I finished Meir Sternberg’s Poetics of Biblical Narrative. In this post, I will highlight two passages, both of which are about the story of Dinah in Genesis 34.
On page 472, Sternberg argues that the text identifies with Simeon and Levi’s slaughter of the Shechemites because Shechem had raped their sister, Dinah. While the other sons of Jacob plundered the Shechemites, Simeon and Levi did not do so. According to Sternberg, Simeon and Levi did not have materialistic motivations, for their aim was “to redress the wrong done to their sister and the whole family, which includes the prevention of an exogamous marriage, by hook or by crook.”
On page 475, however, Sternberg offers a more nuanced judgment. He states that the text presents before us such problematic choices that one “cannot fully identify with any of the positions taken.” Jacob is inactive throughout the story, until the end, when he is outraged at Simeon and Levi’s deed. But one can identify with his desire to keep his family safe from the Canaanites, and Simeon and Levi imperiled that safety when they slaughtered the Shechemites. And Simeon and Levi were rash in that they disregarded the potential consequences of their deed and failed to trust in God’s providence. Yet, the narrator sympathizes with Simeon and Levi, for the story closes with them protesting that Shechem had treated their sister as a harlot.