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Dinah: Bible

Dinah is the daughter of Jacob, the father of twelve sons (and thus the twelve tribes) in the ancestor narratives of Genesis. She is born to Leah after Leah has given birth to six sons. Leah names her (Gen 34:21), as biblical women often did as part of the maternal role. Of Jacob’s daughters (others are noted in Gen 46:15), only Dinah is mentioned by name.

The story of Dinah deals with the Israelites’ attempt to establish social boundaries for marriage. It seems to advocate an inclusive perspective (represented by Dinah and Jacob) in which, when mutual respect and honor characterize the relationship, cooperation and bonding (“give and take”) with outsiders (represented by Shechem, Hamor, and the Shechemites) can take place.

The story is set during the ancestral period in the city of Shechem, the geographical center of a movement in which people of diverse backgrounds, customs, and religious beliefs merged to become the community of Israel. Dinah goes out “to visit the women of the region” (the indigenous people, 34:1). The phrase implies an openness to and acceptance of outsiders. Dinah’s subsequent sexual intercourse with Shechem, the Hivite prince of the region, is the ultimate symbol of acceptance. And Hamor speaks to Jacob about “giving” his daughter in marriage to Shechem, in the same way that the Jacobites and Shechemites will "give and take” wives, live and trade in the same region, and hold property together peacefully.

But separatist tendencies within Jacob’s community (represented by Simeon, Levi, and the other sons of Jacob) are threatened by this possibility and by Shechem’s intercourse with Dinah. They want to resist intermarriage. Their idea of “give and take” is “taking” the sword, killing all the Shechemite males, plundering the city, and taking their wives and children. The story passes “judgment” (the meaning of Dinah’s name) on their friendly attitude.

The story invites two opposing interpretations. The traditional understanding is that Dinah has been raped by Shechem. Her brothers Simeon and Levi retaliate by violently slaying and plundering Shechem, Hamor, and the Shechemite community. But the retaliation puts Jacob’s group in jeopardy by making subsequent social intercourse and peaceful coexistence impossible. Jacob thus reprimands his sons for their behavior. But concerning the question of whether Dinah has been raped, the final clue comes in the last sentence of the story. Simeon and Levi say, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” (34:31). Prostitutes engage in sexual intercourse for financial gain, and their sexual actions involve mutual consent. Rape therefore does not characterize either prostitution or what has happened to Dinah. Furthermore, one of the purposes of sexual intercourse in the ancient world was to create permanent bonding and obligation; but in prostitution, there is no bonding or obligation. By saying that Dinah has become like a prostitute, Simeon and Levi might be suggesting that, from their perspective, Dinah and Shechem’s intercourse could never lead to bonding and obligation. They are not suggesting that she was raped.

Upon hearing the news about his daughter, Jacob is at first silent; then he negotiates Dinah’s marriage to Shechem. If Dinah has been raped, Jacob ignores his obligation to protect the women of his household and ignores Dinah’s suffering. This seems peculiar—does it suggest that Dinah was not raped? In the Hebrew Scriptures, rape is generally indicated by a cry for help from the woman (showing lack of consent) and violence on the part of the man (indicating a forcible, hostile act).

But the intercourse of Shechem does not fit this pattern. Genesis 34:2 reports that he sees Dinah, takes her (the Hebrew word for “take” is often used for taking a wife), lies with her (a euphemism for sexual intercourse), and shames her (the NRSV combines the last two verbs, rendering “lay with her by force,” a reading that should be contested). Then the text (v. 3) provides three expressions of affection: first it says he bonds with her (the NRSV uses “was drawn” to her, but the word bonds more appropriately represents a word used for marital bonding), then that he loves her, and finally that he speaks tenderly to her. From this description Shechem appears to be a man in love, not a man committing an exploitative act of rape. Rapists feel hostility and hatred toward their victims, not closeness and tenderness.

