Bible: How Old Was Dinah When She Was Married To Shechem?

Bible: How Old Was Dinah When She Was Married To Shechem?

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


What was Dinah’s age when Shechem raped her? Was Dinah given away in marriage to Shechem? This will be elaborated further down in the article.

I do a lot of research about the Quran, Hadith and the Bible, I have to read a lot of commentaries on these books – to get a better understanding of how scholars understood the passages.

Recently, I was writing an article on a verse in Genesis. I read through nearly 40 commentaries on the particular verse I was examining. Every time Dinah was mentioned, the scholars explained how old she was at the time she was ‘raped’ by Shechem. One thing that I noticed, there was a repeated pattern from all the commentaries about Dinah’s age.

The ages given were not consistent and was contradictory. Some proposed that she was 10, others higher, 12, 13, 14, 15, and even 16. Not only was it contradictory but they supplied no evidence for their claims, how they came to the conclusion for her age. They didn’t present any verses from Genesis to substantiate what they asserted.

The scholars’ views on how old she was, got me thinking. I was asking myself, why are they so adamant proving that she was at a certain, particular age at the time of the rape and marriage?

This got me to open my GNT Bible translation in the morning at home and went through Genesis 29 all the way to the end of Genesis 34. I read through the chapters three times until I seen the exact age that was given by Genesis account. And it was not 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16. It was actually anything below 9. How did I get to that?

Well for this, we have to read and follow the evidence from the verses in Genesis.

We begin by the response of Jacob telling Laban that he was with him and served for him for twenty long years. In that time he got married and had nearly two dozen children (bear in mind this is the episode when Jacob and his family fled from Laban):

Good News Translation (GNT)
“36 Then Jacob lost his temper. “What crime have I committed?” he asked angrily. “What law have I broken that gives you the right to hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my belongings, what household article have you found that belongs to you?

Put it out here where your men and mine can see it, and let them decide which one of us is right. 38 I HAVE BEEN WITH YOU NOW FOR TWENTY YEARS; your sheep and your goats have not failed to reproduce, and I have not eaten any rams from your flocks.” – Genesis 31:36-38

Bear the above information in your mind, as we go through the passages showing how young Dinah was at the time of her rape and subsequent marriage to Shechem.

At the beginning of Genesis 29:15 it tells us how Jacob was loved up and attracted to Rachel. Jacob’s love for Rachel, made him ask Laban that he would work 7 years if he could marry Rachel at the end. Laban agreed that he wanted to give Rachel to him and no one else (Gen. 29:18-19).

The following verses tell us that Jacob worked the 7 years so that he could have Rachel when the time came – Jacob asked Laban, the time he waited (seven years) is “up” and now he wants what was promised to him (Gen. 29:21).

“18 Jacob was in love with Rachel, so he said, “I WILL WORK SEVEN YEARS FOR YOU, if you will let me marry Rachel.”
19 Laban answered, “I would rather give her to you than to anyone else; stay here with me.”
20 JACOB WORKED SEVEN YEARS so that he could have Rachel, and the time seemed like only a few days to him, because he loved her.
21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “THE TIME IS UP; let me marry your daughter.” – Genesis 29:18-21

That same night, a wedding feast was made and all the people around were invited:

“He went to Laban and said, “Why did you do this to me? I worked to get Rachel. Why have you tricked me?” Laban answered, “It is not the custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older.
27 Wait until the week’s marriage celebrations are over, and I will give you Rachel IF YOU WILL WORK FOR ME ANOTHER SEVEN YEARS.” – Genesis 29:26-27

After the wedding was over, Rachel supposed to have been sent over to Jacob’s tent, however, Laban deceptively sent Leah to his tent. He had intercourse with her, all the time unbeknown to Jacob that is Leah, not Rachel. He only finds out that he was sleeping with Leah, the next morning when there was daylight.

