Genesis 34:19–31

34  19 The young man did not hesitate in doing the thing, for he desired Jacob’s daughter. He carried more weight than anyone else in his father’s house. 20 Hamor and Shechem, his son, came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city: 21 “These men come in peace to us. Let them settle in the land and travel through it; the land is wide enough for them. We will take their daughters as wives and our daughters we will give to them. 22 The men will agree to settle with us and become a single people only if every male is circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Their livestock, their property, and all of their animals—will they not become ours? Let us agree with them so that they settle among us.” 24 All who could go out to war through the city gate agreed with Hamor and Shechem, his son, and every able-bodied male in the city was circumcised.
     25 On the third day, when they were still in pain, Jacob’s two sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords, came into the city unopposed, and killed every male. 26 Hamor and Shechem, his son, were killed by the sword. They took Dinah from the house of Shechem and went off. 27 Jacob’s other sons came upon the corpses and looted the city, for they had defiled their sister. 28 Their sheep, their cattle, and their donkeys that were in the city and in the fields, they took. 29 All their riches, their young, and their wives, they took captive and looted all that was in their houses. 
     30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have muddied the water for me, making me a stink among the land of Canaanites and Perizzites. I have only a handful of men. If they band together against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, I and my household.”
     31 They said, “Should our sister, then, be treated like a whore?”

Describing Shechem as a “lad” or “young man” suggests he, like Dinah, may have been an adolescent. Readers may remember their own youthful obsession with another for whom they would die if they could not be obtained. Thinking ahead was impossible when such focus on a desired end blocked all else.

Such passion made Hamor and Shechem convincing salespersons. Akin to Jacob and others with a desire for first-born or first-love blessing or some other deep longing, a lie here, a fib there, or an exaggeration anywhere is fair in a love war.

The extra information here is the open suggestion that Jacob’s livestock would become that of the Hivites, the Shechemites. Having seen how Jacob could strengthen his herds, this would be a great commercial benefit to them.

Given such a grand future—who would not go through a minor, temporary discomfort of circumcision? To this day, a magical or imagined benefit still outweighs the assault of circumcision on the body.

On the standard worst day after surgery, the third, Simeon and Levi brought their swords into Shechem and slew every male there, including Hamor and Shechem. They release Dinah from the captivity of Shechem’s house.

With the looting of the city after the slaughter of the males, there is an accusation that all the males of Shechem were involved with the rape of Dinah. Without changing the culture of male prerogative and power by males, the rape by one is the responsibility of all. It is this same construct that is then applied to Simeon and Levi regarding their violence—it redounds upon all of Jacob’s household. All will be held responsible for their acts of violent vengeance. 

This brings us to a basic question of action and reaction. Does abuse require counter-abuse? Where does communal responsibility begin and end? Does an eye or a head for an eye still hold? Is there any way out from Sartre’s hell of others?

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