Genesis 34 opens with a story that would break the heart of any parent. Jacob has made peace with Esau, bought a parcel of land, and it seems as if all is well. Then tragedy strikes. Dinah, the young daughter of Jacob and Leah, went out to see the daughters of the land (34:1). Upon seeing her, Shechem, son of the prince of the land, took her, and lay with her, and defiled her (34: 2).
Most are agreed that the biblical narrative described here is rape. Parents should not try to fool themselves into thinking that a similar situation in their family is an impossibility, but how less heartbreaking is it for the parents of a son who commits such a vile act? Even if this was not rape but a consensual act between two people, it was between two unmarried people and that, too, is an abomination for it says she was defiled.
The record says that Dinah ... went out. Dinah is perhaps only thirteen to fifteen years old. It sounds as if she went out alone (Josephus says to a pagan festival). She went out and associated with other young women of the land, perhaps to explore their culture. A young girl would be fascinated with the adornment and dance of a pagan society. Did her parents allow this - not wanting to inhibit their daughter and making her to appear different? Maybe Jacob and Leah thought she would be safe saying, "It would never happen to us."
It could be the case that Dinah felt sheltered, became rebellious, and snuck out to join the party to "sow some wild oats." It might be that she wanted to be seen. Some have argued that she encouraged Shechem. Maybe Jacob and Leah thought, "My daughter would never do that" and did not keep tabs on her whereabouts as they should have. Young people are curious about the world around them. They see other young people having worldly fun and often feel left out. Dinah was no different, but we see that this had a most dreadful and disturbing outcome. A young woman was raped.
Consider, too, the parents of Shechem. We are only told of his father, Hamor. If Hamor was a single parent, he had his hands full (as do all single parents). Shechem was the son of a prominent man in the country. Perhaps he was used to getting what he wanted. In this case, he wanted Dinah and he took her (v.2). The fact that Shechem - or any child - grew up under "special circumstances" does not excuse the parental responsibility to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4) nor does it allow for lenience when they have committed such atrocities.
The defilement of Dinah was not the only dreadful outcome of this unfortunate circumstance. Even when Shechem wanted to "make things right," Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, plotted and lead an assault that killed the men of the country - including Shechem and his father. Once again, Jacob was greatly grieved: rape, deceit, and murder because one young woman went out to experience the world.
Parents, we need to take some time and consider the amount or lack of restraint we are using on our children. When we allow our sons and daughters to attend unsupervised gatherings, dances and proms, why are we surprised when something like this happens?
Do our children have a specific set of rules to go by so that they know what is expected of them in conduct, dress, and curfew? Do we know whom our young people have as friends? Do we know where they are going and what they are doing? There is no magic formula for raising children, but there is some practical information on the pages of the Bible. Discipline is often required. Proverbs 23:13 - Withhold not correction from the child. Proverbs 29:15 - The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. James tells us we should pray for wisdom (1:5). As parents, we need wisdom and patience. There is certainly no guarantee that something like this will never happen to us, but, if we train up our children with the Bible as the standard, it should certainly lessen the likelihood. Our children need our attention as well as our trust. However, we cannot blindly assume that they will never make wrong choices or that nothing will ever happen to them if we just turn them loose.
Don't forget about Dinah! -70 Gale Ave., Newport, OH 45768.