The Bible

Sexual Relations in Genesis: The Rape of Dinah and the story of Tamar and Judah

While Genesis, the first book of the Bible, seems to follow a distinct (male-dominated) pattern of history in the story it relates, tracing first Adam and Eve and their sons and then Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac's son Jacob, and Jacob's son Joseph, it digresses often to tell smaller vignettes, often focusing on the home. The authors of Genesis share this common literary technique with Homer. Two particularly interesting stories in Genesis that digress distinctly from the main story are the rape of Dinah in chapter 34 and the story of Tamar and Judah in chapter 38. These domestic stories relate ideas surrounding women, sex, and their roles in biblical society, in addition to the common themes in Genesis (and common Homeric themes as well) of family, lineage, cultural identity, disguise, and honor or kleos.

Dinah is Jacob's only daughter in addition to his twelve sons, conceived with his wife Rachel's sister Leah, who is actually also his wife, though it is clearly stated that Jacob "loved Rachel more than Leah." (29:30) At the beginning of chapter 34, Dinah goes "out to visit the women of the region." (34:1) It is unclear exactly what this means, although it could mean that Dinah is engaging...

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