through 23:

Genesis 34:18Genesis 34:19

And their words pleased (literally, were flood in the eyes of) Hamor, and (literally, in the eyes of) ShechemHamor’s son. And the young man deferred not (i.e. delayed not) to do the thing (literally, the word, i.e. to submit to circumcision. This is stated here by anticipation), because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter: and he was more honorable—literally, more honored, doubtless because more worthy of regard (cf. 1 Chronicles 4:9)—than all the house of his father.

Genesis 34:20-23

And Hamor and Shechem his son came (or went) unto the gate of their city (vide on Genesis 19:2Genesis 23:10), and communed with (or spake to) the men of their city, saying, These men (i.e. Jacob and his sons) are peaceable with us (literally, peaceable are they with us. This is the first argument employed by Hamor and Shechem to secure the consent of the citizens to the formation of an alliance with Jacob and his sons); therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein;—literally, and they will dwell in the land, and trade in it (so. if you permit)—for (literally, and) the land, behold, it is large enough—literally, broad of hands, i.e. on both sides (cf. Isaiah 33:21Psalms 104:25)—for them (literally, before them, i.e. for them to wander about with their flocks and herds. This was the second argument employed by Hamor and his son); let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only herein (or under this condition) will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised (literally, in the circumcising to or by us of every male)as they are circumcised. After which statement of the indispensable condition of the alliance proposed, they advance as a third argument for its acceptance the material advantages which such an alliance would inevitably secure for them. Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs (the mikneh refer to flocks and herds; the behemah to asses and camels) be ours?—literally, Shall not these (be) to us?—only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary focuses attention specifically on verse 21:

(21) Let us take their daughters . . . —In a young community, such as this of the Hivites at Shechem appears to have been, the addition of a large number of women was a valuable increase of their strength, and one that brought the promise also of future extension. Jacob’s men were also chiefly of the Semitic stock, and therefore possessed of high physical and mental endowments; and as they were rich in cattle and other wealth, their incorporation with the people of Shechem would raise it to a high rank among the petty states of Canaan. There was much plausibility, therefore, in Hamor’s proposal and arguments.

The impression we are given throughout Genesis is that Abraham’s line has the best looking women. We see this with Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Dinah. The text repeatedly emphasizes their beauty. Perhaps this beauty also extends out to the rest of the family as well. In any event, we find here the motivation on the part of Hamor and Shechem to endure the requirements laid out by Jacob’s sons.

From The Pulpit Commentaries, a discussion on the quick acquiescence of the Hivites to the terms of the bargain:

Genesis 34:24

And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city. The ready acquiescence of the Shechemites to the proposal of Jacob’s sons has not unreasonably been regarded as a proof that they were already acquainted with circumcision as a social, if not religious, rite (Kurtz, Keil, &c.). And every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. Knobel notes it as remarkable that the Hivites were not circumcised, since, according to Herodotus, the rite was observed among the Phenicians, and probably also the Canaanites, who were of the same extraction, and thinks that either the rite was not universally observed in any of these ancient nations where it was known, or that the Hivites were originally a different race from the Canaanites, and had not conformed to the customs of the land (vide Lange in loco). Murphy thinks the present instance may point out one way in which the custom spread from tribe to tribe.

As the note implies, it seems likely then that the Hivites were already very familiar with the procedure. It points out that Herodotus wrote that the rite was observed among the Phenicians and also the Canaanites. Continuing in verse25 with Ellicott:

(25) Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren.—As born of the same mother, they, with Reuben and Judah, were especially bound to espouse their sister’s cause, but the method they took was cruel in the extreme. And it seems that these two were the leaders in the plot, having probably excluded Reuben from it, as a man of feeble character and opposed to bloodshed (Genesis 37:22); and Judah, as one too honourable to take part in so nefarious a transaction. Long afterwards Jacob speaks of it in terms of the strongest reprobation (Genesis 49:5-7). In executing their cruel deed, they would command the services of the more active and fierce portion of Jacob’s servants; but they must have been not boys, but men of ripe manhood, before they could have had influence or power enough for so terrible an exploit.

The note explains why Simeon and Levi are the two brothers behind the plot. Reuben and Judah are both excluded, both for their character, but each of those two characters being quite different. We also can surmise here that Simeon and Levi are adults by now.

The sons then slaughtered the Hivites. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 34:26

And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son, with the edge (literally, the mouth) of the sword,—without excusing the inhuman barbarity of this remorseless massacre, Kurtz offers an elaborate and interesting analysis of the complex motive of which it was the outcome, in particular showing how in Jacob’s sons that strange admixture of religious zeal and carnal passion, of lofty faith and low craft, existed which formed so large a portion of the character of the patriarch himself (vide ‘Hist. of the Old Covenant,’ vol. 1. § 82)—and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house,—in which up to this time she had been detained against her will (Alford), though this may be open to question (Kalisch)—and went out.

Genesis 34:27-29

The sons of Jacob—not all except Simeon and Levi (Delitzsch), nor Simeon and Levi alone (Kalisch, Inglis), but Simeon and Levi along with the others (Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange)—came upon the slain,—the absence of the ו conjunctive at the commencement of this verse, which partitionists account for by the hypothesis that Genesis 34:27-29 are an interpolation, is explained by Keil as designed to express the subjective excitement and indignation of the historian at the revolting character of the crime he was narrating—and spoiled the city, because they (i.e. the inhabitants being regarded, on the well-known principle of the solidarity of nations, as involved in the crime of their ruler) had defiled their sister, and so exposed themselves to reprisals, in which they (i.e. the sons of Jacob) took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field, and all their wealth, and all their little ones,—taph, a collective noun for boys and girls, who are so called from their brisk and tripping motion (Gesenius)—and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house. The words describe a complete sacking of the city, in which every house was swept of its inmates and its valuables.

The note above addresses the question of whether Levi and Simeon sacked the city alone or whether – as verse 27 implies – that the other brothers joined in. As the note implies, the answer is unclear.

In any event, the end result of this is that Jacob’s sons slay all of the men of the community, take all of their possessions, and also take the children and wives of the men they have just slain. These actions are not viewed favorably by Jacob or the text more generally. Jacob condemns his sons both here and later in Genesis on his death bed.

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 34:30

And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me (i.e. brought trouble upon me) to make me to stink—or, to cause me to become hateful; μισητόν με πεποιήκατε (LXX.)—among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites (vide Genesis 13:7): and I (sc. with my attendants) being few in number,—literally, men of number, i.e. that can be easily numbered, a small band (cf. Deuteronomy 4:27Psalms 105:1-45.. Psalms 105:12Jeremiah 44:28)—they (literally, and they) shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house. That Jacob should have spoken to his sons only of his own danger, and not of their guilt, has been ascribed to his belief that this was the only motive which their carnal minds could understand (Keil, Gerlach); to a remembrance of his own deceitfulness, which disqualified him in a measure from being the censor of his sons (Kalisch, Wordsworth); to the lowered moral and spiritual tone of his own mind (Candlish, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’); to the circumstance that, having indulged his children in their youth, be was now afraid to reprove them (Inglis). That Jacob afterwards attained to a proper estimate of their bloody deed his last prophetic utterance reveals (Genesis 49:5-7). By some it is supposed that he even now felt the crime in all its heinousness (Kalisch), though his reproach was somewhat leniently expressed in the word “trouble” (Lange); while others, believing Jacob’s abhorrence of his sons’ fanatical cruelty to have been deep and real, account for its omission by the historian on the ground that he aimed merely at showing “the protection of God (Genesis 35:5), through which Jacob escaped the evil consequences of their conduct” (Hengstenberg, Kurtz).

Genesis 34:31

And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? But Shechem offered Dinah honorable marriage.

As the note points out, the condemnation in verse 30 seems somewhat light. Jacob’s concern seems most keenly directed to the fallout of these actions – namely that the other people of the region will come looking for them and seeking reprisal. Here, at least, he does not seem overtly remorseful for the slaughter as an act of sin. That said, there are various commenters – referenced by the note above – which do make that argument or make some excuses for why a harsher condemnation is not given in the moment.

In verse 31, the brothers excuse their actions arguing that Shechem and Hamor were treating their sister as a harlot. The note points out, though, that this excuse ignores the marriage offer provided after the initial rape.

