The deeper meaning behind what happened to Dinah

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Genesis 34 talks about Dinah’s rape, and the consequences of this most unfortunate event. How does something so ugly point to Jesus and glorify God? We need to ask God Himself to figure that out, and that is what we’ll do in this article.

In the second part of this series, we saw that the birth and naming of Jacob’s sons received a substantial amount of attention in the Bible. That makes sense because they were considered the carriers of the genealogy that would lead to the birth of the Messiah. And, as you could read in that part of the series, God shares a prophetic message through their names.

In contrast, the birth of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, almost seems to be mentioned as an afterthought. She was literally Leah’s last-born child and in the short, matter-of-factly mentioning of her birth, there is no indication that her birth mattered much to her parents (Genesis 30:21). As a woman, she had no significant part in the patriarchy. But that doesn’t mean that Dinah wasn’t important. Her role was essential and meaningful in the foretelling of Christ and it heeds an important warning for us today.

From separation to unity with God

I believe that every story in the Word points to Jesus, and this terrible event is no different. But before we dive into this, we need to lay the groundwork that is necessary to explain the meaning of this event.

The Bible in its entirety, tells us how mankind got separated from God, leading to darkness, and how we can reunite with Him and live in the Light: through Jesus Christ. It follows the paths that mankind took to find ways of dealing with this darkness and the misery that comes along with it. For thousands of years, people tried living life by their own strength, but even with the guidelines that God gave them, no amount of work could bring them closer to God. The only thing that has ever been able to reunite us with God, is faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10). He is the only Door, or the Gate, that leads to salvation. We can only get to God through Him.

The Pharisees who tried to get closer to God by doing works were warned by Jesus: “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1, ESV)

I believe that this very important sentence is what the story of Dinah is about.

The story in short

Genesis 34 tells us how Dinah (whose name means ‘judged’ or ‘vindicated’) was going out to see the women of the land (the text doesn’t say why). The prince of the land, Shechem, saw her and took her. Then he violated her by raping her. Afterward, his attraction grew beyond his physical desires for her; he loved her and wanted to marry her.

Dinah’s brothers were outraged when they heard what had happened. But Shechem and his father King Hamor went to speak with Dinah’s father and brothers, seeking to unite their people to God’s people through marriage. Shechem was willing to pay anything in exchange for marrying Dinah.

Then Jacob’s sons deceived them into circumcising every male in exchange for intermarrying. Hamor and Shechem, looking forward to all of the benefits, managed to convince their people and so every male was circumcised. On the third day, when the men were sore and weakened, two of Dinah’s brothers went into the city and killed all the males. They captured and took everything they had, flocks, household goods, women, children, everything. When Jacob confronted them, they simply said: “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

[The text continues after the image.]

Photo of a white feather that has fallen onto grass that is littered with brown fallen leaves and dew drops. The whole scene is engulfed by the yellow light of the rising sun. The text reads: The deeper meaning behind what happened to Jacob's daughter Dinah, unraveling Genesis 34,

The hidden story within

Shechem had violated a child of God, robbing her of her virginity, and of course, this does not go unpunished. You could read this story as just that: the telling of a very unfortunate event, leading to revenge, or judgment by God. But I believe that it is more than that. It is also a story about judgment that goes deeper than meets the eye.

Here is how I read this story:

Shechem, the sinner, desired to be vindicated (“Dinah”) by taking vindication by force, stealing it, and dishonoring its purpose in doing so.

Vindication can only be granted, given by God, not taken. But after tasting God’s goodness, the thief wanted more. He wanted to be part of it. He tried flattery, negotiation, and offering money, but none of it worked.

Then he was deceived into thinking that circumcision would do the trick, another way of earning himself vindication (“Dinah”). Unfortunately, this weakened his flesh and after three days, he wasn’t vindicated but judged; he lost his life because he lived by the flesh.

Vindication is not for sale

The sentence “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” speaks many words. In essence, Shechem was willing to pay any price to become one with Dinah, as if she was for sale. But… vindication is not for sale.

We cannot become God’s children through force, works, flattery, negotiation, or money. God bought us, we did not buy Him (1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Peter 2:1). He was so loving and gracious to give His life to buy our freedom from slavery to our former father Satan. Thanks to His gift, we can freely approach God without being condemned for our sins.

