#Me Too in the Bible: Session Five - Dina and Tamar
DINAH DAUGHTER OF JACOB AND LEAH
Genesis 34: Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl to be my wife.”
5 Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, 7 just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.
8 But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. 9 Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.”
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. 16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19 And the young man did not delay doing the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us.” 24 And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
25 On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. 27 And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”
The Evil of Shechem - Sanhedrin 102a: The verse states: “And Rehoboam went to Shechem; for all Israel came to Shechem, to make him king” (I Kings 12:1). It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yosei: Shechem is a place ordained for calamity. In Shechem, they tormented and raped Dinah, in the outskirts of Shechem the brothers sold Joseph, in Shechem the kingdom of the house of David was divided.
Jacob’s Punishment? – Gen. R. 79:8: Jacob “set up an altar there, and called it El, God of Israel.” (Gen. 33:20) Jacob called himself el [god].” He said: You are God in the heavens, and I am God on earth; since he usurped authority for himself, he was punished by the rape of his daughter.
Gen. R. 73:9: Jacob was punished for what he said to Laban when they divided the flock between themselves (Gen. 30:33): “In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty toward you testify for me.” He boasted that his honesty would later come to light, which was not at all certain. Instead, Jacob should have acted as in Prov. 27:1: “Do not boast of tomorrow, for you do not know what the day will bring.” He accordingly was punished “tomorrow” (in the future). Instead of “let my honesty toward you testify [ve-antah] for me,” his daughter was abused [va-yeaneha]; and his honesty was not acknowledged.
Lev. R. 37:1: When he was in Bethel, during his flight from Laban, he vowed that if God favored him, he would return to Bethel and there erect an altar to the Lord (Gen. 28: 20–22). Jacob, however, procrastinated in fulfilling his pledge: first he lived in Laban’s house for twenty years, and even after returning to Canaan, he first dwelled in Shechem. He therefore was punished by experiencing all three of the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed: forbidden sexual relations—by Shechem’s rape of Dinah; bloodshed—the ensuing slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem by Simeon and Levi; and idolatry—following this massacre, Jacob commands all the members of his household to rid themselves of foreign gods.
Leah’s Punishment? – Gen. R. 80:1: Reuben found mandrakes (an aphrodisiac) in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel, who was barren, asked Leah to sell them to her, in return for forgoing her right to be with Jacob that night. Gen. 30:16 tells that upon Jacob’s return from the field, Leah came out to greet him and called him to come to her tent. Leah was bedecked as a harlot when she went to meet her husband. For acting in such an immodest manner, she was punished by her daughter behaving in the same fashion when she went out to visit the daughters of the land.
Dinah’s Sin? Gen. R. 18:2 - Regarding why God made Eve from Adam’s side - And not from the leg, and yet she is a run-about, as it says: "And Dinah went out..." (Genesis 34:1).
Dinah’s Later Story – As Simeon’s Wife, Gen. R. 80:11: The brothers were forced to drag Dinah out, because she was too ashamed to leave Shechem’s house. Finally, Simeon vowed to her that he would marry her. They wed, and a son was born from this union, “Saul the son of a Canaanite woman” (Gen. 46:10); Dinah was the “Canaanite woman,” because her behavior was like that of the Canaanites. According to another explanation of this appellation, when she died, Simeon buried her in Canaan.
As Job’s Wife – Gen. R. 19:12: Dinah was married to Job, basing this on Job’s telling his wife: “You talk as any shameless woman [ha-nevalot] might talk!” (Job 2:10), and on the episode of Dinah in Gen. 34:7: “because he had committed an outrage [nevalah] in Israel.”
In Egypt - Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 37: Dinah was impregnated by Shechem and gave birth to Asenath. Jacob’s sons wanted to kill the baby, so it would not be said that there was harlotry in Jacob’s tents. Jacob brought a gold plate and wrote on it the name of the Holy One, blessed be He; according to another tradition, he recorded on it the episode with Shechem. Jacob hung the plate around Asenath’s neck and sent her away. God dispatched the angel Michael to bring her to the house of Potiphar in Egypt; according to another exegetical tradition, Dinah cast Asenath on the wall of Egypt (i.e., the wall surrounding the palace). That day Potiphar went out for a walk with his servants next to the wall and heard the infant’s crying. When they brought the baby to him, he saw the plate and the record of the episode. Potiphar told his servants, “This girl is the daughter of great ones.” He brought her to his home and gave her a wet nurse. Potiphar’s wife was barren, and she raised Asenath as her own daughter. Consequently, she was called “Asenath daughter of Poti-phera,” for she was raised in the home of Potiphar and his wife, as if she were their own daughter.
TAMAR DAUGHTER OF DAVID
II Samuel 13: In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.
“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So, everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”
12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”
25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”
The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.
28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.
30 While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.
32 But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”
34 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.
Sanhedrin 21a-b (And to David sons were born in Hebron; and his firstborn was Amnon, from Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; and his second, Chileab, from Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom, son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.)
And Rav Yehuda says that Rav says David’s daughter Tamar was the daughter of a beautiful woman taken captive in war and was born before her mother converted. Therefore, Tamar was not considered the daughter of David according to halakha. The proof of this is in what she said to Amnon, son of David, as it is stated: “Now, therefore, speak, please, to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:13). And if it enters your mind to say that she was the daughter of a woman David married, would David have permitted Amnon’s sister to him as a wife? Rather, learn from this verse that she was the daughter of a beautiful woman who converted after Tamar was born, so halakhically Tamar was not a daughter of David.
The Gemara continues to interpret the story of Amnon and Tamar. The verse states: “And Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, son of Shimeah, David’s brother, and Jonadab was a very wise man” (II Samuel 13:3). Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: A wise man for wickedness.
At the end of the story, the verse states: “Then Amnon hated her with exceeding, great hatred, for greater was the hatred with which he hated her than the love with which he had loved her” (II Samuel 13:15). The Gemara asks: What is the reason for Amnon’s intense hatred? Rabbi Yitzḥak says: While he raped her, a hair [nima] of hers became tied around his penis and caused him to be one whose penis has been severed. The Gemara asks: But if the hair became tied around his penis, what did she do? Why would Amnon hold this against her? Rather, say that she intentionally tied a hair around his penis during intercourse, and she made him one whose penis has been severed in order to take revenge on him, and for this he hated her.
The Gemara challenges this: Is that so? But didn’t Rava interpret a verse homiletically: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And your renown went forth among the nations about your beauty” (Ezekiel 16:14)? This teaches that Jewish women do not have armpit hair or pubic hair. Therefore, Tamar would have had no hair to injure Amnon in that way. The Gemara responds Tamar is different, as she was the daughter of a beautiful woman, who was a gentile.
The verse relates that after Amnon raped her: “And Tamar put ashes on her head and rent her garment of many colors that was on her” (II Samuel 13:19). The Sages taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korḥa: Tamar established a great fence at that time by way of her public outcry, as people said: If such an occurrence could happen to the daughters of kings, how much the more so could it happen to the daughters of ordinary people. If such an occurrence could happen to modest women like Tamar, who resisted, all the more so could it happen to licentious women. Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: At that time, they decreed about seclusion, that a man should not be secluded with women who are forbidden to him, and about a single woman.
Yoma 22b: Rav Huna said: How little does a person who has the support of his Lord have to worry or be concerned. The proof for this assertion is a comparison between Saul and David. Saul failed with one single sin and it was counted against him, costing him the throne. David, however, failed with two sins and they were not counted against him, as he retained his position…Rav Huna stated above that David failed with two sins. What were they? One was the incident in which he had Uriah killed. The other was the matter of the incitement of David to conduct a census of the Jewish people (see II Samuel 24:1), which led to many deaths in a plague. The Gemara asks: But were these his only two sins? There is also the incident of Bathsheba, in which he took another man’s wife as his own. The Gemara answers: There, in that case, punishment was exacted from him separately, so the matter is no longer listed among his sins, as it is written with regard to this incident: “And he shall restore the lamb fourfold” (II Samuel 12:6). The lamb was a metaphor for Bathsheba, and ultimately David was indeed given a fourfold punishment for taking Bathsheba: The first child born to Bathsheba and David died (see II Samuel 12:13–23); David’s son Amnon was killed; Tamar, his daughter, was raped by Amnon (see II Samuel 13); and his son Avshalom rebelled against him and was ultimately killed (see II Samuel 15–18).
Avot 5:16: Any love that is dependent on something, when that thing perishes, the love perishes. But [a love] that is not dependent on something, does not ever perish. What's [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? That's the love of Amnon and Tamar. And [a love] that is not dependent on something? That's the love of David and Jonathan.
Megillah 4:10: The blessing of the priests, and the occurrence of David and Amnon, are neither to be read nor interpreted.