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Deeper Commentary

Gen 34:1 Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land- She went to see the girls, not the boys; but any movement toward the world exposes to further temptation. And that's just what happened here. The Jacob family by reason of their life path would've been quite insular; being on the move all the time, they had no opportunity to build up friendships or relationships with others outside the group. And so we can understand the desire for a young person to go out to meet the locals. But females in those days never travelled alone, always there was a male relative present. But it seems Dinah almost escaped alone. We can assume she was a naive teenager.

Gen 34:2 Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her. He took her, lay with her, and humbled her- "Humbled" is the same word translated "afflict"; and yet if he brutally raped her, his genuine love for her in :3 and :12 is hard to understand. So the idea may be that she was humbled by the experience. See on :3.

Gen 34:3 His soul joined to Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young lady, and spoke kindly to the young lady- The language of 'joining' or [AV] 'cleaving' is that of Gen. 2:24 about cleaving in marriage. His kind words and genuine love for her all suggest his desire to marry her was sincere. What was wrong was that he prematurely slept with her. But the whole incident had a far grosser spin placed upon it by Jacob's sons. Shechem spoke kindly to her, Heb. 'to her heart', with comfort- presumably the comfort that he had not just used her, but would marry her and promised her a wonderful life. This is quite opposite to how her brothers interpreted the situation, falsely claiming Shechem had used her as a prostitute (:31).

Gen 34:4 Shechem spoke to his father, Hamor, saying, Get me this young lady as a wife- She was indeed young. If Joseph was only 17 when he was sold into Egypt about 11 years later, Dinah would have been around 16 at this time (cp. Gen. 30:21).

Gen 34:5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah, his daughter. And his sons were with his livestock in the field. Jacob held his peace until they came- Perhaps she had gone with other young folks, who returned to the encampment with the news. "Defiled" is a strictly ceremonial or moral word. The idea is not of rape; see on :2. The response and evil plan of the sons appears to have been done without Jacob's knowledge. He appears very passive; if he had acted more decisively at the time, perhaps events might have turned out differently. The entire story is full of weakness and failure on the part of absolutely all involved; and yet the end result of it was the casting away of idols from Jacob's family, as they threw themselves upon God's grace to preserve them.

Gen 34:6 Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to talk with him- We have the impression of Jacob living at the city limits, and the city clearly defined with a gate and houses within the walls. Hence Shechem 'goes out' to Jacob. There may be an intended similarity with how Lot pitched his tent just outside Sodom, and then moved in to the city (Gen. 13:12). Shechem was also an area of rich pastureland which would've been attractive to Jacob.

Gen 34:7 The sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it. The men were grieved, and they were very angry, because he had done folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; a thing which ought not to be done- There is reason to think that even at the end, Jacob was still in some ways weak. Thus despite his name having been changed from Jacob to Israel, the two terms are used by God in the record in juxtaposition  (here and Gen. 35:22; 46:2, 5,8; 48:2) as if to reflect the way the full change of Jacob would only take place in the Kingdom, when each believer will receive his new name (Rev. 3:12).

The sons of Jacob are presented here as hypocritical; they despised the sign of the covenant, circumcision, and were ruthless and self-willed, murdering and pillaging. So their outrage was hardly because of their own morality. And as noted on :2 and :3, it was they who had decided that Shechem had raped their sister and treated her as a prostitute (:31). "Folly" is an extreme term, used of prostitutes and rapists (Dt. 22:21; Jud. 19:23,24). In reality he had not raped her, and she was at least partially responsible. But the problem with the usage of inflammatory language is that it creates images which do not easily subside. This incident stands for all time as a warning to us all; a mistake is made, a sin is committed, as these youngsters Shechem and Dinah did; but others get involved, and for the sake of family pride, they exaggerate what happened into something quite different, and once that image is in their mind, they will kill and pillage for it. This sort of thing goes on in secular and religious life all the time.  

Gen 34:8 Hamor talked with them, saying, The soul of my son, Shechem, longs for your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife- Hamor avoids mentioning that Shechem has slept with her already. This was clearly intended to be a love marriage, it was not casual rape nor usage of a girl as a prostitute (:31). The sincerity of Shechem is consistently contrasted with the exaggeration and serious over reaction of Jacob's sons.

Gen 34:9 Make marriages with us, give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves- Jacob had other daughters apart from Dinah, mentioned also in Gen. 46:7. The sons of Jacob would have known the family stories of how Isaac and Jacob had both gone to such trouble not to marry local Canaanite women, and how these had been a grief of mind to Isaac an Rebekah when Esau married them. They ought to have immediately turned away from such a proposal, and simply ensured Dinah's safety and return to their camp.

