Study Guide

Dinah in Book of Genesis

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Woman on the Loose

Dinah's cautionary tale stands oddly alone right smack in the middle of the rest of the narratives about Jacob's family (34:1-31). Sometimes Dinah's story is read as a finger-wagging warning to women not to go wandering away from the home fires. But Dinah's legacy is also a giant graffiti scrawl by the Jacob clan that says, "See what happens when you mess with our women?"

Here's the gist:

While her family is staying for a time in the city of Shechem, Dinah goes out to make friends with the local women and is seized and raped by the prince (34:1-2). Post-attack, the prince falls in purported love with Dinah and decides he wants to marry her. According to Dinah's brothers it's too little too late (34:6-7).

The brothers convince all the men of the town to undergo circumcision so that the wedding bells can ring (34:14-17). But while these suckers are limping around, Dinah's brothers snatch back their sister and murder all the men (34:25), ignoring one-life-for-one-life law that was meant to curb all this Wild West vengeance (9:5-6). If in Genesis violence pollutes the earth, then this is a major oil spill.

Dinah gets behind the wheel of her life only briefly, stepping out to make a friend or two. Then her story is hijacked, the violence of men driving everything else that happens to her. If you're troubled by this pawn-like pattern for the women of Genesis, open up Phyllis Trible's Texts of Terror for a feminist counter-reading.

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