The Tragic Story of Jacob’s Daughter

Posted on July 20, 2019

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by David Ettinger

Note: Most Bible readers are familiar with the patriarch Jacob and his 12 sons. However, did you know Jacob also a daughter and that happened to her was tragic? Read her account in Genesis Chapter 34 here.

It is a story of the dangers of unbridled youth. It is also a familiar story: a teenager raised in a good home determined to forsake her parents’ advice and satisfy her curiosity.

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In this instance, however, Dinah had no idea what she was about to unleash when she embarked upon what she believed would be an innocent visit to the women of nearby Shechem. One commentator wrote, “Dinah’s action loosened a stone that caused a landslide.”[1] And what a landslide it was!

We are not told why Dinah snuck away from home, but we can well imagine the curiosity of a teenage girl to observe the lives of another culture, especially one so foreign to her own. According to the Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus, the Shechemites were celebrating an annual Canaanite festival of nature worship when Dinah came upon the scene. If this is the case, this young woman looking for adventure would have been pleasantly surprised. As she witnessed the profane celebration, she probably had no idea that she had drawn the lustful eye of Shechem, son of his people’s leader and the young man after whom the city was named.

We are not sure of the details, but we do know that Shechem raped the unsuspecting Hebrew girl. We also know that Dinah was still in Shechem’s palace three days later.[2] Some commentators have used this to insinuate that perhaps Dinah was not raped, but willingly seduced by the young man. This, however, denies Shechem’s brutal attack upon her.

More likely, Dinah stayed in the palace following her rape for three reasons.

First, it was probable that Shechem did not forcefully keep her there, but strongly urged her to stay. He knew his father Hamor had gone to Dinah’s father Jacob to ask that he give his consent to a marriage between Dinah and Shechem and insisted she stay with him until the matter was settled.

Second, Dinah may have been in physical pain. She was a virgin at the time of the incident and the rape may have left her unfit for a long walk back to the family compound.

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Third was Dinah’s mental condition. No doubt she felt great shame at what had occurred, and as the only daughter of Jacob, she would have dreaded having to face her father, mother, and 12 brothers. Also, after a Hebrew woman was debased in such a way, she had no expectations of ever having a valid marriage. From the best we know, Dinah would have been considered a “ruined” woman from this time forth and likely never married.

The horrible event also presented much more serious consequences for the people God had set apart as his own. The Lord did not want Israel mixing with the heathen. This is the reason, for instance, that Abraham sought to get Isaac a bride from his own family.[3] Following the incident with Shechem, both he and his father pressured Jacob and his sons to, “Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it” (Genesis 34:9-10). This is exactly what God didn’t want to happen. Dinah’s actions exposed her family to the danger of being absorbed by the Canaanites and thereby losing their distinctiveness as a people separated to God.

It is no wonder that centuries later, as Israel was about to enter the land of Canaan following 430 years of slavery in Egypt, God told them, “When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess … Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you” (Deuteronomy 7:1,3-4).

Shechem’s behavior is a glaring example of why the Lord gave His people such a stern warning. Dinah’s fate would stand as a bitter reminder to Israel of the dangers of mixing with the surrounding pagans. Sadly, the nation would not listen as it not only mingled with the heathen, but adopted their sinful customs, practices and, worst of all, idolatrous worship.

May God keep you and me from seeking the sensual, and always striving to remain pure in Him!

1 Ross, Allen P. The Bible Knowledge Commentary ,Victor Books, 1985.

2  Genesis 34:25-26

3 Genesis 24:1-4

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