Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unholy Word: A Love To Die For

With the atrocity that is "National Bible Week" in full swing (though I haven't seen any effects of it, thank goodness), let's delve into another look at this Unholy Word.

Dinah Blow Your Horn
Today the tale is from Genesis 34.  Dinah, a Jewish girl, is raped by a man named Shechem. After he rapes her, he goes to his father and pleads, "I've fallen in love with her, you gotta get her for me, I must marry her!"

Shechem's father goes to Dinah's father, Jacob, and says "My son raped your daughter...but he loves her, so let's have them marry. Even better: let's swap daughters between our two tribes and form a peace treaty! We'll rule this area together and be strong!"  He is so infatuated with her that he asks, "Set the bride-price as high as you want and we'll pay."

The sons of Jacob were there and they said, "Sorry, our sister can't marry anyone who isn't circumcised. That's just the way it is. As a matter of fact, if you want to create a peace treaty, your whole tribe will have to convert and be circumcised."

Well evidently Dinah was Helen-of-Troy hot, because not only did Shechem agree to be circumcised, his entire tribe took the snip in order to seal the deal and make up for raping Jacob's daughter. That's real dedication!

Three days later, while all the men of this tribe were sitting around sore, two of Jacob's sons come in and slaughter all of them. They kill every man in the city, including Shechem and his father. Then they grabbed all these men's sisters and wives and headed home. Then the rest of Jacob's sons showed up and plundered the city, taking livestock food, children, everything.

Jacob was mad at his sons; they'd runed any chances at a peace treaty with any other tribe -- who would trust them again? His sons said, "So we should have just let them treat our sister like a whore?"  There's nothing more on the story, it just ends there.

Too Many Bad Ideas
I guess the moral is that if your family member gets raped and your original ludicrous demands are met, you're justified in killing, pillaging, and enslaving to get even.  But I could be wrong; like a lot of these old stories, simple moral points tend to get added and mixed.  To some the point is not to disobey your father and the consequences of killing your new-found friends. Or maybe it's a sad story about how a guy lost his one true love.  Its a tortured jumble of lessons that weren't being thought out as they were being put together.

Of course, I can understand anyone being enraged to the point of murder at the rape and forced marriage of your sister.  (Yes, keep in mind that woman didn't get a say in who thy married.  They were treated as property and bargaining chips.)  But the actions they took were unjustified and immoral.  These kinds of stories fill this antiquated book that so many will point to as being the backbone of modern American society and good moral values.  If only these people would just read the thing!

The bible offers more instructions on rape in Deuteronomy 22 if you weren't sure how to get away with it.

Good stuff.  Read it to your kids or at the dinner table between the turkey and the pumpkin pie.



Makarios said...

What makes you think there is any moral to the account? The Bible is filled to the brim with accounts of human failure, including the sexual assault and resulting murders you gave us. Only an atheist bigot would describe these accounts as lessons in rape.

STA said...

I would ask why you think me a bigot, but I'll assume you're pejoratively expressing Christian love and leave it at that.

Yes, the bible is filled with accounts of human failure. I wasn't suggesting it's not. I'm pointing out that these (and many other stories) are encapsulated within a text that many hold as...well, gospel. It's absurd to think so. The Unholy Word series aims to point out how the bible is not a "Good Book" for how we should conduct ourselves.

Perhaps there is no moral to the story. Those who claim it as divine and inerrant imply otherwise.