When I became involved in a church that followed the teachings of Bill Gothard, and as I spent more time with my same-aged peers who were involved in the Evangelical Christian homeschooling movement, I was surprised by the way they characterized certain women in the Bible. The teachings of many ministers within Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church does not differ from what I heard – which all stems back to Gothard.
Here, I hope to highlight the identical teachings found in Ron Williams' sermon about “strange women,” the way that the King James Version of the Bible translates the term for “prostitute.” Anyone, including the youngest of children, who gets sexually molested/raped is said to bear a burden of sin in their own assault. The root of the teaching seems not to be based in the Bible but in rabbinical commentaries.
Please also take note that I make note of the King James text because the IFB capitalizes on the idea that only the KJV of the Bible is accurate and inspired or "God-breathed." Only it contains the true interpretation of Scripture. In other instances, they reject outside commentary and information, so the fact that they draw information from Jews who reject Jesus Christ in addition to the fact that they've gone outside of their own belief system to find material to preach is beyond hypocrisy. In all other instances, the IFB rejects hermeneutics (a method of faithful study of a text) that rely on historical documentation to put Scripture into perspective.
A Short History of Rachel, Leah, and Dinah
Jacob is the grandson of Abraham, and he arranged with his fraternal twin Esau to receive the blessing as the chief patriarch of their family. The brothers hate one another, and Jacob must flee from Esau's wrath.
On his journey, Jacob meets and arranges with his uncle Laban to marry his daughter-cousin Rachel. They fall in love quickly, so much so that he weeps after Rachel introduces him to Laban. He agrees to work for seven years for Laban to earn Rachel. On their wedding night, her identity is concealed from Jacob, and he learns in the morning that he has actually married and bedded Rachel's elder sister, Leah. Jacob so loves Rachel that he works for another seven years to merit marriage with Rachel. Jacob's children become the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Among the children of Jacob is a daughter named Dinah, born of Leah.
Leah bears more children to Jacob, though the Bible says that he hated her. Rachel does bear children to Jacob, but not as many. At one point, she asks her sister to give her mandrakes to help aid her fertility. Most Protestants view the story of Jacob and Rachel as a true love story because of all of the obstacles that they must overcome to be together.
In Jacob's attempt to avoid his brother, they end up living in Caanan, in Hivite country where the people do not recognize the God of Abraham. Dinah goes out to “see the daughters of the land,” is seen by the Hivite Prince, is taken away, and is raped by him. The King arranges with Jacob to make amends by having the Prince marry her. Sadly, her offended and dissatisfied brothers go out to defend the honor of their sister by slaying all of the men in the Hivite city, and they remove her from her new home. Jacob relocates his family again, but God sees to it that they are not pursued. The Protestant Bible makes no further mention of Dinah.
Teachings within Homeschooling
The people involved in the religious lifestyle elements of the Christian homeschooling effort propagate a fearful message that parents need to micromanage the lives of their children, or their daughters will be raped like Dinah. They liken Dinah to a prostitute, though this is not found in the KJV Bible. It is also used to stress the moral imperative of domesticity for women so that they must be fearful to leave the home without a “male covering” who provides them both spiritual and physical safety. It contributed to the culture of fear that already appealed to parents who sought to do right by their children but were easy marks for all of the fear mongering in these circles.
Jonathan Lindvall was particularly interested in advancing this agenda along with his model of courtship over dating (prior to the books written by the generation of those raised within the new lifestyle). He used this interpretation of Dinah to inspire parents with fear so that they would allegedly protect their daughters from defilement. Most of these ideologues presented this information like it was a perfect solution that would provide literally divine results.
Sources too numerous to count in this genre have said in many places that this act of wandering and going out is like the feet of the “strange woman” of Proverbs, the “harlot” (zuwr ishshah: to be strange, estranged, harlot; woman). They specifically quote Proverbs 7:11 which states “She is loud and stubborn; her feet (regel) abide (shakan) not in her house (bayith).”
I specifically recall reading this for myself in the So Much More book by the Botkin Daughters (raised under the teachings of Jim McCotter of the cult, The Great Commission). Gothard includes this miserable interpretation in his “Character Sketches” of both Dinah and Tamar (daughter-in-law to Judah), as well as Abigail (wife and then widow of Nabal). I wonder what a study of the rabbinical writings concerning Abigail would turn up?
What we are clearly told about Dinah:
- She is taken by Shechem (lä·kakh': to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away).
- Shechem laid with her (shakab: to lie down with in sexual relations).
- He defiled her (`anah: to afflict, oppress, mishandle, humble, be afflicted, be bowed down).
