1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 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. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.” 5 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. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 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 in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done. 8 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. 9 Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 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. 12 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.” 13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 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. 15 Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. 16 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. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.” 18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem.19 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. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “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. 22 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. 23 Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.” 24 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. 25 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. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered. 30 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.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”
In Proverbs 4, a father gives advice to his son. There is one portion of this advice I would like for us to consider especially:
25 Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. 27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
It is sobering to think of how much trouble and mischief and pain could be avoided if we would simply follow this advice: look straight ahead, head to where you are supposed to be, and do not step off of the path. In truth, there are few clearer cautionary tales about the danger of not doing this than Genesis 34.
Simply put, Jacob, said goodbye to Esau after their reunion, and should have head straight to Bethel. Why? Because of the vision God had given him there and because of what God said to Jacob and what Jacob said as a result in Genesis 28.
15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God said He would bring Jacob back to “this land.” Jacob proclaimed that “the Lord is in this place” and “How awesome is this place!” and “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Yes, Jacob should have gone straight to Bethel with his family. Instead, at the end of the last chapter, Genesis 33, we read:
18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
He turned his foot off the path before going on to Bethel. Why? Because Shechem, The IVP Bible Background Commentary tells us, was an “important” and “strategic city on the highway network running north from Egypt through Beersheba, Jerusalem and on to Damascus.” What is more, Shechem had “fertile soil” that “promoted agriculture as well as good grazing.”
And why does this matter? Think of it: Jacob had just given Esau an enormous number of his animals. He had given him, in other words, a lavish peace offering. What could make more sense, then, from a human perspective, than taking a detour off the path to Bethel to recoup financially in Shechem. Derek Kidner writes:
[Jacob’s] summons was to Beth-el; but Shechem, about a day’s journey short of it, stood attractively at the crossroads of trade. He was called to be a stranger and pilgrim; but while buying his own plot of land there (33:19) he could argue that it was within his promised borders. It was disobedience nonetheless, and his pious act of rearing an altar and claiming his new name of Israel (20) could not disguise the fact.
Chapter 34 shows the cost of it, paid in rape, treachery and massacre, a chain of evil that proceeded logically enough from the unequal partnership with the Canaanite community…By halting his own pilgrimage Jacob was endangering others more vulnerable than himself.
Yes, it is a dangerous thing to linger in Shechem, and this exit ramp was truly a journey in pain and misery for Jacob and his family. Let us consider the danger of lingering in Shechem.
The longer we linger in Shechem the more we endanger ourselves and those around us.
Genesis 34 is a dark chapter, a painful chapter, a tragic chapter, a violent chapter. It begins with an act of violence against one of Jacob’s daughters. Truly it involves two acts of violence against Dinah, as evidenced by verses 1-2 and then what we learn in verse 26.
1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 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.
26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away.
I do want to acknowledge that there is some debate over whether or not what happened to Dinah was rape or consensual seduction. To be sure, the way our translations render it, it sounds like rape. (That is my personal opinion, by the way.) But the problem comes with the ambiguity of the actual Hebrew wording. Patrick Henry Reardon points out, for instance, that:
In spite of the New American Bible’s indication of violence (“he lay with her by force”), the Hebrew wai‘anneha is perhaps better translated as “he humbled her” or “he seduced her.” Subsequent events suggest that this was not an act of violence. As it turns out, in fact, Dinah is already living at the young man’s home…
And yet, Reardon will go on to write:
To describe what has happened to Dinah, they employ the word nebelah or “folly,” which term rather often indicates a sexual offense. For instance, this word appears four times in Judges 19-20, where it refers to a woman’s being raped to death. It also refers to Amnon’s rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:12, to adultery in Jeremiah 29:23, and to the infidelity of an engaged girl in Deuteronomy 22:21. The word is perhaps better translated as “outrage.”
On the other hand, the Old Testament scholar Robert Alter translates verse 2 as, “And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivvite, prince of the land, saw her and took her and lay with her and abused her.” He then writes:
“Lay with” is more brutal in the Hebrew because instead of being followed by the preposition “with”…it is followed by a direct object…and in this form may denote rape…“Take”…indicated violent action in the narrator’s report of the rape.
Most compelling, in my opinion, are Victor Hamilton’s observations on this question:
- “The sequence (he) saw her…he seized her…recalls the same sequence in the episode concerning the sons of God and the daughters of men (…6:2)…The same order occurs with Eve and the forbidden fruit in the Garden (…3:6)…First comes the desire, then the action when lust is not checked.”
- “The expression at the end of the verse [v.3, ‘spoke tenderly to her’ in the ESV] reads literally ‘he spoke upon the heart of the girl.’ The expression occurs ten times in the OT, always in less than ideal situations, where there is a sense of guilt or repentance, where A attempts to persuade B of his feelings.”
- “The narrator uses the word nebala to describe Shechem’s violation of in [in v.7, ‘an outrageous thing’ in the ESV], a word choice that shows the narrator’s evaluation of Shechem’s behavior. The noun appears thirteen times in the OT, eight of which involve sexual crimes…”
The majority view today is that Dinah was the victim of rape, and I do hold to this view. We will proceed with this assumption, buttressed, I believe, by the solid evidence mentioned above. And, perhaps predictably, at least some of the church fathers actually blame Dinah for this. Cyril of Alexandria, for instance, said that Dinah should not have been out and about. But I do not think that is appropriate.
What is appropriate, in my estimation, is to blame Jacob. Why? Because he never should have been in Shechem. And remember why he was in Shechem: to better himself. He no doubt told himself that their sojourn there would not be overly long and that, in the meantime, he could recoup some of his losses. Nevermind that he was supposed to take his family to Bethel. Nevermind that Jacob endangered all of them by taking them to a dangerous place that did not acknowledge the Lord God. This move was all about Jacob.
