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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Genesis Chapter 34

Genesis 34:1

gen 34:1

During their stay at Shechem, Dinah, Jacob's daughter by Leah, went out one day to see, i.e., to make the acquaintance of the daughters of the land; when Shechem the Hivite, the son of the prince, took her with him and seduced her. Dinah was probably between 13 and 15 at the time, and had attained perfect maturity; for this is often the case in the East at the age of 12, and sometimes earlier. There is no ground for supposing her to have been younger. Even if she was born after Joseph, and not till the end of Jacob's 14 years' service with Laban, and therefore was only five years old when they left Mesopotamia, eight or ten years may have passed since then, as Jacob may easily have spent from eight to eleven years in Succoth, where he had built a house, and Shechem, where he had bought "a parcel of a field." But she cannot have been older; for, according to Gen 37:2, Joseph was sold by his brethren when he was 17 years old, i.e., in the 11th year after Jacob's return from Mesopotamia, as he was born in the 14th year of Jacob's service with Laban

(Note: This view is generally supported by the earlier writers, such as Demetrius, Petavius (Hengst. Diss.), etc.; only they reckon Dinah's age at 16, placing her birth in the 14th year of Jacob's service.)

(cf. Gen 30:24). In the interim between Dinah's seduction and the sale of Joseph there occurred nothing but Jacob's journey from Shechem to Bethel and thence to Ephratah, in the neighbourhood of which Benjamin was born and Rachel died, and his arrival in Hebron (Gen 35). This may all have taken place within a single year. Jacob was till at Hebron, when Joseph was sent to Shechem and sold by his brethren (Gen 37:14); and Isaac's death did not happen for 12 years afterwards, although it is mentioned in connection with the account of Jacob's arrival at Hebron (Gen 35:27.).

Genesis 34:3

gen 34:3

Shechem "loved the girl, and spoke to her heart;" i.e., he sought to comfort her by the promise of a happy marriage, and asked his father to obtain her for him as a wife.

Genesis 34:5

gen 34:5

When Jacob heard of the seduction of his daughter, "he was silent," i.e., he remained quiet, without taking any active proceedings (ex. Gen 14:14; Sa2 19:11) until his sons came from the field. When they heard of it, they were grieved and burned with wrath at the disgrace. טמּא to defile = to dishonour, disgrace, because it was an uncircumcised man who had seduced her. "Because he had wrought folly in Israel, by lying with Jacob's daughter." "To work folly" was a standing phrase for crimes against the honour and calling of Israel as the people of God, especially for shameful sins of the flesh (Deu 22:21; Jdg 20:10; Sa2 13:2, etc.); but it was also applied to other great sins (Jos 7:15). As Jacob had become Israel, the seduction of his daughter was a crime against Israel, which is called folly, inasmuch as the relation of Israel to God was thereby ignored (Psa 14:1). "And this ought not to be done:" יעשׂה potentialis as in Gen 20:9. - Hamor went to Jacob to ask for his daughter (Gen 34:6); but Jacob's sons reached home at the same time (Gen 34:7), so that Hamor spoke to them (Jacob and his sons). To attain his object Hamor proposed a further intermarriage, unrestricted movement on their part in the land, and that they should dwell there, trade (ἐμπορεύεσθαι), and secure possessions (נאחז settle down securely, as in Gen 47:27). Shechem also offered (Gen 34:11, Gen 34:12) to give anything they might ask in the form of dowry (מהר not purchase-money, but the usual gift made to the bride, vid., Gen 24:53) and presents (for the brothers and mother), if they would only give him the damsel.

Genesis 34:13

gen 34:13

Attractive as these offers of the Hivite prince and his son were, they were declined by Jacob's sons, who had the chief voice in the question of their sister's marriage (vid., Gen 24:50). And they were quite right; for, by accepting them, they would have violated the sacred call of Israel and his seed, and sacrificed the promises of Jehovah to Mammon. But they did it in a wrong way; for "they answered with deceit and acted from behind" (וידבּרוּ בּמרמה: דּבּר) is to be rendered dolos struxit; דּברים דּבּר would be the expression for "giving mere words," Hos 10:4; vid., Ges. thes.), "because he had defiled Dinah their sister." They told him that they could not give their sister to an uncircumcised man, because this would be a reproach to them; and the only condition upon which they would consent (נאות imperf. Niph. of אוּת) was, that the Shechemites should all be circumcised; otherwise they would take their sister and go.

