Wall of Shame

Dinah is avenged
Jacob says it’s a SHANDE*
Brothers disagree

It’s a story not often told in Sunday school.

Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah is defiled by Shechem (Genesis 34:2), who then says he loves her and wants to take her as his wife (34:4) Despite their father’s silence, Jacob’s sons are angry about this “outrage.” (34:5-7).

Shechem’s father Hamor brings his son’s request to Jacob, suggesting a sort of “merger through intermarriage” (my words, not the text) of two communities, and offering to “pay whatever you tell me.” (34:8-12).

Jacob’s sons demand that “every male among you is circumcised” (34:15), which Hamor and Shechem make sure is done (34:24). But the demand was part of a plan by the brothers to avenge the rape of their sister.

“On the third day [after the circumcisions] when they were in pain, Simeon and Levi … took each his sword … and slew all the males.” (34:25) This was followed by the other brothers plundering the town (34:27-29).

Jacob is not happy, saying, “You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants of the land.” (34:30). But the brothers reply, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” (34:31)

Jacob’s reaction to the incident – first silence, then anger at his son’s actions – is troubling. But so is the magnitude of the actions taken by Dinah’s brothers to defend their sister’s honor. Not to mention the actions of Shechem.


*shande (Yiddish) – shame, disgrace


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