By Christine Darg, Jerusalem Channel
Even in the best of families great tragedies can happen!
Because of the contamination of universal sin, families are dysfunctional from one degree to another, and none is immune from troubles. But God does promise to guide and protect us as we honor his precepts.
In many parts of the world, rape is rarely reported, due to the extreme social stigma cast on women who have been raped, or the fear of being disowned, or being subjected to so-called honor killings. The attitudes of police in many countries often discourage victims from reporting rape.
When the Biblical patriarch Jacob returned to the Promised Land with his wives and children, it was a singular tragedy that his only daughter Dinah was raped by a Canaanite prince at Shechem (Genesis 34). The tragedy was exacerbated when Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi went on a murderous rampage of regenge under the cover of deception.
God does bring good out of evil, and according to rabbinic literature, Dinah’s child as the result of rape became Asenath, the wife of Jacob’s son Joseph in Egypt. It’s an apocryphal pedigree but nevertheless interesting to contemplate that Asenath was descended in part from patriarchal lineage. Other rabbinic traditions include Dinah herself being “the Canaanite woman” mentioned among those who went down into Egypt with Jacob and his sons (Gen. 46:10). And when she died, Simeon buried her in the land of Canaan.
Today blame is often placed on the female victim for being raped.
However, Christian commentators, including St. Jerome, assign some of the responsibility to Dinah. Genesis 34:1 states that she ventured out to visit the women of Shechem. Scholars postulate that the account of the defilement of Dinah was purposefully included in the Torah teachings by Moses to demonstrate the potential danger of women venturing into the public sphere (as opposed to remaining obscure and relatively safe at home). Being at the right place at the right time does bring rewards, and being at the wrong place no doubt can result in consequences.
Could the rape tragedy be due to the consequences of Jacob’s failure (or delay) to go to Beth-el to pay his vow? Many years previously, Jacob had vowed a vow to God at Bethel when fleeing from his brother Esau after stealing the family birthright. (Genesis 28: 10-22) Now settling his clan in Shechem was a diversion and a neglect of his vow. One Bible commentary quotes the principle of Scripture by saying, “When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not to defer the payment of it.”
It was only after the debacle at Shechem [the rape of Dinah and the consequent barbarous slaughter of the local men by her brothers], that Jacob came to his senses. The Lord also intervened by giving him direction in a dream.
Greatly humbled by the entire incident and its spiralling-out-of-control consequences, Jacob took command. He demanded that the family bury their foreign gods under a tree in Shechem before moving on to Bethel, the place of his vow. (Genesis 35: 2-5)
Referring to this incident, Bible commentator Matthew Henry noted: “God governs the world more by secret terrors on men’s minds than we are aware of.”