Rape and Revenge

Genesis 34

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2015

We have been studying the Book of Genesis and we are looking at the lives of the patriarchs.  Right now we are studying the life of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.  Up to this point, things have been going great for Jacob.  He married the woman of his dreams.  He is married to a beauty queen, along with a few other women.  He not only has a lot of kids. 

He has a lot of sons (which were highly valued in those days).  He has reconciled with both his father-in-law and with his twin brother.  He does not have any relationship problems.  God has blessed him financially.  He is wealthy.  God has spoken directly to him and made a covenant with him.  He has had visions of angels and of heaven.  He has seen God face-to-face and lived to tell about it.

Now things begin to change.  Jacob experiences some tragedy in his family.  Jacob has a family crisis.  One disaster follows another disaster.  He also had some of the same problems that people have today.  We are told that Jacob “came safely to the city of Shechem” (33:18) but his family did not remain safe once they got there. He experienced violent crime in his family.  His only daughter is raped.  Rape happens today.  It occurs statistically every 107 seconds.  It also happened four thousand years ago in Jacob’s family.

He also had problems with his kids.  Two of his sons commit some terrible atrocities, acts of barbarism.  Jacob has to feel that he has been a terrible parent.  He has to feel like a failure to have raised two sons who have become complete savages but it doesn’t stop here.  In the very next chapter, another one of his sons commits another unspeakable act.

The chapter that we are going to look at today is not taught to kids in Sunday School.  This is graphic.  It should be rated R for content.  It is rarely preached on.  Many preachers going through Genesis just skip this chapter.  Some would even call this passage unpreachable.  That is a huge mistake because there are some incredible lessons for us today from this passage  but we will be dealing with some adult themes this morning.  This chapter describes one of the darkest stories in the whole Bible.

Our title is “Rape and Revenge”.  It doesn’t seem like two topics that we should be talking about in church but they come right out of our chapter.  This chapter contains kidnapping.  Prince Shechem is not the only one who does some kidnappers in this chapter.  The sons of Jacob took wives and children captive at the end of the chapter (34:29).  It mentions a sexual predator and a brutal rape.  The chapter describes the sexual abuse of a minor. 

The chapter describes uncontrollable rage, revenge and premeditated murder.  It describes deception and betrayal, as Simeon and Levi trick Hamor and Shechem so they can kill them.  It also describes desecration of a God-given ordinance, the rite of circumcision.  Finally, the chapter describes theft.  The sons of Jacob go through the village and take whatever they want.  Whatever they find, they keep.

This chapter is definitely not family friendly.  It is not a feel good story like the last chapter in which two estranged brothers are reconciled after twenty years.  No one looks good in this chapter.  Hamor’s son does not look good and Jacob’s sons do not look good either.  No one wins in this story.  Dinah becomes a crime victim.  Prince Shechem, the sexual predator, ends up dead, along with his father.  The whole town of Shechem loses.  The men are all killed.  The women and children are kidnapped.  Possessions are taken.

Simeon and Levi end up cursed by their father for what they did.  They do not win.  Jacob loses as well.  He ends up with a daughter who has been traumatized and two sons that he did not raise properly and can no longer control.  The family of Jacob loses because it is forced to move to another location for their own safety (and they had just purchased some land there).

Let’s begin to look at this chapter.  In the last chapter, Jacob returned home from Haran.  He made the five hundred mile trip back home.  He met his twin brother.  Esau went home to Seir which is in Jordan today.  Jacob went to Succoth and built a house there (33:17) for a while but ended up in the Canaanite city Shechem.  Today, this city is in the West Bank.  We are told that Jacob built an altar there (33:20).  He also “pitched his tent toward Shechem” (33:18) and bought some land there (33:18-19).

