Dinah, Simeon, and Levi – Covenant Theology (Gen. 34 – 36)

The story of Dinah highlights a few things practical, such as not leaving your sister alone in a sinful town. It’s seems somewhat irresponsible for all the sons of Jacob to have gone out with the livestock, and not left anyone at home to protect the family. By this time, it’s possible that they had become too familiar with the land and the people and did not see the danger that lived there. It happens that Shechem the son of the local king Hamor, had seized Dinah, had relations with her without any form of consent from her or the family first (as we saw within the arrangements and customs surrounding the marriages of Isaac and Jacob). Although the man Shechem seems to love Dinah, he clearly offends her and her family (verse 34:7 being the first instance of “Israel” being used in a family/national sense). This angers the sons of Jacob, to the point that they deceitfully promise to approve the marriage on the condition that Hamor and all the men of his people become circumcised. Hamor and the city men agree to the arrangement, as if planning to double cross Israel, by using the arrangement as a way to take all their possessions away. The third day after the city is circumcised and the men are sore, Simeon and Levi not only avenge their sister’s honor, but seem to go above and beyond. They not only kill all the males, but plunder all the wealth, women, and children of the place. The chapter ends with Jacob chastening Simeon and Levi for jeopardizing the family by doing all this. The two brothers respond if not this, should they have done nothing to the man who treated their sister as a prostitute.

First I find it interesting that it’s Simeon and Levi that do this on their own, as there is no mention of Reuben’s input. The four are all the children of Leah (Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun are also absent). Being the eldest, we do not hear from Reuben or his father Jacob on the matter. They all seem to be in on the plot in verse 13, but maybe the deal is only from Simeon and Levi, and not all the brothers were present, as saying “the sons of Jacob” could refer to all of them or just the two brothers. We are not sure. The brief back and forth between the two sons and Jacob at the end, seem to be a disagreement about “proportional response”. This is both a military and justice concept that one may take a limited approach to vengeance but only so much as it rights the wrong, as like saying “an eye for an eye”. What is the proportional response for what Shechem did to Dinah, I’m not sure. Jacob’s assessment, saying the two have made them “stink” to the locals, infers that they went too far. This principle is witnessed many times as God deals with peoples and nations. In Judges a king has his thumbs chopped off, and he remarks how fitting it is, because he had done the same to others (Judges 1:1-17). This is also a covenant issue, as when Adam broke the covenant of works with God, the exacting proportional response is eternal separation (death). God does not over do things, but exacts what it due, and that only. Judging by the narrative before us, It could be that this was a necessary evil, still being wrong, but serving the purpose of creating fear in the local population (35:5).

Before Jacob it was kind of easy to follow the promise child linage, because there were only so many children we could have followed, and the narrative usually got to the point rather quickly. This is not the case now that Jacob has become a multitude. We see the promises coming to fruition, but we must be mindful that part of the promise, as evolved to Abraham, includes a bondage for 400 years. We are still not told which son of Jacob to follow for the promised child.

God intervenes in chapter 35 commanding Jacob to go to Bethel. In preparing for the journey, Jacob calls on all his house to put away foreign gods, to purify themselves and put on clean clothes. Having plundered the riches of Shechem, some may have acquired idols from the locals, or possibly brought them (like Rebekah) from their time with Laban. The idols are collected and hidden away, as they are to dedicate themselves to the God who answered Jacob. We are not told if the fear of the surrounding locals is because of what happened to Shechem or not, but it does say that the fear/terror was from God. God had told the patriarchs on several occasions that He will curse those that curse them, and we have seen it happen. As word travels fast, and bad news travels faster, it’s not surprising that these local groups fear coming out against Jacob/Israel. They make it to Bethel and God again blesses Jacob with the name Israel and reiterates the promises. Israel sets up another pillar and blesses it. Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin, Reuben lays with Bilhah (seemingly disqualify him as eldest from being the next promised seed), returning home to Isaac in Hebron, and staying there until his death and burial. Jacob and Esau are back at home, and burry their father together. Not to be confused about the two sons coming together, and where the promise is going, Moses adds chapter 36 to point out how Esau is now more a part of the people of the land, than he is part of the covenant family.

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