Ellicott’s note for verse 29 addresses whether young boys were murdered alongside the men:

(29) Their little ones.—Heb., their taf. (See Note on Genesis 17:13.) How erroneous is the translation “little-ones” may be seen from Numbers 31:17-18, which in the Heb. is, “Now, therefore, kill every male in the taf . . . and all the taf of women that are unmarried.” It would be monstrous to suppose that boys were to be put to death, and men escape, nor would little girls be likely to be married. In 2 Chronicles 31:18 the taf is distinguished both from the sons and daughters; and so also in Genesis 20:13, where we read “their tafs and their children. The LXX. have altered the order here, but otherwise translate correctly their persons, that is, their property in men-servants and maid servants, as opposed to their cattle and their wealth in goods. In Genesis 1:8 the LXX. translate clan, and in Genesis 34:21 household. The slaves thus seized would form the most valuable part probably of the spoil.

An article at the Torah.com by Dr. Rabbi David Frankel titled The Rape of Dinah, Added as a Motive for the Sack of Shechem, tracks a scholarly view that the rape motivation was added to the story, after the original version was written, to provide a better justification for the sacking of Shechem. Excerpts below:


Noting this and other anomalies, Yair Zakovitch argues that the present form of the text is heavily redacted, and that an earlier narrative once stood behind the text in its present form that did not include the rape of Dinah, or other details (like the extraction of Dinah from Shechem’s home) that derive from it.[2]

Indeed, most of the references in the text to the “defiling” of Dinah can be readily recognized as removable appendages. For example (additions indented):

בראשית לד:יג וַיַּעֲנוּ בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב אֶת שְׁכֶם וְאֶת חֲמוֹר אָבִיו בְּמִרְמָה

Gen 34:13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit,

וַיְדַבֵּרוּ אֲשֶׁר טִמֵּא אֵת דִּינָה אֲחֹתָם.

and they spoke[3] that he defiled Dinah their sister,

לד:יד וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֲלֵיהֶם לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲשׂוֹת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לָתֵת אֶת אֲחֹתֵנוּ לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לוֹ עָרְלָה כִּי חֶרְפָּה הִוא לָנוּ.

34:14 saying to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace among us.”

The phrase “that he defiled their sister” appears secondary. Not only does it interrupt the natural continuity between “they answered Shechem and Hamor with deceit” and “saying to them,” it also awkwardly and unclearly uses the singular “he defiled” when both Shechem and Hamor were mentioned in the sentence.

Is Dinah in Shechem’s or Jacobs’ House?

The strongest indication that the extraction of Dinah from the house of Shechem in verse 26b (ויקחו את דינה מבית שכם ויצאו) is secondary can be found in Shechem’s appeal to his father in verse 4, “get for me this girl as a wife,” and the similar appeals to the Jacobites that they “give” Dinah to Shechem (vv. 8, 12). How can Jacob give Dinah to Shechem if Shechem had already “taken” her (v. 2b)?!

The same problem inheres in the statement in verse 19, that Shechem complied swiftly with the requirement to undergo circumcision, “for he coveted the daughter of Jacob” (cf. also verse 8). How can Shechem covet that which he already has?!

One might also have expected that the brothers stipulate their consent to the proposed marriage with the prior return of their sister to their hands. Finally, if Dinah was indeed living in the house of Shechem, why are we not told of this from the outset? How come we learn about this important detail only after the fact, when the extraction takes place?

It seems clear, then, that in the original narrative, Dinah was at home all along. And in light of the fact that the references to Dinah’s “defilement” seem to be secondary, it seems that Shechem never laid his hands on her, only his eyes.


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The article is compelling from a textual analysis standpoint but there is obviously not universal agreement.

Another article by Prof. Shawna Dolansky, titled The Debasement of Dinah, (excerpt below) makes a case that “rape” is a mischaracterization of what happened to Dinah in the first place:


The narrative, however, never states that Dinah was raped or coerced into sexual intercourse.

בראשית לד:ב וַיַּ֨רְא אֹתָ֜הּ שְׁכֶ֧ם בֶּן־חֲמ֛וֹר הַֽחִוִּ֖י נְשִׂ֣יא הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֥ב אֹתָ֖הּ וַיְעַנֶּֽהָ:

Gen 34:2 Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her. He took her, lay with her, and ʿinnah-ed her.

That final verb is a difficult one to translate, and is the one that many modern translators render in English with the word “rape.”[3]

The modern concept of rape is an aggressive act characterized by lack of mutual consent. The Bible is familiar with this concept; for example, the book of Samuel explicitly depicts David’s son Amnon raping his half-sister Tamar. Tamar’s lack of consent is made clear by her protests, an element absent in the Dinah story:

שמואל ב יג:יב וַתֹּ֣אמֶר ל֗וֹ אַל אָחִי֙ אַל תְּעַנֵּ֔נִי כִּ֛י לֹא יֵֽעָשֶׂ֥ה כֵ֖ן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אַֽל תַּעֲשֵׂ֖ה אֶת הַנְּבָלָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת: יג:יג וַאֲנִ֗י אָ֤נָה אוֹלִיךְ֙ אֶת חֶרְפָּתִ֔י וְאַתָּ֗ה תִּהְיֶ֛ה כְּאַחַ֥ד הַנְּבָלִ֖ים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל… יג:יד וְלֹ֥א אָבָ֖ה לִשְׁמֹ֣עַ בְּקוֹלָ֑הּ…

2 Sam 13:12 But she said to him, “Don’t, brother. Don’t ʿinnah me. Such things are not done in Israel! Don’t do such a vile thing! 13:13 Where will I carry my shame? And you, you will be like any of the scoundrels in Israel!…” 13:14 But he would not listen to her…

The two episodes make use of different wording:

  • Shechem and Dinah Story

וַיִּקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֥ב אֹתָ֖הּ וַיְעַנֶּֽהָ

He took her, lay with her, and ʿinnah-ed her.

  • Amnon and Tamar Story

וַיֶּחֱזַ֤ק מִמֶּ֙נָּה֙ וַיְעַנֶּ֔הָ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֖ב אֹתָֽהּ

He overpowered her,ʿinnah-ed her, and lay with her.

The fact that the verb ʿinnah is found in both cases does not demonstrate that if Tamar is raped, then Dinah must have been raped as well.

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A third article by Dr. Alison Joseph titled Who is the Victim in the Dinah Story? (excerpt below) examines the narrative for a determination of how th eoriginal authors intended readers to view the “injured” party.


The narrative, at first glance, appears to tell the story of Dinah, but in reality, she is barely present in this chapter. She does not speak; she acts only once (34:1), after which she is referred to only as an object and never as a subject. After the brothers arrive, she is only mentioned by name once between verses 6 and 25, and appears again in Genesis only in the genealogy in 46:15.[2]

We take for granted that the wrong in the story is Dinah being raped; in fact, many printed English Bibles subtitle the chapter “The Rape of Dinah.”[3] But this focus on consent is a modern perspective. Within the historical context of ancient Israel, however, the focus would not have been on the heinous act of sexual violence perpetrated against a young woman—if that is even what the story assumes (see below)—but on the practical and social consequences of such an act to the girl’s father and household, including to the girl herself.[4]

The rape or seduction of an unmarried woman would make it difficult for the father to marry her off later on, would make it impossible for him to collect a full bride price,[5] and, if it became known publicly, would be an insult to his honor, and, by extension, to the honor of the men in her family.[6]

[…]

Considering this context, why do the brothers refuse Shechem’s offer to marry Dinah?[13] Is his offer not exactly what the Bible thinks he ought to do and what an injured family should want and accept? This is not to say that Jacob and family were beholden to the laws in Deuteronomy and Exodus, but rather that these laws reflect the social convention of the time. If a man were to have sex with a single woman, under any circumstance, because she is available (i.e., not married or engaged), they would be married.

Thus, the story is about how the brothers handled the debasing of their sister when the perpetrator was a non-Israelite.[14] In such a case, the possibility of marriage to the rapist or seducer would need to be forfeited and revenge exacted. According to Gen 34, Israelites simply do not marry Hivites, circumcised or not. The story would then reflect a strong polemic against intermarriage, similar to that found in Deuteronomy 7, which specifies the prohibition of marrying Canaanites, and which finds its full expression in the broader polemic against any intermarriage at all, in the Second Temple period Ezra-Nehemiah.[15]

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Genesis 34 is a difficult chapter for a modern reader. It should not be surprising to see that there are a lot of articles written about it, attempting to either learn difficult truths or in the alternative to disparage God or the text writers as a result of this difficulty.

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