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.


Hiding sleep

Sleep is a funny thing- without it we perish but too much of it can destroy as we over sleep, miss work commitments, social interaction and generally flittering away our lives amongst the duvet.

Sleep comes to us all, sometimes easily. But other times I see sleep as some kind of old man in his night robe and cap, hiding around corners and evading our sight. Take just now for example; as I write this blog, it is half five in the morning of a day I, somewhat ironically, have off to rest. Waking up, I made the mistake of thinking about work and the game of hide and seek begun. Where is Sleep? Is he hiding in our bathroom, knowing that I will never look for him there? Is he chilling out in our living room, giving me at least a fighting chance to be able to tag him and exclaim “you’re it!!”? Or has he used up all his resources on my husband and the dog, both fast asleep and breathing deeply?
Sleep is a basic human need. But possibly the only need that, at some point, is denied to us all. We all know what it is like to sleep badly the night before and go through the day in a haze. And, as I get older, I find it more difficult to battle through that haze and not let it affect me. Or, more accurately, the unfortunate people around me.
God created sleep, whether it was for our pleasure or for our fragile bodies, I do not know. Whether sleep became necessity before or after Adam and Eve ate from that tree, I do not know either; but what I do know is that, although God does not need sleep as such, He did rest after creating this world in which we live. Rest to refuel; rest to take a step back from work; rest to survey what you have achieved and say ‘it is good’; rest.
In this fast paced, modern world where we are all getting increasingly busy; particularly in the UK where we work longer hours and spend far too much of our week in motorway ‘car parks’, Old Man Sleep is the first thing to be shunned. As we try to work our 40+ hours a week we cram in our five-a-day whilst getting our few hours exercise, cooking healthy meals, finding the best bargains, spending quality time with family and friends and developing our skills to keep up with a fast-paced marketplace.

Poor Old Man Sleep. Maybe it isn’t so unreasonable that, when we finally get round to giving him some attention, he isn’t always there at our beck and call. I imagine he is a bit of a mischievous fellow; proven by all those unusual dreams and all those times when you lie awake for hours and fall asleep moments before your alarm goes off, stealing the best sleep you have ever had.

Enough of these musings. Time to seek this old man of who we speak.

And so, to bed.