As soon as Jacob found out that it was Leah and not Rachel, he went to Laban and said, why did he have to do this to him? Laban responded by saying that it is not the ‘custom’ to marry the younger daughter before the older one.

So Laban told Jacob to give it a week or more when the marriage celebrations are over and he will give Rachel to him, but he has to work another seven years. After the week’s celebrations were over Laban gave Rachel to Jacob (Gen. 29:28). At the same time, Laban also gave his daughter Rachel, his slave, Bilhah.

From Genesis 29:31 on is where the real story begins as to how old Dinah was when her ‘rape’ and marriage took place.

Year 8

Bear in mind before we begin, Jacob here has already been with Laban for seven years. Jacob’s first child to Leah was born:

“32 LEAH BECAME PREGNANT AND GAVE BIRTH TO A SON. She said, “The Lord has seen my trouble, and now my husband will love me”; so she named him REUBEN.” – Genesis 29:32

Year 9

In the year 9 Leah gives birth to Simeon:

“She became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She said, “The Lord has given me this son also, because he heard that I was not loved”; so she NAMED HIM SIMEON.” – Genesis 29:33

Year 10

Leah gives birth to Levi:

“Once again she became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She said, “Now my husband will be bound more tightly to me, because I have borne him three sons”; so SHE NAMED HIM LEVI.” – Genesis 29:34

Year 11

Then she gave birth to another son, this time, she named him ‘Judah’:

“Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She said, “This time I will praise the Lord”; SO SHE NAMED HIM JUDAH.” – Genesis 29:34

It says from here on that Leah stopped having any children.

Year 12

Rachel became really frustrated and angry – she was not getting pregnant. As a result of her frustration and anger, Rachel decided and told Jacob to sleep with her slave Bilhah, so he could impregnate her. As a result of this, Bilhah became pregnant and a son was born. They named him, ‘Dan’:

30 But Rachel had not borne Jacob any children, and so she became jealous of her sister and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I will die.”
2 Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, “I can’t take the place of God. He is the one who keeps you from having children.”

3 She said, “Here is my slave Bilhah; sleep with her, so that she can have a child for me. In this way I can become a mother through her.” 4 So she gave Bilhah to her husband, and he had intercourse with her. 5 Bilhah became pregnant and bore Jacob a son. 6 Rachel said, “God has judged in my favor. He has heard my prayer and has given me a son”; SO SHE NAMED HIM DAN.” – Genesis 30:1-7

Year 13

Bilhah became pregnant again, and named the child ‘Naphtali’:

“Bilhah became pregnant again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Rachel said, “I have fought a hard fight with my sister, but I have won”; SO SHE NAMED HIM NAPHTALI.” – Genesis 30:7

Year 14

Leah realized that she could not have any children, she decided to give her slave Zilpah to Jacob as his wife. The verses reveal that Zilpah became pregnant and bore a son, they named him ‘Gad’:

“9 When Leah realized that she had stopped having children, she gave her slave Zilpah to Jacob as his wife. 10 Then Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Leah said, “I have been lucky”; so SHE NAMED HIM GAD.” – Genesis 30:9

Year 15

Zilpah became pregnant again, and this time, they named the child, ‘Asher’:

“12 Zilpah bore Jacob another son, 13 and Leah said, “How happy I am! Now women will call me happy”; so SHE NAMED HIM ASHER.” Genesis 30:12-13

Year 16

Leah and Rachel got into an argument, Rachel settled it by saying to Leah that she could sleep with Jacob tonight if she gave her son’s ‘mandrakes’. The story goes that Leah that night slept with Jacob, and she became pregnant. They named the son, ‘Issachar’:

“14 During the wheat harvest Reuben went into the fields and found mandrakes, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”
15 Leah answered, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken away my husband? Now you are even trying to take away my son’s mandrakes.”

Rachel said, “If you will give me your son’s mandrakes, you can sleep with Jacob tonight.”
16 When Jacob came in from the fields in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You are going to sleep with me tonight, because I have paid for you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he had intercourse with her that night.