So why does the text include the verb to shame (or to humble, put down), and why does it record that Jacob’s daughter has been “defiled” (34:5; compare 34:13, 27)? Shame, or intense humility, usually relates to failure to live up to societal goals and ideals. Because sexual intercourse should be part of marital bonding, it is shameful for an unmarried woman like Dinah to have sex. The declaration of love and desire for marriage comes after she and Shechem have intercourse. Furthermore, Dinah’s intercourse with Shechem makes her “defiled,” a term (Hebrew tm’) indicating here an unacceptable sexual act. The unacceptability of premarital sex in this case is intertwined with the response of Dinah’s brothers, who insist that Shechem’s requested marriage with her would be an unacceptable union.

Ironically, if there is a rape in this story, it is Simeon and Levi who “rape” the people of Shechem’s city. It is their behavior that is violent, hostile, and exploitative. Shechem’s desire for marital bonding stands in tension with Simeon and Levi’s determination that no such liaison take place. The tension between marriage within a group (endogamy) and marriage with outsiders (exogamy) is dramatized in this story of love and violence. The premarital sexual act is the narrative’s representation of the violation of group boundaries. Also, the fact that Shechem figures prominently first as a friend and then as a victim of Jacob’s group may prefigure what another biblical narrative reports—that Shechem is peacefully incorporated into Israel but then is violently destroyed (see Judges 9).

Bibliography

Bechtel, Lyn.“What If Dinah Is Not Raped? (Genesis 34).” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 62 (June 1994): 19–36.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. Atlanta: 1982; Sheres, Ita. Dinah’s Rebellion: A Biblical Parable for Our Times. New York: 1990.

Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture. New York: 2000.

More on: Marriage, Bible
27 Comments

"Prostitutes engage in sexual intercourse for financial gain, and their sexual actions involve mutual consent."

Yikes- this is an untrue generalization in modern times and likely in ancient Isreal as well. I don't know if Dinah was raped or consented, but the above claim made by the author of this article is concerning. "Prostitutes" often don't gain financially or consent to the acts. See the below website regarding modern day sex trafficking (which includes prostitution"): https://polarisproject.org/sex...

"But concerning the question of whether Dinah has been raped, the final
clue comes in the last sentence of the story. Simeon and Levi say,
“Should our sister be treated like a whore?” (34:31). Prostitutes engage
in sexual intercourse for financial gain, and their sexual actions
involve mutual consent. Rape therefore does not characterize either prostitution or what has happened to Dinah."

I think that this is a very superficial interpretation. To treat a woman like a whore does not mean to have sex with her for money. It means and it has meant at all times, to treat her very badly. To take of her what you want. And men who rape women never feel love for them? You seem to live in a black-and-white-world. Of course some rapists love the women they rape. Maybe you might say: but if they love the woman, they wouldn't hurt her. And in a perfect world, that would be true. But in the real world, we hurt the people we love all the time. So that's not even an argument.

Every source that I know and that can be taken seriously says that the text deals with rape. The verbs that are used in the original are only used in connection with forced sexual intercourse, at least that's what I read. I don't speak Hebrew so I can't really say anything about that or about your remarks concerning the language in this passage, but when it comes to your other arguments, I think they are not very strong.

I enjoyed reading all the comments and they gave me quite a bit to think about. Perhaps it isn't "cut and dry" that she was raped as I'd always assumed. I was surprised by one thing though. With such heart felt consideration of the issue by the author and those commenting, no one focused on verse one:

Genesis 34 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

Perhaps she was lonely for female companionship of her age or just curious. There is no mention of her asking permission from either of her parents before going and if Jacob had consented to Dinah's visit, he would have blamed himself at least in part for what had happened. You may say I'm assuming he would but do any of you have daughters ? Even if I'm wrong concerning Jacob's possible reaction, would Jacob have consented to his young daughter going unaccompanied to a people he wasn't intimately familiar with ? What happened to Dinah aught never to happen whether rape or consenting at a young age. Both have their consequences, an example of which we see here.

One last point. Dinah was part of a covenant people. Abraham said no Canaanite wife for Isaac. Isaac said no Canaanite wife of Jacob. Yet Jacob so readily agrees to the marriage ? Perhaps, as one commenter pointed out, he agrees to the marriage to insure Dinah would have a husband (as Deuteronomy 22:28-29 later ensure) and I suppose from a certain point of view it would be understandable. However, would Jacob's consent to the marriage constitute a compromise ? We are not to compromise with the "world" (the world system if you prefer) and if Jacob had not consented to the marriage there would have been no circumcision of the men and no slaughter (because of their 'painful and weakened' state) afterward. Some might say not being a virgin may have resulted in no marriage and no "happy" life. If Dinah is in Heaven right now (and she is I believe) do you think that matters to her one bit...? The bottom line is this incident should never have happened and wouldn't have had Dinah not gone out to investigate, regardless of her reasons or her maturity level (meaning ability to make a rational decision whether it was prudent or not to do what she intended).

