Avoiding High-Risk Behavior
Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. Genesis 34:1
With my daughter going off to a public university a couple years ago, I had a few things I needed to tell her. It wasn’t stuff she wanted to talk about, but it had to be addressed. I’ve been to college. I went to house parties. I know what’s on boy’s mind most of the time when they’re sober and I know how some boys act when intoxicated. I’m will not justify or normalize bad behavior, but I can’t change the bad behavior of others. I can attempt to steer my daughter clear of that bad behavior though. For her sake, I warned her of things like drinking at house parties. If you drink around boys in such an environment, bad things will happen. If those bad things ever do happen, I never want to victim-blame. I love my daughter though and so, I want her to avoid certain high-risk environments, thereby avoiding the bad things in the first place.
Today’s passage alludes to some apparently high-risk behavior by Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. In the story, Jacob and his family moved back to Canaan where Dinah went out exploring. Most commentaries on this passage seem to agree that Dinah slipped away from her family to mingle with foreigners in a manner of which her parents wouldn’t have approved. Intermarriage with gentiles would have been forbidden, and so the implication is that Dinah’s childlike curiosity led her to go where she should not have been. Then, as discussed in yesterday’s blog, Shechem, son of a local prince, seized her and raped her.
I read this passage like a father, fuming in anger at Shechem, who violated Dinah. Where was Jacob though? When he heard about the assault, he responded with indifference, doing nothing – Stuff happens. Dinah was Leah’s daughter after all, and as such, endured calloused apathy from Jacob. It was Dinah’s brothers who took offense, plotting a murderous retribution.
Could all of this have been avoided? Perhaps. It does appear that Dinah engaged in some high-risk behavior, probably out of ignorance and naivety. She had no way of knowing what evil lay in wait for her. Shechem is the villain of the story, but there will always be wolves in the world. As her father, Jacob bore some responsibility to educate and protect her from those wolves.
The lesson for me, is that even though I can’t control all environments or the behaviors of others, I can avoid certain high-risk situations and I can encourage my loved ones to do likewise. This isn’t victim-blaming. It’s just simple wisdom, for which we are responsible as individuals and parents.