There is no statement made that she had done anything wrong, and it sounds as though she was a healthy and intelligent person who was curious about her new home. She sounds friendly, intelligent, and attractive: all qualities that many within this belief system find to be negative traits in a woman.
Yet, I wonder how many trusting homeschoolers actually know that the concepts that they were taught about Dinah came from the Apocrypha? Did they realize that they were taught by the IFB first? Probably, those that accept them would not care very much at this point. They may have developed different opinions had they been given informed consent before the indoctrination took place.
Ron Williams on Dinah as a Strange Woman
Ron Williams, and IFB minister who founded the Troubled Teen Industry's Hephzibah House preached a sermon which reveals much about the nature of what is believed about Dinah as a “strange woman” as though she is an aspiring prostitute. Here are a few relevant highlights from his exceeding long sermon. My commentary will follow below just a few selected quotes. Even my own head swims from listing all of them and their erroneous suggestions at once.
™ QUOTE: Part II, Far Country Disease
But Dinah, for her part, had responsibility too, she was culpable she had her responsibility.
[. . .]
She violated the principle of Titus chapter 2 and verse 5. Now I understand that Titus had not yet been written, but for our benefit the principal of Titus 2:5 is that we should love out homes. . . Because may I say, if you’re not contented with your home then you’re not going to be contented anywhere.
[. . .]
And if you start thinking that someplace else is better than your home, you’re gonna get the far country disease, and you’re gonna get the same kind of mind set that Dinah apparently got here.
™ QUOTE: Part II, Far Country Disease
But Dinah developed this curiosity because as bad as Jacob was on this occasion in his life, as much as he’d been on spiritual vacation for ten years. There was still apparently a distinctive difference here because she went out, as our text tells us, she went out to see the daughters of the land because she noticed they’re different than we are. We look different than our neighbors do and that ought to be the testimony of a believing home.
™ QUOTE: Part II, Far Country Disease
Now according to the Jewish historian Josephus, there was a feast or a festival in Shechem, and as our text tells us here she went out to see, that’s the idea of learning their manners, learning their customs, learning their fashions, in other words Dinah was not a separatist. . . . But Dinah didn’t, as she went out to see the daughters of the land, she should have known that we live in a world filled with sin. And believe me, we do.
™ QUOTE: Part II, The Genesis of the Strange Woman
In fact she [Dinah] goes off the pages of scripture with one word “defiled”. Probably like Tamar, Tamar lived destitute the rest of her life after she was defiled.
Dinah as mentioned in Josephus and the Apocryphal Book of Judith
Josephus does state that Dinah went out to attend a festival which would have been a pagan event and may have put herself at risk by going alone, but this is also not told to us in Scripture specifically. The Book of Judith in the Apocrypha also states that Dinah went out to see the finery of the linens of the daughters of the land. (Does this also mean that going out to see the linens made by the people in the place to where they'd just moved constitutes a desire or consent to be raped?)
Josephus may be right in some historical interest, but as Christians, we are not taught that we can build doctrine on things that are not abundantly clear in Scripture. We also cannot use these unclear passages for doctrinal interests when we are told other facts in Scripture that are more clear. What we are told directly has a far heavier weight of significance than those things which we infer with our own eisegesis (reading into the text) because only the Scriptures in the canon are considered to be God-breathed.
Neither Gothard nor Williams declare any of this. They give the impression to their followers that they read Scripture and that the Holy Spirit illuminated the text to help their understanding. What they really did was read old, patriarchal Hebrew commentaries that openly reject women as unclean vessels.
But is this where they developed their interpretation? No. They developed it from the so-called rabbinical “father of commentary.” I'm sure that both Gothard and Williams would argue that he was a man who was not “set apart” and did not have the illumination of Biblical text through the Holy Spirit that Christians like them should possess. Read on to find out where they really “borrowed” their beliefs.
Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) was the “father of commentary” who lived from 1040-1105 and worked on the midrash, the extra-biblical texts that sought to fill in the gaps in other Jewish writings. He wrote the first and definitive commentary on the Old Testament and his is the most published, making all other Rabbinical commentaries that followed his own essentially commentaries on his original work as well.
Rashi: Leah and Dinah are Outgoing
Rashi dislikes Leah and therefore Dinah, claiming that they are both yatzaneet (“outgoing”). Though he says that “to go out” was a phrase that only applied to men, he says that Leah and Dinah both sinned by usurping the right “to go out.” (Perhaps this is the case in extra-biblical texts, but a simple search for the word yatzah as it appears in Genesis 34:1 can be found in other references that have nothing to do with men exclusively and are applied to women and nations and animals, etc.)
