The rape of Dinah – Jacob’s sons rescue their sister and slaughter the Shechemites (Genesis 34:1 – 34:31)
Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, left her city to see the “women of the land”. Shechem, son of Hamor and ruler of the area she was visiting, took Dinah and raped her. Afterward, he fell in love with Dinah. He said to his father, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
Jacob received word that his daughter had been “defiled”. His sons were in the fields tending the livestock so he waited for them to return before taking action. Meanwhile, Hamor went to talk to Jacob about the situation.
As soon as Jacob’s sons heard what had happened to their sister, they returned home. They were shocked and furious. Hamor told them:
“My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”
Then Shechem pleaded with them.
“Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make sure the price for the bride and the gift that I am to bring is as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”
Because their sister had been defiled by Shechem, Jacob’s sons lied telling Shechem and Hamor:
“We can’t do such a thing. We can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We could enter into an agreement with each other on one condition – that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Then we can become one people with you. If you cannot agree to this, then we will take our sister and go.”
“Won’t their livestock, their property, and all their other animals become ours? Let us agree to their terms and they will settle among us.”
All the men agreed and each male in the city was circumcised.
Three days later, while all the men in the city were still in pain, Simeon and Levi, took their swords and attacked the city killing every male including Shechem and Hamor. They took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.
Jacob’s sons looted the city, seizing their flocks, herds, donkeys, and everything else they owned. They carried off their wealth and their women and children.
Jacob said to Simeon and Levi,
“You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites who live in this land. We are few in number. If they join forces against me and attack me, my household will be destroyed.”
The sons replied,
“Should they have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
What the story means to us today
Actions with no plan, foresight, or consideration of consequences (when help is easily available)
The interactions and reactions between characters in this story are diverse. Shechem commits a horrifically violent act and ultimately dies as a result. Dinah is savagely violated and will be forever changed. Dinah’s brothers react with anger, committing an atrocious act of violence with potentially dire repercussions for their family. Meanwhile, Jacob remains oddly silent as the situation seemingly spins out of control. It’s easy to see that Jacob did not exercise his leadership authority. His failure to act on his influence allowed the situation to escalate.
Jacob may have chosen not to act because he was afraid or perhaps he did not know what to do. However, his inability (or hesitance) to formulate a plan of action reinforces the reactions of other participants in the story who seem to have acted without any attempt to formulate a plan whatsoever. Dinah ventures into a city where she has no right going. A prominent prince rapes the daughter of another respected leader. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons execute a plan with seemingly no foresight. Only after the events conclude does Jacob wrap everything up with a bow by pointing out the shortsightedness of their actions. At no point in the story does any participant pray for guidance before initiating their fateful courses of action.
When life presents obstacles or uncertainties, it often helps to stop and pray. Prayer focuses the mind and introduces the opportunity for faith to influence potential decisions we may undertake. When you pray, rather than asking God to effect an outcome in a specific way, instead, ask for guidance. Freely invite God to participate in your problems and influence your decisions and you will find your resolutions much more coherent, purposeful, and effective.
Additional thoughts and considerations
A variety of intertwined lessons
Some may blame Dinah for placing herself in a dangerous situation (by visiting the “daughters of the land”). Some may see that evil acts typically lead to untimely ends. Some may find that retribution precedes repercussions. Some may think Jacob’s uncaring response is an affront while others may recognize that Jacob is still growing in God. Ultimately, the story is a historical account of God’s people with a variety of lessons all tightly intertwined. Certainly, the reaction of Jacob’s sons was unacceptable but the choices and acts of all participants left something to be desired.
Dinah’s visit to the “daughters of the land” – who’s to blame?
It is unclear why Dinah chose to venture beyond the safety of her land to see the “daughters of the city”. The historian Josephus says she had gone into the city to attend a festival. Others believe, being an only daughter, she wanted to witness how other women behaved. The excursion should have been recognized as a dangerous journey which would place her in the presence of women not bound to God’s covenant. However, we must not forget that Dinah was a young girl at the time – likely only 13-15 years of age.
