Genesis 34 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Genesis 34 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

(34:1-31) "Shechem ... took her, and lay with her, and defiled her."
Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, is "defiled" by a man who seems to love her dearly. Her brothers trick all of the men of the town and kill them (after first having them all circumcised), and then take their wives and children captive.
What did Dinah want?
There is one voice that is entirely missing from this story: Dinah's. Did she love Shechem? Did she want to marry him? Or did she want him killed? Was this a Romeo/Juliet-type story, with two young lovers willing to overlook their cultural and religious differences in order to be together? We'll ever know since it was of no interest to the biblical author.
By slaying Shechem, Dinah's brothers condemned her to a celibate life, since non-virgin women were not permitted to marry. (Dt.22:13-21)
"Lord, God of my forefather Simeon! You put a sword into his hand." -- Judith 9:2
According to the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical book of Judith, God not only approved of the violence in Genesis 34, he gave Simeon the sword that he used to kill all the males in the city.
The author of the SAB claims that Dinah's rapist “seems to love her dearly.” I suppose that makes his rape alright!
He seems to recognise this as he continues to ask what Dinah may have thought. Given the background and location of the story, we can be sure she did not want to be raped. She did not set out to meet Romeo, she went out to see the daughters of the land, and before she knew it she was simply taken as an harlot.
We do not know what happened to Dinah after. The author of the SAB claims she was condemned to a celibate life, and cites Deut. 22:13-21 as his support. But that passage isn't at all a commandment forbidding someone who is not a virgin to marry. It's about someone claiming to be a virgin marrying, i.e. deceiving her husband.
Lastly, the author of the SAB quotes an apocryphal book, a book not written by God, as support for the claim that God gave Simeon a sword to kill all the males in this city. But actually this contradicts what God says about this. When Jacob blesses his sons, the blessing that the Messiah would be their descendant escapes Simeon and Levi, and they are called instruments of cruelty and their anger is cursed, see chapter 49:5-7

2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.

3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.

4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.

5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.

6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.

7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: 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.

8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.

9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.

10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.

11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamont

12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.

13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:

14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:

(34:14) "We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised."
Jacob's sons can't stand the idea of their sister marrying someone who is uncircumcised.
Note that they only say this as a ruse, they didn't mean it.

15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;

16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.

17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.

18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son.

19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.

20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,

21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.

22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.

23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.

24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.

(34:24-29) "Every male was circumcised. And ... when they were sore ... the sons of Jacob ... slew all the males."
The sons of Jacob trick Shechem into getting circumcised. Then they murder him, his sons, and all the males of the city, while taking their wives captive.
I agree with the author of the SAB this was cruel and unjust. See also verse 1.

25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males.

26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.

27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.

28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,

29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.

30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

(34:31) "Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?"
Dinah's brothers, to justify the massacre of a town for the rape of their sister, say: "Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?" To the author of Genesis, rape is a crime against the honor of men rather than against a woman.
The author of the SAB moves effortlessly from the justification given by Dina's brothers to the author of the Genesis. But this massacre isn't condoned at all by its author, but it is remembered and cursed, see chapter 49:5-7

31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?