In the United States, October is acknowledged as Domestic Awareness month. Interestingly, awareness and action are two distinctly different perspectives. As women who often live with domestic violence circumstances, we are deeply aware of their obvious differences. We can be “aware” of a circumstance; but, simply ignore, deny, or be prevented from making the action to change the situation. We can participate by simply talking about the circumstance, or we can choose to stop talking and act. So while awareness has merit, action after awareness is the ultimate goal for anyone who chooses or is enabled/empowered to make a difference through positive, active change. Systemic change becomes the goal to stop the violence against women and children in the United States and around the globe.
One of the most disturbing issues of domestic violence is the crime of rape against women which is now and has always been a global terroristic predicament. In America (only), here are some of rape’s disturbing consequences:
A woman’s chance of being raped in the U.S: 1 in 5
Ranking of U.S.in the world for rape: 13th
A woman’s chance of being raped in college: 1 in 4
Percentage of rapists never incarcerated: 97%
Chances of a Native American woman in the U.S. raped: 1 in 3
Percentage of rapes not reported: 54 percent
(Huffington Post – The Blog – 12/8/2014)
Scripture states in the book of Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The crime of rape is as old as the biblical corpus. The story of Dinah, the voiceless victim of rape, is found in Genesis and is the first story of rape in Scripture. While this story is ancient in its presentation, the elements and questions of consent, retaliation, violence, perspective, blame, shame, anger, victimization, and more, remind us of the complex, murky, and unresolved conditions of a crime that primarily presents itself as a pervasive issue affecting women and girls around the world. Tragically, as the statistics above suggest, the United States, with the 13th highest rate of rape in the world, against female citizens, provides very little protection for women and girls who continue to suffer from this heinous and insidious act of violence in our own country.
As women who are empowered to act against injustice instead of minimizing, rationalizing or ignoring this problem, we can use scripture to assist us in confronting this issue that affects 1 out of 5 of our sisters in America. The story of Dinah, read from a womanist’s hermeneutic (lens) provides us with the opportunity to unpack this issue and move us towards solutions and assistance for those of us who are affected by this crime, as well as those of us who desire to assist in healing and prevention of this act against our humanity.
And Now, THE WORD from our Sponsor……………………………………………………………..
(Genesis 34 – NASB)
“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force. He was deeply attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.
So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor saying, “Get me this young girl for a wife.” Now Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter; but his sons were with his livestock in the field, so Jacob kept silent until they came in. Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him. Now the sons of Jacob came in from the field when they heard it; and the men were grieved, and they were very angry because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.”
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – – Issue 1. Dinah is distinguished in the tribe of Jacob (12 sons), as the only daughter. It is unusual for the birth of a daughter to be recorded in the genealogies of the bible, but we see in Genesis 30:21, that Dinah is mentioned amongst her brothers. Dinah (whose name means law or judgment) is first mentioned as “the daughter of Leah,” as if to remind us of Jacob’s preference for his beloved Rachel – the second wife of the patriarch. Dinah is the full sister of Simeon and Levi, the primary actors against Shechem/Hamor in the story.
The only action attributed to Dinah in the story is in the first sentence: (“Dinah….went out to visit the daughters of the land”).
Dinah makes the questionable choice to leave her family and move through the territory alone.
FACT: The great Western theologian John Calvin decided Dinah was to blame for her own rape because she made the unfortunate choice of leaving her family and going out solo. In his own words, “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 dictates itself.” In other words John Calvin implies, “she asked for it?”
Our first question: What are some of your reactions to the first part of Dinah’s story? How does Dinah’s choice connect with the contemporary blaming/shaming of rape victims?
HISTORICAL CONTEXT- Issue 2. – “The Splitting of Hairs” – In question from contemporary biblical scholarship, is whether Dinah was raped or not. In verse 2, (“he took her and lay with her by force”) the Hebrew word “innah” can be translated several different ways. It can mean violate or rape. It can mean debase or humiliate (Genesis 16:6). Since Dinah’s voice never enters the text, there is real confusion as to what the meaning of the word suggests because Dinah’s side is never told. Additionally, we are dealing with modern historical-cultural context, where the emotional and psychological implications of contemporary culture are not considerations in the ancient world to which this story applies. There is even a portion of biblical scholarship which suggests Dinah consented to Shechem’s advances since the expression “he took hold of her” is used to describe rape in Deuteronomy 22:25, as well as in the story of Tamar/Amnon in 2 Samuel:13-14, but is not used here. (The Torah – A Women’s Commentary, pg. 191-192; Genesis 34 – and how Israel should interact with foreigners, pg. 7)
As we discovered in our discussion of Womanist theology, we are given permission within this method to reframe the women’s narratives of Scripture by reclaiming/empowering the woman’s voice in the biblical narrative. Since Dinah’s voice is completely silenced in her own story, (we never learn her side of the story) we have permission to look at the text and reclaim Dinah’s voice, despite the splitting of hairs regarding the etymology of the words and verses found in the narrative. Question: Using the context clues of the first part of the narrative, how would you translate verse 2? (Include the sentence – “He loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.”) What is happening here?
“Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor the father of Shechem went to Jacob to speak with him, just as the sons of Jacob came in the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.”
But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it. Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.”
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – Issue 3. At this junction in the text, we realize the narrative can be read allegorically. If we consider an allegorical read, Dinah becomes the virtue of Israel violated by a foreign entity. Shechem in this context is the Canaanite presence which is a forbidden union for Israel in the future of the patriarchs and their lineage. Intermarriage becomes a religious taboo for Israel and the consequences here are obvious: chaos, violence, and collapse of God’s community. The word “defiled” can be translated as impure or polluted, which has dire and lasting consequences for Dinah, as the victim of the story, if we reject the allegorical read of the text.
“The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you; that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.” Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. And the young man did not delay to do the thing because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, “These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people; that every male among us be circumcised like they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – Issue 4. Dinah’s voice is completely and finally silenced, as Dinah becomes the equivalent of possessions – livestock, property, and animals. As men determine her fate, she remains in the house of Shechem, as a pawn until her brothers act out of self-interest to dupe Shechem, Hamor, and the Hivites. The generational curse of deception continues, as Simeon, Levi, and the aggregation of Dinah’s brothers devise a plan to “rape” the Hivites, as a consequence of Shechem’s behavior towards their sister. With mixed motives, they use Dinah’s humiliation for their own gain, seizing the opportunity to plunder the Hivites after convincing them to circumcise themselves to connect to Dinah’s brothers false assurance to become one people.
“On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in their houses, they captured and made their prey. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”
HISTORICAL CONTEXT – Issue 5. Ultimately, for Dinah, her brothers treated her as an object, as did Shechem. Jacob, her father, who tore his garment and cried bitterly when he was told of Joseph’s supposed death, displayed no emotion at all when told about his daughter’s tragic circumstance. When the brothers take her from Shechem’s house and kill him, they essentially kill Dinah’s future. In an “odious” confliction, Dinah would have probably faired better with her captor/rapist than going back to her father’s house, since she returns as a defiled, impure, polluted woman who no man would marry.
Dr. Renita Weems, in her book, “Battered Love,” provides an understanding of the cultural context we are to consider in the story of Dinah. “Virtually every culture has its own set of ideas about what is appropriate behavior for a man and what is appropriate behavior for a woman. In ancient Hebrew culture, in particular, what it meant to be a man was to protect sexual purity of the women in the household…..Women’s sexuality was expected to be firmly in the hands of men. Male status and prestige rose and fell according to a man’s ability to control the sexual activities of women in his household. Honor, which evidently only men were capable of having, was accorded only to men who were able to defend their family. (Battered Love, pg. 43)
So, Dinah’s story, while ancient in its presentation, connects to the contemporary experiences of women who have suffered rape. The American judicial system often makes the victim, “the whore,” by dragging the victim through the mud, questioning her morality, reputation, motive, and right to be heard.
Question: How can we reclaim Dinah’s voice for her? Where is the hope in this story?
Ultimately, Dinah’s story must compel us to look at our own experiences and refuse to be silenced. The hope lies in restoring Dinah’s voice by utilizing our own. The hope lies in accepting our assignment to listen to our wounded sisters in love, instead of dismissive judgment. The hope lies in realizing this is a new day and we, as empowered women, are the guardians of our own sovereignty, empowerment, enlightenment, and determination to make certain we retain the rights we diligently fought for and won. Our hope is in knowing that we are created in the image of God and protecting this divine right is our assignment and our calling. We have an obligation to defend our rights and teach our daughters and our sons to respect humanity. We have a voice and we must use it for justice and for the voiceless. This is our mission and this is our hope.
“F.E.A.R has two meanings. Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything And Rise. The choice is Yours. – Zig Ziglar
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” Malala Yousafzai
“When God speaks, oftentimes His voice will call for an act of courage on our part.” Charles Stanley
Our Sending Prayer
Creator Spirit, God of goodness,
Give me Yourself, for You are sufficient for me.
If I were to ask anything less,
I should always be in want,
for in You alone do I have all.
As Your daughters created in Your image
We pray this prayer together in Your holy and righteous Name.
(excerpted from “The Pocket Book of Prayers – Julian of Norwich)
“The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters, LLC. They may be used by you with our permission, which may be revoked at any time. All copies of the materials must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright  Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters,™ and is distributed with permission.”
F.E.A.R. has two meanings – Forget EVERYTHING and run OR Face EVERYTHING and Rise – The choice is yours! This is a quotation from an American motivational speaker and author, Zig Ziglar.