Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot? - On this outrage alone they vindicated their flagitious conduct. The word harlot first occurs here: the original is not פילגש pilegesh, which we render concubine, (see its explanation Genesis 22:24; (note)), but זונה zonah, which ordinarily signifies one who prostitutes herself to any person for hire. Our word harlot is said to have been derived from a very odd circumstance: Robert, duke of Normandy, seeing a fine-looking country girl dancing with her companions on the green, took her to his bed. She was the daughter of a skinner, and her name was Arlotta; and of her William, surnamed The Conqueror, was born. Hence it is said all such women were from her called harlots, as William himself was usually termed the Bastard. But horelet, the diminutive of whore, is not a less likely derivation.
Solomon has very properly said, My son, enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men; avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away, Proverbs 4:14, Proverbs 4:15. Had not Dinah gone out to see the daughters of the land, and very possibly at one of their idolatrous festivals, she had not suffered the foul disgrace mentioned in this chapter. Not only prudence dictates that young women should keep at home, but God expressly commands it, Titus 2:5. Dinah got among idolaters, and thus partook of their iniquities; and this led to the most base and cruel transaction upon record. How true is the saying, Those who wander out of the way of understanding shall abide in the congregation of the dead! In the case before us blame seems to attach to all parties. It was wrong in Jacob to suffer his daughter, alone and unprotected, to visit the daughters of the land.
It was excessively wicked in Shechem to take this advantage of the daughter of a respectable stranger, who had sought his friendship, and came to sojourn among his people, and whose righteous dealing they must have witnessed for at least seven years past. In his behalf we may say, and it would be unjust not to say it, that having done the mischief, and sinned deeply against the laws of hospitality, he wished to make all the reparation in his power; and therefore in the most frank and liberal manner he not only offered, but most pressingly entreated, permission to take Dinah to wife. This was the utmost he could do in such a case. And in this he is a saint of the first order when compared with the noble and ignoble profligates who, while blaspheming the Christian name by continuing to assume it, commit all kinds of breaches on the virtue of simple females, and the peace of respectable families, and not only make no reparation, but glory in their shame.
It was diabolical in Jacob's sons to slay a whole tribe for the offense of one man, and especially as that one had offered to make all the restitution in his power. They required that Hamor, Shechem, and all their subjects should be circumcised before they could conscientiously consent to give their sister to Shechem in marriage. This required conformity was made the cloak of the most base and infamous designs. The simple unsuspecting Shechemites agreed to the proposal; and when rendered by this religious rite incapable of defending themselves, they were basely murdered by Simeon and Levi, and their city destroyed. Jacob, to his great honor, remonstrated against this barbarous and bloody act, committed apparently under the sanction of religion; and God showed his abhorrence of it by directing the patriarch, in his dying moments, to proscribe them from the blessings of the covenant, so that they barely retained a name among the tribes of Israel, being in general small, and ever disreputable, except merely in the service of the sanctuary, in which Levi was employed. How often since, notwithstanding this solemn warning, has the pure and benevolent religion of God been made, by wicked and designing men, a political stalking-horse to serve the basest purposes, and a covert to the worst of crimes! But shall we find fault with the holy religion of the blessed God because wicked men have abused it? God forbid! Were it not so good as it really is, it would be incapable of such abuse. An evil cannot be abused, a good may; and the greater and the more acknowledged the good, the more liable to abuse. As every good is so capable of being abused, does he act wisely who argues against the use of the thing on this account? Shall we say that various kinds of grain, fruits, and aliments are a curse, because wicked men abuse them to the purposes of drunkenness and gluttony? This would argue an utter perversion of all reason: and is it not on such a pretext as this that many persons have ventured to call in question even the truths of Christianity?
Whatever such men may be determined to think on the subject of this chapter, with the unprejudiced reader the ample and detailed relation which we have here of this barbarous transaction will appear an additional proof of the veracity and impartiality of the sacred historian.