Dinah & Tamar’s Unfaithful Fathers

Bible References: Genesis chapter 34 and 2 Samuel chapter 13

Heart of the stories: At least twice in the Bible, we read that fathers’ did nothing in response to daughters being raped.

Story Line:After Jacob entered Canaan, he bought land from Hamor, king of Shechem and camped on it. Dinah went out to visit the women of the land.  When Hamor’s son Prince Shechem saw Dinah, he took Dinah and violated her.  After the rape Shechem loved Dinah and kept her with him. Shechem asked King Hamor to secure Dinah for his wife.

Genesis does not tell us, how Jacob responded when he heard of the violation of his daughter; however, her brothers (Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah) were furious. They devised a plot and killed King Hamor and Prince Shechem. The brothers took Dinah from Shechem’s house back to Jacob’s tents. Jacob’s only response to his son’s actions was to tell them that they made him a stench to the Canaanites.

Crown prince Amnon fell in love with Tamar; however, Amnon could not possess her because she was a virgin and his half-sister. Eventually, Amnon pretended to be ill. When his father David visited him, Amnon asked that Tamar prepare and serve him bread. On David’s orders, Tamar went to Amnon’s quarters. After Tamar prepared and served bread to Amnon, he began to assault her.  Despite Tamar’ poignant pleas to stop, Amnon over-powered and raped her. Unlike Prince Shechem’s feelings for Dinah, Amnon hated Tamar after the rape. He expelled Tamar from his chambers. Weeping in pain, Tamar went to her brother Absalom’s house rather than return to the royal palace. Absalom calmed Tamar and offered her a home with him.

When King David learner that Amnon raped Tamar, David was furious; yet, similar to Jacob, David took no action on behalf of his daughter. Unlike Dinah’s brothers, Absalom did not immediately kill Tamar’s rapist; however, two years later Absalom used a ruse to get Amnon to his country home. There Absalom killed Amnon in retaliation for Amnon’s rape of Tamar.

What Does the Mosaic Lay Say? When Jacob lived, the books of Law were not yet codified; however, God would have instilled in Jacob his moral law that rape was wrong. King David knew the Mosaic laws related having sex with a relative and the penalty if a man raped a woman. These laws included:

1)      A man should not have sexual relations with the daughter of his father’s wife (Leviticus 18:11). Anyone who does this despicable act should be cut off from their people (Leviticus 19:29). Tamar’s was the daughter of King David and Maach, daughter of the king of Geshur.

2)      If a man raped a virgin who was not pledged to be married, he must marry the girl for he has violated her (Deuteronomy 22:28).

King David should have exiled Amnon from the Israelite community because Amnon’s had sex with his half-sister. At a minimum King David should have required Amnon to marry Tamar because Amnon raped a virgin.

We do not know what quality of life that Dinah and Tamar had after they were raped; however, a young woman who was not a virgin was often considered unmarriageable. After Dinah was recovered from Shechem’s home, she is never again mentioned in the Bible except as one of the individuals who went into Egypt with her father Jacob. No husband is listed with her name (Genesis 46:15). Beautiful, naive Tamar lived as a desolate woman in Absalom’s home (2 Samuel 13:29). The Bible provides no evidence that either father consoled their daughters for the rape inflicted on them.

Pondering Relationships: In some ways it is perplexing why the fathers did not respond to the rapes of their daughters. Several  scholars concluded that Dinah’s behavior led to her being raped and/or she was complicit in Shechem violating her; however, Genesis recorded that Dinah was “took and violated” (Genesis 34:2). Other authors contended that Dinah was guilty of nothing beyond visiting neighbors where her father bought land. The conclusion that Dinah invited her rape is reminiscent of today’s criticisms that women’s clothes invite rape.

Probably both Jacob’s and David’s decision to withhold justice for their daughters was based on guilt and fear. Possibly Jacob blamed himself for settling among a people who had no qualms about raping a neighbor’s daughter. Further, Jacob was afraid of the combined might of the Canaanites and Perizzites. Perhaps Jacob thought if he refused to give Dinah to Shechem, war could erupt and his household would be destroyed.

Similarly, King David must have felt tremendous guilt that he ordered Tamar to Amnon home. He put Tamar in the position to be violated by her brother. Most likely David was afraid that exiling crown-prince Amnon would destabilize the throne of Israel. Not long before Amnon raped Tamar, David abducted Bathsheba and had her husband killed. David’s behavior strained the loyalty of his soldiers, commanders, and subjects. King David wanted no reminders of his own sin and no further impediments to establishing his dynasty.

Reflection:  In Bible times fathers were family protectors; however, neither Jacob nor David took action to obtain justice for their daughters. Justice does not right a wrong; however, justice has the power to heal grief. Frequently, the lack of justice leads to more violence as it did in Jacob and David’s families.

Aren’t Father-Daughter relationships intriguing. Read about more of them in Lesser Known Bible Characters. You can access the book from http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13.


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