Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Rape of Jacob’s Daughter -- Genesis 34:2

And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he took her and lay with her by force.

Dinah heads down to the town of Shechem, presumably alone, where the Hivites lived. Like any other young lady going out on the town, I am confident she made herself look as attractive as possible. I have not researched the kind of cosmetics that were available at the time, but I believe the clothing fashion craze was alive and well even then. Even knowing what happened to her as we do from this verse, we still have no basis to assume that she dressed provocatively. If she did, we could ask the question “Where were Leah or Jacob?” Did they see her dressing for her visit to town? Did they know she was going?

What follows, more so after this verse, is considered by some as one of the most shameful incidents in Israel’s history. But let’s stay with this scripture for a bit. The prince of the land and for whom the land was named, Shechem, simply sees Dinah, and goes wild. (Those that would argue she was provocatively dressed and sub-consciously looking for trouble use this fact as their evidence – he simply saw her and took her; and they argue she must have been dressed in a very seductive way.) I have never been a prude but I am still surprised at the attire of some very young teenagers waiting at bus-stops to head downtown on any given evening in our city. I am told that many actually change their clothes (discard a few layers is more like it) after they leave their houses, store them somewhere and pick them up and don them prior to returning home in the early hours of the morning.

And the taking of Dinah in this case did not just stop at flirting; the scripture says “he lay with her by force”. Yes, he was a free and powerful prince, but deep inside, he was just a slave to his own desires, or so his actions indicated.

We can ask the question, “Was no one around to stop this?” Yes, there probably were many around. First, the girls that Dinah went to see and secondly the prince’s friends and servants. But who would stop a prince in his sexual exploits then or even now? Today, even the fear of the press or media (including the paparazzi) reporting such an event does not seem to be able to prevent it. Secondly, this girl was not “one of them” – she was a foreigner or an alien. How many times still today do we hear of gang rapes (or even non-sexual physical beatings) of individuals who are of a different color, race, or creed than the perpetrators of the crime they suffer?

Indeed, the world has not changed much. So, what then is our responsibility today as we consider the upbringing of our children and grandchildren? I believe as parents (and sometimes grandparents) we need to be fully aware of what our children (long before they are teenagers) are up to and what they’re thinking and feeling. We need to know what they are reading, watching and listening to. We need to know a lot more about their friends and the families they come from than many of us do.

And we need to do all this with wisdom and love. The best way that I know how is to spend time with our children from day one; to be there for them; to be available to answer their questions; to be honest; to pray for them; and to listen to them. In short, they need to know not only that we love them, but what is more important to them is to know that we understand them. They need to trust us for answers, have sufficient freedom to make mistakes that have short-lived consequences on their own, and yet be a safety net for them when they venture off the guy-wire of life. Finally, they need to see that our relationship with Jesus Christ is real and makes a difference in how we think, feel, talk, give, and live. May God help us to do so.

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