The voiceless majority of ancient times…

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Genesis 34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl to be my wife.”
5 Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, 7 just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done. 

There are many things I could say about this story (you should read the rest of chapter 34 to get the full narrative). I’ve been following the Moravian Daily Texts lectionary for a number of years now and have invited a number of pastor colleagues to join me, including a fair number who are women. I have appreciated the insights and perspectives they bring as a women, including the observation that women in these biblical stories are often like by-standers and pawns in the narrative. They had little power or voice in the ancient Near East and are often ignored or omitted. I definitely picked up on that in today’s reading.

Dinah was the young woman who was raped, but she is mentioned little in the story that unfolds. It is her father, her brothers, her male rapist, and the rapist’s father who determine the outcomes here. Her opinions, her grief, her anger… are never mentioned. It seems she is incidental to the story which frustrates me.

I wonder how Dinah would have told this story. How would it be different than the story told by the men? What insights might she have brought that are now lost to history? How did this episode in her life shape her relationship to God? Did she recover? How might her experience have shaped/informed my journey with God? I’ll never know, which is to my loss.

Heavenly Father I thank you for the women of immense faith who did so much to shape your people, and from whom we’ve heard so little. Give voice to women today that we might learn from, and be blessed by, their witness. Amen.

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