Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

When the phone rings, hours after bedtime, there is every reason to be nervous. But when it is Friday morning, the warmth of the Cleveland sun can be felt, it is 8:41 and the phone rings, well, there is not much reason to not answer. But when the automated voice messaging system of the high school says that your daughter, who was dropped off at school and carefully watched as she entered the building at 7:10, is missing…your heart sinks. How can this be? Where could she be? “Oh God, do not let it be!”

Four minutes pass and you can give God great thanks at the hearing that your daughter is just fine. She is where she needs to be; in second period, eager to do some learning. The first period teacher took attendance a bit too hurriedly. What then do you do? Other than wanting to have a firm, but gentle, conversation with attendance takers about attendance taking, and double checking and triple checking, what do you do? Particularly, as a father what then do you do? You get quiet. And in that silence, you look forward to 2:15 p.m. when you can wrap your arms around your little girl and not let go for a really long time. You also buy her ice cream in the evening.

That We Would See Silence

It has been said that Genesis 34 could have some advantage for a men’s Bible study. But when preaching it, such as right now, there is uncertainty that anything could or should be preached. There are books about Genesis that say something about every chapter but this one.[1] Is that not something, in preaching or in books that there would be silence when it comes to Genesis 34? I think it is appropriate. I think it is appropriate that when it comes to Genesis 34, we would see silence.

Genesis 34, not unlike the chapter before it or the chapter before it or the chapter before it, has been about this man called Jacob. And in Genesis 34:5 we hear about Jacob. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah. But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” Jacob remained silent and as the chapter continues we hear Jacob say nothing until all is said and done at the very end of the chapter. Genesis 34 is about silence. And so, we may want to ask and think about, why was Jacob silent?

A Daughter’s Story

It begins with Genesis 34:1. “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land.” What do we hear in this very first verse? We hear names. There is Dinah. There is Leah. And there is Jacob. And the key word is daughter. Dinah was the daughter of Leah and Leah was married to Jacob and Jacob was Dinah’s father. This is all we learn in those first few words of this first verse. Now Leah and Jacob have seven children – six sons and one daughter. Two of these sons – Simeon and Levi – have a significant part in this chapter. And Jacob has five other sons with three other women. But he only has this daughter. And it is that word daughter that really sticks out. Dinah the daughter.

Genesis 34 is Dinah’s story. It is a daughter’s story. And what is her story all about? Her mom was Leah. Leah is mentioned just here in her daughter’s story. Her dad was Jacob. He is mentioned all throughout his daughter’s story. And her story begins that she “went out to see the women of the land.” Note the word see. Some translations have the word visit. Dinah went out to visit the women of the land. The word women could strictly be translated as daughters. Dinah a daughter went out to visit the other daughters of the land. The word see or visit has the sense to get to know. She apparently went alone and perhaps without her parents’ knowledge or permission. Dinah was most likely a teenager and the only teenage girl not just in her house, but in her neighborhood. So, take verse one for what it is; Dinah was inquisitive and innocent and naïve. She wanted to get to know some girls her age.

Now listen closely to Genesis 34:2. “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite.” Just pause there. Again, this is Dinah’s story; a daughter’s story. In this daughter’s story, the dad is present. And in verse two we are introduced to Shechem. Who is Shechem? Notice how he is introduced. He is a son. And his dad is a man named Hamor. So, in this daughter’s story, there is the daughter’s dad and there is Shechem a son and his dad.

Who is Shechem? Keep reading. Just so interesting how he is described. Shechem is “the prince of the land.” The land was previously called the city of Shechem (33:18). At first, we might think that the name of the city was Shechem. It very well may be that this city had a previous name, but Shechem the man, the son was so prominent that this city was just called Shechem’s city and eventually would just simply be known as Shechem. What does that tell us? Shechem is not just prominent, but powerful. He is in charge. And I would say he is more in charge than his dad.

Shechem saw Dinah. And when he saw her, he seized her. And when he seized her, he laid with her and humiliated her. Genesis 34 is in the Bible. And it is hard to read as much as it is hard to hear. A woman was raped. A young woman was raped. I want us to listen closely to the next two verses. “And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob.” Pause there. Who was Dinah? Keep listening. “He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.” Pause again. Note the word tenderly. It means to speak romantically or reassuredly. What is Shechem reassuring Dinah of? But something not to miss is the fact that Shechem spoke. And he keeps talking. He tells his dad, “Get me this girl for my wife” (34:4).

So Jacob Held His Peace

Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. “Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah” (34:5). Who was Dinah? How is she identified both in verse three and now verse five? It is as a daughter! Jacob had heard what had happened to his daughter. His sons were out working in the field when he heard what happened to his daughter. His daughter was raped! “So he held his peace.” Jacob remained silent.

