Sunday, March 25, 2012

"What" is Dinah?

[AMAIC comment. We believe that Dinah was a real historical person, the daughter of Jacob and distant relative of the Jewish heroine, Judith, who has a 16-generation genealogy going back to contemporaries of Moses].

by John R. Salverda

The story of Dinah in the book of Genesis can give us great insight as to how mythology works. The retellings of her story by the Greeks are clearly classified as Myths, but what is a myth, exactly… ? What follows is not meant to denigrate the Scriptural truths as mythology, but rather to elevate mythology as a similar attempt to tell the truth, using symbolic poetry rather than telling it prosaically. In doing so I am forced to point out that the Scriptures themselves are not altogether free of the use of “allegories” which, if found in other sources would be classified as mythology.

I am personally of the opinion that the character that has come down to us as Dinah was, at one time, considered to be more than simply the role that she portrays in the book of Genesis as a human woman. It seems as though she has been euhemerized into an historic personage, but never-the-less she was still "the virgin daughter of Israel." Perhaps her story was an allegorical one (as was the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc.), told to teach about the story of the nation of Israel itself, which was also often referred to as the "Virgin of Israel." It is not unusual for a nation, a city, a church, or a population, to be figuratively symbolized as a female character. Even modern nations, (without, presumably, resorting to idolatry), have similar traditions. The U.S.A. has it’s "Columbia," the U.K. has "Britannia," and Rome had it’s "Roma," all feminine personifications that are symbolic of each their own national spirit. The nation of Israel was also referred to as a "woman," and the "maiden," and the "virgin," she was known as Zion (or Jerusalem) and called the "bride," or "wife," of God. ("Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing." Jeremiah 18:13, "Again I will build thee, and thou shall be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shall again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shall go forth in the dances of them that make merry." Jeremiah 31:4, "...O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter?..." Jeremiah 31:21,22, "The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up." Amos 5:2.) The well known female personification, the totem, of the nation of Israel had committed her "whoredoms" with the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. The story of the "rape" of Dinah, seems to me, like a way to mitigate the guilt of the "virgin," perhaps this is the original purpose of the tale.

For those who wish to read the legendary version of the Shechem incident, this tradition is outlined in Ginzberg's "Jewish Legends" "THE OUTRAGE AT SHECHEM"

The Scriptural account in Genesis offers no mention of any offspring as the result of Dinah's rape, this seems odd to me because Jewish legends clearly do. The Midrash Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer (Chap. 38) records a view that Asenath (the wife of Joseph, and mother of Ephraim and Manasseh,) was actually the daughter of Joseph's sister Dinah, conceived in her rape by Shechem.

For those who wish to read the legendary version of the daughter of Dinah as Asenath in Egypt, this can also be found in Ginzberg's "Jewish Legends" "THE WIVES OF THE SONS OF JACOB"

In regards to the allegation that Asenath was the daughter of Dinah, the reader is urged to see also; (point #6) where it is asserted that: "The Bible states, "These are the names of the children of Israel," (Gen. 46:8), and there are indeed 70 names which follow. The seventieth name, which appears to be extra, is that of Asenath, the wife of Joseph." Thereby indicating that Asenath was indeed thought to be "a (grand) child of Israel."

An original version of this tale, no doubt included the point that Dinah (an euhemerized version of the nation of Israel itself) left ancestors as a result of her "rape." As to why there is no mention of this in Genesis, I would say; Perhaps the Jewish editors of the Scriptures were well aware of the Allegorical association between Dinah and their national personification, "the Virgin of Israel." They also knew that the Messiah was to be born of "the Virgin" (indicating that He would be an Israelite). However they promoted the Davidic Messiah (as opposed to the Ephraimitic, or Messiah ben Joseph), and were not inclined to report that a descendant of Dinah through Asenath would lend allegorical credibility to the concept of the "Messiah ben Joseph," a parallel, but sometimes thought to be competing, Messianic tradition.

The story known as "The Rape of Dinah" was a very popular and apparently widely known tale. Besides the various Hebrew versions of the story, it also seems apparent that colonists from Israel had incorporated the tale into Greek mythology. Unlike the Scriptural Dinah, and more like the Dinah of the Jewish legends, the Greek versions of the Virgin are always impregnated by the “rape.”

The Greek myth about the Rape of Danae was brought to Greece by Danite (the Israelite tribe of Dan) colonists who were known in Greece as "the Danaans" (For my reasons backing this assertion please see the article that I have written on the subject and have posted elsewhere in this forum. The progeny of Danae include Perseus and Heracles both highly Messianic characters, Heracles in particular injures his foot while slaying a serpent, the Lernian Hydra. Later Heracles sacrifices himself on his own Golgotha because the Hydra blood had poisoned him (accordingly he was resurrected to immortality on Olympus).

I would urge anyone who wants to learn more about the story of Dinah, to study the Greek myth of Danae. Even the obscure detail of being locked up in a chest in related in both stories; "Jacob ... concealed his daughter Dinah in a chest, lest Esau desire to have her for wife, and he be obliged to give her to him." (from Ginzberg "Jewish Legends") Robert Graves, in book 1 of his two volume work, "the Greek myths," (60.1,3) says that the Greek Danae was called, by the Hebrews, Dinah. Perhaps by way of explanation he previously intimates, that the Danaans who told her story, were part of a group of early arriving Helladic colonists from Palestine.

I wrote an article comparing the Greek myth of Acrisius, Proetus, and Danae, with the Scriptural story of Jacob, Esau, and Dinah. The entire article can be found at for those who wish to read it in it's entirety. An excerpt of which follows:

Comparing the two stories Jacob and Esau, with Acrisius and Proetus, the first thing that most people will notice in any comparison between the two pairs, is that in each case we have the birth of twins who struggle, even in the womb before birth, over who should receive the kingdom as a birthright. The motif of twins struggling with each other in the womb before birth is a fairly rare one. The early life of both sets of twins are remarkably similar. The Greek myth has Acrisius and Proetus initially alternating their possession of the kingdom inheritance for a time. In the Hebrew Scriptures Esau has the initial inheritance for a time until Jacob tricks him out of it, but then Esau travels to Seir, marries into a local Canaanite clan, and begins to raise an army among them with the idea of destroying Jacob. Therefore Jacob flees to Syria where he increases his forces and returns, at this point, there is a meeting between the two groups, however, instead of fighting to the death, there is a stand off between the two brothers who decide to split the kingdom up, Esau taking Seir which he names after himself “Edom,” while Jacob retained the land which he named after himself, “Israel.” Now, the Greek myth, has a very similar series of events occur between their equivalent set of twins Acrisius and Proetus. Just as did Jacob in Israel, Acrisius gained the upper hand and refused to let Proetus have his rightful share in the kingdom inheritance. Therefore, Proetus goes off and marries into a local Greek clan, the Lycians, among whom he raises an army with the intent of destroying his brother Acrisius and regaining the Argolian throne. However, again just as in the Scriptural account, when there is a meeting of their two armies, it leads to a stand off between them. The two brothers, instead of fighting to the death, decide to split up the kingdom, Proetus taking Tiryns, while Acrisius retained the kingdom of Argolis.

During the course of these dynastic struggles, Acrisius, the Greek version of Israel, had a daughter named Danae, who had gotten ravaged. While Israel himself had a daughter named Dinah, who also was ravaged. In each case the analogous virgin was thought to have been raped by the enemy of her father and, also in each case, revenge had been taken against this enemy. We also learn, whether in the Hebrew story or in the Greek rendition of it, that the respective despoilers had actually fallen in love with, each their own version of, the victimized maiden.

As the book of Genesis comes to it’s end, we learn that the Hebrew patriarch Israel, and Dinah as well, had to leave his inherited kingdom after all. Driven by a famine he left the promised land and he went into Egypt, leaving his brother Esau behind in the kingdom uncontested. The scriptural account then goes on at this point to tell the story of the Exodus. Returning to the Greek myths, we find from Ovid that ultimately Proetus drove his twin Acrisius from the throne and out of Argolis, Hyginus says that Acrisius followed his daughter Danae and grandson Perseus to the land of their exile, Seriphos, leaving his brother Proetus behind in the kingdom uncontested. This is the point in the Greek myth, where the story of the dynastic struggles over Argolis ends, and the story of Perseus begins. (the myth of Perseus can indeed be shown to be a Greek variant of the Hebrew story of the Exodus.)

I wrote an article called "Perseus" wherein I included reasons for believing that his mother Danae was a personification of the nation of Israel. It can be found elsewhere in this forum in it's entirety at . What follows is the pertinent passage:

The slaying of Medusa is portrayed as a prerequisite to freedom for the captive mother of Perseus, "Danae." Danae was the earthly wife of Zeus, and she was being held captive by an earthy king, there can be no mistake in identifying her with Zion, the nation that gave birth to Moses. It is evident that while in Egypt, the Israelites pronounced the name "Zion," as "Zoan," it was the name of the City-state of their captivity, "the field of Zoan." The classical Greeks knew of this place and called it "Tanis," they identified the goddess, who was named after this place, with "Athena." In the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions, the same Egyptian district was called, "Sinu." A clever philologist can find this far famed woman’s name throughout ancient literature, besides those already mentioned, here is a partial list of the name Zion transliterated; Diana, Dione, Deino, Dion, Dinah, Sinai, Hesione, Thyone, (even backwards) Anath (the name "Asenath" is thought to be Egyptian for "beloved of Anath"), Neith, and Nut.

Another Greek myth, with apparent connections to the story of Dinah, is called "The Rape of Aigina," it is from the Sisyphus cycle of Greek mythology and comes from Corinth (recognized as a "Phoenician" settlement). This myth seems to reflect a more "Canaanite" or "Shechemite" point of view. Her rape produces offspring leading to Achilles, another Greek hero with obvious Messianic attributes (his death is the result of a wound in the heel).

I wrote an article comparing the Greek myth of Sisyphus, with the Scriptural story of Joseph. For those who wish to read it in it's entirety the article can be found here; . An excerpt of which is as follows:

An inclusion in the Sisyphus cycle of Greek mythology, was the story of a character named, "Asopus," his tale, which is also known as, "the rape of Aegina," clearly borrows, quite liberally, from the story of Jacob. Even the Greek names of the players retain their phonetic similarities to the original Hebrew cast. The name "Sisyphus" passes as "Joseph-us," "Asopus" is plausibly a Greek form of the name "Jacob," (with a soft "c" and the usual Greek suffix "-us" appended,) moreover, the name of the daughter of Asopus, "Aegina," is a very likely Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name of Jacob’s daughter, "Dinah," whose story, of course, has correspondingly come to be known as, "the rape of Dinah." It was this account for which Sisyphus became famously chided, as was Joseph elsewhere, as a tattle tale, because he gave a damning report for which he, it is said in the Greek myth, had earned his well known eternal punishment. The myth of the rape of Aegina helps us to identify the Hebrew city of Shechem with the Greek city of Corinth, because it was in the vicinity of Shechem that the rape of Dinah occurred. Just as Joseph was especially loved by Jacob, who made rationalizations for Joseph’s dreams and tattling telling, so Sisyphus gets recompense from Asopus. For Sisyphus was rewarded for "informing" to Asopus. Just as Jacob dug a well on Mount Ebal in Shechem and then gave (in his deathbed blessing through Joseph), the city to Ephraim as a so called extra shoulder. We learn from Pausanias in recounting the Greek myth that the well, or fountain, or spring called the "Upper Peirene" on the mountain at Corinth; "The spring, which is behind the temple, they say was the gift of Asopus to Sisyphus. The latter knew, so runs the legend, that Zeus had ravished Aegina, the daughter of Asopus, but refused to give information to the seeker before he had a spring given him on the Acrocorinth." (Pausanias, 2.5.1). Note how the story of the Mountain, the temple, and the well as a gift to Sisyphus from Asopus, were all "borrowed" from the story of Shechem. More evidence for the identification of Asopus with Jacob, lies in the mythic claim that Zeus had inflicted Asopus with a permanent limp, as a result of his contention with the king of the gods. Jacob, of course, limped because of a similar contention.

That the lives of the Patriarchs, and Matriarchs, of the Scriptures were not only about the story simply told in the book of Genesis, but rather were allegories and foreshadowings of things greater than themselves, we are told over and over again. The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 4:22-26, “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. ... Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which brings forth children to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” We are told in our catechism classes that the sacrifice of Isaac, was also that of the Passover Lamb of God at the Exodus (not to mention that of the Christ). The life of Joseph foreshadows the trials and tribulations of Jesus and the role of Christianity in the future World. None of this is taken as if we are doubting the original stories that are told in the Scriptures as myths. So perhaps a little better understanding of the life of Dinah also includes a bit of allegory and foreshadowing.

John wrote (26 Mar)

Dear Damien,

Thanks for that, You've done a fine job (I was a bit worried about all those links), the article looks great.

Please don't get me wrong, I do not deny the actual existence of Dinah as a person. This is why I placed the word "what" in quotes. In fact I, as do you apparently, think that she left descendants, a supposition that is not confirmed Biblically. Do you have a theory as to why such a possibility may have been expunged from the Biblical record? I would love to hear it.

You think (Why?) that Judith has descended from Dinah, well maybe so. The Greek myths alluded to are older than the life of Judith, and who knows how old Ginzberg's "Jewish Legends" on the subject may be. Danae is an ancestor of Heracles, and Aegina of Achilles, and if Joseph actually did wed the daughter of Dinah then, the Messiah Ben Joseph would be her descendant.

Now, as to referring to Dinah as a "what;" I feel justified in the same way that Paul in Galatians referred to "Hagar" as mount Sinai in Arabia. Surely Paul believed that Hagar had really lived.

Keep up the good work. -John

Damien replied (28 Mar)


By "ancestor" in relation to Dinah and Judith I meant fellow relative of Simeon, not a direct descendant as in great-g-g-g(etc)-mother.

The Simeonite Judith refers back to Dinah by way of contrast. Dinah was ravaged by the gentile, whereas it was Judith's great triumph that she was not (in fact that is the first thing she tells the Bethulians upon her return).

The Bible is very selective. E.g. you would think from it that the Philistines inhabited merely the Shephelah region, whereas archaeology shows that they occupied a far greater territory. Again, there is virtually no interest in Solomon after he had apostatised, yet he went on to do great things after that, in a commercial and mercantile and architectural sense.

The Bible does tell us that there was great further coverage of (e.g. kings) in other written sources. The scribes were apparently not going to duplicate what was already freely available perhaps. I wish we had those records now.

Seemingly Dinah, too, was of no great interest later for whatever reason.


No comments:

Post a Comment