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Dinah and the Defilement of Premarital Sex, Abortion Exceptions, and Incest

(Genesis 34-35)

By Gary F. Zeolla


      The following article is excerpted from “Chapter Three: The Book of Genesis: Abraham’s Immediate Descendants” in my book God’s Sex Plan: Volume One: What the Old Testament Teaches About Human Sexuality. It is my commentary on parts of Genesis chapters 34-35. The Scripture passage is quoted immediately after the bolded verse reference and is easily identified by the superscript verse numbers. My commentary follows the Scripture passage. This is the format used throughout the book.


Genesis 34:1-5a:

        1Now Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she gave birth to Jacob, went out to observe the daughters of the inhabitants. 2And Shechem [LXX, Sychem] the son of Hamor [LXX, Emmor] the Hivite [LXX, Evite], the ruler of the land, saw her and took her and slept [sexually] with her and humbled her. 3And he paid close attention to [or, was attracted to] the soul of Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman, and he spoke according to the mind of [fig., spoke kindly to] the young woman by herself.” 4So Shechem spoke to Hamor his father, saying, “Take for me this young woman for a wife.”

            5Now Jacob heard that the son of Hamor defiled Dinah his daughter.


      Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite has sex with Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. Now some reading this chapter think this was a case of rape. Some versions, such as the NIV and NLT, even use the word “rape” in verse 2, while the NASB has “lay with her by force.” But such is not implied in the Hebrew word. It simply means, “to lie down” (Holladay, BDB). The TWOT expands this by saying, “appears most often in the Qal primarily with the meaning ‘to lie down (in death)’ or ‘to lie down (for sexual relations).’” But there is no hint of force in the word. The Greek Septuagint (LXX) translators then translated this term with the Greek word for “sleep” (Friberg). There is also no sense of force in this word.

      Moreover, the text says, “he loved the young woman, and he spoke according to the mind of [fig., spoke kindly to] the young woman by herself” (v. 3). That does not sound like rape but seduction, so this was a case of consensual, premarital sex.

      Even though that was the case, the text says, he “humbled her” (v.2) and that she was “defiled” (v.5). That is because she lost her virginity outside of marriage. Thus, very strong negative language is used for engaging in sex outside of marriage.


Genesis 34:5b-7:

        Now his sons were with his livestock in the plain, so Jacob kept silent until they came. 6Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak to him. 7Now the sons of Jacob came from the plain; and when they heard, the men were deeply troubled, and it was exceedingly grievous to them, because he made shame in Israel, having slept [sexually] with the daughter of Jacob, and it will not be in this manner. [fig., a thing which should not be done].


      When Dinah’s brothers hear about it, they “were deeply troubled, and it was exceedingly grievous to them.” This was because “he made shame in Israel.” And this act “will not be in this manner.”

      Therefore, Dinah losing her virginity to this man to whom she was not married is considered to be humbling, defiling, troubling, grievous, shameful, and a thing that should not be done. Again, all very strong language indicating the wrongness of sex outside of marriage.


Genesis 34:8-10:

      8And Hamor spoke to them, saying, “Shechem my son chose in his soul your daughter; give her therefore to him [for] a wife. 9Intermarry with us. Give us your* daughters, and take our daughters for your* sons. 10And be dwelling among us. And, look! The land [is] spacious before you*. Be dwelling in it, and be trading, and acquire possessions in it.”


      Shechem wants to marry Dinah. He should have expressed that desire before having sex with her, and all of these problems could have been avoided. But now, Hamor proposes that other sons of Jacob marry other Hivite women. But what he doesn’t realize is their differing spiritual beliefs makes this an untenable proposition. But rather than reject the idea out of hand, Dinah’s full-brothers concoct a ruse.


Genesis 34:13-17:

      13But the sons of Jacob answered to Shechem and Hamor his father and spoke to them with deceit, because they defiled Dinah their sister. 14And Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah and sons of Leah, said to them, “We are not able to do this thing, to give our sister to a man who has foreskin [fig., is uncircumcised], for it is a reproach to us. 15In this [way] we will be compared [fig., Only on these terms will we conform] to you* and will dwell among you*, if you* will become as we [are], in that every male of you be circumcised. 16And we will give our daughters to you*, and we will take of your* daughters for wives to us, and we will dwell with you*, and we will be as one people group. 17But if you* shall not listen to us to be being circumcised, having taken our daughter, we will depart.”


      First, note that Dinah is once again said to have been defiled by having engaged in premarital sex.

      That said; the religious difference between Jacob’s family and the Hivites is seen in that all of the males in Jacob’s family are circumcised while the Hivite men are not circumcised. Simeon and Levi thus propose that the Hivite men become circumcised, and in that way, it will be okay to intermarry with them.

