Genesis 34 tells about Shechem's rape of Dinah and the events that follow. 34:5 says that Yaakov heard ( שָׁמַע) about this (and didn't act immediately).

He didn't hear it from Dinah because she didn't come home (her brothers go to rescue her later). Shechem and Chamor came to negotiate a wedding, but the text implies that came after Yaakov heard. How did Yaakov hear? Did Dinah have a hand-maid who was with her and came back, and the text just doesn't mention that? Were the townspeople gossiping and word reached him that way? Did Chamor tell him and the text isn't strictly in order?

Rashi is silent on this verse, as is S'forno (at least in the English translation I have access to), and I didn't find anything in the chumashim I have ready access to nor via Google.

  • I'm pretty sure I saw a commentary that Dinah went out alone, but on rechecking I don't see that in the text. I don't remember whose commentary that was. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 18:45
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    I seem to recall someone mentioning that it was common knowledge in Shechem, as an explanation of how all the inhabitants could be seen as guilty. So that may indeed be how Yaakov heard.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 18:45
  • @HodofHod, when studying this recently I was wondering if it was not only common knowledge but common treatment of visitors, like in another city that got destroyed for that. But I've seen/heard no commentary on that so far. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 18:53
  • Ah, Lord Sacks quotes it from the Rambam.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 18:57
  • Seforno says he didn't act until he heard the facts from his sons. But you're right, he does not say how he heard (I'm assuming he heard separately through the grapevine and then sent his sons to investigate).
    – Seth J
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


It's very possible that this was the talk of the area. Rambam Hilchos Melachim 9:15 says:

ובן נח שעבר על אחת משבע מצות אלו יהרג בסייף. ומפני זה נתחייבו כל בעלי שכם הריגה. שהרי שכם גזל והם ראו וידעו ולא דנוהו

And Noahides that transgress one of these Seven Mitzvos are killed with a sword. And for this reason all the inhabitants of Shechem were killed, because (Prince) Shechem stole [Dinah] and they all knew and did not judge him. [emphasis mine]

So it was apparently common knowledge in the city. Also, Yaakov's family was pretty prominent, so it was probably the discussion of the whole vicinity. It makes a lot of sense that Yaakov just heard it this way.

Alternatively, you know, Ruach HaKodesh. :)

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    It could also very well be that Rambam is noting that they didn't protest after they heard from Shechem and Chamor themselves when told to do Milah, so it might not have been common knowledge originally.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:08
  • @DoubleAA, that could be, yes -- though when they talk to the townsfolk about becoming circumcised they omit mention of Dinah, at least in the text itself. Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:12
  • @MonicaCellio True, but I find it hard to believe that the people wouldn't ask for/seek out the whole story.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:15
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    Just to be clear I think this answer is the most pshat in the text, I'm just not sure this source really proves it.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 19:16
  • This seems the most-plausible explanation, though if Shimon and Levi behaved appropriately then Yaakov's reaction (immediate and deathbed) seems problematic. But as @DoubleAA points out, it's also possible that the people didn't hear until later, in which case the question of how Yaakov heard still stands. Does the Rambam you cited say anything more about this? Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 20:19

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