A Time to Act or Be Silent?

The story of Dinah is ugly.

Dinah is the only named daughter of Israel (Jacob). Her name means ‘female judge’  as it is the girl version of the name Dan. Katharine Bushnell speculates Dinah was the heir of the female lineage of women “chiefs”…the line of God’s promise to Satan that woman’s seed would destroy him.  But Dinah’s line was barren. Why? Perhaps because she was kidnapped in broad daylight and nearly abandoned to the men who stole her. In that day, she was ruined; unmarriable and childless.

Dinah’s story (Genesis 34)

Recently settled in Canaan, Dinah – the female judge – made the rounds getting to know the women in the area. Shechem, the local chief’s son, saw her. He decided she was the woman for him and utilized the horrific custom of his day; bride capture. Shechem stole Dinah, a woman from outside his tribe, and carried her home as plunder. He sexually assaults her. (Sadly, this is where we get the modern day custom of carrying the bride over the threshold…leftover and forgotten symbol of taking your woman.)

The news traveled quickly to her father, but instead of immediately running to her rescue, he decided to wait until her brothers got home from work. Probably thinking something along these lines, “I’m new to this land, and I don’t want to make waves here;” or “This must be the way they do things.” Jacob waited. In fact, Shechem’s father Hamor is the first to act. But instead of taking Dinah home and condemning his son, he seeks to pacify the perpetrator.

“My son can’t live without your daughter!” Hamor offers to “buy off” Jacob. “I’ll even let your sons marry our women! And you can have some of our land. Our tribes can unite with the marriage of Shechem and Dinah.”

But Jacob doesn’t answer one way or the other! Is he considering allowing his daughter to marry these barbarian wife stealers? Who will rescue Dinah? The local government is complicit! Jacob is silent. Who will bring justice for the “judge?”


Moral outrage in the hands of youth is passionate, loud and often inappropriate. But, for Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi, the truth was clear. Dinah must be rescued. The perpetrator and those who were complicit in the crime must be punished. If the local government and her father wouldn’t protect her innocence, then they would.

At the age of thirteen, the two young men knew they were at a disadvantage against the local strong arms protecting their sister’s abuser. And so, taking the lesson from their family history, they tricked Shechem into agreeing to circumcise his entire clan. When the pain from the crude surgery was at its worst, they attacked the camp. They plundered. They captured women and children. They killed the men. They brought their sister home.

Yes, it was literally overkill. They went too far in vengeance. Their character was scarred from their retribution (Genesis 49:5-7), but they had brought justice to their sister’s abusers.

Jacob, thinking only about his reputation, condemned their action. “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here.”

Jacob, thinking only of his safety says, “If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”

The boys, who became men that day, replied.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

A timely lesson

The Jewish bar mitzvah is the ceremony celebrating the “coming of age” for boys. It marks the transition to personal responsibility at age 13. Every wonder why the age is 13? Because that’s the age Simeon and Levi are calculated to be when they take up their swords to protect their sister. It signifies the ability to gauge right from wrong; to be held accountable for action … or inaction.

With the ever-increasing-snowball-rolling-down-the-hill accusations against institutions for covering up sexual abuse or mishandling victims in favor or shielding the “victors,” I think Simeon and Levi’s words should help us point our moral compass better than Jacob’s.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

Sign the petition asking Bob Jones University to remove Chuck Phelps from its board.

*I hope its obvious, I am not condoning the extravagant violence perpetrated by Simeon and Levi. Praise the Lord, we have a government who will punish sexual abusers for us…but we must report what we know.

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