In all likelihood, Jacob and his family knew what happened to their relative Lot after he became too close to the residents of Sodom (Gen. 19). Unfortunately, the next event in Israel’s history proves Jacob and his children did not learn from Lot’s mistakes.
After settling in the city of Shechem, Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, “went out to see the women of the land” (34:1). Normally, Moses would not have described the parentage of Dinah so explicitly, and so the mention of Leah is important here. Jacob’s first wife, of course, was unloved (29:30), and any children produced by the union were regarded similarly, in contrast to the sons of his favorite wife, Rachel (37:3). Israel’s regard for Leah set Dinah up for a fall.
Dinah was probably about sixteen years old to be a peer of the ladies of Shechem. She could not have been born before year thirteen or so of Jacob’s twenty years in Paddan-aram (29:18–27; 30:20–21; 31:38) and was therefore about seven when Jacob left for Canaan. Jacob has irresponsibly given Dinah about nine years to fall in love with the culture when she goes to be with the women who lived in Shechem. Moreover, it was irregular for women in her day to go freely wherever they wished. Given Moses’ warnings about intermarriage with the Canaanites (26:34–35), he does not view Dinah’s actions favorably. She could learn many sins and meet pagan men through these women. Matthew Henry writes that Dinah “went to get acquainted with those Canaanites, and to learn their way.”
The foolishness of being too involved with the inhabitants of the Promised Land is soon made manifest when Shechem (the prince, not the city) seizes Dinah and humiliates her (34:2). Actually, this is just another way of saying he raped Jacob’s daughter. Shechem did a great evil with this act, but he ends up falling in love with her and suggests a remedy for his actions that, as we will see in tomorrow’s study, is not as horrible as it sounds (vv. 3–4). Still, his uncontrollable desire has brought great shame upon Dinah, and there will be consequences. This is always the case when man flagrantly violates the law of God and harms His images (Gen. 1:27; Deut. 22:25–27).
John Calvin writes in his commentary that Shechem, on the one hand, “loved her [Dinah] as a wife; and did not even object to be circumcised that he might have her.” Nevertheless, the “fervor of lust had so prevailed, that he first subjected her to disgrace.” Shechem submitted to his lust and in so doing brought harm to Dinah. We might not be guilty of rape, but if we dwell on the lusts of our heart we may also succumb and greatly injure ourselves and others.