      But there is more to being a Jew than just being circumcised, just as there is more to being a Christian than just being baptized. Though such outward acts are important as a sign of an inner faith and belief in the one true God, without such an inner faith and belief, they are meaningless rituals. But Simeon and Levi were not looking to convert the Hivites. If they were, they would have been teaching them about the one true God. Instead, they were just using this ritual as means to open a way for retaliation against the Hivites.


Genesis 34:18-24:

      18And the words were acceptable before Hamor, and before Shechem the son of Hamor. 19And the young man did not delay to do this thing, for he was being much attached to the daughter of Jacob. Now he was [the] most honorable of all in the house of his father. 20So Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21“These men are peaceable, let them be dwelling with us upon the land, and let them be engaging in business in it. And look! [The] land [is] spacious before them. We will take their daughters to us [for] wives, and we will give them our daughters.

      22“Only in this [way] will the men be compared [fig., Only on these terms will the men conform] to us to be dwelling with us so as to be one people, [if] every male of us be circumcised, just as they also have been circumcised. 23And will not their livestock and the things existing to them [fig., their possessions] and their quadrupeds [fig., herds], be ours? Only in this let us be compared [fig., conformed] to them, and they will dwell with us.” 24And all the ones going out at the gate of their city listened to Hamor and Shechem his son, and they were circumcised [in] the flesh of their foreskin, every male.


      Surprisingly, the Hivites agree to the proposal. As mentioned previously in this book, to be circumcised as an adult without modern-day anesthesia can be a quite painful experience. Simeon and Levi know this; in fact, they are counting on it.


Genesis 34:25-29:

      25But it happened, on the third day when they were being in pain, the two sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, each took his sword and came into the city securely [or, boldly] and killed every male. 26And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with [the] mouth [fig., edge] of [the] sword; and they took Dinah out of the house of Shechem and went out.

      27Then the sons of Jacob came upon the wounded [or, slain] and plundered the city in which they had defiled Dinah their sister. 28And their sheep and their oxen and their donkeys and as many [things] as were in the city and as many [things] as were in the plain they took. 29And they took captive all the bodies [fig., persons, or slaves] of them and all their baggage and their wives, and they plundered both as many [things] as were in the city and as many things as were in the houses.


      Note that for the third time, Dinah is said to have been defiled by having engaged in premarital sex. That point cannot be missed.

      That said; the ruse works. While the men are still in pain from being circumcised, Simeon and Levi attack and overrun the city, slaughtering all of the males and plundering all of their women, slaves, and goods. This was truly an overreaction, holding all of the men of the city responsible for the action of one man. And Jacob is not pleased, and most likely, neither was God.


Genesis 34:30f:

      30But Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You* have made me hateful so that I should be being evil to all the inhabitants of the land, both among the Canaanites and the Pherezites, but I am few in number; they will be gathered against me and will cut me in pieces, and I will be utterly destroyed, and my house.” 31But they said, “But shall they use [or, treat] our sister as a prostitute?”


      Jacob is furious about their actions; but they reply, “But shall they use [or, treat] our sister as a prostitute?” Thus, engaging in consensual, premarital sex was considered to be the equivalent of prostitution and justification for such a hideous retaliation. The latter wasn’t true, but this does show how objectionable engaging in premarital sex is considered to be.

      Jacob’s concern was justified, as this overreaction could have led to the destruction of Jacob’s family, except that God intervened, “And Israel departed from Secima, and [the] fear of God became upon the cities round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Israel” (Gen 35:5). I discuss the import of this verse at length in my book The LORD Has It Under Control, so I will not pursue it here.


Genesis 35:16-20:

      16{Then having departed from Bethel, Jacob pitched his tent beyond the tower of Gader.} [i.e., The words between brace brackets form the 21st verse of this chapter in the Hebrew] Then it happened when he came near to Chabratha to enter into [the] land of Ephratha, Rachel gave birth, and she was in travail in the delivery. 17Now it happened in her difficulty giving birth, the midwife said to her, “Be being of good courage, for also this son is to you” [fig., you will also have this son”].

      18Now it happened, in her giving up her soul {for she was dying}, [that] she called his name, The Son of my Pain [Heb., Ben-Oni], but his father called his name Benjamin [“son of my right hand”]. 19So Rachel died and was buried in the way to Ephratha, this is Bethlehem [LXX, Bethleem]. 20And Jacob set up a pillar on her tomb; this is [the] pillar on [the] tomb of Rachel, until today day [fig., this day].


      Rachael bears Jacob a twelfth and final son, but she dies in the process. To die in childbirth was somewhat common ancient times, but much rarer today, at least in First World Countries.


