Genesis 34 and the Law

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Genesis 34 interrupts the circle of Jacob’s travels from Bethel to Paddan-Aram and back. Jacob departed Canaan under threat of fratricidal violence and, while in flight to Paddan-Aram, made a vow to God at Bethel. At his return, he reconciled with Esau (33:10-17) before fulfilling his vow (35:1-4) at Bethel. The story of Dinah and Shechem intrudes between the reconciliation with Esau and the redemption of Jacob’s oath. Though Jacob returned to Canaan in peace, the events that unfolded at Shechem compromised that peace and placed the whole family at risk.

The Shechem interlude is fraught with ambiguities. The story’s characters and the narrator allude to a variety of laws, many of which feature vulnerable or threatened persons: victims of rape and seduction, war brides, and immigrants. Still other allusions evoke instructions and practices related to (inter)marriage. A careful comparison of Gen 34 and these laws not only unveils their mutual influence, it also clarifies some notorious ambiguities that are illumined when the story and the laws are read as mutually informing.
Period5 Jan 2022
Held atSociety for Old Testament Studies, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational