Genesis 34:1-31 “Dinah Defiled, part 1”

Posted on March 25, 2012. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bryan E. Walker

Read Genesis 34

            Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”

            Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 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, because he had done an outrageous thing inIsraelby lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.

            But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him to be his wife. Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. Ask me for as great a bride price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me. Only give me the young woman to be my wife.”

            The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. Then 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.”

            Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his father’s house. So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, “These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

            On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.

            Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

(Genesis 34 ESV)




Finish 33:18-20


Introduction: When I have read through Genesis in the past, and come to this chapter, I have always felt that it seemed odd, like it did not fit. Why include this awful story? Now that I have studied it, I see that it absolutely fits in with the rest of the Genesis story, and with the rest of the Jacob stories.


This chapter deals with some pretty horrible stuff: rape, a dysfunctional family, revenge, war. Things like this we are uncomfortable with and long to hear the sweetness of the gospel. Christians will tend to say, “Let’s hear about Jesus…not this stuff! Show us the gospel!” Oh, the gospel is here, folks, it is the hard edge of the gospel. Jesus is here, both in his grace and his judgment.


This chapter will show us that Jacob very likely strayed when he settled by Shechem, instead of going on toBethel, and that his weak character as a husband and father had tragic consequences. We see that in God’s providence tragedies strike even those in the covenant, and we must deal with the harsh realities of a sin filled world.


But in the midst of the pain and anguish of crime, rape, and war, we do see that God kept covenant with Jacob even when Jacob and his family proved less than honorable. We will see God’s amazing grace in this chapter, and how he provides for his own.



Literary Analysis



We are in the second main section of Genesis, 11:27-50:26 dealing with the Patriarchs, which explains where Israel came from and how God begins his plan of redeeming lost man by choosing to make for himself a nation through which a Savior would come. Moses has divided his book up into an Introduction, 1:1-2:3, followed by ten parts called toledoths– “These are the generations of…”. We are currently in the 8th toledoth, comprised of 25:19-35:29 dealing with the Generations of Isaac.


The 8th toledoth is organized by Moses in a chiastic structure with clear breaks between stories. This Chiastic structure, slightly modified by me, comes from Waltke, p.352, 385.

A-Births and genealogy 25:19-24

  B-Digression: Rebekah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 26:1-33

    C-Jacob steals Esau’s blessing 26:34-28:9

      D-Jacob receives the blessing but is in exile 28:10-32:32

        1-Encounter with God at Bethel28:10-22

          2-Conflict with Laban inHaran29:1-30

            3-Birth of the 12 Tribes 29:31-30:24 (God’s word kept- Moses’ main point!)

          2’-Jacob prospers but flees Laban 30:25-31:55 (God’s promise to prosper kept)

        1’-Encounters with God 32:1-32 (Jacob Becomes Israel, Moses’ other key point)

    C’-Reconciliation with Esau 33:1-17 (the climax of Esau v. Jacob)

  B’-Digression: Dinah in ForeignPalace, Foreigners 33:18-34:31 (we are here)

A’-Births and Deaths 35:1-29


Wenham states, p.308, “Though chap.34 is well constructed in itself, it is not immediately apparent why it should be included in the Jacob cycle at all; it does not seem to relate to the theme of Genesis. By 33:20, Jacob has been reconciled to Esau and has returned toCanaan. 35:1-16 recounts how he finally reachesBethel, the starting point of his journey. But chap. 34 seems to be a digression, contributing very little to the plot. What is its place and function within the Jacob cycle?”


Wenham goes to point out how ch.34 ties in with things before it, and things after, “It is no stray boulder that just happens to have come to rest here, but it presupposes what precedes and is assumed in the material that follows.” Why was Dinah mentioned in 30:21 at all, when daughters are not typically mentioned? Dinah was not mentioned anywhere else in the story, until now, so we can say that her mention in 30:21 sets the stage for this chapter. Moses goes to great lengths to show how Leah was NOT the favored wife, which leads to the neglect of her children by Jacob, combined with the obvious favoritism of Joseph later, and the tragic circumstances of the present chapter. Circumcision also links this chapter with ch.17. This story matches up well with the story from Isaac and Rebekah in ch.26:1-33 and with the stories from Abraham and Sarah in 20:1-18 and12:10-20. The fear that Jacob expresses in 34:30 is matched by God’s protection in 35:5, which points forward to Moses, Joshua, and Israel in Ex. 15:16; 23:27; Joshua 2:9.



Some scholars place 33:18-20 as part of 34, some leave it with 33. Those verses do bring closure to Jacob’s exile and thus close 28:10-33:20. Waltke links them to 34. The irony of the story is set up in 33:18 “And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem…” it was not safe for Dinah, nor was it to be safe for the Shechemites. At the end of the story Jacob expresses a fear of the people of the land who will hear of the violence his sons committed against Shechem, so he does not feel safe anymore either.


