Dinah, Jacob’s daughter goes out to meet the local women. Unfortunately for her, Shechem sees her and is so struck by her beauty that he rapes her. Shechem then goes and asks his father, Hamor, do get Dinah as his wife. Hamor visits Jacob, and explains that Shechem has his heart set on Dinah, and would Jacob hive her to Shechem as a wife? Hamor tries to sweeten the deal by asking Jacob to intermarry with their people, and to live amongst them. Shechem then begs Jacob, saying he will do whatever it takes, and pay any bridal price, just to have Dinah as his wife. Jacobs sons replied that if all of the males among Hamor circumcise themselves they will let Shechem marry Dinah is, and they will intermarry and integrate with their people. Hamor and Shechem succeed in getting all of them men in their town to be circumcised. Three days later, while all the men were still in pain, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi slaughtered all of the men, and took Dinah back from the house of Shechem. Jacobs other sons then sacked the town, taking livestock, wealth, women, and children, looting the whole place. Jacob gets mad at Simeon and Levi for causing trouble, but they reply “Should our sister be treated like a prostitute?”
I think the underlying message in this chapter is supposed to be that rape is bad. This is a good message, I can honestly agree with it. Rape is a horrible crime, and is never justifiable. From there though, I think this chapter just goes horribly wrong. Wrong to the point that my mind is literally spinning with a storm of thoughts that I will attempt to reign in and make coherent.
There is no attempt made to bring Shechem to justice. There is something clearly wrong with Shechem, he has no ability to control himself. It doesn’t even appear that Hamor sees his crime as a big deal. Instead, Hamor tries to satisfy his son, by trying to essentially purchase Dinah as a wife for Shechem. This is possibly one of the worst things that could be done. Here son, you say you love this girl, but you have most likely traumatized her for life, violated her body, and now you want her taken essentially as property. It is clear that neither Shechem nor Hamor care about Dinah, at all.
The response of Jacob and his sons is equally abhorrent. They seem to play this into a political deal, exchanging Dinah for integration. At what cost? Aside from Dinah herself, penile mutilation. Because if you want to integrate with some people, it’s important that all of your penises look the same, it’s a covenant with God after all. Except it doesn’t seem as though the significance of circumcision is explained to Hamor’s people. Thinking of it, who are all of these people who just go along with it?
Then Levi and Simeon go and murder all of the men. ALL do them. This is mass murder. On top of that, Jacobs other sons come and pillage, kidnapping the remaining women and children. Now this is presumably out of revenge and anger over the rape of Dinah, and the political moves that resulted from it. But this is in no way, ever, a justifiable reaction. The initial crime was committed by one man, Shechem, and he is the only one who should’ve punished. The rest of the men were innocent victims. I am not going to get into moral and just punishment here, because I know that there will be plenty of fertile ground for that argument in the future (I’m not completely ignorant of this book), but I think Levi and Simeons reaction was extreme, and resulted in the deaths of many innocent men.
The reason behind such extreme behavior? Jacobs sons felt as though Dinah was being treated like a prostitute. Was she? In one sense I suppose you could say she was. However, she definitely was not treated as what she actually was, a victim. Not once did I read in this chapter anyone actually caring about Dinah or her well being. Instead her family cared more about political moves and revenge. If her family had actually cared about her, they would not have sold her off to be married to the man who violated her.
How does Jacob deal with his sons behavior? Is he disgusted? Does he punish them? Nope. Instead he is worried that they have opened invitation for the Canaanites and the Perizzites to attack them, and that they do not have enough men to fend off an army. Are you kidding me? Your sons just committed mass murder, completely sacked and looted a town, and you see nothing wrong with this other than others might now attack you? This is bordering on absurd.
I am still appalled at this chapter, and am thankful that I live in a society that only claims to use these stories as their source for morality, instead of actually implementing them as such.
Lessons I Learned
- Politics and revenge are more important than a victims well-being
- Rape is less bad if you love the victim
- When a rapist wants to marry his victim, what’s most important is that he is circumcised.