One of my favorite authors said this about Genesis 34, “The Bible does not spare its readers the awful truth.” What is the awful truth of Genesis 34? What makes Genesis 34 so hard to read and so hard to hear? Again, pay close attention to how things are worded. Keep listening to verse five. “But his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.” The impression is that Jacob remained silent, but not for long! He waited for his boys to come home. He waited for his boys to hear him speak.

But then in verse six, we are reminded that Hamor is coming to Jacob’s house. And who is Hamor? He is Shechem’s dad. And this dad is coming to do what? Speak! He is coming to speak with Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons come in from working, hear about what has happened to their sister and, rightly so, become indignant and very angry. Why? The Bible is very clear. Because Shechem “had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done” (34:7). What is outrageous? What must not be done? All of it. A man is not to seize a woman. A man is not to humiliate a woman. A man then does not speak romantically or reassuredly to a woman. A man does, though, speak up for a woman. I know, a woman is more than capable of speaking up for herself, but when her voice is silenced, there is one man she should be able to count on to speak up.

A Man Speaks Up

In Genesis 34:8-12, a man speaks up. It is Hamor, Shechem’s dad. He shares that Shechem is just head over heels in love with Dinah. Where is Dinah, by the way? He requests that Dinah become his son’s wife. And the proposal also includes that this marriage between these two families be the first of many marriages between these two families. It is because there is prosperity to be had in this land. Then there is apparent silence. Dinah’s brothers are angry, but under control and silent. Jacob seems to be just silent. Then another man speaks up. It is Shechem! Shechem, the man who did this outrageous thing, what ought not to be done, came with his dad. He cannot take the silence, however short it was, much longer. He says, “I will give anything and do anything to have your daughter and your sister as my wife.”

Then Men Speak Up

In Genesis 34:13-17, another man speaks up, joined by another man and another man and another man, none of who are Jacob. Jacob’s sons are talking. They are about to give their reply. This is just amazing. These brothers are fit to be tied (angry). But note that it is under control. How so? They have enough of a mind to speak deceitfully, meaning they have a plan, and the patience to see this plan through. They cannot do it. They cannot give their sister to this man. And what right do these brothers have in giving away this woman in marriage? Jacob, the dad, is sitting right there, silent! They can do it, however, if Shechem and all the men of the city become like Jacob’s sons – circumcised. This is important. The circumcision was holy. It was a sign that one was in covenant relationship with God. These sons are misusing the covenant and its sign for their own design. And Jacob was silent!

More Men Speak Up

Shechem and Hamor are more than happy to agree to these terms. Listen to Genesis 34:19. “And the young man did not delay to do the thing.” And Shechem and Hamor gather with all the men of the city and share this proposal. Then more men speak up, all in agreement to become one people with Jacob’s family. And why? There is prosperity to be had (34:23).

And then as the men of the city are recovering, it was the third day, two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, slaughter the entire town of its men. The sons of Jacob then plunder the town of all its wealth and children and women (34:29).

Jacob Though Still Remained Silent

Blood soaked, the sons return to their father’s house and for the first time, Jacob speaks. “What have you done? Your actions, this murderous tirade, will make me a stench in all the land!” What is it that finally awakes a response from Jacob? The actions of his sons. But the sons so readily bring up the whole point of the chapter. This is Dinah’s story. “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

No one, except the daughter, shines in this story. This is Dinah’s story. This is a daughter’s story. And what exactly is her story? Through it all, her dad though still remained silent. Jacob never said a word for or about his daughter.

There are lessons here. There is a lesson about parents and their children. There is a lesson about sin and wicked men and the wicked things wicked men do. Rape is wicked. But so is “the placid acceptance” of the wicked things wicked men do. Hamor could have taken care of his son. And by taken care, I mean whipped. He could have whipped his son. Hamor could have rescued Dinah. She was being held in Hamor’s house the whole chapter!

Jacob though still remained silent. He never said a word for or about his daughter. Why does God not spare us this story? It is because God the Father speaks. He has a word for and about you, especially if you can relate to a story such as this. It is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man [woman] of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

I like that word complete. It means to make fresh. It means to make ready and renew. And notice it, “for every good work.” Dinah is heard of one other time in the Bible. It is Genesis 46:15. It is simply that she was Jacob’s daughter. No husband is mentioned. No children are mentioned.

But God speaks. He speaks to those who feel ruined and battered and used. He speaks. And he heals – by his stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5). There is healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). And he himself restores you and confirms you and strengthens you and establishes you, and all by his multi-colored grace (1 Peter 5:10). And it is all because he speaks. He speaks through his Son, Jesus the Christ who says, “Come. Come to me, you are heavy laden and burdened. And I will give you rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:28).

[1] cf. H. C. Leupold; Arthur W. Pink and Alexander MacLaren.

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