Read that article

want to also point out that in the book of Jubilees, it describes Dinah as"a little girl" of 12 years old. [In this culture, the Shechemite would have been concidered a pediphile]. In this book it states that the brothers did good by killing this group of men, because they dared defile a Israelite virgin. It was forbidden for the Israelites to marry into this group of people because these people worshiped a pagan god named Moloch. This religion involved burning a child alive and committed impurity and defiled children. According to this account, Dinah could not have married into such a clan. Of course, according to the Genesis account they were willing to convert to Judaism. Another point of view. Hmmm

Another source is the book of Jubilee, which is also called the Little Genesis. It expounds on the books of Genesis. In this book it says: " On that day Bilhah heard that Joseph had perished, and she died mourning him. She was living in Qafratef, and Dinah his daughter, died after Joseph had perished. [They thought he had perished, but his brothers sold him into slavery]*. There were now three reasons for Israel to mourn in one month. They buried Bilhah next to the tomb of Rachel, and Dinah his daughter. They were (all) buried there." *My note. This is Jubilee 34: 15 and 16.I downloaded this book along with others on my Kindle ereader. Its Joseph Lumpkin's The Lost Books of the Bible: The Great Rejected Texts [Lost Sea Scrolls]. Would be good to study out all these sources and discern which is most reliable.

May I recommend a book called, The Bible as it Was by James L Kugel? In this book Dinah has her own chapter. The references in this book include many Jewish sources of ancient writings. In a few of these writings it states that Dinah was the wife of Job or his name is also Jobab. Very interesting.

I think that the macho pride of these boys could not accept that Dinah did not respected the boys club tradition. They were dishonored, not the little sister or the daughter but the men's club or tribe was dishonored. So, the version of redemption percolated as: "the rape of Dinah". They have to protect their honor and respect, not Dinah's, as the SUPER MACHOS killing everyone and it was out of the question that one woman of their property accepted to live with these lower class humans without their approval.

Dinah was not raped because the scripture tells us that the one she layed with greatly admired Dinah and spoke tenderly toward her. She did have sex with this man but it was consensual, and this man she lay with wanted to appease Jacob and agreed to circumcision. The whole kingdom under this prince got circumcised and was with fever we=hen attacked by Simon and Levi. Jacob was displease with his son's behavior. Oh Teenagers!!! Imagine the teenage behaviror. Jacob had to move his tribe after this incident to Bethel. Later in writings, Moses does not regard the tribe of Simon. And Jacob rebukes Simon and Levi...but Moses did not mention Simon who did this to Dinah. Perhaps Levi repented and was forward moving as blessed after repenting...but notice Moses did not mention the Simon tribe. I think this was an injustice done toward Dinah. Even Jacob rebuked it. But what happened to Dinah we know not. After Genesis 34 she is not mentioned again. Her brother Joseph was mentioned after being thrown into a pit by the same brothers. Dinah? What happened to her?

I'm amazed by this Red Tent story. Dinah..a cherished child in her tribe, and she falls in love with a prince. And her over zealous brothers killed him. She was not raped, it was consent is written he loved her and spoke tenderly to her. They were in love. And then her brothers...the same ones who threw her bother Joesph into the pit; betrayed her, I like the author's depiction of what happened to Dinah. We don't know because after reviewing Genesis 34..we don't know what happened to Dinah after this. I think the author brings a good account of what happened to Dinah. Though we don't really know what happened to Dinah after Genesis 34. It doesn't say. At least the author brought Dinah the respect of remembering Dinah's life. It is not stated in the bible. Some Hebrew texts elaborate thar Dinah became a Canaanite woman, and some Hebrew suggests she had a daughter that married Joseph. We know not...this author brings a good subject to view...Women of the Bible. and Dinah was a very special woman. Dinah a sibling sister who are the 12 tribes of Israel...their sister. loved and special sister. I admire this author who remembered her. And helps us to remember who is Dinah and what happened to her. As Joseph whose story is remembered in Genesis. But the bible doesn't tell us what happened to Dinah?

