Bible Review 7:4, August 1991

First Glance

Bible Review

To many Bible readers, the semi-nomadic, desert life of the patriarchs may seem hopelessly irretrievable—something to be experienced only in the imagination. In fact, many Bedouin of the Sinai and Negev deserts still follow a lifestyle remarkably similar to that of the patriarchs. Both their material culture and their folkways offer insights into otherwise obscure details in the Bible. A case in point is the story of the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34). The deceit and ruthlessness exhibited by Simeon and Levy in avenging their sister’s rape leaves many modern readers as aghast as Jacob, who cursed his sons for the fierceness of their anger and the cruelty of their wrath (Genesis 49:7). In the context of Bedouin culture, however, Simeon and Levy’s actions become understandable as a show of strength, a warning to other potential transgressors. Using the rape of Dinah and other Biblical incidents and practices as examples, Clinton Bailey explains “How Desert Culture Helps Us Understand the Bible.”

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