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Posts Tagged ‘Dinah and Shechem’

Afterward she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah. (Genesis 30:21)

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had born to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. … The Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?” (Genesis 34)

These were the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Padan Aram, with his daughter Dinah. All the persons, his sons and his daughters, were thirty-three. (Genesis 46:15)

Imagine having twelve brothers! Dinah’s mother Leah had six of the brothers, and Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah had the other six. Leah’s six sons felt a special obligation to protect Dinah. In our story this week we have to wonder if the brothers did the right thing for their sister or if they went too far in their protection. You can read the whole story in Genesis, chapter 34.

Jacob_journeyRecall from our blog posting last week that Jacob and his wives and children were on their way back to Canaan. This was all part of God’s plan for eventually giving the Israelites the Promised Land. They had a long journey and it must have been arduous for Jacob’s family of over thirty persons along with numerous servants, animals, and household goods.

When Jacob’s family reached the town of Shechem, he bought some land, pitched his tent and rested awhile.

Perhaps after the long journey all this was boring for his daughter Dinah, a girl of thirteen or fourteen years of age.

Dinah decided to have a look around in Shechem. The Bible says that she went to see the daughters of the land. Perhaps she was tired of all boy company and decided to see if she could make some female friends. Some commentators have suggested that she was looking for a sinful relationship; I don’t believe that. She was innocent and had been under protection of her father and brothers all of her life. She was probably very ignorant of the ways of the world.

Prince Shechem (the same name as the city) saw her and decided to take her and lay with her. He violated her, but afterwards he fell in love with her. He went to his father Hamor and asked if they could go to Dinah’s father and make an arrangement whereby Shechem could marry Dinah. Hamor did so and offered a generous dowry and peaceful arrangements for dwelling in the land if Jacob would give Dinah to his son Shechem in marriage.

We’re not sure what Jacob’s response would have been, but Dinah’s brothers absolutely refused. They may have felt some sympathy for their sister, but mostly they were angry at the insult done to their family. They had no intention of giving their sister, Dinah to Shechem. They plotted revenge for the insult.

The brothers answered Hamor deceitfully and told him what their plan was if he wanted his son to marry their sister. They told Hamor that they couldn’t have uncircumcised members in their family. So every male in Hamor’s family had to be circumcised. Not suspecting any deceit, Hamor agreed.

Shechem hurried to obey the instructions. He assured the men in their land that the Israelites were honorable and would be good neighbors. The Bible says that Shechem “delighted in Jacob’s daughter. He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” (Genesis 34:19) It seems that Shechem really loved Dinah and wanted to do the honorable thing for her.

Circumcision was a painful and debilitating experience for adult males. The Shechemites agreed apparently for reasons of their own. A union with the Israelites would bring wealth and prosperity to them. So every male was circumcised. After threeMassacre of the Hivites by Simeon and Levi days when they were all in great pain, two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, took their swords and killed every male in the city including Hamor and Shechem. They took Dinah out of Hamor’s house and returned her to their own home. Later they went back and plundered the city. They took everything, sheep, cattle, money, wives and children, because Shechem had violated their sister.

When their father Jacob heard about the slaughter of the Shechemites he was really troubled. He feared reprisals. His sons were not concerned about that. They felt that their vengeance for their sister Dinah was filled.

What about Dinah’s feelings? We are not told what Dinah thought about the whole incident. Even though she was raped, was it possible that she could have found herself liking the prince and thinking that a marriage to a prince would be all right? Perhaps the prince was kind to her after he realized how much he loved her.

It must have been a horrifying experience to be raped in a foreign country. Though Dinah’s family was camped very near to Shechem she apparently did not walk back home after the ordeal. Did Prince Shechem keep her against her will? Did she stay because she wanted to? No matter which one of these scenarios that we choose, Dinah was a pawn. The men in her life all used her. Her only decision that she made was to walk to Shechem in the first place.

Prince Shechem abused her and then kept her at his home because he wanted to marry her. This seems better than just using her and turning her out as Amnon would do to Tamar many years later. (See II Samuel 13; blog post September 16, 2014) At least Shechem tried to do the honorable thing because he was genuinely in love with Dinah. This might have been a good marriage. We will never know because Dinah’s father did not get the chance to make a contract with Hamor. Jacob’s sons interfered immediately, angrily denying their sister in marriage to Shechem.

Were Dinah’s brothers in the right? There is much Biblical evidence that their motives were less than pure. They did not honor their father’s authority. They were deceitful with Hamor and Shechem. They murdered many innocent men. They plundered the entire city of Shechem. Does it seem like a high price for the people of Shechem to pay because their prince sinned against one Israelite woman?

The brothers never gave one thought to their sister’s happiness. Don’t forget – these are the guys who would soon sell their own brother Joseph to a passing caravan to get rid of him just a while later. (Genesis 37) In that story they contemplate murder, but settle for kidnap. They lie to their father about it. They haven’t changed since they “avenged” their sister. They had selfish motives.

We don’t know anything else about Dinah except that she was with the family over twenty years later when they moved to Egypt. By then, her half-brother Joseph was already in Egypt waiting to help the family through the famine. It doesn’t appear that Dinah was married. Perhaps she remained single until the end of her days.

What can we learn from Dinah’s story? It is hard to relate to such abuse in our day. There are laws against rape and kidnap and there are many provisions made for women victims of abuse. We can be thankful for that.

But we still may often find ourselves in situations that are totally outside of our control. It may appear that there are few who will do justice for us. We must turn to God for our solace. For God Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

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