Monday, October 31, 2005

What shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for? (Gen 34)

The SAB has nothing to say about chapter 33, and I don't think I do either. It's a pretty straightforward and nice reunion story of Jacob and his brother Esau. Chapter 34, however, has a lot of scandal in it that a lot could be said about.

This chapter is the story of Dinah, Jacob's only mentioned daughter. A short time after moving back to the promised land, Dinah gets taken away by Shechem, a member of a local royal family, and he has sex with her. The story doesn't seem to make it particualrly clear whether or not it's consensual sex; he may have kidnapped and raped her, or it may have been something more like eloping. Given the fact that women weren't treated with too much respect in those days, and Dinah's brothers don't seem to be angry at her specifically, I'd venture to guess that it wasn't consensual sex. Also, the wording of verses three and four seem to me to indicate that his desire to have any sort of long-term relationship with her came after the sex.

The two families get together and try to work out the terms of whether and how the two should be married. Jacob seems to be trying his best to be quiet and calm about it, but his sons are pretty ticked off. They insist that Shechem and all of his people (the Hivites, I guess?) have to be circumcised in order to be acceptable. While indeed, as the SAB says, this may be a case of intolerance against gentiles, it may also be that they're setting demands on Shechem that they don't expect him to be able to fulfill, so that when he says "No," they can have an excuse to say, "See? He doesn't really love her! Let's kill him!" At least, the overall story seems to point to this as a strong possibility.

But they agree, and do it! It almost sounds like that very same afternoon, the whole city goes out to the gate and undergoes this rather uncomfortable procedure. Now if circumcision was what the sons of Israel really wanted, then this should have been a happy ending right here, pretty much. Instead, a couple days later, when all these men are lying around in pain, and perhaps drunk (I probably would be!), Simeon and Levi come and kill them all. They take all their possessions, livestock, and women, and go back home, taking their sister with them.

Now, this sounds like a terrible thing, and in fact, the Bible does very little to dissuade someone of that. Jacob rebukes them, and they seem to not care at all, because their sister's honor was damaged. I'm not sure why the SAB claims, "To the author of Genesis, rape is clearly a crime against the honor of men rather than against a woman." It may indeed be so that this is the case for Simeon and Levi, and for the author of Genesis, but frankly, I don't see that it's "clearly" the case. I could see this going either way.

In any case, a lot of people here have failed to make the right moral decision, and the Bible does not condone any of what happens in this chapter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really think you are stretching to defend Simeon and Levi. They made a very clear agreement with Schechem which they (Simeon and Levi) broke in the most horrific way.

From this passage, Dinah seems not to have been bothered in the least by her tryst with Schechem which, to me, suggests it was consensual. The meaning of the word 'defiled' in this context is simply fornication outside of marriage, not rape.

Even though Jacob rebuked them, only out of concern for his own skin mind you, I see nowhere that God rebuked or punished their deceitfulness and treachery. By not punishing that treachery, God apparently condoned it.

This is just one of the many examples where the descendents of Jacob slaughtered many, many peoples just for the purpose of taking their land, women, children, cattle and belongings. In my world, this behavior is to be punished, not encouraged.