THERE IS A REASON GOD FORBIDS HUMANS TO EXERCISE VENGEANCE — VENGEANCE CAN ONLY BE FAIRLY ADMINISTERED BY A HOLY AND JUST GOD
God has established human government to restrain the outward expression of sin and to punish evil doers. The government struggles with fulfilling this duty in a responsible and fair manner. God has not charged individuals with some type of blanket blank check authority to exercise personal vengeance at whatever level they deem appropriate. In fact, God expressly prohibits such wrathful vengeance – teaching us that Vengeance belongs to the prerogative of God and He will justly repay. There are a number of good reasons why – 3 specific reasons given in this text:
Definition of Vengeance: punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong.
Hughes: The cost of Jacob’s turpitude was immense, as chapter 34 records – rape, degeneration, treachery, and genocide. Yet in all of this a fierce grace was at work. In Shechem, in the event we are about to consider, God allowed Jacob to experience the appalling weight of his sinfulness so he would return to his call. Divine grace will triumph despite human sin – fierce, fiery grace.
I. (:1-12) RAPE OF DINAH – BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN BAD SITUATIONS –
REASON #1 – HUMANS ARE TAINTED BY SIN AND THEREFORE NOT QUALIFIED TO EXERCISE VENGEANCE
– sin on the part of Jacob via incomplete obedience (as we saw in Chap. 33)
– sins of the father (deceitfulness, scheming, trust in the flesh) – exhibited in next generation
– sin on the part of Jacob via poor parenting
– sin on the part of Dinah via putting herself in compromising situations
(not excusing the actions of Shechem – but showing the disqualification of humans to properly exercise vengeance;
not saying that Jacob and his sons should overlook the rape of Dinah)
A. (:1-2) Shechem Takes Advantage of Dinah
1. (:1) Foolish Vulnerability
“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob,
went out to visit the daughters of the land.”
Parunak: Though Jacob probably had more than one daughter (37:35), only one was listed in the birth history, and that because of this episode. We are reminded that she is Leah’s daughter, because this relation is what motivates Simeon and Levi (her full brothers) in revenging her dishonor.
Leah was not Jacob’s beloved wife … so Dinah was probably not receiving proper parental affection and attention from her father. This made her vulnerable to seek companionship and love and affection outside of parental guidelines.
Krell: Like many teenage daughters down throughout time, it would appear that Dinah went out on the town behind her parents’ back.
Parunak: Both verbs suggest defective behavior on Dinah’s part.
• “to see” recalls the origin of Eve’s sin in 3:6. Curiosity into the ways of the world is likely to draw us into those ways.
o Proverbs warns against drunkenness by saying, “Look not on the wine when it is red,” 23:31
o Job protests his purity by saying, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I
think upon a maid?” 31:1
o This seems to be the point of our Lord’s warning in Matt 6:22, “the light of the body is
the eye.” The eye guides the body in its actions, and anticipates those actions. If
the eye is directed toward evil things, the body will soon be led into evil practices.
“Be careful, little eyes, what you see.”
• “went out” shows her leaving the protection of her father’s encampment. It may have overtones of illicit behavior:
o Leah “went out” to allure Jacob, 30:16;
o The Law of Hammurabi (1800 BC) condemns a woman who “wishes to go out from”
her husband’s house (law 141).
o The targums translate “cult prostitute” as “one who goes out in the countryside.”
More generally, note from Num 30 that a woman (other than a widow or a divorcee) is always defined with relation either to her husband or her father. Dinah’s desire for independence as a single girl is a danger sign, and she in fact falls into difficulty because of it.
2. (:2) Forced Violation
“And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.”
B. (:3-4) Shechem Seeks to Marry Dinah
1. (:3) Emotional Attraction
“And he was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob,
and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.”
Parunak: The “daughters of the land” apparently introduced Dinah to the “sons of the land.” One of them took a fancy to Dinah. He was the son of a local prince, probably spoiled and accustomed to getting whatever he wanted without question. Note from 20:2 and 26:10 that unattended women were considered to be fair game in this culture.
2. (:4) Energetic Appeal
“So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying,
‘Get me this young girl for a wife.’”
C. (:5-7) Reactions to the Defilement of Dinah
1. (:5) Reaction of Jacob – Unexplainable Passivity
“Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter;
but his sons were with his livestock in the field,
so Jacob kept silent until they came in.”
