Dinah in Shechem

Genesis 34:1-31

Despite Jacob’s hope that he could settle peacefully in the land of his fathers, tragedy strikes his family when his daughter, Dinah, is kidnapped and raped by the eponymous prince of the city. Prince Shechem becomes enamoured with her and wishes to marry her, so his father, Hamor, seeks Jacob’s permission. He insists, however, on waiting for his sons.


The brothers are furious over what had happened to their sister. They trick Hamor, Shechem and the other inhabitants of the city, saying they will assimilate into their society if the men undergo circumcision. On the third day after the procedure, when the men of the city are at their weakest, Simeon and Levi rise up and slaughter them all.


Jacob is horrified at his sons’ actions, worried that it will cause the neighboring towns to turn on him and his small family. However, the brothers are adamant that such treatment as their sister received must not go unavenged.


The Israel Bible cites Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who learns from this incident that while Torah teaches gentleness and humane behavior, it does not make the Jewish people a cowardly nation. Like Simeon and Levi, there are times when the nation of Israel must take up the sword to defend itself. With God’s help, Israel has been successful time and again in standing up to her hostile neighbors.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think Jacob and his sons see things so differently here?

Comments ( 6 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • May be Ja’acov felt himself a little bit guilty. Wasn’t Dinah meant fot Esav as a bride ? At that time he hid her, but now she has to marry an uncircumsized prince. The sins saw only the familyhonor.

  • I think Yaakov was still fearful of Esau despite their previous meeting and hence did not want any more enemies; making friends would give him more security against Esau hence he sought peace with Shechem. On the other hand, the sons had nothing to fear. A lesson for us is that fear opens doors of compromise sometimes.

  • Wow so much to think about. Jacob did not want to endanger the promised people. The people chosen, his responsibility . Yes his daughter would have to be the sacrifice for the whole nation, a great sacrifice for Jacob. However, as a leader with the responsibility given by and sanctioned by HaShem I understand his position.

  • I'm thinking this entire circumstance could have been avoided. It's like "closing the barn door after the horses get out". The Israel Bible says in 34: 1 that Dinah "went out to see the daughters of the land". In our day, we might say Dinah had a "girl's night out". I don't see any problem with such, except this was an unacceptable alliance in HaShem's eyes. Mixture of this nature is what gets the Hebrew children in trouble later with the "council of Balaam".
    Although not directly mentioned in the account, I don't think Dinah had her "night out" of her own volition. I think it very possible she was joined with other women in the family. I further think it very possible they went with the blessings of Jacob. The account portrays Jacob as seeking the blessings of those in Shechem rather than the blessing of YHVH, and why he might authorize such an adventure.
    Whether they are peaceful or not, we tend today to seek "unholy" alliances, many times with the simple idea of just getting along. In its simplest form, I have no problem with this endeavor. However, we see, on a smaller scale with Ya'acov, the council of Balaam in action. In the name of our Adonai, we are called out to be a separate people unto Him. We may have to be neighbors, but should NEVER fraternize with them. It is written that YHVH hates mixture.

  • This is a very difficult question in a very difficult Torah portion. It's hard for me as a woman to understand why Ya'acov as Dinah's father isn't more outraged about the rape of his daughter. Every year, when we come to this portion, I struggle to understand his, what appears to be, apathy.
    I do understand that he has the weight of concern for the safety of his entire camp to take into consideration, but he seems to have little concern for his only daughter. I do understand that the Torah makes provision for such a circumstance to be made right after the fact and the man can marry the woman he has shamed in such a way and atone for his actions. Ya'acov seems to act with this in mind in allowing the marriage once circumcision is agreed upon for all of the men of Shechem's Kingdom. That all of the men are even willing to do this speaks volumes about the diplomacy at work here.
    On the other hand, I'm not all that convinced that Levi & Simeon are as concerned with the honor of their sister as they are enamored with the idea of killing the men of Shechem. It would be more believable if it had come from Judah or some of the other brothers.
    This isn't a Torah portion that gets a lot of discussion as it seems to make everyone very uncomfortable.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • Herman

    Ja’acov thinks about the safety of the whole tribe, about bonding and living in peace with the inhabitants of the country. The sons think more about gain and the intruding of their tribe. Shechem has violated the customs of the tribe by taking a girl and not waiting till the fathers agreed. The sons thought more of abuse of Dinah, the father wanted after the premarital sex making it “legal”
    for safety’s reason. Does the name Dinah (=judgement) have to say something to us ?

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