The prayer of Judith about her ancestor Simeon (Jdt 9:2-9:4)

Judith said.

‘O Lord God of my ancestor Simeon,

To whom you gave a sword

To take revenge on those strangers

Who had torn off a virgin’s clothing to defile her.

They exposed her thighs

In order to put her to shame.

They polluted her womb to disgrace her.

You have said.

‘It shall not be done.’

Yet they did it.

You gave up their rulers to be killed.

Their bed,

Which was ashamed of the deceit they had practiced,

To be stained with blood,

You struck down slaves along with princes,

Princes on their thrones.

You gave up their wives for booty.

You gave up their daughters to captivity.

All their booty was to be divided among your beloved sons,

Who burned with zeal for you.

They abhorred the pollution of their blood.

They called on you for help.’”

This prayer is based on the story in Genesis, chapter 34, about the taking of Simeon’s sister Dinah by Shechem, whom a northern Israelite city has been named after. This story of Levi and Simeon on a rampage was one of the first confrontations with the Canaanites. Simeon did not want his sister to marry Shechem, after he had defiled her, so he killed him. Somehow Judith can trace her roots back to Simeon, some 1500 years earlier. It is odd that the motivation for her bravery will be a millennium old rape, which she describes in detail. Judith spoke of Dinah’s clothing defilement, her exposed thighs, and disgraced womb, although she never mentions her by name. Judith interpreted the story to mean that God let Simeon and Levi kill the perpetrators of this rape. In fact, the story went on to say, the other brothers of Simeon, the other tribe members, ransacked the whole town and all its people taking their stuff as booty. This was a strange brutal vengeful act in Genesis.

The vengeance of Simeon and Levi (Gen 34:25-34:31)

“On the third day, when they were they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males.  They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. The other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field.  All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites.  My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.’  But they said, ‘Should our sister be treated as a whore?’”

Wow, this takes a sudden turn. Three days later, when the two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi were ‘still in pain,’ they took their swords and killed all the men in the city, including Hamor and Shechem.  They took Dinah, who had the same mother as her, away.  What happens to her is not clear.  When the other sons of Jacob came and found out what happened, they plundered the city, taking all the herds and whatever was in the city.  They captured everyone and everything. Jacob said that Simeon and Levi had brought trouble to him among the Canaanites and the other people. ‘My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed both I and my household.’  However, the brothers were defiant.  Our sister should not be treated like a whore.

Clearly, this is breaking a covenant or treaty.  Hamor and Shechem had done what they were asked, but the concept of revenge and deceit was very common among the sons of Jacob.  Jacob himself was a crafty man as can be seen with his dealings with Esau and Laban, but not a killer like his sons, Simeon and Levi.  This ancient idea of killing for a rape offense still exists in some areas of the world today.  Notice too, the other brothers joined in the looting.


The marriage pact with Hamor and Shechem (Gen 34:6-34:24)

“Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field.  When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.”

As Hamor went to speak with Jacob, the sons of Jacob were returning from the field and became ‘indignant and very angry when they heard what had happened.  They seemed to indicate that such a thing was never done ‘in Israel,’ as if it already existed.

“But Hamor spoke with them, saying, ‘The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter.  Please give her to him in marriage.  Make marriages with us.  Give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves.  You shall live with us.  The land shall be open to you.  Live and trade in it, and get property in it.’  Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, ‘Let me find favor with you.  Whatever you say to me I will give. Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me.  Only give me the girl to be my wife.’”

Hamor asked for Dinah to marry his son and then says to Jacob that his sons could marry Shechem’s daughters.  We can get along.  Shechem, whom the town is named after, says ‘Let me find favor with you. Whatever you say to me, I will give.’  The marriage gift can be very high.  This is a very strong plea for reconciliation between the two families.  The deed was done.  Should there be punishment or reconciliation?  What was the role and intention of Dinah?

“The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah.  They said to them, ‘We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us.  Only on this condition will we consent to you.  You will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised.  Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people.  But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will be gone.’”

However, Jacob’s sons were not happy and were not going to give their sister to an uncircumcised man because that would be a disgrace.  Only if all their males would be circumcised will they consent to have his daughters be their wives.  The biblical writer said that they were being deceitful without any explicit indication.

“These words pleased Hamor and his son Shechem. The young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter.  Now he was the most honored of all his family.   So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, ‘These people are friendly with us.  Let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them.  Let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters.  Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people.  Every male among us is be circumcised as they are circumcised.  Will not their livestock, their property and all their animals be ours?  Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us.’  All who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem.  Every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.”

This pleased Hamor and Shechem so that they went to the gate of the city and spoke to the people about how friendly the family of Jacob was.  The gate to the city was where all official business of the town took place.  The sons and daughters of Jacob/Israel could live and trade with them, as well as have marriages with them.  The only condition was that they become circumcised.  The people of the city agreed and all the males were circumcised. It sounds like everything is going well.

The violence against Dinah (Gen34:1-34:5)

“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region.  When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the region, saw her he seized her and lay with her by force.  His soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob.  He loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.  So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this girl to be my wife.’  Now Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah.  But his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.”

Dinah, Leah’s daughter, went to visit some women in the region.  Shechem, the son of Hamor, raped her, ‘saw her, seized her and lay with her by force.’  However, he loved her and spoke tenderly to her and asked his father to get her to be his wife.  When Jacob heard that Dinah hand been ‘defiled,’ his sons were in the field, so he held his peace.  This may be the first recorded rape of a named individual.  There is trouble brewing here.

Jacob arrives at Shechem (Gen 33:18-33:20)

“Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram.  He camped before the city.  From the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent.  There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.”

Jacob came to Shechem in the land of Canaan, and bought some land, from the sons of Hamor, probably Hivites.  This is the second purchase of land after Abraham had purchased Sarah’s tomb.  Jacob had built a house at Succoth, but here he pitched a tent.  He also erected an altar called El-Elohe-Israel, a name that does not appear anywhere else in biblical literature.  Thus Shechem, about 34 miles north of Jerusalem, will become a place of worship. Abram had passed through here near the oaks of Moreh.