The chapter has two violent events that are parallel with each other: the rape of Dinah and the destruction of Shechem. Moses has these acts arranged with a chiastic use of verbs (Waltke, p.458): 34:1-2 Dinah…went out (Heb.ys’)…Shechem…seized her (Heb. lqh)- and then- 34:26 (Simeon and Levi) took Dinah out (Heb.lqh)… and went away (Heb.ys’).


The parallel structure of the chapter is shown this way:


A The rape of Dinah by Shechem, 34:1-4

B Responses to the rape of Dinah, 34:5-24

    1. Jacob’s inaction and sons indignation to the rape, vv.5-7

    2. Hamor and Shechem propose marriage with Dinah, vv.8-12

    3. Jacob’s family proposes a deceitful treaty with Shechem, vv.13-24

A’ The destruction of Shechem by Jacob’s sons, vv.25-29

B’ Responses to the destruction of Shechem, vv.30-31

  1. 1.      Jacob fears destruction, v.30
  2. 2.      Jacob’s sons’ indignation, v.31


Plot and Themes

The theme in the previous stories of patriarchal women was a danger to the promise of God by a possible pollution of the patriarchs’ wives by pagan kings, thus bringing doubt to the promise of descendants. This story with Dinah is similar but has a different theme. Jacob perceives the danger in 34:30 that his band is small and the surrounding Canaanites may attack out of revenge. This would imperil the covenant. The theme of deception in this family goes back to Abraham, Isaac, and most notably, to Jacob, but now it is practiced in a very violent way by Jacob’s sons. To a lesser extent Dinah follows in her mother’s and grandmother’s steps of leaving the safety and security of their homes. Rebekah and Leah left with husbands in mind, but Dinah seems to wander into trouble.


We see the original promise made to Abraham in 12:1-3, passed down to Isaac, and now Jacob, has been kept. Those who disregarded Jacob, the men of Shechem, have come to naught, are destroyed, and Jacob is enriched and protected in the end.


In this story we see the sons of prominent men, Hamor and Jacob, disrespect their fathers; however, we do not see the fathers providing proper leadership for their sons. Hamor goes along with the lust of his son while Jacob is passive in his response to the rape of his daughter and the violence of Simeon and Levi. There are some contrasts between Jacob and his sons with Hamor and his son. Hamor and Shechem are unified in the goal of intermarrying with Jacob’s family but Jacob and his family are not united on anything at all. Even after his encounter with God at Peniel, and his renaming toIsrael, Jacob remains Jacob.


The story brings up the issue of rape, but we are not given an example of a proper response to this crime should be. The extreme violence against Shechem is out of proportion to the crime committed, yet is not heavily censured by Moses, in fact, he seems to side with the sons with his choice of language throughout, noticeably in vs.7 “he had done an outrageous thing in Israel…for such a thing must not be done”, and in vs.31, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” A larger issue than rape is brought up, the issue of intermarriage with the Canaanites. We have seen Abraham send his servant back toHaranin ch.24 to get a wife for Isaac, and how Jacob got his wives inHaranas well. But now the prince of Shechem wants to marry Dinah and he and his father want a policy of intermarriage with the clan of Jacob. The disaster which follows showsIsraelin Moses’ day that intermarriage is not an option. Ross writes, p.569, “The law said thatIsraelwas not to intermarry with the Canaanites or make treaties with them but was to destroy them because they posed such a threat. This passage provides part of the rationale for such laws, for it describes how immoral Canaanites defiledIsraelby sexual contact and attempted to marry for the purpose of swallowing upIsrael.”


We are not given a time setting for the events. Given that Joseph would be 17 yrs. old in ch.37, we can surmise that Dinah would most likely be a teenager in ch.34 as she is listed as being born after Leah had borne six sons but around the time of Joseph’s birth. We are not told how long Jacob stayed in Succoth, nor how long he had been in Shechem.


The role that this story plays inIsraelfor Moses’ day and beyond is to show where leadership over the tribes comes from. In this story Simeon and Levi take actions that result in their father not giving them a blessing of leadership in 49:5. In the next story we see Reuben sin against his father through incestuous adultery, thus losing the place of the firstborn (49:3-4). So it falls toJudahin 49:8-12 to be the holder of the scepter. Simeon and Levi actually used the sign of the covenant, circumcision, as a ruse, in order to slaughter the Canaanites. Justice should have been executed separately from this kind of abuse of the covenant.


Another role that this story plays for the Israel of Moses’ day is that of a foreshadow of Israel’s conquest ofCanaanwith all the killing and destruction that involves.



Noticeably, God is absent from this story. Perhaps it reflects how we feel when tragedies strike and we are victimized and humiliated- Where is God? In 35:1 God speaks to Jacob and tells him, again, to go toBethel, implying that (in light of 28:15) had Jacob gone all the way toBethel, none of this would have happened. This could be Moses’ subtle way of showing God’s reproof of Jacob. Waltke writes, p.468, “The logic of the story implies the importance of keeping one’s vow. Jacob fails to keep his vow to build an altar atBetheland then almost loses his household….One cannot worship God as one pleases. Jacob builds and altar, but in the wrong place. Because he is not in the place where he is supposed to be, he brings a sword, not a blessing upon the nations.”


Dinah is not given a voice in the story at all, nor does Leah have a say in the events. Waltke writes, p.459, “She (Dinah) is an object of passion to Shechem, a bargaining chip to Hamor, a source of moral outrage on her behalf by her brothers, and passive indifference by her father.”


Jacob is seen as weak, inactive and distant. He fails to take his role as leader of his family seriously nor does he seek justice. With Abraham and Issac, God seems to have intervened, but here, there is no intervention by God. Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, take action, but use extreme violence and deception.


The city ofShechem, in theJordanValley, seems to behave much likeSodom. Other factors of this story cause us to rememberLotandSodom.Lotpitched his tents nearSodomand now Jacob “pitched his tent” before the city. Immorality abounded in both cities and destruction came suddenly to both cities.


Key Words/Phrases


Waltke points out that Moses stresses family relationships throughout this story (p.459): “The narrator stresses Jacob’s passivity by repeatedly noting the obvious family relationships that seem to have no impact on Jacob’s actions (34:1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 19, 25, 27) The disparity in name and action is made more apparent by the active relationship between the Canaanite ruler and his son. They too are repeatedly identified by the narrator by their familial relationship (34:2, 4, 6, 8, 13, 18, 20, 24, 26).”


Seized her

Lay with her

Humiliated her

Drawn to Dinah

Loved the young woman

Spoke tenderly to her

Defiled v.5,13, 27

Held his peace


Very angry

An outrageous thing

Lying with Jacob’s daughter

Such a thing

Must not be done

Give her/give your daughters

Dwell vss.9,21, 23

Trade vss.9,21

Get property




One people, v.22











Ross uses a 3-part outline that is very thematic and more for a sermon (vss.1-3, 4-24, 25-31), and Mathews also uses a 3-part outline (vvs.1-4, 5-24, 25-31). Wenham, like Waltke, uses a 4 part outline but with different divisions. Wenham has scene 1 covering vss.1-4, and scene 2 covering only vss.5-19. Then Wenham has scene 3 with vss. 20-24 and the final scene with vss.25-31. Wenham has scenes 1 and 4 as largely narrative with scenes 2-3 largely dialogue.  I think that Waltke’s outline is also textually driven, that is, it represents accurately what Moses intended, but relies more on the chiastic structure. Here is my outline:


  1. Dinah is Defiled, vss.1-4
  2. Responses to Dinah’s Defilement, vss.5-24
    1. Jacob’s Inaction and Sons Reaction, vv.5-7
    2. Hamor and Shechem’s Proposal, vv.8-12
    3. A Deceitful Treaty Proposed, vv.13-17
    4. The Canaanite’s Deceitful Plan Exposed, vv.18-24
    5. Shechem is Defiled, vv. 25-29
    6. Responses to Shechem’s Defilement, vv.30-31
      1. Jacob’s Fear of Destruction, v.30
      2. Jacob’s Sons Indignation, v.31


Gospel Point

We Believers can get sidetracked and settle at Shechem when we are called toBethel. Failure to properly shepherd our children (and they have a sin nature and can follow the siren call of the world) can lead to tragic circumstances. In God’sProvidenceeven Believer’s lives can be shattered by sin and crime. We cannot remain passive in the face of evil, but we need to respond appropriately with both justice and the Gospel. We are called to “conquerCanaan”, but not with the sword, but with the gospel, truth, justice, freedom and beauty. In the end, God’s sovereign covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is shown to hold true as Jacob is protected, and even enriched because of these events.



Boice, James Montgomery. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 2, Genesis 12:1-36:43. Zondervan:Grand Rapids, MI. 1985 (pp.341-346).

Mathews, Kenneth A. The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26. Broadman & Holman Publishers:Nashville, TN. 2005. (pp.576-609).

Ross, Allen P. Creation & Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Baker Academic:Grand Rapids,MI 1998 (pp.568-576.)

Waltke, Bruce. Genesis: A Commentary, Zondervan:Grand Rapids, MI. 2001 (pp.458-469.)

Wenham, Gordon. Word Biblical Commentary vol.2 Genesis 16-50.Word Books:Dallas,TX. 1994 (pp.304-319).




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