Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Genesis 34:1-12

Today we begin a chapter that is filled with violence! As my friend, Marin, put it, this is one of those stories that you will never see on a flannel board in Sunday School! But God has included in His Word stories that are true, real, and cover every human experience. This one is ugly!

Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” (Gen 34:1-4)

This is a story right out of today’s headlines! A young girl, who goes out to visit some girlfriends, ends up raped and basically kidnapped. Not only did Shechem force himself on her, but he took her and kept her. [ Note that in verse 5 we are told that Jacob did not SEE that his daughter had been defiled - he HEARD it. ] Dinah remained with Shechem, who for some perverse reason, then fell for her. We know that most rapes are motivated by a need for power and control over the victim, not by a need for sexual pleasure, so Shechem’s change of emotions does not mitigate the violence done to Dinah.

Amazingly, there is no recording of Dinah’s reaction, so we are left to speculate. Obviously, this would have been a horrifying experience for Dinah. The text uses the words “violated” and “defiled.” At the end of the chapter, Dinah’s brothers ask, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (vs. 31) So, the innocence of Dinah was completely shattered, as with all victims of rape. Beth Moore, in analyzing this passage, asks what would Dinah need most once she returned home. My guess is that she would have desperately needed the comfort and love of her mother, Leah, and her aunts. More importantly, even prior to returning home, when she was alone among the people of Shechem, she surely needed assurance from God that she was still His and worthy of His love. Beth refers to two verses from the Psalms that speak of God’s care for all who need this assurance:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

My assumption is that God would have been ministering to her immediately!

We will see in the rest of the chapter that women were considered as mere chattel, the property of their men, to be traded and used for political and economic gain when possible. In such an atmosphere we can see how Shechem felt no shame in just grabbing Dinah. He surely was a young man who had been completely enabled by his father to just take what he wanted when he wanted it, without concern for consequences, because he apparently had never known any. And, truly, his father gives him none here. Instead Hamor goes to Jacob’s family, without apology, to negotiate for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife:

Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the girl as my wife.” (vs. 6-12)

Dinah’s brothers have an appropriate reaction of grief and anger, although they will take inappropriate actions later. However, Hamor, Shechem’s father, takes a “boys will be boys” attitude and wants to not only sweep the whole thing under the rug, but strike a deal that will economically enrich his family! We had a famous case in our area several years ago in which three boys gang-raped a girl in the home of one of the boys, whose father happened to be high up in the County Sheriff’s office. The father immediately hired the best attorney who tried to get the boys off with that whole “boys will be boys” defense, placing the blame on the victim, who was not known for her purity. Thankfully, the boys (adult men now) are in jail in spite of the attorney’s efforts to press the point that “she asked for it!”

Beth Moore asks, “Could some have said Dinah never should have left the family encampment? That she should never have put herself in such a position? . . . In Dinah’s culture, her decision to visit the women of the land without male protection was probably considered as risky as a woman in our culture going out alone to a club. . . This point needs pressing because many victims of rape are vastly impeded in their healing by the suggestion - however carefully implied - that they were partially to blame. After all, they placed themselves in a vulnerable position. Certainly we can all stand to be wiser about high-risk environments, but to suggest a victim asked to be raped by being in a certain place is not only devastatingly ignorant but also shifts the criminal’s blame to the victim.” (The Patriarchs, P.156).

We will continue with this horrifying story, which only gets worse, and look for lessons for our lives. Nothing is in God’s Word by accident! He did not clean up the circumstances or just give us a lovely book of poetry to contemplate. Real lives contain real danger, violence, and SIN! We see it all here!

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