Summary: The Patriarchs Living in Shechem Genesis 34 This story is the story of the consequences of living in Shechem. The collateral damage does not end with Dinah’s sexual assault, but the sons murderous rampage.
Living in Shechem
October 2, 2016
We are at the tail end of our series, “The Patriarchs,” seeing God’s grace triumph over human sin in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We see God reversing the curse of sin in Jacob’s life, grace triumphing over a sinful and broken man. He really is an enigma. At times we see him display great faith and other times great sin. In the last few weeks we have seen him wrestling with God yet live; facing Esau and his life being spared. But ten years later we find him settled into a life of compromise. Instead of returning to Bethel as God commanded (31:3,13) we find him living in Shechem. Today’s passage, Genesis 34, is disturbing, difficult, and one that pastors often skip over. We see the tragedy of a life of compromise, living in a place where Jacob ought not to be. This story is the story of the consequences of living in Shechem.
At the end of chapter 33, after being reconciliation with Esau, Esau invites him to Seir but Jacob deceives him because he does not want to go and instead heads in the opposite direction. But instead of heading to Bethel he heads to Shechem, just twenty miles short of Bethel. The text tells us that he camped before the city (33:18) and buys land from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father. He builds an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel, meaning God, the God of Israel (33:19). From all appearances Jacob is not that far from God. Oh, he will get to Bethel eventually, but not now. Right now he wants what Shechem has to offer. Instead of living as a sojourner, he settles down and buys land and lives a life of compromise. Instead of grace transforming him, grace become a license for sin. Yet he keeps up with the religious façade, building an altar and worshipping in Shechem. Oh, he has his reasons, sojourning is much more difficult that city life, and Shechem offered city life. But it was still a compromise to God’s call to return to Bethel. Everything around us cries out for us to compromise. To make sin no big deal, to minimize it, it won’t hurt anyone.
One day his daughter Dinah went out to see the women of the land and Shechem son of Hamor, prince of the land, saw her, seized her, sexually assaulted her, and humiliated her. Then we are told that he loved her and spoke tender with her and wants his father to get her as his wife (34:1-4). Jacob has taken his family to the edge of a cliff and Dinah has stumbled on the rocks. Women did not go out alone in the Ancient Near East and still don’t in the Middle East. Jacob’s compromise has led to unintended consequences and pain, collateral damage. The consequences of living in Shechem, a place he should not be. Now Dinah never should have gone out to see the women but she never would have been put in that position if Jacob had obeyed God and gone to Bethel. Some of us have stories of unintended consequences of our sin. Some of us still feel the impact years later. All because Jacob is living in Shechem, where he ought not to be. Notice Jacobs silence to the news of this tragedy (34:5). Was he afraid or was he plotting? Was he feeling guilty that his compromise, living in Shechem, led to this terrible tragedy with his daughter. Or does he realize that his hypocrisy has left him with no credible voice, testimony. We don’t know. But we know that God had called him back to Bethel (31:13). Yet he has been in the land for ten years and he still has not gotten to Bethel. And he is silent.
Then Hamor goes to Jacob to negotiate a deal for Dinah. Jacob’s sons find out about it and are furious that their sister has been defiled (34:7). Neither Hamor nor Shechem apologize; they completely ignore the assault. Even when Hamor sees their anger all he can say is that Shechem longs for Dinah and pleads with them to give their sister to Shechem as his wife (34:8). Hamor, wanting to secure the deal, offers intermarriage, sharing their land, the right to do business in the land, and the ability to freely buy property (34:9-10). And Shechem attempts to sweeten the deal by offering to give whatever bride price they want (34:11-12). Hamor is negotiating with the sons not Jacob and the tragedy gets worse. The sons are not interested in any negotiations with anyone who has defiled their sister so they deceive Hamor and Shechem (34:13-17). They tell them that to unite with an uncircumcised people like them would be a disgrace and they will not agree to the deal unless all the men of the city are circumcised. Now remember, circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant given to them by God. A sign that they were the covenantal people of God, that they belonged to God, and the need for spiritual circumcision. But it is used as a means of marking them for revenge and death and destruction. They made a mockery of the covenantal sign. Hamor and Shechem are pleased with this offer and immediately go to the men of the village and convince them all to be circumcised (34:18-24). Three days later while the men are recovering, in pain and probably feverish, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, murder all the men and the rest of the brothers’ plunder the city (34:25-29). They sought revenge and they got it. All because Jacob compromised, did not obey God, the consequences of living in Shechem. The collateral damage does not end with Dinah’s sexual assault, but the sons murderous rampage.