Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s Brothers, take Vengeance on Shechem
Genesis 34 - Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s Brothers, take Vengeance on Shechem
Dinah had been raped by Shechem. Two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, carry out a plan to put all the men of the city to the sword.
Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. Genesis 34:1
Dinah was the only daughter among eleven brothers. They had all lived for many years among their own relatives. Their uncle Laban’s home in Paddan Aram was probably in a secluded area because it was located near pastureland for their sheep. Dinah must have been intrigued with the idea of visiting a bustling city and meeting women who had different customs than her family.
But how old was Dinah when Jacob and his family returned to Canaan?
Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”
And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. Genesis 29:26-30
Jacob and his family spent a total of twenty years in Padam Aram. Jacob did not lay with Leah until he had completed seven years of work for Laban. Therefore Rueben, Leah’s first child would have been born in the eight year of their stay. Accounting for the time to travel back to Canaan, Rueben would have been 13 years old when the family returned to their homeland. Dinah is born to Leah after Leah has given birth to six sons, therefore she would have been 7 years old when Jacob and his family returned to Canaan.
There is no indication of how long of a time transpired between the return to Canaan and the events of Genesis 34. According to Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament, “Dinah was probably between 13 and 15 at the time, and had attained perfect maturity; for this is often the case in the East at the age of 12, and sometimes earlier” (The Pentateuch Vol. I p. 311) when she went out to visit the women of the land. According to the historian Josephus, “Dinah having been attracted by a desire to see the ‘finery of the women’ at a time when Shechem was keeping the Canaanite annual festival of nature worship.” Young and daring, and curious to know something of the world outside, Dinah stole away one day from the drab tents of her father. She went to see the ladies of Shechem decked out in all their finery as they attended their pagan festival.
Jacob should not have been tarrying in this pagan area for so long. Jacob should had fully obeyed God and traveled back to Bethel instead of pitching his tents in the region of Shechem.
When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. Genesis 34:2
Prince Shechem, son of Hamor, caught a glimpse of Dinah. He saw her and lusted after her. Dinah, young and naïve, was probably flattered at first by the prince’s attention so that she went to his palace. She probably never meant to go so far. The words, “took her” implies he forced her, and although she may have resisted his advances, resistance was futile and she was violated.
The Hivites were descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. After the flood, we have the following account in Genesis chapter 9:
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” Genesis 9:20-25
Noah, who was dishonored by his son Ham, curses Ham’s son Canaan. The Hivites were descendants of Canaan’s sixth son. In the Bible, the number 6 symbolizes man and human weakness, the evils of Satan and the manifestation of sin. Man was created on the sixth day. Men are appointed 6 days to labor. Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite was a descendant from the 6th son of the cursed line of Canaan. In his human weakness, Shechem lusts after Dinah and sins by taking her by force and raping her.
His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” Genesis 34:3-4
The young prince offered the usual reparation for his seduction of Dinah—marriage and a payment to her father which was sufficient according to the commandments later recorded in the Torah (Deuteronomy 22:28, 29). Evidently there was more than lustful desire on the part of Shechem, for we read that his heart was drawn to Dinah. In the King James Version this phrase is translated as, “and his soul clave unto Dinah.” The Hebrew word, qbd (dabaq) that is translated as “clave” is the same word that is used in Genesis 2:24 which means to cling, stick or stay close:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Usually rape is an act of violence, but Shechem’s union with Dinah had a different result. He loved her and spoke tenderly to her and wanted to marry her.
When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. Genesis 34:5
Jacob alone was in no position to confront Hamor, the ruler of the land, concerning his son Shechem’s dishonorable deed. So Jacob waited for his sons to return from their chores before deciding on what action to take. But what is very curious is that there is no mention of Jacob being enraged by the news that his daughter had been defiled. Jacob’s favoring of his beloved Rachel rendered him blind to the needs of Leah’s daughter.
Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done. Genesis 34:6-7
Jacob's sons were indignant and very angry because Shechem had committed such a disgraceful act. They viewed the offense as not just against their sister, but a godless act against their entire family.
But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.” Genesis 34:8-10
Jacob’s line descended from the blessed line of Shem. The LORD God had cut a covenant with his grandfather Abram. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD changed his name to Abraham. The LORD promised to establish His covenant as an everlasting covenant between Himself and Abraham and his descendants after him for the generations to come. The promises not only included the land of Israel and a multitude of descendants, but that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham’s seed, the promised Messiah. The offer by Hamor of having Jacob settling in the land to trade and acquire property may have been tempting. But if Jacob agreed to have his sons intermarry with the Hivites, who descended from the cursed line of Canaan, the promised seed would have been corrupted.
Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.” Genesis 34:11-12
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1Timothy 6:10
The sins of greed and covetousness have not only caused emotional pain and sorrow to those who lust after money, but these sins have even shipwrecked their spiritual lives. The level of temptation to allow intermarriage is taken up several notches when Shechem says, “I’ll pay whatever you ask me.”
Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” Genesis 34:13-17
Instead of taking control of the situation, Jacob let Dinah’s brothers handle things. Jacob ignored his responsibility to protect and lead his family. Jacob’s passivity in the matter of his own daughter’s rape would pave the way for even greater sinful acts. Passivity by the first man resulted in sin entering into the world.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6
Adam, silent and passive, stood idly by allowing his wife to be deceived by the devil. Edmund Burke, who was a statesman, author, and philosopher, said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Genesis 34:18-19
Shechem wasted no time getting circumcised for he wanted Dinah desperately. Circumcision was the sign of the covenantal relationship between Yehovah and the physical seed of Abraham. Shechem’s act wasn’t done in reverence and a desire to be in a covenant relationship with the LORD but out of emotion and physical attraction to Dinah.
So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.” All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. Genesis 34:20-24
Although Hamor and Shechem were in positions of power and authority as rulers of their city, they didn’t order the men of the city to be circumcised. The ruler Hamor saw an opportunity to profit by an alliance with a wealthy family. Hamor and Shechem appealed to the fallen nature of the men of the city by saying, “Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?” Because of greed and covetousness, all the men agreed to be circumcised.
Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. Genesis 34:25-26
Since the men of the city had entered into an agreement with the sons of Jacob, they weren’t expecting an attack. When they were confronted by Simeon and Levi wielding swords, their response to defend themselves was hampered by the pain they were enduring. The men were quickly put to death by Dinah’s two enraged brothers seeking to avenge their sister.
The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. Genesis 34:27-29
Because their sister has been “despoiled,” Simeon and Levi also “spoil” the city and surrounding fields - that is, they take livestock, wealth and property as spoils of war, and they take all the women and children into captivity. According to custom and later spelled out in the Torah, a woman taken captive might become a wife or concubine.
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. Exodus 21:23-24
The Law of Moses states that if two men of Israel are fighting, and one man maims his opponent, the punishment should be in line with the offense. An eye for an eye or the “law of retaliation,” is the principle that a person who has injured another person is penalized to a similar degree, or the victim receives the value of the injury in compensation. The purpose of this law is justice and not vengeance.
Although Shechem committed a heinous act, he did not murder anyone. Nor did the men of the city deserve to be put to death for the sinful act of their ruler’s son. Simeon and Levi committed a great injustice by taking vengeance into their own hands and slaughtering all the men of the city.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Romans 12:8-9
God is going to take up our cause and see to it that justice is done; therefore we can lay it down. We do not have to carry anger and bitterness and seek revenge.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
Because we have personally experienced God’s love and mercy in our lives and have been forgiven of our sins, we are called to love and forgive others – even our enemies.
Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”
But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” Genesis 34:30-31
Jacob did not exhibit regret or remorse for what his sons had done. Neither did Jacob confront his sons concerning their murderous acts of vengeance. He could have justly condemned his sons for their wanton massacre of the Shechemites, their abuse of circumcision and their breach of contract. Instead, Jacob is only concerned that Simeon and Levi may have provoked the people in the land to join forces against him and his household.
Jacob is now highly motivated to do what he should have done years ago, to leave this region and go on to Bethel. Indeed, this is what he is commanded to do, as is recorded in the next chapter of Genesis.
Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” Genesis 35:1
When the brothers ask: “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” Jacob gives no reply, because the answer can only be no. Jacob could have done something about Dinah’s rape after she was assaulted, but he remained passive. Instead, he left Dinah’s cause to her brothers who acted in anger fueled by their family pride.
When Jacob was about to die, he prophesied over each of his 12 sons. This is what he said about Simeon and Levi:
“Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” Genesis 49:5-7
Jacob saw Simeon and Levi for who they were, but he rebuked them far too late. His passivity provoked his sons to wrath. May we as fathers resist being passive in the upbringing of our children. Instead may we not provoke not our children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).