17 GOD ANSWERED LEAH’S PRAYER, AND SHE BECAME PREGNANT AND BORE JACOB A FIFTH SON. Leah said, “God has given me my reward, because I gave my slave to my husband”; so SHE NAMED HER SON ISSACHAR.” – Genesis 30:14-17

Year 17

Another child was born to Leah, they named him ‘Zebulun’:

“19 LEAH BECAME PREGNANT AGAIN and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 She said, “God has given me a fine gift. Now my husband will accept me, because I have borne him six sons”; SO SHE NAMED HIM ZEBULUN.” – Genesis 30:19-20

Year 18

In the following year Leah was pregnant again, and this time, she gave birth to ‘Dinah’:

“LATER SHE BORE A DAUGHTER, whom she named DINAH.” – Genesis 30:21

Year 19

Then Rachel was ‘remembered’ by God, then she gave birth to child, and named him ‘Joseph:

“22 Then GOD REMEMBERED RACHEL; he answered her prayer and made it possible for her to have children. 23 SHE BECAME PREGNANT AND GAVE BIRTH TO A SON. She said, “God has taken away my disgrace by giving me a son. 24 May the Lord give me another son”; so she named him JOSEPH.” – Genesis

With the above evidence from the verses, we can see that Dinah was born the 18th year of Jacob serving, and working for Laban.

In the following episode, the verses tell us that Jacob ‘bargained’ with Laban, wanted to go back to his homeland.

Jacob’s Bargain with Laban
25 After the birth of Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Let me go, so that I can return home.
26 Give me my wives and children that I have earned by working for you, and I will leave. You know how well I have served you.”
27 Laban said to him, “Let me say this: I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.
28 Name your wages, and I will pay them.”
29 Jacob answered, “You know how I have worked for you and how your flocks have prospered under my care.
30 The little you had before I came has grown enormously, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I went. Now it is time for me to look out for my own interests.”
31 “What shall I pay you?” Laban asked.
Jacob answered, “I don’t want any wages. I will continue to take care of your flocks if you agree to this suggestion:
32 Let me go through all your flocks today and take every black lamb and every spotted or speckled young goat. That is all the wages I want.
33 In the future you can easily find out if I have been honest. When you come to check up on my wages, if I have any goat that isn’t speckled or spotted or any sheep that isn’t black, you will know that it has been stolen.”
34 Laban answered, “Agreed. We will do as you suggest.”
35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that had stripes or spots and all the females that were speckled and spotted or which had white on them; he also removed all the black sheep. He put his sons in charge of them,
36 and then went away from Jacob with this flock as far as he could travel in three days. Jacob took care of the rest of Laban’s flocks. Genesis 30:25-36

God told Jacob to go back the land of his fathers, and his relatives. So Jacob packed up and went:

31 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father. He got all his wealth from what our father owned.” 2 He also saw that Laban was no longer as friendly as he had been earlier. 3 Then the Lord said to him, “GO BACK TO THE LAND OF YOUR FATHERS AND TO YOUR RELATIVES. I will be with you.” …

17-18 So Jacob got ready to go back to his father in the land of Canaan. He put his children and his wives on the camels, and drove all his flocks ahead of him, with everything that he had GOTTEN IN MESOPOTAMIA.” – Genesis 31:1-18

As a result of Jacob fleeing with his wife, and his children, he was pursued by Laban:

“22 Three days later Laban was told that Jacob had fled.
23 He took his men with him and PURSUED JACOB FOR SEVEN DAYS until he caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.” – Genesis 31:21-22

Eventually, Laban caught up with Jacob, and the following was said between themselves:

