My familiarity with the Bible is limited, but I have always thought of the Biblical heroes as characters and archetypes, not as real people. I think I’m finally making the transition toward thinking of them as humans, perhaps because of some insightful comments from the lovely people who are following Revelationogenesis. In any case, I think it’s hard to read about the “violation” of Dinah and her brothers’ reactions without thinking of them as real people, with human motivations and emotions.
Quick feminist plug: I love that Dinah sets off independently to visit the community’s women. It usually seems like the women in Genesis do whatever their fathers, brothers, husbands, or children need/want/would benefit from them doing.
Of course, Dinah’s independence doesn’t last long; Shechem quickly has sex with her. (Because there was a cultural taboo against premarital sex in Dinah’s time, should we assume that she didn’t appreciate Shechem’s advances? The Bible says that Shechem “spoke tenderly” to Dinah and that he loved her; did she enjoy his contact, or was she raped?)
Regardless of whether or not Dinah wanted Shechem’s attention, her brothers are furious that she was “defiled.” Obviously, the way Simeon and Levi murder the newly-circumcised villagers of Shechem’s home city isn’t exactly moral, but it is so very human. I remember stories of my uncle scaring off my mother’s potential suitors; moreover, while we don’t have a brother, my sister and I have a history of being too judgmental of anyone interested in the other of us.
I think that part of what bothered me about some of the immorality of the earlier stories is that the responses don’t quite seem human. I mean, I realize that it was a different time and place, but I think that some morals are (nearly?) universal and some human tendencies are innate. (Note to self: I so need to talk about the evolution of morality in a post sometime soon!) It’s harder to think about the morals present in the more “human” stories, but they are easier to read, in my opinion. And, it’s easier to see some of myself in them.
In closing, for those of you who know far more about the Bible and Christianity than I do, I have a question: Does Jacob actually wrestle with God in Genesis 32? I feel like that’s a dumb question, but I really struggled with that passage. Initially, I’d interpreted it as a metaphor, but I was confused by the discussion of Jacob’s hip being wrenched and the dietary consequences of the action. Does God actually appear to Jacob, or how do you interpret this passage? Thanks in advance!