Extra-Biblical Discussion:

Abortion Exception for the Woman’s Health:

      The possibility of death due to giving birth is often used today as a defense for abortion being legal. Yes, on very rare occasions, a woman’s physical health or life might be in danger if she carries a preborn baby to term. But it is just that, a very rare occurrence that an exception can be made for in any abortion law, but it should not be allowed to be used as a justification for legalized abortion for any reason whatsoever.

      It should also be noted, do not fall for accepting an exception for a women’s “health” without “physical” being specified. If a law is worded as just health, the courts will quickly rule that the exception includes mental health. And with such an exception, all a woman would have to do is say her pregnancy is causing her emotional distress and that would be cause for an abortion, effectively causing the law to be null and void.


Genesis 35:22, 49:3:

            22Now it happened, when Israel dwelt in that land, Reuben went and slept [sexually] with Bilhah, the concubine of his father; and Israel heard, and [the thing] appeared evil [or, grievous] before him.


      3“Reuben, you [are] my firstborn, you [are] my strength and [the] first of my children, hard to be endured, hard [and] self-willed. [Heb., the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.] 4You were insolent like water; you shall not burst out, for you went up to the marital bed of your father; at that time, you defiled the couch [or, bed], which you went up.”


      This is all that is said about this incident. Reburn sleeps with his father’s concubine. That is bound to be disastrous for a family. But Jacob strangely stays silent about it at the time; though later, on his deathbed, he rebukes Reuben for it. And note that he uses the same word for Reuben’s action as was used for Dinah and Shechem having sex outside of marriage. Both are defiling. Therefore, premarital sex is just as wrong as incestuous adultery in God’s eyes.

      That said; many must have wanted more details about this salacious event than are given here, so the pseudepigraphal book Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs was written centuries later. I discuss it in Chapter Eleven of Volume One of my three volume set Why Are These Books in the Bible Not Others? In it, Reuben, now on his deathbed, describes to his sons how this sin came about. He then goes into a long discourse about why his sons should avoid fornication.

      That is good advice, though in the book, Reuben goes over the top in declaring “For women are evil.” Such is never said in the Bible, though Bilhah was just as guilty as Reuben for this sin.


Genesis 35:27-28:

      27Then Jacob came to Isaac his father to Mambre, to a city of the plain; this is Hebron [LXX, Chebron] in [the] land of Canaan, where Abraham and Isaac lived as strangers. 28Now became the days of Isaac which he lived were one hundred, eighty years. 29And he having come to an end, died, and was added to his family, old and full of days. And Esau and Jacob his sons buried him.


      Shortly after Jacob returns to his homeland, his father Isaac dies at the age of 180. His wife Rebecca had passed away previously, but there is no mention that he had remarried after her death. They were both buried in the same place as Abraham and his wife Sarah (Gen 49:31). And as with Abraham and Sarah, all indications are that Isaac and Rebecca remained married and faithful to each other throughout their entire long lives.

      On a side note, there is now a heated battle in Israel over Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The Book of Genesis clearly teaches Abraham purchased this area as a burial site for his wife (chapter 23). It was later used for his own burial (Gen 25:9) and here for his son. As such, it has undoubtedly been in possession of the Jews for over four millennia, with the Tomb of the Patriarchs being a common pilgrimage site for Jews. But despite that background, the so-called Palestinians are claiming they are the rightful heirs of this land; and amazingly, the United Nations passed a resolution siding with the Palestinian claim.



      All Scripture verses are from Analytical-Literal Translation of the Old Testament: Volume I: The Torah. Copyright 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).

      BibleWorks™ Copyright 1992-2015 BibleWorks, LLC. All rights reserved. BibleWorks was programmed by Michael S. Bushell, Michael D. Tan, and Glenn L. Weaver.  All rights reserved.

      NASB. New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright 1960-1995. La Biblia de Las Americas. The Lockman Foundation.

      NIV. New International Version (NIV). Copyright 1973, 1984, 1987, 2011 by the International Bible Society www.ibs.org. All rights reserved worldwide.

        NLT. New Living Translation (NLT), copyright 1996 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. All rights reserved.

      Friberg, Timothy and Barbara. Analytical Greek New Testament. Copyright 1994 and Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament. Copyright 1994. Both on BibleWorks.

      Holladay. Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the OT. On BibleWorks.

      BDB. Hebrew-Aramaic and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Abridged BDB-Gesenius Lexicon), by Francis Brown, D.D., D.Litt., S. R. Driver, D.D., D.Litt., and Charles A. Briggs, 1906. As found on BibleWorks.

      TWOT. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois.  Copyright 1980. On BibleWorks.


 God’s Sex Plan: Volume One: What the Old Testament Teaches About Human Sexuality

Abortion and the Baby John the Baptist. Copyright 2018 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).

The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light newsletter.
It was posted on this website May 1, 2019.

Ethics, Spirituality, Christian Life
Premarital Sex

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