Genesis 34:31 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 34:31, NIV: "But they replied, 'Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?'"

Genesis 34:31, ESV: "But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”"

Genesis 34:31, KJV: "And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?"

Genesis 34:31, NASB: "But they said, 'Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?'"

Genesis 34:31, NLT: "'But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?' they retorted angrily."

Genesis 34:31, CSB: "But they answered, "Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?""

What does Genesis 34:31 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jacob is angry at two of his sons, Levi and Simeon. He is furious that their brash and bloody act of revenge has left him and his large company exposed and vulnerable to retaliation from the people of the land (Genesis 34:25–30). Sadly, it seems his emotions are mostly over the damage this does to his reputation. No mention is made that Jacob is similarly outraged as his sons (Genesis 34:5–7), or that he is rebuking them for using trickery and violence.

Levi and Simeon respond with a single question: Should Shechem have been allowed to treat their sister like a prostitute? Their actions were in response to Shechem's rape of their sister, Dinah (Genesis 34:1–3). Using trickery (Genesis 34:13), they convinced the men of the town, those who were protecting the rapist, to be circumcised (Genesis 34:20–24). While the fighting men were sore, the two brothers swept in with their fighting forces and wiped out all resistance.

It's helpful to remember that Dinah is a full sister to Levi and Simeon. All three were born to Leah, Jacob's first wife. These siblings are aware that Jacob has never loved Leah, at least not to the extent he has treasured Rachel (Genesis 29:31). Their indignant response is not only a defense of their actions, but a criticism of Jacob. They seem to be turning the tables on him: were you even going to do anything at all?

Shechem did indeed treat Dinah with profound humiliation. He offered to pay large sums of money to marry her after he had raped her. No mention was made of him atoning for his crime, and he and his father even tried to turn the situation into financial gain (Genesis 34:8–12). Levi and Simeon seem to imply Jacob would have been guilty of selling Dinah as a prostitute if he had allowed that to happen.

Jacob gives every impression of acting entirely out of fear, throughout this entire episode. There is no sense that loyalty, protection, or love for Dinah or her mother Leah come into play. That is a strong contrast to his later reaction when a far-more favored child, Joseph, seems to have been lost (Genesis 37:33–35).

Likewise, while Jacob's sons were motivated, in a sense, by honor, their methods included deception, the breaking of a contract, and what could easily be called murder. One would have hoped to see Jacob overtly condemn their actions. Or, at least, to frame the problem in terms other than his reputation in the region. That reputation will prove useful, however, as the Canaanites will fearfully avoid conflict with Israel in the near future (Genesis 35:5).