Despite Jacob’s hope that he could settle peacefully in the land of his fathers, tragedy strikes his family when his daughter, Dinah, is kidnapped and raped by the eponymous prince of the city. Prince Shechem becomes enamoured with her and wishes to marry her, so his father, Hamor, seeks Jacob’s permission. He insists, however, on waiting for his sons.
The brothers are furious over what had happened to their sister. They trick Hamor, Shechem and the other inhabitants of the city, saying they will assimilate into their society if the men undergo circumcision. On the third day after the procedure, when the men of the city are at their weakest, Simeon and Levi rise up and slaughter them all.
Jacob is horrified at his sons’ actions, worried that it will cause the neighboring towns to turn on him and his small family. However, the brothers are adamant that such treatment as their sister received must not go unavenged.
The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who learns from this incident that while Torah teaches gentleness and humane behavior, it does not make the Jewish people a cowardly nation. Like Simeon and Levi, there are times when the nation of Israel must take up the sword to defend itself. With God’s help, Israel has been successful time and again in standing up to her hostile neighbors.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Jacob and his sons see things so differently here?