11 Dinah


Frymer-Kensky, Tikva   Reading the Women of the Bible: A new Interpretation of their Stories.  (Shocken Books, New York, 2002).


A Daughter’s Disgrace    Genesis 34: 1-2

1 Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit some of the women of the land. 2 When Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, the leader of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force.


An Offer of Reparation    Genesis 34:3-5

3 He was strongly attracted to Dinah, daughter of Jacob, and was in love with the young woman. So he spoke affectionately to her. 4 Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this young woman for a wife.”  5 Meanwhile, Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but since his sons were out in the field with his livestock, Jacob kept quiet until they came home.


A Princely Proposal  Genesis 34:6-12

6 Now Hamor, the father of Shechem, went out to discuss the matter with Jacob, 7 just as Jacob’s sons were coming in from the field. When they heard the news, the men were indignant and extremely angry.  Shechem had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter; such a thing is not done.  8 Hamor appealed to them, saying: “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as a wife. 9 Intermarry with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 Thus you can live among us.  The land is open before you.  Settle and move about freely in it and acquire holdings here.” 11 Then Shechem appealed to Dinah’s father and brothers: “Do me this favor, and whatever you ask from me, I will give. 12 No matter how high you set the bridal price and gift, I will give you whatever you ask from me; only give me the young woman as a wife.”



A Deceitful Deal   Genesis 34:13-19

13 Jacob’s sons replied to Shechem and his father Hamor with guile, speaking as they did because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We are not able to do this thing: to give our sister to an uncircumcised man. For that would be a disgrace for us. 15 Only on this condition will we agree to that: that you become like us by having every male among you circumcised. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters in marriage; we will settle among you and become one people. 17 But if you do not listen to us and be circumcised, we will take our daughter and go.”


18 Their proposal pleased Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man lost no time in acting on the proposal, since he wanted Jacob’s daughter. Now he was more highly regarded than anyone else in his father’s house.



Ratification     Genesis 34:20-24

20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city and said to the men of their city: 21 “These men are friendly toward us. Let them settle in the land and move about in it freely; there is ample room in the land for them. We can take their daughters in marriage and give our daughters to them. 22 But only on this condition will the men agree to live with us and form one people with us: that every male among us be circumcised as they themselves are. 23 Would not their livestock, their property, and all their animals then be ours? Let us just agree with them, so that they will settle among us.”  24 All who went out of the gate of the city listened to Hamor and his son Shechem, and all the males, all those who went out of the gate of the city, were circumcised.


Vengeful Violence    Genesis 34:25-31

25 On the third day, while they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, brothers of Dinah, each took his sword, advanced against the unsuspecting city and massacred all the males. 26 After they had killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.  27 Then the other sons of Jacob followed up the slaughter and sacked the city because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their sheep, cattle and donkeys, whatever was in the city and in the surrounding country. 29 They carried off all their wealth, their children, and their women, and looted whatever was in the houses.


30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi: “You have brought trouble upon me by making me repugnant to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites.  I have so few men that, if these people unite against me and attack me, I and my household will be wiped out.” 31 But they retorted, “Should our sister be treated like a prostitute?”








  • Who is making decisions?
  • Where are the boundary lines – in behavior, customs, accommodation of the “other”?


Age of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac (Ishmael), Jacob (Esau)

Jacob, with help from Rebekah, tricks Isaac, and takes Esau’s blessing

Jacob flees to Laban’s house to stay

Laban tricks Jacob – he marries Leah instead of Rachel

Jacob also marries Rachel

Leah bears:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah

Bilhah (maid of Rachel) bears: Dan, Naphtali

Zilpah (maid of Leah) bears: Gad, Asher

Leah bears: Issachar, Zebulun and DINAH

Rachel bears Joseph

Jacob tricks Laban (sheep)

Jacob battles angel / becomes “Israel” on way home

Jacob semi-reconciles with Esau, but settles elsewhere


They go to Bethel, promise of descendants and land re-affirmed

Rachel bears Benjamin, she dies in the process

Joseph gets sold into slavery …


A Daughter’s Disgrace    Genesis 34: 1-2

F-K p. 180: “Dinah is not looking for trouble; she is not running away or seeking sexual adventure.  On the other hand, she is not out performing a chore for her family, drawing water or shepherding flocks.  She is acting on her own initiative, reaching beyond the family, opening the gates to a relationship that goes beyond the confines of her home.”   a relationship with the “girls of the land”.

F-K p. 180  She moves out of the control but also the protection of the family, she leaves the family vulnerable as well – if she “misbehaves” her behavior reflects badly on them and they are dishonored.

F-K p. 181: not forbidden to go out without chaperone BUT “They had responsibilities, such as drawing water, which took them out into the public sphere, but one who left the house without a specific chore was viewed with suspicion and condemnation.”

F-K p. 181: “… Out went Dinah is not an innocent statement.  It carries a warning that something is going to happen.  And what happens is a father’s nightmare: Dinah, who went out to see the girls, is seen by a boy.”

F-K’s translation uses “girls” not women.

Dinah never speaks and disappears from the story after these verses.

F-K’s translation says: “He took her, and lay with her, and degraded her.”   Our translator goes with: “he seized her and lay with her by force”.  The text does not use the word for “rape”.