Those words are ominous.  These pagan cities were extremely wicked.  The last time we read of anyone pitching his tent near a Canaanite city was Lot.  He pitched his tent toward Sodom.  That was the beginning of the end for him.  Jacob does something similar.  Before we get to Genesis 34, several years have gone by.  How do we know this?   In Genesis 33, Jacob came home with a caravan and his kids were young (33:13).  When we turn to Genesis 34, they are mostly grown up.

“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” (34:1-2 ESV)

What do we know about Dinah?  We know a few other things about her.  Her name is Dinah.  Dinah is the feminine form of Dan.  She was the only daughter of Jacob and Leah.  Jacob may have had other daughters but this is the only one mentioned in Genesis (cf. 37:35).  She had six brothers (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun).  She was born after them so they probably spoiled her. She also had six half-brothers (same father, different mother). 

She was also very young.  The Book of Jubilees says that she was twelve (30:2).  She may not have been that young but she was young.  She might have been around fifteen or sixteen.  She was of marriable age, even though she was a minor.  She is surrounded by all of these brothers and wants to meet some girls.  She goes to meet the daughters of the land and they introduce her to some of the sons of the land.  Normally, it would not be a good idea to meet some friends.  The problem is that this was an extremely wicked town.  It was a pagan town.

Dinah was young.  She was attractive.  She went to Shechem alone.  She was unsupervised and she was vulnerable.  She apparently was also a little naïve.  This was an extremely wicked city.  She was unaware of the dangers she faced when she went into this town.  She is introduced to the king’s son.  She spent time with the prince but he just took advantage of her and raped her.

This is the second time in the book we have seen rape.  We saw it in Genesis 19.  That was homosexual rape.  The men of Sodom tried to rape lot’s two male visitors who happened to be angels.  In Genesis 34, we see rape again. This time it is heterosexual rape.  It is one of three rapes in the Bible.  The first is Leah’s daughter Dinah (Genesis 34).  The second is a concubine, who is raped by Benjamite men (Judges 19-21).  The third is King David’s daughter Tamar, who is raped by Amnon (II Samuel 13).

Who is to Blame?

This is one of the most misunderstood passages of the Bible.  Many read this and blame Dinah.  People like to blame the victim for some reason.  It is common view.  They say that she should have stayed at home.  They say that she was probably immodest.  I personally do not blame Dinah.  The Bible does NOT say that she was immodest or promiscuous.  She did not go to Shechem to see the men of the land but to see the women of the land.  She was young. 

The one who deserves the most blame is Shechem. The story does not begin with Dinah seeing Shechem and having a crush on him.  The Bible says that he fell in love with Dinah.  His heart was drawn to her (34:3). It never says that she was in love with him.

The text says that he saw her and took her against her will by force and raped her.  Notice the three verbs used in the text.  Shechem “seized her and lay with her and humiliated her” (34:2).  Apparently, news about this incident spread, because we are told that “Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah” (34:5)  How did he hear about it?  Perhaps one of Dinah’s friends told him what had happened.

In the news this past week, we read about a Saudi Prince in Los Angeles doing the same thing and being arrested.  The same thing happens here.  What do we know about Prince Shechem?  Shechem was young.  He was rich.  He was spoiled.  He always got what he wanted.  He was entitled.  Like a lot of men today, he never learned how to treat women.  He also was not too smart. 

It is not too smart to rape a woman who has twelve brothers.  Shechem just messed with the wrong family.  A couple of her brothers are about to go ape on him and his family.  Genesis says that Shechem was actually one of the better ones in the family (34:19).  That is a strange statement.  If one of the best member of the family is a rapist, I wonder what the worst member of the family was like? 

What happens next?  Shechem decides that he wants to marry Dinah.  That is interesting. Shechem does not just use Dinah and leave her.  He want to marry her.  He actually falls in love with her.  He tells his dad to “get him this girl for his wife” (34:4) and his dad goes and talks to Jacob about this (34:6). Why didn’t her propose to her himself? They had different marriage customs than we do today. They had arranged marriages. Marriage was negotiated by parents.

