Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The rape of Dinah

We have seen that the rape was of minor importance in the history of reading Genesis 34. Dinah’s story has yet to be told. In contrast, the brothers loved their sister. These examples from the recent history of interpretation demonstrate that rape has been severely marginalized in many scholarly interpretations. Given after the rape, the money is not like a bride price. Interpreters sometimes wonder why the brothers refer to prostitution and not to rape. But how can rape be ended?

Still, the brothers’ final question in verse 31 demonstrates the complexity of their attempt to deal with the rape. Their negotiation tactics exemplify that marriage negotiations with the family of Sarah and Abraham are usually deceptive. Dinah cannot be traded for economic gain. Whether or not ancient Israelite women approved of marrying their rapist, is not a question asked even once. God may not wield the gavel here but as the translation of Dinah’s name suggests, judgment was still rendered. Yet, the widespread promotion of the rapist and the indifference toward his accountability demands an alternative interpretation. Thus, the rape has to play a center role. After Jacob’s accusation in verse 30, which mentions only the trouble his sons bring to him and his house, the brothers continue to focus on Dinah and her well being. Thus, the history of reading Genesis 34 offers considerable insights into the dynamics of a rape-prone culture and the Western societal neglect to regard rape as a cultural, political, and religious problem. She was not a willing participant. They understand that Shechem seeks to pay for the rape, euphemistically calling his payment “bride price” (verse 12). Again, sympathy accumulates with the rapist. This alternative interpretation emphasizes the significance of verses 1-3 for the understanding of Genesis 34. In it, the rape plays a center role.

Honor Killing: The Rape of Dinah | Dr. Claude Mariottini ...

Upon hearing the news about his daughter, Jacob is at first silent; then he negotiates Dinah’s marriage to Shechem. The killing of the male Shechemites and the capture of the women and children do not appeal to most contemporary feminist or non-feminist sensibilities. This seems peculiar—does it suggest that Dinah was not raped? In the Hebrew Scriptures, rape is generally indicated by a cry for help from the woman (showing lack of consent) and violence on the part of the man (indicating a forcible, hostile act).

Tamar, the Victim of Rape | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of ...

But that’s why, despite its flaws, complexities and misguided interpretations, we need to read this story as both the Torah’s condemnation of rape, as well as its willingness to hold responsible the people who allow a culture to evolve where rape is acceptable. However, Dinah is not a prostitute who offers sexual favors and then receives payment. The brothers insist on Dinah’s dignity.

Guilty of rape, Shechem redeems himself with the offer of a wedding ring to the raped woman.  However, the brothers act unjustifiably with “insidious murder”. To many scholars, the rape of one woman pales in comparison to the murder of many men. Although they understood that marriage cannot “redeem” rape, they captured other women and children and continued the violence. Will we ever be able to know conclusively what really happened to Dinah? Was she raped? Was she a willing participant in a youthful “adventure” with Shechem? Did Shechem rape her first and then fall in love with her? Did the brothers “castrate” Dinah by killing her innocent and virtuous lover? What seems clear is the fact that the tension between the horror of the rape and the enormity of the killing encouraged many interpreters to minimize the rape. If Dinah has been raped, Jacob ignores his obligation to protect the women of his household and ignores Dinah’s suffering. However, their question makes sense when prostitution is understood as a means to financial gain. When Dinah goes out to visit the daughters of the land, but is instead raped by Shechem, the whole story changes. When foreign men approach the women of this family, the foreigners and not the “patriarchs” are endangered. Not interested in bringing rape to the foreground, many scholars created – what must be termed – rape-prone interpretations. The brothers reject the possibility that Shechem would repair his deed through payment. Shechem attempts to turn rape into legalized sex. They refuse to sell Dinah into marriage because they do not seek economic advantage. Even though we cannot say for sure what “really” happened to Dinah, from a feminist-literary perspective we can claim that Shechem raped Dinah. Shechem offers a sum of money, the customary bride price, and assumes that he so fulfills his obligations as a bridegroom. They ask whether Shechem has a right to treat their sister like a prostitute. The brothers, however, do not isolate the marriage offer from the rape. But even they took revenge in a rape-prone fashion. Shechem did not “love” her, but wanted to do with her as he pleased.

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