More Dishonorable Dealings: Genesis 34

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Once all settled in, Jacob’s sons waste no time making a killer deal with neighbor Shechem. OK, maybe it’s more a genocidal deal.

“Where have you been, Shirlee?” Ginny seemed impatient. “We had a horrible substitute for weeks, who kept reading to us from children’s books!

“Yeah,” added John. “The story of Noah he told us had all this business about neighbors crowding around and making fun of him, and throwing rotten tomatoes and animal poop at him. With pictures, even.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here, children. I had to fly out west to take care of a sick relative for a few weeks. But she’s better, and I’m back now! What did you say to Mr. Beatty about Noah?” Shirlee wondered if the kids had spoken up about Biblical truth.

“Ginny pulled out her Bible and read it to him, Shirlee! She was great,” Mark grinned. “Mr. Beatty had to admit . . .”

“That he was a liar!” Ginny interrupted, beaming. “I made him cry, and he repented for twisting the Word of God!”

“That would explain why he . . . Well, never mind that, Ginny.” Shirlee gazed at Ginny, marveling at the firebrand she was becoming. “Speaking of liars, this week’s story involves Jacob’s sons making a deal with a neighbor. But it’s not a good deal.”

Shirlee opened her Bible. “Last time I was with you, we’d read Genesis 32-33. Jacob went home, apologized to his brother Esau for stealing from him, and was forgiven. He and his family then settled in not too far away.”

Dinah, Jacob’s daughter by Leah, went out to visit the other women of the land. Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, who was prince of the country, saw her and had relations with her. (Gen. 34:1-2)

“Wait, does that mean he raped her?”

“I’m not sure, Mark. See, it just says he ‘took her and lay with her and defiled her’. Since any sex between a man and a woman who isn’t his wife ‘defiles’ her, it’s possible she agreed to it.”

Shechem fell in love with Dinah, and he was very kind to her. He asked his father to get her for his wife. (Gen. 34:3-4)

“Doesn’t sound very rape-like to me, Shirlee.”

“No, Mark, it doesn’t.”

Jacob found out that Dinah had been deflowered, but held his peace until his sons returned from the field. His sons were very angry when they learned what had happened!

Hamor went to talk to Jacob, and told him that his son Shechem loved Dinah, and wanted to marry her, and proposed a covenant between his city and Jacob’s camp, that they would intermarry and live together. Shechem said that he would give whatever dowry Jacob wanted if he could marry Dinah. (Gen. 34:5-12)

“Sounding less and less rape-like every moment,” commented Ginny.

“But it sounds more like a purchase agreement,” said John. “‘I like your daughter, so sell her to me’, something like that.”

“Remember, John, women were considered property in those days. In fact, until pretty recently, the last 200 years or so.” Shirlee wasn’t sure how she felt about that; it was God’s Will, but it still didn’t feel very good to think that she would have been considered a possession had she been born a couple hundred years earlier.

“Less than that, Shirlee.” Mark pointed out that women didn’t get the right to vote in the United States until 1920. “Before that, they were effectively property. That’s less than 100 years ago!”

Shirlee sat quietly for a moment, then suggested returning to the story.

Jacob’s sons made Shechem and Hamor an offer. They said, ‘We can’t let our sister marry someone who isn’t circumcised like us. So, if you and all your men get circumcised, then she can marry you and we will become one people.’ If Shechem refused, they said they would take Dinah and leave.

Shechem and Hamor thought this was acceptable, and talked all the men of their city into the agreement, pointing out that Jacob’s family had great wealth, and joining with them would be good for everybody.

After some persuasion, the men of the city agreed, and all were circumcised. (Gen. 34:13-24)

“What’s ‘circumcised’ mean?” Ginny always managed to ask the questions that made Shirlee uncomfortable. Fortunately for Shirlee, Mark was ready to speak up.

“It means they slice off part of the guy’s willy, Ginny!”

“Gah! Why would they want to do that?!”

“Ginny, we discussed this weeks ago. It’s in Genesis 17.”

Relieved to have made such short shrift of the sensitive topic, Shirlee quickly turned back to her Bible.

Three days later, when all the men were very sore from having parts sliced off, more than likely using less than razor-sharp knives and without antibiotics, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi came to the city and killed all the males of the city, including Shechem and Hamor. Then they took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and their brothers came and took all the livestock and valuables. They enslaved the children and women, and destroyed all that remained. (Genesis 34:25-29)

“What, so it was all a bunch of lies, so they could murder everyone?” Ginny was aghast. “But . . . but . . . all those other people didn’t even have anything to do with . . .”

“Remember our discussion about human justice vs. Godly justice, Ginny? This is Godly justice.”

Mark was ready with tough questions again. “Shirlee, how can you say it’s justice to kill innocent people? And how do you know God approved?”

“Is it in the Bible? Did God smite them?”

“Yes, it’s in the Bible . . . and I don’t know if God smote them, you haven’t finished the story yet.”

Shirlee pointed out that there were only two verses left, so she could quickly finish the story if only Mark would stop pestering her with queries.

Jacob told Simeon and Levi that they had caused him trouble by making such a mess, his group being small; he feared the Canaanites and Perizzites would gather together and destroy him and his family. They asked Jacob if they should instead have treated their sister as a prostitute. Jacob didn’t answer. (Genesis 34:30-31)

“That doesn’t tell us what happened! Are they smitten with boils in the next chapter for being liars and murderers?” Mark was outraged.

John added, “I thought the deal with rape was to pay the father a fixed price and marry the girl. Shechem offered whatever wealth Jacob wanted, and to marry her. Wouldn’t that make him the Godly one?”

Shirlee pondered. She remembered one phrase which she’d not mentioned, and told them about it: “In verse 19, [Shechem] didn’t beg off from the circumcision, in part because “he was more honorable than all the house of his father”. (Genesis 34:19)

But, since they weren’t circumcised, obviously they weren’t followers of God, who at that time was apparently known only to Jacob and his family. So, as a heathen, how could he truly be honorable? That’d be like an atheist or a Muslim or a Buddhist being honorable today! Ridiculous.”

“So what happened, anyway?”

Shirlee turned to Mark. “Happened? Oh, to Jacob and sons? In the next chapter, God tells Jacob to move to Bethel and live there.” She paused. “See, Mark? God told Jacob to move so he would be safe from the angry neighbors. No smiting.”

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