Questions From Readers
▪ Was Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, raped by Shechem, and was it solely an act of violence, or did he want to marry her?
Evidently Shechem had sex relations with Dinah against her will. He raped her. However, her frequent, friendly visits with the Canaanites put her in a compromising situation and evidently had led to his strong attachment to her and his desire to have her as his wife.
The account at Genesis 34:1-3 reads: “Now Dinah . . . used to go out to see the daughters of the land. And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, a chieftain of the land, got to see her and then took her and lay down with her and violated her. And his soul began clinging to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he fell in love with the young woman.” Despite the efforts of her father to discourage association with the immoral people of Canaan by pitching his camp outside the city of Shechem and establishing a separate water supply, Dinah still “used to go out to see the daughters of the land.” (Genesis 33:18; John 4:12) The Hebrew verb translated “used to go out” is in the imperfect tense, which indicates continuous action. This verb in the same tense is also rendered, according to the setting, “regularly went out” and “customarily came up.” (1 Samuel 18:13; 1 Kings 10:29) So Dinah’s venture was not her first outing. She apparently wanted to “see,” become better acquainted with, her neighbors in the city.
On one occasion during her regular visits, Shechem “took [Dinah] and lay down with her and violated her.” Regarding the Hebrew word rendered “violated,” A Hebrew and English Lexicon by William Gesenius states: “to deflower a woman, usually by force.” This same word at Judges 19:24 and Jg 20:5 is rendered “raped.” However, a measure of consent on the part of the woman is indicated at Deuteronomy 22:24 where this same Hebrew word is used. Perhaps at the outset neither Shechem nor Dinah had in mind sex relations, but as his passion became aroused by the charms of this young, inquisitive virgin he, without any godly moral restraints, did what most Canaanite men would have considered natural. After all, she had come into his environment! When Dinah evidently objected to “going that far,” he simply overpowered her.
Even if there was no measure of consent by Dinah, she still bore some responsibility for losing her virginity. Though she only visited “the daughters of the land,” just imagine the morals of these. The fact that Esau’s Hittite (or, Canaanite) wives were “a source of bitterness of spirit” to godly Isaac and Rebekah is certainly an indication of the badness already manifest among “the daughters of the land.” (Genesis 26:34, 35; 27:46) Sexual immorality, including incest, homosexuality, sodomy, and bestiality eventually became a part of “the way the land of Canaan” did. (Leviticus 18:2-25) So what did Dinah talk about during such visits? Did she really believe she could avoid fellowship with the girls’ brothers and boyfriends? For a woman to mingle, apparently unattended, among such immoral people was inviting trouble. Dinah knew what happened to her ancestors Sarah and Rebekah while in Canaan. In the eyes of the depraved men of Canaan, Dinah became legitimate prey. She put herself in a compromising situation and paid for such with the loss of her virginity, despite any last-minute resistance.—Genesis 20:2, 3; 26:7.
After the affair Shechem detained Dinah in his home and “kept speaking persuasively” to her, as it were ‘to her heart.’ His father said: “His soul is attached to [Dinah].” It is unlikely that such ardent attachment would have developed simply from one encounter. He apparently had noticed her good qualities previously, perhaps during her frequent visits. Now he wanted to marry her. He and his father also may have felt that the marriage proposals would somehow atone for the son’s deed and correct the situation, keeping peaceful relations with the prosperous household of Jacob.—Genesis 34:3, 8.
This whole episode led to the massacre of Shechem, his father, and all the males of the city. This brought ostracism on Jacob’s household and led to his stern denunciation of his sons’ anger many years later. (Genesis 34:30; 49:5-7) What a horrendous chain of events, and all because Dinah failed to guard her associations. This episode in the inspired record is a warning to young Christian women today who may, out of curiosity, be tempted to mingle socially with those who are not servants of God.—Proverbs 13:20.