Genesis 34: Circumcision, and “That’s messed up!”

In Genesis 34 there is a little story about Dinah, the sister of Simeon and Levi being sexually assaulted by Shechem. Once this happens Hamor and Shechem seek to make things right by having Jacob give his daughter to Shechem for a wife, and in this same way they will give their daughters and sisters as wives to the sons of Jacob, and the two people will become one. The sons of Jacob require the men to become circumcised first, claiming that they cannot be defiled by uncircumcised people. Shechem and Hamor agree, gladly, and tell the people to become circumcised so they may be at peace with the sons of Jacob, and intermarry. Sadly, the sons of Jacob use this ruse to kill all of the men, and then to plunder the city. And then the story ends like this:

34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought ruin on me by making me a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land – among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I am few in number; they will join forces against me and attack me, and both I and my family will be destroyed!” 34:31 But Simeon and Levi replied, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?”

Two things came to me while reading this story. First, circumcision is not so much an act you do, but rather something you become. They didn’t just go circumcise themselves, and that was it, but by doing the act of circumcision, it became a description of their being, much like someone would call a person an American, or Russian, or African. Circumcision was more about becoming something, much less just having something done. It was a way of setting themselves apart for something, rather than just an act. That fascinated me.

And secondly, and more importantly, they full on kill all the men and then take their wives and animals anyways! That’s messed up! Or at least, that is our response. But what I find so interesting is that ending to that story. So much detail is given, so much description about how they kill the men and then take their women and their cattle, and yet the story ends with Jacob afraid of his honor among the people, fear that because they are small they will be wiped out. But the sons reply, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?” I feel like some men would agree with them, that they were right to defend their sister’s honor, and that Jacob was just being a pansy, more worried about his own life than to care about his daughter. And others would condemn the actions of the brothers for murdering the people that attempted to make things right, and even show how the sons are deceiving people around them just like their father.

But the author of the story? He almost doesn’t seem to say a word. He just reports Jacob’s speech, the sons rebuttal, and then leaves it there. He continues on to the next story. It kind of makes us wonder what is really going on by telling us this story.



One Response to Genesis 34: Circumcision, and “That’s messed up!”

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