Genesis 34: Lessons from Jacob on the Dangers of Ungodly Parental Leadership

Introduction: With the exception of Genesis chapters 35 and 36, chapter 34 marks a turning point in this book. Here, the focus shifts from Jacob and the patriarchs to Jacob’s children. As a result of Jacob’s many parenting mistakes, his children would spend many years in moral decline. The family would remain in moral decline until Joseph later reunited the family in Egypt. Many children in life make poor choices out of their own free will. Others make poor choices because of the absence of godly guidance from their parents. With Jacob’s family, many of the poor choices of his children stemmed from his poor example of deceiving others, his absentee parental leadership, and his favoritism for Rachel and Joseph over others. While Jacob remained absent as a moral leader, each child lived by his or her moral compass. Because each person in this account did what was right in their own eyes, each person sinned in God’s eyes. God is never mentioned in this chapter. Nor does any person in this chapter ever pray to Him. In many ways, this portion of Genesis foreshadows the events that would later unfold during the book of Judges when Israel had no godly leader to guide it. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). The events in this chapter also foreshadow the current end times where most people are guided by their own individual sense of morality. God created the institution of family for husbands and wives to raise His children as stewards. This includes instructing children on His laws of morality. From the many failures of Jacob and his children in this chapter, God reveals seven lessons on the dangers of ungodly parental leadership.

First, God told Jacob to go to Bethel. Yet, like Lot, he was drawn to live by a Hivite city. He then failed to supervise his daughter Dinah as she socialized with the Hivites. She later had no family protection when a Hivite prince named Shechem raped her. From this, God reveals that parents must set boundaries to protect their children from predators and their own poor choices. Second, Jacob showed no anger at Dinah’s rape. Dinah was the daughter of Leah, the unloved wife. Jacob made the mistake of treating the children in his blended family differently. In the absence of any moral leadership from Jacob, this left Leah’s sons with a seething anger and the perceived need to avenge the wrongs against their sister. From this, God reveals that parents should make all children feel equally loved and valued. Third, Shechem’s father Hamor tried to correct his son’s wrong by offering restitution and by offering to have the families intermarry. Although intermarriage with nonbelievers was against God’s law, Jacob stayed silent because he saw a commercial advantage in the deal. Jacob’s sons were left to defend God’s laws of spiritual separation. But their real motive was revenge. From this, God reveals that parents should teach their children by their own example to stay separate from the world. Fourth, unaware of the boys’ plan to use God’s circumcision to attack the people of Shechem in their moment of weakness, Hamor convinced the men of his city to adopt God’s circumcision requirements. From this, God reveals that parents should teach their children not to blaspheme God’s name and to be holy witnesses for Him. Fifth, while the men of Shechem recovered from their circumcisions, Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi committed heinous acts of premeditated mass murder against all the Shechemite men. The other brothers then joined in the theft of their belongings and the kidnapping of their women and children. God reveals that parents should teach their children to love and forgive their enemies. Sixth, after learning of these crimes, Jacob only showed concern for himself. He worried how his sons’ acts would make him hated by others. From this, God reveals that parents should teach God’s will instead of complaining about themselves. Finally, Simeon and Levi became indignant at Jacob and failed to repent of their actions. From this, God reveals that parents should discipline their children and teach them to honor parental authority.

1. Parents Must Set Boundaries To Protect Children. Gen. 34:1-4.

  • Hamor’s rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Jacob brought his family to a Hivite city where God had not called them to. He was supposed to go to Bethel, not Shechem (Gen. 31:3). Jacob then compounded his mistake by failing to set boundaries for his children. As a result, Dinah was unprotected when an evil Hivite prince raped her: “1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. 3 He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this young girl for a wife.’” (Gen. 34:1-4). Here, each person was guided by their own sense of morality. Jacob felt free to ignore God’s call to return to Bethel. Thus, he put his family in danger in a Hivite city where the people did not share God’s morality. Unsupervised by her father, Dinah then felt free to socialize with the Hivites. The Hivite prince Shechem also felt free to rape her without shame. He then felt free to demand that his father make her his wife. Again, these events foreshadow the events of the book of Judges. In a similar set of events, the men of one city sought to rape a visitor. “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him.” (Jdgs. 19:22). The demands of Shechem to his father also foreshadow Samson’s demand to his father that he obtain a Philistine wife for him: “So he came back and told his father and mother, ‘I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”’ (Jdgs. 14:2). There is also a foreshadow to the time of David’s reign after he sinned with Bathsheba. Without any moral authority from his father and out of resentment toward him, David’s son Ammon felt free to rape his sister Tamar: “But she answered him, ‘No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing!’” (2 Sam. 13:12). In all these accounts, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. The rapists carried the greatest sins. But everyone still sinned by ignoring God’s will.

Sebastiano Ricci (1659 – 1734) “The Rape of Dinah” (painting 1700)1

Dinah and Shechem – Engraving 15692

  • Jacob’s sin of failing to protect his daughter through guidance and protection. The Bible clearly identifies Shechem as the perpetrator in this terrible act. Yet, the Bible also provides context by revealing how Shechem was able to rape Dinah without her family intervening to protect her: “Dinah . . .went out to visit the daughters of the land” (Gen. 34:1). One commentator notes that Jacob bears partial responsibility by failing to have created boundaries for Dinah: “Young persons, especially females, are never so safe and well off as under the care of pious parents . . . Those parents are very wrong who do not hinder their children from needlessly exposing themselves to danger. . . Her pretense was, to see the daughters of the land, to see how they dressed, and how they danced, and what was fashionable among them; she went to see, yet that was not all, she went to be seen too.” (Mathew Henry on Gen. 34). God’s leaders are referred to as shepherds. “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds;” (Prov. 27:23). A shepherd must protect his or her sheep from predators and from their own poor choices. As the shepherd of his family, Jacob failed on both counts. First, he placed Dinah in danger by ignoring God and moving his family next to this Hivite city. Second, he failed to place hedges of protection around Dinah by restricting her freedom from places where she might be placed in danger. Her trip to Shechem when she was raped was clearly not a one-time event. Instead, this was a trip that she regularly made without supervision. Jacob lived in this area for 40 years and knew its dangers. Dinah had never lived here before. Jacob failed to protect her from the evils she did not know of. Parents today have an equal responsibility to protect their children from both predators and themselves. Do you restrict your children’s freedom with hedges of protection?

  • Place your family under the protections of God’s shield. By rejecting God’s guidance, settling in Shechem and by failing to pray for protection for his family, Jacob failed as a father to place his family under God’s protection: “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Prov. 30:5 Ps. 18:30). Like Joshua, Jacob should have submitted his family to serve God “. . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15(b)). If he had submitted to God, Dinah never would have been raped. Have you submitted your family to serve Jesus to receive His full protection?

2. Parents Should Make All Children Feel Equally Loved and Valued. Gen. 34:5-7.

  • Jacob’s silence and the anger of Jacob’s sons at Dinah’s rape. A normal father would be sickened and heartbroken by his daughter’s rape. Jacob, however, showed no emotion. Instead, he seemed more concerned about how her brothers would react. Thus, he delayed in telling them: “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.” (Gen. 34:5-7). Although believers are called upon to ultimately forgive those who hurt them, that does not mean that you are required to have no feelings. Indeed, the Bible declares that it is natural and right for persons to first feel grieving or loss before forgiving a wrongdoer. There is “[a] time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecc. 3:7-8). By comparison, Jacob later became angry when he felt that his sons’ retaliation damaged his reputation amongst the Canaanites (Gen. 34:30). Years later, Jacob could not be consoled in his grief after his sons deceived him into believing that wild animals had killed Joseph: “So Jacob tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him.”’ (Gen. 37:34-5). Jacob showed none of these emotions for Dinah. Dinah’s brothers did not see a shepherd protector in their father. Thus, they felt rage and the need to avenge her. Jacob’s moral leadership of his family was entirely absent.

  • Jacob’s disregard for most of his wives and children. Jacob most likely did not grieve about Dinah’s rape because he had wives and children that he did not care about. Dinah’s mother was Leah (Gen. 30:21-22). Six of the then 11 sons shared this same mother. Yet, Jacob never loved her or her children. After God blessed Leah with six sons, she falsely believed that Jacob would finally take an interest in her and dwell with her as her husband: “Then Leah said, ‘God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.’ So she named him Zebulun.” (Gen. 30:20). When Jacob felt that he was about to be attacked by Esau and his 400 men, he again showed disregard for Bilhah, Zilpah, Leah, and their children by placing them in front of Rachel and Joseph to protect them in the event of a family massacre: “He put the maids and their children in front, and Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last.” (Gen. 33:2). The children were intensely aware of Jacob’s favoritism. This later led to their attempt to first kill Joseph and then sell him into slavery (Gen. 37:18-36). Again, Jacob acted as a parent without God’s moral compass. Like Jesus, a good shepherd loves and protects all his sheep. Jacob should have counted each child as an equal blessing from God. (Ps. 127:3). He should have also grieved and stood for Dinah’s lost honor. Today, many people have consecutives spouses instead of concurrent ones. Some children in blended families do not feel equally loved and valued. This only breeds resentment. Do your children feel equally loved and protected?

  • Neglecting all your children is also a terrible sin. Many reading Jacob’s actions might feel tempted to claim that they have engaged in no such sins. They may claim to treat their children equally. Yet, if you are equally detached and unavailable for all your children, your sin is no better than Jacob’s sin. Does your work or your other outside hobbies prevent you from investing time in your children? If so, they will look for approval in the wrong places.

  • God’s punishment for rape (100 % of 4.2 years in wages or six years of servitude). If Jacob had acted properly, he should have freed Dinah and restored her. By requiring that Shechem restore Dinah, he also would have been held accountable for his actions. A westerner might think that a long prison sentence would be the appropriate punishment for Shechem. But prisons did not exist at that time in Canaan. Nor would the people of Shechem have agreed to jail their most powerful prince. Under God’s law at the time when no prisons existed, a rape involving a woman who was not married or engaged (like Dinah) required the rapist to pay a fine that would likely result in six years of indentured servitude. The fine was worth more than four years of gross wages, a penalty that few could pay without selling themselves into indentured servitude: “28 If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days.” (Dt. 22:28-29). A fine of 50 silver shekels might sound like a slap on the wrist today. Yet, according to one Old Testament scholar, the average male laborers in Biblical times earned approximately one silver shekel per month. (Wenham, Gordon, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), p. 338). Thus, for the average male laborer aged 20 to 60 earning one shekel a month, it would take 50 months or four years and two months to pay for a rape. But that assumed that the person had wages for 4.2 years on hand to pay the fine. Few would have those kinds of resources. Installment payments were also not an option. Even if they were, payments amounting to 50% of the person’s wages would take 8.3 years to pay off. We can see the high cost of 50 silver shekels when David bought a threshing floor from Araunah centuries later for the hefty price of 50 silver shekels (2 Sam. 24:24). If the rapist could not pay up front 50 months of gross wages, that person would be sold into indentured servitude for six years. The rapist would be freed only on the seventh year: “12 If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.” (Dt. 15:12). Yet, his freedom did not release him from the requirement to pay restitution. His sale price and any wages earned while working as a servant would go toward the 50 silver shekels. Thus, even when no jails were available, God provided a just punishment for rapists. Jacob’s failure to pursue any type of justice for Dinah would later cause Dinah’s brothers to seek vengeance. Jacob should have shown moral leadership by seeking justice for her. This would have made everyone feel equally loved.

3. Parents Should Teach Their Children to Stay Separate from the World. Gen. 34:8-17.

  • Jacob’s silence as his sons manipulated God’s law for their personal revenge. Like Shechem, Hamor failed to show any remorse for his son’s actions. Instead, he offered a dowry and the opportunity for the families to marry and do business together. The deal violated God’s law. Yet, Jacob stayed silent because he stood to gain financially. This forced Dinah’s brothers to object to the deal. Yet, they used deceit as they plotted their vengeance: But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 Thus you shall live with us, and the land shall be open before you; live and trade in it and acquire property in it.’ 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘If I find favor in your sight, then I will give whatever you say to me. 12 Ask me ever so much bridal payment and gift, and I will give according as you say to me; but give me the girl in marriage.’ 13 But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister. 14 They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: if you will become like us, in that every male of you be circumcised, 16 then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live with you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and go.’” (Gen. 34:8-17). As the leader of his family, Jacob should have been the one to object to intermarriage. He also should have demanded Dinah’s freedom and restitution. A dowry would be the same price that Shechem would have owed in a consensual marriage. “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.” (Ex. 22:16). Hamor’s proposal recognized no wrongdoing. Again, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Jacob’s absent leadership also posed additional risks to God’s plan. Jacob’s sons were to become the 12 tribes of Israel. Satan most likely provoked both the rape and Hamor’s plan to dilute the 12 tribes with Hivite blood and make them indistinguishable from them. Intermarriage would have led to other moral compromises. Jacob’s family would have adopted the Hivite gods and turned away from Yahweh. This again is what happened during the time of the judges when the Jews had no godly leaders. “and they took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.” (Jdgs. 3:6). God, however, is sovereign. Although the sons’ objections were not based on any love of God, He would use their evil acts of revenge to keep Jacob’s family from intermarrying with the people of Shechem and from adopting their ways and their gods.

