Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Genesis 34:1-12 Dinah

"Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land." (Genesis 34:1 NIV)

What's wrong with this picture?  It is understandable that Dinah would be interested in visiting with other women.  Shechem was an important Canaanite city, and would likely have many attractions for the young girl.  However, I am surprised that Jacob would have allowed her to go out unescorted, for there were dangers to a young girl on her own in a city such as this as well.

On a more spiritual level, Jacob's mother Rebekah and father Isaac had not wanted Jacob to pick a wife from among the inhabitants of Canaan.  (Genesis 27:46-28:2)  Why, then, would Jacob feel comfortable enough to allow his daughter to mingle with them in such a casual way, especially as she seems to be a young woman of marriageable age?  Also, Jacob must have been living fairly close to the Canaanites for her to be able to visit them in this way.

Predictably, there is trouble.  "When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her.  His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.  And Shechem said to his father Hamor, 'Get me this girl as my wife.' " (Genesis 34:2-4 NIV)  Hamor strikes me as the spoiled son of a powerful ruler, someone who is used to getting his own way, no matter what the cost to others.  His tender words do not excuse the fact that he has raped a young woman, even though now he is trying to 'fix' the situation by marrying her.

Somehow, word of this incident has filtered back to Jacob.  Hamor has not yet arrived to begin marriage negotiations, and Dinah is presumably being kept at Shechem's home.  Jacob kept quiet about the matter until his sons came back from caring for the livestock.  I can not imagine how he managed to do so, unless it is because he realized that by himself he was powerless to do anything until they arrived. (v.5)  Perhaps Jacob sent word for his sons to return home.

At any rate, it was not long before word spread to Dinah's brothers as well.  "Then Shechem's father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob.  Now Jacob's brothers had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened.  They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter -- a thing that should not be done." (Genesis 34:6-7 NIV)

Three different parts of that last sentence convey the awfulness of this deed:
  •   the "grief and fury" of the brothers,
  •  "a disgraceful thing in Israel"
  •  "a thing that should not be done".
The grief and fury of the brothers was understandable -- aside from the rage about her attack, Dinah could not be given to this man, nor was she now likely to be considered socially desirable for another man to marry.  Her life in that sense had been ruined.

"But Hamor said to them, "My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter.  Please give her to him as his wife.  Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves.  You can settle among us; the land is open to you.  Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it."  (Genesis 34:8-10 NIV)  Hamor tried to persuade Jacob and his sons that it would be to their advantage to settle among the Hivites.  Women, property, and riches from trade could be theirs.

Shechem adds his own pleas:  "...Let me find favor in your eyes and I will give you whatever you ask.  Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I'll pay whatever you ask me.  Only get me the girl as my wife." (Genesis 34:11-12 NIV)

Jacob and his sons find themselves in a horrible situation, made all the worse by Jacob's knowledge that if he had gone on to Bethel, or even to Esau in Seir, this incident would not have happened. 

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