Well we’re at a point in the story of Jacob where everything’s going great for him. He’s gained a family and riches, he’s been reconciled to his brother Esau, and he’s settled down in the city of Succoth for a few years.
He then decides to move a little further into the promised land and settles amongst the Canaanites there in a city called Shechem.
[Read Genesis 33:18-20.]
He buys himself a piece of land and builds an altar there. God had shown Himself faithful to him so he builds an altar to worship God at and calls it El-Elohe-Israel which means “Almighty God is the God of Israel”.
Life is good for Jacob – but then the unthinkable happens – his only daughter, who’s only 14 or 15 years old at this time, is raped.
Now at no time in the history was this ever an acceptable thing to do. Just about every culture thinks this is especially hanus. In Jacob’s day, not only would this have been emotionally disastrous for the victim, but once the word got out the victim would probably never be desired for marriage. This was, and sometimes still is, a crime that ruins a person’s life. What a tragedy.
You know, whenever we hear of something like this happening, something goes off inside of us. It’s like a switch is flipped in our minds and we find ourselves thinking about how we can make that person pay for what they’ve done. We want revenge! That’s a totally natural response to something like this.
But is that really God’s way for us to handle injustice? Let’s read the story and find out.
I. Shechem’s unconscionable sin
[Read Genesis 34:1-3.]
Again, this is something that simply brings up horrible images and a sick feeling in our stomachs. Dinah is only 14 or 15 years old at this time. She’s simply out trying to make some friends in this new land for her. And the prince of the land, of whom the city is named, decides he wants her and he wants her now. So he takes her and rapes her.
Shechem is the spoiled son of Hamor who is a powerful ruler of the region. A ruler amongst the pagan Caananites. No doubt he had spoiled his son by his power and favor and we’ll see a continuation of that as the story progresses. So Shechem simply took what he wanted. But what he took was so sacred. This was one depraved man.
So Shechem sees a woman that he wants, he rapes her, and then takes her into his house and won’t let her leave. He wants her to be his wife and maybe even love him back, but I don’t think Dinah wanted that. That’s probably why Shechem’s “speaking tenderly” to her. He’s trying to win her affection. But it isn’t working.
So what does any spoiled brat do when they can’t get what they want? “Mommy, Daddy, I want that. Get it for me now!”
And how does any over-indulgent parent react? “Right away son. Your wish is my command.” (Man do we have too much of that in our society today.) But obviously it isn’t something new because Shechem’s dad steps in to clean up his son’s mess.
II. Hamor’s attempted cover up
[Read Genesis 34:4-12.]
You know as you’re reading this you get the mental image that Hamor’s out in front trying to fix everything while his weasly son’s standing behind him the whole time. Hamor should have held him accountable. Hamor should have made him pay for what he had done. Instead he tries to work out a deal with Jacob and his sons that would almost justify his son’s disgraceful act.
He says, “Why don’t we simply swap daughters? You marry our daughters and we’ll marry your daughters and everything will be fine.”
Hamor also says that once they start intermarrying then the land will open up to Jacob in a business sense and he’ll profit financially from the arrangement. And Shechem even speaks up and says he’ll pay him anything if he can marry Dinah.
Hamor and Shechem are trying to make it seem like what happened to Dinah can turn out to be a good thing! Again, these men are simply godless and depraved.
Now one thing that we do notice here is that Jacob is extremely quiet during these discussions. When he first found out about what had happened he waited until his sons came in from work to tell them. Probably several hours went by from the time he heard the news until the time he shared it with his family. What was he doing?
We really don’t have the answer to that. But we do know that he’s the only one thinking rationally here. He didn’t fly off the handle in a blind rage and make things worse. Maybe he cried, maybe he prayed, maybe he even screamed at the heavens. But somehow he had gotten to a place within himself where he could think clearly before he told the family and before he had to face the one who caused his daughter so much pain.