Killing Shechem

One story in the Bible has always intrigued me. After the prince of Shechem raped Jacob's daughter Dina, Jacob's sons made a deal to have them all the people of Shechem circumcised. Next thing you know, Simeon and Levi went in and wiped out the city of Shechem. On what basis were they justified in doing so?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for sending your interesting question. This story has unfortunately been misunderstood, and used by haters of Israel to falsely show time type of innate blood-lust.

Maimonides codifies the seven Noahide Laws which are incumbent on all human beings, and whose violators are subject to the death penalty. One of these laws forbids theft, which includes kidnapping. In taking Dinah against her will, Shechem violated this prohibition. Since the seventh Noahide law requires all people to set up court systems to deliver justice, and the people of Shechem did not set up a court system nor bring Shechem to trial, they also became liable to the death penalty. Simeon and Levi, therefore, were enforcing the law that had been ignored by the entire Shechemite population.

The famous Maharal of Prague, writing in "Gur Aryeh," contends that the act of Simeon and Levi was entirely unrelated to the Noahide Laws. He suggests that when a nation is the victims of aggression, they have the right to retaliate against their attackers. In this case, the city-state of Shechem committed an act of aggression against the nation of Israel, so Simeon and Levi had a right to counterattack.

This principle surely is something to think about vis-a-vis security affairs in Israel today.

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