Sexual Relations in Genesis: The Rape of Dinah and the story of Tamar and Judah

August 15, 2019 by Essay Writer

While Genesis, the first book of the Bible, seems to follow a distinct (male-dominated) pattern of history in the story it relates, tracing first Adam and Eve and their sons and then Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac’s son Jacob, and Jacob’s son Joseph, it digresses often to tell smaller vignettes, often focusing on the home. The authors of Genesis share this common literary technique with Homer. Two particularly interesting stories in Genesis that digress distinctly from the main story are the rape of Dinah in chapter 34 and the story of Tamar and Judah in chapter 38. These domestic stories relate ideas surrounding women, sex, and their roles in biblical society, in addition to the common themes in Genesis (and common Homeric themes as well) of family, lineage, cultural identity, disguise, and honor or kleos.Dinah is Jacob’s only daughter in addition to his twelve sons, conceived with his wife Rachel’s sister Leah, who is actually also his wife, though it is clearly stated that Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah.” (29:30) At the beginning of chapter 34, Dinah goes “out to visit the women of the region.” (34:1) It is unclear exactly what this means, although it could mean that Dinah is engaging in some sort of sinful or sexual activity, unescorted and unprotected by men, especially her twelve brothers. This might be looked upon as provoking the rape by Shechem in the next verse. But after the rape, Shechem’s “soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her.” (34:3) This love felt for the victim by the rapist is unsettling; he never actually apologizes or expresses any remorse for his vulgar actions, but appears to view rape as his method of wooing and staking claim to the woman he loves, the woman whom he wishes to marry. It is also unsettling that Jacob, Dinah’s father, remains silent despite having knowledge of his daughter’s traumatic experience: Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. (34:5)The message here is that Jacob is an underconfident male figure, who does not take action to protect his daughter either because he values his sons over his daughter or his sons’ opinions over his own. His sons then take the lead in arranging for the circumcision of the males in Hamor’s tribe, though the Bible states explicitly that this was done “deceitfully.” They later slaughter Hamor’s men, capture their women, children, and sheep, and return with Dinah. Perhaps their rage comes from their guilt over letting Dinah go into town unescorted, or from being the sons of the less-favored Leah. Nonetheless they let domestic tensions escalate into antagonism against all of Shechem’s people. It is unsettling that Jacob does not castigate them for their violent actions, but rather for the new possibility of being attacked in revenge by the other people of Shechem. “I shall be destroyed, both I and my household,” he says in 34:30. The focus is not on protecting Dinah but on protecting himself and his sons and his name. A finally unsettling aspect of this story is that Dinah’s voice is never once heard, nor is the voice of God. The story of Tamar and Judah is equally unsettling in many ways. It begins with Onan, the brother of Tamar’s deceased husband Er, being asked to father her children. This sounds strange, but is in fact biblical law:When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)Tamar agrees to do this to in order to provide an heir for her dead husband, but it is Onan who is uncomfortable with the idea and “spills his semen on the ground whenever he went into his brother’s wife.” (38:9) Onan does not take his responsibility seriously; he uses Tamar for sexual pleasure only, because he does not want to raise a child who will bear not his name but his brother’s and whom he will have to support. Onan’s sense of pride and continuation of his particular lineage again take precedent over a woman in his family, much like Jacob in the situation with Dinah. Judah then deals unfairly with Tamar by not offering his son Shelah to her, even though it was not she who sinned in either of the instances to cause her husbands’ deaths; it was his own sons. Tamar is left to face life without a husband or sons. Yet unlike Dinah, Tamar is shrewd; she deftly lays a trap for Judah that he falls into; she disguises herself in order to have sex with him and conceive a son. She even vindicates herself against the charges of being a prostitute in verse 25 by displaying Judah’s signet and cord and staff; Judah is just as guilty as she is: “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” (38:26) As in the story of Dinah, God never intervenes. His role in the lives of these women is very unclear. Equality of the sexes in general in the Bible is not fully there, ever since Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis chapter 3. Eve’s bringing sin into the world led to the creation of the patriarchal structures that come to characterize the relationships between men and women in Genesis. Women are still important in the Bible; Sarah and Hagar are key to the development of the story of Abraham and his family; Rebekah is key to God’s plan for the choice of Jacob; Leah and Rachel bear twelve sons that go on to lead the twelve tribes of Israel. But even from these examples, it is clear that the most important themes in the Genesis continue to be those of family, lineage, and kleos, and the quest to attain these, despite any effects on women and sometimes others in general.

Read more
Leave a comment
Order Creative Sample Now
Choose type of discipline
Choose academic level
  • High school
  • College
  • University
  • Masters
  • PhD
Deadline

Page count
1 pages
$ 10

Price