Her father, Jacob, had twelve sons through his marriages to Leah and rachel and their respective handmaidens, but Dinah was his only daughter. Jacob's girl was naturally inquisitive, so when her friends set off to attend a festival of nature, she went with them. Prince Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hevite (a local king), spotted her and lusted after her. Genesis 34:2–4 states that “…he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel. And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor, saying, Get me this damsel to wife.” As you can see, the word “rape” is not used, but the writer of Genesis does not include the testimony of Dinah as to whether or not it was consensual. The key word may be “defiled.”

Shechem went to his father and asked his help in securing the girl for his wife. But before Hamor could make an overture to Jacob on his son's behalf, Jacob heard about what had happened to his daughter. He stayed silent and waited for his sons to return from the fields where they had been taking care of the cattle.

King Hamor then appeared at Jacob's house to ask Jacob's permission for Shechem to marry Dinah, making an earnest plea.

…The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein. (Genesis 34:8–10)

Shechem, so desperate to have Dinah as a wife, also made a monetary offer to Jacob and his sons of a dowry fee, in whatever amount they wanted. According to custom, even if Jacob were to refuse, he could still keep the money. Jacob may have deliberated a moment too long, because his sons answered deceitfully for him. They told Shechem and his father that they would gladly take the money, but they had a custom that their sister could only be given to a circumcised male. Further, the Hebrew women could not intermarry with the men of Hamor's kingdom unless all his men were circumcised. To this, Shechem and Hamor agreed.

Dinah must have gone with Shechem to stay in his house as his guest (Genesis 34:17, 26). Three days after the mass circumcision, while Hamor's men were still in some pain, Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, armed with swords, massacred all the newly circumcised men, including the king and Shechem. They took Dinah out of Shechem's house and returned to Jacob. But Jacob was not happy, and the boys found they now had to defend their actions to their father.

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. And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot? (Genesis 34:30'31)

Some biblical scholars assert that the revenge of the brothers of Dinah upon the men of Shechem's community was the inciting incident used by the Hebrews to lay claim to the territory. The midrashic literature elaborates on the story by suggesting that the boys, Simeon and Levi, were just teenagers with a highly developed sense of morality, and zealous in their demonstration of it. The aging patriarch Jacob ensures that they will not be able to do such a thing again by reducing their portions of inherited tribal lands.

  1. Home
  2. Women of the Bible
  3. Women Who Tasted Bitterness
  4. Dinah
Visit other About.com sites: