Genesis 34:1-31

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 34:1-31

  1. Locate the passage

As Jacob and his family settled in the promise land conflicts began to develop. One such conflict erupted around his daughter, Dinah. The account of the incident between her and Shechem and the response of her brothers to it forms another potential threat to Abraham’s family in inheriting the Promised Land. The episode is bracketed in the text by two accounts of worship on Jacob’s part; the first in Shechem (33:20), and the second in Bethel (35:1). It is significant, that the Lord calls Jacob back to Bethel.

One may wonder if the fact that Jacob is in Shechem and has not fully been obedient to the Lord’s instructions in 31:13 is partly to blame for the events of Genesis 34.

  1. Genre

The account is narrative. It records several conversations surrounding the sexual relationship between Dinah and one of the Hivites. Interestingly, the account does not record any conversations by any party in the episode with Dinah.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

34:1-2 – Dinah is taken by Shechem

34:3-18 – Shechem desires to marry Dinah and the Hivites propose a marriage alliance with Jacob and his descendants.

34:19-24 – Dinah’s brothers deceptively propose a “condition” under which they will accept an alliance with the Hivites.

34:25-29 – Dinah’s brothers kill Shechem and his family

34:30-31 – Jacob fears a war with the Hivites.

  1. Exegete the passage

The central question of the passage is whether or not Dinah was sexually assaulted. The details of the text are: the language of the narrative in 34:2, 7, and 19; Shechem’s response; Jacob’s response; the response of the brothers; the description of the brothers of the event in 34:31; and Dinah’s response. The use of the identical phrase in 2 Sam. 13:12 by Tamar (an incident that is unquestionably rape; see discussion below) is a curious connection between the two passages). The words used in 34:2 can imply rape, but do not necessitate it. In 34:7, the narrator says that the act was “disgraceful … in Israel” and “ought not to be done;” however, those descriptions do not necessitate assault. Also, Shechem’s description as “honorable” in 34:19 does not resolve the issue of his character. Shechem seems to be in love with Dinah and speaks kindly to her as though he is enticing her (contrasted by the emotional response of Amnon after his rape of Tamar). Jacob’s response is ambiguous. The response of the brothers is anger, but it is not entirely clear if they are angry because she was violated or because the sex was outside of marriage or with foreigners. The brothers’ suggestion in 34:31 is that Dinah was treated like a harlot (which does not necessarily imply coercion). Finally, Dinah’s response is curious. The fact that Dinah is still with Shechem (Cf. 34:26) suggests that she is either there willingly, has been coerced, or is resigned to the situation. Given the available evidence of the text, dogmatism does not seem warranted.

34:1 – Dinah the daughter of Leah

34:1 – Dinah went out to see

34:2 – Shechem “took” her and … violated her.

34:3 – The intensity of emotion from Shechem after the sexual encounter with Dinah is contrasted by Amnon’s intensity of feelings for Tamar after he raped her (2 Sam. 13:15).

34:4 – Shechem demands of his father that he “get” (lit. “take”) the young woman for him as a wife.

34:5 – The fact that Jacob “heard” of the events and did nothing about it foreshadows a similar parental failure on the part of David upon the rape of his granddaughter,   Tamar (2 Sam. 13:21-22).

34:7 – When Dinah’s brothers heard about the situation, they were “grieved” and “very angry.”

34:7 – The text indicates that Hamor went to speak to Jacob; however, 34:8 and 34:11 indicated that Simeon and Levi have joined the conversation. Moreover, it is Simeon and Levi who respond to Hamor in 34:14.

34:8 – Shechem’s father, Hamor, acquiesces to the wishes of his son and proposes a marriage alliance with Jacob’s sons.

34:11-12 – Hamor offers to pay any dowry requested by Jacob and his sons.

34:13 – Simeon and Levi speak up instead of Jacob. The narrator informs the reader that their intention was to deceive Hamor and the Hivites.

34:14 – We cannot … give our sister to one who is uncircumcised.

34:15 – The condition is for “every” male to be circumcised.

34:19 – He was more “honorable” than all the household of his father

34:20-24 – Shechem seems to only have the intention of marrying Dinah. Hamor’s interests seem more suspicious. He implies to the men (who are being asked to be circumcised) that the wealth of Jacob would become theirs in the arrangement.

34:25 – Simeon and Levi wait until the pain of the circumcision would be at its peak before they attack.

34:26 – They “took” Dinah

34:27-28 – In addition to their murderous response, Simeon and Levi also steal the flocks from the Hivites and the wealth from their houses.

34:30 – Jacob, who should have taken the lead in responding to Shechem and Hamor, now has to deal with the sinful response of Simeon and Levi. In addition, he is also aware that their actions have endangered his entire family.

34:31 – Simeon and Levi state that Shechem has treated their sister like a “harlot.”

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. Jacob is at least partly responsible for the event as well as the response to it.

Ill. Children’s song – “Be careful little eyes what you see”

App. Another verse says, “Be careful little feet where you go.”

Exp. So many of our bad decisions occur when we are not where we should be and doing what we should not be doing.

Exp. When you hang around the wrong kind of people, wrong kinds of actions tend to follow.

Exp. Jacob wasn’t where he should have been

Exp. Like Samson in Judges 14, sin is even more enticing when we allow ourselves to be in places where we should not be.

Exp. Believers must be careful not to allow themselves to be in positions where temptation is likely. The fault here is not so much with Dinah going out to

See, but with Jacob not being where the Lord instructed him to be

Exp. Jacob should have followed the Lord’s instructions 31:13 and the episode might have been avoided.

Exp. Jacob didn’t respond as he should have responded

Exp. Jacob mishandled the situation and the brothers over-reacted

Exp. Simeon and Levi’s response to Jacob in 34:31 implies Jacob’s lack of response. They imply that Jacob was allowing Dinah to be treated like a harlot.

Exp. Believers need to respond appropriately to address problems. Parents need to respond appropriately to address potential crises in the lives of their children. Ultimately, it was Jacob’s responsibility (not Simeon and Levi’s) to handle the situation. However, Jacob waited until they came back from the field (34:5), was silent during the negotiations (34:13), and later shifted all the blame to Simeon and Levi (34:30).

Exp. Regardless of whether Shechem raped Dinah or not, the response from Simeon and Levi was disproportionate and misapplied. If that were the case, Shechem would deserve to be punished, but the killing of the men of the city was excessive and murderous.

App. How do you handle adverse circumstances in your life?

Exp. There are dangers to mishandling crises.

Exp. Simeon and Levi greatly overreact to the situation with their sister. Whatever fault Shechem does or does not have in the passage does not merit their response. They murdered the men of Shechem (most of whom had no part in the situation between Shechem and Dinah) and stole from them.

Exp. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.



Category: Sermon Structure
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