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Shechem was a minor character in Christian and Jewish theology, appearing in the Book of Genesis. He was the prince of the city of the same name, and the lover and rapist of Dinah.

Biography

When Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah, visited the city of Shechem to meet the town's womenfolk, Prince Shechem saw her and fell in love with her. As a result, he abducted Dinah and raped her (or seduced in some versions), telling her he loved her.

Later, he asked his father Hamor to arrange with Jacob for him to marry Dinah, telling him to give whatever Dowry Jacob wanted. Hamor went to Jacob to ask, but was met by Dinah's brothers led by Simeon, who deceived him, telling him Shechem could marry Dinah if all the men of the city circumcised themselves, thus joining with Abraham's covenant.

Hamor and Shechem agreed, saying that if Dinah was betrothed to Shechem, they would do so, and would give Jacob's people their lands. Thus all the men were circumcised. However, after the fact, when the men of the city were sore from the circumcisions, Simeon, his brothers and his men rode up to the city, plundered it, slaughtered Hamor, Shechem and all the men within and carried Dinah away along with many captured women and kids.

When Jacob heard of their actions, he was horrified and infuriated, as the slaughter of the people of Shechem and underhanded use of circumcision had turned the people of the surrounding lands against them and given their covenant a bad name, but the brothers defended their actions on the grounds of Shechem's rape of their sister. Nevertheless the brothers did not receive Jacob's full inheritance, which instead went to the fourth son, Judah, whom didn't take part in the massacre of Shechem.

Dinah's fate is unmentioned in most versions, though it is occasionally mentioned she had a daughter from her rape. In one version, it is mentioned Dinah and her father made Simeon marry her in a sexless marriage as punishment and to ensure Dinah would be provided for as it would be hard to find a husband with the loss of her virginity. Other stories say Simeon also or instead married a woman from Shechem named Bonah, as a way to atone for his actions.

Personality

Shechem receives little characterization, but despite his terrible crime towards Dinah, Shechem appears sincere and earnest in his attempts to make peace in the primitive methods of the time. Many versions of the story clarify, this was out of remorse for his actions towards the woman he came to love, though others imply it was to avoid an all out war between his house and Jacob’s tribe.

Shechem is described as the most honorable of his house and a well-respected individual in the city. The latter trait would explain how he got all the men of the city of Shechem to go along with getting themselves circumcised; a very painful and crude procedure in that time period.

Notes

  • From a modern perspective, it is very odd the story never give's Dinah's view on her assault or engagement to Shechem, with only her father and brothers getting to talk about it. Similarly the view of Dinah having been permanently defiled and made unsuitable for marriage by the loss of her virginity is considered extremely outdated.
  • The original text only says Shechem "defiled" Dinah, making it ambiguous if it was a rape or a seduction, as a result different adaptations have handled the relationships differently. It should be noted by the societal standards of the time, seducing and having sex with a woman before marriage, was still considered a crime as it drastically lowered her prospect of marriage and soured her family's reputation.
  • Whilst it may seen odd at first that Jacob was angry about the brother's revenge on their sister's rapist, it should be noted, the following factors were at play.
    • By using circumcision as a trick to weaken the men of Shechem, Simeon and his brothers had made it seem like circumcision to join their covenant was only a ruse, thus discouraging other people from joining their covenant.
    • Simeon and his brothers had taken their revenge on the whole town of Shechem, including many people whom had nothing to do with Dinah's rape by Shechem. They had also brought dishonor upon the women of Shechem by enslaving them, similar to the dishonor Shechem brought on Dinah.
    • By the very different standards of the time, Prince Shechem offering to pay the any price for the dowry and formally asking Jacob for Dinah's hand of marriage, was an attempt at diplomacy, by taking responsibility for the rape and ensuring Dinah would have a husband. In that time period, a punishment for rape was the rapist having to pay the victim's family and/or wed the victim if the family willed it. Dinah's brothers had the option of refusing Shechem's offer of marriage.
  • Scholarly research suggests in earlier versions of the story, there was no rape/seduction of Dinah by Shechem and instead he simply asked to marry Dinah upon catching sight of her. [1]
    • Its possible adding the part about seduction/rape was done to make the brother's revenge more understandable, if still sinful for the reasons mentioned above.

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