Genesis 34 Dinah.

Genesis 34 Dinah.

A relationship of a commercial type had already been established between Jacob and Hamor, when Jacob bought a parcel of land from him, not in the city but in front of it (33:18-20). Dinah, a daughter of Leah went to visit the daughters of the land (v. 1), and on this visit she was seen by Shechem, the king’s son, the prince. We are told that “he took her and lay with her, and violated her” (v. 2). The pertinent question to ask here is – was this rape? According to the law, the presumption of innocence is granted to a woman if no one was around to hear her cry for help (Dt. 22:25-27). However, if the act was done in a city, where she could be heard, they would both be regarded as guilty of a capital crime (vv. 23-24). There is a specific procedure where it concerns a virgin betrothed to her husband, who then charges that she was not a virgin. If she could produce the evidences of her virginity then the man would be regarded as a false witness, and he would be punished, fined 100 shekels of silver, and the woman would be his wife, and he would not be able to divorce her (vv. 13-19). However, if proof of virginity could not be produced, she would be regarded as a harlot and stoned to death (vv. 20-22).

However, if the woman is a virgin but not betrothed to a husband, “and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days” (vv. 28-20). By the phrase, “and they are found out,” the clear implication here is that they both were willing participants. Therefore, to protect any other young men in the future, they would be forced to get married, and the woman’s value to her father would be only half of what it would have been if she had remained a virgin, and in that state betrothed. This brings us to Dinah. The first issue one may argue in this case, is that this occurred before the civil code was written. However, this assumes that there were no civil laws before the specific code laid out through Moses. It would be hard to conceive that there would be a radical difference between this time and that of the code. The fact that this account states that Shechem ‘took’ Dinah and ‘violated’ her would seem to suggest that he took her away from those who might respond to her cry, and certainly the word ‘violated’ would suggest that she was not willing.

The words “young woman” would also suggest that she was in fact a virgin. The fact that she had no husband, would in that culture, assume that she was a virgin. There is a sense in which what Moses laid down in the civil code was simply putting into writing what was already the established practices. Therefore, what the pagan Shechem wanted, since he claimed to love Dinah, was to take her as his wife (vv. 3-4). Now if he were a member of the covenant already, i.e., had expressed sincere and genuine faith in the LORD God of Israel, then that would be one thing, but Shechem was an uncircumcised pagan. When Jacob had learned of the disgraceful thing which Shechem had done in defiling of his daughter, he held his peace until his sons returned from the fields. When they returned they found Hamor making his appeal to Jacob concerning Shechem and Dinah (vv. 5-6). Now the interesting thing here is that even though they did not have the specific code given through Moses, it is stated that the brothers regarded what Shechem had done, as a thing which “ought not to be done,” showing that they had ‘oughts’ – things, whether written or not, that ought not to be done (v. 7). Again, if he had already been a sincere member of the covenant community that would be one thing, but he was not.

What Hamor was asking for was not just that his son could take Dinah as his wife, but in order to do this, he was asking Jacob and the house of Israel, to accept Shechem and his people into the covenant they had with Yahweh, the LORD (vv. 8-10). To this end he was willing to pay any price, hoping that money or possessions was all that might be required of him (vv. 11-12). Not waiting for Jacob’s response, his sons, much like their father, deceitfully came up with a scheme to exact vengeance upon Hamor, Shechem, and his men (v. 13). They appealed to the fact that they were forbidden by the LORD to be unequally yoked with uncircumcised pagans, so they stated to Hamor the condition that he and all his males would need to be circumcised (vv. 14-16). The promise, if they complied, was that they would be one people, intermarrying as they chose, but if they did not comply, the sons would take back their sister and be gone (v. 17). Was this vigilante justice? Though there was no written code yet, their very appeal to what ought not to be done showed, along with the requirement of circumcision, that they understood that they had oughts – that is, the rule of law.

Hamor and Shechem agreed (v. 18), and Moses states that Shechem was actually more honourable than Hamor’s men, because he truly delighted in Dinah, and did not delay in being circumcised, even as he had previously spoke kindly to Dinah (vv. 3, 19). Hamor, however, had different motives, for in his appeal to his men to be circumcised, besides the incentive of taking their neighbour’s daughters, he incentivised them with a conspiracy of his own, that they would eventually acquire all that they possessed (vv. 20-23). However, at this point Shechem also agreed with his father in this conspiracy (vv. 20a), and their men took the bait (v. 24). After three days, when these men were be in great pain, Simeon and Levi, slew all the males with the sword, and took their sister Dinah away with them (vv. 25-26), as well as all their wealth and possessions, and the women and children (vv. 27-29). Jacob did not castigate his sons for what they did per se, only that they had now made him “obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites,” and due to their small numbers he feared that they would all be destroyed (v. 30).

However, his sons state to Jacob, that these men, who by hearing what had been done to Dinah, were themselves condoning what had been done to her by agreeing to be circumcised, even without the scheme which they had conjured up. In their minds they were treating Dinah like a harlot, and not one who was a virgin, a pure young woman of Israel. Shechem was guilty, because he had taken Dinah, who if she cried out was among Shechem’s own people who, even if they heard, would see no need to respond, especially concerning their prince. Furthermore, when they agreed to be circumcised they made no inquiry as to its meaning and significance, so for them it was simply a means, an external act to be performed to achieve their duplicitous ends. How could Jacob object, when he was named as one who was a usurper and deceiver? However, when Jacob’s death approached, and he gathered his sons together, he said of Simeon and Levi, that they dwelt with the instruments of cruelty, and would not speak for him in the future, “for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox” (49:6). “Self-will” would seem to suggest that they were acting above the law in these instances, but nothing is said of any illegality in the incident with Dinah.

However, things go much deeper here, for both Simeon and Levi were sons of Leah, whom Jacob hated and never wanted in the first place. In fact, Simeon received his name, because Leah stated her faith in the LORD, in that he knew that she was hated by her husband, but that he heard her prayer and granted to her Simeon (Gen. 29:31-33). Furthermore, Dinah was Leah’s daughter, which perhaps explains now why Moses saw fit to include her in his treatment of Jacob’s children, as the only daughter mentioned there (Gen. 29:30-30:24), also noted previously, prior to the journey to Egypt (46:15). ‘Levi’ as a name means “attached”, because Leah continued to believe that with all these sons she was bearing for him that he would then love her, or be attached to her. Her last son she named Simeon, which means “dwelling”, because she still held out hope that with six sons Jacob would love her since with six sons he would be able to dwell in the land in peace. When he still hated her, she bore a daughter, and she named her ‘Dinah’ meaning “judgment,” which name signified that Leah had now given up trying to earn Jacob’s love. Her children were proof enough to her that the LORD loved her. After the notation at 46:15, we hear no more of Dinah. Did she remain unloved by a man, like her mother? We do know she was a daughter of the covenant, loved by the LORD.

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