With each passing story in Genesis, the narrative is becoming more vivid and more visceral. The stories of creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah are behind us when there were only allusions to horrors and almost always a clear-cut answer.
Since Abraham, Genesis has been giving us increasingly complex and difficult moralities to struggle with. These don’t have simple answers. It would be easy to condemn Jacob for not caring about avenging Dinah’s rape. However, he also has to consider his entire family, and that they will now be hunted.
Moreover, we have the duplicitous actions of the circumcision. This is meant to be a sacred sign, not something to be taken lightly, and certainly not something to be use as a weapon against enemies. Yet that is exactly what was done. It is a clever solution, and, if anything, reminds us of the kind of cleverness that Odysseus and the Greeks would resort to, not unlike the Trojan Horse as horses were considered sacred to the Trojans. To take a gift that is supposed to be in reverence to the gods and make it into a weapon is duplicitous and the very least, blasphemy at worst.
And we’re not given a concrete answer with the Genesis story. The rape is clearly wrong. Using the circumcision as a vehicle for revenge is dubious at best. Looting the city and stealing away all the women and children is not good at all, but serves to underscore the seriousness of the punishment for such a crime.
Jacob’s concerns are valid, and yet so are the brothers’ for the violated sister. We are pre-civilization, here. This is tribal families attempting to survive in a harsh world, and responsibility is to blood, first. Hamor and his family proved the caliber of their family with Dinah’s rape. The comment about treating Dinah like a whore establishes that Hamor’s family would not be fit to join into the Abrahamic Covenant.
I’m still unsure about using the circumcision as a weapon, yet it’s done. We don’t have any official word from God about this, at all. In fact, God has been relatively quiet since Abraham. Might be something about that.