"Dinah" is the name of Jacob's daughter by Leah (Gen. xxx. 21). Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, seduces her while she is visiting "to see the daughters of the land" (Gen. xxxiv. 1-31). Though he is anxious to marry her, his outrage upon her induces her brothers, notably Simeon and Levi, to take most treacherous and cruel revenge. Apparently acquiescing in the proposed marriage upon due settlement of the dowry, they insist upon the Shechemites being circumcised as a prerequisite condition; but on the third day after the operation, when the people "were sore," Simeon and Levi fall upon the defenseless city, killing Hamor and Shechem and despoiling the place. Jacob can not approve of their conduct, fearing it may bring evil results by causing the inhabitants of the land to act in concert against him. In Jacob's Blessing (Gen. xlix. 7) the dying patriarch censures the deed as cruel and inspired by fierce and unrighteous anger. Dinah is not mentioned again.
A late writer (Judith ix. 2 et seq.) praises God for having given Simeon strength to avenge the outrage done his virgin sister. Josephus omits all reference to the incident of the circumcision. Dinah having been attracted by a desire to see the "finery of the women" at a time when Shechem was keeping a festival, the brothers, described as "of one mother" with her, seized the opportunity presented by the fact that the inhabitants were engrossed in feasting, to despoil the city. God Himself allays Jacob's "astonishment" at the act. In the Test. Patr. (iii. 6-8) Levi consults his father and his brother Reuben, and they conceet the scheme to insist upon circumcision. Jacob, discovering that he has been duped, is wroth. Levi himself is taken sick, but learns that the destruction of Shechem was justified, since the people had been in the habit of outraging women. He also allays Jacob's apprehensions. Indeed, an angel had commanded Levi to avenge Dinah's wrongs (ib. iii. 5). In Gen. xlviii. 22 there seems to be an allusion to Jacob's own participation in the capturing of the city (see, however, Gunkel, "Genesis," p. 338). The Rabbis so construe it (Ber. R. to the passage; Midrash Hagadol, ed. Schechter, p. 527), and they also make the "holy spirit" (Midrash Hagadol, p. 525) urge the defilement of the girl, while God, as in Josephus, allays Jacob's apprehensions. See also Asenath.
Dinah is blamed for the affair with Shechem because she "went out" (Gen. xxxiv. 1), and her brothers had to drag her away from Shechem by force (Eccl. R. x. 8; Gen. R. lxxx.). When Jacob went to meet Esau, he first locked Dinah in a box, for fear that Esau would wish to marry her. Such action of his brought out the rebuke from God: "If thou hadst married off thy daughter in time she would not have been tempted to sin, and might, moreover, have exerted a beneficial influence upon her husband" (Gen. R. lxxx.). Her brother Simeon promised to marry her; but she did not wish to leave, Shechem, fearing that after her disgrace no one would take her to wife (Gen. R. l.c.); she was later married to Job however (B. B. 16b; Gen. R. l.c.). When she died, Simeon buried her in the land of Canann. She is therefore referred to as "the Canaanitish woman" (Gen. xlvi. 10). Shaul (ib.) was her son by Shechem (Gen. R. l.c.).
The narrative has been held to be unhistorical, and merely a reflection of old feuds arising from outrages committed against women; the story is valuable, therefore, for the light it throws upon primitive customs. The Dinah episode illustrates the custom which made it incumbent upon brothers to avenge any outrage perpetrated upon asister. This is still an unwritten law among the nomadic Bedouins (see Tuch, "Genesis," p. 407). Why Levi and Simeon alone undertook to requite the insult without the aid of her other brothers—a circumstance noted even by the Rabbis (see Midrash Hagadol, l.c.)—and why Jacob should under such circumstances have disapproved of the act, the theory fails to consider.
Gunkel ("Genesis," pp. 336 et seq.) holds that Gen. xxxiv. is composed of two distinct accounts of one event: (1) Dinah, after being outraged, is not retained in the house of Shechem; the son pleads with his father to get him the girl for a wife; Hamor negotiates with Jacob, offers a general intermarriage, and submits to circumcision; the city is attacked and looted; God (Gen. xxxv. 5) advises Jacob to move away. (2) Dinah is captured and retained by Shechem; to allay her uneasiness the son through his father enters into negotiations with Jacob; Jacob is promised rich gifts; he waits for his sons to return before he decides; most of them acquiesce, though Levi and Simeon refuse; they (Levi and Simeon) must cleanse their sister's honor with blood. The story is not complete. It must have told of the failure of Levi and Simeon, and of their being killed in the fray. Gen. xlix. 5-7 alludes to a third variation, in which Jacob is incensed at the conduct of his sons, and proves that the incident was fraught with fatal consequences for the brothers. The historical facts underlying this episode are these: Dinah represents a clan; Shechem is the well-known city. The tribe Dinah had been made captive by Shechem, and the closely consanguineous tribes of Levi and Simeon, in an attempt to capture the city and release the sister clan, came to ignominious grief. This feud did not take place in the Patriarchal period, but at the beginning of that of the Judges, shortly after the first invasion of Canaan.