“26 Laban said to Jacob, “Why did you deceive me and carry off my daughters like women captured in war?
27 Why did you deceive me and slip away without telling me? If you had told me, I would have sent you on your way with rejoicing and singing to the music of tambourines and harps.
28 You did not even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-bye. That was a foolish thing to do!
29 I have the power to do you harm, but last night the God of your father warned me not to threaten you in any way.
30 I know that you left because you were so anxious to get back home, but why did you steal my household gods?”
31 Jacob answered, “I was afraid, because I thought that you might take your daughters away from me.
32 But if you find that anyone here has your gods, he will be put to death. Here, with our men as witnesses, look for anything that belongs to you and take what is yours.” Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s gods.
33 Laban went and searched Jacob’s tent; then he went into Leah’s tent, and the tent of the two slave women, but he did not find his gods. Then he went into Rachel’s tent.
34 Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in a camel’s saddlebag and was sitting on them. Laban searched through the whole tent, but did not find them.
35 Rachel said to her father, “Do not be angry with me, sir, but I am not able to stand up in your presence; I am having my monthly period.” Laban searched but did not find his household gods.
36 Then Jacob lost his temper. “What crime have I committed?” he asked angrily. “What law have I broken that gives you the right to hunt me down?
37 Now that you have searched through all my belongings, what household article have you found that belongs to you? Put it out here where your men and mine can see it, and let them decide which one of us is right.
38 I HAVE BEEN WITH YOU NOW FOR TWENTY YEARS; your sheep and your goats have not failed to reproduce, and I have not eaten any rams from your flocks.”
39 Whenever a sheep was killed by wild animals, I always bore the loss myself. I didn’t take it to you to show that it was not my fault. You demanded that I make good anything that was stolen during the day or during the night.
40 Many times I suffered from the heat during the day and from the cold at night. I WAS NOT ABLE TO SLEEP.
42 If the God of my fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac, had not been with me, you would have already sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my trouble and the work I have done, and last night he gave his judgment.” – Genesis 31:26-42

The above account is very interesting information that we have read. Few facts from the verses:

1. Jacob worked and served Laban for a whole twenty long years.
2. For fourteen years he worked for Laban’s two daughters (Rachel and Leah).
3. Dinah was born in the eighteenth year as we calculated all the kids that were born. This would tell us that Dinah was no more than three years old when Jacob fled from Laban, to go back to his homeland.

Jacob arrives back in his homeland:

“18 ON HIS RETURN FROM MESOPOTAMIA JACOB ARRIVED SAFELY AT THE CITY OF SHECHEM in the land of Canaan and set up his camp in a field near the city.
19 He bought that part of the field from the descendants of Hamor father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of silver.
20 He put up an altar there and named it for El, the God of Israel.” Genesis 33:18-20

With Jacob arriving back at his homeland and building a house for him and his family – at this stage, he has just left Laban and met Esau.

Coming back to Dinah, the calculation would tell us that she was around 3-4 years old when Jacob arrived home. Even if we are generous and say that every child that was born to Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, were born every 9-10 month, which would calculate to us that Dinah to being around 7 years old when Jacob arrived in his homeland.

The first time we hear of Dinah again is as soon as Jacob arrived back in his homeland. Dinah’s episode begins:

“1 One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the Canaanite women.
2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who was chief of that region, saw her, HE TOOK HER AND RAPED HER.
3 But he found the young woman so attractive that he fell in love with her and tried to win her affection.
4 He told his father, “I WANT YOU TO GET DINAH FOR ME AS MY WIFE.” – Genesis 34:1-4

Dinah is set to have gone out to see some Canaanite women. While on her way, Shechem, the son of Hamor, saw her and was really attracted to her. With him not holding himself back, he grabbed Dinah, forced himself on her i.e., raped her.

With Shechem ‘falling’ in love with Dinah, he tried being affectionate afterwards. And to mend the wrong he had done, he wanted to marry her. Shechem went to his father, who was the chief of the land and had asked that he wanted to marry Dinah, and become a wife to him.