  • God’s prohibition against marriage with nonbelievers. Jacob was well aware of God’s laws against intermarriage. Through Abraham, God prohibited Isaac from marrying a Canaanite. “Abraham said to his servant, . . . you shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live,” (Gen. 24:2-3). Isaac later repeated this rule to Jacob: “So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.”’ (Gen. 28:1). Based upon these lessons, Moses and Joshua later warned Israel not to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers: “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.” (Dt. 7:3; Ex. 34:16; Josh. 23:12). “and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” (Neh. 10:30). God knew that intermarriage with pagan nonbelievers would cause the Jews to fall off their walk with Him. For example, it was Solomon’s pagan wives that caused him to turn his heart away from God: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:4). God’s rules apply to believers today as well.

  • Don’t be unequally yoked. God wants you to be pure and holy for His use. He wants you to be holy because He is holy: “[B]ecause it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:44-5; 19:2; 20:7). Thus, the definition of “true religion” includes being “unstained by the world.” (Ja. 1:27). Part of being pure and holy includes being separate from marriages to non-believers: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” (Dt. 22:10). “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;” (1 Jo. 1:6). Many believers marry non-believers expecting them to change. The result is typically sorrow. Are you entangling yourself in emotional or business partnerships with non-believers? Are you giving clear guidance to your kids about dating?

4. Parents Should Teach their Children to Be Holy Witnesses For God. Gen. 34:18-24.

  • The people of Shechem’s reliance upon Jacob’s sons’ deceit. Unaware of the deceit planned by Jacob’s sons, Hamor convinced the people of Shechem to adopt the symbol of the covenant (the circumcision) without adopting the God of the Covenant (Yahweh): “18 Now their words seemed reasonable to Hamor and Shechem, Hamor’s son. 19 The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more respected than all the household of his father. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 ‘These men are friendly with us; therefore let them live in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters in marriage, and give our daughters to them. 22 Only on this condition will the men consent to us to live with us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock and their property and all their animals be ours? Only let us consent to them, and they will live with us.’ 24 All who went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to his son Shechem, and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.” (Gen. 34:18-24). Jacob’s family was meant to serve as God’s representatives to the lost. “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:6). Jacob’s sons’ deceit made them poor witnesses for Yahweh. Hamor and Shechem later used their own deceit to sell the deal to the people of Shechem. They failed to disclose that Shechem’s rape was the basis for the deal. Again, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. But Jacob’s sons misused God’s name to sin.

  • The intergenerational curse placed upon Israel. By misusing God’s holy name, Jacob’s sons violated the Third Commandment. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). The penalty for their actions should have been death “Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:16). Out of mercy and grace, God did not strike down Jacob’s sons. Yet, there were still consequences for their actions. The people of Shechem were Hivites (Gen 34:2). Centuries later, the Hivites would copy in the example of Jacob’s sons by misusing God’s whole name into defrauding the Jews. They would falsely lead the Jews into believing that they were travelers from another country so that the Jews would spare them from death. “ 7 The men of Israel said to the Hivites, ‘Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?’ 8 But the Hivites said to Joshua, ‘We are your servants.’ Then Joshua said to them, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ 9 They said to him, ‘Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the Lord your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, 10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.” (Josh. 9:7-10.) Joshua later cursed them for their deceit (Josh. 9:22-27). It is easy to imagine the outrage that the Jews must have felt over the Hivites’ misuse of God’s name to commit a fraud against them. But the sins of Simeon and Levi in misusing God’s holy name was even worse because it led to the mass murder of an entire village (Gen 34:15-27). God wants you to apply these lessons to your life.

  • Be a holy witness for God by your conduct. Jesus is the light of the world (Jo. 8:12). Until He returns, His light shines to others through you. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” (Matt. 5:14-15). Paul reveals that believers are “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Thus, your conduct should fairly represent Him to others: “so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Phil. 2:15). You are the only Bible that some may ever read. Do your actions misrepresent His light to others?

