- What Happened to Dinah?
- The Debate Over Interpretation
- The Translation
- The Reaction
- Dinah’s Voice in the Story
- Personality Doesn’t Matter
- The Name Dinah
- The Woman of God Series
- References & Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
Dinah was the daughter of Leah (
What Happened to Dinah?
Dinah went out “to visit the daughters of the land” one day—presumably this means she went to gather with the women of her age, a girls night (or day) if you will—and while she was out, she was raped by Shechem, the prince of the land. This story is told in Genesis 34.
The Debate Over Interpretation
Roughly 50% of English translations explicitly reference the act as rape or an act of force in Genesis 34:2. The next most common translation is humbled, followed by defiled.
Yet, there are some who believe Dinah was not raped. This belief informs the basis of The Red Tent, a fictitious retelling of the story from Dinah’s perspective. Those who do not believe she was raped generally use this to paint an oppressive and sexist image of Christianity—after all, the response of Dinah’s brothers over the act is even more shocking if the act was consensual! To be honest, if you read the passage with the understanding that Dinah chose to have sex with Shechem willingly, it gets pretty muddy… Fortunately, there is quite a bit of evidence that the act was not consensual and Shechem in fact raped Dinah—so we should not be reading it as though it was consensual premarital sex..
If we look at the original Hebrew, I think the key word to be focused on is לָקַח. This is the original Hebrew word translated as “took” in the KJV. It has a few different meanings, but most center around taking or seizing. While it is sometimes used in the phrase “took a wife,” we know that Shechem did not take Dinah as a wife, because after the fact he asks his father to go get her as a wife for him.
Another word we should look at is עָנָה. This is the word translated as humbled, defiled, etc. It is generally translated throughout the Bible to mean to afflict, deal harshly with, or defile. In Exodus 22:22 (also written by Moses), this word is translated as afflict:
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. Exodus 22:22 KJV
Together these words imply harm was done to Dinah.
🔠 Word Used
📊 % of translations
NIV, NLT, NASB, CSB, HCSB, CEV, GNT, ISV, NET, NHEB, GOD’S WORD Translation,CJB
Berean Study Bible, NASB 1995 and 1997, Amplified Bible, Bishops’ Bible of 1568, Coverdale Bible of 1535, Tyndale Bible of 1526, Catholic Public Domain Version
WEB, ASV, Darby Bible Translation, ERV, Literal Standard Version, YLT, SLT, JPS Tanakh 1917, Brenton Septuagint Translation
Peshitta Holy Bible Translated
KJV, American KJV, A Faithful Version, Webster’s Bible Translation, Geneva Bible of 1587, Lamsa Bible
Somehow, Jacob learns of what happens. In The Red Tent, Dinah stays in the palace, leaving Shechem and his father to sort out the mess, but in Genesis, it seems Jacob knows about the ordeal before Shechem’s father arrives. This leaves the possibility of a distraught Dinah being the one to inform the family of what happened.
Regardless of how Jacob and her brothers learn of the incident, no consequences are laid on Dinah and that is significant. If you look in Genesis 38, when Judah finds out that his son’s widow is pregnant everyone goes straight into accusatory mode. Those delivering the message call her a whore and a prostitute. Judah suggests she be put to death! Remember that Judah is one of Dinah’s full brothers. Genesis 34:7 tells us Jacob’s son—which include Judah—were grieved to hear the news. No one is angry at Dinah; no one discusses putting Dinah to death; and we see Dinah is still with the family in Genesis 46.
About three months later Y’hudah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been acting like a whore; moreover, she is pregnant as a result of her prostitution.” Y’hudah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned alive!” Genesis 38:24 CJB
Those who argue that Dinah was not raped, often rely on the assumption of mistreatment of women to support their position. In this interpretation of the events, the focus is on the men of the family because the woman is merely an object that has been “ruined.” Women who were not unmarried and not virgins, whether by choice or not, were considered defiled—it was difficult to find a husband for such a woman and the bride price was considerably lower. Shechem and his father offered to pay whatever they asked, however, which means they could have still received whatever dowry they had been planning for and she would still be married. Some may argue that if word went around about the premarital sexual encounter the family would be shamed, but there are several issues with that logic.
- The same people argue that sexual encounters were “normal” among Canaanite women; they contend that the phrase “to visit the daughters of the land” is to condemn Dinah and link her to the Canaanite women. However, if it was “normal” behavior in the society, who would shame them? Today, it is very common—almost expected—that people have sex before marriage, so unless you are in a closed group within society, no one would bat an eyelash.
- Shechem was not just any man, but the prince of the land. Accepting his marriage proposal would not only have resolved the issue of not being able to find a suitable husband for Dinah, but it would have made her a princess. Even if people had something negative to say, it would have been unacceptable to speak of Shechem’s bride in such a way, and may have even been punishable by death.
- If the sex was consensual, the story quite parallels Esther. One would be naïve to think the king did not sleep with each of his potential brides before deciding if he would marry them or not. This means Esther’s story plays out quite similarly; the only difference being that her guardian was aware of what was happening before the fact. Nonetheless, it does not appear that any shame is brought upon Esther or her family for the unorthodox way she becomes queen.
Dinah’s Voice in the Story
A whole chapter in Genesis is dedicated to the tragedy that occurred to Dinah. Yet, unlike Esther and Ruth, we never really see Dinah; the whole chapter is told from the point of view of her father and brothers. Both her personality and reaction are completely obscured from us, which could lend to many different interpretations. As a woman, it’s easy to get annoyed at what seems like silencing Dinah’s voice in the matter. I’ve actually spent years contemplating this story and why we aren’t given more of her perspective.
Personality Doesn’t Matter
My senior year in high school, a female student was violently stabbed to death in front of the school by her ex-boyfriend. According to sources, she was attempting to break up with him when he dropped her off to school that morning. In the aftermath of her death, the community was hyper focused on her suggestive pictures on MySpace, the fact that she was dating an older guy, the fact that he was taking her to school—did that imply she spent the night with him, allegations that her being from California made her “loose”, and even allegations of prostitution. Not a single one of these things excuses or justifies a man killing her! Yet, the community at large was desperate to find a flaw in her to explain the crime.
Now there could be a lot of reasons people resort to this approach, but there are two main reasons I want to highlight as we contrast this with Dinah’s story.
- When horrific things happen, people desire to prove to themselves that it can’t happen to them or their loved one (i.e., “My daughter would never be stabbed to death like that because she wouldn’t be dating an older boy”). The attempt to find fault in the victim isn’t necessarily mean to say the person deserved the action, but to separate and distance one’s own self from the possibility.
- Some people are actually heartless and believe if you behave a certain way you deserve to suffer. We see this mentality often appear when prostitutes, drug addicts, etc. are the victims. While I understand that every action we take has a consequence, it is actually anti-Christian to believe that because someone sinned, they deserve to be harmed. The reason this is anti-Christian, is because while it’s true that the wages of sin are death—we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So all of us deserve to be harmed. Yet all of us were given a chance to repent and claim the blood of our Messiah. Messiah didn’t rape or kill prostitutes, he offered them the chance to repent and have a better life.
Ok, so you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Dinah. Hear me out: the reason Moses (author of
Although the act happened to Dinah and Dinah had to live through the trauma of the aftermath, it was never about Dinah. The act of rape is about the aggressor and in this case the aggressor is Shechem.
The Name Dinah
All of Jacob’s sons’ names have meaning, which is given at the time of their birth. When Dinah is born, the meaning of her name is not given. Using Strong’s Concordance, however, we can find that her name means “judgement.” This is quite prophetic in that the rape of Dinah brings judgment on all the men involved.
The Woman of God Series
This is part of The Woman of God series, which is a series of videos produced for my
References & Footnotes
- “Strongs H3947. לָקַח”. Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2022
- “Strongs H6031. עָנָה.” Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2022
- Yoseif Bloch. “Dinah wasn’t raped, Tamar was”. The Times of Israel. November 14, 2013
- Anita Diamant. The Red Tent. November 2014
- Alison L. Joseph, PhD. “Who is the Victim in the Dinah Story?”. TheTorah.com. 2017
- “Strong’s H1783. דִּינָה”. Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2022
Other Pages to View