Community Group Study “Genesis: The Defiling of Dinah”
Read Genesis 34:1-31
In Genesis 34 we see some tragic events like a young woman who is abused by a powerful man, a passive dad not respond with justice out of fear, and a group of brothers who scheme to destroy a city with their rage. We can be shocked by what we read, but we can also wonder why this is an essential story for the people of God before they enter into the Promised Land after being freed from slavery in Egypt. As we dig into studying this passage though we will see that it is here to warn the people of God about delayed obedience, spiritual passivity and to explain to us why the two oldest sons in Jacobs family will be passed over for receiving the birthright (Simeon and Levi) later on in Genesis 49.
Genesis 34 opens us with Dinah, the only named daughter of Jacob, placing herself in a dangerous situation. In verse one we read that she left the safety of her family and sent to a foreign city to be close to Canaanite women. Genesis has previously warned us about the Canaanites because of their worship practices and loose morals when it comes to things like sexuality and idolatry. This puts Dinah in a place of danger, but to compound that problem, a powerful man uses his power to physically assault her. Shechem is the prince of the city and is a man who is used to “seeing” and “taking” words which go back to the original sin in the garden of eden in Genesis 3. Shechem rapes Dinah and “humiliates her”. Genesis 34:3 tells us that he became lovesick for her and formed a plan to have her as his own wife.
It is likely that Dinah was around 14-15 years old at this time. The Hebrew word for “girl” in this text refers to a young woman, likewise she was around 7 years old when Jacob and his family left Laban’s house. This means that Jacob was in the land of Shechem for around 7-8 years at this point in time. While the age of 14-15 was a marriageable age in the ancient world, this should still confront us today with just how powerless Dinah was.
Throughout the text you’ll read Hamor and Shechem act together to try and secure Dinah as Shechem’s wife. They never apologize for Shechem’s actions, but instead work together to try and merge their people with the family of Jacob so Shechem could take Dinah as his wife and have a unified people with Jacob’s family. When the sons of Jacob propose their plan for the Shechemites to be circumcised so they can join with them formally, Hamor and Shechem sell this idea to the people with the promise of economic wealth and new women to marry into their people group (Genesis 34:21-24). Shechem’s lovesickness reminds us of Jacob with Rachel, he was blind to what was happening and how he was being deceived by the sons of Jacob.
Unlike Hamor and Shechem, Jacob and his rage filled sons act contrary to each other. We see Jacob’s passivity as a father come out in how he “holds his peace” about the rape and waits until the brothers come home instead of seeking justice immediately (Genesis 34:5). When Hamor and Shechem propose a marriage arrangment, Jacob remains silent and the brothers being to scheme to get revenge on Shechem. Likewise, Jacob did not seek to protect his daughter at the beginning of the narrative when Dinah left to “see the women of the land” and we can infer that Dinah is being held hostage by Shechem throughout the ordeal from Genesis 34:26. Remember, they were only in this situation because Jacob did not fulfill his vow to God to go back to Bethel, he instead settled near the city of Shechem which is near where Abraham set up his first altar to God (showing us a partial obedience to God and the dangers of not following God fully). Finally, Jacob reacts with fear of retaliation at the end of the narrative, showing us his concern for his own safety over and against protecting the powerless in his own family.
The sons of Jacob are properly angry at the injustice of the defiling of their sister but their response is over the top rage. They propose a merging of the peoples similar to what Hamor and Shechem originally proposed, but to make that happen they use circumcision as a tool to weaken the people. Circumcision was originally given to God’s people to mark them out as a people of faith, and here they weaponize it to harm the Shechemites. Their plan was to come upon the people 3 days after the circumcision and destroy all the men while they were laid up in pain. Instead of seeking justice against Shechem, they take revenge out on all the people of the city and plunder it. This goes beyond “eye for an eye” which was a law given by God to limit retributive justice, instead they go above and beyond to destroy an entire people without the sanction of God.
How does God feel about all of this?
Genesis reveals to us a series of events where women were objectified and treated like property instead of as image bearers of God: Lamech and his polygamous relationships, Abram and Sarah using Hagar without her consent to have a child with Abram, Laban and Jacob haggling over Rachel without even using her name, Bilhah and Zilpah being used by Rachel and Leah to have children on their behalf, to this event with Dinah being raped and later on we will read of an incident with Judah and Tamar that once again shows us a woman being used by a powerful men. God regularly voices his displeasure and shows us that these things are sin by informing us of the fruit of these situations and the consequences that follow for those who use their power to harm others. God does not turn a blind eye to justice and is a protector of the powerless.
Likewise, God shows us his displeasure at the brothers rage-filled response; Simeon and Levi will be written out of the inheritance structure for the promised blessing of God being passed on. Reuben likewise will do something to disqualify himself in the next chapter. This leaves us with Judah being the one whom the promise of blessing from God will carry on with.
Followers of Jesus today should consider how we can model God’s compassionate heart for the powerless, and use our power to protect and seek justice. Likewise, we should consider how we treat and value women in our church, our community and our country.
Main idea: Jacob’s spiritual apathy and passive response leads to the abuse of his daughter and the unjust destruction of a city. Sin leads to more sin. But, God is faithful and just to work his plan even in these dark situations.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 34:1-12
What events in the text lead to Dinah’s abuse? How do the men in this story treat her as property and how does Jacob neglect his responsibility to protect his daughter?
We live in a world that objectifies all people in general as we assign people value based on appearance like deeming someone “the sexiest man alive”, photoshopping out imperfections for advertisements, to judging people by the label on the clothing they wear. Women in particular are treated as property rather than as people and experience this objectification. In what ways does Genesis 34 match up to our current cultural problems? In what ways are things more difficult and challenging today?
How should someone like Jacob have responded to the sin of Shechem? How do the brothers go outside of God’s commands in their desire for revenge? (Note how they use circumcision and the intensity that they carry out their revenge).
How does Jacob’s sin of spiritual apathy and fatherly passivity cause problems in his family?
These are somewhat big questions, but they are important to discuss at the individual and community group level:
What steps can we take to continue to create a culture where every image bearer (Genesis 1:26-28), including the powerless, are protected, loved and safe?
In what ways can parents and mentors help younger children, and daughters in particular, to have a healthy level of understanding what it means to be created in God’s imnage, and to be protected and safe from violence against women and children?