Parunak: Jacob is cautious, which is commendable, unless it leads to passivity and indecision, as in Jacob’s case. One would expect him to be angry, as David was at the rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13:21, “But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth”). We are left with the impression that Jacob doesn’t care that much for Dinah.
2. (:6) Reaction of Hamor – Let’s Make a Deal
“Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.”
3. (:7) Reaction of Jacob’s Sons – Shame and Anger
“Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.”
D. (:8-12) Hamor and Shechem Propose Marriage
1. (:8-10) Hamor’s Proposal
“But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. And intermarry with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it, and acquire property in it.’”
Parunak: Not only has Shechem raped Dinah, but she is detained in his house (as we will learn in v.26). He is negotiating from a position of unfair strength: “If you want to see your daughter again, you’d better join with us.” His attitude rather seems to be, “I am a great prince; you should be honored at the opportunity to join with my august house.
Krell: Hamor and Shechem both do not offer an apology. Apparently, they assume that the offense is no big deal. After all, this is how Shechemites behave. In essence Hamor says, “No hard feelings. Let’s all get married, and be one, big, happy family.”
Hughes: Hamor’s offer pulsed with economic appeal – property in Canaan, grazing rights, the freedom to travel and dwell anywhere. In sum, Hamor promised what God had promised Israel. Very enticing. A shortcut to the Promised Land!
2. (:11-12) Shechem’s Sweetening of the Pot
“Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.’”
II. (:13-24) REVENGE PLOT – ROOTED IN THE FAMILY’S BENT TOWARDS DECEIT —
REASON #2 – HUMANS OPERATE FROM IMPURE MOTIVES WITH SCHEMING AND DECEITFUL PLANS
A. (:13-17) Laying the Trap
1. (:13) Plot Cloaked in Deceit
“But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor, with deceit, and spoke to them, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.”
2. (:14) Rejection of Original Marriage Proposal
“And they said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.’”
3. (:15-16) Counter Proposal
“Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people.”
Hughes: The desecration of the covenant sign of circumcision as a means to gain revenge, and the widening of the revenge to the murder and plunder of a town, were immense crimes deserving condemnation.
4. (:17) Consequences of Rejection of Counter Proposal
“But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised,
then we will take our daughter and go.”
Parunak: This threat would have been costly to carry out, since it would require them to abandon land that Jacob had purchased in the area. It would also have been difficult, since Dinah is at this point in Shechem’s house.
B. (:18-24) Springing the Trap
1. (:18-19) Gaining Acceptance for the Proposed Terms
a. Reasonable Proposal
“Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son.”
b. Rash Actions – Judgment Clouded by Lust
“And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter.”
c. Respect Gains Shechem a Hearing
“Now he was more respected than all the household of his father.”
2. (:20-23) Embracing the Proposed Terms
“So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city, and spoke to the men of their city, saying, ‘These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.’”
3. (:24) Implementing the Proposed Terms
“And all who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.”
III. (:25-31) RETRIBUTION – EXCESSIVE CARNAGE —
REASON #3 – HUMANS CANNOT EXERCISE SELF CONTROL SO THAT THE PUNISHMENT FITS THE CRIME
A. (:25-26) Killing Every Male
“Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. And they killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth.”
B. (:27-29) Looting Possessions and Families
“Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses.”
C. (:30-31) Justifying the Carnage
1. (:30) Questioning the Carnage
“Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me, by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I shall be destroyed, I and my household.’”
Parunak: The larger issues are not his own security, but their abuse of the holy rite of circumcision, the honor of their word, the question of whether they should have agreed to marriage with Shechem at all. These he leaves to the side.
Deffinbaugh: Surely a word of rebuke was in order, but Jacob’s words lacked force because his reasons were self-centered and not based upon principle, but only on the interest of self-preservation. They brought trouble to Jacob. They made Jacob look bad. They put his life in danger. He might be attacked and destroyed. Jacob seemed to care only about his safety and saving his own skin.
2. (:31) Defending the Carnage
“But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister as a harlot?’”
CONCLUSION: Let’s study how God is supremely qualified to exercise vengeance.
– God is not tainted by sin
– God always operates from pure motives
– God makes the punishment fit the crime