Dinah’s situation reminds me of various New Testament verses. To name a few:

  • “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12, ESV)
  • “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!” (Acts 8:18-20, ESV)
  • “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4, ESV).

Do you see the similarities?

The enemy, the prince of this world, is always looking for ways to guide us away from Jesus. Enticing us to achieve salvation through works is a method that works so well, that the Bible is filled with warnings against it.

Why the Bible equates forceful entering of the Kingdom with rape

Rape is an evil, despicable, self-centered, arrogant, and self-entitled act that deserves punishment. That is precisely why it explains so well what God thinks of people who believe that they own the right to enter the Kingdom of Heaven because of their good deeds. No one can unite with God forcefully. They’d be killed if they tried, for darkness ceases to exist in the presence of Light.

That is perhaps why the violation of Dinah is not the only event in the Bible containing this type of symbolism; 2 Samuel 13 speaks about another sister who was raped: Tamar.

The name Tamar means “Palm tree”, and I believe that palm trees in the Bible symbolize Righteousness’ protective covering, as one of the many pictures of Jesus (Proverbs 13:6, Psalm 92:12, Ezekiel 40, 41, Judges 4:5, Revelation 7:9).

Tamar’s half-brother was in love with her. As he expressed his desires, Tamar argued that all he had to do was ask their father, and he would not have withheld her from him (2 Samuel 13:11-13). He didn’t listen and took her using his strength.

After his evil deed, he suddenly despised her more than he had loved her. Emotionally he might have felt guilty, or ashamed, which he then projected onto her, but spiritually, there is something even more interesting going on. Just like Vindication, Righteousness cannot be taken by force; it is impossible, for forcefully taking it would be unrighteous in itself.

Yet, that is what happened to Jesus: He was nailed to the cross by people who took matters into their own hands and felt that they were more righteous than Righteousness itself. However, their actions only demonstrated how much they hated Righteousness.

Just like Shechem, Tamar’s rapist was killed by her brother in an act of revenge.
We cannot become righteous by force or by human strength. Doing that will cost us our lives.
The enemy wants us to believe that we can, hence all the religions that say that you have to do things to earn a spot in heaven. While all we have to do is ask the Father for Vindication and Righteousness, by repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus into our hearts.

As you can see, God uses even the most heinous things that people do, to point to the Door to salvation.

Don’t climb the fence but knock on the Door

It always surprises me how, as far as we can tell from the text, King Hamor doesn’t seem to be upset with the despicable behavior of his son Shechem. Instead of punishing him, he goes out of his way to help his son get what he wants.

To me, it is interesting that the name Hamor means ‘donkey’. It is fitting because donkeys are working animals, or ‘beasts of burden’ as they were called in Matthew 21:5 (ESV). Shechem means ‘shoulder’ and shoulders also carry burdens (Matthew 23:4). I don’t think this is a coincidence, as we have just seen how they carried the burden of works, which in the end led to their defeat.

Trying to work your way into heaven in any way, shape, or form isn’t only burdensome and hopeless, it is also arrogant. By doing so you are saying to God that “you’ve got this” and that through simple, worldly, acts you can be just as holy as the Great I AM, deserving a spot as His child in His Kingdom. The truth is that until we are born from the Spirit and become God’s children, our righteous acts are like filthy rags compared to God’s holiness (Isaiah 64:6) and you can’t clean anything by rubbing it with a filthy cloth.

Coming to God is as easy as knocking on the Door. That isn’t burdensome at all. And to anyone who knocks, the Door will be opened (Matthew 7:8).

At the start of this article, I said that the story of Dinah is about John 10:1. Well, climbing over the fence of the sheep pen to force your way in instead of knocking on the Door is foolish, burdensome, and dangerous. Did you know that the wall of a sheep pen, in Jesus’s time, was covered with a layer of thorns or sharp rocks? That means that trying to climb in was literally a painful and dangerous act.
And why go through all that trouble, only to be sent away? Because Jesus said that those who try to enter the Kingdom as thieves and robbers, will be sent away: 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23, ESV)

So, this is how the evil done to Dinah glorifies God: thousands of years later, what she went through still speaks the most important Message of all: Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone.

Have you read the other parts of this series? Discover the Gospel in Jacob’s journey here.