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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 34

 

 

Verse 31

DISCOURSE: 49

SLAUGHTER OF THE SHECHEMITES

Genesis 34:31. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?

THE life of man is continually exposed to trouble; and not unfrequently waves follow waves with little intermission. It was thus in Jacob’s case, who, from the time that he fled from the face of Esau, met with a continued series of difficulties and distresses. Having terminated his hard service under Laban, and miraculously escaped the vindictive assaults both of Laban and of Esau, he seemed to have obtained a respite. But his peace was of very short duration; for his own children, to whom he looked for comfort in his declining years, became to him a source of the most poignant sorrows. It appears indeed, from various circumstances in this short history, that he did not maintain sufficient authority over his own house. Had he taken the direction of matters into his own hands, instead of waiting to consult his young, inexperienced, and headstrong sons, he had prevented those horrible crimes which they perpetrated without fear, and vindicated without remorse.

In considering the petulant answer which they made to his reproofs, we shall be led to notice,

I. The provocation they had received—

We apprehend that Leah herself was in part accessory to the evils that befell her daughter—

[Dinah, like other young people, wished to see, and be seen; and on some festive occasion went to visit the daughters of the land of Canaan. She would probably have been displeased, if her mother had imposed restraints upon her. But it was her parent’s duty to consult, not so much her inclination, as her safety: and it was highly blamable in Leah to suffer her daughter, scarcely fifteen years of age, to go into scenes of gaiety and dissipation unprotected and unwatched.

Perhaps by this calamity Leah herself was punished for the prostitution of herself (for what else can it be called?) in compliance with her father’s wishes. Personating her sister Rachel, she had yielded to what might be justly termed, an incestuous commerce: and now she lives to see the humiliation and defilement of her only daughter.]

But, whatever degree of blame attached either to Dinah or her mother, the provocation given by Shechem was doubtless exceeding great—

[To take advantage of a thoughtless unprotected female was exceedingly base: and the distress brought by it upon her whole family was most deplorable. Ah! little do the gay and dissipated think, what sacrifices they require for the gratification of their lusts. Here was the happiness, not of an individual only, but of a whole family, destroyed. That her seducer endeavoured afterwards to repair the injury, is true: and in this he differed from the generality, who, as soon as they have accomplished their vile purposes, have their love turned into indifference or aversion: but the injury was absolutely irreparable; and therefore we do not wonder that it excited a deep resentment in the breasts of her dishonoured relatives.]

But though her brothers were justly indignant at the treatment she had received, they were by no means justified in,

II. The manner in which they resented it—

Shechem, though a prince among the Hivites, instantly made application to Dinah’s father to give her to him in marriage. Though he had humbled her, he did not wish to perpetuate her disgrace, but sought, as much as possible, to obliterate it for ever. The terms he proposed were dictated not only by a sense of honour, but by the most tender affection. Happy would it have been if Jacob’s sons had been actuated by principles equally honourable and praiseworthy! But they, alas! intent only on revenge, contrived a plot as wicked and diabolical as ever entered into the heart of man. They formed a design to murder, not only the person who had given them the offence, but all the men of his city together with him. In the execution of their purpose they employed,

1. Hypocrisy—

[They pretended to have scruples of conscience about connecting themselves with persons who were uncircumcised. We may admit for a moment, that this did really operate on their minds as an objection to the projected union; and that this objection was sufficient to weigh down every other consideration: still what regard had they for conscience when they could deliberately contrive a plan for murdering the whole city? This was indeed to “strain at a gnat, and to swallow a camel.”]

2. Profaneness—

[They knew that both the prince and his people were altogether ignorant of Jehovah, and destitute of the smallest wish to be interested in the Covenant which God had made with Abraham: and yet they proposed that all the males should receive the seal of God’s covenant in circumcision; and that too, not in order to obtain any spiritual benefit, but solely with a view to carnal gratification. What a profanation was this of God’s holy ordinance! and what impiety was there in recommending to them such a method of attaining their ends!]

3. Cruelty—

[One would scarcely have conceived that such cruelty could have existed in the human heart. That a spirit of revenge should excite in the minds of these men the thought of murdering the person who was more immediately implicated in the offence, was possible enough: but that it should prompt them to involve a multitude of innocent persons in the same ruin; and at a time when those persons were making very great sacrifices in order to conciliate their favour; and that it should induce them to make use of religion as a cloak for the more easy accomplishment of their execrable purpose; this almost exceeds belief: yet such was their inhuman plot, which too successfully they carried into effect. And though their brethren did not join them in destroying the lives of any, yet they so far participated in the crime, as to take captive the defenceless women, and to seize upon all the cattle and property for a prey.]

There is nothing so iniquitous, but the perpetrators of it will justify it. This appears from,

III. Their vindication of their conduct—

In their answer to their father’s reproof we behold nothing but,

1. Offended pride—

[They would not have felt any displeasure against Shechem, if he had dealt with any other female, or any number of them, as harlots; but that he should offer such an indignity to “their sister” this was the offence, an offence that could not be expiated by any thing less than the blood of all that were even in the most distant way connected with him. We are surprised and shocked at the relation of this event: and yet is it very similar to what occurs continually before our eyes. Is an injury done, or an affront offered to us? we feel ourselves called upon by a regard for our own honour to seek the life of the offender. Is a slight encroachment made on the rights of a nation? it is deemed a just cause of war; and the lives of thousands are sacrificed in order to avenge it. But Jacob formed a just estimate of his children’s conduct, when he said, “Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel.”]

2. Invincible obduracy—

[We might well expect that, after a moment’s reflection, these bloody murderers should relent, and be filled with remorse. But all sense of guilt, yea, and all regard for their own and their father’s safety, seemed to be totally banished from their minds. Instead of regretting that they had acted so treacherous and cruel a part, they vindicate themselves without hesitation, and even tacitly condemn their father, as manifesting less concern for his daughter than they had shewn for their sister. We can scarcely conceive a more awful instance than this of the power of sin to blind the understanding and to harden the heart. But daily experience shews, that, when once the conscience is seared, there is no evil which we will not palliate, no iniquity which we will not justify.]

Infer,

1. How astonishingly may the judgment of men be warped by partiality and self-love!

[These men could see evil in the conduct of Shechem, and yet justify their own; though theirs was beyond all comparison more vile and horrible than his. And is it not thus with us? If the world behold any thing amiss in the conduct of a person professing religion, with what severity will they condemn it, even though they themselves are living in the unrestrained commission of ten thousand sins! And even professors of religion too are apt to be officious in pulling out a mote from their Brother’s eye, while they are inattentive to the beam that is in their own eye. But let us learn rather to exercise forbearance towards the faults of others, and severity towards our own.]

2. How certainly will there be a day of future retribution!

[Here we behold a whole city of innocent men put to death, and their murderers going away unpunished. But let us not on this account arraign the dispensations of Providence. In the last day all these apparent inequalities will be rectified. It will then infallibly go well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked. The excuses which men now make, will be of no avail: but every transaction shall appear in its proper colours; and every man receive according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 34:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-34.html. 1832.

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