This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
God had called Jacob back to the Promised Land and Jacob had returned. He did not immediately go to Bethel, where God had commanded him to go. He set up camp first in Succoth, then near Shechem. Jacob and his family lived on the land that they bought in Shechem for many years. At the end of that time, Jacob’s disobedience and spiritual passivity brought disaster upon their family.
1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. 2 When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. 3 He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young girl for a wife.”
Having moved to the land of Shechem instead of going to Bethel as the LORD commanded, Jacob put his family in danger. Like Lot, he moved his family toward a place that would become dangerous for them. When Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, went out to visit the other young women of Shechem, she was raped by Shechem, the prince of Shechem. Having lain with her by force, he decided that he loved her, and asked for the marriage to be arranged.
5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. 6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.
No words of Jacob are recorded at this point. Jacob is a silent character in the story. Though Hamor had purposed to speak to Jacob, he ended up speaking to his angry sons instead.
8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. 9 Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. 12 Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.”
The danger that this posed for the family is immense, for if they intermarried with the people of the land, they would soon lose their distinction as the covenant family. They would descend into great apostasy, having their hearts turned away from the LORD. Shechem was an important city in Canaan, so the offer was a great temptation to the family. If their anger had not been so hot, they may have accepted the offer and the bridal payment on top of it.
However, like their father before them,
13 But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go.”
They told the prince and his father that it was a dealbreaker for them to intermarry with uncircumcised people. So they convinced Shechem and Hamor that they would intermarry with the people of the land if they would circumcise themselves.
18 Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. 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 friendly 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 in marriage, and give our daughters to them. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.” 24 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
The wealth of Jacob and his sons must have been indescribable, because the greed of the people overcame them. They considered circumcision a small price to pay to gain the wealth and daughters of the covenant family.
25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. 27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses.
Leah’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full-brothers, killed every man in the city of Shechem while they were in pain from the circumcision. They released their sister, and all of the sons of Jacob looted the city together. They took everything. The greed of the men of the city caused everything that they had to be taken away by a vengeful family.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”
Jacob spoke for the first time in the narrative, not to mourn for his daughter but to grieve for the trouble that would come upon him through the actions of his sons. Since he had not taken charge of the situation or his family, Jacob’s entire household was in danger of attack. He had not led them to seek the LORD but had remained quiet and passive.
The actions of Simeon and Levi disqualified them from the blessing of fathering the King of Kings. Reuben, Leah’s firstborn, disqualified himself a few chapters later. For that reason, Jesus was born from Leah’s fourth child, Judah. The sons of Israel were stubborn and hard-hearted. They took vengeance in their own hands instead of seeking the counsel of the LORD.