They come to them and make two requests.  The first request was that Shechem could marry Dinah (34:8).  Shechem said that he would pay anything for the bride price (34:12).  The second request is that other marriages take place as well (34:9).   What is missing from the request?  Hamor does not apologize for his son’s actions.  There is no apology.  Shechem does not confess any sin here.  He never acknowledges that he did anything wrong at all. 

What was their response? Jacob doesn’t say anything but Dinah’s brothers take over the negotiations.  They agree with the deal on one condition.  All of the males in Shechem must be circumcised (34:15).  Hamor the politician got the whole village to agree to the deal.  On the third day, Levi and Simeon went and killed all of the males (34:15).  They took all of the animals, as well as their wives and kids (34:27-29).  This is a violent story but it has some powerful lessons for us today.  We can learn something from these people.

Practical Lessons for Today

What do we learn from Simeon and Levi? We learn several important things.

1) This chapter demonstrates the need for self-control

What important lesson do young men need to learn?  The Apostle Paul said, “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6).  Simeon and Levi were most likely in their twenties and they lacked self-control, and so did Prince Shechem. Shechem could not control his lust.  Simeon and Levi could not control their anger. 

Now Levi and Simeon did one thing right?  They stood up for their little sister, even when their dad didn’t but they completely over-reacted.  They wiped out a whole town because of the sins of one man.  This passage shows us the destructiveness of anger when it is not controlled.  If you have a problem with anger and have a short temper, this chapter speaks directly to you.

2) This chapter illustrates the difference between justice and vengeance. 

The Bible teaches that vengeance is wrong.  Paul says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 ESV). What is the difference between the justice and revenge?  Revenge is excessive and one is fair and impartial. 

Justice is proportionate to the offense.  The punishment fits the crime.  That is where the whole concept of an “eye for an eye” came into existence.  One is driven by emotions,  The other is driven by logic and reason.  One is also done by the courts.  The other is done by a private individual.  Simeon and Levi were vigilantes. 

Simeon and Levi did two things right.  When they heard what happened to Dinah, they were outraged (34:7) and they did something about it.  They stood up for their little sister.  The problem is that their reaction was excessive. They went far beyond justice in this situation.

3) This chapter reveals the danger of hypocrisy

Simeon and Levi heard what happened to their little sister and they were furious. “They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done” (34:7). They had a right to be angry about what happened to their sister but you cannot criticize someone else’s sin and then and commit a FAR worse sin. That is exactly what they did.

They slaughtered the whole town. Shechem committed rape.  They committed murder. It was premeditated and planned.  It was murder on defenseless people.  In fact, they committed, not only murder, but mass murder.  They even killed the innocent along with the guilty.  Simon and Levi’s anger was WORSE than Shechem’s lust.  It caused more damage. Shechem committed a crime.  They committed terrorism.

Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount.  They saw Shechem’s sin but they did not see their own sin (which was far worse).  Jesus spoke about people who criticized other people for having a little speck in their eye when they have a big timber in their eye.  Do we do the same thing?  Do we criticize other people when what we do is far worse?

4) This chapter documents that children often repeat the sins of the parents.

What was Jacob’s greatest problem or struggle?  He had a problem with honesty.  He liked to deceive and trick people.  He tricked his twin brother and his blind father.  Before he was saved, he was a con artist. Kids often follow in the footsteps of their parents.  We see this many times.  If parents use foul language at home, the kids pick it up.  Jacob’s sons trick the Shechemites in this section.  They not only deceived them, they deceived their own father.   Jacob had no idea what they had planned to do.

5) This chapter proves that actions have consequences.

Shechem’s actions had consequences.  It led to the whole town being wiped out and to Dinah never getting married.  Her life was ruined.  Simeon and Levi’s actions had consequences as well.

