Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
- Dinah's Dishonor
This chapter records the rape of Dinah and the revenge of her brothers.
Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land. The Jewish doctors of a later period fix the marriageable age of a female at twelve years and a day. It is probable that Dinah was in her thirteenth year when she went out to visit the daughters of the land. Six or seven years, therefore, must have been spent by Jacob between Sukkoth, where he abode some time, and the neighborhood of Shekerm, where he had purchased a piece of ground. If we suppose Dinah to have been born in the same year with Joseph, who was in his seventeenth year at the time of his being sold as a bondslave Gen 37:2, the events of this chapter must have occurred in the interval between the completion of her twelfth and that of her sixteenth year. "Shekem." This name is hereditary in the family, and had taken hold in the locality before the time of Abraham. The Hivite was a descendant of Kenaan. We find this tribe now occupying the district where the Kenaanite was in possession at a former period Gen 12:6. "Spake to the heart of the damsel." After having robbed her of her honor, he promises to recognize her as his wife, provided he can gain the consent of her relatives. "Shekem spake unto his father Hamor." He is in earnest about this matter. "Jacob held his peace." He was a stranger in the land, and surrounded by a flourishing tribe, who were evidently unscrupulous in their conduct.
A conference takes place between the parties. Hamer and Jacob, the parents on both sides, are the principals in the negotiation. The sons of Jacob, being brothers of the injured damsel, are present, according to custom. "Wrought fully in Israel;" a standing phrase from this time forward for any deed that was contrary to the sanctity which ought to characterize God's holy people. Israel is used here to designate the descendants of Israel, the special people. Hamer makes his proposal. "Shekem, my son." These words are a nominative pendent, for which "his soul" is substituted. He proposes a political alliance or amalgamation of the two tribes, to be sealed and actually effected by intermarriage. He offers to make them joint-possessors of the soil, and of the rights of dwelling, trading, and acquiring property. Shekem now speaks with becoming deference and earnestness.
He offers any amount of dowry, or bridal presents, and of gift to the mother and brothers of the bride. It must be acknowledged that the father and the son were disposed to make whatever amends they could for the grievous offence that had been committed. The sons of Jacob answer with deceit. They are burning with resentment of the wrong that "ought not to have been done," and that cannot now be fully repaired. Yet they are in presence of a superior force, and therefore, resort to deceit. "And spake." This goes along with the previous verb "answered," and is meant to have the same qualification "with deceit." The last clause of the verse then assigns the cause of this deceitful dealing. Their speech, for the matter of it, is reasonable. They cannot intermarry with the uncircumcised. Only on condition that every male be circumcised will they consent. On these terms they promise to "become one people" with them. Otherwise they take their daughter, and depart. Our daughter. They here speak as a family or race, and therefore, call Dinah their daughter, though her brothers are the speakers.
Hamor and Shekem accept the terms, and immediately proceed to carry them into effect. It is testified of Shekem, that he delayed not to do the thing, and that he was more honorable than all his house. They bring the matter before their fellow-citizens, and urge them to adopt the rite of circumcision, on the ground that the men are peaceable, well-conducted, and they and their cattle and goods would be a valuable addition to the common wealth of their tribe. Hence, it appears that the population was still thin, that the neighboring territory was sufficient for a much larger number than its present occupants, and that a tribe found a real benefit in an accession to his numbers. The people were persuaded to comply with the terms proposed. There is nothing said here of the religious import of the rite, or of any diversity of worship that may have existed between the two parties. But it is not improbable that the Shekemites were prepared for mutual toleration, or even for the adoption of the religion of Israel in its external forms, though not perhaps to the exclusion of their own hereditary customs. It is also possible that the formal acknowledgment of the one true God was not yet extinct. Circumcision has been in use among the Egyptians, Colchians (Herodotus ii. 104), and other eastern nations; but when and how introduced we are not informed. The present narrative points out one way in which it may have spread from nation to nation.
Simon and Levi, at the head no doubt of all their father's men, now fall upon the Shekemites, when feverish with the circumcision, and put them to the sword. Simon and Levi were the sons of Leah, and therefore, full brothers of Dinah. If Dinah was of the same year as Joseph, they would be respectively seven and six years older than she was. If she was in her thirteenth year, they would therefore, be respectively in their twentieth and nineteenth years, and therefore, suited by age and passion for such an enterprise. All the sons of Jacob joined in the sacking of the city. They seized all their cattle and goods, and made captives of their wives and little ones. Jacob is greatly distressed by this outrage, which is equally contrary to his policy and his humanity. He sets before his sons, in this expostulation, the danger attendant upon such a proceeding. The "Kenaanite and the Perizzite," whom Abraham found in the land on his return from Egypt Gen 13:7. "I am a few men" - men of number that might easily be counted. I here denotes the family or tribe with all its dependents. When expanded, therefore, it is, "I and my house." Simon and Levi have their reply. It justifies the retribution which has fallen on the Shekemites for this and all their other crimes. But it does not justify the executioners for taking the law into their own hands, or proceeding by fraud and indiscriminate slaughter. The employment of circumcision, too, which was the sign of the covenant of grace, as a means of deception, was a heinous aggravation of their offence.