The text says she was raped (see my comment of a few days ago) and that her rapist tried to make nice afterward. Color me unimpressed.

As for The Red Tent, I canÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t see how itÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s in any way respectful toward Dinah to paint her rapist as the good guy and her brothers who rescued her as the villains. The term Ì¢‰âÒrape denialÌ¢‰âÂå comes to mind.

The term rape was used in new versions of the text....the actual Hebrew term was taken which was used in reference as in "take a wife." If we want to really understand the Bible we need a better understanding of the language of its authors, not the crude translations that have brought so much controversy.

Define for me this word: ÌщۢÌÐåáÌщã¢ÌÐå¡ÌÑå¢ÌÐåáÌÑåÊÌÐå_ÌÐå¦Ìщ۝ÌÐåü vayÌ¢‰âÂèÏanneha, used to describe the way in which Shechem lay with Dinah; and find some use of it where it refers to marriageÌ¢‰â‰۝or even consensual sex.

(Hint: you canÌ¢‰â‰ã¢t. As Deuteronomy 22:29 and Samuel II 13:14 prove, the word is only ever used for forced sexual relations.)

In this context, the word Ì¢‰âÒtookÌ¢‰âÂå earlier in the sentence cannot mean anything but Ì¢‰âÒabductedÌ¢‰âÂå.

I agree J.C. (rhyme time) Shechem seemed to take Dinah forcefully, ravaging or abducting her, and then tried to make up for his acts, with Daddy helping as well.

No where does it say that Dinah loved Shechem. She has zero dialogue in the whole narrative -- poor girl never gets a word in edgewise. Just because Shechem spoke kindly to her doesn't mean it worked and made her forget the (probable) rape that occurred. If it did, well, Shechem must have had some powerful words.

Jacob most likely agreed to the marriage to save his daughter the shame. It wouldn't be likely for another man to take Dinah for a wife after Shechem defiled her; female purity was fashionable back then.

Simeon and Levi went a bit crazy too. Overall, it was a lose-lose situation, and terrible for Dinah -- not because she loved Shechem, but because she was molested and didn't have much of a say in the ordeal, like most women in ancient Israel.

I agree with what you are saying.

One slight point of disagreement: Nowhere is it written that Jacob agreed to the marriageÌ¢‰â‰۝the proposal came from DinahÌ¢‰â‰ã¢s brothers, and the text notes it was a ruse from the start.

The Hebrew word 'anah translated in the NIV in this passage as "raped" and KJV as "defiled" is used 80 times in the Old Testament and translated a variety of ways. In Genesis it is used 4 other times and translated "afflict" (15:13) "dealt harshly with" (16:6) "submit" (16:9) and "afflict" (31:50) (all from KJV); none in a sexual context. It is true that it is used to refer to rape in II Samuel 13:12, 14, 22, 32 (Tamar and Amnon) and Judges 19:24; 20:5 (the Levite's concubine and the Benjaminites), as well as of the women of a conquered Jerusalem in Lamentation 5:11 (ironically a situation more akin to the Shechemite women taken by the Israelites at the end of this story - Genesis 34:29). It is also used to refer to sexual sin that may or may not be consensual in Ezekiel 22:10-11. The example you site in Deuteronomy, however, is problematic. In the situation described in Deuteronomy 22:24, the woman is specifically determined not to have been raped as she did not cry out and is judged equally culpable and deserving of death. In other words, this is an example of the word being used to describe consensual sex (as you challenged J. Hoffman above to find). Contrast that with the next example (Deuteronomy 22:25-27) where the women is blameless because she did cry out and did not consent. This is an example of true rape as defined by Hebrew law, and a separate Hebrew word is used: "chazaq" (translated "force" in the KJV). In other words, the term "defiled," or "humbled" as 'anah appears in the KJV in this context may simply refer to the taking of a woman's viginity (irrespective of consent). Therefore either interpretation (rape or consensual fornication) in Genesis 34 may be valid.

wow. Dinah a sister of the patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel. Her brothers murdered her love of her life. She grew up in a happy childhood and spent her years thereafter her lover was murdered..where? What happened to her? God loves her and she was provided for. Surely God watched over His own. She was mistreated like her brother Joseph. Surely God supplied goodness in her later days. Love the fact that this author took time to tell her story.

