Shekhem and Dinah – Amnon and Tamar



Bereshit 34 and Shemuel II 13 each describe a tragic tale of rape, as Dinah is forced by Shekhem and Tamar by Amnon.  There are a number of both linguistic and content parallels between the two chapters.  How does each story elucidate the other?


 אונס דינה ע"י שכם (בראשית ל"ד) אונס תמר ע"י אמנון (שמ"ב י"ג)
(ב) וַיִּקַּח אֹתָהּ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ וַיְעַנֶּהָ (יד) וַיֶּחֱזַק מִמֶּנָּה וַיְעַנֶּהָ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ
(ג-ד) וַתִּדְבַּק נַפְשׁוֹ בְּדִינָה בַּת יַעֲקֹב וַיֶּאֱהַב אֶת הַנַּעֲרָ וַיְדַבֵּר עַל לֵב הַנַּעֲרָ. וַיֹּאמֶר... קַח לִי אֶת הַיַּלְדָּה הַזֹּאת לְאִשָּׁה (טו)  וַיִּשְׂנָאֶהָ אַמְנוֹן שִׂנְאָה גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד... וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ אַמְנוֹן קוּמִי לֵכִי
וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַל אוֹדֹת הָרָעָה הַגְּדוֹלָה הַזֹּאת מֵאַחֶרֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ עִמִּי לְשַׁלְּחֵנִי וְלֹא אָבָה לִשְׁמֹעַ לָהּ. וַיִּקְרָא אֶת נַעֲרוֹ מְשָׁרְתוֹ וַיֹּאמֶר שִׁלְחוּ נָא אֶת זֹאת מֵעָלַי הַחוּצָה וּנְעֹל הַדֶּלֶת אַחֲרֶיהָ
(ה-ז) וְיַעֲקֹב שָׁמַע... וּבְנֵי יַעֲקֹב בָּאוּ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה כְּשָׁמְעָם וַיִּתְעַצְּבוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים וַיִּחַר לָהֶם מְאֹד (כא) וְהַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד שָׁמַע... וַיִּחַר לוֹ מְאֹד
(ה) וְהֶחֱרִשׁ יַעֲקֹב עַד בֹּאָם (כ) וְעַתָּה אֲחוֹתִי הַחֲרִישִׁי
(ז) כִּי נְבָלָה עָשָׂה בְיִשְׂרָאֵל... וְכֵן לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה (יב) לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה כֵן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אַל תַּעֲשֵׂה אֶת הַנְּבָלָה הַזֹּאת
(כה) שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה (א) וּלְאַבְשָׁלוֹם בֶּן דָּוִד אָחוֹת יָפָה וּשְׁמָהּ תָּמָר
(כה-כז) וַיְהִי בַיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי בִּהְיוֹתָם כֹּאֲבִים וַיִּקְחוּ שְׁנֵי בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי אֲחֵי דִינָה אִישׁ חַרְבּוֹ וַיָּבֹאוּ עַל הָעִיר בֶּטַח וַיַּהַרְגוּ כָּל זָכָר. וְאֶת חֲמוֹר וְאֶת שְׁכֶם בְּנוֹ הָרְגוּ לְפִי חָרֶב וַיִּקְחוּ אֶת דִּינָה מִבֵּית שְׁכֶם וַיֵּצֵאוּ... וַיָּבֹזּוּ הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר טִמְּאוּ אֲחוֹתָם (כח,לב) וַיְצַו אַבְשָׁלוֹם אֶת נְעָרָיו לֵאמֹר רְאוּ נָא כְּטוֹב לֵב אַמְנוֹן בַּיַּיִן וְאָמַרְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם הַכּוּ אֶת אַמְנוֹן וַהֲמִתֶּם אֹתוֹ... אַל יֹאמַר אֲדֹנִי אֵת כָּל הַנְּעָרִים בְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הֵמִיתוּ כִּי אַמְנוֹן לְבַדּוֹ מֵת כִּי עַל פִּי אַבְשָׁלוֹם הָיְתָה שׂוּמָה מִיּוֹם עַנֹּתוֹ אֵת תָּמָר אֲחֹתוֹ


Analysis of Parallels

As these two stories both recount a rape, it is not surprising that there should be several points of contact between the two. Some phraseology, though, is unique to just these two incidents and there are several additional unexpected parallels. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to determine if the Amnon and Tamar story is intentionally alluding to Bereshit, or if the similarities are coincidental:

  • Rape – Though one would expect to find the root "ענה" in a story of rape, the combined roots of "שכב" and "ענה" appear just in these two stories.
  • "שָׁמַע... וַיִּחַר לוֹ" – Many people are upset in Tanakh, but the combination of "hearing" and "being upset" is found only in these stories and in Shemuel I 11:6 and Nechemyah 3:33. In addition, unexpectedly, in both incidents though the father hears and is upset about the rape, he does not act in its aftermath.
  • Silence – Silence is not necessarily the expected reaction to rape, but Yaakov's first act is to wait quietly, and Tamar is similarly told not to say anything. In both stories, it turns out that this silence is simply the calm before the storm, and is followed by the murder of the perpetrators.
  • "נְבָלָה"  – Variations of the phrase "נְבָלָה עָשָׂה בְיִשְׂרָאֵל" appear in five additional places in Tanakh,1 and the plea "אַל תַּעֲשֵׂה אֶת הַנְּבָלָה" appears in one more,2 but it is only in these two stories that both come together.
  • The brothers – In both Bereshit and Shemuel, it is the victim's brother(s) who avenges the rape, and the text makes an explicit point of identifying them as such.


There are two main points of contrast between the events:

  • Love versus hatred – After the rape, Shekhem loves Dinah, speaks to her heart and asks to marry her.  Amnon, in contrast, is filled with hatred and dismisses Tamar, shaming her as he sends her away.
  • Massacre versus targeted killing – While Shimon and Levi kill the entire city to avenge Dinah's death, Avshalom kills only Amnon. The text even specifies that he alone was killed, while the other brothers were spared.


Setting the two incidents as foils to one another serves to highlight the differences between the protagonists, and allows for renewed evaluations of their character.

  • The rapists – Though both Shekhem and Amnon's actions are deplorable, when viewed in light of each other, Amnon emerges as the worse of the two.  Amnon, being both an Israelite and, moreover, heir to the throne, is held to a high standard, making his fall all the more disappointing.  In addition, where Shekhem ravishes an unrelated woman, Amnon rapes his sister,3 adding incest to his crimes.  Finally, Shekhem, at least tries to redeem his act and seems to sincerely wish to marry Dinah, while Amnon despicably turns her away in his hatred.
  • The avengers – Comparing Avshalom to Shimon and Levi sharpens the problematic nature of the latter's actions.  Avshalom's killing of Amnon alone makes one question whether Shimon and Levi should not have acted similarly, punishing Shekhem, but no one else.  To see how different commentators understand and evaluate their actions, see Sin and Slaughter of Shekhem.
  • The fathers – Yaakov and David respond to the rape identically, with emotional angst but no retributive actions. One wonders what prompted each to such a surprising response.  In the time of Tanakh is it usual for the brother(s) rather than the father to care for a sister's honor?  Is there anything that these two fathers have in common that might explain the shared reaction?  To view the many parallels between Yaakov and David, see Yaakov and David.