  • Your salvation does not save you from the consequences of deceit. Without the blood of Christ, deceit is grounds alone to bar a person from heaven: “He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.” (Rev. 21:8; Ps. 101:7; Prov. 19:9). A person who practices deceit also does not “serve our Lord Christ . . .” (Ro. 16:18). “Deceit” is further one of the things that Jesus warns will defile a person (Mk. 7:20-23). Although deceit will not cause you as a saved believer to lose your eternal salvation, there are still consequences when you practice deceit. Solomon warns: “Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” (Prov. 20:17). Jeremiah also warns that “the heart is deceitful above all things, . . .” (Jer. 17:9). Thus, you cannot walk with God based solely upon your heart’s desires. Do you invite God through prayer to search your heart to reveal any hidden sins and deceit?

  • It is faith in Jesus, not symbols, that matter to Him. The people of Shechem made the same mistake that many Jews and Christians have made throughout the centuries. They believed that they could become part of God’s family by adopting the symbol of His covenant (the circumcision) without embracing Him in faith. Paul explained that this inward circumcision of your heart is what matters to God: “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Rom. 2:29). Is your identity in Christ expressed through symbols or your faith?

5. Parents Should Teach Their Children to Love and Forgive Their Enemies. Gen. 34:25-29.

  • Jacob’s son’s heinous sins of premediated mass murder, theft and kidnaping. Jacob failed to teach his children to forgive and love their enemies. Thus, without any moral leadership from their father, Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi avenged her with mass murder. The rest of the brothers then joined them with mass acts of theft and kidnapping: “25 Now it came about on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came upon the city unawares, and killed every male. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went forth. 27 Jacob’s sons came upon the slain and looted the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their donkeys, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and they captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives, even all that was in the houses.” (Gen. 34:25-29). Even if Shechem had engaged in an act worthy of death, the mass killing of the entire town was unjustified. By engaging in mass acts of unsanctioned murder, Simeon and Levi violated God’s Sixth Commandment (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). Under God’s Law, the penalty for their actions was death. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6; Ex. 21:12; Lev. 24:17; Nu. 35:30). For all of the brothers, their collective theft of the town’s possessions violated the Eight Commandment (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28). By coveting their belongings, Jacob’s sons also violated the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Their acts of kidnaping also carried the penalty of death: “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” (Ex. 21:16). Immediately after this, Jacob later told his family to “‘Put away the foreign gods which are among you, . . .” (Gen. 35:2). This suggests that they also took idols, which violated the First and Second Commandments (1st Ex. 20:2-3; Dt. 5:6-7; Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Their actions showed the absence of any moral instruction in their lives. Jacob was again absent as a leader. It was only by God’s mercy and grace that the sons of Jacob would later form the 12 tribes of Israel.

Dinah’s brothers murder the people of Shechem3

The murder of the Shechemites4

  • Leave vengeance to God. As evidenced by Shechem’s callous rape of Dinah, the Hivites were also evil people. Centuries later, God would instruct Moses and Joshua to kill all of the seven nations within Canaan, which included the Hivities. “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” (Dt. 20:16). “Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.” (Dt. 13:16). “So Israel made a vow to the LORD and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.’” (Nu. 21:2). Yet, “[t]here is an appointed time for everything.” (Ecc. 3:1). Yet, God never wanted these people to die. Thus, He told Abraham that they had 400 years to repent. “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years . . . Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.’” (Gen. 15:13-16). Thus, Simeon and Levi violated God’s promise to give the people of Shechem the chance to repent. They also made the mistake of believing that they had the right to take vengeance into their own hands when vengeance belongs to God alone. ‘“Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.’” (Dt. 32:35). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19). When evil people cause harm to you or your loved ones, do you retaliate against them?

  • Forgive and love your enemies. As the family leader, Jacob should have taught his children to show the same forgiveness he had received from his father and his brother. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-5; Mk. 11:25-6). Jesus later taught that you should also love your enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:43-44). Do you show love and forgiveness to your enemies? If so, are you also teaching these principles to your children?

