Like all of the abuse allegations recently, the story of Dinah is ugly.

Dinah was the only daughter of Israel (Jacob). Ironically, her name means ‘the one who brings justice.’ It is the feminine version of the name Dan. Lady Justice. I say ironically, because Dinah’s story has little justice. She was kidnapped in broad daylight and nearly abandoned to the men who stole her. Because of the violence perpetrated on her, she was ruined. Her line was barren.

Dinah’s story (Genesis 34)

Newly settled in the land of Canaan, Dinah, who was the imminent matriarch of Abraham’s clan, made the rounds getting to know the women in the area. While she was out and about, Shechem, the local chief’s son, saw her. He wanted her. But instead of pursuing a marriage contract with her parents, he stole her. This was common in ancient times – bride capture. Both Dinah’s grandmother and great grandmother were captured to be brides and escaped unmolested and unharmed through Divine intervention. Where was God’s deliverance for Dinah?

Shechem stole Dinah, a woman from outside his tribe, and carried her home as plunder. He sexually assaulted her. This is where we get the modern day custom of carrying the bride over the threshold. It is a leftover and forgotten symbol of taking your woman home and declaring her “mine!”

The news traveled quickly to her father, but instead of immediately running to her rescue, he decided to wait until her brothers got home from work. He might have been thinking something along these lines, “I’m new to this land, and I don’t want to make waves here.” Or, “This must be the way they do things.” Boys will be boys. Jacob waited. In fact, Shechem’s father Hamor is the first to act. But instead of taking Dinah home and condemning his son, he sought to pacify his son, the perpetrator.

“My son can’t live without your daughter!” Hamor told Jacob. He offered to pay for Dinah. “I’ll even let your sons marry our women! And you can have some of our land. Our tribes can unite with the marriage of Shechem and Dinah.”

Surprisingly, Jacob didn’t answer one way or the other! Was he considering allowing his daughter to marry these barbarian wife thieves? Who would rescue Dinah? The local government was complicit! Jacob was silent. Who would bring justice for Lady Justice?

Teenagers. Teenagers rescued Dinah.

Moral outrage in the hands of youth is passionate, loud and often inappropriate. But, for Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi, the truth was clear. Dinah must be rescued. The perpetrator and those who were complicit in the crime must be punished. If the local government and her father wouldn’t protect her safety, then they would.

At the age of thirteen, Dinah’s two brothers knew they were at a disadvantage against the local strong arms protecting their sister’s abuser. And so, taking the lesson from their family history, they tricked Shechem into agreeing to circumcise his entire clan. When the pain from the crude surgery was at its worst, they attacked the camp. They plundered. They captured women and children. They killed the men. They brought their sister home.

Yes, it was literally overkill. They went too far in vengeance. Their character was scarred from their retribution (Genesis 49:5-7), but they had punished their sister’s abusers.

Jacob, thinking only about his reputation, condemned their action. “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here.”

Jacob, thinking only of his safety says, “If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”

The boys, who became men that day, replied.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

A timely lesson

The Jewish bar mitzvah is the ceremony celebrating the “coming of age” for boys. It marks the transition to personal responsibility at age 13. Ever wonder why the age is 13? Because that’s the age Simeon and Levi are calculated to be when they take up their swords to defend their sister. It signifies the ability to gauge right from wrong; to be held accountable for action … or inaction.

Dinah was delivered to safety, but she never had a family of her own. Sexual violence destroys women’s lives. I think Simeon and Levi’s words should help us point our moral compass better than Jacob’s.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

(re-written from a previous post on Nov. 20, 2011: A time to act or be silent? )

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s