The Pulpit Commentary

Genesis 34:24 (Genesis 34:24)

And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city . The ready acquiescence of the Shechemites to the proposal of Jacob's sons has not unreasonably been regarded as a proof that they were already acquainted with circumcision as a social, if not religious, rite (Kurtz, Keil, &c.;). And every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. Knobel notes it as remarkable that the Hivites were not circumcised, since, according to Herodotus, the rite was observed among the Phenicians, and probably also the Canaanites, who were of the same extraction, and thinks that either the rite was not universally observed in any of these ancient nations where it was known, or that the Hivites were originally a different race from the Canaanites, and had not conformed to the customs of the land ( vide Lange in loco ). Murphy thinks the present instance may point out one way in which the custom spread from tribe to tribe.

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Genesis 34:1-31 (Genesis 34:1-31)

The tragedy at Shechem.


1. A young girl ' s indiscretion . "Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land." If Dinah's object was to witness the manners of the people, she was guilty of objectionable curiosity; if to exhibit herself, of distressing vanity; if to mingle in their entertainments, of improper levity; and for all these reasons, considering the character of the family to which she belonged, and the wickedness of the people with whom she mingled, of exceedingly heinous sin.

2. A young prince ' s wickedness . Shechem saw her, and took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. The sin of Shechem had many aggravations. It was done by a prince, whose very rank should have preserved him from such' degradation. Those whom God makes elevated in station should make themselves eminent in virtue. Goodness should always accompany greatness. Then it was done without the least excuse, since Shechem was at liberty by God's law and man's to have a wife whenever he desired. Again, it was done against a young and comparatively helpless girl whom circumstances had placed within his power. Further, it was done in violation of the laws of hospitality, which required him to protect, rather than to injure, a stranger's good name. And, lastly, It was done to one belonging to a family whose members were invested with a high degree of sanctity. Still the crime of Shechem was not without its extenuations. First, he loved the maiden whom he had dishonored. Second, he offered the reparation of an honorable marriage. Third, he treated her with kindness while he detained her in his palace.


1. The impression made on Jacob by Dinah ' s misfortune .

2. The effect produced on Jacob ' s sons by their sister ' s shame .


1. The honorable proposal of Shechem . First through the medium of his father, and afterwards in his own person, he solicits Jacob and his sons to give him Dinah in marriage, and to enter in turn into matrimonial alliances with them, offering as an inducement unrestricted liberty to settle, trade, and acquire property in the land, and promising to pay whatever dowry or gift might be demanded for the damsel.

2. The deceitful reply of Jacob ' s sons . First they declared it impossible that Dinah should become the wife of one who was uncircumcised. Then they consented to the proposition on condition that Hamor, Shechem, and the Shechemites would submit to circumcision. And yet all the while it was only part of a deep-laid plot for exacting revenge.


1. The condition prescribed by Jacob ' s sons explained . This was done by the ruling sovereign and the crown prince in a public assembly convened at the city gate.

2. The condition accepted by the Shechemites . Trusting to the good faith of the Hebrew strangers, they assented to the proposition that all the male inhabitants should be circumcised, and in good faith it was carried out by both prince and people.


1. The massacre of the inhabitants by Dinah ' s brethren . Three days after, when, in consequence of the painful operation to which they had submitted, the male part of the population was unable to stir in their defense, Simeon and Levi, confident of success in their nefarious deed, fell upon the unsuspecting city, and slew all the males. It was a heartless, ruthless, treacherous, diabolic massacre, fit to rank with the St. Bartholomews and Glencoes of modern times.

2. The spoliation of the city by Jacob ' s sons . If Simeon and Levi were alone responsible for the massacre, the sacking of the city was the work of all the brethren (Joseph and Benjamin doubtless excepted). Not only did they make captives of the wives and children, but they carried off every live thing they could find of any value; and not only did they ransack the houses, from the palace to the cottage, but they appear to have stripped even the very dead. The annals of uncivilized warfare scarcely record a more atrocious crime.


1. The feeble reproof of Jacob . He only complains that their cruel deed would cause his name to be abhorred in the land, and perhaps lead to their extermination as a people. For the different views that have been entertained of Jacob's words the Exposition may be consulted.

2. The insufficient reply of Dinah ' s brethren . Shechem certainly had wronged Dinah, but he never meant to treat her as a harlot.


1. The danger of unrestrained social intercourse between the Church and the world in general, and in particular between the daughters of the pious and the sons of the ungodly—exemplified in Dinah, who, going to see the daughters of the land, lost her fair fame, and brought trouble on her father's house.

2. The misery of yielding to unholy passion—illustrated in Shechem, whose unbridled lust bore bitter fruit to all concerned: to Dinah dishonor, to Jacob shame and sorrow, to Jacob's sons the thirst for revenge, to Hamor and the Shechemites as well as to himself overwhelming retribution.

3. The wickedness of which good men when left to themselves may be guilty—exhibited in the conduct of Jacob's sons, who in this lamentable affair were chargeable with treachery, sacrilege, murder, spoliation, oppression.

4. The possibility of the innocent suffering with and for the guilty—shown in the massacre of the Shechelnites for the sin of Shechem.

5. The certainty that a man's worst foes are often those of his own household—of which the case of Jacob was a melancholy instance, whose name was more dishonored by his sons' atrocities than by his daughter's misfortune.

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Genesis 34:1-31 (Genesis 34:1-31)

Good out of evil.

The whole of this miserable story has its place in the development of the kingdom of God. No alliance can be true and safe which is not upon the foundation of the Divine covenants. Circumcision without faith is a mere carnal ordinance, working evil. The sin of Shechem was avenged, but it was avenged by the commission of a greater sin by Simeon and Levi. It was not thus that the kingdom of God was to be spread. "Ye have troubled me," Jacob said. And so have all worldly agencies and methods troubled the true Church. It is better to suffer at the hands of the wicked than to make compromising alliance with them. The worldly Church has filled the world with misery. Abuse of Divine things has been the source of innumerable evils, not only among the people of God, but even in the sphere of men's secular life. But notwithstanding the sin of Simeon and Levi, their prompt execution of the Divine judgment upon the sin of Shechem must have produced a wholesome fear in the country, and connected that fear with moral purity. The sins of unchastity and violation of family rights were monstrously prevalent among the heathen people of Canaan, and it was doubtless ordered that this outbreak of human passion should bear witness for God as the God of purity and the God of households, who blesses the life which is free from the defilement of sensual indulgence, and in which the bonds of relationship and virtuous marriages and the sanctities of home are deeply reverenced. We read afterwards ( Genesis 35:5 ), "the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them."— R .

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