Fathers, mothers, think: your families will follow you both spiritually and physically, by and large, for the first years of their lives. This presents you with a great responsibility. There are times in many people’s lives when Shechem calls, when we have a chance to better ourselves financially and materially. Or perhaps it is not even wealth. The call of Shechem may come masquerading as the possibility of pleasure or escapism or some temporal thrill no matter the form. And when this happens, we must ask ourselves these questions: (1) Does God want me to do this? (2) What will this mean for my spouse and children? (3) What will this mean for myself? (4) What will this mean for my soul? (5) Will this decision take me to Shechem or Bethel?
You were made for Bethel, for the house of God! You were made to follow King Jesus on His path. It is a narrow path, so you must follow closely. Wide is the path that leads to Shechem and destruction. Narrow is the path that leads to Bethel and life! Do not take yourselves or your families to Shechem! There is pain and agony lurking there behind the exterior.
The longer we linger in Shechem the harder it is for us to hear God.
My second point does not have a verse…and that is the point! For my second point is that God is never mentioned in Genesis 34. He is never mentioned. He never speaks. God is silent in Genesis 34. Or, perhaps it is better to say that Jacob cannot hear God in Genesis 34 because in this chapter Jacob has made himself god. In this chapter, Jacob has taken an exit away from God.
Tellingly the first word in Genesis 35 (in the ESV anyway) is “God”! And the first thing God says in Genesis 35 is “Go to Bethel!”
It is only when the wheels come off and the blood flows and the crime has been committed and the massacre happens and Jacob and his family are standing in the shattered remains of whatever it is they thought they would accomplish in Shechem that Jacob is ready to hear God again. It is usually the case that it is only in the ruins of Shechem that we are ready to think again of Bethel. It is only when we have wrecked our own plans in the place of our own lingering that we are ready to follow God’s plan in the place of worship and praise.
Beware, beware, beware Shechem! God is silent there!
The longer we linger in Shechem the easier it is for us to adopt the ways of Shechem.
Shechem also corrupts up, distorts us. The longer we linger there the more we learn their ways. Notice, first, how Jacob’s sons use the sacred sign of covenant belonging—circumcision—to deceive the men of the land.
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 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. 15 Only on this condition will we agree with you—that you will become as we are by every male among you being circumcised. 16 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. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.”
I understand their rage and desire for revenge, of course, but we cannot deny that there is a note of blasphemy in their employment of the covenant sign to hatch their scheme. Interestingly Jacob will have to tell his family in the next chapter to get rid of their false gods, their idols. In other words, a spiritual and theological corruption appears to have taken place and no doubt their time in Shechem did not help matters. Shechem corrupts the soul and teaches the soul its false ways.
What is more, consider the unhinged violence and plundering of the sons of Jacob.
24 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. 25 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. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.
Again, the desire for vengeance is understandable, but surely these sons went too far. And remember: the sons of Jacob will show themselves to be violent deceitful men later when it comes to their brother Joseph. They were corrupted, in other words, by their time in Shechem. They adopted Shechem’s ways also by taking the “little ones” and “wives” of the men. In doing so, did they not commit their own crimes against these who had done nothing wrong against them?
Have you noticed how the longer you linger in Shechem the more the ways of Shechem become your ways? Places have a tendency to corrupt because places are shaped by the people who inhabit them. Shechem can twist you. Shechem can warp you. Beware Shechem!
The longer we linger in Shechem the more consumed with ourselves we become.
One of the most shameful aspects of this story, and one that demonstrates powerfully how corrosive Shechem can be, is Jacob’s behavior throughout. First of all, Jacob shows none of the outrage at Dinah’s treatment that her brothers show. Surely this is a sign of a stunted soul at this point. What is more, after the massacre, when Jacob finally does show outrage, it is all about the possible trouble that his sons have brought upon him! Listen:
30 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.” 31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”
See the pronouns: “…me…me…My…me…me…I…I…my.” Wow! Yes, at the end of verse 30 Jacob does mention “my household” but even there the feel of it is that Jacob’s possessions would be lost. Jacob, in other words, is consumed with Jacob! This whole weird sojourn was all about Jacob—his desires, his hopes, his possessions—without any regard for others! In fact, it takes his enraged sons, bloody swords still in their hands, to remind Jacob that this is not all about him: “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”
Shechem turns us inward on ourselves. We go there with our own selves in mind and, while there, our selves are corrupted. Shechem is the realm of narcissism and selfishness. It is that place where we act like we are God! We cannot hear God because we have divinized ourselves and therefore can only hear ourselves.
What then, are we to do when Shechem calls? And what are we to do if we find that we are enmeshed in Shechem’s degeneracy?
The answer? We run, run, run to Jesus. Flee Shechem! And then we walk so closely with Jesus that when Shechem calls we cannot even hear it. All we can hear is our King. In time, the glory of Christ will appear more amazing to us than the allurements of Shechem. Shechem will come to seem tawdry and cheap and unworthy of our attention. We will choose Jesus! And as we choose Jesus we reject Shechem. And in doing this we will choose life instead of death, healing instead of wounding, joy instead of agony.
Shechem is not worth it.
Shechem will destroy us.
Jesus is always worth it.
Jesus will heal us.
Come out of Shechem! Run to Bethel, the house of God! That is, run to Jesus who is our Bethel.
 John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p.66.
 Derek Kidner, Genesis. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. Vol.1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), p.183-184 .
 Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses. The Hebrew Bible. vol. 1 (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2019), p.105n31; Speiser, p.127.
 Robert Alter, p.127n2,4.