Saturday, September 03, 2005


[Every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually]

(Dinah enters and addresses the audience timidly at first, then her voice rising)
How does my opinion matter? I’m not the voice history has recorded. You can just read about me in your book there and see what everyone else says. You don’t want to hear my side of things. It’s not a pretty story. You won’t go home with happy feelings about the world. Or yourself.

(Since no one has moved (presumably) she reconsiders)

All right. In order to tell you my story, though, we have to go back to my mother’s. You see, her life was one of rejection and loneliness. She had to trick her husband into marrying her. Her own sister hated her for it. Even making children didn’t help – she continued to be rejected by Father. She even had to bargain for nights spent with him (well, wouldn’t you, if you discovered every night meant another son?). She was miserable and since I was there with her in the tent, I got to listen to her constant complaining. She made it very clear that you have to go after what you want in life because people will not care about you unless you make them.

By the time I’d reached womanhood, I was determined not to end up like her. I was not going to be bound to a man who did not love me because of “family duty”; without friends – even her own sister! I would have my own relationships, both with women and, if God blessed me, with a husband. Who did I have to hang out with? Really? My six brothers or the other half-brothers? They were all busy all the time, and the younger one, Joseph, was a real pain in the behind. No thanks!

So I set out from our camp one day to see who I would see. I was hoping to find some companionship among the women of the land. I didn’t understand why we had to be so exclusive all the time! My brothers were always nervous about the other clans, and I thought if we made friends with them, then we wouldn’t have to be holed up all the time.

If you’ve read your book you know what happened next. Or at least, you know what my brothers say happened. You’ll never know the real story.

(Her voice rises again)
What if I went out looking for adventure? Maybe I was seeking a girlfriend and wound up finding my soulmate. Maybe my brothers made up that story about rape to save face when Father knew, everyone knew, that I’d just disobeyed and gone off to choose my own man, not from their precious tribe, not obeying mutely like my mother!

(Shutting down) You’ll never know. Because I fell silent. Was it trauma? Was I protecting myself? Or was I simply not allowed to speak? You’ll never know.

What’s more telling is what happened next. My brothers believed I’d been raped. But rape is not a women’s ordeal – it is significant only for its economic and political repercussions.[1] My situation offered an opportunity to one-up the neighbors.

So the men all got together and discussed my marriage to my captor, and more exchanging of women. I – still held (possibly against my will) – was a pawn in their negotiations with their neighbors. I became merely a symbol of the family honor. But as a breathing, living individual – I had no relevance in their lives.[2] Father was more concerned with his status in the community than with what happened to me. My brothers were angry that I’d gone off without their permission and gotten myself – no, them – into this mess.

Just to up the ante, they threw in the neat little caveat about all the men getting circumcised. It wasn’t enough that they were planning to summarily execute the entire city. They wanted to strip them of their manhood. It was simply cruel. It was premeditated murder with torture thrown in to make a point. This from the “chosen” family – the family of the Creator-God!

Still, you might wonder, if I’d gone out on my own before – why not run away again? Honestly, I didn’t have much choice. I didn’t want to die alone in the wilderness. And “staying with the man who claimed to love [me] was certainly better than returning to an unhappy mother, a neglectful father, and hotheaded brothers.”[3] Becoming a wife was my best option. I was “spoiled, unclean, unable to cleanse [myself] from this violent act.”[4]

So my brothers showed up and “rescued” me. Then they killed the lot of them. When I asked why, why did they go to such extreme measures (for surely it wasn’t on my account!), here is what they told me: whatever happens to me reflects on them: if a daughter is molested, the whole tribe is seen as raped. Essentially, it means my clan has no rights or status in this land where we are living.[5]

Like I said, it’s all about power, status, and honor. Family honor. Not my honor.

You know what this means, then? If I hadn’t gone out looking for trouble, none of this would have happened. I broke my family’s rules and caused bloodshed. My brothers treated other women the same way I was treated. And it’s my fault.

I just wanted to make friends. I just wanted some little bit of companionship – to not be so lonely. So unhappy. I didn’t want to become my mother.

I did not ask for this. Now “before [me] stretches a whole lifetime as a ‘defiled,’ unmarried woman at the mercy of [my] strict, unloving father, and, later, as a poor relative shuttling among [my] brothers’ busy households.”[6] My life was over.

Where was my father’s God in all this? Joseph would speak of this God giving him visions. Mother even attributed her fertility to God, believing God was on her side over Aunt Rachel. Father would go out and talk to God (or himself?) and come back with all sorts of ideas about where we should move next. But God never showed up to save me, or the Hivite babies. God let me be taken. God let my brothers run amok. So much evil repaying evil. The world is a dark place. Sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t destroy us all and start over.

(Begins to leave, then stops and reflects) One of the teachers says, “A society that makes certain members invisible is doomed to have moral dilemmas explode from the shadows and rain carnage upon every member of the tribe.”[7]

Maybe by talking to you, I’m not so invisible any more.

[1] Aschkenasy, 53.
[2] Ibid, 52.
[3] Ibid, 61.
[4] Nunnally-Cox, 22.
[5] Aschkenasy, 55.
[6] Ibid, 60.
[7] Visotzky, 203.


Aschkenasy, Nehama. Woman at the Window: Biblical Tales of Oppression and Escape (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), pp. 43-62.

Nunnally-Cox, Janice. Fore-Mothers (New York: Seabury Press, 1981), pp. 20-22.

Visotzky, Burton L. The Genesis of Ethics (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1996), pp. 193-203.

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