For Week 3, we’re back to the Bible to investigate the life and tragedy of Dinah. Before this week, I’m pretty sure I had heard her name, but never really took a deep look at it. There is apparently a book and a movie called “The Red Tent” which is a fictional narrative based upon Genesis 34. None of this comes from there.
I’m not a Biblical scholar but I think we can assume the context is this – the male relatives of a family are responsible for the well-being of the female ones. We saw this with Esther and Mordecai. In this story, we’ll see that Dinah has some very “protective” brothers. In such a patriarchal setting, a woman’s virtue – her chastity, purity, virginity – can make or break her reputation.
Dinah is the daughter of Jacob and Leah. She is their only daughter. Two of her brothers, in particular, are noted to have bad tempers.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:7)
To prevent skewing what happened, let’s look at the facts straight from scripture, because it goes downhill pretty quickly.
1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her.
3 And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel.
4 And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.
5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter: now his sons were with his cattle in the field: and Jacob held his peace until they were come.
6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him.
7 And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter; which thing ought not to be done.
— Genesis 34:1-7
By this point, Shechem knows he’s DONE THE WRONG THING. And Jacob’s sons are upset. This leads to bargaining by Shechem and his father Hamor (Genesis 34: 10-13):
- Dwell with us in our lands
- Let’s set up trade
- Marry our daughters, so we can marry yours
- Ask any dowry and we’ll pay it
However, the damage has been done. A domino effect begins where Dinah’s brothers feel the need for revenge at all costs. They trick Shechem and Hamor into having their menfolk circumcised and a few days later, Jacob’s sons go and slaughter Shechem, Hamor, and their people.
Unfortunately, this leaves Jacob’s tribe open to retaliation.
I’m not praising or condemning Dinah with this post. The fact is that a sexual act occurred outside of marriage and led to all of this drama, heartache, and tragedy.
This is a lesson that virtue should be exercised by both women AND men. The loss of Dinah’s virginity in biblical times is an example of a loss of virtue.
But we must also note that Shechem and Dinah’s brothers did not show virtue in their actions either: Shechem, by Dinah’s “defilement,” and her brothers’ deceit toward their so-called treaty.
What I learned for my own life:
Virtue is not (1) for women only nor is it (2) a simple reflection of our sexual purity. Virtue is an all-encompassing characteristic that shows what type of moral character we are made of.
The story of Dinah is a warning that evil deeds lead to negative outcomes, no matter how much you beg, barter, or steal to try to make the situation right.
What we can do to resolve our situations is to repent, seek the Savior, and ask for forgiveness. In Dinah’s case, she was probably full of guilt and worry. The Atonement provides the comfort we need to know that the Savior has born this pain and can walk us through our trials in order to see happiness again.
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
— Psalms 24:4-5