Jacob and his son learn that Dinah has been raped, they are furious about this:

“5 Jacob learned that his daughter had been disgraced, but because his sons were out in the fields with his livestock, he did nothing until they came back.
7 just as Jacob’s sons were coming in from the fields. When they heard about it, they were shocked and furious that Shechem had done such a thing and had insulted the people of Israel by raping Jacob’s daughter.” – Genesis 34:5-7

Hamor responded by saying to Jacob and his sons, that Shechem has fallen in love with Dinah and wanted his son to marry her. He was urging them to accept this and would give anything for this marriage to take place:

9 Let us make an agreement that there will be intermarriage between our people and yours.
10 Then you may stay here in our country with us; you may live anywhere you wish, trade freely, and own property.
12 Tell me what presents you want, and set the payment for the bride as high as you wish; I will give you whatever you ask, if you will only let me marry her.”
13 Because Shechem had disgraced their sister Dinah, JACOB’S SONS ANSWERED SHECHEM AND HIS FATHER HAMOR in a deceitful way.
16 Then WE WILL AGREE TO INTERMARRIAGE. We will settle among you and become one people with you.
18 These terms seemed fair to Hamor and his son Shechem,
19 and the young man lost no time in doing what was suggested, because he was in love with Jacob’s daughter. He was the most important member of his family.

20 Hamor and his son Shechem went to the meeting place at the city gate and spoke to the people of the town: 21 “These men are friendly; let them live in the land with us and travel freely. The land is large enough for them also.

Let us marry their daughters and give them ours in marriage. 22 But these men will agree to live among us and be one people with us only on the condition that we circumcise all our males, as they are circumcised. 23 Won’t all their livestock and everything else they own be ours?

So let us agree that they can live among us.” 24 All the citizens of the city agreed with what Hamor and Shechem proposed, and all the males were circumcised.
” – Genesis 34:8-10

We see that Jacob does not condemn the whole affair, nor did he object to Hamor’s proposal for his son Shechem to marry Dinah. Instead, he prepares with his sons to do a deal with Shechem’s father. Jacob was willing to give his daughter to them.

Although Dinah’s brothers had agreed to the deal they proposed to Shechem’s father, that they become circumcised first before they can give their sister away, they did this deceptively as the passage reveals.

Furthermore, a closer look at Genesis 34:17 suggests that Dinah was already in Shechem’s house, this in some way tells that the agreement was half way met for her to be married off – Genesis 34:27 corroborates that Dinah was given away by her father and lived in Shechem’s house.
What I find intriguing in this story, Jacob, and his sons’ faces did not drop to the floor at the suggestion from Hamor proposing for Dinah to marry his son. It some way shows that pre-twentieth century, people got married very early. We have documented cases in the US and Europe, where seven to ten years old were married off.

So the proposal of Shechem’s father, for his son to marry seven-year-old Dinah does show that such marriages were common and accepted in such societies. In fact, scholars in the past have said that Dinah was below the age of 9, at the time of the incident with Shechem. [1] [2]

With Shechem’s father agreeing to the conditions Dinah’s brothers put forward, they agreed to circumcise themselves:

25 Three days later, when the men were still sore from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, took their swords, went into the city without arousing suspicion, and killed all the men,
26 including Hamor and his son Shechem. THEN THEY TOOK DINAH FROM SHECHEM’S HOUSE AND LEFT.
27 After the slaughter Jacob’s other sons looted the town to take revenge for their sister’s disgrace. 28 They took the flocks, the cattle, the donkeys, and everything else in the city and in the fields.
29 They took everything of value, captured all the women and children, and carried off everything in the houses.
30 Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have gotten me into trouble; now the Canaanites, the Perizzites, and everybody else in the land will hate me. I do not have many men; if they all band together against me and attack me, our whole family will be destroyed.”
31 But they answered, “We cannot let our sister be treated like a common whore.” – Genesis 34:25-31

While they finished from the circumcision that was imposed on Shechem and his family, Dinah’s brothers went there with their swords and murdered all the men. They looted the town, robbed everything in it and enslaved all the women and children.

