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DINAH DEFILED, AND THE SHECHEMITES MURDERED.
The arrival of Jacob in Canaan promised fair for a holy and happy residence in it. Laban no more oppresses him, and the breach between him and his brother Esau is healed. But alas, foreign troubles being removed, domestic ones take place of them. He had but one daughter, and she is defiled. He had many sons, and the greater part of them are deceitful and cruel. What with the conduct of the one and the other, his heart must be sorely grieved. It was not however till he had lived six or seven years in the neighbourhood of Shechem that these troubles came upon him ; for in less time than this the two brethren could not have
; arrived at man's estate : and there is reason to believe that from his first settlement at this place, his mind began to sink into a state of spiritual declension. One would think, if he had had a proper sense of things, he could not have continued so long to expose a family of young people to the contagious influence of a heathen city. It was next to the conduct of Lot when he took up his residence in Sodom.
Ver. 1, 2. It is natural to suppose that the younger branches of the family, hearing every thing that was going on among the youth of the place, would think it hard if they must not go among them. Whether the sons formed acquaintances among the Shechemites, we know not ; but Dinab, on a certain occasion, must needs go out to see the daughters of the land. She wished no doubt to be
acquainted with them, to see and be seen of them, and to do as they did. It might not be to a ball, nor a card party ; but I presume it was to some merry-making of this kind : and though the daughters of the land were her professed companions, yet the sons of the land must have assembled with them, else how came Shechem there? Young people, if you have any regard for your parents, or for yourselves, beware of such parties ! The consequence was what might have been expected. Shechem, was the son of the prince of the country, and men of rank and opulence are apt to think themselves entitled to do any thing which their inclinations prompt them to. The young woman was inexperienced, and unused to company of this kind ; she therefore fell an easy prey to the seducer. But could Dinah have gone without the consent, or connivance of her parents, at least of one of them? We should think she could not. I fear Leah was not clear in this matter.
Ver. 3, 4. The story is such as must 'needs excite indignation : some circumstances, however, bad as it is, tend in a certain degree to extenuate it. The young man is not like Ampon by Tamar; he is attached to her, and applies to his father Hamor to obtain her for him to wife. Had this been done at first, all had been honourable ; but a bad beginning seldom admits of a good ending. And though a respectful application was immediately made to the parents of the damsel, yet she herself was at the same time detained in Shechem's house. But let us observe the effect of this disgraceful transaction.
Ver. 5-24. The news soon reached Jacob's ear; his were in the field; he felt much, no doubt, but said nothing till they returned. He did not however foresee what would follow, or he would not have reserved the utterance of his grief to them. But probably he knew not what to do. If Leah had connived at her daughter's visit, he would not know how to speak to her; and
: as to Rachel, the jealousies between the sisters might prevent his speaking freely to the one on the concerns of the other. So he held his peace till his sons should return. Meanwhile, Hamor, and it seems his son with him, came out of the city to Jacob, to commune with him on the subject, and to ask the young woman in
marriage. It had been well if he and Jacob had settled it, and this to all appearance they might have done ; but scandal, with its swift wings, reaching the young men in the field, brought them home before the usual time; so that Hamor and bis son had scarcely entered Jacob's door, ere they followed them. Had Jacob and Hamor conversed the matter over by themselves, or Jacob and his sons by themselves, their anger might have been somewhat abated; but all meeting together, there was no vent for the first strong feelings of the mind; and such feelings when suppressed, like subterraneous fires, must find their way, and very commonly issue in some dreadful explosion. The young men said little, but thought the more. The real state of their minds is thus described : And the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob's daughter, which thing ought not to be done. There certainly was. cause for great displeasure ; and provided it had been directed against the sin, frankly avowed, and kept within the limits of equity, great displeasure ought to have been manifested. Light as heathens, and other wicked men, may make of fornication, it is an evil and a bitter thing. To the bonour of Jacob and his posterity, he that was guilty of it among them, was said to have wrought folly in Israel, and to have done that which ought not to be done. It might be from the present early example that this phraseology became proverbially descriptive of a fornicator ;* and a great advantage it must be to any people where the state of society is so far influenced by principles of honour and chastity, as by common consent to brand such characters with infamy. It was proper that the brothers of the young woman should be grieved : it was not unnatural that they should be wroth : but wherefore did they feel thus strongly ? Was it for the sin committed against God, or only for the shame of it in respect of the family? Here, alas, they failed; and this it was that prompted
l them to all their other wickedness. Jacob was. grieved and displeased, as well as they ; but his grief and displeasure wrought not in the manner theirs did. The reserve which they assumed
* 2 Sam. xiii. 12.
