Explore the Bible Series
March 30, 2008
Background Passage: Genesis 34:1-36:43
Lesson Passage: Genesis 34:30-31; 35:1-7, 9-12, 14-15
This portion of the Jacob narrative outlines a series of difficulties faced by
the patriarch.† Resettlement in
Chapter Thirty-five recounts the rape of Jacobís daughter Dinah and the subsequent murderous revenge of Levi and Simeon.† As we shall see, a young Hivite man named Shechem was overcome by his lustful passion for Dinah, and he violated her.† Though he tried to rectify the situation, Shechem met a violent end when Levi and Simeon conspired to murder the young man and his family.† This text provides a useful case study of the anatomy of hatred and helps Christians to know how to respond when they have been wronged by someone.† As you study the chapter, note these patterns.
In addition to the unusual circumstances of the murder of Shechem, Jacob faced, in Chapter Thirty-six, the normal hardships of life: the death of a parent and the death of his beloved wife, Rachel.† We live in a dying world, and the experiences of life teach us to cope with the loss of those dear to us.† Thankfully, many of us have faithful friends and family who help us during times of grief, but poor Jacob did not benefit from such support.† In the aftermath of Rachelís death, Reuben, Jacobís eldest son, had illicit relations with his fatherís concubine, Bilhah.† This, of course, was an unspeakably callous act, but, above all, it was an act of defiance toward his father. This sexual misconduct treated Jacob like a dead man.† Reuben defiantly assumed his position as the ďrightfulĒ head of the family.† His actions were disgraceful.
Thankfully, we have a brief respite from this unseemliness,
recorded for us in the first fifteen verses of Chapter Thirty-five.† Jacob returned to
Chapter Thirty-six details the continued prosperity of Esauís family.† Jacobís brother married several Canaanite women and raised a large, influential family.† As we observed in an earlier lesson, Jacob and Esau, though courteous to one another, never really resolved their differences, and Esauís prosperity must have proved a bit unnerving to Jacob.† After the death of Isaac, we have no indication that the two estranged brothers ever interacted again.
I. The Defilement of Dinah and the Violence of Jacobís Sons (34:1-31)
A. Shechemís disgraceful act (vv. 1-3):† Apparently, several years passed between Chapters Thirty-three and Thirty-four. Jacob, in disobedience to Godís direction, purchased land from the Hivites.† God had told Jacob that he would give the patriarch the land of promise.† In time, Dinah grew curious about the women of the area, and, as she visited them, a man named Shechem assaulted her.† Derek Kidner raises questions about the nature of his sexual liaison, but the text seems clear that Shechem forced Dinah to have relations with him (terms like ďhumiliateĒ and ďdefileĒ indicate something other than a consensual relationship).† In the aftermath of the assault, Shechem tried to make things right by seeking to arrange a marriage with Dinah.†
B. The response of Jacobís family (v. 5-7): Jacobís restraint seems startling; yet, he remains silent about the assault until his sons return from the fields.† Note the contrast between Jacobís restraint and his sonsí indignation.† Of course, the sons were right to express outrage about the cruel, violent act of Shechem.
C. Hamorís proposed compromise (vv. 8-12): Hamor hoped to stabilize the volatile situation by proposing a marriage, including a generous bridal gift.† Shechem accompanied his father to Jacobís household, and the young man pledged his love for Dinah and a willingness to give a large gift to win her hand.
D. The shameful conspiracy of Levi and Simeon (vv. 13-31):† The text says Jacobís sons arranged a marriage between their sister and Shechem; however, the further development of the story indicates that Levi and Simeon led the conspiracy.† These two sons convinced the Hivites to submit to circumcision as a prerequisite for the proposed wedding.† Hamor and Shechem enthusiastically agreed to the proposal, and without delay, they circumcised all the men in Shechem.† Obviously, this submission to circumcision did not mark a religious conversion for these men; rather, they believed this act would bring peace to a volatile situation and open economic opportunity for both Shechem and the household of Jacob.† When the men were sore from their circumcision, Simeon and Levi entered the city, killed all the men, and carried off the spoils of Shechem. Remarkably, Jacobís concern about the slaughter centered on his own selfish interests.† Kidner points out that neither the appeaser nor the avengers reveal a godly response to this unfortunate situation.
II. The Renewal of the Covenant and the Deaths of Rachel and Isaac (34:1-29)
A. The renewal of the covenant (vv. 1-15):
gave Jacob three commands: (1) go to
protection of Jacob (vv. 5-8): The Lord protected Jacobís household and the patriarch
3. Godís appearance to Jacob (vv. 9-15): The Lord reaffirmed Jacobís name change and the certainty of the Abrahamic Covenant.† Jacob built an altar, a pillar of stone, in honor of the Lordís appearance to the patriarch.
death of Rachel (vv. 16-26):† As the
family journeyed from
death of Isaac (vv. 27-29):† This chapter
ends with the death of Jacobís father, Isaac.†
Jacob and Esau buried their father near
The Descendants of Esau (36:1-43): This lengthy chapter
recalls the prosperity of Esau.† Though
the line of faith did not did not pass through Esau, the Lord did bless
him.† Esau became a wealthy man, and he
fathered a very large, powerful family.