This blog is about women, to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. Today we study a woman who carried a stigma, apparently having been robbed of all chances for happiness since her teen life. Someone else recorded her story. Dinah, a teenager of a very wealthy family, was caught in the evil of lust, rape, anger, deception, greed, murder, and family conflict. There was no record of how Dinah felt about her situation. I have pieced together a more complete story for my readers to ponder upon. What is the purpose? The apostle Paul says, “These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12) I believe many women want to know why such a tragedy could occur. We live in a similarly perilous time today. We want to let our daughters speak and hear them carefully before it is too late.
Who is Dinah? (Genesis 30:21, and chapter 34) The only daughter born of Jacob and Leah. She has six older brothers from the same parents. Her father Jacob angered his brother Esau, and fled to his uncle’s place for refuge at the age of 77. He worked for Laban for twenty years before he could return to his parents’ home in Canaan. He married Leah and Rachel at the age of 84. Leah gave birth to six boys before she had Dinah. (Genesis 30:21) Dinah was born when Jacob was 90 years old. Dinah would be at the most seven years old when Jacob took his family back to Canaan.
Dinah’s life was scantily recorded in the Bible, but we do get to read a significant, rather tragic event that she encountered. The family had ten boys (four of whom were born of two maidservants) before Dinah was born. Soon after her birth, Jacob’s second wife Rachel gave birth to a boy, Joseph. After Jacob brought his family back to Canaan, he first dwelled at Succoth, and later, settled at Shechem, where he probably lived for eight years. After Dinah’s tragedy at Shechem, the family moved to Hebron, the home of Abraham and Isaac (the grandfather and father of Jacob).
What was Dinah’s tragedy? Briefly, she was around sixteen at that time. One day she went to visit the Canaanite young women. The local chief’s son, Shechem, saw her, seized her and raped her. After that she was kept there. Her father and brothers heard about the incident. Shechem and his father tried to negotiate a marriage deal, in fact a commercial transaction motivated by greed because Jacob was a very rich man, as of the custom of that time. Jacob’s sons responded in anger and deception, by getting the two and all their male subjects to agree to circumcision. On the third day when all the men were still sore, Simeon and Levi (in their early twenties) killed all the males and took their sister Dinah back to Jacob’s camp. That was the end of Dinah’s story. The Bible recorded that later during the famine, when her father took their family to Egypt, Dinah was also with them (Genesis 46:15). She was 45 year old by then. She was still living with her own parents. Whilst there were records of her brothers’ descendants there was none for her. It appeared she remained unmarried and childless.
The key persons involved on the side of Jacob and family. What did they do right or wrong? How and Why?
Family Religion and Spiritual Belief: Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, a man called by God to start a new nation of a people of God and they are to bless the whole world by their adherence to God’s way on earth. Abraham had to leave his father’s idolatry religious practice. Abraham had a relationship with God and taught his family members about God, and the moral (holiness) standards God required of them, as a people separated for God. Jacob learned all these from young from his parents. Isaac and Rebecca made sure that Jacob marry a woman from his own people (back home). Abraham lived until Jacob was fifteen years old. So Jacob would have been taught by Abraham as well about the way of God. Jacob had married a devout woman, Leah, who left idolatry and followed Jacob’s God. They would have taught the children and practiced this Abrahamic religion too.
The Canaanite religion, values and customs: The Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites were described as immoral and abominable in the eyes of God —e.g. their practicing of idolatry, immorality, like bestiality, incest, and sacrificing children to the gods, low regard for human lives, encouraging promiscuity, murder, and anything that promote material, physical gratification and human pleasure, were damaging to children. They ignored the highest values in the family and the community: love, loyalty, purity, peace and security. Girls and women were mere commodities for commercial transactions.
The sons of Jacob: Simeon and Levi. These two were older than Dinah by five or six years. So they were teenagers when they followed Jacob back to Canaan. When they took vengeance for their sister, they were young adults of 21-22 years old. Whilst they have grown up among the locals in both Haran and Canaan, being of a large family of boys, they were able to have their work and leisure activities together and be a close support for each other within their clan. However, when the children were young and susceptible to outside influences, Jacob chose to stay at Shechem for eight years instead of going back to Hebron, where his father Isaac had settled. So his sons actually missed out being taught by Isaac while they were growing up.