Many tend to blame victims such as Dinah for placing themselves in a dangerous situation. It’s all too common to blame the victim when their imprudent decisions result in undesirable outcomes. This is a dangerous mindset. Hurt, pain, and disappointment can easily be masked by blameful anger towards the victim. We must never fail to recognize that a victim ultimately becomes of victim because of someone else’s wrongful actions.
Was Simeon and Levi’s unusual counteroffer to Shechem a deception?
Was Simeon and Levi’s proposition to accept Shechem’s marriage proposal (if all his men were circumcised) a heartfelt offer or a scheme? Why did the sons condition the agreement on circumcision rather than conversion to their covenant-based faith?
It is possible that Jacob’s sons never expected Shechem would accept such an offer. The offer to combine their tribes would certainly run counter to God’s plan for Israel – the lands would be given to them by God, not obtained through barter by Man. When Shechem surprised them by accepting the offer, Jacob’s sons may have felt their only recourse for retrieving their sister was to kill Shechem and his men.
Regardless of Simeon and Levi’s true intent, they were deceptive. Thus far, the Bible has revealed Jacob’s dishonesty as an imitation of his father’s deeds. Now we see Jacob’s sons follow the same path by mirroring their father’s mendacious behavior.
Was Shechem’s agreement a ploy?
Shechem met the men of the city at the city’s gate (a common social hub in cities at the time) to submit Simeon and Levi’s proposal. As part of his pitch, Shechem tells the men that Jacob’s livestock and property “will become ours”. Whether this was an expression of greed or not is unclear. His statement may have been nothing more than a selling point. Or it may have been a ploy to steal Israel’s property…
Was Dinah raped or “defiled”?
The scriptures tell us that as event unwound, Dinah stayed with Shechem in the city. In fact, when Shechem and the men of the city were slaughtered by Jacob’s sons, the Bible says the sons “took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.” Why did Dinah stay behind after the assault? Was she captured by Shechem or did she choose to stay on her own?
The question leads some to wonder if Dinah was aggressively “raped” or merely defiled by a disgraceful act of premarital sex. The verses indicate she was sexually assaulted. However, customs differed greatly in those times. It is likely Dinah stayed until the “problem” was resolved by the families. Her “defilement” would have left her undesirable for marriage to others. Considering her situation, she may have recognized that she had nowhere else to go.
Jacob’s callous concern that Simeon and Levi’s attack would create new enemies
Jacob admonishes Simeon and Levi, suggesting their actions could cause Canaanites and Perizzites to take revenge upon Jacob and his people. This may suggest there was some sort of tribal confederation between Hamor and the Canaanites and Perizzites. If so, this paints Shechem (the city) as a “fairly cosmopolitan city made up of members of many people groups.” This may explain Dinah’s apparent curiosity which prompted her to venture dangerously into the city.
More importantly, notice the words behind Jacob’s admonishment. In his callous response, he does not mention Dinah’s pain nor the condition of the slaughtered families. Instead, he seems to only selfishly care how the attack can affect him and his wellbeing.
Simeon and Levi ultimately pay for their evil acts
Later in the scriptures, we will find Jacob on his deathbed distributing blessings to his children. Simeon and Levi however, are called out for “killing men in anger” and thus, are cursed by Jacob. Jacob allots them no property or territory for their tribes telling them,
“Cursed be their anger, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel!”
The science and history behind the story
Who were the Hivites?
The scriptures tell us that Hamor was a “Hivite”. Thus far, outside of biblical accounts, we know nothing of the Hivites. They are mentioned several times in the Bible and are often listed among the Canaanite nations. Beyond that, it is unclear who they were.
The price for a bride
A “price” for the bride is discussed amongst the participants. The Hebrew term “mohar” does not refer to a purchase price but rather a compensation offered to the wife’s father to counterbalance for the loss of his daughter (whose labor contributed greatly to the tribe). Compensation was a common practice in the Near East in any marriage contract. Of course, in this instance, it could also be considered a bribe encouraging Jacob to forget the attack on Dinah.
