Genesis Bible Study (God's Grace To Overcome) Transforming Jacob

Genesis 34, Defiled


There are texts in God’s word that are hard to read. There are scriptures like Judges 19-21 where we read about horrible, sinful people doing horrible, sinful things. It is hard to read such scriptures. We do not want to read about these awful things. But these kinds of awful things happen in the world. It might have happened to you. God does not pretend that these kinds of things do not happen. Genesis 34 records such a terrible event where sin is compounded with more sin which is compounded with more sin. But why is a chapter like this recorded for God’s people to read for all time? Clearly, God wants us not to skip over such passages. God’s word preserves such accounts for a reason. The apostle Paul proclaimed that all scripture is given by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). So we are going to read Genesis 34 and think about what God is trying to teach his people about how to handle life when terrible things happen. We will also look at what God is trying to teach his people about himself.

The Defiling (34:1-7)

Jacob and his family are in the land of Canaan. But the land of Canaan is not a safe place. The land of Canaan is not a holy or godly place. The land of Canaan is a wicked land with wicked people that do not have a moral compass at all. One of the purposes of this account is to show that the Canaanites are wicked and worthy of God’s coming judgment. Dinah is the daughter of Leah and she visits some of the women in the land. But a man named Shechem who was a ruler of the area saw her, seized her, and violated her. After violating her, he begins to speak tenderly to her. Perhaps he is trying to win her over after doing this terrible act to her. So Shechem goes to his father telling him to go make arrangements so that he can marry Dinah.

In verse 5 we read that Jacob hears about this terrible sin. Jacob’s sons are in the field taking care of the livestock. Verse 5 tells us that this is the reason that Jacob pauses. I do not think we should immediately condemn Jacob from verse 5. The text does not tell us that Jacob was not going to do anything. The text does not tell us that Jacob is going to be passive and let this sin go. The text simply says that he was waiting until they returned from the field to tell them what had happened. Verse 6 tells us that Hamor, Shechem’s father, was on his way to go talk to Jacob about this. The two of them are going to talk to each other about this sin and what needs to be done about this.

Now verse 7 is very important. Please read it carefully. As the sons of Jacob are coming in the from the field, they heard about what happened. They do not get back to Jacob before they hear the news. When they hear the news, they are outraged that this has happened. They are furious and indignant because this is an outrageous sin. Verse 7 is clear. “Such a thing must not be done.” This is so important to read. There is no intent by this account to suggest that this is not a horrible sin. This is an outrageous thing. If the brothers were very angry about what had happened to Dinah, then what do you think Jacob felt? As a father, he would have surely been just as outraged and upset about what has happened to his only daughter. I hope one thing we would think about from this event is that removing God from society is not a benefit to women and children. Removing God from society means that the strong, influential, and powerful do whatever they want to do without consequence. Shechem is an official in the land and he harms Dinah. Sins only increase when God is not the center of the society. Removing God from society only means that more and more people will experience injustice and harm.

The Defiled Plan (34:8-18)

Rather than returning to Jacob to speak about what has happened to their sister, Hamor encounters the brothers on the way to meet Jacob. So Hamor starts talking to them about what has happened and what they want to do about it. It would be appropriate for the brothers to be part of this discussion as they would have been considered protectors and caretakers of their sister. Hamor makes the offer in verse 8 Shechem’s heart is set on Dinah. Please give her to him to be his wife. But then the offer expands in verses 9-10. Let our families intermarry and live on the land. Settle here, trade in it, and acquire property. Then Shechem steps in and offers even more in verses 11-12. He says that you ask for whatever you want for a bride-price as compensation and he will pay it. Now it is important to not be offended by this offer. They are not trying to buy Dinah. Every child was considered an important member of the family who worked for the family on the land and in the home. To lose your daughter to marriage would mean losing someone who helped and worked with the family. This is where the dowry of ancient times came from. Shechem says he will pay whatever price and give whatever gift as compensation for Dinah.

But notice what we are told in verse 13. Jacob’s sons answer deceitfully because Shechem had defiled Dinah. Jacob’s sons are not being truthful in what they are about to say. They are conjuring up a scheme because of what happened to their sister. So they answer that they cannot give Dinah to Shechem as a wife because he is not circumcised. It would be disgraceful to them to do this. So if all the males of the city are circumcised, only then will they agree to the terms. Shechem can have Dinah for a wife and they will intermarry with them and become one people. They deceitfully offer up this idea and Hamor and Shechem agree to the plan.

The Defiled Retribution (34:19-31)

So Shechem immediately is circumcised because he really wanted to marry Dinah (34:19). Hamor and Shechem then go to the gate of the city and tell them what needs to happen, which is recorded in verse 21. They tell the people that we can be at peace with this new family that is living on the land. We can intermarry with them under one condition. Every male needs to be circumcised. But you will notice in verse 23 that they see a financial advantage to doing this. Jacob has great wealth because God has greatly blessed him for more than 20 years. They see that this is their chance to have their possessions by joining into Jacob’s family. In verse 24 we read that all the men of the city agree and are circumcised.

