Genesis 34-35 – The Voice

Genesis 34-35

The Voice

One day Dinah, Leah and Jacob’s daughter, went out to visit some of the women who lived in the land. But when Shechem (son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region) saw Dinah, he grabbed her and raped her. His soul was drawn to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with her and spoke tenderly to her. Shechem went then and spoke with his father, Hamor.

Shechem: I need you to arrange for this girl to be my wife.

Now Jacob found out that Shechem had dishonored and raped his daughter, Dinah, but at the time, all of his sons were out in the field working with the livestock. So Jacob stayed calm and did not react until they came back. Meanwhile Hamor, Shechem’s father, had come to speak with Jacob to arrange a marriage. When news of the attack reached Jacob’s sons, they came in from the field. The young men were appalled and extremely angry because Shechem had done such a horrible thing in Israel by raping Jacob’s daughter. Something like this should never happen.

Hamor tried speaking with them.

Hamor: My son’s soul longs for your daughter. Please give her to him in marriage. In fact, let’s intermarry our families. Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. We’ll live together. The entire land will be open to you. You can live on it, trade on it, and buy property on it.

Shechem (to Jacob and his sons): Please, let me find my way into your favor! Whatever you ask, I will give it to you. Set the bride-price and gift as high as you like, and I will give you whatever it takes. Just please allow me to marry the young woman.

Jacob’s sons were still angry that Shechem had defiled their sister Dinah, so they answered him and his father Hamor deceitfully.

Jacob’s Sons: We can’t agree to this arrangement: to give our sister to someone who isn’t circumcised would bring shame on all of us. We will consent to allow you to marry our sister on one condition: you must be circumcised as the rest of us have been. Every male among you must be circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you and will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you in peace and become one people. But if you don’t agree to this condition and be circumcised, then we will take our sister and go.

Hamor and his son Shechem were willing to go along with the demand, and the young man wasted no time in fulfilling the requirement since he was so taken with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored man in all of his family, so Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of the city and addressed all of the men.

Hamor and Shechem (to the men of the city): These men are peaceful and friendly to us, so let’s allow them to live in the land and trade in it. You see this land is large enough for them too. Let’s take their daughters in marriage, and let’s give them our daughters. They will agree to live among us in peace and become one people on one condition: every male among us must be circumcised, just as they already are. Wouldn’t we have much to gain—their livestock, property, and animals? Let’s agree to their condition, and they will live among us and increase the vitality of our city.

So everyone who passed by the city gate listened to Hamor and his son, Shechem, and they all were circumcised—every single man who went out the city gates that day. Three days later, when the men of the city were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons (Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi) took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting people of the city, killing all of the men. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword as well; they took Dinah out of Shechem’s house—where she had remained during the negotiations—and then went away. Jacob’s other sons saw those who were killed, and they plundered the city. All of this was done in anger, because it was here that their sister had been raped and the family dishonored. They took all of the flocks, herds, donkeys, and whatever was in the city and the field. All of their wealth, all of their children, and all of their wives—everything they could find in the houses—they plundered and made it their own.

Jacob (reacting to Simeon and Levi): You have brought a lot of trouble to me. The people of this land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, can smell the stink of my sons’ actions. I don’t have huge armies of men to defend us. If they all decide to gather against me and attack me, I will be destroyed along with my entire household.

Simeon and Levi: Would you rather have our sister treated as a whore?

Genesis is filled with moral failures and ethical dilemmas, the kinds of things that happen in real life. Abraham’s children are not perfect people; they—like the rest of us—are deeply flawed and conflicted over the tough moral choices we all have to make. After Dinah is forcibly raped, what are her brothers to do to protect her and restore their family honor? How is justice to be done? How can they make things right? These are important questions. The desire to protect those you love and to make things right is a noble impulse, but ignoble deeds follow. Skilled in deception, her brothers use circumcision—their covenant obligation—to temporarily disable the men and make them vulnerable to attack. After the carnage, Jacob, the older, wiser head of the family, knows the score: actions like these have consequences. Violence only breeds more violence. If they are to survive, they must leave . . . soon.


God (to Jacob): Get up, go back to Bethel, and settle there. Build an altar to Me, to the God who appeared to you when you ran away from your brother, Esau.

Jacob told his household and those with him to get ready to move.

Jacob: Get rid of any foreign gods you have in your possession. Purify yourselves: bathe and change your clothes. Then come with me. We’re going to Bethel so that I can build an altar there to the God who answers me whenever I am in distress and who is with me wherever I go.

So they handed over to Jacob all of the foreign gods they had, as well as the rings in their ears. Jacob buried them in the shadow of a mighty oak that was near Shechem.

As they traveled, God struck terror into the hearts of all of the cities along the way so that no one pursued Jacob’s family. Jacob, and all those who were with him, arrived in Luz (which is also known as Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar and called the place El-bethel because it was there that God had revealed Himself to Jacob when he was running away from his brother. Along the way, Deborah (Rebekah’s nurse) died, and they buried her under the branches of a stately oak below Bethel. Since that day, it has been known as Allon-bacuth, which means “oak of weeping.”

Now that Jacob had come back from Paddan-aram, God appeared to him again at Bethel and blessed him.

God: Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be known as Jacob. Israel will be your name.

From then on, God addressed him by his new name: Israel.

God: I am the God-All-Powerful. Be fruitful and multiply. You will give rise to a great nation; indeed nation after nation will come from you. Kings and rulers shall be numbered among your descendants. Your children will one day possess the land I promised to Abraham and Isaac.

Then God ascended from the place where He had spoken with Jacob. And Jacob set up a pillar of stone in that same spot. He poured wine on it as an offering to God and doused it with oil. Jacob named this place where God had spoken with him “Bethel.”

After that, they all traveled on from Bethel. While still a long way from Ephrath, Rachel began having labor pains, and it was a hard labor. And when the labor pains were most intense, the midwife tried to comfort her.

Rachel’s Midwife: Don’t be afraid. You’re going to have another son.

But as her life slipped away, just before she died, Rachel named her son Ben-oni, but his father decided to call him Benjamin instead. So Rachel died, and they buried her on the way to Ephrath (which is also known as Bethlehem). Jacob set up a pillar to mark Rachel’s tomb, and the pillar at her tomb still stands to this day.

Israel then continued on the journey, and he pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. During the time Israel lived in this land, Reuben slept with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, and Israel found out about it.

Now Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons. Leah’s six sons were Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. Rachel’s two sons were Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel’s servant, Bilhah, had two sons: Dan and Naphtali. Leah’s servant, Zilpah, had two sons: Gad and Asher. These were the sons born to Jacob in Paddan-aram and on the journey home.

Jacob finally arrived at his father Isaac’s house at Mamre not far from Kiriath-arba (which is also known as Hebron). This is where Abraham and Isaac had resided as foreigners.

Isaac lived 180 years. By the time he took his last breath and joined his ancestors in death, he had reached a ripe old age and lived a full life. His sons, Esau and Jacob, buried him.

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