Monday, August 11, 2014
Shechem also said to her (Dinah's) father (Jacob) and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. Genesis 34:11 (NRSV Parenthetical notations are mine.)
The background to this scripture is complicated and disturbing. Dinah is the only daughter among the twelve sons of Jacob. She is raped by a Hivite prince named Shechem, who then falls in love with Dinah and takes her into his home. In the scripture passage above, Shechem seeks grace from Jacob and his sons and asks to marry Dinah. Shechem knows that he committed a disgrace against Dinah and her family, but he is willing to do anything or pay any price to rectify the situation. Although Shechem loved Dinah, he and his father Hamor wanted to use the marriage with Dinah as a political union. The Hivites wanted to intermarry with Jacob's family, share their own land with Jacob and his tribe, and in return, the Hivites wanted to use Jacob's family's livestock and property.
At first, Dinah's brothers receive Shechem's request with anger, but then they pretend to be placated by Shechem's offer to give them anything they ask. Jacob's sons ask that the Hivite tribe be circumcised, and so Shechem and the Hivites complied with the request. As the Hivite men were recovering from the procedure, the sons of Jacob attacked the Hivites, killed them all, plundered the land and took back their sister.
Dinah's brothers offered pretend grace. Perhaps the Hivites did not deserved grace, because rape was and is a serious crime, but deceit and murder are serious crimes too, and the Israelites gained enemies from this incident, enemies that they would have to contend with hundreds of years later when Israel entered the promised land.