while Hamor and his son were speaking, concealed bebind it the most deadly resentment. They heard all that was said ; (and many fine things were said, both by the father as a politician, in favour of intermarriages between the families in general, and by the son as a lover, in order to gain the damsel ;) they heard it, I say, with much apparent coolness, and stated their objections in a manner as if there was nothing between them but the compliance with a certain ceremony, and as though they felt nothing for their sister that should hinder their entering into a covenant of peace with him who had seduced ber. But all was deceit ; a mere cover to a bloody design, wbich they appear to have formed for the purpose of revenge ; because he had defiled Dinah their sister.
The deceitful proposal, however, succeeded: Their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem, Hamor's son. So they go about forthwith to persuade the citizens into a compliance with them; not as a matter of principle, but of policy, as a measure which would contribute to the country's good. They also succeed, the Shechemites are circumcised, and all seems to bid fair for an amicable issue.
But let us pause and reflect on the right and wrong in these transactions. What was the line of conduct that Hamor and Shechem should have pursued? They ought no doubt, in the first place, to bave restored the young woman to her parents ; and at the same time to have acknowledged the great injury done to her, and to the family, and expressed their sorrow on account of it. Till they had done this, they had no reason to expect any thing like reconciliation on the part of Jacob, or his sons. But it is likely the young man being of so honourable a family, and the sin of fornication being so common in the country, made them think these punctilios might be dispensed with in the present instance. And being wholly under the influence of sensual and worldly motives, they are prepared to profess any religion, or profane any institution, however sacred, so that they may accomplish their selfish ends.—But what was the line of conduct which ought to have been pursued by Jacob and his sons ? If the one had taken a greater share in the conversation, and the other a less, it bad been more to the honour of both; and might not have issued in
the manner it did. It is very proper for brothers to consider themselves as guardians of a sister's honour; but not in such a way as to supersede the authority, or silence the counsel of a father. The answer to the question, Whether Dinah should be given in marriage to Shechem, belonged to the parents, and not to the brothers. With respect to the displeasure which required to be expressed, it ought to have been confined to words ; and if the proposed marriage could not be acceded to, they should, as they said, have taken their sister and been gone. As to their objection on the score of circumcision, there appears to have been no such law established as yet in Jacob's family. It is true, they were discouraged from marrying with the devotees of idolatry; but the circumcision of the Shechemites was merely a form; and had they been suffered to live, would bave produced no change in respect of this. Could they indeed have been induced to renounce their idolatrous practices, and to cast in their lot with Israel, the good had overbalanced the evil : but religion was no part of the young men's concern : the whole was a mere pretence, to cover their malignant designs.
Ver. 25—29. The result was shocking. Simeon and Leri, two of Dinah's brethren by the same mother as well as father, availing themselves of the present incapacity of the Shechemites to resist them, took each man his sword, and slew all the males of the city, with Hamor and Shechem his son, and took their sister out of his house, and went their way! Nor was this cruel business to be attributed to the two brothers only; for the rest were so far accessory as to join in plundering the city, and taking captive all the females.
Alas, how one sin leads on to another, and like flames of fire, spreads desolation in every direction! Dissipation leads to seduction; seduction produces wrath; wrath thirsts for revenge; the thirst of revenge has recourse to treachery ; treachery issues in murder; and murder is followed by lawless depredation! Were we to trace the history of illicit commerce between the sexes, we. should find it, more perhaps than any other sin, terminating in blood. We may read this warning truth, not only in the history of David and his family, but in what is constantly occurring in our VOL. V.