Genesis 34 – The Story of Dinah Continues as Hope for Dinah

In Genesis 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  In Genesis 2: 20 the scriptures say, “but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.”  The Hebrew phrase עזר כנגדו (ezer kenegedo) is a three-part word with a complex meaning.  The first is simply “helper”, second, more complex “like” and face to face,” third, “of him.” Otherwise”a helper like his opposite.” In my opinion this means that Eve was to be his “other half,” like him, but with the opposite attributes. “to make to be face to face,” and is always used to mean “to tell” in the sense of causing another to come face to face in order to tell them something. They were intended to work together and not be rudderless. (Benner 1999)

So, how does it go from Genesis 1-2 to Genesis 34 and the tragic tail of Dinah? Lets start from the premise that the writers of the bible wrote form a patriarchal perspective and translators wrote in a manner to hold onto the power structure they understood.

A short synopsis of Genesis 34 is that Dinah the only daughter of Jacob, is raped by Shechem the son of Hamor, who is the ruler of the country. Genesis 34: 2-3, “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.” (KJV)

When Jacob finds out he is grieved and waits for his sons to return from the fields. Shechem ask his Father to go to Jacob and ask if he can take Dinah to be his wife.  Hamor and Jacob and his sons agreed that Shechem can take Dinah to wife if every male of you be circumcised (essentially becoming Jewish). Hamor and Shechem agreed and after they all were circumcised and took Dinah to their home.  Simeon and Levi killed all the male including Hamor and Shechem and Brought Dinah home. To many this could be seen as, Dinah, representing women, and if women would stay in their proper place they would be protected from harm.

Nowhere in this account does it talk about how, Dinah or her mother, Leah, felt about any of this.  This is an example of Biblical Patriarch not only showing that men are the leaders, head of families, but also the subservient role of women.  One that causes and tolerates victimization. John Calvin, French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva, seems to confirm the patriarchal attitude and blame the victim, with this statement, “Dinah is ravished, because, having left her father’s house, she wandered about more freely than was proper.  She ought to have remained quietly at home, as both the Apostle teaches and nature itself dictates; for to girls the virtue is suitable, which the proverb applies to women, that they should be (oijkouroi,) or keepers of the house.” (Calvin 1536) This is further reinforced by JOSEPHUS, who said accordingly, “she (Dinah) had been attending a festival; but it is highly probable that she had been often and freely mixing in the society of the place and that she, being a simple, inexperienced, and vain young woman, had been flattered by the attentions of the ruler’s son. There must have been time and opportunities of acquaintance to produce the strong attachment that Shechem had for her.” (Robert Jamieson 1871).  This strong Patriarchal view has existed from the nearly the beginning of the Human existence.

As I have read from, Bielo, Enns, Kugel, Wimbush and Gomes, they all are challenging us to read the scriptures with new and questioning eyes. Gomes gives a strong and stern warning about the use of the Bible, “For the Bible to be seen as an instrument of control rather than as one of liberation is to do violence to the substance of the Bible.” (Gomes 2007 p. 43) With a patriarchal view that has existed for so long is there hope for the change? Gomes “The scandalous Gospel of Jesus,” was written in 2007, he focuses on the New testament Gospel of Jesus Christ, when he states, “When I remember that the literal translation of the term gospel is ‘good news.’” (Gomes 2007 p. 1) Gomes in this book to challenge and ask ourselves to go beyond and embrace the radical suggestions of the Bible, which is its “good news.”  Gomes sounds very similar to Peter Enns, “Depending, then, upon how one reads and interprets, either the Bible is a textbook for the status quo, or it is a recipe for social change and transformation.” (Gomes 2007 p. 12) Gomes, shows how the scriptures were used to separate Jewish from Christian, Catholic from Protestant, women as less than men, black less than white, etc… “The landscape of human history is littered with the debris of ideals sacrificed to the idol of the ideal, and the existential evidence, from the corruption of of ancient kings to the unsavory influence of contemporary fundamentalist fanatics.” (Gomes 2007 p. 35) Through the Gospel of good news, glad tidings, Jesus asks us to be His instrument of His full and complete transformational power.

Helga and Bob Edwards, created a website for the purpose of “SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS, EMPOWERING WOMEN IN CHRIST.” (Edwards 2019) I have attached a pod cast url of theirs, https://podtail.com/en/podcast/the-bible-message-without-patriarchy/genesis-34-the-rape-of-dinah-confronting-victim-bl/ , that discusses Genesis 34, its patrarchal view, and how we can confront, abuse and victim blaming. It is hard to image 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years ago for all the diversness of today to openly be able discuss such deep topics. Gomes points to Kennedy, a Catholic becoming President, Martin Luther King Jr’s march for ethnis equality, Women becoming preachers, priest and Bishops, and the LGTBQ movement of today.  One of my good friends and classmates from high school is the executive director of “Oneiowa” ( https://oneiowa.org/ ) an openly gay married man.  I know when I was in high school in 2003, that was not possible. All of this progress and change is certainly good new!

So, what is the good news about Genesis 34? It is that we can see it for what it is, text written by men, that did not yet have the, good news of Jesus Christ. Gomes in the chapter “An Inclusive Gospel,” ends it with, “If the Gospel is to truly good news, it has to be good news for everyone, for it is either an inclusive gospel or no gospel at all…In a world surrounded  on every hand by bad news, we turn now to the reasonable hope of the gospel, the good news toward which scripture, Jesus, and the Spirit all point.” (Gomes 2007 p. 217)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *