Dinah, Downton Abbey, and the Justice of God

Let me setup a story for you. The main character is a momma’s boy, he’s fearful and bends to the will of every man he encounters, and the women in his life get everything they desire for good and for ill.

Similarities aside, I’m not speaking about Lord Grantham. This guy works hard for a shady step-father, escapes in the night, sleeps with no less than 4 women (whenever and for whatever purpose they want), eventually fathering 12 sons (and 1 daughter is mentioned; more on her later), he fears family reunions, and capitulates to his wicked neighbors amidst the most horrible of situations.

The “guy” is Jacob (Israel), the father of a nation. True, he does seek God and listen to the word of The Lord throughout the narrative, but again and again, Jacob is just a little bit spineless (like fathers like son). Especially concerning his daughter, Dinah.

Justice, Deception, and Dinah

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her (laid with her by force). And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.” (Genesis 34:1-4, ESV)

After Dinah is raped by Shechem, Shechem apparently falls for her and asks his daddy to make amends with Jacob so that he can have his plunder (she is for him a foreign conquest; the plunder of his cowardly attack). Jacob, true to form, fears retribution from the Canaanites (who surround him and outnumber his family in this their land) and agrees to Hamor’s (Shechem’s daddy) bargain. But Dinah’s brothers have their own plan. Hamor, Shechem, and the rest of the men of the city agree to circumcise themselves; the deal with the devils seems to be done.

Thankfully, that isn’t the end of the story.

On the third day, when [all the men of the city] were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered. (Genesis 34:25-29, ESV)

Fear the Priestly Line

Simeon and Levi are two of my favorite people for good reason. They are a part of a house filled with many virtues and vices, just like any other house. But this injustice cannot stand, thus they devise a brilliant plan, single-handedly destroying an entire city. Shechem’s plunder, Dinah, is redeemed, and the people of God are left undefiled: not intermarried, not shamed as a whore, and not in league with the treacherous dealings of a wicked people. The priestly line of Levi (along with Simeon) protect the purity of God’s people, they redeem and vindicate the helpless, and will not capitulate in the face of terrible odds even when their own father cowers in the corner.

I’m a week behind on my Downton Abbey watching, but I’m hoping the writers will take a queue from God’s narrative in the coming weeks. Bates, the priest of the people of Downton Abbey, who guards the purity of his people and his bride with righteous anger, I hope will be vindicated in the end.

Whatever happens at Downton, my hope for the broken narratives of this world is sure, because Jesus Christ will vindicate every injustice and will set all things right in the end. Hopefully, the story of Bates and Downton Abbey will end like Dinah’s story: a fierce priest encounters futile resistance and vindicates his bride.