Genesis 34:25
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.
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(25) Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren.—As born of the same mother, they, with Reuben and Judah, were especially bound to espouse their sister’s cause, but the method they took was cruel in the extreme. And it seems that these two were the leaders in the plot, having probably excluded Reuben from it, as a man of feeble character and opposed to bloodshed (Genesis 37:22); and Judah, as one too honourable to take part in so nefarious a transaction. Long afterwards Jacob speaks of it in terms of the strongest reprobation (Genesis 49:5-7). In executing their cruel deed, they would command the services of the more active and fierce portion of Jacob’s servants; but they must have been not boys, but men of ripe manhood, before they could have had influence or power enough for so terrible an exploit.

Genesis 34:25-27. They slew all the males — Nothing can excuse this execrable villany. It was true Shechem had wrought folly in Israel, in defiling Dinah: but it ought to have been considered how far Dinah herself had been accessary to it. Had Shechem abused her in her mother’s tent, it had been another matter; but she went upon his ground, and struck the spark which began the fire. When we are severe upon the sinner, we ought to consider who was the tempter. It was true that Shechem had done ill; but he was endeavouring to atone for it, and was as honest and honourable afterward as the case would admit. It is true that Shechem had done ill, but what was that to all the Shechemites? Doth one man sin, and must the innocent fall with the guilty? This was barbarous indeed. But that which above all aggravated the cruelty, was the most perfidious treachery that was in it. The Shechemites had submitted to their conditions, and had done that upon which they had promised to become one people with them. Yet they act as sworn enemies to those to whom they were lately become sworn friends, making as light of their covenant as they did of the laws of humanity. And these are the sons of Israel! Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce. Though Simeon and Levi only were the murderers, yet others of the sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city — And so became accessory to the murder.

34:20-31 The Shechemites submitted to the sacred rite, only to serve a turn, to please their prince, and to enrich themselves, and it was just with God to bring punishment upon them. As nothing secures us better than true religion, so nothing exposes us more than religion only pretended to. But Simeon and Levi were most unrighteous. Those who act wickedly, under the pretext of religion, are the worst enemies of the truth, and harden the hearts of many to destruction. The crimes of others form no excuse for us. Alas! how one sin leads on to another, and, like flames of fire, spread desolation in every direction! Foolish pleasures lead 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 other lawless actions. Were we to trace the history of unlawful commerce between the sexes, we should find it, more than any other sin, ending in blood.Simon and Levi, at the head no doubt of all their father's men, now fall upon the Shekemites, when feverish with the circumcision, and put them to the sword. Simon and Levi were the sons of Leah, and therefore, full brothers of Dinah. If Dinah was of the same year as Joseph, they would be respectively seven and six years older than she was. If she was in her thirteenth year, they would therefore, be respectively in their twentieth and nineteenth years, and therefore, suited by age and passion for such an enterprise. All the sons of Jacob joined in the sacking of the city. They seized all their cattle and goods, and made captives of their wives and little ones. Jacob is greatly distressed by this outrage, which is equally contrary to his policy and his humanity. He sets before his sons, in this expostulation, the danger attendant upon such a proceeding. The "Kenaanite and the Perizzite," whom Abraham found in the land on his return from Egypt Genesis 13:7. "I am a few men" - men of number that might easily be counted. I here denotes the family or tribe with all its dependents. When expanded, therefore, it is, "I and my house." Simon and Levi have their reply. It justifies the retribution which has fallen on the Shekemites for this and all their other crimes. But it does not justify the executioners for taking the law into their own hands, or proceeding by fraud and indiscriminate slaughter. The employment of circumcision, too, which was the sign of the covenant of grace, as a means of deception, was a heinous aggravation of their offence.

- The Death of Isaac

8. דברה deborâh, Deborah, "bee." בּכוּת אלּון 'alôn-bākût, Allon-bakuth, "oak of weeping."

16. כברה kı̂brâh, "length stretch." A certain but unknown distance, a stadium or furlong (Josephus) a hippodrome (Septuagint) which was somewhat longer, a mile (Kimchi). אפרת 'ephrâth, Ephrath, "fruitful or ashy."

18. בן־אוני ben-'ônı̂y, Ben-oni, "son of my pain." בנימין bı̂nyāmı̂yn, Binjamin, "son of the right hand."

19. לחם בית bēyt-lechem, Beth-lechem, "house of bread."

21. עדר ‛ěder, 'Eder, "flock, fold."

This chapter contains the return of Jacob to his father's house, and then appends the death of Isaac.

20. Hamor and Shechem … came unto the gate of their city—That was the place where every public communication was made; and in the ready obsequious submission of the people to this measure we see an evidence either of the extraordinary affection for the governing family, or of the abject despotism of the East, where the will of a chief is an absolute command. On the third day, when the pain and grief of wounds is the greatest, as physicians note,

when they were sore, and therefore not well able to defend themselves; for circumcision caused great pain in children, which was the ground of that exclamation, Exodus 4:25, much more in grown men. See Joshua 5:8.

Simeon and Levi: these two only are mentioned, because they were authors of the counsel, and conductors of the rest in the execution; but it is probable, from Genesis 34:27, that most of their brethren were confederate with them, and that they had a considerable number of their servants with them, who would be ready enough to revenge their masters’ quarrel, and to punish so great a villany; but all that was done is justly ascribed to them two, as it is common for all writers to say this or that was done by such a captain or general, when in truth it was done by his soldiers.

Dinah’s brethren; so they were both by the father and mother, which made them more forward and zealous than the rest.

