There is a little story nestled in the legends of Genesis, fighting for attention through the well-known stories of Adam and Eve; Moses and Aaron; Jacob and Esau. A little story about a daughter of Jacob and Leah; the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. Who sought the company of some women one day and found herself in the hands of a prince who raped her before asking her father for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, found out that their sister had been ‘defiled’ (made unclean) and were incensed. When they discovered that the prince Shechem had sent his father to ask for Dinah’s hand in marriage, they came up with a cunning plan. They told Shechem and his father Hamor that they would have to be circumcised for their sister to be able to intermarry with them. So, because Shechem genuinely loved Dinah, he agreed and all the males of that tribe were circumcised. A very painful procedure for an adult male, Levi and Simeon waited until it had been done and the men were all still a bit ‘tender’ before entering the city, attacking them and killing every male. And taking Dinah back (who we can only assume had been kidnapped in some way by Shechem. Well, he was used to taking whatever he wanted, wasn’t he?), as well as looting the city. Jacob condemned the actions, fearful that the surrounding tribes would join together and attack them in response but his sons stood by their actions, asking “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34v31).
You can read about all of this in Genesis chapter 34. It is really there; in the first book of the Bible. I promise you that I am not making this up.
Jacob condemned the behaviour of his sons, Simeon and Levi. Understandable of course – especially if his intention was to make peace in the area rather than war. But, on the other hand, although the methods and plan may have been extreme; what kind of brother(s) would not be enraged by such treatment of their sister? Whether it was thousands of years ago or if it happened today?
I am not pretending that I understand rape; or the destruction that it causes in the lives of so many (too many) who are affected by it. I have absolutely no idea about this destruction and I do not profess to try and understand, or even to know how to comfort those affected; be it directly or indirectly.
But how did Dinah feel in this situation, I wonder? It was somewhat rare for the manuscripts of the Bible to mention any daughters had by the great men of these timeless stories but here the story of Dinah gets a whole 31 verses. However, her feelings and thoughts in the situation are entirely absent from the narrative. Instead, the story focuses on the rage and revenge of her brothers and the following reaction of her father.
Did Levi and Simeon carry out justice? Or was their anger misguided and was it the wrong way to go about things? To bring it into the modern day; were they right to soldier in and take the law into their own hands, or should they have waited for the ‘authorities’ (whatever your definition would be concerning today’s society) to thoroughly investigate the case and hopefully bring the perpetrator to task?
I think I am still deciding to be honest. I can understand the rage of the brothers; and at this time in history, there was no police or Scotland Yard or C.I.D. department they could report such a crime to. But, on the other hand, was it God’s will that they would deceive and enter a city to take so many lives. I don’t know the answer to that either – His views are completely missing from this story also.
Even I am being distracted from the question of the female in this story – how did Dinah feel? Especially after being kidnapped by the man who raped her afterwards. I would imagine that she felt great relief at seeing her brothers enter the city and take her home; but at what cost? Would she have been happy about the fact that there had been so much bloodshed for her cause? How would I have felt in such a situation?
Sometimes, the notion of justice is not as clear cut as we may think. The simple ideology of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can be muddier than we would like.
Was justice done in this situation? When we think of the many ethical dilemmas in our world today, is justice ever done? Can we even tell what the ‘just’ response would be?
We would all love to have a ‘just’ society. That all would be treated fairly and with respect and that justice would be served equally. But that would mean knowing what ‘justice’ is and what justice looks like when it is meated out to those who are deserving of it. But how to we know that too? That individual I see as deserving of swift and exacting justice, might be someone that you think deserves no such treatment.
And, so, another term becomes undefined in my mind. But, hey, maybe that is ok too.