Thursday, 03 May 2012
Two of the hardest passages to read in the Old Testament both involve rapes. One is the rape of Dinah by Shechem in Genesis 34. (I should mention that there is a minority viewpoint that the sex was consensual). The second is the rape of Tamar by Ammon in II Samuel 13. It's interesting to read these two passages together and see some of the commonalities in the two stories. While it's easy to read these stories as some horrifying tale that we hope never happens to us or anyone we love, there are still some worthwhile elements to digest.
1. Both rapists were unwilling to wait. Shechem could have contacted Jacob's family first after spotting the lovely Dinah walking the countryside. Ammon could have confessed his love to Tamar. Both men were wealthy princes. Yet both decided that they were not willing to do things slowly. Sadly, both could have probably married the woman had they only been less evil, and this shows how truly vile their sin was. Rape by itself shows the lack of patience and wisdom in a person, the brutal animal unable to comprehend anything but the immediate short-term sexual gratification.
2. Both women were placed in situations that were hard to escape. In the Middle East, hospitality is an important virtue. Dinah probably felt honored at first to be in the presence of an important man like Shechem. Tamar was trying to nurse Ammon, who claimed to be ill. Unfortunately, both Shechem and Ammon proved to be conniving men willing to trick people to get what they wanted. It's a good lesson that sometimes we should be suspicious and careful. It's why Jesus said to be as wise as snakes: sometimes it's good to break societal rules like hospitality if we get a bad feeling.
3. Both rapists committed further crimes after they raped. Ammon was so filled with hate after he achieved his fantasy of sex with Tamar, that he threw her out. His sin produced in him even more evil: perhaps a small part of him realized how evil he had become. Shechem wants to essentially marry into Jacob's family in order to acquire all their wealth. One almost gets the feeling that Shechem also sees Dinah as a bargaining chip with Jacob's family, although the passage also says that he loved her. In other words, rape cannot be seen as merely one sin by itself: it leads to other sins.
4. Both rapes partly occurred because the men around the rapists supported them. Ammon got the idea for having Tamar to himself via the conniving Jonadab, who gave him a plan to get Tamar alone. Shechem's male friends are so eager to get their own Jewish beauty and money that they circumcise themselves. No one says a word against what happened. Men must be willing to go against what the group says is right in these situations, but sadly oftentimes men are cowards. And truly, cowardice is what leads Ammon to rape: he can't confess his love for Tamar like a man should.
5. Both rapes have a violent and tragic aftermath. Both rapists are eventually killed by vengeful male relatives. Tamar becomes a desolate shut-in, brutally raped by a man who first claimed to be sick with love for her and then called his servant to throw her out after he raped her. Dinah's fate is not recorded, but in a way that is even more tragic: her recorded history ends with this chapter, and no children or husband is ever recorded for her.
The passages are chilling, but hopefully teach you something about the nature of the evil. These examples from the Old Testament show us how sin (in this case rape) has devastating consequences even when the so-called princes of the land do it. God still causes them to be judged no matter who they are, and that gives us hope in a God who does eventually judge the wicked.
What are your thoughts on the two stories of rape in the Bible? What do you learn from these passages? Do they have real-world application for our lives today?