Genesis 34


Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, going out to

see the daughters of the land, is ravished by Shechem,

the son of Hamor, 1, 2.

He entreats his father to get her for him to wife, 3.

Jacob and his sons hear of the indignity offered to Dinah, 5-7.

Hamor proposes the suit of Shechem to Jacob and his sons, and

offers them a variety of advantages, 8-10.

Shechem himself comes forward, begs to have Dinah to wife, and

offers dowry to any extent, 11, 12.

The sons of Jacob pretend scruples of conscience to give their

sister to one who was uncircumcised; and require, as a condition

of this marriage, and of intermarriages in general, that all the

Shechemites should be circumcised, 13-17.

Hamor and Shechem consent, 18, 19.

They lay the business before the elders of their city, dwell on

the advantages of a connection with Jacob and his family, and

propose to them the condition required by the sons of Jacob, 20-23.

The elders consent, and all the males are circumcised, 24.

While the Shechemites are incapable of defending themselves, on

the third day after their circumcision, Simeon and Levi, the

brothers of Dinah, came upon the city, slew all the males,

sacked the city, took the women and children captives, and

seized on all the cattle belonging to the Shechemites, 25-29.

Jacob is greatly displeased and alarmed at this treachery and

cruelty of his sons, and lays before them the probable

consequences, 30.

They endeavour to vindicate their conduct, 31.


Verse 1. And Dinah-went out to see the daughters of the land.]

It is supposed that Jacob had been now about seven or eight years

in the land, and that Dinah, who was about seven years of age when

Jacob came to Canaan, was now about fourteen or fifteen. Why or

on what occasion she went out we know not, but the reason given by

Josephus is very probable, viz., that it was on one of their


Verse 2. Prince of the country] i.e., Hamor was prince; Shechem

was the son of the prince or chief. Our version appears to

represent Shechem as prince, but his father was the chief of the

country. See Ge 34:6, 8, &c.

Verse 3. Spake kindly unto the damsel.] Literally, he spake to

the heart of the damsel-endeavoured to gain her affections, and

to reconcile her to her disgrace. It appears sufficiently evident

from this and the preceding verse that there had been no consent

on the part of Dinah, that the whole was an act of violence, and

that she was now detained by force in the house of Shechem. Here

she was found when Simeon and Levi sacked the city, Ge 34:26.

Verse 7. He had wrought folly in Israel] The land, afterwards

generally called Israel, was not as yet so named; and the sons of

Jacob were neither called Israel, Israelites nor Jews, till long

after this. How then can it be said that Shechem had wrought

folly in Israel? The words are capable of a more literal

translation: beyisrael, may be translated, against Israel.

The angel had said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob-not

only Jacob, but Israel. It was this that aggravated the offence

of Shechem; he wrought folly against Israel, the prince of God, in

lying with the daughter of Jacob. Here both the names are given;

Jacob, whose daughter was defiled, and Israel, the prince of

God, against whom the offence was committed.

Verse 12. Ask me never so much dowry] See Clarke on Ge 29:20,

&c. See the law relative to this, Ex 22:16,17.

Verse 13. Answered-deceitfully] Which nothing could excuse;

yet, to show that they had had much provocation, it is immediately

subjoined vaidabberu, they spoke thus because he had

defiled Dinah their sister; for so this parenthesis should be


Verse 14. That were a reproach unto us] Because the

uncircumcised were not in the covenant of God; and to have given

an heiress of the promise to one who had no kind of right to its

spiritual blessings, from whom might spring children who would

naturally walk in the way of their father would have been absurd,

reproachful and wicked. Thus far they were perfectly right; but

to make this holy principle a cloak for their deceitful and

murderous purposes, was the full sum of all wickedness.

Verse 17. Then will we take our daughter, and we will he gone.]

It is natural to suppose that the tribe of Hamor was very

inconsiderable, else they would not have sought an alliance with

the family of Jacob, and have come so readily into a painful,

disgraceful measure, without having either the sanction of Divine

authority or reason; for it does not appear that the sons of Jacob

urged either. And they are threatened here that if they do not

agree to be circumcised, Dinah shall be taken from them, and

restored to her family; and this is probably what the Shechemites

saw they had not power at present to prevent.

Verse 23. Shall not their cattle and their substance-be ours?

This was a bait held out for the poor unsuspecting people of Hamor

by their prince and his son, who were not much less deceived than

the people themselves.

Verse 24. Every male was circumcised] These simple people must

have had very great affection for their chief and his son, or have

been under the influence of the most passive obedience, to have

come so readily into this measure, and to have submitted to this

rite. But the petty princes in Asiatic countries have ever been

absolute and despotic, their subjects paying them the most

prompt and blind obedience. I shall give a few examples from Mr.

Richardson's Dissertations.-

"Abu Thaher, chief of the Carmathians, about the year nine

hundred and thirty, ravaged the territory of Mecca, defiled the

temple, and destroyed nearly 40,000 people. With only 500 horse

he went to lay siege to Bagdad: the caliph's general, at the head

of 30,000 men, marched out to seize him, but before he attacked

him he sent an officer to summon him to surrender. 'How many men

has the caliph's general?' said Abu Thaher. 'Thirty thousand,'

replied the officer. 'Among them all,' says the Carmathian chief,

'has he got three like mine?' Then, ordering his followers to

approach, he commanded one to stab himself, another to throw

himself from a precipice, and a third to plunge into the Tigris;

all three instantly obeyed, and perished. Then turning to the

officer, he said, 'He who has such troops needs not value the

number of his enemies!'

"Hassan Sabat, one of those petty princes formerly known in Asia

and Europe by the title Sheekh-ul-jibel, or old man of the

mountain, being required by an ambassador to do homage to his

master, the Sultan Malekshah Jelaleddin, without giving any

answer, ordered one of his attendants to poniard himself, and

another to leap from the battlements of the tower; and he was

instantly obeyed! Then turning to the ambassador, he said,

'Seventy thousand are thus attentive to my commands. Let this be

my answer. On a principle of this kind we may account for the

prompt obedience of the people of Hamor.

Verse 25. On the third day, when they were sore] When the

inflammation was at the height, and a fever ensued which rendered

the person utterly helpless, and his state critical, Simeon and

Levi, the half brothers of Dinah, took each man his sword,

probably assisted by that portion of the servants which helped

them to take care of the flock, came on the city boldly,

betach, securely-without being suspected, and being in no danger

of meeting with resistance, and slew all the males. Great as the

provocation was, and it certainly was very great, this was an act

or unparalleled treachery and cruelty.

Verse 27. The sons of Jacob] The rest of Jacob's sons, the

remaining brothers of Simeon and Levi, spoiled the city. Though

the others could slay the defenceless males, it was not likely

that they could have carried away all the booty, with the women,

children, and cattle; it is therefore most natural to suppose that

the rest of the sons of Jacob assisted at last in the business.

Verse 30. Ye have troubled me] Brought my mind into great

distress, and endangered my personal safety; to make me to

stink-to render me odious to the surrounding tribes, so that

there is every reason to suspect that when this deed is come

abroad they will join in a confederacy against me, and extirpate

my whole family. And had he not been under the peculiar

protection of God, this in all human probability would have been

the case; but he had prevailed with God, and he was also to

prevail with men. That Jacob's resentment was not dissembled we

have the fullest proof in his depriving these two sons of the

birthright, which otherwise they had doubtless enjoyed. See

Ge 49:5,7, where some additional circumstances are related.

