Study Guide

Dinah in Book of Genesis


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.