6. Parents Should Put Concerns for God’s Will Over Their Own. Gen. 34:30.

  • Jacob’s limited concern for his own name and reputation. Jacob again failed to show moral leadership when he learned of his sons’ actions. Instead, he feared only for his own reputation amongst the Hivites and his ability to do business with them as Hamor proposed: “30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.’” (Gen. 34:30). Jacob’s self-centered response was similar to the anger of the Jews at Moses when he tried to free them from their bondage. They cared more about their own plight than doing what God wanted of them. “They said to them, ‘May the LORD look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”’ (Ex. 5:21). As an example, parents should place the will of God above their own.

  • Always look for opportunities to teach God’s law. Instead of complaining about himself, Jacob should have shown concern for God’s will and instructed the family where they all had sinned. As beneficiaries of God’s law, the Jews were obligated to teach it to their children and grandchildren. They were further to look for teaching moments wherever they arose: “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19). “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7). “. . . but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Dt. 4:9). “ . . . and that they may teach their children.’” (Dt. 4:10; Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). In case any Christian feels freed of this requirement, Paul is clear that it still applies: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Do you know God’s law well enough to teach it? Do you teach your children God’s law?

7. Parents Should Teach Their Children to Honor Parental and Godly Authority. Gen. 34:31.

  • Simeon and Levi’s failure to repent. Finally, Jacob failed to discipline his children after they challenged him and refused to repent of their sins: “31 But they said, ‘Should he treat our sister as a harlot?’” (Gen. 34:31). The boys’ objections revealed three things. First, they had no respect for their father. While he felt their actions would result in retaliation, they felt his actions would invite attacks as a sign of weakness. Second, the boys believed that Jacob’s apparent consent to a mere dowry payment would render Dinah a forced prostitute. Third, the reference to Dinah becoming a prostitute suggested ongoing sexual abuse while she remained in Shechem’s captivity until they freed her. They sinned both by dishonoring their father and by failing to repent of their actions. Jacob, however, had done nothing to earn their respect.

  • Simeon and Levi’s violation of the Fourth Commandment. By their prior actions, Simeon and Levi already violated the First, Second, Third, Eighth and Tenth Commandments. By challenging their father and by failing to repent, Simeon and Levi also violated the Fifth Commandment (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). The Fifth Commandment serves a vital purpose in keeping the family unit in order. God intended for a mother and father to raise their children in God’s ways and statutes. The family, however, cannot fulfill this role when children do not honor their parents’ instruction and when the parents do not give the children a reason to receive the honor that God has entrusted to them. The Fifth Commandment also applies to your Heavenly Father. It is a “bridge Commandment” that links together the Commandments about God and other people. You are His “adopted” son or daughter (Ro. 8:14-17; 1 John 3:2, John 1:12, Gal. 3:26, 3:29). Although Jacob failed as a leader, Simeon and Levi showed no respect for either their earthly father or their heavenly father: “They felt justified because the men of Shechem treated their sister as a prostitute (Genesis 34:31), but they prostituted the sign of God's covenant for their own murderous purpose.” (David Guzik on Genesis 34).5

  • God’s mercy and grace in punishing Simeon and Levi. The Fifth Commandment also carried a death penalty where, as here, the child refuses to repent of his or her actions: “Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.” (Dt. 21:18-23). But God showed mercy and grace by sparring them with the death that they deserved. There were, however, consequences for their actions. After Reuben’s subsequent sin of sleeping with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah (Gen. 35:22), the first-born status should have gone to either Simeon or Levi as the second and third sons. But their actions here disqualified them from that honor. The first-born status would then fall to the fourth son Judah. Simeon and Levi would also be cursed not to have their own contiguous territory in the Promised Land. They would instead spread out amongst the other tribes. “Simeon and Levi are brothers; their swords are implements of violence. ‘Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly; because in their anger they slew men, and in their self-will they lamed oxen. ‘Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:5-7). Each tribe would handle this curse differently. Levi would redeem itself to become God’s priests. They would turn their curse of being spread out into a blessing by becoming a light to others. Simeon, however, would decline further and become a lost tribe. The lesson is that a parent must discipline their children when they sin (Prov. 34:24). Yet, discipline should only be used to correct wayward behavior, not to bring kids further down. Do you discipline your children in a loving way that rehabilitates them?

  • Give thanks as a family for the penalties that Jesus has paid for. It might be tempting to look at Jacob’s family with disdain. Yet, in God’s eyes, “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 3:23). As a parent, do you lead your family in prayers of gratitude for the terrible price that Jesus paid for your sins?