When God is Absent
Notice the use of the verbs see and take as used in Genesis 6 and 3.
that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
Genesis 6:2 NKJV (bold mine)
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Genesis 3:6 NKJV (bold mine)
You could argue that Dinah should not have been hanging out with the daughters of the land. - Genesis 27:46, 6:2
You could also argue that Shechem should not have taken what was not his to take. It doesn’t matter if he is a prince or popular or rich or handsome. It does not matter if his father is the most powerful man around. Shechem does not have the right to take whatever pleases his eyes.
You could argue that Jacob failed to protect his daughter.
You might also argue that Jacob’s sons failed to look out for their baby sister.
Have you ever noticed how when tragedy strikes everyone has an opinion?
The opinions vary from:
- Dinah was young and should she not be allowed to hang out with other girls, especially girls who did not have the same beliefs/religion/values.
But, Is it wrong for her to have friends and have some fun, and travel, and explore a bit? Is it wrong for her to be a free and curious woman?
- Shechem is young and you know how young men can be. They can be a little impulsive and go a little overboard at times. He loved Dinah after all and wanted to marry her. Sure maybe he rushed things a bit, but it was all in the name of love. That makes it okay does it not?
The cost of inaction.
Jacob heard about what happened to his daughter. The event seems to have become gossip in the land. Maybe the daughters of the land saw what happened and the gossip spread. Jacob kept silent. Was he furious? Heartbroken? Does he even care? Is he afraid of what might happen next? We will never know. Could Jacob have curbed the anger and violence of his sons if he had taken a stand for his daughter? Maybe, we will never know, because Jacob did nothing.
Hamor goes to Jacob to discuss the marriage of their children. Notice how Hamor is contrasted with Jacob. Hamor works hand in hand with his son, while Jacob seems distant from his sons and mostly absent.
Meanwhile, the news reaches Jacob’s sons in the fields and they are grieved and very angry because this event has brought shame on their family. They identify as a clan and feel responsible for upholding the honor of their family. What was done to their sister ought not to be done.
Hamor wants to make an alliance. His son loves Jacob’s daughter plus the alliance has many potential benefits including protection and wealth. Could it be that Jacob didn’t do anything because he found the possibility of an alliance attractive?
Shechem addresses Jacob and his sons and asks them to name the price for their daughter/sister. They can name their bride-price, Shechem is willing to do whatever they ask. Could it be that Shechem is not all bad and even though he messed up, he wants to make things right by Dinah’s family?
Mosaic Law was not yet in place but Shechem’s behavior seems to fall in line with what the “mosaic” law would require.
“If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NKJV
However, Dinah’s brothers answer deceitfully because of what he had done to their sister. Dinah’s brothers now take circumcision and make it a sham, an instrument in their plot to get their revenge. They make it seem as if the only problem is that Shechem is uncircumcised. Jacob’s sons made their identity more about circumcision then about a relationship with God and a moral code. Did Jabob’s sons miss an opportunity to witness and perhaps even convert a city/nation?
Everyone is avoiding the elephant in the room. The moral aspect. What Shechem did was wrong and circumcision by itself was only a surgical procedure, what mattered was the covenant with God, the relationship with the true God. Yet no one addresses this.
Now, personally, I would expect Shechem to say, the price is too high. But the young man seems to really be “in love,” or as the text says “he delighted in Jacob’s daughter.” (Genesis 34:19) There is also an odd reference to Shechem being honorable and there are a few different ways to interpret it.
“He was more honorable than all the household of his father.”
One is that Shechem indeed had some redeemable qualities and that even though he had sinned he was honestly willing to make amends and do whatever it takes to do right by Dinah’s family. He was in love and wanted to marry her properly.
Another way of interpreting it is that Shechem was the most honorable in his father’s household and he was a rapist so everyone else was even worse and they all deserved every bit of what was coming their way.
A third interpretation that I ran across is that he had the highest honor, meaning he was the heir, and everyone honored him and was willing to do what he wanted in order to please him.
Now comes the real challenge, to convince all the men of the city to get circumcised.
There is a proverb found in the folklore of Israel
“Shechem falls in love and the peasant gets circumcised.” Gen. Rab. 80:8. (Doukhan, Jacques. Genesis. Nampa, ID, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016. p387)
Hamor and his son Shechem make the argument that the people will gain all the wealth of the children of Israel so hoping to gain wealth the men of the town agree to be circumcised.
It is odd that the pagan men of the city were so trusting of Jacob and his family, and it was Jacob’s family, the family chosen by God who are the ones responsible for the deception. Jacob’s sons were not to be trusted.
You could also argue that the men of the city very likely felt like they were getting the better deal, otherwise, they would not have gone ahead with the circumcision.
All the men of the city do what Jacob’s sons asked and on the third day, when they are in the worst of the pain from the procedure they had undergone Simeon and Levi, Dina’s full brothers took their swords and killed all the males of the city. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem and took Dinah from Shechem’s house.
(By the way, if Dinah’s brothers had to take her from Shechem’s house, does that mean she was being held there against her will? Was she happy living with him? Was he kind to her? Did Dinah long to be rescued by her brothers? Why didn’t her father demand she be returned until the arrangements for marriage were made? How come no one talks to Dinah or asks her how she feels about all this and what she would like or prefer?)
As part of the retribution for what had been done to their sister, the brothers come upon the slain and plunder the city. Shechem took something that was not his and now everything that was his was taken from him. The inhabitants of the city hoped to gain the possession of the children of Jacob but the children of Jacob were the ones who took their possessions.
Suddenly the heroes who came to rescue their sister become even worse villains killing the entire male population of the city and taking women and children captive and livestock and all valuable possessions as spoil.
Finally, Jacob who has been silent this whole time speaks. But now it is too late. Now the whole family might be wiped out by the Canaanites and Perizzites who inhabit the land.
Now in a similar way, how Shechem and Hamor had never apologized for that Shechem did to Dinah Simeon and Levi never apologize for what they did.
The story ends with a question,
Should he treat our sister like a harlot?
What do you do when everyone is guilty?
Are violence and extreme destruction the only ways of handling this situation?
Do we also forget God in our lives and try to do things our way?
Do we end up causing more pain and suffering in the name of defending the name/honor of our church or denomination?
Do we do things in the name of God that He has not asked us to do?
I believe we could benefit form taking a step back, taking a deep breath and seeking God and His will. Instead of assuming God thinks like we do and approves of our actions, what if we came to Him in fasting and prayer and asking Him to guide our lives?
This story is messy and complex and the narrator does not seem to have a clear stance/position on who is wrong and who is right. The story ends with a question. So I also would like to pose you a question. Could you benefit form drawing closer to God and asking for His will and seeking His guidance?
Are we wiling to pray “Thy kingdom come? Thy will be done?” or do we want God to simply support our kingdom and bend according to our will?
I believe these questions are worth pondering.