Ransacking the Rapists

This week we heard the story of Dinah and her raping at the hands of Shechem in Genesis 34. Jacob has returned. He and Esau have reconciled and instead of following Esau to Seir, Jacob built a house in Succoth and got friendly with Hamor and his sons in the city of Shechem, buying a large piece of land.

Jacob had fled from Esau’s wrath as a single, conniving young man. His dealings with Laban and maturity grew as he married Leah and Rachel and began having children and more children and tending the fields for Laban. By the time he returns he has grown wealthy, burned the bridge to Laban’s, and has many children and servants. It is into this atmosphere his daughter Dinah decided she would leave the family home and visit the women of the land they had settled in. Unfortunately for her, Shechem, the son of Hamor, the prince of the land they were in, saw her, seized her, laid with her, and fell in love. Shechem fell in love and wanted to make Dinah his wife, which would also restore her honor.

The problem is, Jacob hears about Shechem defiling Dinah while his sons are in the field and demonstrates his new maturity by not flying off the handle. While Jacob’s sons are in the fields, Hamor visits to secure Dinah as wife for Shechem because Shechem was smitten. What was conceived in lust has turned into love. The sons of Jacob get wind Hamor is visiting their dad and come in from the fields, hearing about what has happened to their sister and how Hamor is trying to make things right by securing Dinah as wife for his son.

The brothers of Dinah are understandably upset at their sisters rape at the hands of Shechem. They are none to happy and Hamor tries to pacify them by explaining how Shechem loves Dinah and wants to marry her. Not only this, Hamor tries to placate their anger further by saying they can all begin intermarrying and taking each others daughters as wives. Going even further, Shechem steps in and says he wants to find favor in the eyes of Jacob and his sons In so doing he would be willing to do anything they asked. Shechem was willing to pay a great bride price, all they had to do was ask and he would do. He loved Dinah and was willing to prove it by doing as they asked.

This is where things begin to get interesting. In hearing Shechem pledge his willingness to go any distance for the hand of Dinah, the sons say they cannot give their sister to the uncircumcised, because it would be a disgrace to them. The brothers make circumcision their only requirement. With all the people of Shechem circumcised they would agree at that time to marry and exchange daughters. Hamor and Shechem thought this was a great idea and immediately went about it. Hamor and Shechem returned home and told everyone else. In explaining the benefit of marrying the daughters of Jacob everyone agreed they would get circumcised.

Three days later, with all the men of Shechem laid up and sore from the surgery. I cannot even imagine how uncomfortable that would be as an adult… Simeon and Levi creep into Shechem and kill all the men with the sword. They took Dinah after killing Hamor, Shechem, and the other men of Shechem. Plundering the city and capturing their wealth. When the boys returned with their sister, Jacob was none too pleased. He explained to the sons they had ruined the entire family by doing this thing. They had double crossed people while their numbers were few and they would never be able to defend themselves against the Perrizites and Canaanites.

This is an epic story with many twists and turns and evil being repaid with evil, just like we ought not do…But what does God want us to learn from this story?

  1. We need to keep these stories alive because the lessons within them are as applicable today as they were thousands of years ago. We do a real disservice to our children and ourselves when we ignore the lessons of the Bible.
  2. Without blaming the victim, we do need to recall the importance of not putting ourselves in bad situations. Dinah certainly did not ask to get defiled, but she left her home unprotected in a culture that did not respect women and in so doing, increased the risk of a man grabbing and defiling her. We need to be wise in our decisions.
  3. There are long-term consequences from our decisions. Jacob decided to build in the middle of foreigners. In so doing he bought land and settled, which then put him in a position of weakness and if it had not been Dinah, something else would have happened to spoil the relationship. The double-crossing of Simeon and Levi also resulted in changes and problems. From our biggest and smallest decisions, we have to remember we often do not know which decisions are the big ones and which are the small. We can rest assured there are consequences in all though.
  4. We see problems in this story based on the double-crossing, premarital sex, and anger displayed. None of which result in good things. Likewise if we or others engage in these attitudes and behaviors, we can expect similar results.

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