Jacob was not happy at what his sons did to Shechem and his family. He was worried that he could not defend his own family. It seems Jacob was happy that Dinah was given away in marriage. Dinah’s brothers in response said that their sister was treated like a ‘whore’, hence deserve what befall them.

While we looked at all the evidence in this article, we calculated precisely that at the time of Dinah’s incident with Shechem and the marriage proposal, she was no more 7 years old. Reading the verses, it seems to tell us that Jacob had no problem given her daughter away at that age, nor was Dinah’s brothers. Their main issue here was, that Shechem had raped her, treated her like a “whore”.

In the next line, we look at where the verses tell us if she was married off when Shechem’s father came over. The following verse does seem to incline towards that:

“25 Three days later, when the men were still sore from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, took their swords, went into the city without arousing suspicion, and killed all the men, 26 including Hamor and his son Shechem. THEN THEY TOOK DINAH FROM SHECHEM’S HOUSE AND LEFT.” – Genesis 34:25-26

The verse tells us that when Shechem’s father went over to Jacob, for Dinah’s marriage, she was given away and settled in Shechem’s house.

Now, we need to look at Christian commentaries on this verses to get a better understanding.

Gary H. Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures:

“Genesis 34:26 — “and took Dinah out of Shechem”s house, and went out” – Comments- After having read this passage, I asked the question, “What was Dinah doing in the house of Shechem?” John Gill gives us the account and manner of the New Testament JEWISH CUSTOM OF BETROTHING A WIFE BY QUOTING MAIMONIDES.


“Before the giving of the law, if a man met a woman in the street, if he would, he might take her, and bring her into his house and marry her between him and herself, and SHE BECAME HIS WIFE; but when the law was given, the Israelites were commanded, that if a man would take a woman he should obtain her before witnesses, and after that she should be his wife, according to Deuteronomy 22:13 and these takings are an affirmative command of the law, and are called אירוסין או קידושין “espousals” or

“betrothings” in every place; and a woman who is obtained in such a way is called מאורסת או מקודשת “espoused” or “betrothed”; and when a woman is obtained, and becomes מקודשת”espoused,” although she is not yet נבעלה “married, nor has entered into her husband’s house,”YET SHE IS A MAN’S WIFE.” 244]
244] John Gill, Matthew , in John Gill’s Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Matthew 1:18.” (Gary H. Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures – Genesis 34 – online source)

Wallace Eugene March::

“Such proposal may seem out of line to us, but it was totally in accord with the legal codes of the ancient Near East (including Israel’s). If a man raped an unbetrothed (or unengaged) virgin, the ‘legal’ and proper way to right the wrong was for that MAN TO PAY THE BRIDE-PRICE TO THE WOMAN’S FATHER, MARRY THE WOMAN, AND AGREE NEVER TO DIVORCE her (see Exod. 22:16-17; Deut. 22:28-29). This was the context in which Dinah’s future was considered.

In contrast to the ‘legal’ and positive efforts of Hamor and Shechem to correct a terrible wrong, Jacob’s sons responded ‘deceitfully’ or ‘treacherously’ (the Hebrew word carries both connotations) (34:13). It seems, perhaps, that they were more concerned about ‘an outrage in Israel’ (34:17), or somehow disgracing themselves (34:14), than caring for their sister.

After all, Shechem had willingly come forward to make restitution as best he could and had announced his love for Dinah. But the brothers set a conditions: only if all the non-Israelite men in the city were circumcised could Dinah become Shechem’s wife. Then, and only then, might other women be given in marriage as well (34:14-17).

Hamor and Shechem were ‘pleased’ by the offer and accepted the terms. They did so in good faith not knowing (as we the readers do) that it was ‘deceitful’ (34:18; see 34:13). Thus they persuaded the other men in the community also to be circumcised.

They pointed out that the land was large enough for the Shechemites and the Israelites to live together. They would trade together and intermarry, and as Hamor noted, ‘Will not their livestock, they property, and all their animals be ours?’

