Dinah’s Red Tent

Tonight on Lifetime, they will be airing The Red Tent {In two parts}. It’s adapted from a book with the same name written by Anita Diamant. Although the story is fictional, it’s based on the story of Dinah from the Bible. Back in ancient times, when women were on their period or giving birth, they were banished to a tent outside of their camp. They were unclean so they needed to be put away from others. It’s all very interesting. In the book, the red tent is where the woman bear children and bond as women. They share stories. They share their faith. There is plenty more, but I won’t spoil the story. The book is excellent and the show tonight should be just as good {It was good! So good!}. It has a star-studded cast and the story is a fascinating one. Be sure to look for it.

As thrilled as I am to watch The Red Tent tonight and tomorrow night, it got me thinking about the Biblical account of Dinah in Genesis 34. Dinah’s story is not much of a story. And yet it is. So much seems to happen to one girl, yet we never even hear from her. We only know a few details from the Bible.

She is the daughter of Leah and Jacob.

Sister to Joseph.

She was raped.

At least it sounds like she was. When she was out in the city one day, Shechem {or Shelem, prince of Shechem} saw her, wanted her, and raped her. After this, he decided he wanted to marry her. In fact the Bible says he was delighted with her. He and his father went to Jacob to ask for his permission. Obviously, Jacob and his sons were upset, and the sons came up with the idea that Shechem could marry her if he and his townsmen were circumcised. This was just a plot to trick the men into being vulnerable. They agreed because they saw how fortuitous it would be to intermarry. Two of Jacob’s sons went into the city while the men were still recovering from the circumcisions and killed every single man. They took everything and everyone else as plunder. They also took Dinah from Shechem’s tent and brought her home.

Two sides we do know.

First, Shechem and his father. Whether Shechem loved Dinah or not, he and his father saw the advantage of becoming allies with such a wealthy group of people. They saw the future of intermarriage and profit.

Second, Jacob and his sons. Jacob may or may not have known what his sons were up to, but I can’t imagine he would agree to this marriage unless he saw profit or love. Would he have agreed to a marriage if he thought his daughter was in danger? This makes me think that “rape” may have been the wrong word. They may have slept together while not being married. Back then, they would consider it the same thing-ish. Besides, the Bible account says that the brothers took Dinah from Shechem’s house when they killed all of the men. Why was she already there if she had been so mistreated? What we do know is that Jacob’s sons wanted revenge. Was it for their honor, or their sister’s? I find it a bit hard to believe that it was all for Dinah. She was already in Shechem’s home. It sounds to me like the typical maleish behavior that could happen when honor seems tarnished.

What we never see, yet again, is the woman’s side of the story. We are literally told nothing about her. We don’t know how she felt. We don’t know what she wanted. A whole city of men were killed in her name, yet we don’t even hear from her once.

I find this convenient. “One of our women have been dishonored. Let’s kill them and teach them a lesson. Oh, and let’s dishonor their women and children and take all of their belongings while we are there so we can be sure to profit from this horrible trauma that has befallen our sister.” Or something like that. Really? Really?

Do you not see all of the plot holes in this one? We don’t even get a complete story. For all we know, Dinah was the victim of her brothers, not Shechem {By the way, these are the same brothers who sell Joseph to slave traders}. Whether she was raped, in which case she had to live with being given to the man who raped her just to bring advancement to her family’s wealth, or she loved that man, and her family killed him and started a war in her honor to bring advancement to her family’s wealth. Either way, no one actually seemed to worry about what Dinah wanted or needed.

Seems to me they didn’t do any of this for her. They did it for themselves. For the advancement of men. As per usual. I would have loved to hear what Dinah thought. Or what her mother thought. Can you imagine how Leah and her sister Rachel reacted to this? But I guess that didn’t matter. Once again, a woman is used as a cautionary tale. “Girls, what was Dinah doing away from her family? Was she looking for trouble? Were her ankles showing? Is that why she was ‘raped’?”

I may never know the real story of Dinah. Or if she really existed. What I do know is this: try to look at every side of the story. Question what you are told. Don’t blindly believe everything you are taught. And one more thing. Your life is yours. It’s not to be used by others to advance their own stories. Be bold. Be heard. We are all Dinah. We are all Job’s wife. We are all Sarah.

*After watching The Red Tent, I have more thoughts that I want to share. At the beginning of the second part of The Red Tent, Dinah is taken roughly from her home with Shelem after he has been killed and dropped at her father’s feet like trash. Jacob is horrified and asks what the brothers have done. He then instructs people to start packing, because they will have to lead immediately for fear of retribution. Dinah goes off on Jacob. She asks what about what the brothers have done. Jacob responds with, “But they are my sons.” Dinah replies, “And I am JUST A DAUGHTER!” This right here brought all of my hurt from Christianity and religion screaming to the surface. That is exactly how I have always felt as a Christian. It’s how I was always treated in the church. I AM JUST A DAUGHTER. Just a girl. Just a woman. While the world carried on around me, I felt trapped. Stuck. Not. Good. Enough. In the movie, Dinah leaves and tells Jacob he is not her father any longer. In this moment, I AM DINAH. God is Jacob. I left because I couldn’t be “just a daughter” anymore.

red tent

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2 thoughts on “Dinah’s Red Tent

  1. I definitely see where you’re coming from, and I agree that this story in particular is one in which I wish we saw Dinah’s point of view. But I think it’s unfair to just assume that because we don’t see her point of view, the men acted entirely for their own selfish purposes. What if Dinah really was raped? Shechem still could have thought she was awesome and wanted to keep her and marry her. What if she was at his house because she physically couldn’t escape? What if she was an unfortunate product of her culture and didn’t believe she had any choice? What if her brothers really did rescue her and when they showed up she thought ‘Thank God!’? I will say that their reaction does seem to be a bit of an overreaction, but in many cultures that kind of reaction is/was pretty standard and expected (I mean, just look at the violence that escalated in Israel earlier this year. Much more complicated than this story, but still there was an element of ‘you killed one of us, let’s bomb a city’).

    Anyway, like I said, I see where you are coming from, and I respect your voice standing up for the agency and rights of women and other silent parties.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand this theory. I just think if she was raped, there would have been a different set of happenings. All that you said is possible. I just doubt it. The point is, we never hear from her. She never had a voice. Like so many countless others. Women are villains in the Bible over and over, yet we never actually hear from them. It’s just convenient. And upsetting. Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate them.

      Like

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