It led to a poor testimony with the neighbors.  Jacob said that what they did caused them to stink before the inhabitants of the land (34:30).  They had to move (35:1-5).  How is your testimony before the people who live around you?  Do they think you are obnoxious and rude or are they glad to have you as neighbors?

There is one other important consequence that this action led to.  Simeon and Levi do something terrible in this chapter and Reuben does something terrible in the very next chapter. 

When Jacob is on his deathbed and his giving the blessing of his sons, he skips over the first three sons and goes to the fourth son and gives it to him.  The promised Messiah comes through Judah, rather than through Simeon, Levi or Reuben because of the barbaric actions that they engaged in.  Their actions did have consequences, not just to them but to their descendants.  It affected them as well.  Kings came through the line of Judah but not through the line of Simeon, Levi or Reuben.

6) This chapter teaches that religion can be abused.

How did Shechemites abuse religion?  They agreed to get circumcised, so they make a marriage alliance with Jacob’s family.  Why did they want to do that?  Jacob was wealthy. Eventually everything Jacob owned would be transferred to the citizens of Shechem. 

Notice what they said, “Won’t THEIR livestock, THEIR property and ALL THEIR other animals become OURS?”(34:23 NIV).  They would get rich from this alliance.   They wanted to get circumcised, not for religious reasons but for economic reasons.  They did not agree to painful surgery to become Jews and begin worshipping the God of Israel but to get rich.  

Do people do this today?  Some guys go to church, not to worship, but because their girlfriend goes there and if they want to get her, they have to go to church and pretend to be interested.  They do it all of the time.  Some people go to a church where all of the prominent members of the community go, so they can get some business contacts.

How did Simeon and Levi abuse religion?  The used the rite of circumcision to deceive people.  They knew that they could not kill all the males unless they were really weak and circumcision made them weak and they took advantage of that.  They used it to plot a murder.  It was supposed to be a sacred symbol.  It was supposed to be a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, an important religious symbol.  They used it to commit mass murder.  That would be like using the baptismal tank, not to bless converts, but to drown them.

7) This chapter shows the importance of leadership in the home.

Jacob is a terrible example of a leader in this chapter.  He is a terrible parent.  If anyone gets the blame for Dinah’s rape, it should be Jacob.  He was the one who chose to move so close to such a wicked city.  He was the one who did not train Dinah or warn her of the dangers she faced.  He was the one who did not properly supervise her.  He did not watch her very carefully.  Many parents are not very involved in their kid’s lives.  They are absent parents.

Jacob is very passive here.  His daughter gets traumatized by wicked Canaanites.  She is brutally raped and he does not even seem angry.  His sons are angry but he does not show any anger.  Would he have responded the same way if this was the daughter of his favorite wife Rachel?  We do not know.  We do know that he showed little anger. 

Dinah’s brothers showed anger.  They said, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (34:31 NIV).  They were insulted by the marriage proposal.  Hamor and Shechem just wanted to buy her off like a prostitute.  They understood what was wrong here and were angry, although they displayed their anger in a sinful way.  Jacob does not seem to have that response.  When Hamor comes to talk to him.  He does not confront him about his son’s behavior.  There is no rebuke to Hamor or Shechem.  

He does not devise a plan to deal with the problem.  Jacob is the exact opposite of Abraham.  When his nephew Lot was captured, he organized an army and got him back.  Jacob sits on his hands and does nothing.  When he does not properly lead in the situation, his two sons take over and when his sons have turned into psychotic killers and mass murderers, he does not rebuke them for what they did.

Jacob is only upset for how this incident has affected his family.  He says to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on ME by making ME obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against ME and attack ME, I and MY household will be destroyed” (34:30 NIV).

Jacob does not properly train or protect his daughter.  He does not properly restrain his sons.  He does not properly respond in a crisis situation.  He is very passive.  Husbands are supposed to be “the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church”.  Their leadership is compared to Christ’s leadership.  They are supposed to be leaders.  They are appointed by God as leaders in the home.  The problem is that they often do not lead. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *