In Genesis 34, a story is told of the “rape of Dinah”. The story can be briefly told as such. A local prince has sex with a daughter of Jacob. The prince wants to marry that daughter and comes to an agreement with Jacob to have all the men of the city circumcised. After the circumcision, the brothers enter the city with swords and kill all the men as revenge for their sister.
The first thing that must be noted is that this may not be a rape. The story starts:
Gen 34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
Gen 34:2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.
Shechem sees Dinah, Shechem takes Dinah, Shechem lays with Dinah, and Shechem violates Dinah. None of these verbs necessitate rape or that Dinah did not willingly take part in this activity.
Just about the same word pattern is used elsewhere for consensual sex:
Deu 22:28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Deu 22:29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.
This is contrasted to a rape, in which the man “forces” the woman:
Deu 22:25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die:
In Deuteronomy 22:29 “humble” is the same word as “violate” in Genesis 34. This word is used for consensual sex. We might hypothesize about the motives of the translators of Genesis. The translators seem to be trying to justify the subsequent slaughter rather than engage in consistent translation.
Genesis does not portray Shechem as a villain. In fact, he seems to be regarded highly:
Gen 34:3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman.
Gen 34:4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”
Shechem speaks kindly to Dinah. Shechem loves her. We are not told about any of Dinah’s feelings throughout the entire text. The entire text treats her as an object, rather than exploring her thoughts. We can assume that any young girl, especially one who has consensual sex with a young man, would be flattered by a prince seeking to marry her. But we are not told her feelings. One revealing fact is that Dinah is not returned to Israel after the initial incident. Usually a rape involves a solitary event, not a long term kidnapping. Dinah may have stayed with Shechem because she liked him. The story continues:
Gen 34:7 And the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.
The sons of Jacob hear that Shechem had sex with their sister. Their outrage seems to be due to the fact that Shechem had dishonored Israel. Shechem, however, is trying his best to reconcile himself to Jacob. His father, Hamor, calls for a meeting to discuss avenues under which Dinah could marry Shechem:
Gen 34:8 And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife.
Gen 34:9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you.
Gen 34:10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein.
Gen 34:11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.
Gen 34:12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.
Hamor and Shechem offer a very lucrative deal. Not only would the sons of Jacob be given wives, but trade would be established, land would be given, and the two small nations would form an alliance. Shechem follows it up with asking to be forgiven and offering a blank check for dowry. Jacob, in the text, seems very receptive (not an action one might take if a rape was involved). But Jacob’s sons want revenge:
Gen 34:13 But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.
Gen 34:14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:
Gen 34:15 But on this condition we will consent to you: If you will become as we are, if every male of you is circumcised,
Gen 34:16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
Gen 34:17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone.
This text represents the sons of Israel being able to take Dinah away at any moment. It seems Shechem would willingly let her go and that she was not a captive. The brothers, instead of doing this, plan to kill Shechem and Shechem’s men in order to curb any potential retaliation for the death of Shechem. It should be remembered, these were the same brothers would also planned to kill their brother Joseph only 3 chapters later. These are not righteous men.
Shechem and Hamor leave thinking they had come into great fortune:
Gen 34:18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son.
Gen 34:19 And the young man deferred not to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter: and he was more honourable than all the house of his father.
Gen 34:20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying,
Gen 34:21 These men are peaceable with us; therefore let them dwell in the land, and trade therein; for the land, behold, it is large enough for them; let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
Gen 34:22 Only herein will the men consent unto us for to dwell with us, to be one people, if every male among us be circumcised, as they are circumcised.
Gen 34:23 Shall not their cattle and their substance and every beast of theirs be ours? only let us consent unto them, and they will dwell with us.
The text, almost like narrator dictation, labels Shechem as the most honorable in his family. He meant well. He meant to marry Dinah. He meant to form a lasting alliance with Jacob. He meant to become one with Israel, to the extent he would circumcise himself. He showed real dedication. All his people follow suit. They seem to be extremely loyal to Shechem and follow his advice. But this results in every males’ death:
Gen 34:24 And all who went out of the gate of his city heeded Hamor and Shechem his son; every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
Gen 34:25 Now it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males.
Gen 34:26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.
Two brothers kill the entire city and then retrieve their sister. The other brothers follow up with pillage and slavery. Ironically, their actions are worse than the initiate action of Shechem, even if Shechem did rape Dinah:
Gen 34:27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister.
Gen 34:28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,
Gen 34:29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.
Jacob criticizes his sons, and fears for his life. In the next chapter Jacob flees to Bethel. The sons are unapologetic. As further evidence this was not a rape, they refer to their sister as a prostitute. They say: “Should Shechem deal with our sister as if she was a prostitute.” Prostitutes are not raped, but have sex for money. It seems highly likely that they saw their sister as eloping to be with a rich prince, rather than being raped:
Gen 34:30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
Gen 34:31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
I have never looked at this text in this way. Especially the translator bias turned the story around. Could it be that the text “and he violated her” just meant that he had rough sex with her? Your interpretation brings a total different perspective to the text, and it fits well in the context, as you have clearly shown. In my opinion, this is one of your best articles so far, Chris Fisher! :-)
Good articulation of the text and well done with exegetical framework. If Schechem would have married Dinah, the daughter of Jacob we could see rainbow community of Israel and schechemites.
It’s no doubt Simeon and Levi the original masterminds behind carrying out the executions of all the men of Schechem but all the other brothers (excluding those who were too young ones to act say-Joseph) participated in carrying out the massacres and plunders. These brothers were only handful of people and only in their teens so it’s beyond any doubt that unless and until they are supported by Jacob’s servants, kinsmen it’s beyond any questions that few hand full of boys are so strong and able one to loot an entire town ( no matter how small settlement it may be) and taking all the live stocks, properties and the women and children into captivity.
Jacob only reprimanded Simeon and Levi’s actions fearing reprisal from the neighborhood cities but not their grave immoral acts.
God helped the family move to Bethel safely but no doubt the captive women and young children were not left behind but forcefully taken along with them to serve as concubines and slaves for the rest of their lifetime.