By Permission of the British Library, Ms. Harley 4381, F. 30
Stern retribution. To avenge die rape of their sister Dinah, Simeon and Levi “slew Hamor and his son Shechem with die sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away” (Genesis 34:26), a scene faithfully rendered, albeit in medieval style, in this illumination from a French manuscript dated to die 13th century. Although Hamor and Shechem, seeking to avoid conflict over die rape, had made an advantageous offer to Jacob and his sons—a request for Dinah’s hand in marriage, land and other marriages between their peoples—Simeon and Levi only pretended to agree to a settlement and then deceitfully killed Hamor, Shechem and all of the males of their city. The deceit and ruthlessness of Simeon and Levi’s actions, troubling even to Jacob, follow die logic of Bedouin ideas about law and justice. In the desolate desert, the Bedouin must rely on themselves for their own protection. Any show of weakness, such as allowing lawbreakers to go unpunished—particularly after violating a woman’s honor—would make them prey to further attacks.