Genesis 34:1-31 Revenge
We look into an event in the life of one of Jacob’s daughters. It will change the history of many people. The cost was high to all involved.
When Jacob’s children were being listed by their mothers we came across one of his daughters, Dinah. I’m sure she wasn’t the only girl but we met her so we would have some background on her for this incident.
We don’t know how long Jacob and company were in the area before Dinah caught the eye of Shechem. It could have been a month or it could have been several years. She wanted to meet the other women around her. With so many brothers I don’t blame her for seeking out female company. Was she curious about them or just being friendly? Did she have a purpose in mind when going to meet them?
Whatever her reason for starting out on this visit, things didn’t go as expected. She was raped by none other than the king’s son. Talk about the rich and powerful getting away with anything. Shecham saw something he wanted and he took it without caring what the consequences of his actions would be.
He didn’t go to her father and ask if he could court her. He didn’t bring her flowers. He didn’t even spring for a hotel. He saw. He grabbed. And he took. THEN he “he spoke tenderly to her” (verse 3b). A bit backwards don’t you think? Can we agree that he is privileged and spoiled?
I wonder what Dinah thought of his “tender” words? Did she think she was in love with him too? Did she feel that because she was now “used goods” that no other man would have her? Did she hate him for how he violated her? Did she want to escape him? Did she run home and tell her mother?
Was this a “normal” practice in this land? Is that how wives were selected in this kingdom? “Try before you buy” attitude? Shechem’s father Hamor didn’t appear to have any problem asking for Dinah from Jacob. Shechem’s offer for Dinah makes me think he had at least some remorse for his actions though. He said to Jacob and his sons; “Ask me for as great a bride-price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me” (verse 12a).
Something that strikes me here is that Jacob heard about what had happened and “held his peace until they (his sons) came” (verse 5b). Jacob’s sons were in the field with the sheep when news reached camp. It appears that Jacob didn’t feel strong enough to stand up for his daughter on his own. MY father would have been LIVID if this story had reached him about any of his daughters. He wouldn’t have waited for anyone, except maybe the police, to come before he lit into the perpetrator.
Somehow word reached his sons in the field because “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” (verse 7a). Thank you brothers for taking up her cause!
From this point on the negotiation/interaction appears to be taking place with the sons and not Jacob. Hamor speaks to Jacob’s sons and the response comes from them too. Where did Jacob go during this exchange? Why is he silent? He is the head of this family and should be speaking for them but we don’t hear anything from him until AFTER Levi and Simeon take their revenge.
Hamor proposes that they all “share” their daughters in marriage. “You take ours and we will take yours. That way everyone benefits. There is plenty for us to live together in harmony. See, no harm done.”
Jacob’s sons pretended to agree to this with one stipulation; that the men all be circumcised. “Then you will be like us and everything will be alright.” Notice Jacob is still silent. He doesn’t voice any objections to this plan. Why not? Did he agree with their plan? Hamor and Shechem certainly did. Dinah was that important to Shechem. He said name your price and that was their price.
I have another question here. Why is it stated that “he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such things must not be done” (verse 7b)? Jacob purchased a piece of property when he arrived back in the Promised Land. Was this now “Israel”? Jacob’s name had been changed when he wrestled with the angel. Did he name this piece of property after his new name? He was the father of the twelve tribes. It appears he was also the one to “plant the first flag” by staking this claim in his name.
Ok. Back to our story. The whole city submitted to the order of their prince, Hamor, for Jacob’s sons plan to work. “Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. They we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to ourselves, and we will dwell with you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone” (verses 16-17).
Jacob’s sons KNEW that God had called them to be separate from the people. I have no doubt Jacob explained all this to them as they were growing up. They had no intention of “becoming one people.” Why didn’t Jacob see their deceit? Why didn’t he stop this? His refusal to speak up, to me, makes him just as culpable as his sons. Did the other nine sons realize what Levi and Simeon had in mind? Were they the spokesmen of this group? Why didn’t someone else speak up?
It appears that Hamor had ulterior motives too. He had to sell the idea to his people. Shechem “was the most honored of all his father’s house” (verse 19b). Everyone listened to him and his reasoning sounded good to the people of his city. His final words where what cinched the deal for them. “Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us” (verse 23). Through intermarriage with Jacob’s group the men of the city believed they would end up owning everything Jacob had.
When Levi and Simeon took their revenge on Shechem the rest of his city paid the price with him. Was this to keep his people from taking revenge for their revenge? If the men of the city had been left alive would Jacob’s camp have been safe? I’m certain that if ONLY Shechem had been killed, his father would have ordered his men into battle against Jacob. I believe that this way they felt their safety was assured.
But why plunder the city too? They took everything! Including the wives and children of the slain. Did they take them for the same reasons that the men believed that they would ultimately own all Jacob possessed? Were the captured turned into slaves?
When Jacob found out what they had done, why didn’t he make them at least set their captives free and return their goods? Jacob was livid with Simeon and Levi but all they got at the time was a tongue lashing. Jacob was fearful for his group’s safety. By attacking this city Simeon and Levi could have started a war. If this city had an alliance with another one, Jacob’s group could have been attacked in return and possibly defeated.
What would Jacob have proposed happen instead? Something had to be done for the offense done to Dinah. “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (verse 31). Jacob had posed no objections or put forth any other plan for recompense. Simeon and Levi had no guide to follow so they followed their own broken hearts for their sister. I wonder if Leah helped them hatch this plot.
“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” There was sin and deceit on both sides of this equation. There was also self-satisfaction and greed on both sides. Both wanted what the other had, once they found an avenue was open. But the tipping point in this story is the desire for revenge. Simeon and Levi didn’t ask God to stand up for Dinah. They took that task on themselves. They became judge, jury and executioner. ALL were found guilty instead of the one. I wonder what would have happened if just Shechem was charged with HIS sins. Was there a way to punish him alone? There certainly would have been if they would have left it in God’s hands. HE could have dealt with the situation rightly. In our reading tomorrow we might discover why they didn’t turn to Him instead.
Father God, I KNOW You didn’t approve of the way Dinah was violated. I also KNOW You didn’t approve of how Simeon and Levi handled the situation. What would have been Your solution instead? I don’t see any good options, considering the times and the resources available. But I can trust that You would have stood up for her if given the chance. “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Deut. 32:35). They should have learned that lesson by watching Jacob. He never took revenge on Laban for all the things done to him. Instead, Jacob trusted in You to set things right.
Sometimes I’m tempted to be like Simeon and Levi. I want to hurt everyone who hurt me but I know it won’t make my hurt any better. It only makes me feel worse, especially if/when my retaliation spills over onto innocent bystanders.
You call us to forgive. NO ONE can hurt me as bad as I’ve hurt You! Because YOU have forgiven me, I can forgive others. That is Your command and requirement. It is not always easy but it is required. Is this what Jacob was thinking as Hamor was speaking? Why didn’t he share it with his sons? They needed this lesson as much as he did; as I still do. I grieve for Dinah and sympathies with Simeon and Levi, but NONE of us can stand in Your place. What would You have had them do? ”Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God.” Help me do just that and leave ALL ‘vengeance’ in Your hands.