Gen 34:10 You shall dwell with us, and the land will be before you. Live and trade in it, and get possessions in it- The land [eretz] had been promised to the sons of Jacob as an eternal inheritance; the men of Shechem suggested that an agreement with them would make the eretz before them. They speak not for the town of Shechem, but the entire eretz, as if an agreement with them would mean the rest of the Canaanite tribes would be acceptant of them. This reasoning was quite contrary to the Divine promise that by His grace He would give them the eretz; it was because of this that "the land [is] before you" (Dt. 1:21- the identical Hebrew is used). The whole behaviour of Jacob's sons reflects a lack of spiritual perception and appreciation of the promises. "Possessions" is literally 'things taken hold of' and is the same word used of how Jacob took hold of Esau's heel (Gen. 25:26). He ought to have learnt that he had given up grabbing hold, and would instead take hold of God's grace.

Gen 34:11 Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, Let me find favour in your eyes, and whatever you will tell me I will give- This is the language of someone desperately in love. Again we note the emphasis upon Shechem's integrity and that he most definitely did not treat her as a prostitute (:31). Their accusation was therefore their imagination, and their reaction was wrong.

Gen 34:12 Ask me a great amount for a dowry, and I will give whatever you ask of me, but give me the young lady as a wife- AV "dowry and gift"; the dowry being to the parents, and the gift to the bride. He was obsessed with Dinah, the language is similar to Samson's about his first Philistine wife; but despite that, he was eager to do things in accordance with norms of societal behaviour, and his relationship with her was clearly not of a casual nature.

Gen 34:13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father with deceit, and spoke, because he had defiled Dinah their sister- "Defiled" has a religious, moral connotation. They were justifying their anger and bloodlust by claiming they had to settle some gross religious blasphemy. But Shechem is portrayed as most definitely not having used Dinah, but rather wishing by all means to marry her in a responsible way. And so often we see this; quasi religious / spiritual reasoning is used to justify arrogance, pride and a desire to justify the outpouring of native anger. And so they acted true to the character of their father Jacob and grandfather Laban; they were deceitful.

Gen 34:14 And said to them, We can’t do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised; for that is a reproach to us- Again, as noted on :13, they used quasi spiritual reasoning to justify their own wrong behaviour. They made out that uncircumcision was a shameful thing for them, pretending they were men of such high spiritual principle when they were nothing of the sort.

Gen 34:15 Only on this condition will we consent to you. If you will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised- Circumcision was the sign of the covenant; to even be willing to offer it to others shows a deep lack of appreciation of covenant relationship. All the way through, they are presented as being most unspiritual.

Gen 34:16 Then will we 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- As noted on :15, to even talk about being "one people" with those who were not the people of God is reflective of their lack of spirituality and appreciation of their relationship with God.

Gen 34:17 But if you will not listen to us, to be circumcised, then we will take our sister, and we will be gone- Jacob had only just purchased land at the city limits. So "we will be gone" was not going to be so easily executed. "We will take our sister" could suggest a threat of force. They do not ask for her to be delivered, but rather say they will take her.

Gen 34:18 Their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son- Not least, because it was an honourable way out of the situation caused by Shechem and Dinah's inappropriate and premature behaviour.

Gen 34:19 The young man didn’t wait to do this thing- The Hebrew idea of waiting or delaying is nearly always used in a bad sense; not delaying is associated with right behaviour. Again, Shechem is portrayed as honourable. Perhaps the idea is that he was circumcised first, immediately.

Because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter, and he was honoured above all the house of his father- This could also mean, as AV, that he was the most honourable. The others wanted to deceive the Israelites for material advantage, but Shechem is presented as being of integrity and sincerity despite his initial sin of passion in sleeping with Dinah.

Gen 34:20 Hamor and Shechem, his son, came to the gate of their city, and talked with the men of their city, saying- The emphasis seems to be upon them doing everything in a correct, transparent and appropriate manner- in direct contrast to the devious behaviour of Jacob's sons.

Gen 34:21 These men are peaceful with us. Therefore let them live in the land and trade in it. For behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters- The implication is that Jacob had bought some land on the city limits, but this was recent; they had not yet begun to trade with the locals and were without relevant permissions to do so. Moses alludes to their words by saying that the entire eretz was a "large" land, and because of the largeness of the inheritance, they would possess the land of the Hivites (Ex. 3:8). The primary audience of Genesis were intended to make this connection; the Hivites were reasoning as if it were all their land when in fact it was the eternal inheritance of the wayward but chosen-by-grace sons of Jacob.

Gen 34:22 Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people, if every male among us is circumcised, as they are circumcised- Marriage out of the Faith is associated with a chronic lack of appreciation of covenant relationship. If Dinah had married Hamor, this would have been a covenant relationship which would have resulted in the people of God and the surrounding world becoming “one people” (:16,22). How can we marry out of the Faith and claim we are still God’s people, separated from the world and not "of it"? Living together ["live with us"] was going to result in the process of time with 'becoming one people', and this is so often how it goes when a believer marries an unbeliever.

