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Anita Diamant's fiction, "The Red Tent (1997)," is her interpretation of the activities in the red tent, where the Canaanite wives of the first patriarchs dwelt and celebrated the facets of womanhood, such as menstruation and childbirth. There, they were shielded from their men's outside affairs and cares. These patriarchs were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the wives were Sara, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel and their maids Zilphah and Bilhah. It assumes that these women were priestesses of goddess-worshipping tribes of the Canaan region who practiced and perpetuated rituals, traditions and habits until obliterated by their only daughter, Dinah, because of her violation by an Amorite and the murder of the Amorites by two of her 12 brothers (Diamant)
The novel is told from the first person viewpoint of Dinah, the only daughter and last child of Jacob and Leah and the last in the maternal line that should have sustained her mothers' goddess worship (Day 2003). She narrates about the occurrences inside the tent where the women in her father's family connect and relate, although not always in harmony, and her perception of rape by Shechem, his pursuit of her in marriage, the negotiations, and her brothers' violent murder of the Amorites and the inequality of her world. The author, however, innovates that Dinah falls in love with Shechem and that her brothers are impelled by envy because of the costly terms of the betrothal. This forever alienates Dinah from her maternal line and the goddess worship gives way to patriarchy (Day).
In those times, woman was the source of being and this power was rooted in the land and celebrated by matriarchal traditions and rites, despite warnings from prophets and preachers. It is argued that Sara was the chief priestess of the goddess culture and that it was precisely through feminine power and through the relationships these powerful women in a common setting, the red tent, that Yahweh gradually established His patriarchal religion (Day 2003)
The novel derives from Genesis 34, which tells the story of Dinah, who one day goes out to be make friends with other girls in the land and to explore the outside world (American Bible Society 1982). Shechem, prince of the country and the son of Hamor or Hivite, takes fancy upon her, pursues and rapes her. At that time, Jacob's family maintains commercial ties with the Hivites or Amorites and these ties connect and open the family up to the ungodly ways of those not chosen by God. Dina's search for friendship in their world leads to and ends up in a shameful companionship instead (Day 2003). But Shechem becomes deeply attracted to her, so that he speaks with her in kindness and then asks his father to speak with Jacob about marrying Dinah (American Bible Society0.
Jacob learns about the misdeed but keeps quite and waits for his sons to arrive from the field where they tend to his cattle. When Hamor sees Jacob, Jacob's sons come home too and they are furious that their sister has been violated. But Hamor is a practiced negotiator. He not only tactfully asks for the hand of Dinah on behalf of his son but also offers his daughters to Jacob's sons to marry so that they may remain in the land of the Amorites and prosper there. Shechem express willingness to pay any amount of dowry just so Jacob and his sons will agree to the marriage. The sons of Jacob, deceiving the Amorites, say that they will agree only if all the male Amorites get circumcised and that, otherwise, they will simply take Dinah and leave. If the Amorites agree to their terms, Jacob's will not only give their daughters for marriage but also marry Amorite women. Hamor and Shechem take no time in accepting the terms because Shechem not only feels deeply for Dinah but is also known as the most honorable man in the region (American Bible Society).
Hamor and his son, Shechem, convince the other Amorite men that it will be to their benefit to allow Jacob's family to live in their land, which is large enough to accommodate them all and the family, peaceful and fruitful enough to stay. Then they present the condition of circumcision to the other men and the men agree and leave the gates of their city to Jacob's sons (American Bible Society 1982)
Jacob's sons, especially Simeon and Levi, betray the Amorite men by taking advantage of their sore condition after submitting to circumcision and killing them with a sword. They also take Dinah and the material possessions of the Amorites with them out of the city. They make captives out of the women, children and the weak Amorites. Their father becomes irate and worried and scolds his sons for the consequences of this decision on his reputation and security against the people of that land, especially the Canaanites and Perizzites, who outnumber his family. But his sons insist that they cannot allow the Amorites to treat their sister like a harlot (American Bible Society 1982).
A lot of comments can be raised at this point. Jacob and his family belong to the race chosen by God Himself and are not supposed to be connected with other races whose ways are ungodly. It is not sufficient or justifiable for Shechem to merely offer marriage to cover up for his crime against Dinah's honor. Shechem's reputation as an honorable man, more so as the most honorable, in the region does not shield him from the punishment due his crime. Instead, Jacob should not maintain close or a trusting relationship with people like the Amorites, in the first place (Day 2003).
It is also plain that Jacob does not make all the major decisions in his family. He waits for his sons to make the decision concerning Dinah and Shechem and also allows the former to deal with the Amorites with deceit or mental reservation. He should have settled the issue directly and discreetly with Hamor and a marriage can be arrived at as a solution, but this will expose Jacob's family to undesirable influences outside his family. This is, however, not a surprise, considering his previous deceitful deals with his twin brother Esau and his uncle, Laban (Day 2003).
The real issue to contend with is the crime of rape or dishonor. Yet Jacob and his sons have other considerations they do not honestly present. As author Anita Diamant suggests, Dinah's brothers, jealously and treacherously murder the Amorites rather than avenge their sister's dishonor. Jacob, on the other hand, can think only about what antagonism with the Amorites will cause him, his businesses, possessions, reputation and security. He not only abandons his responsibility to make righteous decisions for his family but also blames his sons' criminal behavior for the wrong reason. Neither can Jacob's son make circumcision a condition to formally establishing intimate connections with outsiders. Salvation is not something arranged among men but only by means of personal repentance and free offer of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Jacob and his sons can only pave the way for the Amorites to turn their ways, repent and accept that forgiveness from Jesus Christ. The Amorites cannot be enlisted into God's chosen race by human decisions (Day 2003).
Shechem, at first, may appear honorable because of his willingness to correct his misdeed with marriage. But marriage will not correct a moral offense: it will make the offense worse if there is no change of heart in the offender. What he offers Jacob's family is nothing more than the external ritual of a wedding or the formality of a marriage. He still remains an unbeliever and, therefore, not one among Jacob's chosen family that pleases God. An unbeliever is always a wrong choice of a mate (Day 2003).
Jacob's gross errors in deceiving his twin brother Esau and Laban, his business interests and connection with the Amorites and other tribes in the region, his indifference to the dishonor of Dinah and the eventual mass murders of the Amorites by his sons if he did not forge close links with the world. But God used these mistakes to rouse Jacob to a higher level where He eventually communicates with him (Gail Hudson as qtd in Day 2003).
Jacob experiences a lot of family troubles, as a matter of fact. He loves and wants to marry only Rachel but Laban cheats him into marrying Leah first. He works for him for 14 years to secure Rachel. As a consequence, the sisters compete for his love and dissension is sown between them. Dinah observes this competition between her mother and aunt and the two concubines at the red tent they share in common. Leah is not as pretty as Rachel but is blessed with six sons and a daughter. Rachel, who is more loved, has only two sons and dies while giving birth to the second (Day 2003).
Anita Diamant addresses that continuation between mothers and daughters through the…[continue]
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