Summary: The episode of Dinah reveals the clash of two distinct cultures. Their different world-views, especially about sex, reflect the growing gap today between Christian culture and secular culture.
Genesis 34:1-31 Clash of Cultures
9/11/16 D. Marion Clark
James Boice, in his sermon series through Genesis, introduces our chapter by noting the difficulty of the subject matter. He referenced two commentators who simply skipped it. Another was willing to make some comments but would not offer how to preach the chapter. With due trepidation, let’s look into this infamous episode.
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”
Verses 1-4 present the setting. Dinah is Leah’s daughter. Shechem is the son of the king of the city. He bears the title of prince. He – in whatever manner: by force or by seduction – lies with Dinah. He falls in love with her and wants to marry her. The custom is for the father of the man to arrange marriage with the father of the woman.
What are the implications so far? We need to be careful with this because so little is stated. Nothing is presented about Dinah to form judgments of her. Was she wrong to have ventured out? Did she somehow show consent to what happen? We don’t know.
The episode has been referred to as the rape of Dinah, and, indeed, is so translated in some Bible versions. And yet that is but one use of the verb in question. The act can be consensual, and verse three implies that this was not a mere act of force. Even so, the word always indicates illicit physical relations. We can know that however the act took place, it was wrong from the perspective of the Scriptures.
The act itself is what humiliates Dinah. Her honor has been violated. It does not matter what her role may be nor her feelings for Shechem. Nor does Shechem’s falling in love make it right. And, Shechem, by the way is not trying to make what he did right. He is not trying to make amends, to make some kind of restitution. He saw Dinah and acted according to how he felt. He did not feel remorse. It so happened that he felt love. So now, he wants her for his wife, which requires dealing with the father.
5 Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. 7 The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter, for such a thing must not be done.
8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him to be his wife. 9 Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall dwell with us, and the land shall be open to you. Dwell and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Ask me for as great a bride price and gift as you will, and I will give whatever you say to me. Only give me the young woman to be my wife.”
Shechem is head over heels for Dinah. His father Hamor, who has the duty to speak for his son, sees opportunity in what has happened. He had sold land to Jacob. Now he asks not only for the hand of Dinah for his son but proposes that the two peoples merge together through intermarriage. It seems to him a win-win proposition. The two peoples become one strong people. No doubt he values the wealth of Jacob.
It seems like a fair and positive proposal. Take what admittedly could be construed as a shameful act and turn it into a positive consequence. Redeem a sinful situation. And this, by the way, is in keeping with the law that would be written generations later under Moses.
There it is. Shechem is not merely willing to marry Dinah; he earnestly desires to marry her. He is not merely willing to pay some kind of restitution; he gladly will pay the highest bride price and gift. What could be fairer? What could be more generous?