Genesis 34:1-31 “Dinah Defiled, Part 4”

Posted on April 22, 2012. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Sunday, April 22, 2012 Bryan E. Walker


  1. III.             Shechem Is Defiled, vv.25-29
    1. B.        The Sons of Jacob Plunder Shechem, vv.27-29
      1. 1.      The sons of Jacob, v. 27 Although it is Simeon and Levi, the sons of Leah and Jacob, the brothers of Dinah, who have been the leaders in this situation and waged holy war against Shechem, now the other sons of Jacob get involved.
      2. 2.      …plundered the city- this seems to say that they saw an opportunity to get rich and took it, in Wenham’s view (p.316). Simeon and Levi were directing their wrath at Hamor and Shechem for the rape and kidnapping of Dinah, but this kind of looks like sheer opportunism to some. Moses does give a positive reason for their behaviour, however, when he says, “…because they had defiled their sister.” Again, Moses does not explicitly rebuke the sons of Jacob for their violence which can be uncomfortable for us today, but fits in with what Israel in Moses’ day was facing.
      3. 3.      They took their flocks and herds…whatever was in the city…All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives…they captured and plundered, vv.28-29– Notice the redundancy: many items are mentioned, then “whatever was in the city and in the field…plundered…plundered” What this means is that the sons of Jacob totally destroyed the city and took everything.
      4. 4.      all their little ones and their wives- we are not told the ages of the sons of Jacob and we do not know if some of them were already married or not. It is possible that they may have taken these Canaanite women as wives, but that would go against one of the main points of this episode being here. They could have kept some for slaves and sold the others.
      5. 5.      Here we see, the sons of Jacob getting enriched by these Canaanites. Abraham got wealthy in Egypt, Isaac got wealthy when he was living by Gerar and he “sowed in the land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold…and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy” (26:12-13). So despite their sinfulness, the sons of Jacob got rich, just like their ancestors, and just like the Israelites in Moses’ day.
      6. 6.      We are uncomfortable with the promised covenant blessings of God falling bountifully upon this scandalous family, but this is Moses key point! God is keeping his covenant with Abraham’s descendants despite their undeserving character! Grace!
      7. 7.      Apply- are we any better than Jacob’s sons? Do we deserve all the blessings which God has given us?
      8. 8.      Wenham explains the significance of this plundering of Shechem for Moses and his people (p.316) “It is true that the phraseology here, ‘plunder’, ‘took captive’, is the language of war (cf. Num.31:9; Deut.2:35; Josh.8:2, 27; Gen. 31:26; 1Sam.30:2). And it could be that the back reference ‘because their sister had been defiled’ is ironic, contrasting ‘the brothers’ fine words and their ugly deeds, between idealistic façade and materialistic reality, between deceit as sacred rage and as unholy calculation’ (Sternberg, Poetics, 472). On the other hand, it is noticeable that many of the same terms are found in the account of the Israelites’ revenge on Midian in Num31. The Midianites had seduced the Israelites, and Phineas, son of Aaron of the tribe of Levi, had killed the guilty man and woman (Num 25). Later, vengeance is wreaked on all the Midianites as directed in 25:17 by all the tribes of Israel. They slew every male (Num 31:7; cf, Gen.34:25); then they slew the Midianite kings (Num 31:8; cf, Gen 34:26; Hamor was prince, i.e., local king, according to Gen 34:2). Then Num 31:9 repeats Gen 34:29 almost word for word in reverse order.”
      9. 9.      Do you think this is accidental? No! Moses is deliberately linking what happened in Gen. 34 with what he is actually facing with Israel against the Midianites in his day. While we should not try to misapply Gen 34 and tell ourselves that we can or should wage holy war against our enemies today, we should acknowledge that God uses war in history for his purposes which are holy and just.


  1. IV.              Responses to Shechem’s Defilement, vv.30-31
    1. A.      Jacob’s Fear of Destruction, v.30
      1. 1.      You have brought trouble on me- Jacob blames Simeon and Levi and accepts no responsibility for himself, nor does he blame young Shechem who started it all. As discussed previously, later in ch.49 Jacob does not give Levi and Simeon any kind of a good blessing.
      2. 2.      by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land- Jacob expresses no concern for his daughter, but he does express some concern about himself and his safety. It seems as if Jacob would just sacrifice his daughter to keep the peace. This reminds me ofLot offering his daughters to the men ofSodom rather than give up the “men”.
      3. 3.      Jacob shows a fear of the Canaanites- God delivered him from Laban and Esau, he wrestled God face to face and prevailed, God has shown himself to be merciful, patient and eager to bless Jacob, and he then acts like….US!
      4. B.      Jacob’s Sons Indignation, v.31
      5. 1.      But they said, Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?-v.31 Notice that the sons did NOT refer to Dinah as “Your daughter” but, rather, as “our sister”. Again, this emphasizes one of the main points of the story that there is a failure by Jacob to properly lead his family and this has led to a deep family division and this points forward to what will happen between Joseph and his brothers later.
      6. 2.      treat our sister like a prostitute- Moses ends the story by not only emphasizing Jacob’s weakness but squarely places the blame on how Shechem treated Dinah. Moses gives the sons of Jacob the last word, thus subtly showing where the blame lies.
      7. 3.      Wenham summarizes it well, p.318, “…chap. 34 makes an interesting and instructive sequel to chaps. 32-33. There we learned how the fearful and alienated Jacob was changed into the new Israel, who boldly returned to Canaan and made peace with his brother Esau, whom he had struggled with and cheated since birth. But this story shows Jacob’s old nature reasserting itself, a man whose moral principles are weak, who is fearful of standing up for right when it may cost him clearly, who doubts God’s power to protect, and who allows hatred to divide him from his children just as it had divided him from his brother.”
      8. 4.      The big picture truth for Moses’ people and for us, is that God honors His covenant even when his chosen people fail miserably to live up to their end of it. Grace, grace, amazing grace, from first to last!

Conclusion: The New Testament passage that speaks to this is Romans 7:13-25. Though we are redeemed, born again, and have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, though we have the Word of God and are in the fellowship of the Church, yet we remain sinners and struggle to trust and obey. But God is ever faithful!




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