But look at what happens in verse 25. On the third day, when all the men were sore from this procedure, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took swords and killed all the males of the city. They also killed Hamor and Shechem and took Dinah back home. The sons of Jacob then plundered the city because their sister had been defiled. They took their flocks, herds, donkeys, and everything else that was in the city and in the field. They took their wealth and captured their wives and children (34:28-29). What a horrifying response by Simeon and Levi.

Jacob challenges these two sons in verse 30. He tells them that you have brought trouble on me by your actions. The rest of the inhabitants of the land might rise up and attack me and destroy us because of what you have done. Listen to the response of these two sons in verse 31. “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” Notice that Simeon and Levi proclaim that they were justified in what they did. Should their sister be treated like a prostitute? No, of course not. But is this a reasonable response from these two brothers? No, it is not. This response will become a curse against them when Jacob gives out the blessings before his death. Listen to what he says about these two in Genesis 49.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:5-7 ESV)

Jacob reveals what had happened. Jacob says that in their anger Simeon and Levi killed those men and willfully were cruel to the animals. Look at the condemnation in verse 7. Cursed be their anger because it was so fierce and strong. Cursed by their wrath because it was so cruel. Because of their fierce anger and cruel wrath, let them be scattered throughout Israel. Simeon and Levi are clearly condemned for what they did even though they were acting in defense of their sister and her defilement. So why is this text recorded for us for all time? What are we supposed learn from it about how we are to act? What are we supposed to learn about God?


I think there is one big message that is clearly being communicated through this horrible chapter. These brothers were right to be angry and want justice. This would be a circumstance that we would call righteous anger. They are not angry for themselves or what happened to them. They are angry because someone else was sinned against in a devastating way. There does need to be some sort of justice for what has happened. It appears that this is what Jacob and Hamor were going to sort out before the brothers got involved. But here is the big point. Our anger may be right but that does not make our response right. We can sometimes think that any response is a right response because our anger is right. Now let me emphasize a point we made earlier. A sin was committed. A grievous sin was committed. But being horribly sinned against does not justify any response.

The response of these two brothers is excessive and cruel. They do not simply hold Shechem to justice. They take out their wrath on the whole city. They take out their wrath on the men of the city by killing them. They take out their wrath on the women and children by capturing them. They take out their wrath on the animals by cruelly mistreating them. They take out their wrath by taking their wealth, animals, and property. They think they are right to steal and kill because their sister had been violated and sinned against. Their response was wrong. Their response was sinful. Even though Dinah had been sinned against, their response to that sin was also sin. Unfortunately, we can do the same thing with our anger. We can think that we have a right to any response because we have been wronged. When we are questioned about our response, we can be like the brothers, justifying our behavior that something had to be done. Think about how often we sin in our response to being sinned against.

What I want us to see is that what is happening is that we are no longer seeking justice. We are actually seeking vengeance. I think this is why we see Jacob with a measured response. Think about what the last chapter revealed. Jacob thought that his brother Esau was coming against him for vengeance. Jacob had severely wronged his brother and now it was time for Esau’s wrath to come on Jacob. But Jacob did not experience Esau’s wrath or vengeance. The two brothers reconciled. Vengeance is not the way.

Unfortunately, this is also a growing problem in our culture. You might have seen now in more and more movies and tv shows that a person does an evil act but it is justified because of how they were mistreated in their lives. We hear the news about a shooter who does what he or she does because they were mocked, mistreated, or rejected by their friends, their school, their job, or their family. What we are seeing is that any response is justified because that person has been wronged in his or her life. We are right to kill, steal, yell, or do whatever feels right because we have been wronged. But this is not justice. This is vengeance. Vengeance is always a sin (cf. Romans 12:19-21). We cannot excuse our anger responses toward our friends, family, or strangers simply because we have been wronged. Our response is defiled when it is vengeful.

But what about justice? God has no problem with a need for justice. This was shown in the Law of Moses. The laws were given so that there could be some judgments of justice for wrongs and sins committed. The principle established was an eye for eye system. This is also called lex talionis. We read in Exodus 21.

But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:23-25 ESV)

Now it is important to see that this principle was not for personal vengeance but for administering justice. God’s principle to operate by for justice was that the punishment should fit the crime. That is, the punishment should not be greater than the crime and the punishment should not be lesser than the crime. So let us think about what happened to Dinah. Is what the two brothers did justice? Did the punishment fit the crime? No. Any punishment that was not solely directed to Shechem did not fit the crime. The whole city of men should not have been killed. The women and children should not have been captured. The animals should not have been cruelly mistreated. The city should not have been plundered. This was not justice. Other people were suffering and punished for Shechem’s crime and that is not right. If something happens against us, we should only want justice, not vengeance.

If you live life long enough, then you know there is an inherent problem. Justice is often not served. Sometimes people get away with what they did. Sometimes people do not receive a just penalty and the punishment is too light for what happened. Sometimes this is the reason we want to take matters into our own hands. We believe that there will not be justice. We see justice fail. So what are we then supposed to do? Let me take a familiar text and use it for the answer.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

God promised that through Jesus and his kingdom, Jesus will uphold justice and righteousness. There is a day appointed when we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for our actions (2 Corinthians 5:10). God promises justice for every wrong. Do not defile yourself with a defiled response to someone sinning against you. God will right those wrongs. You continue to do what is right as we wait the glorious return of our Lord who will bring justice and righteousness.

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