Dinah becomes a symbol for black womanhood
In 19th-century America, “Dinah” became a symbol for enslaved African women. Lizzie McCloud, a slave on a Tennessee plantation during the Civil War, recalled hearing Union soldiers calling for her when they arrived:
“We was so scared we run under the house and the Yankees called ‘Come out Dinah’ (didn’t call none of us anything but Dinah). They said ‘Dinah, we’re fightin’ to free you and get you out from under bondage’.”
The name Dinah was subsequently used for black dolls and other images of black women.
Notes on Biblical translation
“Son of Hamor” – an insult to donkeys?
The scriptures tell us that Shechem is a “son of Hamor”. Interestingly, Hamor means “donkey”. However, the name held a different meaning in Jacob’s day. In ancient times, the phrase “to kill a donkey” meant “to conclude a covenant” (presumably killing a donkey was a part of the covenant-making process). Likely, Hamor’s name derived from some sort of covenant event at his birth and was not meant as an insult.
Sexual relations or rape?
The question of whether the assault on Dinah was improper sexual relations (unacceptable by her culture) or rape is common. The story mentions the incident several times in different contexts. The first mention of the assault clearly describes it as an aggressive rape indicating “affliction” and “oppression”. Later mentions *add* that Dinah had been “defiled” or violated in a way that makes her future marriage prospects difficult.
Sister or daughter?
The original translation for the word describing Dinah’s familial relationship is “daughter”. When Hamor addressed Jacob’s sons, he called Dinah their daughter. Even when Jacob’s sons refer to her, they call her “daughter” rather than “sister”. Some believe customs of the day, in which men had multiple wives, called for brothers to take a fatherlier role with their sisters. This is a stylistic difference in ancient languages which can make the texts sound awkward to modern-day readers. As a result, some translations use the word “sister” for clarity.
You have made me “obnoxious”
Jacob tells Simeon and Levi that their actions brought trouble and made him “obnoxious” to the Canaanites and Perizzites. The original word used for “obnoxious” means “to cause a foul smell”. The context is similar to our modern-day phrase for a bad situation that “stinks”.
34 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. 3 His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”
5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.
6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.
8 But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 9 Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”
11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”
13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.”
18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”
24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.
25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.
30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”
31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
1–4 34 One day Dinah, the daughter Leah had given Jacob, went to visit some of the women in that country. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite who was chieftain there, saw her and raped her. Then he felt a strong attraction to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, fell in love with her, and wooed her. Shechem went to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl for my wife.”
5–7 Jacob heard that Shechem had raped his daughter Dinah, but his sons were out in the fields with the livestock so he didn’t say anything until they got home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, went to Jacob to work out marriage arrangements. Meanwhile Jacob’s sons on their way back from the fields heard what had happened. They were outraged, explosive with anger. Shechem’s rape of Jacob’s daughter was intolerable in Israel and not to be put up with.
8–10 Hamor spoke with Jacob and his sons, “My son Shechem is head over heels in love with your daughter—give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us. Give your daughters to us and we’ll give our daughters to you. Live together with us as one family. Settle down among us and make yourselves at home. Prosper among us.”
11–12 Shechem then spoke for himself, addressing Dinah’s father and brothers: “Please, say yes. I’ll pay anything. Set the bridal price as high as you will—the sky’s the limit! Only give me this girl for my wife.”
13–17 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father with cunning. Their sister, after all, had been raped. They said, “This is impossible. We could never give our sister to a man who was uncircumcised. Why, we’d be disgraced. The only condition on which we can talk business is if all your men become circumcised like us. Then we will freely exchange daughters in marriage and make ourselves at home among you and become one big, happy family. But if this is not an acceptable condition, we will take our sister and leave.”
18 That seemed fair enough to Hamor and his son Shechem.
19 The young man was so smitten with Jacob’s daughter that he proceeded to do what had been asked. He was also the most admired son in his father’s family.
20–23 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the public square and spoke to the town council: “These men like us; they are our friends. Let them settle down here and make themselves at home; there’s plenty of room in the country for them. And, just think, we can even exchange our daughters in marriage. But these men will only accept our invitation to live with us and become one big family on one condition, that all our males become circumcised just as they themselves are. This is a very good deal for us—these people are very wealthy with great herds of livestock and we’re going to get our hands on it. So let’s do what they ask and have them settle down with us.”