F-K p. 183: it has to do with word order as well as the words used  “In rape, abuse starts the moment the rapist begins to use force, long before penetration.  In other illicit sexual encounters, the act of intercourse may not be abusive.  The sex may be sweet and romantic.  But the fact that the man has intercourse with her degrades her, and so the word ‘innah comes after the words ‘lay with.’”

In shifting from use of Jacob through the story to Israel we have a clue that the reader is invited to shift from the immediate context of the story to the larger narrative of the whole people.  In the land of Israel, it is an outrage that daughters of Israel should be taken by / lay with / even marry the people of the land, the Canaanites.

F-K p. 183: “The story is told from the viewpoint of the family and society from which Dinah went out.  From their perspective, an unmarried girl’s consent does not make sex a permissible act.  She has, after all, no right of consent.”

F-K p. 184:  Hebrew betulah = young girl    “When sexual inexperience counts, the Bible has to add the phrase “who has not known a man.”  The ambiguity and variation of the term shows that Israel expected young girls to be virgins, and so viewed all young girls as presumptive virgins.  Likewise, the Greek word parthenos encodes the same cultural assumption and means both “young girl” and “virgin,” and until very recently, the English “maiden” also carried both meanings.”      (This all comes out again in Isaiah prophecy – a “young girl” will bear a child.)



So, why is virginity so important a matter?  F-K 184, 185

  • Babies born in first nine months belong to the new husband?
  • “new and unused” property?
  • This is an ancient value: pre-Aristotle, pre-Bible, and noted from ancient cultures around the world (though not all)
  • Recoiling from incest may have led to an extreme emphasis on virginity

Arguments the other direction could include: experienced lovers are “better”, proof of fertility

F-K p. 185: “Maintaining the girl’s virginity is the prerogative and the duty of the ale members of the family.  Girls are carefully guarded and infractions seriously punished, and the chastity of the girl becomes an indicator of the social worth of the family and the men in it.”

F-K p. 187: “In America, below a certain ‘age of consent’ (which varies by state), a girl’s willingness is legally meaningless, and intercourse with her can be prosecuted as statutory rape.  In ancient times, no unmarried girl or woman, at any age, had the right of consent, and a married woman could not consent to anyone other than her husband.”   Question then – should Schechem have known this?  Did he?

The words do matter!  Is she a young woman or a young girl?

An Offer of Reparation    Genesis 34:3-5

F-K’s translation: “His heart cleaved to Dinah the daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke to her heart”.  “Cleaving” is the same word used in Genesis 2 / cleave to his wife.  It’s husband/wife love.  It is not fickle or transitory.

F-K p. 190: “The honor of a family may be restored in two ways.  One rests with the girl’s lover, who can demonstrate that he and his family intend no dishonor to the girl’s family by offering a very large bride-price.  The other rests with the girl’s kinsmen, who can conduct a reprisal raid to show that the men can protect their boundaries and that outsiders encroach upon their territory, property, or personnel at the risk of their own lives.  Both methods are represented in the Dinah story…”

(remember – this is a time without police, judges, trials, even without kings who might enforce rules …   You had to be in a position to defend yourself and your interests.)


A Princely Proposal  Genesis 34:6-12

F-K p. 191: “He is giving Jacob equivalent status with himself and offering a permanent alliance.  To him the personal is indeed political; the marriage of Dinah and Shechem can be a paradigm for the relationship between the peoples, and the first step toward continual intermarriage.


This is a most generous offer, …   the combined effect of alliance and high brideprice will demonstrate the esteem in which the king’s family holds Jacob’s family, and thus restore Jacob’s honor.  But the sons of Jacob are in no mood to accept this peaceful resolution.”


A Deceitful Deal   Genesis 34:13-19

Jacob’s dilemma is this – can’t really have his sons and daughters marry within the broader family since he is now off on his own BUT he doesn’t want to dilute his wealth and heritage / tradition by marrying true outsiders.

The brothers are acting in anger.  They diminish a key cultural element for them (circumcision) by involving it in the deal.  They dishonor themselves by the lie they propose (if you do this …) in an attempt to salvage their honor!  (Stupid men….!)

Ratification     Genesis 34:20-24

An example of a proposed marriage that involved both love / attraction and some political and economic advantages to both sides.


Vengeful Violence    Genesis 34:25-31

F-K p. 194: “The raid accomplishes two purposes at once: it teaches daughters that they cannot push the envelope of their own self-determination, and it teaches the Shechemites (and others) that they cannot violate Israel’s boundaries.”

They can’t just kill the son and king – that would result in the Shechemites full retaliation.  It’s all or nothing.  They go for all.

F-K p. 196: “Did the brothers do wrong by attacking the town?  Jacob points to an essential characteristic of Israelite history – Israel is small, few in number, and surrounded by those who could destroy her.  If she makes herself hateful, she might disappear.  Next to this rational reckoning, the brother’s response sounds immature and rash.  And yet the brothers’ response also conveys a philosophy of protection: if people know that we will violently avenge wrongs that are done to us, then they will hesitate to attack us.  Which is the best strategy for survival, accommodation or deterrence?  The argument could be lifted out of today’s headlines.”


Post-script    Sons of Jacob/Israel remain impulsive and want to kill Joseph, end up selling him into slavery.  Eventually Simeon disappears, descendants do not get territory in Promised Land.  Nor do the sons of Levi.

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