Gen 34:23 Won’t their livestock and their possessions and all their animals be ours? Only let us give our consent to them, and they will dwell with us- Here we see a less honourable side of Hamor and Shechem; the Jacob family were perceived as wealthy, perhaps more wealthy than the whole of Shechem. However, Shechem is definitely presented as honourable, and as a young man we can assume that the idea of getting Jacob's wealth was perhaps more pushed by his father. Or perhaps they felt they had to offer some attractive side to the bargain, so that their people would agree; when Shechem himself simply wanted to marry the girl he had fallen in love with.

Gen 34:24 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor, and to Shechem his son; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city- The reference is not to those who sat in the gate, which would have referred to the leadership. Those who went out of the gate might therefore simply refer to "every male" who was old enough to travel independently, i.e. to leave the city.

Gen 34:25 It happened on the third day, when they were sore, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword, came upon the unsuspecting city, and killed all the males- This was a classic case of guilt by association. "All the males" were hardly guilty of what one had done. The awfulness of the crime was not simply that they over-reacted in hot blood, but that they planned this massacre over a period of days. Although Simeon and Levi did the killing, it is clear that the other brothers knew the plan; and surely Jacob did, and his silence is significant. The whole incident portrays all involved as weak; and yet out of it arises the mass repentance from idolatry of Gen. 35.

Gen 34:26 They killed Hamor and Shechem, his son, with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away- The poor girl must have been so terribly traumatized and confused to see all this happening at the hands of her brothers.

Gen 34:27 Jacob’s sons came on the dead, and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister- The term "Jacob's sons" usually refers to the group; they were clearly complicent in the crime, although the actual murders were committed by Dinah's two brothers. The plundering was perhaps their way of showing that they had seen through the real motivation of these people- it was to take the wealth of the Jacob family (:23). But as with the language of demons in the New Testament, the final clause is written from their perspective- they did this because "they" had defiled their sister. Only Shechem could be accused of defiling Dinah, so they are in the grip of guilt by association thinking; and the language of 'defilement' for pre-marital consensual sex seems rather a quasi-spiritual motivation for doing what was plainly wrong. 

Gen 34:28 They took their flocks, their herds, their donkeys, that which was in the city, that which was in the field- This was showing that they had seen through the real motivation of these people- it was to take the animals wealth of the Jacob family (:23). It must have been a major operation, consciously planned and executed; for they took the animals which they had which were "in the field".

Gen 34:29 And all their wealth. They took captive all their little ones and their wives, and took as plunder everything that was in the house- Taking the wives / women rather than killing them suggests that they then married them or slept with them; for this was the idea of taking women as "plunder". They did this on the excuse that one of the men had raped their sister, when in fact the young couple wanted to get married and the sex was consensual. Their evil is presented as being far greater than that done by Shechem, and their sin was of the same order and nature of rape, which they falsely accused Shechem of. Yet they did it on a mass scale. They are presented as very selfish and hypocritical.

Gen 34:30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, You have troubled me, to make me odious to the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me and slay me, and I shall be destroyed, I and my house- So true to our experience, even after the night of wrestling Jacob slipped back at times into the old way of thinking. His pathetic bleating here is a case of this: "I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house". Just note all those personal pronouns. God had promised to go with him and make him a multitude, not "few in number", and the whole tenor of all the promises was that there would come a singular seed from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who would become a great house, or nation. But in the heat of the moment, all this was forgotten. He had only recently feared that he would be 'slain' by Esau and his family destroyed (Gen. 32:11 s.w., "he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children"), and been brought to see that this fear was a lack of faith in the fulfilment of the promises to him. We too can learn something in one crisis, but then need to be re-taught it, or reveal our lack of having learnt, when the essence of the crisis is repeated again in a later similar incident.

The primary audience of Genesis was Israel in the wilderness, and as they approached Canaan, they must likewise have felt that they were going to be overcome by the local tribes. Yet such fears of not inheriting the Kingdom are presented as being but the same element of faithless fear which was in Jacob at this time. They feared they would be "destroyed" (s.w.) by the local tribes (Dt. 1:27). But somehow God would miraculously preserve them, as He did "Israel" at his first formation as a nation.

Gen 34:31 They said, Should he deal with our sister as with a prostitute?- Humanly, the sons of Jacob, unrepentant as they were, should have taken the consequence of their evil at the hand of the vengeful surrounding tribes. But God, in His grace, preserves them by a miracle (Gen. 35:5). By contrast, the unbelieving Shechemites acted more honourably. The Prince of Shechem didn't rape her, and he didn't just discard her. He could easily have just taken her as his wife with no more discussion with her family. He did the honourable thing in that he honestly wanted to marry her, and would do absolutely anything to enable this (Gen. 34). The brothers acted in greed and hurt pride, but justified it by exaggerating what had happened in their own mind; and they repeated the lie to themselves until they believed it were true.

As noted on :3, Shechem did not use Dinah as a prostitute, and their comment is tantamount to accusing their sister of being a prostitute. But they were so desperate to justify their sick actions that they cared nothing for the logic of their false accusations. We see that in people today, and their comment has the ring of psychological credibility in the situation.