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Lessons from Dinah, Tamar, and Tamar the daughter of David

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Lessons from Dinah, Tamar, and Tamar

31 Days of Women from Scripture

Day Eighteen

Lessons from Dinah, Tamar,

and Tamar the daughter of David

Due to the subject matter of the stories of the women, I do not usually teach them in a classroom setting. It depends on the audience, but for young women these lessons can get personal. I encourage them to study these women with their own mothers. If they do not think that can happen I will talk with them in a smaller setting. God’s word is always proper and right, but should be considered for the audience (Is. 28:10; 1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12, 13).

Dinah comes first.

In Genesis 30:21 we read that Leah gave Jacob a daughter and named her Dinah.

In Genesis 33:18-20 we read that Jacob moved the family to the city of Shechem in Canaan. He purchased a piece of land from the sons of Hamor. This is the location for the events in Genesis 34.

Dinah goes out to visit the daughters of the land of Canaan. She is seen by the prince of the area, Shechem the son of Hamor. Shechem takes her and forces himself upon her. Contrary to his actions, “He was deeply attracted to Dinah…and he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her.” He spoke to his father Hamor about getting Dinah to be Shechem’s wife.

Jacob heard about what happened, but waited for his sons to come home before acting. The boys come back and are very angry about Shechem’s behavior. Hamor comes to see Jacob. He says, “The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage” (Gen. 34:8). Shechem offers to give them anything they ask, any bridal payment, so that he may marry Dinah.

Jacob’s sons cannot get past their outrage, so they deceive Hamor and Shechem. They claim that they cannot give Dinah to anyone who is uncircumcised, because that would be disgraceful. They say the only way for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife is for EVERY man to be circumcised (Gen. 34:13-17). They will then be able to have peace by intermarrying with Hamor’s people.

Hamor and Shechem find this request reasonable. Shechem does not delay, “because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter.” Shechem and Hamor used their influence with the men of the city so that “every male was circumcised.”  On the third day, when all the men were in pain – Simon and Levi sneaked into the city and killed every man. They killed Hamor and Shechem and took Dinah back home. They also looted the city – because “they had defiled their sister” (Gen. 34:27).

Jacob reprimands his sons. He tells them they went too far and now they will be attacked by others. Simon and Levi reply, “should he treat our sister as a harlot?”

Dinah’s story is hard to read. Shechem actually looks like a good prospect AFTER he rapes Dinah. Everything he says and does after that event would be what any girl would rightly want in a young man. He shows respect to her father by asking her hand in marriage. Like Jacob did for Rachel, he is willing to do anything to have her for his wife. So I encourage girls to look for a young man like that.

What is missing is repentance. There is not one word of Shechem saying that what he had done to Dinah in the first place was out of line. Shechem is not a city of God’s people. But Jacob’s sons recognize that Shechem had done a “disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done” (Gen. 34:7). It was a given that everyone would know that this behavior was wrong, not just those in Jacob’s company. I do not know if it would have swayed Jacob’s sons, but some remorse surely would have been helpful (2 Sam. 13:16). 

BUT what Shechem did, could not be undone. One lesson that can be learned here is, one kind of trouble often leads to another. God set an order to things “in the beginning” (Matt. 19:4-6). When we go against that order, it IS going to bring trouble. Shechem’s taking her by force was wrong, but it would have been just as wrong if she had gone willingly. You cannot go back and start over as though you have not had already had sex. Marriage does not wipe away the burden that comes from starting out things in the wrong order. You can commit to a faithful marriage going forward and even have a good marriage, but even once forgiven – you always have that memory of the evil done in the beginning. 

The focus of the story is NOT Dinah – we are never told how she feels about the matter. The focus is on how Jacob’s sons dealt with what they saw as an insult to their family overall. Jacob makes it clear that the boys went too far. Did Shechem do a bad thing? Yes. But did it necessitate the wiping out of an entire city of men? No. There were many choices that could have been made – Simeon and Levi chose poorly. Their anger and pride were speaking more than their love for their sister. They ended up looking not all that different from Shechem. They “captured and looted all their wealth and all their little ones and their wives” (Gen. 34:29). In times of war looting from the defeated was acceptable. But in a personal vendetta this was too much.

Next we look at Tamar (Gen. 38).

Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah, as she was married to his son Er. Er was evil, so the Lord killed him. Judah told his second son, Onan, to take Tamar as his wife and raise up sons in the name of Er. Onan knew that these would not be considered as his sons, so when he went to be with Tamar he made sure that he did not get her pregnant. This displeased the Lord, so the Lord killed Onan (Gen. 38:10). Judah tells Tamar to remain a widow until his third son, Shelah grows up. So Tamar goes to live in Judah’s house.

Genesis 38:12 says, “Now after a considerable time” Judah’s wife died. Judah and his friend go up to check on Judah’s sheep-shearers at Timnah. Shelah had grown up, but Tamar had not been made his wife. Tamar was told that Judah had gone to Timnah. She took off the garments that showed her to be a widow and replaced them with the veil and garments of a harlot (Gen. 38:14-15). She waited along the road to Timnah for Judah to come along. Judah sees her and asks to be with her, not knowing who she is. She demands a pledge to hold as proof that he owes her something. Judah agrees. After they are together, Tamar goes home and puts her widow garments back on (Gen. 38:19).

Judah attempts to find the woman and give her the young goat that he promised, but he cannot find her. Rather than make a fool of himself by trying to find her, he decides that the seal and cord will be her payment.

Three months later Judah is told that Tamar is pregnant and she must have gotten this way through harlotry (Gen. 38:24). Judah says to bring her out and put her to death. While she is being brought out, she sends a message to Judah along with the seal and cord. She asks that it be determined who got her pregnant, because the items belong to that man (Gen. 38:25). Judah recognizes them as belonging to him. He admits that he put her into the situation because he had not cared for her by giving her to Shelah.

Tamar is now his wife, but he does not sleep with her again. She delivers twins, Perez and Zerah.

Tamar’s story shows what happens when the protections of marriage are not there. As we saw in Ruth‘s story, God had made provision for keeping the blood lines of Israel pure and the clear handing down of inheritances within each tribe by requiring that a widow be married again within the family of her husband (Deut. 25:5-10). This practice is obviously already being done because of Onan’s refusal to raise up sons for someone else’s inheritance and Judah’s comment that Tamar was “more righteous” than he was in the situation. Judah’s obligation as her father-in-law was to see to her security. Judah did not do as he promised. Tamar was left without protection, so she sought to get it for herself. Judah’s own sins, fornication, laid him open for her to accomplish her plan. As with Shechem and Dinah – one sin often leads to others. He should not have failed to give her to Shelah, he should not have gone into a harlot, she should not have played the harlot to try to seal her future. 

Tamar’s story also shows us that our clothing means something. Tamar’s choices were deliberate. We must each be deliberate to AVOID what she was seeking to look like. The world likes to tell us that what we wear does not give an invitation to people to stare or think things they should not be thinking. The world is WRONG. Judah was not wrong to assume that a woman dressed like a harlot might be a harlot. 1 Timothy 2:9 says, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation…” If I am supposed to know what MODEST apparel is, then it follows that I will know what IMMODEST apparel is! The people looking at you have to take care of what they look at and what they think – you have to help by not putting a stumbling block in their way (Rom. 14:13; Mt. 18:6). 

This story shows again how God brought about His plan despite the evil of others. Tamar’s son Perez is the line of Judah through whom Jesus is born. 

Now let’s look at the other Tamar, David’s daughter (2 Sam. 13 and 1 Chron. 3:9).

We looked at Bathsheba’s story the other day. The next event that God relates is the story of Tamar and Amnon. Tamar is the sister of Absalom (2 Sam. 3:3). They have a half-brother, Amnon (2 Sam. 3:2) who longed after Tamar. Amnon was so frustrated over his desire for her and his inability to have her, that he made himself physically ill (2 Sam. 13:2).

Amnon had a shrewd friend named Jonadab who seeks to make Amnon to feel better. Amnon shares that his love for Tamar is what is causing his depression. Jonadab tells Amnon to pretend he is ill. When David comes to visit him, Amnon should request that Tamar be sent to prepare some food for him and care for him. Amnon heeds this advice. David sends Tamar to look after her sick brother (2 Sam. 13:5-7)

Tamar dutifully cares for Amnon. She prepares his food herself and dishes them out for him to eat. Amnon refuses the food and asks that everyone else be sent away. He feigns needing to lie down, and asks if Tamar would bring the food into the bedroom and feed him. When she approaches him in the bedroom he grabs her and asks to be with her. Tamar refuses. She reminds him that this is a disgraceful thing. She tells him that all he needs to do is ask the king and Amnon will be able to marry her. “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than her, he violated her and lay with her” (2 Sam. 13:8-14).

“Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.” Amnon told Tamar to go away. Tamar refused to go. She told him that sending her away is even more wrong than having raped her. Again, Amnon would not listen to her. He calls his servants back in and tells them, “Now throw this woman out of my presence, and lock the door behind her”    (2 Sam. 15-17).

Tamar had on clothing that showed that she was a virgin daughter of the king. She left Amnon’s house tearing her garment, putting ashes on her head and crying out loud. Absalom found her this way. After learning it was Amnon who did this to her, Absalom tells her to stay with him and not to worry about Amnon anymore (2 Sam. 13:18-20).

When King David heard about what Amnon did, he was very angry, but he did not do anything about it (2 Sam. 13:21, 39.) Absalom, on the other hand, did do something about it. He took his time and made a plan. He brought about Amnon’s death. The same friend who suggested Amnon lie to have Tamar care for him, assured King David that Amnon was dead “because by the intent of Absalom this has been determined since the day that he violated his sister Tamar” (2 Sam. 13:32).

Tamar, like Bathsheba, did not take on the guilt of Amnon for what had been done. She stood up for herself and tried to stop him. She kept her wits about her. He only prevailed because he was physically stronger than her. Afterwards, she continued to stand up to him. She was not cowed. His actions were his, but he could still save her from her shame if he would marry her.

We can learn from this story that not always when someone says they “love” do they truly mean it. Amnon wanted Tamar desperately. He was obsessed with her. But as soon as he got what he wanted, he was more repulsed by her than he had ever been attracted to her. Women do this to men, but it happens more generally with men doing it to women. When a man entices you to do something wrong because he loves you – the very enticement PROVES that he does NOT love you. Ephesians 5:28-29 says “So husbands ought to also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.” If a man is willing to sin himself (do harm to himself essentially) then he most certainly will not protect you from sin. Avoid men who offer false love to get what they want. Do not be deceived (1 Cor. 6:9; 2 Tim. 3:13; Titus 3:3) into thinking that it does not happen. Do not be deceived into thinking that YOU will be the one who can convince him not to do something against the two of you. Do not be so arrogant or ignorant to think that it can never happen to you. Bathsheba was minding her own business in her own house when King David sent me to bring her to him because of his desire for her. Tamar was being an obedient daughter and kind sister when Amnon abused her. These women were not in the wrong place by their own foolishness like the youth in Proverbs 7. 

Tamar’s story teaches that sometimes things happen to us even when we do everything we can to keep it from happening. When people want to do bad things, often they will. Tamar did what she could to make Amnon do what was right. He would not hear her. God’s word in the Old Law would not hold her accountable for this. She did what she could, but unfortunately she also had to live with the results. When there is sin in the world, we all will suffer because of it. This is what makes us YEARN for HEAVEN. Jesus certainly understood what Tamar went through – He knows all about people choosing to do the wrong things even though you’ve reminded them of what is right! We need to learn that Jesus can get us through anything (Phil. 4:13) when we remain faithful to him. Absalom did not do right in murdering his brother, God had laws in place that would have dealt with Amnon – but David did not enforce them (Rom. 13:1-4), and Absalom took matters into his own hands. Once again, we see that one wrong just leads to another wrong.

So – pay attention to your surroundings. Be careful of the friends you choose – are they going to lead you to do what is right? Prepare yourself by knowing God’s word (Prov. 2). You do the best that you can do, and let God take care of the rest. We all are going to sin (Rom. 3:23), but the Lord will forgive if we repent and obey His word. Psalm 51 is said to have been written by David after he realized all of his sins in taking Bathsheba as his own. What does he ask the Lord to do? He asked that God give him a clean heart and a steadfast spirit (Ps. 51:10). Today, pray to God that He will help your heart to be pure.



What are your thoughts about Dinah, Tamar, and Tamar?

Comment below and let’s talk about how we can learn from her life!


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Siphiwe Mkandawiri

I wanted to learm more about these girls. Thank you so much for your help