24 Everyone who was anyone in the city agreed with Hamor and his son, Shechem; every male was circumcised.
25–29 Three days after the circumcision, while all the men were still very sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each with his sword in hand, walked into the city as if they owned the place and murdered every man there. They also killed Hamor and his son Shechem, rescued Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. When the rest of Jacob’s sons came on the scene of slaughter, they looted the entire city in retaliation for Dinah’s rape. Flocks, herds, donkeys, belongings—everything, whether in the city or the fields—they took. And then they took all the wives and children captive and ransacked their homes for anything valuable.
30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here, these Canaanites and Perizzites. 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.”
31 They said, “Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.
The NET Bible
34:1 Now Dinah, Leah’s daughter whom she bore to Jacob, went to meet the young women of the land. 34:2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who ruled that area, saw her, he grabbed her, forced himself on her, and sexually assaulted her. 34:3 Then he became very attached to Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He fell in love with the young woman and spoke romantically to her. 34:4 Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Acquire this young girl as my wife.” 34:5 When Jacob heard that Shechem had violated his daughter Dinah, his sons were with the livestock in the field. So Jacob remained silent until they came in.
34:6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went to speak with Jacob about Dinah. 34:7 Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the field when they heard the news. They were offended and very angry because Shechem had disgraced Israel by sexually assaulting Jacob’s daughter, a crime that should not be committed.
34:8 But Hamor made this appeal to them: “My son Shechem is in love with your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 34:9 Intermarry with us. Let us marry your daughters, and take our daughters as wives for yourselves. 34:10 You may live among us, and the land will be open to you. Live in it, travel freely in it, and acquire property in it.”
34:11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your sight, and whatever you require of me I’ll give. 34:12 You can make the bride price and the gift I must bring very expensive, and I’ll give whatever you ask of me. Just give me the young woman as my wife!”
34:13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully when they spoke because Shechem had violated their sister Dinah. 34:14 They said to them, “We cannot give our sister to a man who is not circumcised, for it would be a disgrace to us. 34:15 We will give you our consent on this one condition: You must become like us by circumcising all your males. 34:16 Then we will give you our daughters to marry, and we will take your daughters as wives for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 34:17 But if you do not agree to our terms by being circumcised, then we will take our sister and depart.”
34:18 Their offer pleased Hamor and his son Shechem. 34:19 The young man did not delay in doing what they asked because he wanted Jacob’s daughter Dinah badly. (Now he was more important than anyone in his father’s household.) 34:20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, 34:21 “These men are at peace with us. So let them live in the land and travel freely in it, for the land is wide enough for them. We will take their daughters for wives, and we will give them our daughters to marry. 34:22 Only on this one condition will these men consent to live with us and become one people: They demand that every male among us be circumcised just as they are circumcised. 34:23 If we do so, won’t their livestock, their property, and all their animals become ours? So let’s consent to their demand, so they will live among us.”
34:24 All the men who assembled at the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem. Every male who assembled at the city gate was circumcised. 34:25 In three days, when they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and went to the unsuspecting city and slaughtered every male. 34:26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and left. 34:27 Jacob’s sons killed them and looted the city because their sister had been violated. 34:28 They took their flocks, herds, and donkeys, as well as everything in the city and in the surrounding fields. 34:29 They captured as plunder all their wealth, all their little ones, and their wives, including everything in the houses.
34:30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought ruin on me by making me a foul odor among the inhabitants of the land—among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. I am few in number; they will join forces against me and attack me, and both I and my family will be destroyed!” 34:31 But Simeon and Levi replied, “Should he treat our sister like a common prostitute?”
Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.
King James Version
34 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. 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. 9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 10 And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. 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. 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. 13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: 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: 15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; 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. 17 But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. 18 And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son. 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. 20 And Hamor and Shechem his son came unto the gate of their city, and communed with the men of their city, saying, 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. 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. 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. 24 And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. 25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 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. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 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, 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. 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. 31 And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.