The Defilement of Dina: Uncontrolled Passions, Textual Violence, and the Search for Moral Foundations

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The story of Dinah's violation in Genesis 34 has elicited radically different evaluations among exegetes. The present article attributes these divergent readings to the existence of distinct voices or moral positions in the text, particularly in relation to the issue of intermarriage. Beginning with a synchronic literary and ideological analysis of the narrative, the present reading will examine whether the multi-vocal state of the text should be best understood as an expression of ambivalence, of redactional history, or otherwise. A key tool in this analysis is the moral foundations theory developed by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues. This theory can help shed light on the ideological tendencies and rhetorical techniques reflected in this text, particularly the significance of the repeated references to the defilement of Dinah. This synchronic reading will also suggest the basis for a diachronic analysis of the story, demonstrating how narrative features of the final form of the text offer clues to the scribal tendencies involved in editing it. Finally, these literary, historical, and psychological dimensions are integrated to better contextualize the paradoxical relationship between defilement and ethnicity in the story.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-309
Number of pages29
JournalBiblical Interpretation
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


  • ethnicity
  • impurity
  • intermarriage
  • moral foundations theory
  • pollution
  • purity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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