Dinah was the only girl and the second youngest of her siblings with the same parents. She grew up in Canaan, with only her mother, Leah, aunt Rachel, and the two maidservants whom Isaac married, as her role models and social support. Leah, the strong godly woman who managed a big household was fully occupied. There is no record that Dinah was forbidden from making friends with the local Canaanite girls and women. She seemed to have considerable freedom and was allowed to go out of her father’s camp freely. While the brothers were all working in the fields, Dinah was free to roam about, visit friends, and choose her own childhood and teenage companions.
Dinah’s Predicament: She was eligible to be married as soon as she was able to bear children. In ancient times, girls were expected to be virgins when they got married—and according to Deuteronomy 22:21, could even be put to death if they were found not to be—men were allowed to marry multiple women. The local Canaanite promiscuous immoral custom and values were damaging to a young girl like her. She was inadvertently caught in the evil of lust, rape, anger, deception, greed, murder, and family conflict. Was it her fault? Was it her parents’ fault?
Inter-Marriage with Outsiders Prohibited by God: Jacob and family were following Abraham’s God-fearing teaching. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob set the marriage example. Any proposal of intermarriage between Dinah, a Jewish young woman, with an idolatry Canaanite was prohibited. In those days, as soon as a girl reached her puberty she would be eligible to be married off. So, why did Jacob and Leah not marry off Dinah to a suitable man within Abraham’s clan? There was no answer. The Canaanite Shechem was allowed to marry multiple women and he lusted for Dinah. Dinah would have been just one of the many concubines if Jacob had consented to a marriage between them, assuming that Shechem had proposed before taking her by force. He could have been stalking her and thus was able to seize her when she went outside her father’s camp. There was no record that Jacob had ever contemplated or consented to go against what Abraham and Isaac had taught him about God or not caring about Dinah at all as his God-given daughter.
Parenting Issue: Knowing the local abominable custom and the vulnerability of Dinah, their only daughter, Jacob and Leah did not take appropriate preventive and protective measure. Why? It does not make sense that the godly couple allowed their precious daughter to go outside the camp to mix with the local girls who lived by a permissive culture, while knowing that the men out there practiced immorality and religious belief with no esteem for human lives, which would put her virginity and even her life in danger. Were they practicing laissez faire where their daughter was concerned? Were their sons not concerned when they noticed this double standard on the part of their parents? Was Dinah a spoilt brat? Many questions demand answers.
What happened to Dinah after that? there was no record of how Dinah spent her remaining life after sixteen. The fact that she followed her father and elder brothers and their families to Egypt during the famine would indicate that she remained unmarried at the age of 45. Jacob was a very rich man and Dinah would have had a comfortable life at her parents’ home. Her brothers who honored their parents would have treated her well, as their little sister. Her name Dinah means Judge, Judgment, derived from the verb to judge or govern. Was she transformed to become a woman who was wise and gifted to counsel and act as a judge among other younger women to help them to make the right decisions about the important things in their lives? The male equivalent name is Daniel and it means: God is my judge. In a way, Dinah can claim that too. No one can judge her. God is her judge.
Genesis 46:15 These were the sons of Leah and Jacob who were born in Paddan-aram, in addition to their daughter, Dinah. The number of Jacob’s descendants (male and female) through Leah was thirty-three. (Jacob and descendants, including Dinah, went to Egypt together as one big family/clan.)
Notes for further thoughts: What Dinah went through is not an ancient one-off case. It is about young girls being neglected and abused, throughout history, by a system of the society and the prevailing culture they are raised and live in. It still happens today, to Christians and non-Christians. What are Christians going to do about it? For example, when did the modern world first treat premarital sex, and adultery as norm? When did the modern world first glorify and reward richly those producers/entertainer influencers who produced and acted such roles in front of the whole world’s audience? There are countless questions to be asked and answered. Instead of the question of “when”, I believe the more pertinent question is “why”. Why are there many people who support such counter-values against the human race? Women occupy 50% of the human race. Why are 50% of the human race being silently canceled through degradation and depravity?