All the males; such of them as were grown up, by comparing Genesis 34:29, for these, or some of them, seem to have been the abettors of the injury against their sister and family. Their sin in this act was manifold; that they did it without sufficient authority, and against their father’s mind, as appears from Genesis 34:30, and Genesis 49:6, which they well knew; and without all bounds, rashly, unjustly, and cruelly punished the innocent and the guilty together, and ushered in this fact with horrible deceit and lying, and that under pretence of friendship and show of religion.

And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore,.... Or in "pain" (k), when their pains were strong upon them, as the Targum of Onkelos; or when they were weak through the pain of circumcision, as the Targum of Jonathan; for it seems that the pain of circumcision was more intense on the third day (l), and the part the more inflamed, and the person more feverish, and which is observed by physicians of other wounds; and therefore Hippocrates (m) advised not to meddle with wounds on the third or fourth days, or do anything that might irritate them, for on those days they were apt to rankle or be inflamed, and bring on fevers; and in this case, not only the wound was sore in itself and distressing, but being in such a part of the body, motion must give great uneasiness: nor could persons in such circumstances easily arise and walk, and go forth to defend themselves; and of this Jacob's sons availed themselves: so

that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren; by the mother's side as well as the father's, being Leah's children, and so most provoked at this indignity and abuse of their sister:

took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly; not fearing the inhabitants of it, and their rising up against them to defend themselves, knowing in what circumstances they were: or "upon the city that dwelt securely"; as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan; for the men of the city had no suspicion of any such attempt that would be made upon them, and therefore were quite easy and secure, not expecting nor fearing anything of this kind:

and slew all the males; the males that were grown up, for the little ones are after said to be carried captive, Genesis 34:29; Josephus (n) takes no notice of this circumstance of their being circumcised, but represents them as surprised in the night of their festival, overcharged with feasting, and their watch asleep, who were first killed. Though only two of Jacob's sons were mentioned, they might be assisted by the rest; at least, no doubt, they were attended with servants, who were aiding: in accomplishing this cruel and bloody attempt.

(k) "dolore affecti", Pagninus, Schmidt, "essent in dolore", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius. (l) Pirke Eliezer, c. 29. (m) De fracturis, sect. 33. apud Scheuchzer. Physica Sacra, vol. 1. p. 93. (n) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 21. sect. 1.

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

(i) For they were the leaders of the company.

(k) The people are punished because of their wicked princes.

25. And it came to pass] In this verse the Compiler has combined the two versions: (1) that which ascribes the treacherous deed to the sons of Jacob generally; and (2) that in which Simeon and Levi alone are the perpetrators of the massacre.

when they were sore] The effects of the operation rendered the Shechemite males powerless to defend themselves. In this version there is a vein of coarse and repulsive humour. The Canaanites were not only put to the sword, but by their submission to the Israelite rite they had been outwitted. At the time of the attack, they were unable to offer any resistance.

unawares] Better than R.V. marg. boldly. LXX ἀσφαλῶς = “safely,” Lat. confidenter. The meaning is that the people of Shechem were secure and unsuspecting, when the attack was made. Not the courage of the assailants, but the sense of security on the part of their victims, is indicated. Cf. “the careless Ethiopians” (Ezekiel 30:9).

Verse 25. - And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, - literally, in their being in pain; δτε η΅σαν ἐν τῷ πόνῳ (LXX.). Inflammation and fever commonly set in on the third day, which was for that reason regarded as the critical day - that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren (i.e. sons of the same mother, Leah), took each man his sword, and came upon the city - accompanied by their servants (Keil), or their father's men (Murphy), but this is doubtful (Lange). That the other sons of Jacob and brethren of Dinah did not pursue their thirst for vengeance to the same extremity as Simeon and Levi seems apparent from ver. 27; yet it is quite possible that they joined with Simeon and Levi in the assault upon the city (Rosenmüller, 'Speaker's Commentary') which they made - boldly, - i.e. either they themselves feeling confident of success because of the sickness which lay upon the inhabitants (Ainsworth, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Murphy, &c.), or, while the city was lulled into security in consequence of the treaty (Onkelos, Josephus, Keil, Lange), or perhaps referring only to the fact that they encountered no opposition, and came in safety (ἀσφαλῶς) to the city (LXX., Kalisch) - and slew all the males. Probably the town was small. Genesis 34:25But on the third day, when the Shechemites were thoroughly prostrated by the painful effects of the operation, Simeon and Levi (with their servants of course) fell upon the town בּטח (i.e., while the people were off their guard, as in Ezekiel 30:9), slew all the males, including Hamor and Shechem, with the edge of the sword, i.e., without quarter (Numbers 21:24; Joshua 10:28, etc.), and brought back their sister. The sons of Jacob then plundered the town, and carried off all the cattle in the town and in the fields, and all their possessions, including the women and the children in their houses. By the sons of Jacob (Genesis 34:27) we are not to understand the rest of his sons to the exclusion of Simeon, Levi, and even Reuben, as Delitzsch supposes, but all his sons. For the supposition, that Simeon and Levi were content with taking their murderous revenge, and had no share in the plunder, is neither probable in itself nor reconcilable with what Jacob said on his death-bed (Genesis 49:5-7, observe שׁור עקּרוּ) about this very crime; nor can it be inferred from ויּצאוּ in Genesis 34:26, for this relates merely to their going away from the house of the two princes, not to their leaving Shechem altogether. The abrupt way in which the plundering is linked on to the slaughter of all the males, without any copulative Vav, gives to the account the character of indignation at so revolting a crime; and this is also shown in the verbosity of the description. The absence of the copula is not to be accounted for by the hypothesis that Genesis 34:27-29 are interpolated; for an interpolator might have supplied the missing link by a vav, just as well as the lxx and other ancient translators.
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