Genesis 34:18

gen 34:18

The condition seemed reasonable to the two suitors, and by way of setting a good example, "the young man did not delay to do this word," i.e., to submit to circumcision, "as he was honoured before all his father's house." This is stated by anticipation in Gen 34:19; but before submitting to the operation, he went with his father to the gate, the place of public assembly, to lay the matter before the citizens of the town. They knew so well how to make the condition palatable, by a graphic description of the wealth of Jacob and his family, and by expatiating upon the advantages of being united with them, that the Shechemites consented to the proposal. שׁלמים: integri, people whose bearing is unexceptionable. "And the land, behold broad on both sides it is before them," i.e., it offers space enough in every direction for them to wander about with their flocks. And then the gain: "Their cattle, and their possessions, and their beasts of burden...shall they not be ours?" מקנה is used here for flocks and herds, בּהמה for beasts of burden, viz., camels and asses (cf. Num 32:26). But notwithstanding the advantages here pointed out, the readiness of all the citizens of Shechem (vid., Gen 23:10) to consent to be circumcised, could only be satisfactorily explained from the fact that this religious rite was already customary in different nations (according to Herod. 2, 104, among the Egyptians and Colchians), as an act of religious or priestly consecration.

Genesis 34:25

gen 34:25

But on the third day, when the Shechemites were thoroughly prostrated by the painful effects of the operation, Simeon and Levi (with their servants of course) fell upon the town בּטח (i.e., while the people were off their guard, as in Eze 30:9), slew all the males, including Hamor and Shechem, with the edge of the sword, i.e., without quarter (Num 21:24; Jos 10:28, etc.), and brought back their sister. The sons of Jacob then plundered the town, and carried off all the cattle in the town and in the fields, and all their possessions, including the women and the children in their houses. By the sons of Jacob (Gen 34:27) we are not to understand the rest of his sons to the exclusion of Simeon, Levi, and even Reuben, as Delitzsch supposes, but all his sons. For the supposition, that Simeon and Levi were content with taking their murderous revenge, and had no share in the plunder, is neither probable in itself nor reconcilable with what Jacob said on his death-bed (Gen 49:5-7, observe שׁור עקּרוּ) about this very crime; nor can it be inferred from ויּצאוּ in Gen 34:26, for this relates merely to their going away from the house of the two princes, not to their leaving Shechem altogether. The abrupt way in which the plundering is linked on to the slaughter of all the males, without any copulative Vav, gives to the account the character of indignation at so revolting a crime; and this is also shown in the verbosity of the description. The absence of the copula is not to be accounted for by the hypothesis that Gen 34:27-29 are interpolated; for an interpolator might have supplied the missing link by a vav, just as well as the lxx and other ancient translators.

Genesis 34:30

gen 34:30

Jacob reproved the originators of this act most severely for their wickedness: "Ye have brought me into trouble (conturbare), to make me stink (an abomination) among the inhabitants of the land;...and yet I (with my attendants) am a company that can be numbered (lit., people of number, easily numbered, a small band, Deu 4:27, cf. Isa 10:19); and if they gather together against me, they will slay me," etc. If Jacob laid stress simply upon the consequences which this crime was likely to bring upon himself and his house, the reason was, that this was the view most adapted to make an impression upon his sons. For his last words concerning Simeon and Levi (Gen 49:5-7) are a sufficient proof that the wickedness of their conduct was also an object of deep abhorrence. And his fear was not groundless. Only God in His mercy averted all the evil consequences from Jacob and his house (Gen 35:5-6). But his sons answered, "Are they to treat our sister like a harlot?" עשׂה: as in Lev 16:15, etc. Their indignation was justifiable enough; and their seeking revenge, as Absalom avenged the violation of his sister on Amnon (Sa2 13:22.), was in accordance with the habits of nomadic tribes. In this way, for example, seduction is still punished by death among the Arabs, and the punishment is generally inflicted by the brothers (cf. Niebuhr, Arab. p. 39; Burckhardt, Syr. p. 361, and Beduinen, p. 89, 224-5). In addition to this, Jacob's sons looked upon the matter not merely as a violation of their sister's chastity, but as a crime against the peculiar vocation of their tribe. But for all that, the deception they practised, the abuse of the covenant sign of circumcision as a means of gratifying their revenge, and the extension of that revenge to the whole town, together with the plundering of the slain, were crimes deserving of the strongest reprobation. The crafty character of Jacob degenerated into malicious cunning in Simeon and Levi; and jealousy for the exalted vocation of their family, into actual sin. This event "shows us in type all the errors into which the belief in the pre-eminence of Israel was sure to lead in the course of history, whenever that belief was rudely held by men of carnal minds" (O. v. Gerlach).

Next: Genesis Chapter 35