What do we know about Dina?

Aside from the terrible tale of the kidnapping and apparent rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah in the biblical book Genesis, we know very little about Dinah other than the usual obscurities which the Torah does not explain, which prompt us to think of what is happening and why, some of which we list below. This tale also raises the question of the Bible’s view of women.

  • The very outset of the Torah prompts us to wonder if the Torah is demeaning to women. There are very few women mentioned in the first ten chapters. Cain marries, but we do not know where he found a wife since there is no information of female creations other than Eve. There is a tradition that Cain and Abel as well as other male children of Adam and Eve were born with a female twin who they had sex with and bore children. Why did tradition invent this notion? Although tradition does not mention the silence in the Bible about the creation of females, this does not prove that it did not happen. In fact, the Bible states that Cain built a city and this implies that God created many more people than Adam and Eve’s family. You do not have to build a city for one family.
  • The only female child of the three patriarchs out of over two dozen children named in the Torah is Dinah. Is it possible, or even reasonable to think they had more girls, but for some reason unknown to us, scripture does not tell us about female births?
  • While Dinah is the only female child for which the Torah gives us information, Genesis 37:35 suggests that Jacob had more than one female child. When his sons told him the lie that Joseph was killed by a wild beast, Jacob became very distraught and the verse states, “All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him.” Not one daughter but “all his daughters,” more than one. The Talmud recognized that females were born to the patriarchs not mentioned. In Bava Batra 123 a, b, a rabbi mentioned that Dinah might have had a twin sister.
  • There is a Talmudic tradition in Berakhot 60a about Genesis 30:21, which had stated that Jacob’s wife Leah had six sons, “And afterwards she bore a daughter, and called her name Dinah.” According to the authors of this tradition, Leah was pregnant with a seventh son, but God knowing that Jacob would have twelve sons, this would leave only a single son to Rachel. This meant that she would have one less son than the two concubines who had two sons each. Therefore, God changed the child’s sex, and Dinah was born. Why did some rabbis develop this notion?
  • Why is Dinah the only child without a reason for her name?
  • Genesis 35:22-26 mentions only Jacob’s twelve sons. There is no mention of Dinah. Why?
  • Genesis 34 tells the tale of Dinah’s kidnaping and apparent rape—Shechem the prince of the land “saw her; and he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her.” It begins by informing us that she “went out to see the daughters of the land.” Rashi compares Leah going out in 30:16 to have sex with Jacob as mother and daughter committing an immodest act. The criticism is despite the Bible giving no disparaging comment.
  • Shechem fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. What prompted the love? Did Dinah do something that caused it? Nothing is said here or later about her feelings toward the prince.
  • Why is Jacob’s reaction mild in comparison with that of his sons? Why is he not outraged concerning the rape of his daughter? This question becomes even more significant when we hear of his reaction to the rescue of Dinah by Shimon and Levi. Jacob criticized them strongly and deprived them of a tribal portion in Canaan. Is it reasonable to say, as tradition does, that it was he who deprived them of land?
  • Was Jacob’s lack of outrage due to a lax attitude to rape during the ancient brutal past? For example: Deuteronomy 20:14 and 21:10-14 allow the Israelites to take for themselves woman and children taken captive in war, as happened in the rescue of Dinah. Jacob’s sons took the women. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states that “If a man finds a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold of her, and lie with her, and they be found, then the man that lay with her shall give to the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.” Today, rather than treating this rapist so leniently, we focus on the horrendous situation of imprisoning the raped woman in the home of her rapist. Could anyone think this is a marriage made in heaven?
  • The prince’s father offered Jacob and his sons a huge wealth if he consented to the marriage of his son and Dinah? Why were Dinah’s brothers so opposed to their sister marrying the prince?
  • Why did no one ask Dinah if she wanted to marry Shechem?
  • What justification did Shimon and Levi have for killing the inhabitants of Shechem? Even if the prince was guilty of kidnapping and rape, there obviously must have been inhabitants in the city who were not complicit. Why kill innocents?
  • After killing all the men in Shechem, what happened to the women and possessions? The Torah states they took their wives, children, and all the wealth in the city. Were they now kidnappers and rapists?
  • What happened to the women and children that the two brothers took? Did they share them with their siblings? Did they become their slaves? Did they become part of Jacob’s family? Did the brothers impregnate/marry the women? Did the women and children of Shechem become the ancestors of Jews today?
  • When Jacob and his family entered Egypt, the Torah tells us in the opening verses of the book of Exodus, in 1:5, that they were 70 people. Counting the names mentioned we see that the number is incorrect. There were less than 70 names. The use of the number 70 appears often in scripture symbolically to indicate “many.” We note also absence of mentioning women in Exodus 1. Significantly, neither are the women and children taken at Shechem are mentioned. Did they also come with Jacob’s family? What happened to them?
  • What happened to Dinah after her rescue? Was she happy? Did she marry? Did she have children?
  • It was only then that Jacob He railed against Shimon and Levi. He said, “You have troubled me.” All the inhabitants of the land will attack us. We are few in number and they will beat us. Is Jacob’s reaction only fear?
  • The two brothers of Dinah replied, “Should one deal with our sister as with a harlot?” The Torah does not report Jacob’s reply, but we know that Jacob never forgot what they did. He cursed them while on his deathbed in Genesis 49:5-7. What did Shimon and Levi do that angered him? Was it that they killed people? Was it that they caused him to be afraid? Did they have a right to punish the criminal acts of Shechem, but were overzealous?
  • Why tell the story of Dinah?
About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.
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