After all, the Shechemites were clearly the majority population and the Israelites the minority. So, all the Shechemite men agreed to be circumcised (34:18-24). Of course, the story did not end with everyone living together happily ever after. While the Shechemite men were still painfully recovering from their circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, snuck into the city and killed all the men (34:25).

They also forcibly took Dinah out of Shechem’s house (34:26). The text does not indicate Dinah’s reaction to all the violence, but THERE IS ALSO NO SUGGESTION THAT SHE WAS BEING HELD AGAINST HER WILL BY SHECHEM. Next the sons of Jacob (the RSV says ‘other sons,’ which would exclude Levi and Simeon, but the term ‘other’ is not in the Hebrew text) pillaged the city, taking all their wealth, livestock, and women and children (34:27-29).

Jacob was greatly displeased by what his had done. They claimed that it was a matter of revenging the honor of their sister, who had been defiled and ‘treated like a whore’ (34:27, 31).

But Dinah was not a whore; she had not sold herself to Shechem, and everyone knew that. She had been raped and the proper legal act of restitution had been made. Shechem had willingly married Dinah.

Moreover, the Shechemites had willingly agreed to be circumcised. Jacob recognized what his sons had done and understood the long-term consequences of their treacherous action. He castigated them, especially Simeon and Levi, for their act. To gain ‘honor’ and wealth for themselves they had put the whole clan into potential danger.

The Israelites were few in number relative to the Canaanites. Should the people of the land decide to join together, they could easily overwhelm the Israelites (34:30).“ (Genesis from Scratch: The Old Testament for Beginners [WJK – Westminster, John Knox Press – Louisville – Kentucky, First edition, 2010], by Wallace Eugene March, page 51 – 52)

Jonathan Burnside:

“At this point in Biblical period, intercourse is not regarded as inherently creating kiddushin (betrothal). However, it is an act that should, in the normal course of events, lead to serious negotiation over the creation of Kiddushin. GENESIS 34:26 refers to the brothers taking Dinah out of Shechem’s house. Mignon Jacobs thinks that this ‘IMPLIES THAT DINAH WAS IN SOME SENSE ALREADY MARRIED TO SHECHEM, although she does not identify this as inchoate marriage.

At any rate, it was possible to rectify this unusual situation, provided there was willingness on both sides regarding the mohar. This is why ‘Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him’ (34:6). Shechem subsequently offers to pay any ‘marriage present (mohar) and gift’ to the family to set the matter right (34:12).

The magnitude of his offer indicates his desire to compensate for the harm done. At this point, the reader expects negotiations between the house of Jacob and the house of Hamor leading to a settlement and damages. …” (God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible [Oxford University Press, 2011], by Jonathan Burnside page 331)


“You have troubled me: Heb. עִכַרְתֶּם, an expression denoting murky water [meaning that] now my mind is not clear [without worry]. The Aggadah (Gen. Rabbah 80: 12) [explains]: 


The Canaanites had a tradition that they would fall into the hands of Jacob’s sons, but they said [that this would only happen],“Until you are fruitful and inherit the land” (Exod. 23:30). Therefore, they have been silent.” (Bereishit – Genesis – Rashi – Chapter 34, online source)

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible:

“And Shechem spake unto his father Hamor,…. And told him the whole affair, at least what a strong affection he had for Dinah:

saying, get me this damsel to wife; by which he meant not only that he would give his consent that he might marry her, but that he would get her parents’ consent unto it, and settle the matter with them; by which it appears how early, and that even among Heathen nations, consent of parents on both sides was judged necessary to marriage. It seems by this as if Dinah was now detained in the house of Hamor or Shechem, and was upon the spot, or near at hand, when Shechem addressed his father about her, see Genesis 34:26.