Verse 31. Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?] On

this outrage alone they vindicated their flagitious conduct. The

word harlot first occurs here: the original is not pilegesh,

which we render concubine, (see its explanation Ge 22:24,) but

zonah, which ordinarily signifies one who prostitutes

herself to any person for hire. Our word harlot is said to have

been derived from a very odd circumstance: Robert, duke of

Normandy, seeing a fine-looking country girl dancing with her

companions on the green, took her to his bed. She was the daughter

of a skinner, and her name was Arlotta; and of her William,

surnamed The Conqueror, was born. Hence it is said all such women

were from her called harlots, as William himself was usually

termed the Bastard. But horelet, the diminutive of whore, is

not a less likely derivation.

SOLOMON has very properly said, My son, enter not into the path

of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass

not by it, turn from it, and pass away, Pr 4:14,15. Had not

Dinah gone out to see the daughters of the land, and very possibly

at one of their idolatrous festivals, she had not suffered the

foul disgrace mentioned in this chapter. Not only prudence

dictates that young women should keep at home, but God expressly

commands it, Tit 2:5. Dinah got among idolaters, and thus

partook of their iniquities; and this led to the most base and

cruel transaction upon record. How true is the saying, Those who

wander out of the way of understanding shall abide in the

congregation of the dead! In the case before us blame seems to

attach to all parties.

1. It was wrong in Jacob to suffer his daughter, alone and

unprotected, to visit the daughters of the land.

2. It was excessively wicked in Shechem to take this advantage

of the daughter of a respectable stranger, who had sought his

friendship, and came to sojourn among his people, and whose

righteous dealing they must have witnessed for at least seven

years past. In his behalf we may say, and it would be unjust not

to say it, that having done the mischief, and sinned deeply

against the laws of hospitality, he wished to make all the

reparation in his power; and therefore in the most frank and

liberal manner he not only offered, but most pressingly entreated,

permission to take Dinah to wife. This was the utmost he could do

in such a case. And in this he is a saint of the first order when

compared with the noble and ignoble profligates who, while

blaspheming the Christian name by continuing to assume it, commit

all kinds of breaches on the virtue of simple females, and the

peace of respectable families, and not only make no reparation,

but glory in their shame.

3. It was diabolical in Jacob's sons to slay a whole tribe for

the offence of one man, and especially as that one had offered to

make all the restitution in his power. They required that Hamor,

Shechem, and all their subjects should be circumcised before they

could conscientiously consent to give their sister to Shechem in

marriage. This required conformity was made the cloak of the most

base and infamous designs. The simple unsuspecting Shechemites

agreed to the proposal; and when rendered by this religious rite

incapable of defending themselves, they were basely murdered by

Simeon and Levi, and their city destroyed. Jacob, to his great

honour, remonstrated against this barbarous and bloody act,

committed apparently under the sanction of religion; and God

showed his abhorrence of it by directing the patriarch, in his

dying moments, to proscribe them from the blessings of the

covenant, so that they barely retained a name among the tribes of

Israel, being in general small, and ever disreputable, except

merely in the service of the sanctuary, in which Levi was

employed. How often since, notwithstanding this solemn warning,

has the pure and benevolent religion of God been made, by wicked

and designing men, a political stalking-horse to serve the basest

purposes, and a covert to the worst of crimes! But shall we find

fault with the holy religion of the blessed God because wicked men

have abused it? God forbid! Were it not so good as it really is,

it would be incapable of such abuse. An evil cannot be abused, a

good may; and the greater and the more acknowledged the good,

the more liable to abuse. As every good is so capable of being

abused, does he act wisely who argues against the use of the thing

on this account? Shall we say that various kinds of grain,

fruits, and aliments are a curse, because wicked men abuse them to

the purposes of drunkenness and gluttony? This would argue an

utter perversion of all reason: and is it not on such a pretext as

this that many persons have ventured to call in question even the

truths of Christianity?

Whatever such men may be determined to think on the subject of

this chapter, with the unprejudiced reader the ample and detailed

relation which we have here of this barbarous transaction will

appear an additional proof of the veracity and impartiality of the

sacred historian.

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