1 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.”
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.” – Genesis 34:1-12 ESV
As Jacob settled in the land of Canaan, he chose a place outside the city of Shechem. He purchased land from Hamor, the father of Shechem, for whom the city was named. Hamor was a Hivite. This made him a descendant of Canaan, who was the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah.
Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. – Genesis 10:15-18 ESV
Technically, the Hivites were Canaanites, the descendants of Canaan. And they were all under the curse that Noah pronounced upon their forefather.
“May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.” – Genesis 9:25 NLT
Jacob’s decision to settle in close proximity to Shechem and the Hivites would prove to be less than ideal. And the story sounds eerily similar to that of Lot, when he “settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12 ESV). That too proved to be a poor decision.
It seems that Jacob had one daughter named Dinah who was born to his first wife, Leah. This young girl was surrounded by 11 brothers who felt it their duty to protect her. But Dinah was beautiful and she soon caught the attention of the men inside Shechem, particularly the man for whom the city was named. Evidently, Jacob and his family lived close enough to the city to have regular contact with its inhabitants. Shechem, “the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land” (Genesis 34:2 ESV), became infatuated with the lovely daughter of Jacob. As the son of the man in charge, Shechem was probably used to getting his own way. And as his infatuation with Dinah intensified, it turned to lust, which eventually resulted in rape. He was so determined to possess Dinah that he simply took what was not rightfully his, and violated her.
Moses indicates that this egregious action “humiliated her” (Genesis 34:2 ESV). In that culture, the loss of her virginity made Dinah “damaged goods” and a social pariah. She would never find a suitor. Though she had done nothing to deserve what had happened, she would suffer greatly for it – far worse than her attacker.
But Moses describes Shechem’s lust slowly turning into love. He longed to be with Dinah and to marry her, so he begged his father to intercede with Jacob and ask for permission for the two to wed. It’s clear from the text that Jacob was aware of Shechem’s treatment of his daughter, but up to this point he has neither said nor done anything. Yet, when Dinah’s 11 brothers hear the devastating news, they rush in from the fields where they were caring for their father’s flocks. They arrived just in time to hear Hamor broach the subject of Shechem marrying Dinah, and they were appalled.
…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.– Genesis 34:7 ESV
This Hivite had treated their sister with disdain and committed the ultimate act of disrespect, and now he was asking for the right to marry her.
Evidently, Hamor sensed the animosity of the 11 men and realized that his son’s life was in danger. If he didn’t act quickly, this whole situation could get ugly. So, he expanded his proposal, hoping to win over the young unmarried sons of Jacob.
“My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her. In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.” – Genesis 34:8-10 NLT
Hamor was suggesting an alliance between the Hivites and Israelites. it seems that Hamor was trying to soften the blow of his son’s unacceptable behavior while, at the same time, encouraging a deepening and potentially profitable relationship between their two clans. Jacob was a wealthy man who had 11 single sons, who each stood to gain a portion of Jacob’s inheritance. This could be a win-win for Hamor.
Even Shechem got into the act, virtually begging Jacob and his sons for the right to marry Dinah. After what he had done, it seems quite bold of Shechem to show his face to the brothers of Dinah. But again, this was probably a young man who was used to getting his way. He even tells Jacob to name his price.
“Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,” he begged. “I will give you whatever you ask.No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.” – Genesis 34:11-12 NLT
This presumptuous young man was obligating his father to pay whatever bride price Jacob demanded. His lust/love for Dinah was insatiable. He was willing to risk everything to have her. And his unbridled enthusiasm is reminiscent of Jacob’s actions when he first met Rachel.
Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. – Genesis 29:18-20 ESV
Jacob’s infatuation with Rachel inhibited his ability to see through Laban’s deceit. He ended up working the seven years, only to be tricked by Laban into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah. Then he was forced to work an additional seven years to earn the right to marry Rachel.
Shechem, like Jacob, was about to discover the deceitful side of Jacob’s nature, and it would manifest itself through Jacob’s 11 sons. These young men had inherited their father’s propensity for deception and trickery and were not afraid to use it. And what will become increasingly clear is the absence of any leadership on Jacob’s part. He will simply disappear into the background as he allows his sons to handle the ongoing negotiations between the two clans. This man who had bought the birthright from his older brother would prove to be less than capable of leading his family well. Though blessed by God and having been chosen to be the one through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled, Jacob would exhibit a glaring lack of leadership, allowing his vengeance-driven sons to take matters into their own hands.
Moses doesn’t indicate how long Jacob had been in the land of promise since returning from Mesopotamia, but it appears as if it didn’t take long for things to take a turn for the worst.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.