“Dinah was so beautiful that she was hidden in a box and was carried by Jacob’s servants lest Esau see and wish to marry her,” reads a Jewish story. Dinah was just a curious teenager when Jacob’s family settled in Shechem. As the only daughter of Jacob and the only sister of her eleven brothers, she must have been doted on by the family. One day she thought of going out for a “city watch.” She just wanted to see the women of Shechem (Genesis 34:1). May be she wanted to see how the native girls in Shechem looked like, what they wore, their fashions, how they danced and sang etc. Probably she went on a festival day when all the women of the area came together. But, to go out to see others also means to be seen by others. Unfortunately, she was seen by a potential rapist, Shechem, whose name was same as that of the city. He was a prince, but slave of his lust too. He took her home and raped her.
Surprisingly, Shechem does not act as a typical rapist. He does not hate her or throw her away after abusing her. Quite contrary, he loves her passionately and deeply longs to marry her. He talks the matter with his father Hamor. Together they plead to Jacob and his sons to give Dinah in marriage to Shechem. They also offered to give Jacob and his sons anything as dowry or marriage gift. Interestingly, what the Canaanite Hamor and his son Shechem propose is in line with the Israelite law. Exodus 22:16 reads, “When a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married, and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife.”
However, the brothers of Dinah forwards a strange suggestion. They insisted that all men in Shechem should receive circumcision. The readers of the story has the first impression that Jacob’s sons are very religious and zealous in observing the stipulations of the covenant and keen on bringing other people to the faith in Yahweh. However, later events will reveal that they were wearing a mask of religion in order to deceive the unsuspecting Shechemites. The people of Shechem, on the other hand, readily agreed to accept the religious practice of Israel thinking that it will make them rich and powerful. Thus both the parties are abusing religion for their vested interests.
To the utmost horror of the readers of the story Simeon and Levi, the direct brothers of Dinah, attacked and killed all men of the city, including Shechem and Hamor, while they were recuperating from the rite of circumcision. All other brothers cooperated and plundered the houses, farms and fields of Shechemites, and captured the women and children. To avenge the rape of their sister they punished the entire people. The revenge, needless to say, was unjust and out of all proportion. Once again, the people of God became a channel of destruction than blessing for the gentiles.
It is true that Jacob’s family was offended and humiliated by the rape of Dinah. But, once something bad happens the next step is to remedy it by resorting to legal steps. However, the brothers of Dinah ignored the legal procedures and take recourse to brutal murder and looting. Thus they turned the situation from bad to worse. They failed to bring something good from the suffering of their sister. In their rage they did not even consider her opinion, feelings and emotions. They were so much preoccupied with what happened in the past that they became blind to the future.
Dinah’s fate reminds us of many teenagers who stray day and night in the cyberspace just out of curiosity to see the people around, to chat with some, and to know how everything in this charming space is. They forget that they are watched and targeted by potential vampires who are experts in tactics and techniques to trap them. Once these innocent girls fall prey to the evil machinations of their predators, it destroys their life and their family. Very often, just like Dinah’s brothers, the parents and siblings of the victims attempt to take revenge by violent means, thus totally destabilizing their families. It needs immense understanding and prudence to take effective and sensible measures that prevent our youth from going astray. It takes still more wisdom to recapture life when it is struck by shock and shame.