The Story of Dinah: Her Rape and Her Silence

Dinah, the daughter of Jacob was the child of Leah, his first wife. Leah was forced on Jacob because she was still unmarried when he asked to marry Rachel, her younger, more attractive sister.

Dinah might have witnessed her mother’s loveless marriage and decided to avoid a similar fate. The text reports that she ventured out to seek female friendship, but what healthy young woman does not also wish to meet her friends’ brothers?

One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her.

— Genesis 34:1, 2
"Shechem seizes Dinah" - 17th century by Italian Anonymous (17th century).
"Shechem seizes Dinah" - 17th century by Italian Anonymous (17th century). | Source

It is either a brave, courageous act on her part to venture out in search of friendship; or an act of senseless rebellion to leave her father’s house without protection, to hang out with strangers.

Either way, Shechem had no right to violate her. He interrupted her social development and destroyed her dreams of becoming the woman she wanted to be.


Dinah's Silence

In the account of Dinah’s rape and revenge (Genesis 34), we do not hear one word from her. We wonder:

Did Shechem try to get her consent?

Did she aggravate him by her refusal?

Did she tell him to stop, or does it not matter?

After all, in the subsequent conversations between the men—her father, the rapist’s father and her brothers—violence against women is not the topic. They discuss the economic and political impact of the incident, whether or not it will impede mutual trade between the families. The brothers plan their revenge to redeem their family honor. Their unconcern about Dinah’s thoughts and feelings underscores the tragedy of her voicelessness.

Ita Sheres, Professor of Judaic Studies, writes in Dinah’s Rebellion: A Biblical Parable for Our Time, “Silence is a powerful tool within the Hebraic tradition because it stands out as one of the most dreadful things that can happen to an individual within the chosen community. Silence is the opposite of discourse and communication, and losing one’s voice is indeed losing one’s identity and sense of belonging. It is quite significant that Shechem has a clear voice in the episode.”


Shechem's Confession

Shechem spoke, not to apologize, but to confess love for Dinah. “He tried to win her affection with tender words. He said to his father, Hamor, “Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.” . . . Then Shechem himself spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. . . .“No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.” (3, 4; 11,12)

Shechem’s request was acceptable by Hebrew law. “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to anyone and has sex with her, he must pay the customary bride price and marry her.” (Exodus 22:16).

Sheres states: “It can be easily argued that Shechem’s attitude is not only the most humane (among the men) but also the most credible: how else could he have expected to live with Dinah, whom he raped, as his wife? Not only did he have to place her on some pedestal for his own recognition, but he had to treat her as a person of worth if she was to carry on his family.”

His hope soon vanished, as did he. Dinah’s brothers tricked the men of the city to be circumcised as a prerequisite for trading with the Hebrews; when the men were all sore, two of her brothers beat them and killed them including Shechem, and took Dinah home.

The entire city paid for Shechem’s crime. Still, we do not know whether Dinah consented or she was too embarrassed to speak.

"Dinah's Brothers Avenge Her Honor" by Matthaeus Merian the Elder (1625-1630)
"Dinah's Brothers Avenge Her Honor" by Matthaeus Merian the Elder (1625-1630) | Source

Her Father Breaks His Silence

According to the account, Jacob, her father had not spoken either. He had not expressed his displeasure or his sympathy for his daughter. However, aghast at the destruction of the Hivites, he said to his sons, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. . . I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!” (30)

Then the brothers finally brought the focus back to where it belonged, “But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” they retorted angrily. (31)

Finally, Dinah the daughter of Jacob found sympathy from the sons of Jacob, but Jacob still had not expressed his outrage at the rape.


Women's Voices Needed

We are not really surprised that we do not hear from Dinah’s mother. Her feelings and opinions, like Dinah’s are not a major part of the story. She did not even have a voice when she was forced to marry Jacob. That was the way men dehumanized women.

However in New Testament times, Jesus befriended and defended an adulterous woman. He was not about victimization of women.

According to the South Asia Daily, a recent survey reveals that India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the most dangerous countries for women. The violence against women includes human trafficking, female faticide, and genital mutilation. The United States has its share of more than 100,000 rapes per year. We may not be able to speak out for each Dinah, but we can sign a petition, or show support for those who are devoted to righting these female wrongs.

Dinah’s name means justice. Her story reminds us that no matter the culture or the times, justice is a God-given right for every woman. Women who read their Bibles owe it to Dinah to say something on her behalf, and on behalf of the honor of women everywhere.


© January 17, 2012 by Dora Isaac Weithers. Click MORE for other articles by MsDora.

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Comments 16 comments

kkuma01 profile image

kkuma01 4 years ago

Great Hub! We all should speak for all the Dinahs of yesterday and today.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for your affirmation, kkuma01. Let's speak whenever we have the opportunity.


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 4 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

MsDora: All scripture God places is His Holy Word is there for a purpose, and usually several lessons can be derived from the same scripture depending upon who is reading it, and what they might be seeking at that partiocular time.


Michele Travis profile image

Michele Travis 4 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

Great hub, too bad things like this are still happening today, many women even here in the United States are raped and never tell anyone.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Dave, you're right on. No argument from me! Thanks again for your insightful comment.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Michele, thanks for reading and leaving your comment. Hopefully, we can create an atmosphere of trust and comfort in our circles, so that our friends will be encouraged to talk, and other people can help their friends in a similar way.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, sadly this still happens today in England, women are to scared to come forward, I hadn't heard of this before, but the one thing I did realise was that Dinahs brothers stood up for her, which is something that rarely happened back then. it seems nothing seems to have changed much over the years, great hub, thanks nell


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Nell, I surely appreciate your comment. This happens in England and everywhere else. Hopefully, we can share our voices on behalf of the voiceless. Cheers to all the genuinely supportive brothers!


Eve 4 years ago

This story is included for several reasons, one of them being the focus of this article, to encourage women to speak out for one another. Thanks for the positive slant to this unfortunate incident.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks for your input, Eve. We can always learn from the circumstances in our lives and the lives of others.


callienicolaysen 3 years ago

Very interesting...I too have been raped. I have never been very vocal about my rape, mainly for fear of being judged as 'unladylike'. Rape here in the United States is getting common, and very few women are speaking up. There is a reason why women aren't speaking up, and I think I know who is responsible for that: Satan.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Callie, I am sorry about your tragic experience. I hope that you have spoken with someone who can help walk you through the healing process. And please speak up, when your voice will help someone else. We're here for each other. God bless you!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West Virginia

I had an experience and I just wrote about it here yet again. I linked your hub on my hub.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Debra, I've read your article. I commend you for your courage, and say a prayer for you, going forward. Thanks for reading and linking.


Joyfulcrown profile image

Joyfulcrown 23 months ago

Thank you for being a voice for justice for women. Our God is faithful and is a God of justice and mercy.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean Author

Joyful, you are a big encouragement. Thanks for your affirmation.

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