We also have the same term ÌÑèÏÌÐå«Ìс_ÌÐå_ÌÐåµÌÑå in Ezekiel 18:6

Eze 18:6 If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled [ÌÑèÏÌÐå«Ìс_ÌÐå_ÌÐåµÌÑå] his neighbor's wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity;

Denoting a type of defilement which seems to exclude rape.

This article glosses over an important point: the word translated as Ì¢‰âÒhe shamed herÌ¢‰âÂå or Ì¢‰âÒhe humbled herÌ¢‰âÂå, ÌщۢÌÐåáÌщã¢ÌÐå¡ÌÑå¢ÌÐåáÌÑåÊÌÐå_ÌÐå¦Ìщ۝ÌÐåü vayÌ¢‰âÂèÏanneha, is used throughout the Bible specifically in cases of rape; see, e.g., Deuteronomy 22:29 or Samuel II 13:14.

The NRSV reading, Ì¢‰âÒlay with her by force,Ì¢‰âÂå is correct and a good translation of Hebrew idiom into an English equivalent.

indeed the text i the Hebrew masoretic text, the septuagint translation, the kingJames version all concur that Dinah was humiliated, anah in Hebrew, humbled, whcih socially means exactly what this article suggest: she was socially humbled. the idea that she was raped was developed during the second temple era by well-intentioned second temple motivational scholars seeking to regroup the dispersed Judens, separated into 24 different sects, each having their interpretation of the Torah (law) as concerning the gentile influence on the israelites, regarding the southern kingdon, Judeah, as well and in view f what happened to the assimilated northern kingdom who inherited of Shechem's land. thus any passages in the scriptures that these biased teachers could manipulate was game for they purpose of bringing all Judeans back to their doctrine of supremacy over the gentiles, a doctrine forcefully fought in the New Testament as being contrary to the Abrahmic covenant of assimilation of all gentiles into Israel, the Army of the Most High God. the fact that Shechem entered into the covenant of oneness should therefore awaken in any person claiming salvation by grace that Shechem was saved by grace, out of love for Dinah. the Torah is very clear on what he stands for as far as honorability. as it is very clear on the unrighteousnes of the brothers, who ended up losing their birthrights as Jacob said: instrument of cruelty is in their habitation". the honest disposition of Shechem is in stark contrast with that of the brothers and that alone should be taken as a clue of the subject matter: the entry of the gentile into the covenant. Dinah's defilement was the only method by which the Almighty could have subjugated the ruler of the land, Shechem's family, to a newly comer who barely had a foothold on a local farm. the Torah's punishment for taking a woman's virginity is 50 shekels of silver and marriage for life. Shechem brought a lot more out of love and not duty. his entering the covenant fulfilled the promised that God made to the Patriarchs, to wit: the gentiles shall be blessed (enter the covenant) and the inheritance of the land of Canaan (as Shechem was bringing in). therefore the destruction of Shechem defiled the Order of Melchizedek that Israel was representing. and this curse lasted until today. before seeing the defilement as rape and vile, perhaps we should look at the long term consequence of the murder and looting Israel's sons committed: they broke all ten major commandments of deuteronomy 5 and committed the 7 capital sins, hardly a righteous outcome for a slight mistake by young teenagers which was promptly fixed.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a beautiful account of what could have happened to Dinah. Having read that book numerous times, I appreciated this article immensely.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant has little to do with the biblical story about Dina and whole things.

Even the Author calls it a work of fiction.

I am currently reading, "The Red Tent," and I'd have to disagree. It seems to me that Anita Diamant was quite familiar with the biblical story, kept true to it for the most part and simply brought it back to life...if you will.

The series of The Red Tent is on LIFE channel, a great story about love and conflict.

How to cite this page

. "Dinah: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 20 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/dinah-bible>.

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