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It’s a story about a young girl, she is probably a teenager and she lives with her family, which is mostly her brothers and half-brothers (there are twelve of them all together). Her father is an important man, but he has a few wives and he doesn’t love her mother. Sometimes she goes to talk to the women in a neighbouring kingdom, where there are some other young girls.

One day when visiting these neighbours, the Prince of their clan sees her and he likes what he sees. He rapes her. Then he falls in love with her and he takes her back to his home. The Prince tells his father, the King, I must have this girl as my wife. And we have no idea how she felt about this because nobody ever asked her how she felt or what she thought.

Her father hears the news that she has been raped, but doesn’t do anything about it until some of her brothers come home a few days later. They are angry. About that time the Prince and the King come to see her Father. The King says “It will be good for our two clans to intermarry. Give us this girl as a wife for my son.” The Prince claims “No price is too high.” The girl might have wanted to marry or return home, but nobody ever asked her how she felt or what she thought.

The girl’s father doesn’t seem to be interested in what is happening so her brothers come up with a deceitful plan. They say they cannot marry people who are not circumcised and so if, and only if, all the men in the Prince’s clan are willing to do so, the Prince and the girl can marry. So the Prince rushes home to convince everyone that this is a good idea, he tells all the people in the clan that by marrying these people they will be able to take their livestock, property and animals. He does not mention the girl who was raped. The clan thinks that is a good idea and all the men undergo the painful procedure. And, on the third day, when the pain is at its worst, the brothers come and take their sister, killing the Prince and the King. Then her other brothers and half-brothers join in, taking the women, children, wealth, and animals as plunder. Was the girl relieved to be rescued? Was she horrified at this destruction? Did she weep for the Prince? Nobody ever asked her how she felt or what she thought.

This story is from Genesis 34 and it is most commonly known as the rape of Dinah. Dinah’s mother was Leah and Dinah is the only named daughter of Jacob. Dinah’s twelve brothers include Joseph, quite young at this time, and Judah, the ancestor of Jesus. Dinah’s brothers go on to be the twelve tribes of Israel.

Dinah's story is not often told today, and in part that continues her oppression of silence. For indeed historically in the story of God’s people from Genesis to the present day women suffer like Dinah, in the oppression of voicelessness and through being treated as sexual commodities. But there is a reason that this story takes a whole chapter in the Bible. God cares so very much about anyone who is marginalized, anyone whose vulnerability is taken advantage of and about the voice, dignity and inherent worth of all people created in the image of the Creator God.

I think we can all recognise times when we have been like Jacob; the father, the brothers, the Prince and the King. That is times when we have failed to talk to the people at the center of the issue and deal with their actual problem. When instead we have been involved in power plays and seeking our own advantage. When we who have a voice have used it for our own benefit instead of using it for the voiceless. Times when we haven’t been bothered to listen, or times when we haven’t even recognized that others have something to say. Maybe it was because we were entirely blind to the hurt, to the other, or possibly it was because we didn’t want to care. John Goldingay notes in his commentary, Genesis for Everyone, that in this story the brothers use God’s symbol of life and community, circumcision, to be the means of death for the Shechemites (the Prince and his family)[1]. I think it shows us, that apart from the grace of God, we are deeply, deeply broken, particularly in the way we relate to other people.

God in his mercy still works his promises through Jacob and his sons. God cares about Dinah, that is one of the reasons her story is in the Bible, but his grace doesn’t stop when his people screw up. The feminist theologian Letty Russell says that it is hard for women to walk with the church but even harder to walk away from it, for despite the failures of the people of God; it is in Christ’s body we find God’s grace[2].

I love this prayer from Psalm 10. Pray it with me?

Why, O Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—

let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.

Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;

do not forget the oppressed.

Why do the wicked renounce God,

and say in their hearts, ‘You will not call us to account’?

But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,

that you may take it into your hands;

the helpless commit themselves to you;

you have been the helper of the orphan.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;

seek out their wickedness until you find none.

The Lord is King for ever and ever;

the nations shall perish from his land.

O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek;

you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear

to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,

so that those from earth may strike terror no more

[1] John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, Part 2 Chapters 17-50, kindle loc 2427

[2] Letty M Russell, Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church, pg 11

Fiona Isaacs.

Fiona is a follower of Jesus by identity and by trade a teacher of Science. She studied at Fuller Theological Seminary in California.

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