34 Dinah was the daughter Leah had by Jacob. Dinah went out to visit the women of the land. 2 Hamor, the Hivite, was the ruler of that area. When his son Shechem saw Dinah, he took her and raped her. 3 Then he longed for Jacob’s daughter Dinah. He fell in love with her and spoke tenderly to her. 4 Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me that young woman. I want her to be my wife.” 5 Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been raped. His sons were in the fields with his livestock. So he did nothing about it until they came home. 6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields. They came as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and very angry. Shechem had done a very terrible thing. He had forced Jacob’s daughter to have sex with him. He had done something that should never be done in Israel. 8 But Hamor said to Jacob and his sons, “My son Shechem wants your daughter. Please give her to him to be his wife. 9 Let your people and ours get married to each other. Give us your daughters as our wives. You can have our daughters as your wives. 10 You can live among us. Here is the land. Live in it. Trade in it. Buy property in it.” 11 Then Shechem spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. He said, “I want to please you. I’ll give you anything you ask for. 12 Make the price for the bride as high as you want to. I’ll pay you whatever you ask. Just give me the young woman. I want to marry her.” 13 Their sister Dinah had been raped. So Jacob’s sons lied to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do it. We can’t give our sister to a man who isn’t circumcised. That would bring shame on us. 15 We’ll agree, but only on one condition. You will have to become like us. You will have to circumcise all your males. 16 Then we’ll give you our daughters as your wives. And we’ll take your daughters as our wives. We’ll live among you and become one big family with you. 17 But if you won’t agree to be circumcised, then we’ll take our sister and go.” 18 Their offer seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man was the most honored of all his father’s family. He didn’t lose any time in doing what Dinah’s father and brothers had said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 Hamor and his son Shechem went to the city gate. They spoke to the other men there. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land. Let them trade in it. The land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters. And they can marry ours. 22 But they will agree to live with us as one big family only on one condition. All our males must be circumcised, just as they are. 23 Won’t their livestock and their property belong to us? Won’t all their animals become ours? So let’s say yes to them. Then they’ll live among us.” 24 All the men who went out through the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem. So every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, all of them were still in pain. Then Simeon and Levi took their swords. They were Jacob’s sons and Dinah’s brothers. They attacked the city when the people didn’t expect it. They killed every male. 26 They also used their swords to kill Hamor and his son Shechem. Then they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 Jacob’s other sons found the dead bodies. They robbed the city where their sister had been raped. 28 They took the flocks and herds and donkeys. They took everything in the city and in the fields. 29 They carried everything away. And they took all the women and children. They took away everything in the houses. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me. Now I’m like a very bad smell to the Canaanites and Perizzites who live in this land. There aren’t many of us. They may join together against me and attack me. Then I and my family will be destroyed.” 31 But they replied, “Should Shechem have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
While there is a fair bit of heavy content in this passage, I see this scripture as a depiction of what happens when we put our own selfish desires before the needs of others, or before what we know is right by God.
In this chapter, both Shechem and the brothers of Dinah act impulsively to meet their own desires, leading to dire consequences. For Shechem it was his lust for Dinah that caused him to rape and defile her, regardless of what was best for her or would meet her needs. Similarly it is the need for vengeance that motivates Dinah’s brothers to deceive and kill all the men in the city, despite the fact that it was only Shechem who had defiled their sister. These actions led to the destruction of a city, as well as damaging the relationship that Jacob and his family had with the people living around them.
While I have not committed the same sins attributed to Shechem or Dina’s brothers, I am lead to think of all the times when I have acted selfishly by putting my own desires as my top priority, and not done what I know would have honoured God. Sadly I am sure that at times my selfish actions have hurt others and grieved God, causing unnecessary pain. This passage is a great reminder that actions deriving from a heart of selfishness and self-gratification can lead to painful circumstances that hurt others and ourselves, and that could be avoided if we continually seek to place loving God and loving others as our top priorities.
God, thank you that you have given us the command to love you and to love others as ourselves. May we be people who seek to honour you by blessing others with our actions, and trusting that you will meet our needs when we put you first. Amen.
Written by Madelaine Tarasenko