On his way home from Paddan-Aram, Jacob had 3 separate encounters. First, he made a covenant with his uncle Laban (who had chased him down). Second, he wrestled with God all night long and survived. Third, he made amends with his older brother Esau. Following all of these occurrences, Jacob and his family finally arrived in Canaan.
The Bible doesn’t explicitly state how many years passed between Jacob’s departure from Haran and the disturbing events we’ll discuss today in Genesis 24. It is clear, however, that by this point Jacob’s children had grown into young adults. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that Jacob’s family lived in Succoth and then in Shechem for a combined period of at least 10-20 years (Genesis 33:17-20).
This morning’s message is titled “Dinah Is Raped”. It is the 20th sermon of “The Chosen Church” series and it covers a pair of rather unsettling topics - sexual assault and homicide. It is my prayer that God will speak to us clearly and powerfully today as we touch on these troubling issues.
I. RAPE (v1-7)
Jacob and his family lived in Shechem. One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to see some of her friends. A young man named Shechem (not to be confused with the city’s name) saw her, abducted her, and raped her by force. He was strongly attracted to and infatuated by her beauty. To make matters more complicated, Shechem was the son of Hamor the Hivite - a prince in the land. In other words, this scandal involved a sexual assault perpetrated by a nobleman’s child. In the aftermath, Shechem pleaded with his father to acquire Dinah for him to be his wife.
Hamor went out to find Jacob, hoping to speak with him about the incident. Meanwhile, Jacob had already received the horrifying news that Shechem had defiled his daughter. Though it grieved him deeply, Jacob was able to maintain his composure. However, when Jacob’s sons - Dinah’s brothers - found out what happened they were furious.
Rape is an evil and detestable sin that has been victimizing both men and women since Old Testament times. According to estimates made by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, there were 734,630 people raped in the United States during 2018 (threatened, attempted, or completed). Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetimes (18%), most often by someone they know personally. Approximately 40% of victims are raped before reaching age 18, and 80% before age 25. We as Christians should pray for and support those who have been sexually assaulted and stand against a culture that permits and even glorifies this type of violent behavior.
II. RESTITUTION (v8-18)
Hamor eventually found and conversed with Jacob and his sons. Hoping to make this problem go away, he and his son committed to give whatever was necessary as a bridal payment for Dinah. Furthermore, Hamor invited all of Jacob’s sons to intermarry with the Hivites so as to become one people. He expressed a desire to share the land and property, and to engage in trade and commerce with each other.
Apparently Jacob didn’t answer immediately, so his sons spoke up for him. They stated that it would be inappropriate and disgraceful to give their sister Dinah to someone who had not been circumcised as they were. They asked that all of the Hivite men be circumcised as a prerequisite condition before marrying any of the young women in Jacob’s camp - including Dinah. Hamor and Shechem believed this to be a reasonable request and agreed to the terms.
We should remember that Jacob and his sons were circumcised in accordance with the Abrahamic Covenant first established between God and their grandfather. They were a distinct and peculiar people, who were not supposed to intermingle with the Canaanite people or acclimate to their pagan culture. They were to be purposely different and set apart for the LORD. Sadly, I fear that in modern times God’s people (the church) have become so entangled with the world that it's often hard to tell the difference.
III. RETALIATION (v19-31)
Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gates of the city and addressed all of the men gathered there. They told them about the agreement they had made with Jacob’ sons. They described Jacob’s people as friendly and emphasized the merits of joining with them through intermarriage and mutual cooperation. Everyone was convinced that this would be a good thing. Therefore, all of the Hivite men including Hamor and Shechem were circumcised.
On the third day after their circumcision, while they were still suffering from and physically incapacitated by the procedure, 2 of Jacob’s sons snuck into the city with swords and attacked the helpless men. One by one, Simeon and Levi killed every Hivite male who’d been circumcised. They murdered Hamor and Shechem, and took their sister Dinah back. Afterwards, Jacob’s sons looted the city and seized their animals, wealth, wives, and children.
Now Jacob was unaware that his sons had done this. When he found out what happened, he didn’t approve. Instead, he scolded his sons for their vengeful conduct. Jacob feared that the inhabitants of the land would retaliate against him because he had so ruthlessly slaughtered the citizens of the city. His sons vigorously defended their actions by arguing that Shechem couldn’t be allowed to get away with treating their sister Dinah like a harlot.
Jacob’s sons had every right to be angry with Shechem for sexually assaulting their sister. His behavior was vile, despicable, and completely unacceptable. He should have been held accountable and properly punished for his misconduct. But I ask you this… what did all of the other Hivites do wrong? What was their crime? Why did Jacob’s sons think it was appropriate or necessary to take their vengeance out on the entire city instead of just the individual responsible? Is it okay for us to condemn and/or perpetrate violence against an entire group of people based upon the actions of one person? Beloved, these questions are relevant to our nation today.
Furthermore, was it appropriate for Jacob’s sons to take matters into their own hands in the first place? Perhaps in ancient times, when there were no police officers or legal systems in place, such an approach was necessary. But as Christians today, what do we believe about vigilante justice? The Bible teaches us not to repay evil with evil or to seek revenge. Instead we are to trust that God will execute justice in His time and in His way (Deuteronomy 32:35). As we stand up and speak out against the sinful acts that permeate our culture, we must be careful not to digress into sinful behavior ourselves.
My friends, the story we’ve discussed this morning took place 3,000 years ago. Yet the issues it addresses and the questions it raises are still very relevant. The fact is - human nature hasn’t changed. Sexual immorality, vengeance, injustice, and the murder of innocents are still prominent in our world today. We are, on our own, an evil and depraved people. And the only true answer to these problems and the dark scourge of sin is Jesus Christ...