Rashi: Claims that Leah (not Rachel) was a Sorceress
He develops his hatred of Leah based upon Genesis 30:14-21, claiming that Leah schemed, deceived, and used mandrakes like a sorceress would use a spell when she arranges with Rachel to exchange mandrakes (love-apples) for a rare night with Jacob. From my understanding of Scripture, Leah is blessed with several children thereafter, but Rashi seems to ignore this. (Perhaps his wife burned the mandrakes on the evening before he wrote his commentary on this section in Genesis, and his own Rabbi wouldn't grant him a get?)
Rashi: “Going Out” only Evil for Women?
He also goes on to elaborate on his opinions about Dinah after establishing that he thought Leah was no good so no good could come of the evil Dinah as a consequence. Genesis 34:1 says that Dinah goes out to see the daughters of the land, but we are not told whether her activity is either good or bad. It is clear that Scripture does not define “going out” as evil.
Isaac chose Rebecca from the “daughters of the land,” the same term used in Genesis 34:1. Why was it fine for Isaac and wrong for Dinah to associate with them -- especially when so much emphasis is placed on this phrase.
I easily performed a search through an online lexicon for all of the individual words and phrases in the verse, and none of them bear an exclusively limited connotation and often connote pleasant and virtuous references. The phrase of "going out" is indifferent and depends entirely on the context of how it is used.
These Independent Fundamental Baptist and Gothard doctrines have more to do with what is directly written in the Midrash and the commentaries of Rashi – and are not included in Protestant Scripture.
Rashi: The Midrash on Dinah as a Young Child
In Genesis 32:22, Jacob gathers his family up and takes them over the ford Jabbok, and all of his family is mentioned, except for Dinah.
Rashi quotes from the Midrash (another text that is used to fill in the gaps in the Old Testament) which claims that Dinah was so beautiful that Jacob hid her in a box so that Esau would not want to take her for his own wife. God is claimed to have corrected Jacob, saying, “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.”
Presumably, God tells Jacob that Dinah would have made a good wife for Esau and would not have been available for Shechem to defile.
Rashi adds this to build his argument that Dinah, though beautiful, was manipulative and troublesome – something he claims about her mother which seems to be his opinion and little more. But this stands in contrast to Deuteronomy 24:16 which maintains that all individuals stand as culpable for their own sins, particularly sins that result in death.
Rashi's claims are also drawn into question because other Midrash texts claim that Dinah would have been six years old at the time she was hidden away in the box and that Esau would have been ninety seven years of age. It is highly unlikely that Esau would have been interested in a six year old as a mate. (At least, we would hope that this would be the case.)
Maybe this is why there is so much pushing in the Gothard-affilated and the IFB movements for young women to marry young? Williams is quoted as saying that a truly godly woman menstruates little in her lifetime. She will remain pregnant and will nurse to suppress her periods because there is nothing more disgusting to God than a soiled menstrual cloth. This, too, is antiquated apocryphal teaching and is not taught under the New Covenant.
Writings about Dinah that Redeem Her
Why pick Rashi's writings only? Gothard and Williams cherry picked them from many other different ones that drew very different conclusions about Dinah.
Rashi, the guy with a chip on his shoulder concerning Leah and Dinah offered Williams and Gothard something that fit his other odd doctrines. Why didn't Gothard choose an alternate view that holds Dinah in high regard? If he was going to dip his toe into the sea of extra-biblical writings, there were many more than just the writings of Rashi to chose from.
Other Rabinnical writings claim that Jacob takes the daughter born of Dinah's union with Shechem, placing her under a thorn bush after putting a necklace on her that says “Holy to God” and names her Asenath (“She belongs to her father”). In one account, Michael the Archangel takes her and carries her away to Egypt where she is found and raised by Potipheras, the priest of On. We read in Genesis 41:45 that Asenath becomes the wife of Joseph and bears Manasseh and Ephriam.
If one seeks to rely on superstition, why not redeem one of the acts of Joseph in the process? But Gothard and Williams had but one thing in mind:
They sought to vilify women.
And they broke their own cardinal rule: Get your information only from the King James Version of the Bible.
Adelman, Rachel. The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe De-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha. Journal for the Study of Judaism supplement, 2009
Buchwald, Ephraim. The Rape of Dinah: Impossible to Fathom. National Jewish Outreach Program Vayishlach 5770-2009.
Camp, CV. Wise, Strange and Holy: The Strange Woman and the Making of the Bible. Sheffield Academic Press, 2000.
Ginzberg, L. The Legends of the Jews. Vol. 1, Jewish Publication Society of America, 2006.
Graves, R, Patai, R. Hebrew Myths. Greenwich House, 1964
Neusner, J. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis: A New American Translation. Scholars Press, 1985.
Pratt, JP. Jacob's Seventieth Descendant. Meridian Magazine, 18Aug2000.