The rape of Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, and its violent aftermath.
This text continues the concerns of many Genesis narratives, including the chosen family’s relationship with outsiders, issues of deception, and the key role that women play in these families.
Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, is the first of his children to be given major narrative attention. While on a journey, she is raped by Shechem, a member of the ruling Canaanite family. But then, in a move not typical of rapists, he seeks to have her become his wife (34:1-4). Jacob responds to these overtures with prudence and care and begins negotiations with Shechem’s family. But his sons resist this direction for action and issue deceitful (34:13) demands, including the circumcision of all males in Shechem’s family (34:5-24). Somehow the brothers’ honor, rather than Dinah’s, has become the issue to be addressed (see also 34:31).
Brothers Simeon and Levi take the initiative in following through on their deceit (34:25-29), breaking faith their new blood brothers. They murder Shechem and his father, and every male in town; they rape all the women and pillage the city. Their violence begets further violence. They use religious practice (circumcision, which had weakened all those whom they killed) as a vehicle for deception and violence.
In the concluding exchange (34:30-31) Jacob stands in opposition to what the brothers have done. In turn, their question is narrow and self-serving, raising a new issue, namely, harlotry (34:31); once again, their shame seems to be the focus of their attention rather than Dinah. Later, Jacob will sharply condemn the violent actions of Simeon and Levi (Gen 49:5-7).
Why is Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, made the victim of rape and then silenced? This story gives Bible readers permission to talk openly about rape and the sorry history of society’s response (including the silencing of victims). Has this text contributed to this silence?
34Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. 2When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. 3And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her. 4So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, Get me this girl to be my wife.
5 Now Jacob heard that Shechem* had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, 7just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacobs daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.
8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. 9Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it. 11Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, Let me find favour with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14They said to them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. 16Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 17But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.
18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamors son Shechem. 19And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacobs daughter. Now he was the most honoured of all his family. 20So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. 22Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us. 24And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
25 On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinahs brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. 26They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechems house, and went away. 27And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. 30Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household. 31But they said, Should our sister be treated like a whore?
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011