and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out; where she was kept from the time of her being ravished by Shechem, with AN INTENTION TO MARRY HER, could the consent of her parents and relations be obtained; for it DOES NOT APPEAR THAT HE KEPT HER TO CARRY ON A CRIMINAL CONVERSATION WITH HER, BUT A COURTSHIP IN ORDER TO MARRIAGE. …

And Hamor, the father of Shechem, went out unto Jacob,…. Unto the tent of Jacob without the city: to commune with him; to talk with him about the affair of Dinah, to pacify him, and endeavour to gain his consent, that his son might marry her, and to settle the, terms and conditions of the marriage.

because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter; he really loved her, and delighted in her person and company: it was not the effect of a brutish lust, but a true affection he bore to her, that he desired her in marriage:

and he was more honourable than all the house of his father; for though he had done a base thing in defiling Jacob’s daughter, yet in this he was honourable, that he sought to marry her, and to do any thing that was in his power to recompence the injury; and he was honourable in keeping covenant and compact with men.

And was honest, upright, and sincere, to fulfil the condition imposed on him, and he had agreed to, as well as he was in greater esteem among the citizens than any of his father’s house, which made it the more easy to him to get their consent to be circumcised; they having a very high and honourable opinion of him, and ready to oblige him in anything they could.” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible – Genesis 34 – online source)


As the evidence stands, Dinah was most probably given away in marriage at the age of seven. She could not have been older, as the texts do not support this. The verses tell us that Dinah was a very young girl when the incident of her and Shechem took place.

And the subsequent deal being made by Jacob and his sons inclines us to believe that she was already given away in marriage. This whole incident does demonstrate that pre-twentieth century marriages took place at a very young age. This was common, as we have documented cases of such marriages taking place in the US and Europe by Law.

I may add, I have read through a lot of commentaries, those that agree with the age 7 being the accurate age for Dinah when the incident took place with Shechem. I have also read the opposing arguments and set her age a lot higher. The latter camp, lack evidence for Dinah’s age. The text from Genesis is very clear, she could not be more than 9 years old.

There are few alternatives:

1. The first alternative, this may be harsh, rejecting the whole episode of Genesis 29 to chapter 34, as not being historically true.

2. The second alternative is to find an earlier manuscript(s) for Genesis that sets Dinah’s age higher, at the moment this does not exist. Even if these manuscripts were available, it would create more problems and questions beyond chapter 34.

3. So we are left with the evidence that she was 7 at the time of her being married off. To modern people and scholars this may be hard to accept because of the world-view, and the times we are living in. I personally think those scholars who do not want to accept what the Genesis account states, should take a step back and not impose their 21st-century lens on to a people who lived 1000s of years ago. One could accept that the marriage did happen, however, at the same time say this marriage took place for those times and hence is not to be followed today.

It was only in the 1800s in America and some European countries that the age of consent was 7 to 10 years. There ae even documented cases of people being married at the age of 10 and below, these cases only occurred just over 100 years ago. In fact, in India girls are being married off below the age of ten in this very century. So the age of Dinah with Shechem’s would not have raised eye-browns then.


[1] Although, the Pulpit commentary writers don’t agree that she was 7, they do however provide scholars such as Tuch and Bohlen that said that she was six or seven at the time of the incident with Shechem: “she was only six or seven years of age when the incident about to be described occurred (TUCH, BOHLEN).” (The Pulpit Commentaries – Genesis 34 – online source)
[2] John Gill states that Rabbi David Ganz  was of the opinion that Dinah was either 9 or 10 when the incident of Shechem took place (R. Ganz. Tzemach David, par. l. fol. 6. 2.). Bear in mind that John Gill does not agree with him. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible – Genesis 34 – online source)

Related Articles:

Age of Consent in European & American History

Marriage of Mary To Joseph the Carpenter!

Child Marriage In The Bible?

Quran 65:4 – The Child Marriage Claim

200 Thousand Christian Children Were Married Before 10 In India

Credit Br Kaleef Karim